Deuteronomy 4

Obedience Commanded

1 Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land the LORD, the God of your ancestors, is giving you.
2 Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.
3 You saw with your own eyes what the LORD did at Baal Peor. The LORD your God destroyed from among you everyone who followed the Baal of Peor,
4 but all of you who held fast to the LORD your God are still alive today.
5 See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the LORD my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it.
6 Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.”
7 What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him?
8 And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?
9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.
10 Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.”
11 You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness.
12 Then the LORD spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice.
13 He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments, which he commanded you to follow and then wrote them on two stone tablets.
14 And the LORD directed me at that time to teach you the decrees and laws you are to follow in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess.

Idolatry Forbidden

15 You saw no form of any kind the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully,
16 so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman,
17 or like any animal on earth or any bird that flies in the air,
18 or like any creature that moves along the ground or any fish in the waters below.
19 And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars—all the heavenly array—do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the LORD your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven.
20 But as for you, the LORD took you and brought you out of the iron-smelting furnace, out of Egypt, to be the people of his inheritance, as you now are.
21 The LORD was angry with me because of you, and he solemnly swore that I would not cross the Jordan and enter the good land the LORD your God is giving you as your inheritance.
22 I will die in this land; I will not cross the Jordan; but you are about to cross over and take possession of that good land.
23 Be careful not to forget the covenant of the LORD your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the LORD your God has forbidden.
24 For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
25 After you have had children and grandchildren and have lived in the land a long time—if you then become corrupt and make any kind of idol, doing evil in the eyes of the LORD your God and arousing his anger,
26 I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you this day that you will quickly perish from the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess. You will not live there long but will certainly be destroyed.
27 The LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and only a few of you will survive among the nations to which the LORD will drive you.
28 There you will worship man-made gods of wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or eat or smell.
29 But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.
30 When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the LORD your God and obey him.
31 For the LORD your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your ancestors, which he confirmed to them by oath.

The LORD Is God

32 Ask now about the former days, long before your time, from the day God created human beings on the earth; ask from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of?
33 Has any other people heard the voice of God[a] speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived?
34 Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?
35 You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other.
36 From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire.
37 Because he loved your ancestors and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength,
38 to drive out before you nations greater and stronger than you and to bring you into their land to give it to you for your inheritance, as it is today.
39 Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other.
40 Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the LORD your God gives you for all time.

Cities of Refuge

41 Then Moses set aside three cities east of the Jordan,
42 to which anyone who had killed a person could flee if they had unintentionally killed a neighbor without malice aforethought. They could flee into one of these cities and save their life.
43 The cities were these: Bezer in the wilderness plateau, for the Reubenites; Ramoth in Gilead, for the Gadites; and Golan in Bashan, for the Manassites.

Introduction to the Law

44 This is the law Moses set before the Israelites.
45 These are the stipulations, decrees and laws Moses gave them when they came out of Egypt
46 and were in the valley near Beth Peor east of the Jordan, in the land of Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon and was defeated by Moses and the Israelites as they came out of Egypt.
47 They took possession of his land and the land of Og king of Bashan, the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan.
48 This land extended from Aroer on the rim of the Arnon Gorge to Mount Sirion[b] (that is, Hermon),
49 and included all the Arabah east of the Jordan, as far as the Dead Sea,[c] below the slopes of Pisgah.

Deuteronomy 4 Commentary

Chapter 4

Earnest exhortations to obedience, and dissuasives from idolatry. (1-23) Warnings against disobedience, and promises of mercy. (24-40) Cities of refuge appointed. (41-49)

Verses 1-23 The power and love of God to Israel are here made the ground and reason of a number of cautions and serious warnings; and although there is much reference to their national covenant, yet all may be applied to those who live under the gospel. What are laws made for but to be observed and obeyed? Our obedience as individuals cannot merit salvation; but it is the only evidence that we are partakers of the gift of God, which is eternal life through Jesus Christ, Considering how many temptations we are compassed with, and what corrupt desires we have in our bosoms, we have great need to keep our hearts with all diligence. Those cannot walk aright, who walk carelessly. Moses charges particularly to take heed of the sin of idolatry. He shows how weak the temptation would be to those who thought aright; for these pretended gods, the sun, moon, and stars, were only blessings which the Lord their God had imparted to all nations. It is absurd to worship them; shall we serve those that were made to serve us? Take heed lest ye forget the covenant of the Lord your God. We must take heed lest at any time we forget our religion. Care, caution, and watchfulness, are helps against a bad memory.

Verses 24-40 Moses urged the greatness, glory, and goodness of God. Did we consider what a God he is with whom we have to do, we should surely make conscience of our duty to him, and not dare to sin against him. Shall we forsake a merciful God, who will never forsake us, if we are faithful unto him? Whither can we go? Let us be held to our duty by the bonds of love, and prevailed with by the mercies of God to cleave to him. Moses urged God's authority over them, and their obligations to him. In keeping God's commandments they would act wisely for themselves. The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom. Those who enjoy the benefit of Divine light and laws, ought to support their character for wisdom and honour, that God may be glorified thereby. Those who call upon God, shall certainly find him within call, ready to give an answer of peace to every prayer of faith. All these statutes and judgments of the Divine law are just and righteous, above the statutes and judgments of any of the nations. What they saw at mount Sinai, gave an earnest of the day of judgment, in which the Lord Jesus shall be revealed in flaming fire. They must also remember what they heard at mount Sinai. God manifests himself in the works of the creation, without speech or language, yet their voice is heard, Ps. 19:1, Ps. 19:3 ; but to Israel he made himself known by speech and language, condescending to their weakness. The rise of this nation was quite different from the origin of all other nations. See the reasons of free grace; we are not beloved for our own sakes, but for Christ's sake. Moses urged the certain benefit and advantage of obedience. This argument he had begun with, ver. ( Deuteronomy 4:1 ) , That ye may live, and go in and possess the land; and this he concludes with, ver. ( Deuteronomy 4:40 ) , That it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee. He reminds them that their prosperity would depend upon their piety. Apostacy from God would undoubtedly be the ruin of their nation. He foresees their revolt from God to idols. Those, and those only, shall find God to their comfort, who seek him with all their heart. Afflictions engage and quicken us to seek God; and, by the grace of God working with them, many are thus brought back to their right mind. When these things are come upon thee, turn to the Lord thy God, for thou seest what comes of turning from him. Let all the arguments be laid together, and then say, if religion has not reason on its side. None cast off the government of their God, but those who first abandon the understanding of a man.

Verses 41-49 Here is the introduction to another discourse, or sermon, Moses preached to Israel, which we have in the following chapters. He sets the law before them, as the rule they were to work by, the way they were to walk in. He sets it before them, as the glass in which they were to see their natural face, that, looking into this perfect law of liberty, they might continue therein. These are the laws, given when Israel was newly come out of Egypt; and they were now repeated. Moses gave these laws in charge, while they encamped over against Beth-peor, an idol place of the Moabites. Their present triumphs were a powerful argument for obedience. And we should understand our own situation as sinners, and the nature of that gracious covenant to which we are invited. Therein greater things are shown to us than ever Israel saw from mount Sinai; greater mercies are given to us than they experienced in the wilderness, or in Canaan. One speaks to us, who is of infinitely greater dignity than Moses; who bare our sins upon the cross; and pleads with us by His dying love.

Cross References 106

  • 1. S Leviticus 18:4
  • 2. Deuteronomy 1:3
  • 3. S Leviticus 18:5; Deuteronomy 5:33; Deuteronomy 8:1; Deuteronomy 16:20; Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Ezekiel 20:11; S Romans 10:5
  • 4. Deuteronomy 12:32; Joshua 1:7; Proverbs 30:6; Revelation 22:18-19
  • 5. Jeremiah 26:2
  • 6. S Leviticus 22:31
  • 7. Deuteronomy 10:12-13; Ecclesiastes 12:13
  • 8. Numbers 25:1-9; Psalms 106:28
  • 9. Psalms 71:17; Psalms 119:102; Jeremiah 32:33
  • 10. S Exodus 18:20
  • 11. S Leviticus 27:34
  • 12. Ezra 9:11
  • 13. Deuteronomy 29:9; 1 Kings 2:3
  • 14. Deuteronomy 30:19-20; Deuteronomy 32:46-47; Psalms 19:7; Psalms 119:98; Proverbs 1:7; 2 Timothy 3:15
  • 15. Job 1:1; Job 28:28; Psalms 111:10; Proverbs 2:5; Proverbs 3:7; Proverbs 9:10; Ecclesiastes 12:13; Ezekiel 5:5
  • 16. ver 32-34; 2 Samuel 7:23
  • 17. S Numbers 23:21; S Psalms 46:1; Isaiah 55:6; Acts 17:27
  • 18. Psalms 89:14; Psalms 97:2; Psalms 119:7,62,144,160,172; Romans 3:2
  • 19. S Exodus 23:13; Proverbs 4:23
  • 20. S Genesis 14:14; Genesis 18:19; Deuteronomy 6:20-25; Ephesians 6:4
  • 21. S Exodus 10:2; Psalms 78:5-6
  • 22. S Exodus 3:1; Exodus 19:9,16
  • 23. Deuteronomy 14:23; Deuteronomy 17:19; Deuteronomy 31:12-13; Psalms 2:11; Psalms 111:10; Psalms 147:11; Isaiah 8:13; Jeremiah 32:40
  • 24. S Exodus 20:20
  • 25. Deuteronomy 12:1
  • 26. ver 9
  • 27. S Exodus 3:1; S Exodus 19:17
  • 28. S Exodus 19:18; Hebrews 12:18-19
  • 29. S Exodus 19:9; Psalms 18:11; Psalms 97:2
  • 30. Exodus 20:22; Deuteronomy 5:4,22; S Matthew 3:17; Hebrews 12:19
  • 31. John 5:37
  • 32. S Exodus 19:9
  • 33. Deuteronomy 9:9; Romans 9:4; Deuteronomy 9:9,11
  • 34. S Exodus 24:12; Exodus 31:18; Exodus 34:28
  • 35. S Exodus 21:1
  • 36. Isaiah 40:18; Isaiah 41:22-24
  • 37. S Exodus 3:1
  • 38. Joshua 23:11; Malachi 2:15
  • 39. S Genesis 6:11-12; Deuteronomy 9:12; Deuteronomy 31:29; Deuteronomy 32:5; Judges 2:19
  • 40. Exodus 20:4-5; Exodus 32:7; Deuteronomy 5:8; Romans 1:23
  • 41. Romans 1:23
  • 42. Deuteronomy 17:3; 2 Kings 23:11; Job 31:26; Jeremiah 8:2; Jeremiah 43:13; Ezekiel 8:16
  • 43. S Genesis 1:16
  • 44. S Genesis 2:1; S Genesis 37:9; 2 Kings 17:16; 2 Kings 21:3; Romans 1:25
  • 45. Deuteronomy 13:5
  • 46. S Numbers 25:3
  • 47. S Exodus 1:13; 1 Kings 8:51; Jeremiah 11:4
  • 48. S Exodus 3:10
  • 49. S Genesis 17:7; S Exodus 8:22; S Exodus 34:9; Titus 2:14; Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 9:29
  • 50. Numbers 20:12; Deuteronomy 1:37
  • 51. Numbers 27:13-14
  • 52. Deuteronomy 3:25
  • 53. ver 9; ver 9,16
  • 54. S Exodus 20:4
  • 55. S Exodus 15:7; S Exodus 19:18; Exodus 24:17; Deuteronomy 9:3; Hebrews 12:29
  • 56. S Exodus 20:5
  • 57. ver 16
  • 58. ver 23
  • 59. 1 Kings 11:6; 1 Kings 15:26; 1 Kings 16:25,30; 2 Kings 17:2,17; 2 Kings 21:2
  • 60. Genesis 31:50; Proverbs 14:5
  • 61. Deuteronomy 30:18-19; Deuteronomy 31:28; Deuteronomy 32:1; Psalms 50:4; Isaiah 1:2; Isaiah 34:1; Jeremiah 6:19; Micah 6:2
  • 62. Deuteronomy 6:15; Deuteronomy 7:4
  • 63. S Leviticus 26:33; Deuteronomy 28:36,64; Deuteronomy 29:28; 1 Kings 8:46; 2 Kings 17:6; Psalms 44:11; Psalms 106:27; Jeremiah 3:8; Micah 1:16; Nehemiah 1:8
  • 64. Isaiah 17:6; Isaiah 21:17; Obadiah 1:5
  • 65. Deuteronomy 13:2; Deuteronomy 28:36,64; 1 Samuel 26:19; Jeremiah 5:19; Jeremiah 16:13; Acts 19:26
  • 66. Deuteronomy 29:17
  • 67. Psalms 115:4-8; Psalms 135:15-18; Isaiah 8:19; Isaiah 26:14; Isaiah 44:17-20; Revelation 9:20
  • 68. 1 Samuel 13:12; 2 Kings 13:4; 2 Chronicles 7:14; 2 Chronicles 15:4; 2 Chronicles 33:12; Psalms 78:34; Psalms 119:58; Isaiah 45:19,22; Isaiah 55:6; Jeremiah 26:19; Daniel 9:13; Hosea 3:5; Amos 5:4
  • 69. 1 Samuel 7:3; 1 Kings 8:48; Jeremiah 29:13
  • 70. Deuteronomy 6:5; Deuteronomy 30:1-3,10
  • 71. Leviticus 26:41; Deuteronomy 31:17,21; Psalms 4:1; Psalms 18:6; Psalms 46:1; Psalms 59:16; Psalms 107:6
  • 72. Deuteronomy 31:29; Jeremiah 23:20; Hosea 3:5; Hebrews 1:2
  • 73. Deuteronomy 30:2; 1 Kings 8:48; Nehemiah 1:9; Jer 3:1,12,22; Jeremiah 4:1; Jeremiah 18:11; Joel 2:12
  • 74. Exodus 34:6; 2 Chronicles 30:9; Nehemiah 9:31; Psalms 111:4; Psalms 116:5; John 4:2
  • 75. Deuteronomy 31:6,8; Joshua 1:5; 1 Kings 8:57; 1 Chronicles 28:9,20; Psalms 9:10; Psalms 27:9; Psalms 71:9; Isaiah 42:16; Hebrews 13:5
  • 76. S Leviticus 26:44
  • 77. Leviticus 26:45
  • 78. Deuteronomy 32:7; Job 8:8
  • 79. S Genesis 1:27; Isaiah 45:12
  • 80. Deuteronomy 28:64; Deuteronomy 30:1; Jeremiah 9:16; Matthew 24:31
  • 81. ver 7; 2 Samuel 7:23
  • 82. Exodus 20:22; Deuteronomy 5:24-26
  • 83. Exodus 14:30; Exodus 6:6
  • 84. Isaiah 7:12
  • 85. S Exodus 4:17; Exodus 7:3
  • 86. Deuteronomy 7:19; Deuteronomy 26:8; Deuteronomy 29:3; 1 Chronicles 16:12; Psalms 9:1; Psalms 40:5; Jeremiah 32:20
  • 87. S Exodus 3:20; Deuteronomy 5:15; Deuteronomy 6:21; Deuteronomy 15:15; Exodus 13:3
  • 88. Exodus 15:11; Deuteronomy 34:12; Psalms 45:4; Psalms 65:5
  • 89. ver 39; Exodus 8:10; Deuteronomy 7:9; Deuteronomy 32:4,12; Deuteronomy 32:39; 1 Samuel 2:2; 1 Kings 8:60; 2 Kings 19:19; Isaiah 43:10; Mark 12:32; Isaiah 45:5,18
  • 90. S Exodus 19:19; Hebrews 12:25; Exodus 19:9,19
  • 91. Deuteronomy 8:5
  • 92. Deuteronomy 7:8; Deuteronomy 10:15; Deuteronomy 23:5; Deuteronomy 33:3; Psalms 44:3; Jeremiah 31:3; Hosea 11:1; Malachi 1:2; Malachi 2:11
  • 93. S Exodus 3:20; S Exodus 33:14; Ex 13:3,9,14
  • 94. Numbers 34:14-15; Deuteronomy 7:1; Deuteronomy 9:5
  • 95. Exodus 8:10
  • 96. S ver 35; Exodus 15:11; Joshua 2:11
  • 97. S Leviticus 22:31; Deuteronomy 5:33
  • 98. ver 1; S Genesis 26:5; Deuteronomy 5:29; Deuteronomy 11:1; Psalms 105:45; Isaiah 48:18
  • 99. Deuteronomy 5:16; Deuteronomy 12:25; Isaiah 3:10
  • 100. S Exodus 23:26; Deuteronomy 6:3,18; Ephesians 6:2-3
  • 101. S Exodus 21:13
  • 102. Joshua 21:38; 1 Kings 22:3; 2 Kings 8:28; 2 Kings 9:14
  • 103. Numbers 21:26; Deuteronomy 3:29
  • 104. Deuteronomy 2:36
  • 105. Deuteronomy 3:9
  • 106. S Deuteronomy 3:8

Footnotes 3

  • [a]. Or "of a god"
  • [b]. Syriac (see also 3:9); Hebrew "Siyon"
  • [c]. Hebrew "the Sea of the Arabah"

Chapter Summary


This chapter contains an exhortation to Israel to keep the commands, statutes, and judgments of God, urged from the superior excellency of them to those of all other nations, De 4:1-8, from the manner in which they were delivered, out of the midst of fire, by a voice of words, but no similitude seen, De 4:9-15, and particularly the Israelites are cautioned against idolatry, from the consideration of the goodness of God to them, in bringing them out of Egypt, De 4:16-20, and the rather Moses is urgent upon them to be diligent in their obedience to the laws of God, because he should quickly be removed from them, De 4:21-24, and should they be disobedient to them, it would provoke the Lord to destroy them, or to carry them captive into other lands, De 4:25-28 though even then, if they repented and sought the Lord, and became obedient, he would be merciful to them, and not forsake them, De 4:29-31 and they are put in mind again of the amazing things God had done for them, in speaking to them out of fire, and they alive; in bringing them out of another nation, and driving out other nations to make room for them; all which he improves, as so many arguments to move them to obedience to the divine commands, De 4:32-40 and then notice is taken of the three cities of refuge, separated on this side Jordan, De 4:41-43, and the chapter is concluded with observing, that this is the law, and these the testimonies, Moses declared and repeated to the children of Israel in the country of Sihon and Og, who were delivered into their hands, and their lands possessed by them, which laid them under fresh obligations to yield obedience to God, De 4:44-49.

Deuteronomy 4 Commentaries

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