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Deuteronomy 4:15-24

Context
The Nature of Israel’s God

4:15 Be very careful, 1  then, because you saw no form at the time the Lord spoke to you at Horeb from the middle of the fire. 4:16 I say this 2  so you will not corrupt yourselves by making an image in the form of any kind of figure. This includes the likeness of a human male or female, 4:17 any kind of land animal, any bird that flies in the sky, 4:18 anything that crawls 3  on the ground, or any fish in the deep waters of the earth. 4  4:19 When you look up 5  to the sky 6  and see the sun, moon, and stars – the whole heavenly creation 7  – you must not be seduced to worship and serve them, 8  for the Lord your God has assigned 9  them to all the people 10  of the world. 11  4:20 You, however, the Lord has selected and brought from Egypt, that iron-smelting furnace, 12  to be his special people 13  as you are today. 4:21 But the Lord became angry with me because of you and vowed that I would never cross the Jordan nor enter the good land that he 14  is about to give you. 15  4:22 So I must die here in this land; I will not cross the Jordan. But you are going over and will possess that 16  good land. 4:23 Be on guard so that you do not forget the covenant of the Lord your God that he has made with you, and that you do not make an image of any kind, just as he 17  has forbidden 18  you. 4:24 For the Lord your God is a consuming fire; he is a jealous God. 19 

1 tn Heb “give great care to your souls.”

2 tn The words “I say this” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons. In the Hebrew text v. 16 is subordinated to “Be careful” in v. 15, but this makes for an unduly long sentence in English.

3 tn Heb “creeping thing.”

4 tn Heb “under the earth.”

5 tn Heb “lest you lift up your eyes.” In the Hebrew text vv. 16-19 are subordinated to “Be careful” in v. 15, but this makes for an unduly long sentence in English.

6 tn Or “heavens.” The Hebrew term שָׁמַיִם (shamayim) may be translated “heaven(s)” or “sky” depending on the context.

7 tn Heb “all the host of heaven.”

8 tn In the Hebrew text the verbal sequence in v. 19 is “lest you look up…and see…and be seduced…and worship them…and serve them.” However, the first two actions are not prohibited in and of themselves. The prohibition pertains to the final three actions. The first two verbs describe actions that are logically subordinate to the following actions and can be treated as temporal or circumstantial: “lest, looking up…and seeing…, you are seduced.” See Joüon 2:635 §168.h.

9 tn Or “allotted.”

10 tn Or “nations.”

11 tn Heb “under all the heaven.”

sn The OT views the heavenly host as God’s council, which surrounds his royal throne ready to do his bidding (see 1 Kgs 22:19). God has given this group, sometimes called the “sons of God” (cf. Job 1:6; 38:7; Ps 89:6), jurisdiction over the nations. See Deut 32:8 (LXX). Some also see this assembly as the addressee in Ps 82. While God delegated his council to rule over the nations, he established a theocratic government over Israel and ruled directly over his chosen people via the Mosaic covenant. See v. 20, as well as Deut 32:9.

12 tn A כּוּר (kur) was not a source of heat but a crucible (“iron-smelting furnace”) in which precious metals were melted down and their impurities burned away (see I. Cornelius, NIDOTTE 2:618-19); cf. NAB “that iron foundry, Egypt.” The term is a metaphor for intense heat. Here it refers to the oppression and suffering Israel endured in Egypt. Since a crucible was used to burn away impurities, it is possible that the metaphor views Egypt as a place of refinement to bring Israel to a place of submission to divine sovereignty.

13 tn Heb “to be his people of inheritance.” The Lord compares his people to valued property inherited from one’s ancestors and passed on to one’s descendants.

14 tn Heb “the Lord your God.” See note on “he” in 4:3.

15 tn The Hebrew text includes “(as) an inheritance,” or “(as) a possession.”

16 tn Heb “this.” The translation uses “that” to avoid confusion; earlier in the verse Moses refers to Transjordan as “this land.”

17 tn Heb “the Lord your God.” See note on “he” in 4:3.

18 tn Heb “commanded.”

19 tn The juxtaposition of the Hebrew terms אֵשׁ (’esh, “fire”) and קַנָּא (qanna’, “jealous”) is interesting in light of Deut 6:15 where the Lord is seen as a jealous God whose anger bursts into a destructive fire. For God to be “jealous” means that his holiness and uniqueness cannot tolerate pretended or imaginary rivals. It is not petty envy but response to an act of insubordination that must be severely judged (see H. Peels, NIDOTTE 3:937-40).



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