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Deuteronomy 32:1-12

Context
Invocation of Witnesses

32:1 Listen, O heavens, and I will speak;

hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.

32:2 My teaching will drop like the rain,

my sayings will drip like the dew, 1 

as rain drops upon the grass,

and showers upon new growth.

32:3 For I will proclaim the name 2  of the Lord;

you must acknowledge the greatness of our God.

32:4 As for the Rock, 3  his work is perfect,

for all his ways are just.

He is a reliable God who is never unjust,

he is fair 4  and upright.

32:5 His people have been unfaithful 5  to him;

they have not acted like his children 6  – this is their sin. 7 

They are a perverse 8  and deceitful generation.

32:6 Is this how you repay 9  the Lord,

you foolish, unwise people?

Is he not your father, your creator?

He has made you and established you.

32:7 Remember the ancient days;

bear in mind 10  the years of past generations. 11 

Ask your father and he will inform you,

your elders, and they will tell you.

32:8 When the Most High 12  gave the nations their inheritance,

when he divided up humankind, 13 

he set the boundaries of the peoples,

according to the number of the heavenly assembly. 14 

32:9 For the Lord’s allotment is his people,

Jacob is his special possession. 15 

32:10 The Lord 16  found him 17  in a desolate land,

in an empty wasteland where animals howl. 18 

He continually guarded him 19  and taught him; 20 

he continually protected him 21  like the pupil 22  of his eye.

32:11 Like an eagle that stirs up 23  its nest,

that hovers over its young,

so the Lord 24  spread out his wings and took him, 25 

he lifted him up on his pinions.

32:12 The Lord alone was guiding him, 26 

no foreign god was with him.

1 tn Or “mist,” “light drizzle.” In some contexts the term appears to refer to light rain, rather than dew.

2 tc Smr and Tg read “in the name.”

3 tc The LXX reads Θεός (qeos, “God”) for the MT’s “Rock.”

sn The Hebrew term depicts God as a rocky summit where one may find safety and protection. Within a covenantal context it serves as a reminder to the people that their God has committed himself to their protection in return for their allegiance.

4 tn Or “just” (KJV, NAB, NRSV, NLT) or “righteous” (NASB).

5 tc The 3rd person masculine singular שָׁחַת (shakhat) is rendered as 3rd person masculine plural by Smr, a reading supported by the plural suffix on מוּם (mum, “defect”) as well as the plural of בֵּן (ben, “sons”).

tn Heb “have acted corruptly” (so NASB, NIV, NLT); NRSV “have dealt falsely.”

6 tn Heb “(they are) not his sons.”

7 tn Heb “defect” (so NASB). This highly elliptical line suggests that Israel’s major fault was its failure to act like God’s people; in fact, they acted quite the contrary.

8 tn Heb “twisted,” “crooked.” See Ps 18:26.

9 tn Or “treat” (TEV).

10 tc The Syriac, Targum, and Vulgate read 2nd person masculine singular whereas the MT has 2nd person masculine plural. The former is preferred, the latter perhaps being a misreading (בִּינוּ [binu] for בִּינָה [binah]). Both the preceding (“remember”) and following (“ask”) imperatives are singular forms in the Hebrew text.

11 tn Heb “generation and generation.” The repetition of the singular noun here singles out each of the successive past generations. See IBHS 116 §7.2.3b.

12 tn The Hebrew term עֶליוֹן (’elyon) is an abbreviated form of the divine name El Elyon, frequently translated “God Most High” (so here NCV, CEV) or something similar. This full name (or epithet) occurs only in Gen 14, though the two elements are parallel in Ps 73:11; 107:11; etc. Here it is clear that Elyon has to do with the nations in general whereas in v. 9, by contrast, Yahweh relates specifically to Israel. See T. Fretheim, NIDOTTE 1:400-401. The title depicts God as the sovereign ruler of the world, who is enthroned high above his dominion.

13 tn Heb “the sons of man” (so NASB); or “the sons of Adam” (so KJV).

14 tc Heb “the sons of Israel.” The idea, perhaps, is that Israel was central to Yahweh’s purposes and all other nations were arranged and distributed according to how they related to Israel. See S. R. Driver, Deuteronomy (ICC), 355-56. For the MT יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּנֵי (bÿney yisrael, “sons of Israel”) a Qumran fragment has “sons of God,” while the LXX reads ἀγγέλων θεοῦ (angelwn qeou, “angels of God”), presupposing בְּנֵי אֵל (bÿneyel) or בְּנֵי אֵלִים (beneyelim). “Sons of God” is undoubtedly the original reading; the MT and LXX have each interpreted it differently. MT assumes that the expression “sons of God” refers to Israel (cf. Hos. 1:10), while LXX has assumed that the phrase refers to the angelic heavenly assembly (Pss 29:1; 89:6; cf. as well Ps 82). The phrase is also attested in Ugaritic, where it refers to the high god El’s divine assembly. According to the latter view, which is reflected in the translation, the Lord delegated jurisdiction over the nations to his angelic host (cf. Dan. 10:13-21), while reserving for himself Israel, over whom he rules directly. For a defense of the view taken here, see M. S. Heiser, “Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God,” BSac 158 (2001): 52-74.

15 tc Heb “the portion of his inheritance.” The LXX and Smr add “Israel” and BHS suggests the reconstruction: “The Lord’s allotment is Jacob, the portion of his inheritance is Israel” (cf. NAB). While providing good parallelism, it destroys a fine chiastic structure: “allotment” (a), “his people” (b), “Jacob (b’), and “inheritance” (a’).

16 tn Heb “he.” The referent (the Lord) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

17 tn The reference is to “his people/Jacob” (cf. v. 9), that is, Israel (using a collective singular). The singular pronouns are replaced by plural ones throughout vv. 10-14 by some English versions as an aid to the modern reader (cf. NAB, NCV, TEV, NLT).

18 tn Heb “in an empty, howling wasteland.” The word “howling” is derived from a verbal root that typically refers to the wailing of mourners. Here it likely refers to the howling of desert animals, or perhaps to the howling wind, in which case one may translate, “in an empty, windy wasteland.”

19 tn Heb “was surrounding him.” The distinctive form of the suffix on this verb form indicates that the verb is an imperfect, not a preterite. As such it draws attention to God’s continuing care during the period in view. See A. F. Rainey, “The Ancient Hebrew Prefix Conjugation in the Light of Amarnah Canaanite,” Hebrew Studies 27 (1986): 15-16.

20 tn Heb “he gave him understanding.” The form of the suffix on this verb form indicates that the verb is a preterite, not an imperfect. As such it simply states the action factually. See A. F. Rainey, “The Ancient Hebrew Prefix Conjugation in the Light of Amarnah Canaanite,” Hebrew Studies 27 (1986): 15-16.

21 tn The distinctive form of the suffix on this verb form indicates that the verb is an imperfect, not a preterite. As such it draws attention to God’s continuing protection during the period in view. See A. F. Rainey, “The Ancient Hebrew Prefix Conjugation in the Light of Amarnah Canaanite,” Hebrew Studies 27 (1986): 15-16.

22 tn Heb “the little man.” The term אִישׁוֹן (’ishon) means literally “little man,” perhaps because when one looks into another’s eyes he sees himself reflected there in miniature. See A. Harman, NIDOTTE 1:391.

23 tn The prefixed verbal form is an imperfect, indicating habitual or typical behavior. The parallel verb (cf. “hovers” in the next line) is used in the same manner.

24 tn Heb “he”; the referent (the Lord) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

25 tn The form of the suffix on this and the following verb forms (cf. “lifted him up”) indicates that the verbs are preterites, not imperfects. As such they simply state the action factually. The use of the preterite here suggests that the preceding verb (cf. “spread out”) is preterite as well.

26 tn The distinctive form of the suffix on this verb form indicates that the verb is an imperfect, not a preterite. As such it draws attention to God’s continuing guidance during the period in view.



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