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Deuteronomy 31:30--32:47

Context
31:30 Then Moses recited the words of this song from start to finish in the hearing of the whole assembly of Israel.

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.

32:13 He enabled him 27  to travel over the high terrain of the land,

and he ate of the produce of the fields.

He provided honey for him from the cliffs, 28 

and olive oil 29  from the hardest of 30  rocks, 31 

32:14 butter from the herd

and milk from the flock,

along with the fat of lambs,

rams and goats of Bashan,

along with the best of the kernels of wheat;

and from the juice of grapes you drank wine.

Israel’s Rebellion

32:15 But Jeshurun 32  became fat and kicked,

you 33  got fat, thick, and stuffed!

Then he deserted the God who made him,

and treated the Rock who saved him with contempt.

32:16 They made him jealous with other gods, 34 

they enraged him with abhorrent idols. 35 

32:17 They sacrificed to demons, not God,

to gods they had not known;

to new gods who had recently come along,

gods your ancestors 36  had not known about.

32:18 You have forgotten 37  the Rock who fathered you,

and put out of mind the God who gave you birth.

A Word of Judgment

32:19 But the Lord took note and despised them

because his sons and daughters enraged him.

32:20 He said, “I will reject them, 38 

I will see what will happen to them;

for they are a perverse generation,

children 39  who show no loyalty.

32:21 They have made me jealous 40  with false gods, 41 

enraging me with their worthless gods; 42 

so I will make them jealous with a people they do not recognize, 43 

with a nation slow to learn 44  I will enrage them.

32:22 For a fire has been kindled by my anger,

and it burns to lowest Sheol; 45 

it consumes the earth and its produce,

and ignites the foundations of the mountains.

32:23 I will increase their 46  disasters,

I will use up my arrows on them.

32:24 They will be starved by famine,

eaten by plague, and bitterly stung; 47 

I will send the teeth of wild animals against them,

along with the poison of creatures that crawl in the dust.

32:25 The sword will make people childless outside,

and terror will do so inside;

they will destroy 48  both the young man and the virgin,

the infant and the gray-haired man.

The Weakness of Other Gods

32:26 “I said, ‘I want to cut them in pieces. 49 

I want to make people forget they ever existed.

32:27 But I fear the reaction 50  of their enemies,

for 51  their adversaries would misunderstand

and say, “Our power is great, 52 

and the Lord has not done all this!”’

32:28 They are a nation devoid of wisdom,

and there is no understanding among them.

32:29 I wish that they were wise and could understand this,

and that they could comprehend what will happen to them.”

32:30 How can one man chase a thousand of them, 53 

and two pursue ten thousand;

unless their Rock had delivered them up, 54 

and the Lord had handed them over?

32:31 For our enemies’ 55  rock is not like our Rock,

as even our enemies concede.

32:32 For their vine is from the stock 56  of Sodom,

and from the fields of Gomorrah. 57 

Their grapes contain venom,

their clusters of grapes are bitter.

32:33 Their wine is snakes’ poison,

the deadly venom of cobras.

32:34 “Is this not stored up with me?” says the Lord, 58 

“Is it not sealed up in my storehouses?

32:35 I will get revenge and pay them back

at the time their foot slips;

for the day of their disaster is near,

and the impending judgment 59  is rushing upon them!”

32:36 The Lord will judge his people,

and will change his plans concerning 60  his servants;

when he sees that their power has disappeared,

and that no one is left, whether confined or set free.

32:37 He will say, “Where are their gods,

the rock in whom they sought security,

32:38 who ate the best of their sacrifices,

and drank the wine of their drink offerings?

Let them rise and help you;

let them be your refuge!

The Vindication of the Lord

32:39 “See now that I, indeed I, am he!” says the Lord, 61 

“and there is no other god besides me.

I kill and give life,

I smash and I heal,

and none can resist 62  my power.

32:40 For I raise up my hand to heaven,

and say, ‘As surely as I live forever,

32:41 I will sharpen my lightning-like sword,

and my hand will grasp hold of the weapon of judgment; 63 

I will execute vengeance on my foes,

and repay those who hate me! 64 

32:42 I will make my arrows drunk with blood,

and my sword will devour flesh –

the blood of the slaughtered and captured,

the chief 65  of the enemy’s leaders!’”

32:43 Cry out, O nations, with his people,

for he will avenge his servants’ blood;

he will take vengeance against his enemies,

and make atonement for his land and people.

Narrative Interlude

32:44 Then Moses went with Joshua 66  son of Nun and recited all the words of this song to the people. 32:45 When Moses finished reciting all these words to all Israel 32:46 he said to them, “Keep in mind all the words I am solemnly proclaiming to you today; you must command your children to observe carefully all the words of this law. 32:47 For this is no idle word for you – it is your life! By this word you will live a long time in the land you are about to cross the Jordan to possess.”

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.

27 tn The form of the suffix on this verbal form indicates that the verb is a preterite, not an imperfect. As such it simply states the action factually. Note as well the preterites with vav (ו) consecutive that follow in the verse.

28 tn Heb “he made him suck honey from the rock.”

29 tn Heb “oil,” but this probably refers to olive oil; see note on the word “rock” at the end of this verse.

30 tn Heb “flinty.”

31 sn Olive oil from rock probably suggests olive trees growing on rocky ledges and yet doing so productively. See E. H. Merrill, Deuteronomy (NAC), 415; cf. TEV “their olive trees flourished in stony ground.”

32 tn To make the continuity of the referent clear, some English versions substitute “Jacob” here (NAB, NRSV) while others replace “Jeshurun” with “Israel” (NCV, CEV, NLT) or “the Lord’s people” (TEV).

sn Jeshurun is a term of affection derived from the Hebrew verb יָשַׁר (yashar, “be upright”). Here it speaks of Israel “in an ideal situation, with its ‘uprightness’ due more to God’s help than his own efforts” (M. Mulder, TDOT 6:475).

33 tc The LXX reads the third person masculine singular (“he”) for the MT second person masculine singular (“you”), but such alterations are unnecessary in Hebrew poetic texts where subjects fluctuate frequently and without warning.

34 tc Heb “with strange (things).” The Vulgate actually supplies diis (“gods”).

35 tn Heb “abhorrent (things)” (cf. NRSV). A number of English versions understand this as referring to “idols” (NAB, NIV, NCV, CEV), while NLT supplies “acts.”

36 tn Heb “your fathers.”

37 tc The Hebrew text is corrupt here; the translation follows the suggestion offered in HALOT 1477 s.v. שׁיה. Cf. NASB, NLT “You neglected”; NIV “You deserted”; NRSV “You were unmindful of.”

38 tn Heb “I will hide my face from them.”

39 tn Heb “sons” (so NAB, NASB); TEV “unfaithful people.”

40 sn They have made me jealous. The “jealousy” of God is not a spirit of pettiness prompted by his insecurity, but righteous indignation caused by the disloyalty of his people to his covenant grace (see note on the word “God” in Deut 4:24). The jealousy of Israel, however (see next line), will be envy because of God’s lavish attention to another nation. This is an ironic wordplay. See H. Peels, NIDOTTE 3:938-39.

41 tn Heb “what is not a god,” or a “nondeity.”

42 tn Heb “their empty (things).” The Hebrew term used here to refer pejoratively to the false gods is הֶבֶל (hevel, “futile” or “futility”), used frequently in Ecclesiastes (e.g., Eccl 1:1, “Futile! Futile!” laments the Teacher, “Absolutely futile! Everything is futile!”).

43 tn Heb “what is not a people,” or a “nonpeople.” The “nonpeople” (לֹא־עָם, lo-am) referred to here are Gentiles who someday would become God’s people in the fullest sense (cf. Hos 1:9; 2:23).

44 tn Heb “a foolish nation” (so KJV, NAB, NRSV); NIV “a nation that has no understanding”; NLT “I will provoke their fury by blessing the foolish Gentiles.”

45 tn Or “to the lowest depths of the earth”; cf. NAB “to the depths of the nether world”; NIV “to the realm of death below”; NLT “to the depths of the grave.”

sn Sheol refers here not to hell and hell-fire – a much later concept – but to the innermost parts of the earth, as low down as one could get. The parallel with “the foundations of the mountains” makes this clear (cf. Pss 9:17; 16:10; 139:8; Isa 14:9, 15; Amos 9:2).

46 tn Heb “upon them.”

47 tn The Hebrew term קֶטֶב (qetev) is probably metaphorical here for the sting of a disease (HALOT 1091-92 s.v.).

48 tn A verb is omitted here in the Hebrew text; for purposes of English style one suitable to the context is supplied.

49 tc The LXX reads “I said I would scatter them.” This reading is followed by a number of English versions (e.g., KJV, ASV, NIV, NCV, NRSV, NLT, CEV).

50 tn Heb “anger.”

51 tn Heb “lest.”

52 tn Heb “Our hand is high.” Cf. NAB “Our own hand won the victory.”

53 tn The words “man” and “of them” are not in the Hebrew text, but are supplied in the translation for clarity.

54 tn Heb “sold them” (so NAB, NIV, NRSV, NLT).

55 tn Heb “their,” but the referent (enemies) is specified in the translation for the sake of clarity.

56 tn Heb “vine.”

57 sn Sodom…Gomorrah. The term “vine” is a reference to the pagan deities which, the passage says, find their ultimate source in Sodom and Gomorrah, that is, in the soil of perversion exemplified by these places (cf. Gen 18:20; 19:4-28; Isa 1:10; 3:9; Jer 23:14; Lam 4:6; Ezek 16:44-52; Matt 10:15; 11:23-24).

58 tn Verses 34-35 appear to be a quotation of the Lord and so the introductory phrase “says the Lord” is supplied in the translation.

59 tn Heb “prepared things,” “impending things.” See BDB 800 s.v. עָתִיד.

60 tn The translation understands the verb in the sense of “be grieved, relent” (cf. HALOT 689 s.v. נחם hitp 2); cf. KJV, ASV “repent himself”; NLT “will change his mind.” Another option is to translate “will show compassion to” (see BDB 637 s.v. נחם); cf. NASB, NIV, NRSV.

61 tn Verses 39-42 appear to be a quotation of the Lord and so the introductory phrase “says the Lord” is supplied in the translation for clarity.

62 tn Heb “deliver from” (so NRSV, NLT).

63 tn Heb “judgment.” This is a metonymy, a figure of speech in which the effect (judgment) is employed as an instrument (sword, spear, or the like), the means, by which it is brought about.

64 tn The Hebrew term שָׂנֵא (sane’, “hate”) in this covenant context speaks of those who reject Yahweh’s covenant overtures, that is, who disobey its stipulations (see note on the word “rejecting” in Deut 5:9; also see Deut 7:10; 2 Chr 19:2; Ps 81:15; 139:20-21).

65 tn Or “head” (the same Hebrew word can mean “head” in the sense of “leader, chieftain” or “head” in the sense of body part).

66 tn Heb “Hoshea” (so KJV, ASV), another name for the same individual (cf. Num 13:8, 16).



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