Friday, December 28, 2007

Deuteronomy 31:30–32:47

Deuteronomy 31:30–32:47: Moses’ Song


In the last passage, God gave Moses a song to sing, to “testify” against the Israelites, then they inevitably fall into sin (see 31:19–22). In this passage, we get the text of the song.

To start, Moses has a bit of a prologue:

Listen, O heavens, and I will speak;   hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.

Let my teaching fall like rain   and my words descend like dew,   like showers on new grass,   like abundant rain on tender plants.

(verses 32:1–2)

He then goes on, in verses 3–4, to praise the LORD, for being perfect, faithful, and just. And in verses 5–6, he compares that with the actions of the LORD’s people, who have left Him and His ways—which flabbergasts him, when he thinks about all the LORD has done for them.

It wasn’t always this way, of course; in verses 7–14, the song recounts things the LORD has done for Israel in the past. How He has protected His nation, and provided for them. But then in verses 15–18, the song tells about how Israel abandoned the LORD, and ran after other gods.

God’s response to these actions is given in verses 19–25, and it should be pretty familiar, after the passages we’ve been reading recently in Deuteronomy—He simply does what He has promised to do! God will abandon His people, hide His face from them (verse 20), and, even worse, pour out His wrath on them. But not completely; in verses 26–27, He tells us that He is having some mercy on the Israelites, for His name’s sake—He wouldn’t want to completely destroy them, and have the surrounding nations think that they had done it with their own might.

Verses 28–33 give us some indication as to why the Israelites are going to abandon their God: they have no sense. They can’t understand that their God is different from the “gods” of the surrounding nations. Still, sense or no sense, verses 34–43 indicate that God is going to judge, and bring punishment where it is deserved. He will also ask the people, when that judgement comes, where are your false gods now? Why aren’t they able to help you?

Once Moses has recited this song to the people, he says to them: “Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. They are not just idle words for you—they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess,” (verses 46b–47).


I haven’t yet decided how to cover poetry, in this blog; I haven’t had to do it too much, as of yet. So I’m just muddling my way through, for this passage. (Hopefully I’ll have some kind of a method nailed down by the time I get to Psalms…) So if you’re reading this, and you’re not me, I’d suggest you read the full text of the poem, and not just my summary. (I think you should always do that, but in the case of poetry, you’ll lose not just the meaning, but also the feel, if you just go by my summaries. Remember that this blog is mostly for my own benefit, not for someone else’s.)

Keep in mind that this is talking about actions the nation of Israel will take after they’ve entered the Promised Land—so for the people first hearing the song, sung by Moses, this is all prophecy, but when they do abandon God, and the song is sung to future generations, it will be history.

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