PART IV.—FAREWELL ADDRESS OF MOSES, WITH HIS PARTING SONG AND BENEDICTION.
Moses had now finished his work as the legislator and ruler and leader of Israel. But ere he finally retired from his place, he had to take order for the carrying forward of the work by the nomination of a successor to himself in the leadership; by committing the keeping of the Law to the priests; and by anew admonishing the people to obedience, encouraging them to go forward to the conquest of Canaan, animating them with the assurance of the Divine favor and blessing, and pronouncing on them his parting benediction.
Deuteronomy 31:1-30. MOSES' FINAL ARRANGEMENTS AND HANDING OVER OF THE LAW TO THE PRIESTS.
Last acts of Moses.
And Moses went; i.e. disposed or set himself. The meaning is not that he "went away" into the tent of teaching, as one of the Targums explains it, which does not agree with what follows; nor is "went" merely equivalent to "moreover;" nor is it simply redundant;—it intimates that the speaking was consequent on Moses having arranged, disposed, or set himself to speak (cf. Exodus 2:1; Joshua 9:4; Job 1:4).
I am an hundred and twenty years old this day. When Moses stood before Pharaoh he was eighty years old (Exodus 7:7); since then forty years had elapsed during the wanderings in the wilderness. I can no more go out and come in; I am no longer able to work among and for the nation as I have hitherto done (cf. Numbers 27:17). This does not conflict with the statement in Deuteronomy 34:7, that up to the time of his death his eyes were not dim nor his natural strength abated, for this is the statement of an observer, and it often happens that an individual feels himself to be failing, when to those around him he appears to possess unabated vigor. There is no need, therefore, for resorting, with Raschi and others, to the expedient of reading "for" instead of "and" in the following clause; as if the cause why Moses could no longer go in and out among the people was God's prohibition of his going over Jordan. This is simply another and collateral reason why he had now to retire flora his post as leader.
But though Moses was no longer to be their leader, he assures them that the Lord would fulfill his engagement to conduct them to the possession of Canaan, even as he had already given them the territory of the kings of the Amorites; and he therefore exhorts them to be of good courage and fearlessly go forward to the conquest of the laud (cf. Deuteronomy 1:21; Deuteronomy 10:3).
Deuteronomy 31:7, Deuteronomy 31:8
Moses, having in view the appointment of Joshua as his successor, also encourages him to go forward on the strength of the Divine promise. Thou must go with this people. This is a correct rendering of the words as they stand in the Hebrew text. The Samaritan, Syriac, and Vulgate have, "Thou shalt bring this people;" but this is probably an arbitrary correction in order to assimilate this to verse 23. And thou shalt cause them to inherit it; i.e. shalt conduct them to the full possession of the land.
Moses turns next to the priests and the elders, and to them he commits the Law which he had written, with the injunction to read it to the people at the end of every seven years during the festival of the year of release, viz. at the Feast of Tabernacles (cf. Leviticus 23:34), when they appeared before the Lord. At the end of every seven years (cf. Deuteronomy 15:1). The Law was committed to the priests and elders, not merely to preserve it in safe keeping, but that they might see to its being observed by the people; else why commit it to the elders whose it was to administer rule in the nation, as well as to the priests who alone had access to the ark of the covenant where the Law was deposited? Moses "entrusted the reading to the priesthood and the college of elders, as the spiritual and secular rulers of the congregation; and hence the singular, Thou shalt read this Law to all Israel" (Keil). By the Law here is meant the Pentateuch; but it does not necessarily follow that the whole of the Pentateuch was to be thus read. As the reading was to be only once in seven years, it may be concluded that it was not so much for the information of the people that this was done, as for the purpose of publicly declaring, and by a solemn ceremony impressing on their minds the condition on which they held their position and privileges as the chosen people of the Lord; and for this the reading of select portions of the Torah would be sufficient. The Feast of Tabernacles was appointed as the season for the reading, doubtless because there was a connection between the end for which the Law was read and the spirit and meaning of that festival as a festival of rejoicing because of their deliverance from the uncertainty and unsettledness of their state in the wilderness, and their establishment in a well-ordered state where they could in peace and quietness enjoy the blessings which the bounty of God bestowed. When all Israel is come to appear before the Lord (cf. Deuteronomy 16:16). Thou shalt read this law (cf. Joshua 8:34; 2 Kings 23:2; Nehemiah 8:1, etc.).
After nominating Joshua as his successor, and assigning the keeping of the Law to the priesthood and body of elders, Moses was summoned by the Lord to appear with Joshua in the tabernacle, that Joshua might receive a charge and appointment to his office. At the same time, God announced to Moses that after his death the people would go astray, and turn to idolatry, and violate the covenant, so that God's anger should be kindled against them, and he would leave them to suffer the consequences of their folly and sin. In view of this, Moses was directed to write a song and teach it to the people, that it might abide with them as a witness against them, rising up, as songs will do, in the memory of the nation, even after they had apostatized from the path in which the author of the song had led them.
The tabernacle of the congregation; properly, the tent of meeting (cf. Exodus 33:7; Exodus 39:32). May give him a charge; may constitute him ( צִוָּה ; cf. Numbers 27:19; "and constitute him in their sight," Gesenius), appoint and confirm him in this office.
The Lord appeared … in a pillar of a cloud (cf. ExDeuteronomy 33:9; 40:38; Le Deuteronomy 16:2; Numbers 12:5).
Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers (cf. 2 Samuel 7:12; Psalms 13:3; Psalms 76:5; Daniel 12:2; Matthew 27:52; John 11:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:14). "The death of men, both good and bad, is often called a sleep, because they shall certainly awake out of it by resurrection" (Peele). Go a whoring (cf. Exodus 34:15; 2:17) after the gods of the strangers of the land; literally, after gods of strangeness of the land; i.e. after gods foreign to the land, as opposed to Jehovah, the alone proper God of the land he had given to them.
I will hide my face from them; will not look on them with complacency, will withdraw from them my favor and help (cf. Deuteronomy 32:20; Isaiah 8:17; Isaiah 64:7; Ezekiel 39:23).
Write ye this song. This refers to the song which follows in next chapter. Moses and Joshua were both to write this song, Moses probably as the author, Joshua as his amanuensis, because both of them were to do their endeavor to keep the people from that apostasy which God had foretold.
And he gave, etc. The subject here is God, not Moses, as is evident partly from Deuteronomy 31:14, and partly from the expression, the land which I aware unto them; and I will be with thee (cf. Exodus 3:12).
After the installation of Joshua, only one thing remained for Moses to do that all things might be set in order before his departure. This was the finishing of the writing of the Book of the Law, and the committing it finally to the priests, to be by them placed by the ark of the covenant, that it might be kept for all future generations as a witness against the people, whose apostasy and rebellion were foreseen.
Whether this section is to be regarded as wholly written by Moses himself, or as an appendix to his writing added by some other writer, has been made matter of question. It is quite possible, however, that Moses himself, ere he laid down the pen, may have recorded what he said when delivering the Book of the Law to the priests, and there is nothing in the manner or style of the record to render it probable that it was added by another. What follows from verse 30 to the end of the book was probably added to the writing of Moses by some one after his death, though, of course, both the song in Deuteronomy 32:1-52, and the blessing in Deuteronomy 33:1-29, are the composition of Moses (see Introduction, § 6).
The Levites, which bare the ark; i.e. the priests whose business it was to guard and to carry the ark of the covenant; "the priests the sons of Levi," as in Deuteronomy 31:9. According to Numbers 4:4, etc; it was the Kohathites who carried the ark on the journey through the desert; but they seem merely to have acted in this respect as the servants or helpers of the priests, who alone might touch the ark, and by whom it was carefully wrapped up before it was handed to the Kohathites. On special occasions the priests themselves carried the ark (cf. Joshua 3:3, etc.; Joshua 4:9, Joshua 4:10; Joshua 6:6, Joshua 6:12; Joshua 8:33; 1 Kings 8:3).
In the side of the ark; at or by the side of the ark. According to the Targum of Jonathan, it was in a coffer by the right side of the ark that the book was placed; but the Talmudists say it was put within the ark, along with the two tables of the Decalogue ('Baba Bathra,' 14); but see 1 Kings 8:8.
I know thy rebellion; rather, rebelliousness, i.e. tendency to rebel. In Numbers 17:1-13 :25 (10), the people are described as בְנֵי מְרִי, "sons of rebelliousness;" Authorized Version, "rebels."
Call heaven and earth to record against them (cf. Deuteronomy 32:1). These words; the words of his charge, and especially the song he had composed, and which it would be the business of these officers to teach to the congregation.
Ye will utterly corrupt yourselves; literally, corrupting, ye will corrupt ( הַשְׁחַת תשׁחִתוּן, sc. דַרֵכֵיֶכם ); i.e. your ways (cf. for the phrase, Genesis 6:12). The latter days; the after-time, the future, as in Deuteronomy 4:30; Numbers 24:14, etc. The work of your hands; the idols they might make (cf. Deuteronomy 4:28). By some, however, the phrase is interpreted of evil deeds in general
A new generation receiving the heritage of the past.
The closing scene of Moses' life is drawing nigh. The time is at hand when he and Israel must part, and the leadership must be undertaken by another. As far as can be done, two things have to be ensured—viz, the conservation of Israel's Law, and the conduct of the people to their goal. "God buries his ministers, but he carries on his work." Hence Moses first addresses all the people; then he turns to Joshua, confirming him as the future leader (verses 7, 8); and finally to the priests, who are to be henceforth the custodians and guardians of the holy Law. Having thus handed over the leadership of an army, and the conservation of a faith, Moses has little else to do but to go up and die. Hence our theme—A new generation entrusted with the heritage of the past. Taking up this as a Christian preacher may be supposed to do, we find that seven consecutive lines of thought are suggested.
I. There has been given, prior to our time, a "precious faith," which has been handed down to the present day (verses 12, 13).
II. Those who have been the leaders and warriors in God's Israel in past days have commended this faith to us, with all the earnestness created by their deep and strong convictions, which, in the hard school of experience and trial, were formed, fostered, and verified (verses 3, 4).
III. The work thus entrusted to the men of the present is analogous to that which was required of the ancient people of God:
IV. In the fulfillment of this work we shall enjoy the Divine presence (verse 6).
V. God's providence will also go before us to clear the way (verse 8).
VI. Consequently, it behooves us to go forward, to "be strong and fear not" (verse 6); for—
VII. Where the responsibilities of the men of the past leave off, our responsibility begins.
Importance of knowing the Word of God.
In resigning his commission into other hands, Moses had a double duty to discharge. There had been, in fact, a twofold responsibility resting on him more or less till the close of his life, which after his death would be divided. He was not only the leader of the people, but also the receiver, transcriber, and guardian of the Law. As the nation became consolidated, this double work would certainly become too heavy for one man to discharge. Hence he commissions one man to be the leader of an army, and another set of men to be the conservators of the truth. Joshua is leader. The priests are to be the keepers and teachers of the Law. It is one remarkable feature of the constitution of the Hebrew commonwealth, that such stress is laid upon popular education. This was again and again made matter of Divine precept. And about this there were two main regulations: one, that it was to begin at home; another, that it was to have as its one golden thread running through all, that the fear of the Lord was the beginning of wisdom. Over and above, however, the home teaching from childhood, there was to be at stated times a public reading and enforcement of the Law. At this public reading, the people were to be gathered together. "Young men and maidens, old men and children;" the stranger that was within their gates was not to be forgotten. All, all were to hear the Word of God, that they might learn, fear, love, and obey.
It is to secure this most desirable end that Moses, having written the Law, delivers it to the priests, the sons of Levi, and gives them the charge of which the paragraph before us is the sum. Our theme is—The value of the Word of God as an educating power in home and nation. The points to be noted in the words of Moses here given, are these:
1. That both young and old were to have ever before them the truth that their life was for God, was to be permeated by Divine influence, and regulated by the Divine will.
2. That the will of God, so revealed as to be the true and sufficient regulator of life, was to be found in the Book of the Law.
3. That all classes of the people, home-born and alien, freemen and slaves, were to be taught what was the Divine will concerning them.
4. That the object of the teaching was that they might grow up with an intelligent apprehension of the deep meaning of life.
5. That intelligence was intended and expected to blossom into piety. Men were to "fear" the Lord their God, and to "observe to do all the words of this Law."
Our purpose in this Homily is to inquire, How far does all this hold good at the present day? When Moses wrote the Law, it served, as it did for ages after, as the people's literature. It would take a like place with the people that our histories of England do now, and would, moreover, serve them as the story-book for children, and the statute-book for all. And there was a time when to large masses of our people the Bible constituted the chief literary treasure of the home. And ere the people could read, the exposition and enforcement of its truths from the pulpit formed the staple of their education. But things are changed now. The increase of literary material in every direction is amazing. The vastly wider field of natural knowledge takes so much time and energy for its exploration, that the Bible is in danger of being "crowded out." And what may be called in an intelligible sense the literary rivals of the Bible are "legion." We propose to suggest a few lines of thought which the Christian preacher may work out, with the view of showing that an intelligent acquaintance with the Word of God is, if possible, more important now than ever it was. Many reasons may be urged for this.
I. LET US CONSIDER THE VARIOUS ASPECTS IN WHICH THE BIBLE MAY BE REGARDED. We need scarcely observe (save for the sake of completeness of setting) that our Bible is much larger than Israel's was, and that therefore by so much as this is the case there is much more to be affirmed of it now than could be of the old Book of the Law.
1. In the Bible we have a trustworthy history of Judaism and Christianity, in their origin and meaning. Of the first we have an outline during the main periods of its constitutional history; of the second, during the first generation after its planting. And so important are these features of history, that apart from them the history of the world cannot be understood.
2. We have the noblest ethical standard in the world. The moral law cannot, even in conception, be surpassed.
3. We have a revelation of a great redeeming plan steadily unfolded from Genesis to Revelation.
4. We have a disclosure of God in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
5. We have the manifestation of power from heaven to begin a new creation of grace.
6. We have a body of doctrine for the life that now is.
7. We have glorious glimpses of the life which is to come. In all these respects the Book is unique. It has no compeer in any literature in the world!
II. AS THE CONTENTS OF THE BIBLE ARE UNIQUE, SO ALSO IS ITS OBJECT DEFINITE. (See Psalms 19:1-14; Psalms 119:1-176; John 21:1-25 :31, et al.) That object is the regulation of life on earth, and the preparation of it for heaven. And the Book seeks to secure this by enforcement of duty, revelations of truth, disclosures of love, and offers of power.
III. NO AMOUNT OF NATURAL LEARNING CAN EVER COMPENSATE FOR DEFICIENCY OF KNOWLEDGE OR FAILURE IN PRACTICE CONCERNING MAN'S DUTY TO HIMSELF, HIS FAMILY, HIS NEIGHBOR, AND HIS GOD. If he fails here, he fails everywhere. The more splendidly a vessel is fitted up, the more costly the wreck if she dashes on the rocks. To teach natural knowledge and leave out religion, is to furnish the vessel but to fail to make any provision for steering it aright.
IV. NATURAL KNOWLEDGE IN THE HANDS OF OTHER THAN VIRTUOUS MEN MAY BECOME AN INSTRUMENT OF ENORMOUS MISCHIEF. The attempt to blow up the Winter Palace at St. Petersburg is an illustration of what science and skill may do in bad hands. The disclosures after the destruction of the Tay Bridge showed us how science, art, and skill may do their best, and yet the greatest efforts of great men may be blown away in an hour by a single blast, through the weak points which unconscientious work had left, in the hope of being undetected.
V. THE GREATER THE STRENGTH THAT IS PUT FORTH IN ACQUIRING KNOWLEDGE, THE GREATER THE ENERGY DEMANDED IN ORDER TO USE SUCH KNOWLEDGE WELL. The larger the vessel, the more power is required to propel her. So the wider the culture, the stronger does moral principle need to be in order that natural knowledge may be not a veil to conceal, but a book to reveal the Divine.
VI. HENCE THE CONCLUSION FOLLOWS: SO far from the accumulating mass of natural knowledge making the Word of God less necessary as a guide to living well and dying well, the fact is, that the necessity of Bible study is greater than ever! No book can take its place. No study can supersede that of the ways of God to man. Some of the wisest men of the age (so far as science goes) confess themselves hopelessly in the dark with regard to man's origin, nature, and destiny. Ah! in the Book of God, and in that alone, can man learn that which shall make him wise unto salvation. Here alone can we learn the mystery of God's will which was hidden from ages and generations, but now is made manifest. Here alone can he be taught that godliness which hath "promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come."
Faithful words silent accusers of those who heed them not.
In the several paragraphs of this chapter we find that Moses was borne along by the Holy Ghost to take a glance into the future. He had been instructed by God to give a charge to Joshua, and to surrender into his hands the leadership of the host. He had given to the priests their commission to guard the Law for the people. And now there remained but for him to give his final words to the people themselves. The Omniscient One foresaw that, after the death of their leader, they would become corrupt, forsaking the Lord, and ensuring for themselves and their children a heritage of woe. And hence it was mercifully provided that, even in the worst of times, their lawgiver's words should be for them a perpetual standard of appeal; so that, however the people might have fallen from the heights of virtue, they should still have the same trusty words to guide their path, and to direct and restore their life. While at the same time, these words would be a constant and silent witness against them for departing from the ways of the Lord. It is not at all unlikely that our Lord had this passage in mind when he said to the Jews, "Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust." That very Book, which if rightly used is "a lamp" to the feet and "a light" to the path, becomes, if neglected, a perpetual and silent accuser. Very earnestly and solemnly may the Christian preacher press this home "to every man's conscience in the sight of God." That selfsame purpose which was answered by securing permanent records of the Mosaic legislation, is also answered by permanent records of the Christian redemption. The apostles and prophets of the New Testament, like the legislator of the old, spake and wrote as they were borne along by the Holy Ghost. It is, therefore, over the larger sphere that we propose now to illustrate and enforce the truth that neglected teaching becomes a silent accuser.
I. WHEN OUR GOD LODGED IN THE WORLD THE JEWISH AND CHRISTIAN FAITHS, HE LOOKED ONWARD AND FORESAW THE FEATURES OF THE COMING GENERATIONS. (Cf. verses 16-18; see also Acts 20:29, Acts 20:30; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Peter 3:3; Matthew 24:24.) Whatever developments of ungodliness or of unbelief, of immorality or of heresy, may develop themselves, are all known to him who seeth the end from the beginning.
II. WITH FUTURE EVIL FULL IN VIEW, GOD HAS HAD HIS OWN WORD PUT DOWN IN WRITING. The words of Moses, of the prophets, of the Lord Jesus Christ, and of his apostles are faithfully recorded. They have suffered no material change through all the accidents of transition (Philippians 3:1). Paul felt what a safeguard it would be for after ages to have his words written down, and sent to the Churches, that they might be by them guarded, distributed, and taught (see verse 19).
III. THE WORD OF GOD, SO RECORDED, IS A PERPETUAL STANDARD OF APPEAL FOR EVERY AGE. Whatever corruptions may enter into or fasten on the Churches; however oral tradition may change the original form of Divine communication,—the written Word changeth not. How very soon Churches as Churches may drift far away from the true in faith and the holy in life, the Epistles to the Churches in Galatia, Corinth, Ephesus, Pergamos, Thyatira, Laodicea, tell. We see by them how very soon our faith might be seriously obscured or impaired if dependent merely on the oral transmission of any Church.
IV. BY THE PURE WORD OF GOD, ABERRATIONS MAY FROM TIME TO TIME BE CORRECTED. It is by the Church that the Word of God is kept and transmitted. It is by the Word so kept and transmitted that the Church is to be tested. Hence, whatever respect it may he appropriate to pay to the decision of a Church or of Churches, those decisions are valid only as they harmonize with what the Lord hath spoken in his revealed Word. Whatever will not abide the test of an appeal to the Book of God, with it Christian Churches and people should have nothing to do. Of how much importance our Lord regarded this final test is seen by his frequent appeal to what is written. Whether he was in conflict with the evil one, or was himself exposing or denouncing evil, his ultimate reference was to what God had said.
V. CONSEQUENTLY, BY HAVING IN OUR HANDS A PERPETUAL STANDARD OF REFERENCE, WE HAVE A CONSTANT AND UNVARYING GUIDE TO WHAT IS RIGHT BOTH IN FAITH AND PRACTICE. The accounts which we get of the after history of the Hebrew nation show us plainly enough how far adrift the people might soon have gone, if their faith had not been once for all enshrined and guarded in a book. And so it is in the New Testament. For though we get therein hints of the Church's life for but little more than two generations after they were formed, yet the severe lashings and rebukes which the Churches in Corinth, Galatia, and Colosse required, as well as the seven Churches, show with equal distinctness that our most holy faith might soon have been all but unrecoverable from the mass of corruption, if it, too, had not been recorded in the writings of the apostles and evangelists. But thus recorded it was, and through all the ages it has been guarded for us as a perpetual standard of appeal.
VI. IF, HOWEVER, WE ARE GUIDED BY THE VARYING OPINIONS AND SINFUL PRACTICES OF MEN, AND SO NEGLECT TO TAKE HEED TO OUR STANDARDS, THEY WILL BE PERPETUAL WITNESSES AGAINST US. (Verse 21,) So our Lord tells the Jews in reference to the departures from the faith and the corruptions in life which marked his time (cf. John 5:1-47 :54). And thus it must ever be. The very fact of having a standard of appeal serves two purposes. Which of the two it will serve so far as we are concerned depends on the use we make thereof. If we abide by it and conform thereto, it will verify our belief and justify our life. But if we depart from it, it can only act as a witness against us to condemn us. Every privilege is this two-edged. If used aright, it helps us; if disused or abused, it will be for a perpetual reproof. So it is with parental advice, with a teacher's counsels, with a pastor's pleadings, with a Savior's invitations: accepted and heeded, they will be a perpetual joy; but if made light of, they will plunge daggers into the soul.
VII. THIS SILENT ACCUSATION GOING ON NOW FORESHADOWS A MORE SERIOUS CRIMINATION AT THE JUDGMENT DAY. (Cf. Matthew 11:22, Matthew 11:24; Matthew 12:41, Matthew 12:42.) The whirl of life, and the surroundings of flesh and sense, conceal from many the spiritual world. But it exists. And when we are summoned hence we shall see it and know it. We shall feel ourselves with God—alone. And this—this will be the beginning of that awful process of judgment which, on the last day, is to be consummated and sealed. And what sore condemnation must await those to whom God has spoken in his Word for years on years, but in vain (see Ezekiel 33:1-33.)!
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
Deuteronomy 31:1, Deuteronomy 31:2
Moses the aged.
I. A MAN MAY BE IN HEALTH AND VIGOR, YET PAST CAPACITY FOR A CERTAIN WORK. Moses' "eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated" (Deuteronomy 34:7), yet he felt that he lacked the fire, the activity, the youthful energy, the elasticity of mind and body, which would have made him a suitable leader for Israel in the new period of her history. Greatness is tested by the magnanimity with which a man long used to power is able to lay it down when he feels that his day for effective service is past. Moses had served his generation nobly. There arose none like him. But, as has been said of Luther, who reached his meridian at the Diet of Worms, and whose end, had Providence pleased to remove him then, would have been like an apotheosis, "It is a law of history that every personality bears within itself a measure which it is not permitted to exceed" (Hagenbach). A new age was opening, and new powers were needed to do justice to its calls. The lawgiver, the prophet, the leader of the desert march, the meek, long-enduring, deep-souled man of God must give place to one more distinctively a soldier. The calm gifts of the legislator and statesman were not those which were most required for the work of conquest and settlement. Moses felt this, and felt, too, that he was getting old. The old man cannot enter as a younger man would into the thoughts, circumstances, and feelings of a new time. He belongs to the past, and is limited by it. His powers have lost their freshness, and can henceforth only decay. This was Moses' situation, and he had the dignity and wisdom to acknowledge it, and to arrange for the appointment of a suitable successor.
II. WHEN A MAN'S DAY OF SERVICE IS PAST, IT MAY BE KINDNESS IN GOD TO REMOVE HIM FROM THE WORLD. Moses' removal was a punishment for sin, but there was mercy concerned in it also. Long life is not always desirable. Had Moses lived longer, he could never have been greater than he is. He might have seemed less. Shades appear in the character of Luther after it had reached its meridian above spoken of—things which disturb and annoy us. Certainly, Moses' position, with Joshua as actual leader in the field, would not have been an enviable one. Joshua must increase, he must decrease. The impetuous soldier, the able strategist, the hero of the battles, would have eclipsed him in the eyes of the younger generation. He would feel that he had over-lived himself. Fitly, therefore, is he removed before the decline of his influence begins. The great thing is to have done one's work—to have fulfilled the ends for which life was given. That done, removal is in no case a loss, and in most cases a boon in disguise (2 Timothy 4:6-9).
III. WHEN THE SERVICES OF ONE MAN FAIL, GOD WILL PROVIDE FOR THE CONTINUANCE OF HIS WORK BY RAISING UP SUCCESSORS. So Joshua was raised up to succeed Moses.—J.O.
Deuteronomy 31:3-8, Deuteronomy 31:23
Joshua a type of Jesus, the true Leader into the rest of God (Hebrews 4:8). God has given him, as formerly he gave the son of Nun, for "a Leader and Commander to the people" (Isaiah 55:4).
I. THE MAN. Joshua as leader was:
1. Divinely appointed (verse 3).
2. Divinely led. "He doth go before thee" (verse 8). The captain had a higher Captain (Joshua 5:14).
3. Divinely assisted. "He will be with thee" (verse 8). Our Leader is Emmanuel—"God with us" (Matthew 1:23).
4. He was to be strong and courageous (verse 7). The ground of true courage is God being with us. It is said of the Savior, "He shall not fail nor be discouraged" (Isaiah 42:4). The perseverance of the Savior is as deserving of consideration as the perseverance of the saints.
II. HIS WORK. While Joshua's and the people's, it was still more God's work (verses 3, 4). With Joshua as leader:
1. The enemy would be overthrown (verses 3-6).
2. All opposition would be overcome.
3. He would conduct the people unto the land of their inheritance (verse 7).
4. He would cause them to inherit it (verse 7), i.e. settle them in their possessions.
Christ in like manner has overthrown the enemy (Colossians 2:15); has won an inheritance for his people (Colossians 1:12); in his victory they are enabled to overcome the world (John 16:33; 1 John 4:4); his cause is steadily triumphing; he is conducting, and has already conducted, many sons to glory (Hebrews 5:10).—J.O.
Deuteronomy 31:9, Deuteronomy 31:24-26
The authorship of the book.
A clear testimony to the Mosaic authorship of the Book of Deuteronomy. The book, as Moses gave it to the priests, has plainly been re-edited, with the additions of Moses' song, Moses' blessing, and the account of his death; but only the wantonness of criticism can see "a different hand or hands" in Deuteronomy 12-26, from that employed upon the earlier chapters, or discern probability in the assumption that De 4:44-26:19 once constituted a separate book. The unity in style and treatment is so conspicuous throughout—"the same vein of thought, the same tone and tenor of feeling, the same peculiarities of conception and expression"—that unity of authorship follows as a thing of course. The denial of it is incomprehensible. It is less certain whether the "Book of the Law" (verse 26) comprehends Deuteronomy only, or the bulk of the other books of the Pentateuch as well. That Deuteronomy is represented as existing in a written form is plain from Deuteronomy 28:58, Deuteronomy 28:61; Deuteronomy 29:20, Deuteronomy 29:21, Deuteronomy 29:27; and Hoses had probably the written discourses in his band when he delivered them. But Deuteronomy, as a written book, rests so entirely on the history as we have it in the previous books; is so steeped in allusions to it; implies so full and accurate a knowledge of it, from the days of the patriarchs downwards;—that the presumption in favor of that history also existing in a written form, in authentic records, which subsequent generations could consult, is so strong as almost to amount to certainty. It is incredible that Moses should have taken pains to write out these long discourses—discourses based on the history, and inculcating so earnestly the keeping of its facts and lessons in remembrance—and yet have taken no pains to secure an authentic record of the history itself; that he should not have compiled or composed, out of the abundant materials at his command, a connected narrative of God's dealings with the nation, down to the point at which he addressed it; incorporating with that narrative the body of his legislation. Confining our attention to Deuteronomy, there can be no fair question but that it gives itself out as from the pen of Moses. This claim is disputed, and the book referred to about the time of Josiah on grounds of style, of discrepancies with the Levitical laws, and of laws and allusions implying the later date. On the contrary, we hold that the critical hypothesis can be shown to raise greater difficulties than it lays, and that the difficulties in the way of accepting the book as a composition of Moses have been greatly exaggerated. We glance at a few of these difficulties.
I. STYLE. Professor W.R. Smith notes as a crucial instance the laws about the cities of refuge in Numbers 35:1-34; and Deuteronomy 19:1-21. These laws are supposed to have been penned by the same hand within a few months of each other; yet, it is alleged, the vocabulary, structure of sentences, and cast of expression widely differ. But allowance must surely be made for the difference between a careful original statement of a law, and a later general rehearsal of its substance in the rounded style of free, popular discourse. And what are the specific differences? Deuteronomy, we are told, does not use the term "refuge," but "the cities are always described by a periphrasis." But the Deuteronomist simply says, "Thou shalt separate three cities for thee in the midst of thy land" (Deuteronomy 19:2); "thou shalt separate three cities for thee" (Deuteronomy 19:7); "thou shalt add three cities more for thee "(Deuteronomy 19:1-21.9); and there is no periphrasis. The phrase, "that every slayer may flee thither" (Deuteronomy 19:3), "the slayer which shall flee thither" (Deuteronomy 19:4), is derived from Numbers 35:11, Numbers 35:15. But Deuteronomy and Numbers use different words for "accidentally." Admitted, but the words used are synonymous, and are only used in each case twice altogether—in Numbers 35:11, Numbers 35:15, and in Deuteronomy 4:42; Deuteronomy 19:4. "The judges in the one are ' the congregation,' in the other ' the elders of his city.'" But Deuteronomy says nothing about "judges," and "the elders" who are once referred to in Deuteronomy 19:12, plainly act in the name of the congregation. "The verb for 'hate' is different." Rather, "the verb for 'hate'" does not occur at all in Numbers 35:1-34; but the noun derived from it does (Numbers 35:20), and is translated "hatred," while in Numbers 35:21, Numbers 35:22, a different term, translated "enmity," is employed, which expresses nearly the same sense. Had these words appeared, one in Numbers and the other in Deuteronomy, instead of standing in consecutive verses of one chapter, they would doubtless have been quoted as further evidence of diversity of authorship. So one book, uses the expression "to kill any person," while the other has "to kill his neighbor—a difference surely not incompatible with identity of authorship. "The detailed description of the difference between murder and accidental homicide is entirely diverse in language and detail." But in Deuteronomy there is no "detailed description" of the kind referred to. There is in Numbers (Numbers 35:16-24); but Deuteronomy confines itself to one simple illustration from concrete life, admirably adapted, it will be admitted, to the speaker's popular purpose (Deuteronomy 19:5). The statement in Deuteronomy, it is evident, presupposes the earlier law, and is incomplete without it, occupying only a dozen verses, as compared with over twenty in Numbers, while even of the dozen, three are occupied with a new provision for the number of the cities being ultimately raised to nine (