J. N. Darby.
(Notes and Comments Vol. 2.)
I cannot but see the book of Deuteronomy as standing on quite a different ground in the purpose of God than the four books. It is more than questionable if a single ordinance of these books, after their first establishment, was perfectly fulfilled in the wilderness - their children were not circumcised.
It is an elaborate system formed after the pattern shown in the Mount, and as to events "they happened unto them for types, and are written for our admonition." It is an immense typical system, the facts historically true, but selected and given with ulterior and spiritual intention, often unknown to the author. Where, as in Deuteronomy, there are instructions for the practical living state of things in the land, and where this order was in no way carried out, the general provision is for the state of Judges. They are referred to, and the case is put of their having a king, but it is a practical state of things prophetically seen from the time of going over Jordan till the final restoration of Israel - the secret things. The notion of its subsequent composition is absurd - if the Pentateuch existed, no one would have connected another contradictory system; both being composed together subsequently is equally absurd. But the abstract typical system, and the directions for an actual disordered state of things, pursuing the great elements and introducing moral principles of a more general character, are perfectly intelligible. Had Moses, instead of being inspired, made both as an arranged composition, it would have been equally difficult. It is true inspiration, which is the key of it all. It is, in the main, a general direction for order in the country, and provision for an unformally ordered state. The types, when there are any, as in chapter 16, are of a more general spiritual bearing The four books are a systematically ordered system, in many respects indeed, only fitted for the wilderness. Tabernacles was not, and that was never regularly kept.
The Lord quotes from Deuteronomy in His temptations. The moral motives for obedience are chiefly there.
In this book, holiness, grace and communion are much more remarkable; and note also the people are entirely anew placed in covenant with the Lord, see chapters 26:17-18, and 27:9-10. And remark here the new form of the dictation of this covenant; it anticipatively supposes them to be in possession of the land, and in worship and in joy before the Lord, and Moses and the priests the Levites. He who mediates, as revealer, the blessing, and they who minister its maintenance by a sacrifice and communication of worship, place them as "this day become the Lord's people," and therefore insist on keeping the commandments commanded. This is altogether a new covenant from Sinai, as it is said "the covenants," see also chapter 29:1. It is a new base; it is not now "if ye shall be," but "avouched to be" - worshipping in joy, supposed in the Land, "This day ye are become," "Thou shalt therefore keep." Yet as the endurance, quod nota, of the blessing rests on the perseverance of the people in fidelity, it fails in result, though there be room for patience, as well as if it were based on the "If ye will obey, ye shall be."
116 Deuteronomy 1
- 1. b'e-ver (on this side); in Numbers 32:19, it is me-e-ver (beyond, on yonder side, on this side).
- 10-12. These three verses are a parenthesis and should be so marked.
- 10-12 and 20-23, are both of them evidently parenthetical. "The children of Lot for a possession" … "now rise up" … "unto the children of Lot for a possession" … "rise ye up, take your journey." These accounts of the country are graphic notices of great value, not only historically (the surest we have) but of God's ways and men's in peopling the earth, violence, war, etc. The only question is as to "as Israel did unto the land of their possession." To say that "go in and possess the land" proves it means only Canaan west of Jordan is folly; whatever was their possession, they entered into it on dispossessing the inhabitants. Nor is there the least difficulty in supposing Moses wrote it. He had partly entered into possession by casting out the Amorites; and what is stated is the way Israel entered in, not the history of an event. Hence Moses could say, in an Aorist sense, Israel entered in in the same way, but from the way it comes in I am strongly disposed to consider it as added, because we have an exactly analogous passage, I may say word for word without this addition, "destroyed them and dwelt in their stead," only that in verse 22, we have "even unto this day." This may be Moses, as it had long taken place. It is to be noted that the Horims are twice spoken of, verses 12 and 22. My impression is the passages are a divine prophetic addition. I do not think it is simply to encourage the Israelites, though it would do this in showing the ways of God - "the Lord destroyed them." But it showed important history - these giant races, and their pride, and removings, and destructions when God so willed.
117 The early history of man, found only with certainty in Scripture, is of much importance in judging of what short-lived man is. The characters of men of God may be given by their own mouth by inspiration. Paul does so speak of himself, only when forced to do it, largely; in the more familiar style of the New Testament says they made him a fool in speaking so much of himself. The question is, if it be inspired we should lose immensely if we had not these passages, and God has put them in for our instruction, without consulting the incompetent judgment of man happily for us. A part of the whole picture of truth would be wanting if this were not here.
- 13. "Said I" is wrong, and should be omitted.
- 20. b'e-ver; clearly "beyond"; see also verse 25 and chapter 4:46-47, 49; also chap. 11:30.
- 34. How "war"? see Exodus 15.
118 Deuteronomy 5
- 15. This is motive, not the thing celebrated.
- 28, 29. It is not the intention or desire to obey which was presumptuous - that was all right, and there is no allusion to what was said in Exodus, which was after all this. God had spoken out of the midst of the fire, and then Moses went up. The presumptuous point was taking all the blessings and covenant on the specific ground of "If ye will obey my voice, ye shall be." They might have said "We fear to have all our blessings depend on our own obedience, for fear we lose them." In the covenant of Sinai, the being God's people, and getting the blessing was "if"; and, I repeat, it is the whole point, when, after the terror of God's appearing, they said "We will obey" - it was a natural effect of terror, and a right intention. But they begged to hear no more, and no covenant was based on it - on Moses going up and bringing the "if" tranquilly down, they tranquilly undertook it as the base of blessing. Bound to obey they were - intention to obey was right - but a covenant of blessing on that condition was the grossest ignorance of self and was presumptuous.
The reason why God did all this was to teach men that, on this ground, no flesh could be justified. Nothing could be more important. The promise to Abraham had not raised any question of righteousness - it was a simple promise on God's part, certain to be fulfilled. But here the question of righteousness was raised as it ought to be and must be, and first on man's part for God, according to what was rightly required of man; when that point was cleared, and flesh proved what it is, then the righteousness of God was revealed through the promised Seed. We should not have had half Romans and all Galatians but for this.
As to delusion in the people, clearly there was, as the golden calf proved. The law was never given to man, as such, as God's way of blessing, but to a peculiar people called to Himself, and brought to Himself, to have flesh tested. It was given as exacting obedience as the prior and indispensable condition of life and joy. It was positively "If ye obey, ye shall" … "Do this and live." To Abraham, further, it was unconditioned promise, and the uncircumcised was cut off from blessing which remained to others - at the law the covenant was absolutely based on the condition of man's obedience as its first principle.
Continual access to God did not lay open to them - individual faith in promise might go to God, but the law, tabernacle and all said, "Death if ye come near." God did not come out - man could not go in. In Christ God did come out, and, blessed be God, Man is gone in; the Holy Ghost signified this by the veil - "We have boldness to enter into the holiest, by a new and living way, consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh," and we draw nigh. And even in the sacrifices, they were in contrast with Christ, a remembrance of sins still there - now "perfected for ever," never to be remembered.
119 Deuteronomy 7
In this chapter we have the consecration of the people to God.
Not to lose sight of it, I mark that the infidel argument from this chapter and Ezra 9:11 is wholly without force, and, as usual, superficial. The same language as that of this chapter is found in Exodus 34:12-17. The use of the word "prophets" proves nothing at all - Abraham was a prophet; and Ezra in this verse speaks of their then going into the land when the prophet spoke, and so said "by the prophet speaking." All the objections are nonsense and worse.
Here we have the discipline and exercise in the way.
Note here, the strength of the Lord with them in conflict with power greater than their own, but the history of the rebellion of their heart.
- 15-24. This goes by itself - a kind of parenthesis. Verse 25 takes it up from verse 14; verse 15 takes up Exodus 32:15, adding other cases of rebellion. There is a vast deal more as to Moses with God at the door of the tabernacle in Exodus, and above chapter 32:31.
- 18. This is the second time, speaking simply historically, in reasoning with them about their sins; it alludes directly to Exodus 34:28.
120 - 25. I think that here, "because the Lord said he would destroy you," leads him back to the first time, with which he then goes on.
- 1-9. I take these verses to be all a parenthesis, and verse 10 to connect directly with chapter 9:29, showing that after the apostasy of Israel, the law (but now in the ark), the priesthood, and a land of rivers of waters, and levitical service with no inheritance but the Lord, was set up a system of patient grace in Israel. The death of Aaron showed, through Eleazar taking his place, that the priesthood continued, as did the service of Levi in the land which is the subject of this book, not merely in the wilderness in which all this was set up.
- 1-11, takes up the standing of the restored people. The basis of it all is laid in Exodus 34:1-9, which stands by itself, passing on (verse 28) to Moses, with the people - a mediatorial condition and government, see verse 27.
- 6, 7. Compare Numbers 33:37-38. There is no difficulty here.
The subject here is the one place of resort where Jehovah's name was. "Ye shall not do so" refers to this, "ye shall not have high places." They might eat flesh anywhere, clean or unclean, only consecrated things were to be eaten where Jehovah had placed His name. Who was to eat it is not in question I think here at all, only the Levite was not to be forgotten. It would apply to the priests as others; whatever of this kind was to be eaten, and whoever was to eat it, it was to be eaten there. Priests are swamped in the whole mass of Israel.
- 5, 6, 7, 16-20, see also chapter 14:22-27, the people are to eat the tithes and firstlings; whereas in Numbers 18:17, they are specially the priest's as the tithes were the Levites'; also the tithe is at the end of three years, see chapters 14:28 and 36:12-13. In chapter 14:72, the tithe seems to be yearly, see also Numbers 18:21.
121 - 5-14. One thing is quite clear, that the leading thought is "the one place" to which they were to go; for things are spoken of, of which no man ate anything.
- 17, 18. But here there is more difficulty, for here it is they are not to eat within their gates; still we find again this point of the place prominent, and the eating spoken of vaguely - they might eat of any (clean) beast, only pouring the blood on the ground. But what belonged to God, sacrifices, vows, etc. (verse 26), they were to take to the place where Jehovah's name was; and then it was left to apply the eating to what it legally applied to.
- 27. They were to offer their burnt offerings, the flesh and the blood, on the altar of Jehovah, and the blood of the sacrifices was to be poured out on the altar of Jehovah their God, and they would eat the flesh. Now this referred strictly, according to the law, only to the peace-offerings - of sin and trespass-offerings the priests ate, and parts of the peace-offerings, and that is recognised in this book. But the point is offering was to be made here, in what referred to divine worship, to God, not to what the soul lusted after - here he might eat in communion with the altar, with God, but here only. Sacrificial eating was at the chosen place only. Hence what the soul lusted after, the unclean could eat of (verse 22). It is to be remarked that there was no payment of tithes by the people to the priests, nor at Jerusalem - they paid tithes of all to the Levites, then the tithe of their tithes to the priests, and then ate their tithes at home as if they were the, now, sanctified fruit of their fields. With regard to Numbers 18:24-32, it is possible this may have dropped through disorder and carelessness; but the carrying up tithes to Jerusalem was a distinct thing. All nations have god-festivals, and Israel was to have theirs in connection with Jehovah according to the rudiments of the world.
As regards our chapter, it would thus, as noticed, offer no difficulty - offerings were carried up and they ate the part which was to be eaten according to the law; nor does chapter 14:22-23, etc. offer any difficulty as to this distinct or second tithe - they ate it before the Lord, or took up money and bought what they liked. Only firstlings, first-fruits, and all vows, heave- and wave-offerings remain, see Numbers 5 and 18; these all belong to the priest. These reh-sheeth (first-fruits), so far as males went, some think they were all other firstlings except the males (Rosenmuller), or firstlings generally, not the priest's. But it is wrong as to the priests having the worshippers to eat with them; some, only the clean males of their house could eat, others all the family. But they must be a second set of firstlings as there was a second set of tithes, which there clearly was, see Tobit 1:1, where the second tithes are very distinctly brought forward, and the third, so that this was a known ordinance in Israel. As regards the firstlings; the first-fruits were given to the priests, so in chapter 18. Tobit speaks only of the second tithes, but these or their worth he spent in feasting in Jerusalem every year. We must leave, I suppose, the directions of Numbers, etc., where they are; they are not the main object of Deuteronomy, but the people's going up with their festal joy to Jerusalem to connect it with Jehovah, and the firstlings and the like to be such as they might otherwise have eaten at home, but, according to Deuteronomy, were to go to Jerusalem with.
122 The first males, if the first born, would remain to the priests. The immediate object was to identify all their common joy with Jehovah by the place. Next, the character of worship, and all these services and directions, is common enjoyment of the blessings promised - not approach to God in the holiest. As to this, see Deuteronomy 16 and 26, and Leviticus 16.
- 1. Compare with this Galatians 3 and Matthew 5.
- 9-12. The day of Pentecost was evidently thus - whatever day the first handful could be had, it was offered on the day after the Sabbath (Sunday); thence to the seventh Sabbath was forty-nine, and then on the fiftieth (Sunday) Pentecost was celebrated. In itself it had no connection with the previous feast of unleavened bread - historically it was so, but they were distinct ordinances. See also Leviticus 23:15-16.
123 Deuteronomy 26
The main points are noticed in the Synopsis, but I note the whole here as important. The worship is characterised by the open declaration, and founded in its nature and character of the present possession of and standing in the blessing which grace and redemption had brought the people into, and this it is I note as important. They are in the land, as we "in Christ" in heavenly places, "blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ," and we come with the joy, thanksgiving and praise, the worship that is, the first-fruits of that. It is the rising up by the Spirit of the return and effect of being in and enjoying the fulness of God's blessing. Then it is in the place where God is fully revealed, and where He dwells - the place in which He has put His name, which He has chosen to this end. He gathers the people, and so the soul with its first-fruits - the first-fruits of its privileged blessings - into the place which He has chosen to dwell in, and where He fully reveals Himself; we know where and the way. For us it is the Father's house, "My Father and your Father, my God and your God." Then not as without, hoping to get it, but as within, in the enjoyment of all spiritual blessings, as that in which we are, we offer our first-fruits to God. What we were surely comes in and greatly enhances the blessing, as redemption necessarily does, and such a redemption! But it enhances it, not alters or diminishes it, "A Syrian ready to perish was" - not "is." The first principle is the present full enjoyment of the blessing itself, and that is sufficient - characterises it - only we do remember how grace has given us such a place.
Next, thanksgiving to the Giver goes before enjoyment of the gift; so ever.
Then, we rejoice in every good thing.
Next, there is not only blessing, but an estimate of what heaven - the Land - is, as God estimates it in itself, not merely its fruits for us, but what is the glory of all lands - what makes it precious; this is a blessed privilege.
Then grace flows out, the necessary effect of enjoying the love of God.
Note too, that while the personal consciousness of being in the place of blessing is the first and personal feeling, yet in the worship the whole people of God are taken in verse 9, "He hath brought us"; so, ever the Holy Ghost says "loved us, washed us, saved us"; though I know it for myself and say "we," yet, as often noted, I comprehend "with all saints."
124 Then comes obedience, "I have not transgressed … have not forgotten"; the last a special test of the spirit of obedience. Then diligent care to avoid defilement or turning anything away from God to self - purity and consecration to God.
Then blessing is prayed for on the whole people of God and on the land; i.e., as for us, as belonging to heaven itself, and the sense of its nature and excellency is repeated. In all, in and by this worship, and all brought out in it, we belong to God, and have God as our God.
Here note, on the one hand the altar is put on the mount of cursing, on the other it is not here a threatening of excision of the body, but a malediction on the individual who did not observe what was contained in the law; so that they are supposed in possession, but evidently on untenable ground. The public dealings of God with the nation in His right of government and righteous government are in the chapters which follow.
Deuteronomy 27, 28
Remark how not only here the curses alone, not the blessings, are recited (as alluded to surely in Galatians 3), but in chapter 28, where the governmental dealings are unfolded, how largely, though in a manner characteristically correspondent, the curses are developed and insisted on compared to the blessings. This stamps necessarily a peculiar character on the relationship between God and the people. It gives to us, accustomed to perfect and unwearied love, a somewhat painful feeling, not as to the rightness of it, but as to being in such a relationship. It is just what ought to be under law, indeed blessing must be always simpler, for the blessing itself, the favour is the great thing, and on a hard state of mind more positive and lower motives must (i.e., may) be brought to bear, but it makes us see what the position of law for man's heart is.
125 Deuteronomy 29
- 21-23. Note the way in which the Lord passes from the individual, separated out of the tribes of Israel, to the whole land as a natural consequence which follows certainly; compare the use of it in Hebrews.
There is much encouragement and comfort that the exhortation and charge to Joshua is given in the same time as the prophetic song which announces the failure of the people. Our present work and duty, whatever it may be in the Church, hangs from the charge, and is sustained by it, whatever we may know of the results as regards man's unfaithfulness. Note this well.
- 25-30, compare Acts 20:17, 29, and following verses. The analogy is very remarkable.
The connection of this chapter with Exodus 6, already noticed elsewhere, is exceedingly striking, as showing the place that these prophetic revelations hold. At the end here, they are returned and stand in the house celebrating Jehovah who has blessed. That is the place of these Psalms.
- 8, He set the bonds of the "peoples" not "people."
As regards the development of principle in the Scripture history of the world; first, Innocence which precedes the ways of God, then man left to himself in sin (though not without testimony), but without governmental restraint. Then the principle of government in man's hand in Noah. After this, the sources of blessing and governmental interference being by man attributed to, and so morally fallen into the hands of the enemy, the separation of Abraham takes place by the revelation of the glory of the true God, and election, calling, promise, and we may add faith, are brought out fully to light as public principles of dealing, for without doubt God has acted on them ever since the fall. Then the establishment of a people, by redemption and deliverance, under the law and immediate government of God are introduced - a people of God in the world. Within this come priesthood, prophecy, and subsequently royalty.
126 After this, the government of the world trusted to man - one man as head of empire and sovereign authority in the world - replacing a people in relationship with God, centre of other nations, who ought to have owned Him. After the rejection of Christ, who came under this state of things, the government is left externally unchanged, only the Jews are set aside; various historical changes take place, but the age remains unclosed, and the Church is called out for heaven, and then, God resuming His dealings with Jews and Gentiles as guilty of rejecting Christ as Head of all, and in Him all is substantially resumed. The Law - a people by redemption - Israel, centre of nations - universal dominion in Man - royalty in Israel - and the results of calling, election and promise; the Church being in its own place apart, i.e., associated with Christ. Babel may be noticed, by the way, as introducing the formation of nations, of which Israel was to be the centre.
The book of Deuteronomy then contains the terms of the responsible possession of the land with Jehovah there, so that their enjoyment of it should be inseparably connected with Him where He placed His name. Chapter 26 gives the expression of this and closes the book. It does not go beyond Jacob and redemption out of the ruin he had got into by going down into Egypt, and enjoyment of the blessings brought into by it. This is not approaching God, nor sure promises given to Abraham, etc.; the latter are not the subject of the book, for he was a stranger and a pilgrim, and the former gave rise to there being nothing, save a few circumstances to secure their and the people's enjoyment, about priestly action. Chapter 16 gives another character, God's work by which He gathers round Himself, and the condition of the people so gathered around Himself. Every male was to come to the place where He had put His name.
The three feasts are well-known, prefiguring the work of the deliverance of the soul based on Christ's blood, its state in connection with it - the gift of the Holy Ghost, so that there is a free-will offering, and the common joy of grace, yet warning - and the full enjoyment as no longer pilgrims but blessed in everything. The wilderness is not Deuteronomy. There it is properly typical, and the question was approach to God Himself in the holiest; hence it is heavenly, though the heavens were not yet opened, the veil unrent, and no one able to go in. Hence in this book there is no eighth day to the feast of tabernacles, nor are the sacrifices before as in Leviticus, and still more Numbers, but gathering round Jehovah and the spiritual state connected with that which did it.
127 L'amour de Christ est un amour qui est au dessus de toutes nos misères, mais qui s'adapte a toutes nos misères, et qui n'est froissé ni refroidi par aucune de ces misères.
The love of Christ is a love which is above all our wretchednesses, but which adapts itself to all our wretchednesses, and which is not repelled nor chilled by any of these wretchednesses.
Le tombeau dans lequel nos péchés sont ensevelis est le monument de la grace éternelle de notre Dieu.
The tomb in which our sins are buried is the monument of the eternal favour of our God.