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32. The Song of Moses

Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. 2My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass: 3Because I will publish the name of the Lord: ascribe ye greatness unto our God. 4 He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he. 5They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation. 6Do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people and unwise? is not he thy father that hath bought thee? hath he not made thee, and established thee?

7Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee. 8When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. 9For the Lord’S portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. 10He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. 11As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: 12 So the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him. 13He made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields; and he made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock; 14Butter of kine, and milk of sheep, with fat of lambs, and rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the fat of kidneys of wheat; and thou didst drink the pure blood of the grape.

15But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation. 16They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger. 17They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not. 18Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee. 19And when the Lord saw it, he abhorred them, because of the provoking of his sons, and of his daughters. 20And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith. 21They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation. 22For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains. 23I will heap mischiefs upon them; I will spend mine arrows upon them. 24 They shall be burnt with hunger, and devoured with burning heat, and with bitter destruction: I will also send the teeth of beasts upon them, with the poison of serpents of the dust. 25The sword without, and terror within, shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of gray hairs. 26I said, I would scatter them into corners, I would make the remembrance of them to cease from among men: 27Were it not that I feared the wrath of the enemy, lest their adversaries should behave themselves strangely, and lest they should say, Our hand is high, and the Lord hath not done all this. 28For they are a nation void of counsel, neither is there any understanding in them. 29O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end! 30How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, except their Rock had sold them, and the Lord had shut them up? 31For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges. 32For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter: 33Their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps. 34 Is not this laid up in store with me, and sealed up among my treasures? 35To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste. 36For the Lord shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left. 37And he shall say, Where are their gods, their rock in whom they trusted, 38Which did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offerings? let them rise up and help you, and be your protection. 39See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand. 40For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever. 41If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me. 42I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh; and that with the blood of the slain and of the captives, from the beginning of revenges upon the enemy. 43Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people.

44And Moses came and spake all the words of this song in the ears of the people, he, and Hoshea the son of Nun. 45And Moses made an end of speaking all these words to all Israel: 46And he said unto them, Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which ye shall command your children to observe to do, all the words of this law. 47For it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life: and through this thing ye shall prolong your days in the land, whither ye go over Jordan to possess it. 48And the Lord spake unto Moses that selfsame day, saying, 49Get thee up into this mountain Abarim, unto mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, that is over against Jericho; and behold the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel for a possession: 50And die in the mount whither thou goest up, and be gathered unto thy people; as Aaron thy brother died in mount Hor, and was gathered unto his people: 51Because ye trespassed against me among the children of Israel at the waters of Meribah-Kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin; because ye sanctified me not in the midst of the children of Israel. 52Yet thou shalt see the land before thee; but thou shalt not go thither unto the land which I give the children of Israel.

10. He found him in a desert land. If the intention of Moses had been to record all the instances of God’s paternal kindness towards the people, he must have commenced from the time of Abraham; like the prophet who, when presenting a complete narrative in the Psalm, begins from that original covenant, which God had made with the fathers, (Psalm 105:8;) and also introduces the benefits which He had conferred upon them, when they were but few in number, and strangers in the land, when they went from one nation to another, yet he suffered no man to do them wrong, and reproved kings for their sakes. (Psalm 105:14.) But Moses, studying brevity, deemed it sufficient to bring forward a more recent and more notorious blessing; nay, he omits the early part of their deliverance, and only makes mention of the desert, he says, then, that God found them in the desert; not because He then first began to take pity upon them, since they had been previously rescued from the tyranny of Pharaoh by His marvelous power, and had passed the Red Sea dry-shod, but because it was profitable for them to have set before their eyes how they had been extricated from the deep abyss of death, in order that they might more readily acknowledge this to have been, as it were, the beginning of their life. For what was that waste and barren desert, in which not a crumb of bread, nor a drop of water was to be found, but a grave to swallow up a thousand lives? and, therefore, it is further called “the devastation of horror.” 259259     “The waste howling wilderness.” — A. V. “Un lieu vague off il n’y avoit qu’horreur, ou hurlement;” a waste place, in which there was nothing but horror or howling. — Fr. The suae is, that it was a kind of type of resurrection, not from one death only, but from innumerable deaths, that the people should have escaped from it in safety. That they should have done so, even had their march through it been straight and speedy, could not have been the case without a miracle; but, inasmuch as they wandered therein for forty years, our minds can hardly comprehend a hundredth part of the miracles (which followed one upon the other. 260260     Added from Fr. ) Thus the word “led about,” is not superfluous, for God’s power was far more conspicuous than as if they had flown swiftly through the air. I apply the same meaning to what follows, “he instructed him;” for some, in my opinion improperly, refer it to the Law, 261261     “He taught them the words of his law.” — Chaldee. whereas it rather relates to the teaching of experience. For there was manifold, and no ordinary instruction in all these acts of bounty and punishment, wherein God, as it were, put forth His hand, and manifested His glory.

Two similitudes follow, to express God’s love, mingled with solicitude more than paternal. First, he says, that God no less anxiously protected them from all injury and annoyance than every one is wont to protect the pupil of his eye, which is the most tender part of the body, and against the injury of which the greatest precautions are taken. And David also, when requesting that he may be kept safe under the special guardianship of God, uses the same expression. (Psalm 17:8.) Secondly, God compares Himself to an eagle, which not only fosters her young ones under her outspread wings, but also indulgently, and with maternal tenderness tempts them to fly. It would be unseasonable to enter here into more subtle philosophical discussions respecting the nature of the eagle. The Jews, who are wont to trifle hazardously with things they do not understand, have invented fables respecting this passage, which have no relation to the meaning of Moses, who unquestionably spoke of the eagle as he might of any other bird. Nor can it be doubted but that Christ, when He compares Himself to a hen, desired to express the same sedulous care.

“How often (he says) would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37.)

If, however, any should choose to apply here, what Aristotle writes respecting the eagle, I would not stand in his way: although I do not think Moses had anything in his mind, beyond what the words naturally express. And, surely that which at once occurs to us ought to be sufficient for us, viz., that we ought to be ravished with just. admiration of God’s inestimable goodness and indulgence, when He condescends so to stoop to us as to protect us with His wings, like a bird, and, hovering before us, to instruct and accustom us to follow Him: in which latter words a more than maternal anxiety to teach us is represented.


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