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with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Deuteronomy 29

Moses calls Israel’s mercies to remembrance. (1-9) The Divine wrath on those who flatter themselves in their wickedness. (10-21) The ruin of the Jewish nation. (22-28) Secret things belong unto God. (29)

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Moses calls Israel’s mercies to remembrance

1 These are the words of the covenant, which the LORD commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, beside the covenant which he made with them in Horeb.

2 And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, Ye have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land;

3 The great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and those great miracles:

4 Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.

5 And I have led you forty years in the wilderness: your clothes are not waxen old upon you, and thy shoe is not waxen old upon thy foot.

6 Ye have not eaten bread, neither have ye drunk wine or strong drink: that ye might know that I am the LORD your God.

7 And when ye came unto this place, Sihon the king of Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, came out against us unto battle, and we smote them:

8 And we took their land, and gave it for an inheritance unto the Reubenites, and to the Gadites, and to the half tribe of Manasseh.

9 Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do.

The Divine wrath on those who flatter themselves in their wickedness

10 Ye stand this day all of you before the LORD your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel,

11 Your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water:

12 That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the LORD thy God, and into his oath, which the LORD thy God maketh with thee this day:

13 That he may establish thee to day for a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

14 Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath;

15 But with him that standeth here with us this day before the LORD our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day:

16 (For ye know how we have dwelt in the land of Egypt; and how we came through the nations which ye passed by;

17 And ye have seen their abominations, and their idols, wood and stone, silver and gold, which were among them:)

18 Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood;

19 And it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst:

20 The LORD will not spare him, but then the anger of the LORD and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the LORD shall blot out his name from under heaven.

21 And the LORD shall separate him unto evil out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this book of the law:

The ruin of the Jewish nation

22 So that the generation to come of your children that shall rise up after you, and the stranger that shall come from a far land, shall say, when they see the plagues of that land, and the sicknesses which the LORD hath laid upon it;

23 And that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom, and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, which the LORD overthrew in his anger, and in his wrath:

24 Even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger?

25 Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them forth out of the land of Egypt:

26 For they went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given unto them:

27 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against this land, to bring upon it all the curses that are written in this book:

28 And the LORD rooted them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land, as it is this day.

Secret things belong unto God

29 The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Covenant renewed, and confirmed with an oath, v. 12. M. — Horeb. Thus the speech of Moses is concluded, (C.) and consequently this verse should be at the end of the last chapter, as it is placed in the celebrated editions of Michaelis and Houbigant. The latter observes that, beside that covenant, &c. shews, that the curses here recorded, are not by way of explication of those mentioned in the preceding 27th chapter, “but of a quite different kind. The former are denounced against those who violate the law of the decalogue, which was given at Horeb; neither do they threaten that the chastisements shall be inflicted in this life: the latter maledictions threaten present punishments, and those of a public nature.” See C. xxvii. 26. H. — Josue put in execution in a more solemn manner, what Moses here describes, (Jos. viii. 30,) to intimate that Jesus would give the last finishing to the outlines of the old covenant.

Ver. 3. Seen. Many who were present had seen the plagues of Egypt, and what the Israelites themselves had suffered in the wilderness. C.

Ver. 4. Hath not given you, &c. Through your own fault, and because you resisted his grace. Ch. — If they had not been guilty, Moses would never have made them this reproach. “But he shews that they could not understand or obey without God’s assistance,…and yet if…it be wanting, si adjutorium Dei desit, the vice of man is not on that account, deserving of excuse, since the judgments of God are just, though they be hidden.” S. Aug. q. 50. — Others explain it thus: Hitherto you have not been able to discern the designs of God in your regard: but now, being on the point of crossing the Jordan, to take possession of the land which God had promised to your fathers, you ought to place an unbounded confidence in him. Others read with an interrogation, which entirely removes the evil interpretation of the wicked, who pretend that God requires impossibilities. “Hath not the Lord?” &c. C. — God sometimes delivers over to a reprobate sense, and to their own will. Theod. q. 37. W.

Ver. 6. Bread, &c. as your ordinary food, (M.) though they might have both bread and wine on some occasions; as when they adored the calf, &c. S. Aug. q. 51. See C. viii. 4. C. — Your God, providing a miraculous food for you. M.

Ver. 9. Understand. Heb. “succeed in all your undertakings.” C.

Ver. 10. Doctors. Heb. Shoterim. Sept. Grammateisagogeis, (C.) “officers, heralds,” &c. C. i. 15. 19. 18, they are translated magistros, “masters of magistrates.” H.

Ver. 11. Besides, (exceptis,) which may signify all were present; or rather that the strangers of Egypt, &c. who were employed in servile offices, were alone excluded, as having no part in the covenant made with the Israelites. C. — S. Jerom seems to have rendered min, præter, in the latter sense; but the Chal. Sept. &c. take it in the former, as if none at all were absent, from the highest to the lowest. M.

Ver. 12. Pass; alluding to the custom of people who pass between the victims, when they engage in a solemn covenant, as Abraham did, Gen. xv. 10. — Oath. Sept. “imprecations,” specified in the preceding chapters, v. 14. C.

Ver. 15. Absent. Heb. “with him that standeth here this day before the Lord, and with him that is not here with us this day.” If all were present, (v. 11,) the absent must here denote the posterity of the Israelites yet unborn. H. — God made the covenant with Abraham and with his seed, before he had any children in the world.

Ver. 17. Idols. Heb. “you have seen their abominations and their filth, (or idols,) wood,” &c. Sept. “their abominations and their idols.”

Ver. 18. Bitterness; an Israelite, who cherishes now in his heart any idol, (H.) and who may draw God’s judgments upon the people, (C.) or induce them to follow his wicked example. H. — Let all watch over their children, lest they fall off. Chaldee, “Let there be none among you now whose heart may be filled with the sin of pride.” See Acts viii. 13. and Heb. xii. 15, where this text is cited. The Heb. seems to allude to some very bitter herbs. Rass is mentioned as growing in the ground, and the juice of it is often alluded to. Ose. x. 4. Jer. viii. 13. Ps. lxviii. 22. Lane is generally joined with the former term, and God threatens to make the faithless Israelites eat of it. Jer. ix. 15. Prov. v. 4. It may denote a poisonous bitter herb, as well as rass, which signifies “the head, gall, wormwood, aconite,” &c. C. — The root designates a mind secretly infected with idolatry, and the appetite, being once drunken with pleasures, thirsteth still more. W.

Ver. 19. The drunken, &c.: absumat ebria sitientem. It is a proverbial expression, which may either be understood as spoken by the sinner, blessing, that is, flattering himself in his sins with the imagination of peace, and so great an abundance as may satisfy, and as it were, consume all thirst and want, or it may be referred to the root of bitterness, spoken of before, which being drunken with sin may attract, and by that means consume such as thirst after the like evils. Ch. — S. Jerom seems to have translated sephoth by assumat, as the MSS. and interpreters read, before the correction of Sixtus V. who adopted the other signification of the Heb. absumat. C. — The sense however seems to be the same, as evil communications corrupt good manners, the wicked draw on those who before were dry, or thirsty, and superior to the allurements of pleasure, but not quite so sincere and constant as to shut out from their hearts the desire of tasting, what the man of the world so highly extols, and thus the just give way to the temptation, and become the companion of the libertine and of the idolater, and of course share in his destruction. The feasts of the idols were generally celebrated with the most dissolute mirth, which seemed more congenial to the depraved heart of man, than the sober feasts, which the Lord allowed his people. The drunken revellings in honour of Bacchus, who was worshipped in Arabia, &c. were a disgrace to human nature. Yet it is well known with what eagerness the deluded pagans joined in these religious sports. How prone to such excesses the Israelites also were, sacred history too plainly shews, so that they might well be described as thirsty, and willing to imitate those who were already drunk with dissolute pleasures; and this proverbial warning was not unnecessary to remind them what they had to expect from such conduct, at least if the people should become generally addicted to the service of idols. The most terrible chastisements mentioned below, (v. 20, &c. and in the preceding chapters, and still greater, C. xxviii. 61,) hung over their guilty heads. But the man who should give occasion to such a defection from the Lord, and , like Jeroboam, cause Israel to sin, must remember that he will have to suffer for the sins of all those whom he has perverted. Hence this cutting remark almost always accompanies the mention of Jeroboam’s name, He made Israel to sin. Such a one walked in the way, or imitated the sins of the house of Jeroboam, &c. A similar infamy and destruction attend arch-heretics and impostors. H. — Chal. translates, “Let him not say….lest he should add sins of ignorance to sins of pride.” C. — Sept. “lest the innocent be involved in the destruction of the sinner.” Cornelius a Lapide would leave out the negation, and translate, “that the innocent may be,” &c. M. — Bonfrere believes that the earth is to be understood; “and the earth drunken or deluged with rain, may take away its former dryness, yet so as to be rendered unfit for cultivation.” The proverb affects those who wish for things which will prove destructive to them: so the man who expects to derive great pleasure and advantage from the practice of idolatry, will be miserably deceived, and will only bring on his own ruin; or, if his passions be gratified for a moment, he must, if he die in that state, endure eternal torments in destruction from the face of the Lord. Homer (Odys.) says, “Crimes prosper not; the low outstrips the quick.” Festina lente. Hasten slowly, is an old and useful admonition. Ebria, a drunken woman, is a very indifferent partner for one that is sober at a dance. H. — The flesh being indulged, presently perverts the understanding. D.

Ver. 20. Enkindled, (fumet.) Lit. “smoke.” H. — Heb. “the anger (lit. nose)…smoke.” The Greeks and Romans adopt similar expressions, to denote the wrath and eagerness with which a person is actuated. “Fierce anger always sits upon his nose.” Theocrit. So Persius says, Disce, sed ira cadat naso, rugosaque sanna.

Ver. 23. Of salt. This salt was of a bituminous or sulphureous nature, which would burn like oil, and was sometimes used in lamps. Herod. ii. 62. Plin. ii. 104. It dried up the moisture of the earth, and rendered it barren. For which reason, it was scattered upon such places as were no longer to be cultivated, or inhabited. Abimelech sowed some on the ruins of Sichem. Jud. ix. 45. It seems that Palestine now feels the effects of this curse; as, for the most part, it is uncultivated, and a desert, though once so flourishing. C.

Ver. 26. Knew not, as their gods. M. — Indeed the gods of the heathens, were for the most part more recent than the days of Abraham, or of Moses, and only newly come up; (C. xxxii. 17,) which was a sufficient proof that they were not gods. H. — Assigned. It seems, as if God had in a manner abandoned other nations to the dominion of idols, while he chose Israel for his peculiar people. Hence, if they followed another god, they were to be treated as rebels. Heb. may have another sense, “and from whom they have received nothing.” Chal. and Syr. C. — Sept. “gods to whom they were not faithful, (or whom they did not believe) and whom I did not appoint for them.” Even while the people pretended to follow the worship of idols, they could surely place no confidence in them, knowing that they were either mere creatures, or even the work of their own hands. H.

Ver. 29. Secret things, &c. As much as to say, secret things belong to, and are known to God alone: our business must be to observe what he has revealed and manifested to us, and to direct our lives accordingly. Ch. — The nations full of surprise, at the miseries, which were inflicted upon the Jews, and upon their country, could not comprehend what might have brought on so severe a chastisement, as they little suspected that it was their worshipping those gods, which they themselves adored, v. 2. But those who had been converted, and had been able to penetrate the secrets of God, by means of his gracious revelation, answered, (v. 25, &c.) that idolatry had been the chief cause of such inconceivable distress, and a crime of no less enormity, the refusing to acknowledge the true God, in the person of the Messias, and the putting him even to a disgraceful death, when he came unto his own, (Jo. i.,) had served to complete their misery. H. — Moses resumes his discourse, and says that these chastisements had been reserved in the treasury of God’s wrath, and he had not denounced them to their fathers; but now, since he had told them so plainly, what they had to expect, they would be inexcusable if they ran into the danger. Heb. may signify, “The secrets of the Lord…are manifest to us.” He has shewn us this favour, in preference to other nations. Ps. cxlvi. 20. Vatab. — Secret things are known to God, while those only which are manifest can be discerned by men. Theod. q. 38. W. — Amama wonders at the negligence of B. Luther’s version; and observes, that his commentators illustrate “the word of Luther, not of God,” in this place, p. 378. H.