King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Deuteronomy 31

Moses encourages the people, and Joshua. (1-8) The law to be read every seventh year. (9-13) The Israelites’ apostacy foretold, A song given to be witness against them. (14-22) The law delivered to the Levites. (22-30)

Deuteronomy 31 Audio:

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Moses encourages the people, and Joshua

1 And Moses went and spake these words unto all Israel.

2 And he said unto them, I am an hundred and twenty years old this day; I can no more go out and come in: also the LORD hath said unto me, Thou shalt not go over this Jordan.

3 The LORD thy God, he will go over before thee, and he will destroy these nations from before thee, and thou shalt possess them: and Joshua, he shall go over before thee, as the LORD hath said.

4 And the LORD shall do unto them as he did to Sihon and to Og, kings of the Amorites, and unto the land of them, whom he destroyed.

5 And the LORD shall give them up before your face, that ye may do unto them according unto all the commandments which I have commanded you.

6 Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.

7 And Moses called unto Joshua, and said unto him in the sight of all Israel, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou must go with this people unto the land which the LORD hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it.

8 And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.

The law to be read every seventh year

9 And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and unto all the elders of Israel.

10 And Moses commanded them, saying, At the end of every seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles,

11 When all Israel is come to appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing.

12 Gather the people together, men and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the LORD your God, and observe to do all the words of this law:

13 And that their children, which have not known any thing, may hear, and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as ye live in the land whither ye go over Jordan to possess it.

The Israelites’ apostacy foretold, A song given to be witness against them

14 And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thy days approach that thou must die: call Joshua, and present yourselves in the tabernacle of the congregation, that I may give him a charge. And Moses and Joshua went, and presented themselves in the tabernacle of the congregation.

15 And the LORD appeared in the tabernacle in a pillar of a cloud: and the pillar of the cloud stood over the door of the tabernacle.

16 And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers; and this people will rise up, and go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land, whither they go to be among them, and will forsake me, and break my covenant which I have made with them.

17 Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us?

18 And I will surely hide my face in that day for all the evils which they shall have wrought, in that they are turned unto other gods.

19 Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel.

20 For when I shall have brought them into the land which I sware unto their fathers, that floweth with milk and honey; and they shall have eaten and filled themselves, and waxen fat; then will they turn unto other gods, and serve them, and provoke me, and break my covenant.

21 And it shall come to pass, when many evils and troubles are befallen them, that this song shall testify against them as a witness; for it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed: for I know their imagination which they go about, even now, before I have brought them into the land which I sware.

The law delivered to the Levites

22 Moses therefore wrote this song the same day, and taught it the children of Israel.

23 And he gave Joshua the son of Nun a charge, and said, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou shalt bring the children of Israel into the land which I sware unto them: and I will be with thee.

24 And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished,

25 That Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying,

26 Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee.

27 For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the LORD; and how much more after my death?

28 Gather unto me all the elders of your tribes, and your officers, that I may speak these words in their ears, and call heaven and earth to record against them.

29 For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days; because ye will do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger through the work of your hands.

30 And Moses spake in the ears of all the congregation of Israel the words of this song, until they were ended.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Went. Began. M. — “Concluded.” Sept. continued, or, just before he dismissed the audience, he spoke to them as follows. Josephus (iv. 8,) thinks that this took place the day after his first harangue. C.

Ver. 2. Come in, to conduct you. M. — Especially. Heb. “and the Lord.” It was not the want of strength which hindered Moses from continuing to perform his arduous functions, as he was still full of vigour both in soul and body; (C. xxxiv. 7. C.) but it was his submission to the will of God, who had resolved thus to punish his former diffidence. H.

Ver. 3. Then. This word is not in Heb. or the Sept.; neither does Moses mean to insinuate, that God would take his place in conducting the people; but only that after he should be no more, the divine Providence would no less watch over his people, and direct the councils of Josue, who stood beside him. H. — The ark preceded the army, (Jos. iii.) and God invisibly put the enemies of Israel to flight. M.

Ver. 7. Called. Heb. “unto Josue.” He did this publicly that no dispute might arise after his death, respecting the choice of a successor. H. — Lot. Heb. and Chal. “thou shalt put them in possession of it.” C.

Ver. 9. This law of Deuteronomy. M. — Some think that he had written so far before he came to the assembly, as well as the Canticle; because God commanded him the same to ascend the mount. C. xxxii. 48. C. — But Moses did not speak the discourses recorded in this book, at one time. After he had, therefore, dismissed the people with his blessing, and with an assurance that God would be their newly appointed leader, he committed to writing what he had delivered by God’s order, at different times, and gave a copy of the Pentateuch to the priests, who were to keep it carefully on the side of the ark, and explain it to the people, particularly every seventh year. The Jews understand this law to mean the whole Pentateuch. It may denote also, more particularly H. Deuteronomy, as far as this place, or the 27th, and three subsequent chapters of it. He gave two copies; one to be deposited beside the ark, and the other (v. 26,) to be kept by the priests. In all contracts of consequence, this method is observed, one copy being laid carefully by, and the other left in the hands of those who may be concerned. Jer. xxxii. 12. The Rabbins say that 13 copies were taken; one for each of the 12 tribes and one to be placed on the side of the ark. But of this new assertion we must not expect to hear any proof. — Priests, whose duty it is to instruct the people. Mat. ii. 7. C. — Ancients, or magistrates, who must put the law in execution, and guide their decisions by it. H. — The mention of the ark in this place is to insinuate that the book was to be deposited on one side of it, v. 26. The priests might carry the ark, if they thought proper, (M.) as they did sometimes on the more solemn occasions; (Jos. iii. and vi. 1 K. iv. 4,) though the duty belonged to the Levites. Num. iii. and iv. The pagans placed their sacred books in their temples, under the care of the priests, who were obliged to transcribe them. C.

Ver. 10. Years commenced. Heb. “at the extremity of seven years.” The sabbatic years began at the expiration of every six years, (H.) after the land of Chanaan was conquered, (C.) or perhaps after the passage of the Jordan, which took place soon after this discourse was made. Josue spent above six years in the conquest of the country, and then divided it among the tribes. The seventh year was the first year of remission; as the Israelites, particularly on the east side of the Jordan, had already enjoyed the benefits of the country for a considerable time. If they had been required to wait till the whole had been conquered, no sabbatical year would have been of obligation before the reign of Solomon, as he had still some of the devoted nations to subdue. See Ex. xxiii. Lev. xxv. Salien. A.C. 1463. At this time, the ark was removed from Galgala to Silo, where it remained about 350 years. Jos. xviii. H.

Ver. 11. Thou shalt. Sept. “you shall read.” Josephus says, the high priest had to perform this office; while the Rabbins assert, that the chief magistrate, Moses, and his successors, the kings of Juda, had to read the law publicly. The princes did this in the court of the temple, designed for the women, as they also were bound to hear it. We find that Josias read aloud in the temple the words of the covenant, which have been lately discovered, 4 K. xxiii. 2. C. — But Esdras, a Levite, did the like; (1 Esd. viii. 2,) and the command seems to be directed chiefly to the priests, from whose number Moses was not excluded. Ps. xcviii. 6. H.

Ver. 12. Children, (parvulis.) Those who were above 12 years of age, attended the festivals as much as possible, particularly the three great ones. Even little children came to the temple, when they did not live at too great a distance. The lawgiver knew of what importance it was to inspire their tender minds with a love and respect for religion, and for the laws. C.

Ver. 14. In the court, as none but priests were allowed to enter the tabernacle. M.

Ver. 17. My face, as one indignant and much displeased. C. — I will withdraw my special protection and favours from them. M.

Ver. 19. This canticle, which will be given in the following chapter. Hence this law, (v. 9,) may comprise not only what had gone before, but also the remaining part of the book of Deuteronomy. This Moses would write before his death, and deliver entire, with the preceding books, to be kept with the utmost care, by the priests, as a testimony to remind all of what had happened in past ages, and what would befall the transgressors of God’s law. H. — The canticle, containing an abridgment of the book of Deuteronomy, (C.) as the latter did of the whole law, was to be copied out more frequently, (H.) and committed to memory. Some suppose that Moses and Josue are here ordered to see this put in execution. Others think that Moses gives this commission to the priests. — That they. Heb. “put in their mouths, (C.) that this song may be a witness for me against,” &c. God foresaw that the Israelites would prove rebellious; but he leaves them without excuse, as they could not plead ignorance. H. — This testimony against them was written in the form of a canticle, that it might be more easily remembered. W.

Ver. 20. Despise, (detrahent,) “detract,” (H.) and represent me as an unjust and weak God. Heb. “they will despise, or blaspheme,” &c. Sept. “they will irritate me.” C.

Ver. 21. Thoughts. Heb. “imagination.” Sept. “wickedness.” — Them. Heb. “concerning which I swore.” Sept. add, “to their fathers.” H.

Ver. 23. The Lord. Heb. has not this word, so that it would seem as if Moses had given this charge to Josue; but the context shews (C.) that it was the Lord; (v. 14,) for he swore to give the land of Israel. The Sept. insert the words of Moses and the Lord. “And Moses commanded Josue…the land which the Lord swore.” H. — This is the first time that God addresses Josue, in order to confirm his authority. M.

Ver. 26. Side. But not within, (M.) according to the generality of interpreters, whom Calmet follows. Ex. xxv. 10. But here he adopts the contrary opinion of Jonathan and Grotius, and asserts that this writing, containing the 29th, 30th, and 31st chapters, on thin boards, was placed in the ark, beside the tables of the law, in the same manner as the Philistines placed in it a coffer of gold, 1 K. vi. 8. We read (3 K. viii. 9,) that there was nothing in the ark except the two tables, which might be true at the time that book was written; though S. Paul (Heb. ix. 4,) tells us, that the golden pot, and the rod of Aaron, were in the ark. If they were there in the days when the author of the first book of Kings lived, the passage in question must be understood with these exceptions. C. — This difficulty cannot, however, be now easily decided, as the Scripture often uses the word in to denote near to, &c. v. 14. The coffer of the Philistines might also be on the outside of the ark. H. — Thee. This act of ratification of the covenant, which had been made at Horeb 39 years before, (C.) was placed in or near the ark. H. — The three chapters, of which it probably consisted, seem to have been what was discovered in the reign of Josias; as the threats and blessings which they contain, would naturally tend to make a strong impression upon all, 4 K. xxii. 8. C. — Kennicott thinks that Helcias discovered the very MS. which Moses had written with his own hand, and which he deposited neither in, nor fastened to any side of the ark, but only placed by the side (mitsad, juxta, Noldius) of it, or upon the same table; so that it might not be taken by the Philistines, but kept in some suitable place. Dis. ii. It is surprising that Huet cites Jonathan as delivering this sentiment, in capsa ad latus dextrum. H.