Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 3: Harmony of the Law, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
Deuteronomy 5Deuteronomy 4:20
Deuteronomy 5:1-6, Deuteronomy 4:20
1. And Moses called all Israel, and said unto them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep and do them.
1. Vocavitque Moses universum Israelem, et dixit eis, Audi Israel statuta et judicia, quae ego hodie loquor in auribus vestris, ut discatis ea et custodiatis ad praestandum.
2. The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb.
2. Jehova Deus noster percussit nobiscum foedus in Horeb.
3. The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day.
3. Non cum patribus nostris percussit Deus foedus hoc, sed nobiscum, qui ipsi hodie omnes vivimus.
4. The Lord talked with you face to face in the mount, out of the midst of the fire,
4. Facie ad faciem loquutus est Jehova nobiscum in monte:
5. (I stood between the Lord and you at that time, to show you the word of the Lord; for ye were afraid by reason of the fire, and went not up into the mount,) saying,
5. (Ego stabam inter Jehovam et inter vos tempore illo ad annuntiandum vobis sermonem Jehovae: quia timuistis a facie ignis, et non ascendistis in montem:) dicendo,
6. I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
6. Ego Jehova Deus tuus qui eduxi te e terra Aegypti, e domo servorum.
20. But the Lord hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be unto him a people of inheritance, as. ye are this day.
20. Vos autem tulit Jehova, et eduxit vos e fornace ferrea ex AEgypto, ut sitis ei in populum haereditatis, sicut die hac.
1. And Moses called all Israel. Since the plan and order of exposition which I have adopted required that this same preface, as it is repeated word. for word in Deuteronomy, should here also be read together, I have thought fit also to insert the five verses, which in this place precede it. In the first verse, Moses exhorts the people to hear the judgments and statutes of God, which he sets before them. He likewise states the object of this, that they should keep 222 to do them; as much as to say, that he was not offering them mere empty speculations, which it was enough to understand with the mind, and to talk about, but that the rule for the ordering of their lives was also contained in his teaching; and, therefore, that it demands imperatively their serious meditation.
2. The Lord our God. In these words he commends the Law; because it must be accounted a peculiar blessing, and a very high honor to be taken into covenant by God. Wherefore, that they may anxiously prepare themselves to embrace the Law, he says that what was above all things to be desired had been freely offered to them, viz., that they should be united in covenant with God. In the next verse he still further magnifies this advantage by comparison; because God had given more to them than to their fathers. Thence is all excuse taken from them, unless, for the sake of manifesting their gratitude, they give themselves up entirely to God, and in return worship with sincere affection Him whom they have experienced to be so bountiful a Father. Those who would paraphrase this sentence, “Not only with our fathers, but also with us,” pervert its proper meaning; the grounds of their mistake being, that God had formerly made a covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But this may be easily refuted; because the name of “fathers” does not refer to these, but he means by it such as had died in Egypt during the last 200 years; to whose case he justly prefers that of the surviving people, with whom the ancient covenant had been renewed. Now, this reference to time was in no slight degree calculated to stimulate and arouse them to obedience; for it would have been disgraceful in them not to acknowledge that they were honored more than their fathers by this especial privilege, in order that they should excel them in their earnest zeal for God’s service. Christ uses the same argument with His disciples, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see: and the ears which hear the things that ye hear, etc., 223 (Mt 13:16, and Lu 10:23,) “many Prophets and kings have desired,” etc. The sum is, that the more bountifully God deals with us, the more heinous and intolerable is the crime of ingratitude, unless we willingly come to Him when He calls us, and submit ourselves to His instruction.
4. Face to face. Again he commends the Law by mentioning their certainty about it; for, when God openly manifested Himself, there could be no doubt of the author from whom it proceeded. To speak “face to face,” is equivalent to discoursing openly and familiarly; and in point of fact God had spoken with them, as mortals and friends communicate with each other in their mutual dealings. Moreover, lest any doubt should still remain, God set before their eyes a visible manifestation of His glory, by appearing in the fire; for no other voice but that of God Himself could proceed out of fire. In the next verse a kind of explanation is added, when he says that he was the interpreter, who laid before them the commands he received from God. And thus he reconciles two things which seem at first sight to be contradictory, viz., that God spoke in person, and yet by a mediator; since they themselves having heard God’s voice petitioned in their fear that He should not continue to speak in the same way. Hence it follows that they were convinced, by a sense of the divine glory and majesty, that it was not allowable for them to doubt the authority of the law. But I only slightly glance at this, because it has been more fully treated of before.
Deuteronomy 4:20. But the Lord hath taken you. He argues that, from the period of their deliverance, they have been wholly devoted to God, since He has purchased them for His own peculiar possession. Hence it follows that they are under His jurisdiction and dominion; because it would be foul and wicked ingratitude in them to shake off the yoke of their redeemer. And, in order to strengthen the obligation, he extols the greatness of the favor, because nothing could be more wretched than they were, when God stretched forth His hand to deliver them. Their bondage is therefore called metaphorically, a “furnace,” nay, an “iron” one; and, then, their present far different condition is compared with it; for this was solid and most desirable happiness, that they should be translated into God’s peculiar inheritance.
So in margin A.V.
The quotation here appears to have been made from memory.