Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 5: Harmony of the Law, Part III, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
25. When thou shalt beget children, and children’s children, and ye shall have remained long in the land, and shall corrupt yourselves, and make a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, and shall do evil in the sight of the Lord thy God, to provoke him to anger;
25. Quum genueris filios et nepotes, et senueritis in terra illa, corruperitis autem vos, et feceritis sculptile, imaginem cujuscunque rei atque feceritis malum in oculis Jehovae Dei vestri, irritando illum,
26. I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over Jordan to possess it; ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed.
26. Testor contra vos hodie coelum et terram, quod pereundo peribitis cito e terra ad quam pergendo transituri estis Jordanem, ut possideatis eam: non protrahetis dies in ea: quia disperdendo disperdemini.
27. And the Lord shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the Lord shall lead you.
27. Ac disperget vos Jehova inter populos, et relinquemini homines pauci numero in gentibus ad quas deducet vos Jehova.
28. And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.
28. Servietisque ibi diis, operi manuum hominum, ligno et lapidi, quae non vident, nec audiunt, nec comedunt, nec odorantur.
29. But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart, and with all thy soul.
29. Quod si requisieris inde Jehovam Deum tuum, tum invenies, si requisieris eum toto corde tuo, et tota anima tua.
30. When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the Lord thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice;
30. Quum fuerit tibi angustia, invenerintque te omnia ista, in novissimis diebus si reversus fueris ad Jehovam Deum tuum, et parueris voci ejus:
31. (For the Lord thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers, which he sware unto them.
31. (Quia Deus misericors est Jehova Deus tuus) non derelinquet te, neque disperdet te, neque oblivisectur pacti patrum tuorum de quo juravit illis.
25. When thou shalt beget children, and children’s children. Although at the outset he only adverts to idolatry, yet, inasmuch as he thence takes occasion to inveigh generally against the transgressors of the Law, and denounces punishment against them, I have thought it advisable to introduce this passage amongst the Sanctions (of the Law.) He had already strictly forbidden them to turn aside to idols; he now requires this instruction to be handed down to their grand-children and their whole race; as though he had said, that they must continue faithfully in the pure worship of God, not only lest they should deprive themselves of entering the land of Canaan, but also lest, after having long enjoyed quiet possession of it, they should be expelled from it. For long possession might have hardened their minds in security and arrogance, as if they had no change to fear. Lest, therefore, as time should pass away, they should trust that they were firmly established, and advance to greater license, he now reminds them that the punishment which he had already taught them to await themselves, would also be extended to their descendants; since it was no less easy for God to drive their 257 distant posterity from their quiet nest, than it would have been for Him to prevent their taking possession of it. But although he is treating of idols, still he addresses them on the subject of the curse, which overhangs all despisers of God. And, in order that the threat may affect them more deeply, he calls on “heaven and earth to witness;” as though he had said, that even things inanimate and without reason were in a manner conscious of the vengeance of God. Their opinion 258 is a poor one who think that angels and men are thus designated by a metonomy; for we shall see a little further on that the same form of expression is repeated. And when he says in his song, (De 32:1,) “Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth,” it is to signify by hyperbole that his address is worthy of being listened to by all creatures. Thus Isaiah, the more to shame the Jews, who had become stupified in their folly, addresses his words to the heavens and earth. (Isa 1:2.)
When he calls heaven and earth to witness God’s vengeance, it is as much as to say, that it will as clearly appear as the heaven and earth appear before our eyes; and after he has said that they shall perish, he also declares in what manner, viz., that God would scatter them hither and thither, and reduce them to a small number. What follows might seem absurd, inasmuch as it ought not to be reckoned among their punishments that they should serve idols among strangers, whereas they had already worshipped them of their own accord in their own land; but this difficulty is easily solved, and in two ways, either that banishment was a just reward to them in order that there they might indulge to their full these impure dispositions; and thus there will be an antithesis between the nations of the heathen and the Holy Land, as though God had said that He would not; suffer them to profane the latter by their superstitions; or else, that then, the veil being as it were removed, they should be ashamed when they should be compelled to serve dead idols. Nor can it be questioned but that then they were wounded in spirit by the same disgusting practices in which they had before taken pleasure; and I (See ante on Deuteronomy 28:36, p. 254.) have stated elsewhere that I prefer this latter sense. Meanwhile, he reproaches them for their stupidity in adoring 259 dead images, formed of corruptible things, and the work of men’s hands.
29. But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord. In this passage also he exhorts and encourages them in the confidence of obtaining pardon, and thus anticipates them, so that they might not be overwhelmed with sorrow when smitten by God’s hand; for despair awakens such rage in the wretched that they cannot submit themselves to God. He sets before them, then, another object in their punishments, that they may not cease to taste of God’s goodness in the midst of their afflictions, whereby He invites them to repentance. For the sinner will never set about seeking God, unless he deems Him to be accessible to prayer. Moreover, he warns them to return truly and sincerely to a sound mind, because they will gain nothing by false profession. We know that nothing is more common than to make complaint to God whenever we are oppressed with troubles, but, when they are at all intermitted, immediately to return to our natural state. Sincere conversion is, therefore, prescribed; for “all the heart” is precisely equivalent to an upright heart, (integrum,) which is contrasted with a double or feigned one; and this must be noted, 260 lest a sense of our infirmity should disturb us; for, since it is not possible for men to give themselves wholly to God, the knowledge of their own inability is apt to induce listlessness; whereas, provided we do not deal deceitfully, it is declared that our penitence is approved by God.
30. When thou art in tribulation. He here shews the advantage of punishments, on the ground of their usefulness and profit; for what the Apostle says is confirmed by experience, that
“no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby.”
Lest, therefore, they should be provoked to wrath by God’s stripes, he reminds them of their usefulness to them, because they would never turn to God unless aided by this remedy. He tells them that, after they shall have been afflicted by the curses of God, if they sought after Him, they should find Him: and further, he gives them grounds for hope both in God’s nature and in His covenant. He assures them that God will be willing to be appeased, because He is by nature merciful; but he adds another confirmation of this, which is more certain and familiar, viz., because God had adopted them by a perpetual covenant.
“Abnepotes,” — Lat.; i.e., their grandchild’s grandchildren.
“When he calls heaven and earth to witness, he calls all things which are in heaven and in earth, by metonomy; and especially angels and men, who are properly called witnesses. Thus Theodoret. So the Poet says:
Vos aeterni ignes, and non violabile numen
Tester; (Virg.Aen., 2. 154;)
for the Platonists thought that the heavenly fires, i.e., the stars, were animated by their intelligences, or guardian angels, whom they worshipped as inferior gods.” — Corn. a Lapide in loco.
De Lyra’s note is, “i.e., every intellectual creature existing in heaven and earth, since none but an intellectual creature can properly bear witness.”
“Des marmousets sans sens;” senseless puppets. — Fr.
Addition in Fr., “car s’il avoit une pleine perfection requise;” for if entire perfection were here required.