Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 5: Harmony of the Law, Part III, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
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,
10. Vos adstatis hodie omnes vos eoram Jehova Deo vestro, principes vestri tribuum vestrarum, seniores vestri, et praefecti vestri, omnes viri 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;
11. Parvuli vestri, uxores vestrae, et peregrini tui qui habitant in medio castrorum tuorum, a caesore lignorum tuorum usque ad haurientem aquas tuas:
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;
12. Ut transeas in pactum Jehovae Dei tui, et in jusjurandum ejus quod Jehova Deus tuus pangit tecum hodie:
13. That he may establish thee today 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.
13. Ut statuat te hodie sibi in populum, et ipse sit tibi in Deum, quemadmodum loquutus est tibi, et quemadmodum juravit patribus tuis, Abraham, Isaac, et Jacob.
14. Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath;
14. Neque vobiscum solis pango pactum istud, et jusjurandum istud.
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:
15. Sed cum eo qui est hic nobiscum stans hodie coram Jehova Deo nostro, et cum eo qui non est hic nobiscum hodie.
16. (For ye know how we have dwelt in the land of Egypt, and how we came through the nations which ye passed by;
16. Vos enim nostis quomodo habitavimus in terra Aegypti, et quomodo transivimus per medium gentium quas transistis:
17. And ye have seen their abominations, and their idols, wood and stone, silver and gold, which were among them:)
17. Et vidistis abominationes earum, et idola earum, lignum, et lapidem, argentum et aurum, quae sunt apud illas.
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;
18. Ne forte sit inter vos vir, aut mulier, aut familia, aut tribus, cujus cor avertat sese hodie a Jehova Deo vestro, et abeat ad colendum Deos gentium harum: ne forte sit in vobis radix fructificans venenum et absinthium.
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:
19. Sitque quum ipse audierit verba maledictionis hujus, ut benedicat sibi in corde suo, dicendo, Pax erit mihi, etiamsi in cogitatione cordis mei ambulavero: ut addat ebriam sitienti.
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.
20. Non placebit Jehovae parcere illi, sed tunc fumabit furor Jehovae, et zelus ejus in eum virum: et recubabit in eo omnis maledictio quae scripta est in libro isto, et delebit Jehova nomen ejus de sub coelo.
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.
21. Et separabit eum Jehova in malum ab universis tribubus Israelis, juxta omnes maledictiones pacti scripti in libro Legis hujus.
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;
22. Et dicet generatio postera, filii vestri qui surgent post vos, et alienigena qui veniet e terra longinqua, quum viderint plagas terrae hujus, et morbos quibus aegrotare fecerit Jehova in ea:
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;
23. Sulphur, et sal, combustionem in toto solo ejus, ut non seratur, neque germinet, neque ascendat in ea ulla herba, ut in subversione Sodomiae, Gomorrhae, Admae, et Seboiim, quas subvertit Jehova in excandescentia sua et ira sua:
24. Even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger?
24. Dicent, inquam, omnes gentes, Quare fecit sic Jehova terrae huic? quae est ira excandescentiae hujus magnae?
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:
25. Et dicent, Eo quod dereliquerunt pactum Jehovae Dei patrum suorum, quod pepigit cum eis, quum educeret eos e terra Aegypti:
26. For they went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given unto them:
26. Et abeuntes coluerunt deos alienos, incurvaveruntque se eis: deos, inquam, quos non noverant, et qui nihil impertiti fuerant illis:
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:
27. Et irata est excandescentia Jehovae in terram ipsam, ut induceret super eam omnem maledictionem scriptam in hoc libro:
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.
28. Extirpavitque eos Jehova e terra ipsorum in ira, et indignatione, et excandescentia magna, et projecit eos in terram aliam, sicut hodie.
10. Ye stand this day all of you before the Lord your God. Again does Moses, as God’s appointed 261 representative, sanction the doctrine proclaimed by him by a solemn adjuration. With this design he says that the Israelites stood there not only to hear the voice of God, but to enter into covenant with Him, in order that they might apply themselves seriously, and with becoming reverence, to perform the promise they had given. Nor does he only address their chiefs, but, after having begun with the officers, the elders, and men, 262 he descends to the little children and the wives, in order that they might understand that their whole race, from the least to the greatest, were bound to keep the Law: nay, he adds all the strangers, who had devoted themselves to the service of the God of Israel, and states particularly that the very porters and lacqueys 263 were included in the covenant, in order that the minds of those, who derive their origin from the holy Patriarchs, should be more solemnly impressed. Moreover, in order that they may accept the covenant with greater reverence, he says that it was established with an oath. Now, if perjury between man and man is detestable, much less pardonable is it to belie that which you have promised God by his sacred name. Finally, he requires that the covenant should be reverenced, both on account of its advantages and its antiquity. Nothing was more advantageous for the Israelites than that they should be adopted by God as His people; this incomparable advantage, therefore, ought deservedly to render the covenant gratifying; and, besides the exceeding greatness of this blessing, God had prevented them by His grace many ages 264 before they were born.
It would have been, therefore, very disgraceful not to embrace eagerly and ardently so signal a pledge of his love. Nevertheless, the question here arises, how the little children could have passed into covenant, when they were not yet of a proper age to learn (its contents; 265 ) the reply is easy, that, although they did not receive by faith the promised salvation, nor, on the other hand, renounce the flesh so as to dedicate themselves to God, still they were bound to God by the same obligations under which their parents laid themselves; for, since the grace was common to all, it was fitting that their consent to testify their gratitude should also be universal; so that when the children had come to age, they should more cheerfully endeavor after holiness, when they remembered that they had been already dedicated to God. For circumcision was a sign of their adoption from their mother’s womb; and therefore, although they were not yet possessed of faith or understanding, God had a paternal power over them, because He had conferred upon them so great an honor. Thus, now-a-days, infants are initiated into the service of God, 266 whom they do not yet know, by baptism; because He marks them out as His own peculiar people, and claims them as His children when He ingrafts them into the body of Christ. Moses goes further, stating that their descendants were bound by the same covenant, as if already enthralled to God; and surely, since slavery passes on by inheritance, it ought not to appear absurd that the same right should be assigned to God which mortal men claim for themselves. What he says, then, is tantamount to reminding the Israelites that they covenanted with God in the name of their offspring, so as to devote both themselves and those belonging to them to His service.
16. For ye know how we have dwelt in the land of Egypt. We know how greatly men’s minds are tickled by novelty; and this might occur to the Israelites when, upon entering the land of Canaan, they would see many forms of idolatry hitherto unknown, which would be so many snares to entangle them. Although, therefore, they were not as yet accustomed to such corruptions, he exhorts them to beware by former instances; for they were not ignorant that God had held in abomination the superstitions of Egypt, and also of other nations, which He had punished in terrible ways. Consequently Moses reminds them that there was no reason why the people should be carried away to imitate the rites of the Gentiles with which they were unacquainted, since they knew by extraordinary proofs that whatever imaginations had been invented by heathen nations were hateful to God. This argument, then, is drawn from experience, whereby the Israelites had been abundantly admonished, that they should hereafter beware of all delusions. But, when he passes from individual men and women to families and tribes, he indicates that those who are associated with others in sin, seek to excuse themselves in vain by their numbers; since a whole nation is as much to be condemned as a single person.
The conclusion of verse 18, “lest there should be among you a root,” etc., seems to be tamely explained by some, 267 lest there should be venomous men, who should bring forth bitter fruits to God; for by the word root I rather under stand the hidden principles of sins, which, unless they be prevented in good time, spring up with collected vigor and lift themselves on high; for indulgence in sin increases by concealment and connivance. And to this the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews seems to allude when he exhorts believers lest, through their negligence, “any root of bitterness, springing up, trouble them, and thereby many be defiled.” (Heb 12:15.) As soon, therefore, as any one should endeavor to excite his brethren to worship false gods, God commands him to be plucked up, lest the poison should burst forth, and the bitter root should produce its natural fruits in the corruption of others. Wormwood 268 (absinthium) is here used, as often elsewhere, in a bad sense, on account of its unpleasant savour; unless perhaps it is some other herb, as is more probable.
19. And it come to pass when he heareth the words. He shews that it is not without reason that he has used so solemn and severe an adjuration; since nothing is more common than for men to flatter themselves, and by levity to evade the decision of God. He therefore repeats, that they are standing before God, who neither deceives, nor is deceived, nor even allows Himself to be thought lightly of; in order that they may tremble at His threats. Let the majesty of God, he says, be dreaded by you; so that none who despises Him, and wantons in his own lusts, should promise himself impunity. “To bless himself in his heart,” is to hope in his secret imaginations that all will go well; as the hypocrites do, who, in their foolish self-adulation, applaud themselves deceitfully, lest they should hear God thundering. 269
From this passage, therefore, let us learn that nothing is worse than to hope for peace, whilst we wage war with God; and to promise ourselves that He will let us alone, when we provoke Him by the impetuosity of our lusts.
The conclusion of the verse, “to add the drunken to the thirsty,” is variously explained on account of its ambiguity. 270 I am ashamed to repeat the silly triflings of the Hebrew interpreters. To me it seems unquestionable that Moses, by a proverbial figure of speech, forbids us to excite the appetites of the flesh, already sufficiently heated, by new stimulants. As, therefore, they are said to add oil to the grate, who add more flames to a fire already lighted, 271 so they are said to add the drunken to the thirsty who seek provocatives of their audacity, in order to sin more freely; for lust in a man is like an insatiable dropsy; and if any one indulges in such intemperance, he adds the drunken to the thirsty, i e., the madness of his own folly to unrestrained desire. רויה, ravah, however, is, in my opinion, used actively, as elsewhere. In Ps 23:5, it is said, “My cup רויה, revayah, runneth over;” and, in like manner, in Ps 66:12, a well-watered land 272 is expressed by the same word, because it abundantly moistens the corn and grass. It is very appropriate that the desires of the flesh, that we burn with, should be compared to thirst; and the licentious impetuosity, which carries us away without reflection, to drunkenness; because the sinner stupifies himself into forgetfulness of the distinction between good and evil. And thence Paul calls those who are plunged in brutal forgetfulness of God and themselves, ἀπηλγηκότες (past feeling.) (Eph 4:19.)
20. The Lord will not spare him. Moses here teaches us that the obstinacy in which the wicked are willfully hardened, shuts against them the door of hope, so that they will find that God is not to be appeased. And assuredly it is the climax of all sins that a wretched man, who is abandoned to vice, should extinguish the light of his own reason, and destroy the image of God within him, so as to degenerate into a beast: and not only so, but also that he should dethrone God, as if He were not the Judge of the world. And this is the insult which they put upon Him who abandon themselves to sin in the confident expectation of impunity. 273 Thus, by Isaiah, God swears that this was an inexpiable crime, that, when He called them to baldness and to mourning, the Israelites encouraged each other to gladness; and, whilst feasting luxuriously, said in ridicule, “Tomorrow we shall die.” (Isa. 22:12, 13.) By the word, אבה, ahab, Moses altogether shuts out the grace of God. 274 Meanwhile he contrasts God’s fixed purpose, — that He will not be willing to pardon, — with the depraved pleasures of those who take too much delight in their sins. Behold, then, what poor sinners gain by their proud contempt when they endeavor to cast off God’s judgment together with His fear!
Further, in order the better to express that God will be irreconcilable to such great perversity, he declares that He will exterminate from the earth those who have so wantonly exulted in iniquity; and finally adds, that He will give them up to be accursed (in anathemata,) so that they shall no longer hold a place among the people of Israel. Now, it is a much more grievous thing to be cut off from the elect people, and to be set apart unto evil, as it is here said, than to be deprived of natural life.
22. So that the generation to come of your children. God enforces what we have already seen, that the punishments which He would inflict would be no ordinary ones, or such as should fall into contempt from their common use; but like portents, which should awaken astonishment among their posterity. For the question which is here put is such as refers to something extraordinary, and what is not easily comprehended. It is not, however, confined to the preceding clause, but refers to the whole list of curses; not as if each of them by itself had awakened such horror, but because, when heaped one upon another, they compelled all men to wonder, both on account of their number and their severity and duration, and thus were for a sign and a prodigy. For it everywhere occurs that men are afflicted with diseases, and barrenness for a single season is a common evil; but that sicknesses should cleave as it were to the marrow of a whole people, and that the earth should be dried up as if it were burnt with sulphur, this is an awful spectacle, in which God’s vengeance, which else would be incredible, manifestly appears; and therefore the cases of Sodom and Gomorrah are adduced, in whose destruction it might be seen what end awaits all the reprobate. 275 (Jude 1:7.) Now the Israelites always had their desolation before their eyes, from the time that they entered the land, in order that they might be warned by so terrible a judgment, and might tremble at it. It is also worthy of notice, that strangers are introduced making inquiry; in which words Moses signifies that this vengeance would be terrible even to heathen nations; and with this corresponds what we read in Jeremiah; “many nations shall pass by this city, and they shall say every man to his neighbor, Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this great city? Then they shall answer, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God, and worshipped other gods, and served them.” (Jer. 22:8, 9.) A similar divine menace is recorded in 1 Kings 9:8, 9; “And at this house,” referring to the Temple brought to desolation, “every one that passeth by it shall be astonished and shall hiss; and they shall say, Why hath the Lord done thus to this house? And they shall answer, Because they forsook the Lord their God, and have taken hold upon other gods,” etc. What we find further on is still more fearful; “Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle.” (2Ki 21:12.)
Moses amplifies the crime of their rebellion, when he says, that forsaking the God of their fathers, God their deliverer, God who had made a covenant with them, they had gone and served strange and unknown gods, from 276 whom they had received no benefits to induce them. For God had bound them to Himself for ever, both by His instruction 277 and the incomparable manifestation of His power; there could therefore be no pretense of ignorance, or mistake to excuse their defection from Him, and their prostitution of themselves to unknown idols.
In the meantime, let us learn from this passage anxiously to inquire who is the true God, and what is His will; because there is no true religion without knowledge; and again, if He convicted His ancient people of wicked ingratitude on account of their deliverance, that we also are now much more inexcusable, unless we constantly abide in the faith of our eternal Redeemer.
“Stipulator.” — Lat. “Un notaire stipulant.” — Fr.
“Peres de famille.” — Fr.
“Calones, et lixas.” — Lat. “Les buscherons, porteurs de bagages, et gouiats;” the wood-carriers, baggage-porters, and soldiers’-boys. — Fr.
“Quatre cens ans;” four hundred years. — Fr.
Added from Fr.
“Luy sont consacrez par le baptesme, pour estre siens;” are consecrated to Him by baptism, to be His own. — Fr.
Amongst others, De Lyra, whose gloss is, “Some one corrupted by idolatry, who should further corrupt others by his wicked persuasions.” Dathe says, “It is a proverbial expression, and its meaning is: lest there should be any rebel against the primary law of worshipping one God, and he should think within himself the things which follow in the next verse.”
“The word לענה certainly denotes an extremely disagreeable and bitter plant; and that it was wormwood is a well-supported and probable interpretation. We therefore give a cut of the Artemisia absinthium. It must be confessed, however, that the Scripture seems to attribute to the לענה stronger effects than the wormwood of Europe will produce. We may therefore understand that some more hurtful species is intended: unless, as suggested by Gesenius, in the strong passages which seem to call for such an explanation, the name of the plant is employed figuratively to express poison.” — Illust. Comment. on Pr 5:4
Addition in Fr., “par maniere de dire.”
Lat., “Ut addat ebriam sitienti.” A.V., “To add drunkenness to thirst;” Margin, “The drunken to the thirsty.” So Ainsworth, “To add the drunken, to wit, the drunken soul to the thirsty, or the moist to the dry, meaning to add sin unto sin in abundance, as in Isa 30:1.” Dathe follows Le Clerc, and explains it, “to add water to a thirsty soul;” and compares it to Isa 44:3, where, he says, the same metaphor is used, though in a good sense.
“Que ceux, qui augmentent le mal, mettent l’huile en la cheminee;” that those who augment an evil put oil into the chimney. — Fr.
A.V., “a wealthy (margin, moist) place.” See Cal. Soc. Comment. on Psalms, vol. 2, p. 473.
“Car ceux qui sous ombre d’eschapper son jugement s’abandonnent ‘a pecher, luy font ce dishonneur de le despouiller de son empire;” for those who abandon themselves to sin under cover of escaping His judgment, do him this dishonor of despoiling him of his empire. — Fr.
“Le verbe que nous avons translate condescendre, signifie venir a gre. Ainsi Moyse exclud toutes graces de Dieu;” the verb which we have translated condescend, (the Lord will not condescend to spare him,) signifies to consent. Thus Moses shuts out all the graces of God. — Fr יאבה, acquiescet. — Taylor.
Addition in Fr., “Comme Sainct Jude aussi declare, que la foudre dont elles ont este abysmees, est figure du feu eternal;” as St. Jude also declares, that the thunderbolt whereby they were destroyed, is a type of the eternal fire.
See margin, A.V. — “Who had not given to them any portion,” v, 26.
“Sa parole;” His word. — Fr.