Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
The general entreaty contained in this chapter is pointed by special mention and enforcement of the fundamental principles of the whole covenant Deut. 4:9-40, the spiritual nature of the Deity, His exclusive right to their allegiance, His abhorrence of idolatry in every form, His choice of them for His elect people. Compare further Moses' third and last address, Deut. 27-30.
A full stop should end Deu 4:9; and Deu 4:10 begin, At the time that thou stoodest, etc. Deu 4:11 then ye came near, etc. Moses, exhorting to heedful observance of the Law, strives to renew the impressions of that tremendous scene which attended its promulgation at Sinai.
Hero worship exhibited itself in the practice of setting up images of human form as household gods (Penates, compare Gen 31:19; Gen 35:2), or as local and civic divinities: a practice forbidden by Deu 4:16. Nature worship in its baser shapes is seen in the Egyptian idolatry of animals and animal figures, and is condemned in Deu 4:17-18 : while its less ignoble flight, the worship of the sun, moon, and stars, is forbidden in Deu 4:19. The great legislator may be regarded as taking in the passage before us a complete and comprehensive survey of the various forms of idolatrous and corrupt worship practiced by the surrounding Oriental nations, and as particularly and successively forbidding them every one.
Divided - i. e., "whose light God has distributed to the nations for their use and benefit, and which therefore being creatures ministering to man's convenience must not be worshipped as man's lords."
Compare with these verses Lev 26:33-40, and Deu 28:64 ff.
Unwilling, as it might seem, to close his discourse with words of terror, Moses makes a last appeal to them in these verses in a different strain.
Temptations - Compare Deu 7:18-19; Deu 29:2-3; not, "i. e." the tribulations and persecutions undergone by the Israelites, out the plagues miraculously inflicted on the Egyptians.
He chose their seed after them - literally, "his seed after him." Speaking of the love of God to their fathers in general, Moses has more especially in mind that one of them who was called "the Friend of God" Jam 2:23.
Brought thee out in his sight - literally, "by His face:" "i. e." by the might of His personal presence. Compare Exo 33:14; where God promises "My presence (literally 'My face') shall go with thee."
These verses are inserted between two distinct and complete discourses for the reason to which they themselves call attention ("Then Moses severed three cities," etc.); i. e., the fact narrated took place historically after Moses spoke the one discourse and before he delivered the other. In thus severing the three cities of refuge Moses carried out a previous command of God (see the marginal references); and so followed up his exhortations to obedience by setting a punctual example of it, as far as opportunity was given him.
In the plain country - literally, "in the land of the Mishor." The word means a level tract of land; but when used (Deu 3:10; Jos 13:9, etc.) with the article, seems to be the proper name for the smooth downs of Moab, which reach from the Jordan eastward of Jericho far into the Desert of Arabia, and which form a striking contrast alike to the rugged country west of the river, and to the higher and remarkable districts belonging to Bashan northward.
Bezer is, with little certainty, identified with Bostra, or (1 Macc. 5:36) Bosor. Golan gave the name of Gaulonitis to a district of some extent east of the sea of Galilee and north of the Hieromax; but the exact site of the city if uncertain.
These verses would be more properly assigned to the next chapter. They are intended to serve as the announcement and introduction of the address now to be commenced. Deu 4:44 gives a kind of general title to the whole of the weighty address, including in fact the central part and substance of the book, which now follows in 22 chapters, divided into two groups:
(a) Deut. 5-11,
(b) Deut. 12-26.
The address was delivered when they had already received the first-fruits of those promises Deu 4:46, the full fruition of which was to be consequent on their fulfillment of that covenant now again about to be rehearsed to them in its leading features.
Sion must not be confounded with Zion (compare Psa 48:2.).