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Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 3: Harmony of the Law, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at

deuteronomy 13

Deuteronomy 13:18

18. When thou shalt hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep all his commandments which I command thee this day, to do that which is right in the eyes of the Lord thy God.

18. Quia audies vocem Jehovae Dei tui, ut custodias omnia praecepta ejus, quae ego praecipio tibi hodie, ut facias quod rectum est in oculis Jehovae Dei tui.

18. When thou shalt hearken. Although this sentence depends on something else, (as may be seen by referring to it,) yet is it general, and extends to the commendation of the whole Law. Moses teaches first, that the rule of a holy life must be sought from the mouth of God; and then adds that He must be obeyed not partially, but universally. He confirms also what I have said respecting obedience, for men only please God when they listen to His voice. Moreover, the expression is worth our notice, wherein Moses only assumes for himself the character of a minister, and claims power for God alone; for he says that he commands, but expressly explains that the commandments which he sets before them are God’s.


Deuteronomy 4:5-14

5. Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it.

5. Videte, docui vos statuta et judicia, sicut praecepit mihi Jehova Deus mens, ut sic faciatis in medio terrae, ad quam vos ingredimini ut possideatis eam.

6. Keep therefore, and do them: for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.

6. Custodietis itaque, et facietis: quia haec est sapientia vestra et intelligentia vestra coram populis: qui dum audierint omnia statuta haec, dicent, Certe populus hic sapiens et intelligens est gens haec magna.

7. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for?

7. Quae enim gens tam magna est cui sic appropinquent dii, sicut Jehova Deus noster in quibuscunque invocamus eum?

8. And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?

8. Et quae gens est tam magna cui sint statuta et judicia justa, sicut est universa haec lex, quam ego proporno hodie coram oculis vestris?

9. Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life; but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons:

9. Veruntamen cave tibi, et custodi animam tuam sollicite, ne obliviscaris rerum quas viderunt oculi tui, neve recedant e corde tuo cunctis diebus vitro tuae, et doceas ea filios tuos et filios filiorum tuorum.

10. Specially the day that thou stoodest before the Lord thy God in Horeb, when the Lord said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children.

10. Die quo stetisti coram Jehova Deo tuo in Horeb, quum diceret Jehova mihi, Congrega mihi populum, ut recenseam illis verba mea, quae discent, ut timeant me omnibus diebus quibus vixerint super terram, et filios suos doceant.

11. And ye came near, and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness.

11. Itaque accessistis, et stetistis sub monte: (mons autem ille ardebat igni usque ad medium coeli, tenebrae, nubes, et caligo.)

12. And the Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice.

12. Et loquutus est Jehova ad vose medio ignis: vocem verborum vos audiebatis, at imaginem ullam non videbatis praeter vocem.

13. And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone.

13. Et renuntiavit vobis pactum suum quod praecepit vobis, ut faceretis, decem verba, et scripsit illa in duabus tabulis lapideis.

14. And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go over to possess it.

14. Mihi quoque praecepit Jehova eodem tempore ut docerem vos statuta et indicia, ut faceretis ea in terra ad quam transitis ut possideatis eam.

6. Keep therefore, and do them. In order that they may set themselves more cheerfully about the keeping of the Law, and may proceed more steadily in this endeavor, he reminds them that nothing is better or more desirable for themselves. For God is not duly honored, except with ready minds and volutary obedience, to which we are rather attracted by pleasure than forced by rigor and violence. Now, since all desire to excel, he says, that this is the chief excellence of Israel, that they have God for their Lawgiver and Master. If any object that what he says may be refuted by two arguments, namely, because the Law of God was unknown to heathen nations; and because the form of God’s worship prescribed in it, and the whole Jewish religion, was not only despised but hated by them; I reply, that other nations are not here absolutely stated to be the judges or arbitrators, but that the words must be thus understood, viz., that there will be no nation, if it should come to a right understanding, which will dare to compare itself, much less to prefer itself to you; for by the very comparison it will acknowledge to what a height of dignity God has raised you. Wherefore, although the doctrine of the Law should remain neglected, nay, detested, by almost all the world, still Moses with truth declares, that since God has deigned to deliver to the Jews a rule of life, a stage had been erected before other nations, whereon the nobility of that one people would be conspicuous. For it was unreasonable that the glory of God should be tarnished or extinguished by the ignorance of the blind. But we gather from this passage that we then are truly wise, when we depend on God’s words, and submit our feeling to His revelations. Where I have rendered the words, “Surely (certo) this people,” the Hebrew particle, רק,  226 rak, is used, which is often applied in an exclusive sense, so that it would appropriately bear this meaning: “Only this people,” etc. Unquestionably, the eminent condition of the people, on account of their gracious privileges, is referred to.

7. For what nation is there so great? Moses now repeats in his own name what he had stated in the person of others, as if to shew by additional reasons, that not without cause would the Jews be celebrated in the whole world, because it would actually appear that none were equal to them. He mentions two points, first, because God would be ready to afford them help, as often as they call upon Him; secondly, because He had instructed them in perfect righteousness, beyond which nothing could be desired; for, when he says that God is “nigh unto them,” I refer it to the presence of His power, which had been abundantly manifested by many miracles. Justly does he deny that the Gentiles had ever experienced such aid from their gods, since their prayers and cries were offered to deaf and dead idols.

9. Only take heed to thyself The same particle, רק, rak, of which I have just spoken, is used here, and its meaning in this place is, as if Moses had said, that this only remained; unless it is preferred to translate it nevertheless. What follows means literally “Guard (custodi) thyself, and guard thy soul;” wherein Moses advances by degrees, reminding them that they needed no common heedfulness, but that they must beware with extreme vigilance and diligence lest they should fail through the want of them; for the slothfulness of the flesh must be spurred on by such instigations as these, and at the same time our weakness must be fortified, and we must take measures against our unsteadfastness; for nothing is more easy than that all our zeal should suddenly be forgotten, or should gradually grow cold. God had established the certainty of His law, as far as was necessary, for the grateful and attentive, yet not without reason does He desire the people to remember how great is the carelessness of men. Nor does he command those only to remember who were eye-witnesses, but also to hand down (what they had seen) to their sons and grandsons, that the memory of such remarkable things might be preserved.

10. The day  227 that thou stoodest. The word day might be taken in the accusative, as if in apposition. It is, at any rate, clear that he explains more fully what he had briefly alluded to before, for he summons the people as eye-witnesses, lest, perchance, they should object that they were not sure from whence Moses had derived what he professes to be enjoined him by God. For they were all well aware that he had undertaken nothing without the express command of God. Finally, he proves, from the end and object itself of the doctrine, that God was its author, since it tended to nothing else but that God should be purely served, and that His people might be obedient, than which nothing can be imagined more just and right.

11 And ye came near, and stood. This explanatory narrative is intended to prove the same thing, viz., that Moses was only the ambassador and minister of God, because the mountain burned in the sight of all the people, that God might be manifested, speaking from the midst of the fire. His statement that they only heard the voice, but saw no similitude, may be understood as a kind of admission, (concessionis.) Thus the two clauses would be read adversatively, “Although no similitude appeared, yet a voice penetrated even to your ears.” But I conceive that this was expressly stated more clearly to shew that it was the voice of God, and not proceeding from a human being; for no man could have so concealed himself by artifice as to prevent himself from being seen to speak, whereas they beheld the voice come out of the fire without any external instrumentality.



Only; at least; surely. — Nold. Concord. partic. W.


“In the day,” etc. — lat.

Next: Deuteronomy 4:32-40