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

Deuteronomy 4:32-40

32. For ask now of the days that are past, which were before thee, since the day that God created man upon the earth; and ask from the one side of heaven unto the other, whether there hath been any such thing as this great tiling is, or hath been heard like it?

32. Interroga agedum de diebus antiquis, qui fuerunt ante re, ex quo die creavit Deus hominem super terram, et ab extremo coeli, usque ad extremum coeli, an acciderit unquam aliquid secundum hanc rem magnam, vel auditum fuerit simile.

33. Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live?

33. An audierit populus vocem Dei loquentis e medio ignis, sicut tu audisti, et fuerit superstes.

34. Or hath God assayed to go and take him a nation from the midst of another nation, by temptations, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by a stretched-out arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?

34. Vel an tentaverit Deus ut veniret ad gentem sibi assumendam e medio gentis, per probationes, signa et prodigia, praelia, manum fortem, brachium extentum, et visiones magnas, secundum omnia quae vobiscum egit Jehova Deus vester in Aegypto coram oculis vestris.

35. Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the Lord he is God; there is none else beside him.

35. Tibi ostensum est ut cognosceres quod Jehova ipse est Dens, nec ullus praeter ipsum.

36. Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice, that he might instruct thee; and upon earth he shewed thee his great fire; and thou heardest his words out of the midst of the fire.

36. E coelis audire to fecit vocem suam, ut erudiret to: et in terra ostendit tibi ignem suum magnum, et verba ejus audisti e medio ignis.

37. And because he loved thy fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them, and brought thee out in his sight with his mighty power out of Egypt;

37. Et quia dilexit patres tuos, elegit semen eorum post eos, et eduxit te coram facie sua, in virtute sua magna ex Egypto.

38. To drive out nations from before thee greater and mightier than thou art, to bring thee in, to give thee their land for an inheritance, as it is this day.

38. Ut expelleret gentes magnas a facie tua, et robustiores te, ac te introduceret ad dandam tibi terram earum in haereditatem, sicut dies haec demonstrat.

39. Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the Lord he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else.

39. ltaque scito hodie, et reduc ad cor tuum, quod Jehova est Deus in coelis sursum, et super terram deorsum, nec alius ultra.

40. Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, for ever.

40. Proinde observabis statuta ejus, et praecepta ejus, quae mando tibi hodie, ut bene sit tibi et filiis tuis post te, utque prolonges dies super terram quam Jehova Deus tuus dat tibi omnibus diebus.

32. For ask now. Moses here more forcibly extols and pronounces magnificent praises upon the miracles which he had before more simply related to have taken place at the promulgation of the Law, his object being to produce a fuller conviction of its dignity. He magnifies, too, by comparison, the testimonies whereby its authority had been ratified, viz., because nothing like it had ever occurred; for if any such instance had previously taken place, some portion of its preciousness or honor would have been taken from it. But since from the beginning of the world only one such illustrious manifestation of His power had been given by God, it afforded the greater sanction to the Law. He adds, too, that if they were to search over the whole world they would nowhere find anything similar. For I do not approve of the more refined exposition which some give of this clause, as if he said that all creatures above and below were witnesses that God’s might had never been manifested by so many and such illustrious miracles; as also the sense appears too restricted which others give, understanding “the days that are past” to mean annals or chronicles; for I make no question that Moses simply desires them to inquire and to examine whether from the creation of the world, or in any most remote region, any such thing had come to pass.

33. Did ever people hear? He points out more openly the greatness and extraordinary transcendency of the matter which he has just mentioned, viz., that they heard the voice of God speaking out of the fire. It is true, indeed, that the superstitions of the Gentiles had been confirmed of old by many apparitions, yet amongst the portents which wretched men have imagined for their willing self-deception, there is nothing approaching to this miracle. Many have individually lied, and their false and foolish tales have been rashly believed; but here we have not to do with unfounded and scattered rumors, nor with the dreams of some single person, but Moses produces more than 700,000 witnesses, to whom God’s glory had clearly and certainly appeared; he subjoins, therefore, that God had never assayed to do the same, but had afforded this solitary instance to render His Law illustrious in all ages.  228 Yet in this verse he not only alludes to the promulgation of the Law, but to the whole course of their deliverance, since he names in general His “temptations and signs.” He says that God “took him a nation from the midst of another nation,” for by His incomparable power He rescued the descendants of Abraham, who, though dispersed through Egypt, and, as it were, enclosed in its bowels, were yet an obscure and ignoble part of a most famous nation; whereof no similar example is to be found.  229

35. Unto thee it was shewed. He first says that God had so proved His divinity by miracles and prodigies, that the Israelites might know certainly that He was God. Whence, too, he concludes that He is the only God; for although God’s holy name be torn in pieces by various opinions, whilst each one manufactures his own gods for himself, yet is it still sure that the power and dominion of God cannot be withdrawn from Him, but reside in a single subject, as the logicians say. Therefore the essence of the one God overthrows and annihilates all the other deities which we foolishly invent for ourselves. And this we must carefully remark, for this has been the common error of all ages, to seek for a mixture of many gods, whereas all these imaginations should vanish before the brightness of the true God. In the following verse he confirms this declaration, because God instructed His people out of heaven, and in the fire. Is it, however, asked how these two points accord which seem to be opposed to each other, that God’s voice was heard from heaven and from the midst of the fire? I reply, that Moses simply means that the voice which flowed out of the fire into the people’s ears was distinguished by plain indications which proved it to be heavenly.

37. And because he loved. These words admit of two meanings; for the copulative conjunction stands at the beginning of the verse, — “And because he loved thy fathers,” and also before the next clause, “and he chose their seed;” the reasons here assigned might, therefore, be taken in connection with the previous sentence, viz., that so many miracles were wrought because God had chosen Abraham and his seed. Others understand it differently, that this people was honored with so many blessings by God because He loved their fathers. In this case they omit the copula in the middle of the verse, as must be often done. In the main, there is little discrepancy; for Moses desires to shew that whatever good things God has conferred upon His people are gratuitous, by which circumstance he commends God’s grace the more. He had said that by unusual favor this nation was taken from the midst of another; and he now adds that this was done on no other account but because God had embraced Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob with His love, and persevered in the same love towards their posterity. But we must remark that by the word “love” is expressed that favor which springs of mere generosity, so as to exclude all worthiness in the person beloved, as may be more clearly gathered from other passages, viz., De 7:8, and Ps 78:68, and as is pretty plain from the context here, wherein he attributes the election of the people to the love with which God had honored their fathers. If any object that God’s election is eternal, the objection is readily solved, for the seed of Abraham was separated from all nations, because God had gratuitously adopted their father. We now understand the meaning of Moses, that the deliverance of the people was only to be ascribed to God’s goodness. He thus amplifies this blessing by another circumstance, viz., that God had preferred to great and mighty nations this ignoble people, whose own proper worthiness could not have acquired His favor.

39. Know therefore this day. He again inculcates what we have lately spoken of, that the glory of the one true God was proved by the miracles, but he does so by way of exhortation. For he desires them carefully and attentively to consider what God had shewn them, because in so plain a matter there would be no excuse for error or ignorance. He therefore infers from what had gone before, that the people must beware of shutting their eyes against the clear revelation of God’s power, and therefore urges them to keep it in memory, because man’s ingratitude is but too prone to forgetfulness. He afterwards reminds them wherefore God would be known, viz., that they might keep His Law and obey His statutes. The sum is, that they would be inexcusable if they did not obediently receive the Law, which they knew to have come from God; for they must needs be worse than stupid if the majesty of God, known and understood by so many proofs, did not awaken them to reverence. And lest they should undervalue the doctrine as proceeding from a mortal man, he expressly confesses, indeed, that he is the minister, and yet that he had set before them nothing which he had not received from God.



Ce chef-d’-oeuvre unique. — Fr.


Addition in the Fr., “Si quelqu’un aime mieux prendre le nombre singulier pour le pluriel, lors le sens sera tel: Combien que tous peuples fussent pareils, ou d’estat indifferent quant a leur nature, neantmoins que Dieu en a pris un d’entre tousles autres;” if any should prefer taking the singular number instead of the plural, then the sense will be, Although all people were equal, or of the same condition by nature, nevertheless God chose out one of them from amongst all the others.

Next: Deuteronomy 7:6-8