Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary, 1859 edition.

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Deuteronomy 31

Deuteronomy xxxi.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. Went. Began. (Menochius) --- "Concluded." Septuagint, continued, or, just before he dismissed the audience, he spoke to them as follows. (Calmet)

Ver. 2. Come in, to conduct you. (Menochius) --- Especially. Hebrew, "and the Lord." It was not the want of strength, which hindered Moses from continuing to perform his arduous functions, as he was still full of vigour both in soul and body; (chap. xxxiv. 7.; Calmet) but it was his submission to the will of God, who had resolved thus to punish his former diffidence. (Haydock)

Ver. 3. Then. This word is not in Hebrew or the Septuagint; neither does Moses mean to insinuate, that God would take his place in conducting the people; but only that after he should be no more, the divine Providence would no less watch over his people, and direct the councils of Josue, who stood beside him. (Haydock) --- The ark preceded the army, (Josue iii.) and God invisibly put the enemies of Israel to flight. (Menochius)

Ver. 7. Called. Hebrew, "unto Josue." He did this publicly that no dispute might arise after his death, respecting the choice of a successor. (Haydock) --- Lot. Hebrew and Chaldean, "thou shalt put them in possession of it." (Calmet)

Ver. 9. This law of Deuteronomy. (Menochius) --- Some think that he had written so far before he came to the assembly, as well as the Canticle; because God commanded him the same day to ascend the mount, chap. xxxii. 48. (Calmet) --- But Moses did not speak the discourses recorded in this book, at one time. After he had, therefore, dismissed the people with his blessing, and with an assurance that God would be with their newly appointed leader, he committed to writing what he had delivered by God's order, at different times, and gave a copy of the Pentateuch to the priests, who were to keep it carefully on the side of the ark, and explain it to the people, particularly every seventh year. The Jews understand this law to mean the whole Pentateuch. It may denote also, more particularly (Haydock) Deuteronomy, as far as this place, or the 27th, and three subsequent chapters of it. He gave two copies; one to be deposited beside the ark, and the other (ver. 26,) to be kept by the priests. In all contracts of consequence, this method is observed, one copy being laid carefully by, and the other left in the hands of those who may be concerned, Jeremias xxxii. 12. The Rabbins say that 13 copies were taken; one for each of the 12 tribes, and one to be placed on the side of the ark. But of this new assertion we must not expect to hear any proof. --- Priests, whose duty it is to instruct the people, Malachias ii. 7. (Calmet) --- Ancients, or magistrates, who must put the law in execution, and guide their decisions by it. (Haydock) --- The mention of the ark in this place, is to insinuate that the book was to be deposited on one side of it, ver. 26. The priests might carry the ark, if they thought proper, (Menochius) as they did sometimes on the more solemn occasions; (Josue ii., and vi., and 1 Kings iv. 4,) though the duty belonged to the Levites, Numbers iii., and iv. The pagans placed their sacred books in their temples, under the care of the priests, who were obliged to transcribe them. (Calmet)

Ver. 10. Years commenced. Hebrew, "at the extremity of seven years." The sabbatic years began at the expiration of every six years, (Haydock) after the land of Chanaan was conquered, (Calmet) or perhaps after the passage of the Jordan, which took place soon after this discourse was made. Josue spent above six years in the conquest of the country, and then divided it among the tribes. The seventh year was the first year of remission; as the Israelites, particularly on the east side of the Jordan, had already enjoyed the benefits of the country for a considerable time. If they had been required to wait till the whole had been conquered, no sabbatical year would have been of obligation before the reign of Solomon, as he had still some of the devoted nations to subdue. See Exodus xxiii., and Leviticus xxv. (Salien, in the year before Christ 1463) At this time, the ark was removed from Galgala to Silo, where it remained about 350 years, Josue xviii. (Haydock)

Ver. 11. Thou shalt. Septuagint, "you shall read." Josephus says, the high priest had to perform this office; while the Rabbins assert, that the chief magistrate, Moses, and his successors, the kings of Juda, had to read the law publicly. The princes did this in the court of the temple, designed for the women, as they also were bound to hear it. We find that Josias read aloud in the temple the words of the covenant, which have been lately discovered, 4 Kings xxiii. 2. (Calmet) --- But Esdras, a Levite, did the like; (1 Esdras viii. 2,) and the command seems to be directed chiefly to the priests, from whose number Moses was not excluded, Psalm xcviii. 6. (Haydock)

Ver. 12. Children, (parvulis.) Those who were above 12 years of age, attended the festivals as much as possible, particularly the three great ones. Even little children came to the temple, when they did not live at too great a distance. The lawgiver knew of what importance it was to inspire their tender minds with a love and respect for religion, and for the laws. (Calmet)

Ver. 14. In the court, as none but priests were allowed to enter the tabernacle. (Menochius)

Ver. 17. My face, as one indignant and much displeased. (Calmet) --- I will withdraw my special protection and favours from them. (Menochius)

Ver. 19. This canticle, which will be given in the following chapter. Hence this law, (ver. 9,) may comprise not only what had gone before, but also the remaining part of the book of Deuteronomy. This Moses would write before his death, and deliver entire, with the preceding books, to be kept with the utmost care, by the priests, as a testimony to remind all of what had happened in past ages, and what would befall the transgressors of God's law. (Haydock) --- The canticle, containing an abridgment of the book of Deuteronomy, (Calmet) as the latter did of the whole law, was to be copied out more frequently, (Haydock) and committed to memory. Some suppose that Moses and Josue are here ordered to see this put in execution. Others think that Moses gives this commission to the priests. --- That they. Hebrew, "put it in their mouths, (Calmet) that this song may be a witness for me against," &c. God foresaw that the Israelites would prove rebellious; but he leaves them without excuse, as they could not plead ignorance. (Haydock) --- This testimony against them was written in the form of a canticle, that it might be more easily remembered. (Worthington)

Ver. 20. Despise, (detrahent,) "detract," (Haydock) and represent me as an unjust and weak God. Hebrew, "they will despise, or blaspheme," &c. Septuagint, "they will irritate me." (Calmet)

Ver. 21. Thoughts. Hebrew, "imagination." Septuagint, "wickedness." --- Them. Hebrew, "concerning which I swore." Septuagint add, "to their fathers." (Haydock)

Ver. 23. The Lord. Hebrew has not this word, so that it would seem as if Moses had given this charge to Josue; but the context shews (Calmet) that it was the Lord; (ver. 14.) for he swore to give the land of Israel. The Septuagint insert the words Moses and the Lord. "And Moses commanded Josue....the land which the Lord swore." (Haydock) --- This is the first time that God addresses Josue, in order to confirm his authority. (Menochius)

Ver. 26. Side. But not within, (Menochius) according to the generality of interpreters, whom Calmet follows, Exodus xxv. 10. But here he adopts the contrary opinion of Jonathan and Grotius, and asserts that this writing, containing the 29th, 30th, and 31st chapters, on thin boards, was placed in the ark, beside the tables of the law, in the same manner as the Philistines placed it in a coffer of gold, 1 Kings vi. 8. We read (3 Kings viii. 9,) that there was nothing in the ark except the two tables, which might be true at the time that book was written; though St. Paul (Hebrews ix. 4,) tells us, that the golden pot, and the rod of Aaron, were in the ark. If they were there in the days when the author of the first book of Kings lived, the passage in question must be understood with these exceptions. (Calmet) --- This difficulty cannot, however, be now easily decided, as the Scripture often uses the word in to denote near to, &c., ver. 14. The coffer of the Philistines might also be on the outside of the ark. (Haydock) --- Thee. This act of ratification of the covenant, which had been made at Horeb, 39 years before, (Calmet) was placed in or near the ark. (Haydock) --- The three chapters, of which it probably consisted, seem to have been what was discovered in the reign of Josias; as the threats and blessings which they contain, would naturally tend to make a strong impression upon all, 4 Kings xxii. 8. (Calmet) --- Kennicott thinks that Helcias discovered the very manuscript, which Moses had written with his own hand, and which he deposited neither in, nor fastened to any side of the ark, but only placed by the side (mitsad, juxta, Noldius) of it, or upon the same table; so that it might not be taken by the Philistines, but kept in some suitable place. (Dis. ii.) It is surprising that Huet cites Jonathan as delivering this sentiment, in caps ad latus dextrum. (Haydock)