Notes & Commentary:
Speak. Hebrew and Septuagint, "Heaven attend, and I will speak." (Haydock) --- Never was there an exordium more pompous,
or better adapted to the subject. Moses calls those who never die to witness what he asserts, as if to insinuate that these
truths ought never to be forgotten. See Numbers iv. 6. Virgil (Æneid xii.) imitates this style, Esto nunc sol testis &
hæc mihi terra precanti, (Calmet) which he puts in the mouth of Æneas, to whom Latinus replies, Hæc eadem Ænea, terram,
mare, sidera juro.
Ver. 2. Gather,
as rain does from vapours; (Menochius) so let the sum of what I have taught you be collected into this short canticle, and
penetrate your hearts. (Haydock) --- Chaldean, "may my discourse be as delightful as the rain." Septuagint, "may my apophthegm
(or sententious discourse, Calmet) be expected with earnestness, like rain," when the soil is thirsty. (Haydock) --- Preachers
are compared to clouds, and their speech to rain, Isaias lx. 8., and Ecclesiasticus xxxix. 4. --- Drops. Some explain
this and the former term in the original, of "a stormy and vehement shower," while others attach this idea only to the last
part of the sentence. (Calmet) --- The lawgiver wishes to engage the hearts of his audience by mildness, though he is forced
also to thunder, in order to rouse their attention, ver. 15. (Haydock) --- Sound doctrine produces much fruit in good dispositions,
as rain causeth the seed to push forth which has been sown in an excellent soil. (Worthington)
Ver. 3. Invoke,
or praise. (Vatable) --- Magnificence; admire and fear his greatness. (Calmet) --- The first duty of men is to praise
God, the next to confess their sins, ver. 5. (Worthington)
Ver. 4. Right.
You cannot complain of having been first abandoned by God. All his works and proceedings are entitled to praise. Hebrew, "This
rock, (hatsur) his works are perfect." (Calmet) --- Septuagint, "God, his works are true." (Haydock) --- God is often
styled a rock, to denote this strength, ver. 18., and Psalm lxii. 8.
Ver. 5. Filth,
or idolatry. The fidelity of God is contrasted with the infidelity of his people, who deserve not to be called his children.
The Septuagint, Chaldean, Syriac, and Arabic, seem to have read in a different manner from what the Hebrew does at present.
(Calmet) --- As it stands it is quite unintelligible: Corrupit, non filii ejus, macula eorum. Two letters have been
carelessly inserted, and la has been placed after lu, contrary to the Samaritan text, which is perfectly clear:
"They are corrupted, they are not his, but filii maculæ, children defiled." (Houbigant, prol. 75.) --- Capellus (p.
288,) condemns the Septuagint as he follows a wrong punctuation, and translates, "they did not sin against him, reprehensible
children;" whereas, it more properly signifies, "they sinned, not his, but children deserving reprehension, (or
children of blame, they did not belong or stick close to him) being a crooked and perverse generation." (Haydock) --- Their
wickedness cannot be attributed to God. He is no less powerful and holy, though they have given themselves up to the service
of idols. (St. Augustine, q. 55.) (Calmet) --- He had given them all necessary instructions and assistance; so that, finding
them always prone to evil, the more favours he heaped upon them, he was on the point of exterminating all the guilty at once,
ver. 26. (Haydock)
Ver. 6. Possessed
thee, as his peculiar inheritance. (Menochius) --- Hebrew, "has purchased thee, made thee, and established thee." The
Septuagint render this last word like the Vulgate as they seem to have read, ibnoc. (Calmet)
Ver. 8. Israel.
He suffered the people of Chanaan to occupy as much land as would be requisite for the Israelites. Septuagint, "according
to the number of the angels of God." Hence many of the ancients gathered that there were seventy angel guardians of provinces,
and as many languages; while others did not pretend to determine the exact number. But the version which they have followed,
is in opposition to all the rest. (Calmet) --- They have also disputed on this occasion, whether the elect will be equal in
number to the good angels, as St. Gregory thinks; (hom. 34, in Luke xv.) or they will only fill up the places of those who
have fallen. See Mag. Sent. ii. 9. Abenezra observes, that interpreters understand this text as alluding to the dispersion
of nations, (Genesis xi.) when God decreed that the land of the seven nations should belong to and be sufficient for the Israelites.
(Amama) (Haydock) --- The Hebrew may be rendered, "He fixed the limits of each people. At that time the children of Israel
were few in number, (9) when the Lord chose his people," &c. Long after the division of the earth, (which
the Lord had ordered, Acts xvii. 26,) the Israelites were very few in number, as Jacob observes, Genesis xxxiv. 30. See chap.
xxvi. 5., and Psalm civ. 9, 12. (Calmet) --- But this explication does not satisfy Houbigant, (p. 76, Prol.) no more than
that of Le Clerc. He is convinced that a word has been transposed, and another left out, as the Samaritan copy has Israel
twice, and he would therefore translate, "He divided his people according to the number of the sons of Israel." In his eternal
decrees, He allotted twelve portions of land in Chanaan to the descendants of Jacob, and these Josue was ordered to mark out
for them. See Josue iv. 5. (Haydock)
Ver. 9. Lot.
Hebrew literally, "the cord," in allusion to the ancient method of dividing lands with a cord. Herodotus (ii. 6,) observes,
that the length of one, in the Upper Egypt, was 60 stadia, or 7700 paces, while it was only half as much in the Lower Egypt.
Ver. 10. He
found. Septuagint and Chaldean, "he gave him what was sufficient, in the desert land." God made a choice of a nation destitute
of every thing, that they might confess with gratitude that they had received all from him. (Calmet) --- "Taught him" both
by "instructions," and by various "chastisements." Septuagint, epaideusen. (Haydock) --- The space of forty years was
necessary (Calmet) to eradicate the propensity to evil, and the corrupt manners of the Hebrews, who were therefore conducted
through a wilderness, where they might not be contaminated by the company of other nations, (Haydock) but might have leisure
to meditate on the law of God. (Calmet) --- Eye, with the utmost care. (Menochius) --- He protected those whom he had
chosen out of pure mercy. (Worthington)
Ver. 11. Shoulders,
as (Exodus xix. 4,) upon the wings of eagles. It is said that the eagle hovers over the nest, to encourage her young
ones to fly, and when she sees them exhausted, she takes them upon her back. This similitude shews the extreme affection of
God towards his people. Hebrew and Chaldean may also be, "as an eagle makes (Calmet; or stirs up) her nest, hatches her young,
spreads her wings over them, and bears them upon her wings, so the Lord alone was his leader." (Haydock)
Ver. 12. With
him, to stand up in their defence, though the Israelites adored but too many others in the desert.
Ver. 13. High
land, in a place of safety, both against the enemy, and the inundations of water. The Nile renders Egypt like one continued
sea for about 80 days, in the summer season. (Calmet) --- God had already begun to put the Israelites in possession of the
fertile countries east of the Jordan, where there were several high mountains. (Haydock) --- But when this canticle should
be recited, in after ages, they would also enjoy the other regions, which had been promised unto them, on the west. Moses
speaks, like a prophet, of things to come, as if they were already past. (Menochius) --- Stone. Bees make honey in
such places, and olive trees flourish on the side of a hill. Vestiges still remain of the industry with which the Jews have
formerly cultivated their territory, supporting the earth with walls (Calmet) when it was in danger of falling down, or of
becoming barren, for want of moisture. (Haydock)
Ver. 14. Butter
or "cream," as the former article was probably not yet discovered, Genesis xviii. 8. (Calmet) --- The proofs of this assertion,
from the original, chemath, and from the Scripture, frequently representing butter as a liquid, seem not, however,
very solid. See Judges v. 25., and Proverbs xxx. 33. The Septuagint have literally, "the butter of oxen," but the latter name
includes all of the species. (Haydock) --- Basan. The Septuagint have, "the young of bulls and of he-goats;" though
they generally translate "fat sheep." See St. Jerome in Isaias liii. --- Wheat. Hebrew, "fat of the kidneys of wheat."
--- Grape. See Genesis xlix. 11. Androcides wrote to Alexander, who loved wine too much, "when thou art about to drink
wine, remember, O king, that thou art drinking the blood of the earth." (Pliny, [Natural History?] xiv. 15.)
Ver. 15. Beloved.
Hebrew yeshurun, is supposed to be a diminutive of Israel, chap. xxxiii. 5., and 26. (Calmet) --- Protestants, "Jeshurun
waxed fat, and kicked; thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God,
which made him, and lightly esteemed the rock of his salvation." This sudden change of persons is not found in the
Septuagint. "And Jacob eat, and was filled, and the beloved kicked; he grew fat, thick, and broad, and he abandoned God....and
revolted from God his Saviour." (Haydock) --- Temporal prosperity occasioned the revolt of the Jews against their benefactor.
Ver. 17. Devils.
Hebrew, "to the destroyers, or to those of the fields." See Leviticus xvii. 7., and Baruch iv. 7, 35. (Calmet) ---
Knew not. Septuagint, "revered not." (Haydock) --- Hebrew may be, "who knew them not," who had bestowed nothing upon
them, chap. xxix. 26. --- Come up. Hebrew, "of the neighbourhood;" gods whose origin they knew, (Calmet) as well as
the people who had given them that title; (Haydock) gods of human invention. (Menochius) --- Novelty allureth to the worship
of idols and to heresy. (Worthington)
Ver. 18. Created.
Septuagint, "gave thee food." Hebrew, "of the rock that begat thee, thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed
thee, (Haydock) or praises thee," the source of thy felicity. (Calmet) --- Calvin (Institutes i. 11. 9[19?],) to insinuate
that Catholics adore pictures, as the Israelites did the golden calf, pretends that they could not have forgotten that God
delivered them out of Egypt. Thus he contradicts the Scriptures! (Worthington)
Ver. 19. Daughters.
The women of Israel, who were not less addicted to idolatry than the men. (Haydock)
Ver. 20. From
them. The Jews themselves acknowledged, in the siege of Jerusalem, that God had abandoned and given up to destruction
his once beloved people. (Josephus, Jewish Wars vii. 8.) (Calmet) --- Consider, or look on their utter ruin with indifference,
or rather with complacency. (Haydock) --- I will laugh at your destruction, Proverbs i. 16. (Calmet) --- God loves
without seeing any preceding merit in his creatures, but he never abandons them till they have first proved unfaithful. (Worthington)
Ver. 21. Vanities.
Septuagint, "idols." (Haydock) --- Nation. The Gentiles were of this description, when they were called to the true
faith. This excited the indignation of the Jews, as they would neither enter heaven themselves, nor suffer others to obtain
that happiness, Romans i. 19. (Theodoret, q. 41.) "An association bound together by law, constitutes a nation. A multitude
which has no laws, or bad ones, is unworthy of the name." (Grotius) --- The Jews looked upon all others with sovereign contempt.
(Calmet) --- Now, in their turn, they are despised. (Worthington)
Ver. 22. A
fire. He alludes to the destruction of Sodom, (Calmet) which may be considered as a figure of that which will overtake
the whole world at the last day, and excruciate both the souls and the bodies of the reprobate in the flames of hell.
(Haydock) --- Fire also denotes war, the horrors of which overwhelmed the Jews both at the first and the last sieges of Jerusalem.
Ver. 23. Arrows.
Pestilence, famine, war, sickness, and death, are termed the arrows of God.
Ver. 24. Birds.
This refers in a particular manner to those who are deprived of sepulture, and hung on a gibbet, chap. xxvii. 26. Josephus
(Jewish Wars vi. 12,) informs us, that the multitude of Jews who were to be crucified, was so great, that sufficient wood
could not be procured to make crosses for them, nor was there place for them to stand. Hebrew, "they shall be burnt with hunger,
and devoured with burning heat;" (Haydock) or with the disease called the carbuncle. (Calmet) --- But the Septuagint and Chaldean
explain it of "birds." (Haydock) --- Bite. Septuagint, "with a painful contraction of the nerves." Chaldean, "infested
with evil spirits." --- Beasts. Thus God forced the people of Samaria to obey his law, 4 Kings xvii. 25. --- Fury,
"venom." (Pagnin) (Menochius)
Ver. 26. Men.
Hebrew, "I said I will disperse or exterminate them." Samaritan, "my fury shall consume them." We may translate, "I
had resolved to destroy them; 27. But," &c., (Calmet) or Protestants, "I said I would scatter them
into corners, and would....were it not that I feared the wrath of the enemy," &c. --- Where are they? in the mouth
of God, shews an utter destruction, so that no vestiges of them remain. Their memory is perished. (Haydock) --- God
sometimes defers punishing the sinner for just reasons. (Worthington)
Ver. 27. Wrath.
The enemies of the Israelites wished nothing more than their destruction. If therefore God had gratified this desire, by punishing
his people, as they deserved, the enemy would have presently insinuated, that He had not been able to drive them out, or that
(Haydock) he was fickle, &c. --- Mighty. (excelsa;) "lifted up." This expression shews the pride and insolence
of those who make use of it, as if they despised God and all his laws. Procopius mentions this wicked inscription, to be still
seen at Rome, "I lift up my hands to (or against) God, who destroyed me, though innocent, in the 20th year of my age." Pos.
Procius, (Calmet) who seems to have been a woman, quæ vixi, &c. (Haydock)
Ver. 28. Wisdom.
Interpreters generally explain this and the eight following verses, of those nations whom God employed to scourge his people,
though some understand it all of the Israelites. (Calmet) --- The words may be applied to all who transgress the law of God,
as this is a sure mark of folly and impiety, and the Lord earnestly wishes that all should be converted, ver. 29. True wisdom
reflects on the past, present, and future, (Worthington) in order to make provision for the last great conflict. (Haydock)
Ver. 30. Thousand.
In the battles which the Israelites had fought, the hand of God had appeared so visibly in their defence, giving them the
victory over nations much more numerous, (Calmet) that all must confess their defeat must be in punishment of some former
transgression, and that it is not the mighty hand of the enemy, but God himself, who chastises his people, as
he had foretold, chap. xxviii. 7, 25, 49. (Haydock) --- Of this the neighbouring nations were convinced, as Achior declared
to the Holofernes, Judith v. 17. When the Hebrews neglected the law of God they were oppressed, and their conversion was presently
rewarded with liberty, (Calmet) and a profusion of blessings.
Ver. 31. Judges.
The Egyptians, Amalecites, &c., had witnessed the miracles which God had now wrought for 40 years' time, in favour of
his people. (Haydock) --- They knew also how the Israelites had been punished for their sins. (Menochius) --- Though they
followed a false religion themselves, they could discern the beauty of the true one. (Worthington) --- Video meliora proboque---Deteriora
Ver. 32. Bitter.
The enemies of Israel, were of an accursed progeny. (Haydock) --- They imitated the vices of those wicked cities. Moses cautioned
his people to beware of the root of bitterness, chap. xxix. 18. (Calmet) --- If they should neglect the admonition, and become
like the Chanaanites, they knew what they had to expect. (Haydock) --- Their works being hateful to the Lord, (Menochius)
he would surely punish them. The fruits which grow near the lake of Sodom, though sometimes fair to the eye, (Haydock) are
full of dust, "black and empty, they fall to ashes," in cinerem vanescunt. (Tacitus v.; Josephus, Jewish Wars v. 5.)
Growing on a bituminous soil, they could not but have a disagreeable taste. (Calmet) --- The authors of the Universal History
call in question what the ancients have reported concerning the fruits of Sodom. (Haydock)
Ver. 34. Treasures.
Whether we refer to the preceding remarks to the faithless Israelites, whose corruption was less pardonable, as they had received
so many favours from above, or to their proud and cruel enemies, who exceeded the bounds of moderation in their wars, God
keeps an exact account of all, and will shortly punish both, according to their deserts. (Haydock)
Ver. 35. Time.
Men are eager to punish their enemies, for fear lest they should escape. But God defers his chastisements frequently in this
world, designing to make his enemies feel the weight of his indignation for all eternity. How consoling it is for the just,
to think they have God for an avenger. "If thou, says Tertullian, remit the injury, which thou hast received, into his hands,
he is the avenger....How much ought patience to endure, in order to make God a debtor." Adeo satisidoneus patientiæ sequester
Deus. --- That. Septuagint, "when" (Calmet) they shall fall and come to ruin. (Menochius)
Ver. 36. People
who have been guilty, that he may spare them, when they repent. (Menochius) --- "He will give judgment in favour of his people,"
&c. (Houbigant) --- Servants. He will not involve the innocent in the ruin of the rebellious. (Menochius) --- But,
at the same time, he will have them to be convinced that their salvation came not from themselves. He will assist them when
all human aid has proved abortive, (Haydock) and when they are reduced to the utmost distress. See Isaias xxxv. 3., and 3
Kings xxi. 21. Those who may have thought themselves secure in their sins, will not escape punishment. (Worthington)
Ver. 38. Wine.
Hence the Jews abhor the wine of Christians, whom they consider as the greatest enemies of God. The pagans were accustomed
to make libations to their idols, even in their ordinary repasts. (Calmet) --- The fat was always sacred to God, Leviticus
iii. 17. (Menochius)
Ver. 40. For
ever. God can swear by no one greater than himself, Hebrews vi. 13.
Ver. 41. Lightning,
equally terrible and penetrating: fulminis acta modo. (Virgil, Æneid ix.) (Calmet) --- Judgment, to punish
with rigour my declared enemies. (Haydock) --- These verses seem to regard the idolatrous nations, (Menochius) though God
will not fail to punish the guilty, wherever they may be found. (Haydock)
Ver. 42. Enemies.
I will tear the crown from off their head. Chaldean, I will destroy the king, as well as the meanest captives. Protestants,
"from the beginning of revenges upon the enemy." At the very first I will completely destroy them. (Haydock) --- I will punish
them for the slaughter and captivity of my people, whom they have shaved, as a mark of their servile condition. (Menochius)
--- Their bare head, or vain counsels, will be detected and punished. (Worthington)
Ver. 43. People.
Though God afflicted the Israelites for a time, he was always disposed to receive them to his favour again, upon their repentance;
and he will even receive them into his Church, before the day of judgment, Romans xi. 25. (Calmet) --- This decided predilection
for them, would naturally induce other nations to praise them. Grabe's Septuagint reads, "Rejoice ye heavens with him,
and let all the sons of God adore him, and let all the angels of God strengthen them, because He revengeth the blood of his
sons; and he will continue to do so, and he will punish his enemies, and will render to those who hate him; and the Lord will
purify the land of his people." (Haydock) --- In some editions of the Septuagint, after Let all the angels of God adore
him, (cited [in] Hebrews i. 6.; Cappel.) they read, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people, which St. Paul quotes,
Romans xv. 10; and then they add, "And Moses wrote this canticle on that day, and he taught it to the children of Israel;
(Calmet) 44. and Moses came forth to the people, and spoke all the words of this law, in the ears of
the people, he and Jesus, the son of Nave," by which name they designate Josue, the son of Nun. (Haydock) --- He assisted
Moses in singing the canticle, as his colleague in office, to whom the obligation of withdrawing the people from idolatry
would henceforth devolve. (Menochius) --- God always preserved some of the Jews from the general corruption, till the time
of the Messias. (Worthington)
Ver. 47. Live.
Hebrew, "it is your life." They were to cherish the law as their own lives; for their prosperity and length of days depended
on their observance of it.
Ver. 49. Passages.
The author of the Vulgate has given this explication of Abarim. (Calmet)
Ver. 51. Cades.
Hebrew, "at the waters of Meriba-Cadesh," &c.
Ver. 52. Into
it. By repeating this reproach and judgment, God excited in his servant the most lively sentiments of repentance for his
fault, Numbers xx. (Haydock) --- Aaron had been deprived of the sight of this delightful country. If they had been labouring
for its acquisition alone, the reflection must have been very cutting. But they had a better country in view, though they
had greatly desired to enter into that land which was to be ennobled and purified by the birth and blood of the Son of God.
(Haydock) --- Having received the order from God in the evening, after Moses had taught his canticle to the people, he immediately
set his house in order, and on the following morning he gave his last blessing to the tribes of Israel, and was attended by
the chiefs to the foot of the mountain. (Salien)