Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary, 1859 edition.

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DEUTERONOMY - Chapter 31

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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)



Bible Text & Cross-references:

Moses encourageth the people, and Josue, who is appointed to succeed him. He delivereth the law to the priests. God foretelleth, that the people will often forsake him, and that he will punish them. He commandeth Moses to write a canticle, as a constant remembrancer of the law.

1 And *Moses went, and spoke all these words to all Israel,

2 And he said to them: I am this day a hundred and twenty years old, I can no longer go out and come in, especially as the Lord also hath said to me: *Thou shalt not pass over this Jordan.

3 The Lord thy God then will pass over before thee: he will destroy all these nations in thy sight, and thou shalt possess them: and this Josue shall go over before thee, as the Lord hath spoken.

4 And the Lord shall do to them *as he did to Sehon and Og, the kings of the Amorrhites, and to their land, and shall destroy them.

5 Therefore when the Lord shall have delivered these also to you, *you shall do in like manner to them as I have commanded you.

6 Do manfully, and be of good heart: fear not, nor be ye dismayed at their sight: for the Lord thy God he himself is thy leader, and will not leave thee, nor forsake thee.

7 And Moses called Josue, and said to him before all Israel: *Take courage, and be valiant: for thou shalt bring this people into the land which the Lord swore he would give to their fathers, and thou shalt divide it by lot.

8 And the Lord who is your leader, he himself will be with thee: he will not leave thee, nor forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.

9 And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the ancients of Israel.

10 And he commanded them, saying: After seven years, in the year of remission, in the feast of tabernacles,

11 When all Israel come together, to appear in the sight of the Lord thy God, in the place which the Lord shall choose, thou shalt read the words of this law before all Israel, in their hearing,

12 And the people being all assembled together, both men and women, children and strangers, that are within thy gates: that hearing they may learn, and fear the Lord your God, and keep, and fulfil all the words of this law:

13 That their children also, who now are ignorant, may hear, and fear the Lord their God, all the days that they live in the land whither you are going over the Jordan to possess it.

14 And the Lord said to Moses: Behold the days of thy death are nigh: call Josue, and stand ye in the tabernacle of the testimony, that I may give him a charge. So Moses and Josue went, and stood in the tabernacle of the testimony:

15 And the Lord appeared there in the pillar of a cloud, which stood in the entry of the tabernacle.

16 And the Lord said to Moses: Behold thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, and this people rising up, will go a whoring after strange gods in the land to which it goeth in to dwell: there will they forsake me, and will make void the covenant, which I have made with them:

17 And my wrath shall be kindled against them in that day: and I will forsake them, and will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured: all evils and afflictions shall find them, so that they shall say in that day: in truth it is because God is not with me, that these evils have found me.

18 But I will hide, and cover my face in that day, for all the evils which they have done, because they have followed strange gods.

19 Now therefore write you this canticle, and teach the children of Israel: that they may know it by heart, and sing it by mouth, and this song may be unto me for a testimony among the children of Israel.

20 For I will bring them into the land, for which I swore to their fathers, that floweth with milk and honey. And when they have eaten, and are full, and fat, they will turn away after strange gods, and will serve them: and will despise me, and make void my covenant.

21 And after many evils and afflictions shall have come upon them, this canticle shall answer them for a testimony, which no oblivion shall take away out of the mouth of their seed. For I know their thoughts, and what they are about to do this day, before that I bring them into the land which I have promised them.

22 Moses therefore wrote the canticle, and taught it the children of Israel.

23 And the Lord commanded Josue, the son of Nun, and said: Take courage, and be valiant: for thou shalt bring the children of Israel into the land which I have promised, and I will be with thee.

24 Therefore after Moses had wrote the words of this law in a volume, and finished it:

25 He commanded the Levites, who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, saying:

26 Take this book, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God: that it may be there for a testimony against thee.

27 For I know thy obstinacy, and thy most stiff neck. While I am yet living, and going in with you, you have always been rebellious against the Lord: how much more when I shall be dead?

28 Gather unto me all the ancients of your tribes, and your doctors, and I will speak these words in their hearing, and will call heaven and earth to witness against them.

29 For I know that, after my death, you will do wickedly, and will quickly turn aside from the way that I have commanded you: and evils shall come upon you in the latter times, when you shall do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him by the works of your hands.

30 Moses therefore spoke, in the hearing of the whole assembly of Israel, the words of this canticle, and finished it even to the end.



1: Year of the World 2553.

2: Deuteronomy iii. 27.; Numbers xxvii. 13.

4: Numbers xxi. 24.

5: Deuteronomy vii. 2.

7: Josue i. 6.; 3 Kings ii. 2.