Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy 31:30-32:47

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Deuteronomy 31:30-32:47

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A New Song of Moses 

As we read in Deuteronomy 31, God told Moses to record a song that would foretell the Israelites' future rebellion and thus serve "as a witness" against them—as they were to be taught it so as not to forget it (verses 19, 21-22). The lyrics of this "Song of Moses," which was to be a national anthem of sorts for ancient Israel, are recorded in Deuteronomy 32. By including them in the pages of the Bible, God made certain that they would indeed not be forgotten. (This Song of Moses should not be confused with the other "Song of Moses" recorded in Exodus 15.)

Verse 4 is the first place in Scripture where God is called the "Rock." This name is repeated four more times in this chapter.

In the song in Deuteronomy, Israel is called Jeshurun, a pet name for Israel meaning "Uprightness." However, God foretells, through Moses, that the Israelites would corrupt themselves so much that they would cease, temporarily, to be His children (Deuteronomy 32:5). They had already sacrificed to demons and would do so again (verse 17; compare Amos 5:25-26; 1 Corinthians 10:20). But God was still their Father by virtue of creating them both as human beings and as a nation (Deuteronomy 32:6), so they should behave in a way worthy of being the offspring of God. Indeed, at the time of Adam, God actually predetermined the inheritances of all nations and set their boundaries "according to the number of the children of Israel" (verse 8). This shows that God had foreordained not only the existence of Israel but even its population size at least as far back as man's creation.

Verses 11-12 contain some interesting imagery: "As an eagle...hovers over its young, spreading out its wings, taking them up, carrying them on its wings...." Here, God's protection of His people is compared to that of an eagle caring for its young. Those who have studied the behavioral patterns of eagles have confirmed the description given in these verses. The golden eagle makes its nest high up in the massive rocks of the mountains of Sinai. When the young eagles think they are ready to fly, they jump out of the nest and spread their wings. But many times, during these first attempts, the young birds are not yet able to fly—they are too excited and don't spread their wings correctly or not at all. And so they hurl down, like a person jumping out of an airplane with a parachute that does not open. But the parents are on the alert. The mother, which is bigger than the father, glides under the child, catches it and carries it to a place of safety. This scenario repeats itself two or three times, until the young bird has learned how to stretch its wings and fly. In light of scriptures like verses 11-12 and Exodus 19:3-4, the passage in Revelation 12:14 ("the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place...") might simply be describing God's supernatural intervention in directing His people to a place of refuge rather than referring to any specific physical means of getting them there, such as, as some have theorized, modern aircraft. God certainly did not use aircraft to transport ancient Israel.

Verse 15 is one of several statements in Deuteronomy that when Israel becomes well off materially, they will forsake God. This corresponds to an observation attributed to Martin Luther: "A full stomach does not promote piety, for it stands secure and neglects God." This is certainly true of ancient Israel's descendants today, as we see them living at a higher standard of living than any nation has ever experienced—yet increasingly smug, self-satisfied and unthankful.