PROCLAMATION OF THE LAW IN PREPARATION TO CROSS THE JORDAN
Meredith Kline: This passage is transitional. As a summary of the Trans-Jordanian conquests (vv. 46b-49; cf. 2:32-36; 3:1-17), it serves as a conclusion to the historical prologue. But it is also immediately introductory to the stipulations (vv. 44-46a).
Duane Christensen: Deut 4:44–49 reads like a second introduction to the book, which duplicates much of the information in 1:1–5.
David Guzik: This initial introduction in Deuteronomy 4:45-49 may well indicate the beginning of a new tablet, providing an explanation of what is on it.
Daniel Block: The boundaries of Moses’ long second address (4:44–26:19; 28:1–29:1[28:69]) are fixed by the narrative prologue (4:44–5:1a) and the narrative colophon in 29:1[28:69].
Peter Craigie: The law about to be presented is then clearly identified as the same law (testimonies, statutes, and judgments) that was proclaimed to the Israelites at Horeb/Sinai after the Exodus from Egypt (v. 45); it is not a new covenant in Deuteronomy, but the renewing of an old covenant. But while the law is the same as that given earlier, its form is slightly different in this context, since it is presented and expounded in Moses’ address. The place and time are then specified (vv. 46–49) in a summary section gathering together briefly many of the themes already dealt with at length in chs. 1–3.
Gerald Gerbrandt: The narrator introduces the second major speech with an introduction similar to the first, situating what follows in space and time (cf. 1:1–5)—beyond the Jordan and after the defeat of Kings Sihon and Og (4:46–49). The reference to the defeat of the two Amorite kings is expanded to highlight that their lands now have been occupied (cf. 1:4; 2:23–3:17). A foretaste of the fulfillment of the promise to the ancestors has been received. The two references to Egypt (4:45, 46) remind the audience of God’s past actions on their behalf. And yet the concern of the second speech is not the past but the future, when Israel has received the full land. Israel is at the border of that land, at a critical juncture in the story, where all action pauses as Moses addresses the people.
I. (:44-45) SUBSTANCE OF THE MESSAGE
A. (:44) Summarized as the Law
“Now this is the law which Moses set before the sons of Israel;”
Eugene Merrill: What is about to be disclosed is “the law” (v. 44). The term here is tôrâ, a noun that, with the definite article (as here), usually refers to the entire body of Mosaic literature, that is, the Pentateuch. At this point, however, that literature was still in process as the very appearance of the noun in Deuteronomy makes obvious. Thus tôrâ as used here must be synonymous with the covenant text itself, the full collection of principles and stipulations about to be promulgated by Moses. This, of course, is a common usage (cf. Exod 24:12; Deut 1:5; 4:8; 17:18-20; 31:9, 11).
B. (:45) Detailed as the Testimonies, Statutes and Ordinances
“these are the testimonies and the statutes and the ordinances which Moses spoke to the sons of Israel, when they came out from Egypt,”
Gerald Gerbrandt: These terms are largely synonyms within Deuteronomy even though originally they may have had distinct connotations.
MacArthur: God’s instruction to Israel was set forth in:
1) the testimonies, the basic covenant stipulations (5:6-21);
2) statutes, words that were inscribed and therefore fixed; and
3) ordinances, the decisions made by a judge on the merits of the situation.
This law was given to Israel when they came out of Egypt. Moses is not giving further law, he is now explaining that which has already been given.
John Schultz: Four different words are used to describe the content of Moses’ address: “the law,” “the stipulations,” “decrees,” and “laws.” The Hebrew words are: towrah, or torah, meaning “a precept or statute,” `edah, which means “testimony,” choq, “an enactment,” and mishpat, “a verdict.” A people’s vocabulary demonstrates the emphases that are put on things that are important in their lives and thinking. The Mè tribe in Irian Jaya, Indonesia, for instances, does not have a single word for wood or timber, but a variety of names for the wood that is derived from different kinds of trees. The riches of the Israelite vocabulary for the single word “law” we have in the English language indicates the important position the law of God occupied in their society.
Michael Grisanti: Moses asserts that the laws he is about to present have been given to the children of Israel encamped on the brink of the Jordan River. They have been given in the wake of God’s impressive intervention in their behalf and in preparation for their conquest of the long-anticipated Land of Promise. . .
Moses reminds his fellow Israelites of the immediate historical context, namely, their coming out of Egypt and their conquest of the land formerly occupied by the Amorites (under Sihon [2:26–37] and Og [3:1–11]). God’s intervention in their behalf in both events (and repeatedly during the years between them) positions Yahweh as the one with the prerogative to demand their unqualified loyalty to his covenantal expectations.
II. (:46-49) SETTING OF THE MESSAGE
A. (:46a) General Location
“across the Jordan, in the valley opposite Beth-peor,”
Bruce Hurt: Beth-peor was a city which was situated, according to Eusebius, opposite Jericho, and six miles above Livias. As the name signifies “the house of Peor,” it is probable that there was a temple to Peor, situated in this place, full in view of the people, while Moses was pressing upon them the worship of Jehovah alone; and perhaps the very temple where so many had sinned to their own destruction.
“in the land of Sihon king of the Amorites who lived at Heshbon, whom Moses and the sons of Israel defeated when they came out from Egypt. 47 And they took possession of his land and the land of Og king of Bashan, the two kings of the Amorites, who were across the Jordan to the east,”
Bruce Hurt: This truth that our God is able to defeat all enemies is repeatedly stated. My favorite phrase describing our Great God is “He is able!” What is there in your life that you think is too difficult for Him?
C. (:48-49) Geographic Boundaries
“from Aroer, which is on the edge of the valley of Arnon, even as far as Mount Sion (that is, Hermon), 49 with all the Arabah across the Jordan to the east, even as far as the sea of the Arabah, at the foot of the slopes of Pisgah.”
Michael Grisanti: The topographical reference (śî ʾōn, “Mount Siyon”) should be rendered “Mount Sirion” (cf. 3:9), which is another name for Mount Hermon. The reading of the Hebrew text represents a variant of the original (cf. Craigie, 147, for an explanation of this problem).
Gerald Gerbrandt: Pisgah has earlier been used as a boundary marker for the Transjordan region (3:17), but in Deuteronomy it is also the place from which Moses surveys the Promised Land and where he dies (cf. 3:27; 34:1). By concluding this passage with a reference to Pisgah in verse 49, the narrator subtly reminds us: Moses, the one here teaching on behalf of God (though God is not named in vv. 44–45; cf. 1:1–5), will die shortly. Accountability for response to the torah thus resides with the people.
Matthew Henry: The place where Moses gave them these laws in charge is here particularly described.
(1.) it was over-against Beth-Peor, an idol-temple of the Moabites, which perhaps Moses sometimes looked towards, with a particular caution to them against the infection of that and other such like dangerous places.
(2.) it was upon their new conquests, in the very land which they had got out of the hands of Sihon and Og, and were now actually in possession of, v. 47. Their present triumphs herein were a powerful argument for obedience.