Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
In Deu 10:1-5 Moses briefly relates the success of his earnest intercession. "At that time," of his intercession, God commanded him to hew out new tables, and prepare an ark in which to keep them (cf. Exo 34:1.). Here again Moses links together such things as were substantially connected, without strictly confining himself to the chronological order, which was already well known from the historical account, inasmuch as this was not required by the general object of his address. God had already given directions for the preparation of the ark of the covenant, before the apostasy of the nation (Exo 25:10.); but it was not made till after the tabernacle had been built, and the tables were only deposited in the ark when the tabernacle was consecrated (Exo 40:20).
And the Israelites owed to the grace of their God, which was turned towards them once more, through the intercession of Moses, not only the restoration of the tables of the covenant as a pledge that the covenant itself was restored, but also the institution and maintenance of the high-priesthood and priesthood generally for the purpose of mediation between them and the Lord.
(Note: Even Clericus pointed out this connection, and paraphrased Deu 10:6 and Deu 10:7 as follows: "But when, as I have said, God forgave the Hebrew people, He pardoned my brother Aaron also, who did not die till the fortieth year after we had come out of Egypt, and when we were coming round the borders of the Edomites to come hither. God also showed that He was reconciled towards him by conferring the priesthood upon him, which is now borne by his son Eleazar according to the will of God." Clericus has also correctly brought out the fact that Moses referred to what he had stated in Deu 9:20 as to the wrath of God against Aaron and his intercession on his behalf, or rather that he mentioned his intercession on behalf of Aaron in that passage, because he intended to call more particular attention to the successful result of it in this. Hengstenberg (Dissertations, vol. ii. pp. 351-2) has since pointed out briefly, but very conclusively, the connection of thought between Deu 10:6, Deu 10:7, and what goes before and follows. "Moses," he says, "points out to the people how the Lord had continued unchangeable in His mercy notwithstanding all their sins. Although they had rendered themselves unworthy of such goodness by their worship of the calf, He gave them the ark of the covenant with the new tables of the law in it (Deu 10:1-5). He followed up this gift of His grace by instituting the high-priesthood, and when Aaron died He caused it to be transferred to his son Eleazar (Deu 10:6, Deu 10:7). He set apart the tribe of Levi to serve Him and bless the people in His name, and thus to be the mediators of His mercy (Deu 10:8, Deu 10:9). In short, He omitted nothing that was requisite to place Israel in full possession of the dignity of a people of God." There is no ground for regarding Deu 10:6, Deu 10:7, as a gloss, as Capellus, Dathe, and Rosenmller do, or Deu 10:6-9 as "an interpolation of a historical statement concerning the bearers of the ark of the covenant and the holy persons generally, which has no connection with Moses' address," as Knobel maintains. The want of any formal connection is quite in keeping with the spirit of simplicity which characterizes the early Hebrew diction and historical writings. "The style of the Hebrews is not to be tried by the rules of rhetoricians" (Clericus).)
Moses reminds the people of this gracious gift on the part of their God, by recalling to their memory the time when Aaron died and his son Eleazar was invested with the high-priesthood in his stead. That he may transport his hearers the more distinctly to the period in question, he lets the history itself speak, and quotes from the account of their journeys the passage which supplied the practical proof of what he desires to say. Instead of saying: And the high-priesthood also, with which Aaron was invested by the grace of God notwithstanding his sin at Sinai, the Lord has still preserved to you; for when Aaron died, He invested his son with the same honour,
(Note: "In the death of Aaron they might discern the punishment of their rebellion. But the fact that Eleazar was appointed in his place, was a sign of the paternal grace of God, who did not suffer them to be forsaken on that account" (Calvin).)
and also directed you to continue your journey-he proceeds in the following historical style: "And the children of Israel took their journey from the wells of the sons of Jaakan to Mosera: there Aaron died, and there he was buried; and Eleazar his son became priest in his stead. And from thence they journeyed unto Gudgodah, and from Gudgodah to Jotbath, a land of water-brooks." The allusion to these marches, together with the events which had taken place at Mosera, taught in very few words "not only that Aaron was forgiven at the intercession of Moses, and even honoured with the high-priesthood, the medium of grace and blessing to the people of God (e.g., at the wells of Bene-jaakan) until the time of his death; but also that through this same intercession the high-priesthood was maintained in perpetuity, so that when Aaron had to die in the wilderness in consequence of a fresh sin (Num 20:12), it continued notwithstanding, and by no means diminished in strength, as might have been feared, since it led the way from the wells to water-brooks, helped on the journey to Canaan, which was now the object of their immediate aim, and still sustained their courage and their faith" (Schultz). The earlier commentators observed the inward connection between the continuation of the high-priesthood and the water-brooks. J. Gerhard, for example, observes: "God generally associates material blessings with spiritual; as long as the ministry of the word and the observance of divine worship flourish among us, God will also provide for our temporal necessities."_
In Deu 10:8, Moses returns to the form of an address again, and refers to the separation of the tribe of Levi for the holy service, as a manifestation of mercy on the part of the Lord towards Israel. The expression "at that time" is not to be understood as relating to the time of Aaron's death in the fortieth year of the march, in which Knobel finds a contradiction to the other books. It refers quite generally, as in Deu 9:20 and Deu 10:1, to the time of which Moses is speaking here, viz., the time when the covenant was restored at Sinai. The appointment of the tribe of Levi for service at the sanctuary took place in connection with the election of Aaron and his sons to the priesthood (Ex 28 and 29), although their call to this service, instead of the first-born of Israel, was not carried out till the numbering and mustering of the people (Num 1:49., Deu 4:17., Deu 8:6.). Moses is speaking here of the election of the whole of the tribe of Levi, including the priests (Aaron and his sons), as is very evident from the account of their service. It is true that the carrying of the ark upon the march through the desert was the business of the (non-priestly) Levites, viz., the Kohathites (Num 4:4.); but on solemn occasions the priests had to carry it (cf. Jos 3:3, Jos 3:6, Jos 3:8; Jos 6:6; Kg1 8:3.). "Standing before the Lord, to serve Him, and to bless in His name," was exclusively the business of the priests (cf. Deu 18:5; Deu 21:5, and Num 6:23.), whereas the Levites were only assistants of the priests in their service (see at Deu 18:7). This tribe therefore received no share and possession with the other tribes, as was already laid down in Num 18:20 with reference to the priests, and in Num 18:24 with regard to all the Levites; to which passages the words "as the Lord thy God promised him" refer. - Lastly, in Deu 10:10, Deu 10:11, Moses sums up the result of his intercession in the words, "And I stood upon the mount as the first days, forty days (a resumption of Deu 9:18 and Deu 9:25); and the Lord hearkened to me this time also (word for word, as in Deu 9:19). "Jehovah would not destroy thee (Israel)." Therefore He commanded Moses to arise to depart before the people, i.e., as leader of the people to command and superintend their removal and march. In form, this command is connected with Exo 34:1; but Moses refers here not only to that word of the Lord with the limitation added there in Exo 34:2, but to the ultimate, full, and unconditional assurance of God, in which the Lord Himself promised to go with His people and bring them to Canaan (Exo 34:14.).
The proof that Israel had no righteousness before God is followed on the positive side by an expansion of the main law laid down in Deu 6:4., to love God with all the heart, which is introduced by the words, "and now Israel," sc., now that thou hast everything without desert or worthiness, purely from forgiving grace. "What doth the Lord thy God require of thee?" Nothing further than that thou fearest Him, "to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve Him with all the heart and all the soul." אם כּי, unless, or except that, presupposes a negative clause (cf. Gen 39:9), which is implied here in the previous question, or else to be supplied as the answer. The demand for fear, love, and reverence towards the Lord, is no doubt very hard for the natural man to fulfil, and all the harder the deeper it goes into the heart; but after such manifestations of the love and grace of God, it only follows as a matter of course. "Fear, love, and obedience would naturally have taken root of themselves within the heart, if man had not corrupted his own heart." Love, which is the only thing demanded in Deu 6:5, is here preceded by fear, which is the only thing mentioned in Deu 5:26 and Deu 6:24.
(Note: The fear of God is to be united with the love of God; for love without fear makes men remiss, and fear without love makes them servile and desperate (J. Gerhard).)
The fear of the Lord, which springs from the knowledge of one's own unholiness in the presence of the holy God, ought to form the one leading emotion in the heart prompting to walk in all the ways of the Lord, and to maintain morality of conduct in its strictest form. This fear, which first enables us to comprehend the mercy of God, awakens love, the fruit of which is manifested in serving God with all the heart and all the soul (see Deu 6:5). "For thy good," as in Deu 5:30 and Deu 6:24.
This obligation the Lord had laid upon Israel by the love with which He, to whom all the heavens and the earth, with everything upon it, belong, had chosen the patriarchs and their seed out of all nations. By "the heavens of the heavens," the idea of heaven is perfectly exhausted. This God, who might have chosen any other nation as well as Israel, or in fact all nations together, had directed His special love to Israel alone.
Above all, therefore, they were to circumcise the foreskin of their hearts, i.e., to lay aside all insensibility of heart to impressions from the love of God (cf. Lev 26:41; and on the spiritual signification of circumcision, see Gen 17:15-21), and not stiffen their necks any more, i.e., not persist in their obstinacy, or obstinate resistance to God (cf. Deu 9:6, Deu 9:13). Without circumcision of heart, true fear of God and true love of God are both impossible. As a reason for this admonition, Moses adduces in Deu 10:17. the nature and acts of God. Jehovah as the absolute God and Lord is mighty and terrible towards all, without respect of person, and at the same time a just Judge and loving Protector of the helpless and oppressed. From this it follows that the true God will not tolerate haughtiness and stiffness of neck either towards Himself or towards other men, but will punish it without reserve. To set forth emphatically the infinite greatness and might of God, Moses describes Jehovah the God of Israel as the "God of gods," i.e., the supreme God, the essence of all that is divine, of all divine power and might (cf. Psa 136:2), - and as the "Lord of lords," i.e., the supreme, unrestricted Ruler ("the only Potentate," Ti1 6:15), above all powers in heaven and on earth, "a great King above all gods" (Psa 95:3). Compare Rev 17:14 and Rev 19:16, where these predicates are transferred to the exalted Son of God, as the Judge and Conqueror of all dominions and powers that are hostile to God. The predicates which follow describe the unfolding of the omnipotence of God in the government of the world, in which Jehovah manifests Himself as the great, mighty, and terrible God (Psa 89:8), who does not regard the person (cf. Lev 19:15), or accept presents (cf. Deu 16:19), like a human judge.
As such, Jehovah does justice to the defenceless (orphan and widow), and exercises a loving care towards the stranger in his oppression. For this reason the Israelites were not to close their hearts egotistically against the stranger (cf. Exo 22:20). This would show whether they possessed any love to God, and had circumcised their hearts (cf. Jo1 3:10, Jo1 3:17).
After laying down the fundamental condition of a proper relation towards God, Moses describes the fear of God, i.e., true reverence of God, in its threefold manifestation, in deed (serving God), in heart (cleaving to Him; cf. Deu 4:4), and with the mouth (swearing by His name; cf. Deu 6:13). Such reverence as this Israel owed to its God; for "He is thy praise, and He is thy God" (Deu 10:21). He has given thee strong inducements to praise. By the great and terrible things which thine eyes have seen, He has manifested Himself as God to thee. "Terrible things" are those acts of divine omnipotence, which fill men with fear and trembling at the majesty of the Almighty (cf. Exo 15:11). אתּך עשׂה, "done with thee," i.e., shown to thee (את in the sense of practical help).
One marvel among these great and terrible acts of the Lord as to be seen in Israel itself, which had gone down to Egypt in the persons of its fathers as a family consisting of seventy souls, and now, notwithstanding the oppression it suffered there, had grown into an innumerable nation. So marvellously had the Lord fulfilled His promise in Gen 15:5. By referring to this promise, Moses intended no doubt to recall to the recollection of the people the fact that the bondage of Israel in a foreign land for 400 years had also been foretold (Gen 15:13.). On the seventy souls, see at Gen 46:26-27.