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Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 3: Harmony of the Law, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at

Deuteronomy 29

Deuteronomy 29:2-9

2. And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, Ye have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land;

2. Vocavitque Moses universum Israelem, et dixit eis, Vos ipsi vidistis omnia quae fecit Jehova in oculis vestris in terra Aegypti Pharaoni et omnibus servis ejus, et universae terrae ejus.

3. The great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and those great miracles;

3. Probationes magnas quas viderunt oculi tui, signa et portenta ilia magna.

4. Yet the Lord hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.

4. Neque dedit vobis Jehova cor ad intelligendum, et oculos ad ridendum, et aures ad audiendum usque in hunc diem.

5. And I have led you forty years in the wilderness: your clothes are not waxen old upon you, and thy shoe is not waxen old upon thy foot.

5. Et deduxi vos quadraginta annis per desertum: non inveteraverunt vestimenta vestra super vos, nec calceamentum vestrum veteravit super pedem vestrum.

6. Ye have not eaten bread, neither have ye drunk wine or strong drink; that ye might know that I am the Lord your God.

6. Panem non comedistis, neque vinum et siceram bibistis: ut intelligatis quod ego Jehova Deus vester.

7. And when ye came unto this place, Sihon the king of Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, came out against us unto battle, and we smote them:

7. Venistis tandem ad locum istum: egressusque est Sehon rex Esbon, et Og rex Basan in occursum nostrum ad praelium, et percussimus eos;

8. And we took their land, and gave it for an inheritance unto the Reubenites, and to the Gadites, and to the half-tribe of Manasseh.

8. Et abstulimus terram ipsorum, tradidimusque in haereditatem Rubenitis, et Gadiris, et dimidiae tribui Manasse.

9. Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do.

9. Custodiatis ergo verba pacti hujus et facite ea, ut (vel, intelligatis) prospere agatis in omnibus quae facturi estis.

2. And Moses called unto all Israel. This passage also may be fitly referred to the preface of the Law, since its tendency is to recommend it, and to instruct and prepare the people’s minds to be teachable. It takes its commencement from the divine blessings, which they had experienced as well in their exodus as in their forty years’ wanderings; for it would have been the height of baseness and ingratitude not to devote themselves to a Deliverer who had dealt so graciously with them. And surely it was an inestimable sign of His paternal love towards them, that He should have arrayed Himself against so very powerful a king for His servants’ sake. Finally, lest there should be any question as to their deliverance, he enlarges upon the power which God displayed therein, in magnificent terms of praise according with its dignity.

4. Yet the Lord hath not given. By reproaching them with their past stupidity, he stirs up their desire for a better understanding, as if he had said, that they had been too long indifferent to so many miracles, and therefore they should no longer delay to rouse themselves, etc., to give greater heed to God; not because they had been so senseless that His acts had altogether escaped their notice, but because all acknowledgment of them had immediately come to an end. For, just as the drunken man, or one suffering from lethargy, when he hears a cry, raises his head for a moment, and opens his eyes, and then relapses into a state of torpor, so the people had never seriously applied their minds to consider God’s works; and when they had been aroused by some miracle, had immediately sunk back into forgetfulness, wherefore there is good cause why Moses should seek to awaken them from their dulness and stupidity by various methods. But he does not merely condemn their senselessness, and blindness, and deafness, but declares that they were thus senseless, and blind, and deaf, because they were not inspired with grace from above to profit duly by so many lessons. Thence we learn that a clear and powerful understanding is a special gift of the Spirit, since men are ever blind even in the brightest light, until they have been enlightened by God. What Moses relates of the Israelites, is unquestionably common to us all. He declares, then, that they were not induced by the conspicuous glory of God to fear and worship Him, because He had not given them either mind, or eyes, or ears. It is true that at man’s creation He had naturally bestowed upon him a mind, and ears, and eyes; but Moses means, that whatever innate light we have, is either hidden or lost, so that, as far as regards the highest point of wisdom, all our senses lie useless. True that in nature’s corruption, the light still shineth in darkness, but it is light which is soon obscured; therefore, the entire understanding and faculty of reason, in which men glory and pique themselves, is nought but smoke and darkness. Well then may David ask that his eyes may be opened to behold the secrets of the Law.  259 (Ps 119:18.) Still this defect by no means frees us from blame; because (as we are told) none have wisdom, but those to whom it is given by the Father of lights; for we are ignorant  260 through our own fault. Besides, every one is sufficiently, and more than sufficiently convicted by his own conscience, that his ignorance is closely connected with pride and indolence, and is therefore voluntary. The word heart is not here used for the seat of the affections, but for the mind itself, which is the intellectual faculty of the soul.

5. And I have led you. He descends to the blessings with which He had continually visited His people during the course of forty years. Yet he does not recount them all, but contents himself with a few of the most remarkable instances, viz., that their clothes had not been worn out by age, and that they had been fed from heaven, when no sustenance was to be obtained from the fruits of the earth. He reminds them that God’s glory had been manifested by these testimonies, in order that they might submit themselves to His rule.

7. And when ye came unto this place. This, a third instance (of God’s goodness), because He had smitten the first enemies, who encountered them to impede their passage, and thus had already begun to bring them into a place of rest. For inasmuch as the two tribes and a half had here chosen their home, they might behold as in a mirror that the possession of the promised land awaited them. Hence, then, Moses concludes that they were under obligation to keep the law, and exhorts them to shew their gratitude by faithful and sincere obedience. The object, therefore, of the recital is, to procure reverent attention to his doctrine; since the word שכל,  261 shakal, in Hiphil, means to act successfully as well as prudently. I have set down both readings, since they are alike suitable to the sense. For we have seen in chapter 4, that this was the people’s only wisdom to obey God’s statutes; nor was their prosperity to be expected from any other source except God’s blessing, which is everywhere promised to the Israelites, if they keep the law.



The references here are to Psalm 19:13, and 18:24, (in the Fr. 14.) There may be allusion to 19:12, and 18:28. See Calvin’s comments on these passages.


“Desipimus.” Lat. “Ainsi hebetez, et desprouvez de sens.” — Fr.


תשכילו; A. V., that ye may prosper. S.M., ut prudenter agatis; but he adds, the Hebrews, explain this word by הצליחו, “that ye may prosper.” The Hiphil of שכל, says Simon’s Lexicon, is to act prudently, and by a metonymy of the antecedent for the consequent, to proceed prosperously. W.

Next: Deuteronomy 8:7-10; 11:10-12