Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 3: Harmony of the Law, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
11. Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day:
11. Cave tibi ne obliviscaris Jehovae Dei tui, ut non observes praecepta ejus, et judicia ejus, et statuta ejus, quae ego praecipio tibi hodie.
12. Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein;
12. Ne forte comedas et satureris, et domos egregias aedifices, atque habites in illis.
13. And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied;
13. Et boves tui ovesque tuae multiplicentur, argentum quoque et aurum multiplicentur tibi: omne inquam quod est tibi multiplicetur;
14. Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage;
14. Tum elevetur cor tuum, et obliviscaris Jehovae Dei tui, qui eduxit to e terra Aegypti, e domo servorum:
15. Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint;
15. Qui deduxit to per desertum magnum et terribile serpentis adurentis, et scorpionis, et sitis, in quo nulla erat aqua: qui eduxit tibi aquam e petra silicis:
16. Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not; that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end;
16. Qui pavit to Man in deserto, quod non noverant patres tui: ut affligeret to, et probaret to, ut benefaceret tibi in novissimo tuo.
17. And thou say in thine heart, My power, and the might of mine hand, hath gotten me this wealth.
17. Ut dicas in corde tuo, Potentia mea et robur manus meae paravit mihi has opes.
18. But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.
18. Sed memineris Jehovae Dei tui, quia ipse dat tibi facultatem ad parandas opes, ut confirmet pactum suum quod juravit patribus tuis, sicut in hoc die.
11. Beware that thou forget not 263 We may easily estimable the necessity of this admonition from the common corruption of human nature, which is even yet only too general and too influential; for scarcely shall we find one person in a hundred in whom satiety does not generate headiness. Moses will hereafter speak in his Song of the rebelliousness of this people, 264
“The beloved, (Jeshurun,) waxen fat, and grown thick, kicked.” (De 32:15.)
It was needful, then, that a restraint should be put on such refractory beings, nay, that they should have their wantonness still more tightly repressed in their prosperity. But we may, and it is well to, extend this doctrine to ourselves also, since prosperity intoxicates almost all of us, so that we intemperately grow wanton against God, and forget ourselves and Him. Therefore Moses not only commands the Israelites not to be ungrateful to God, but warns them to guard themselves (for he uses this word for to beware) from that impious ingratitude. He immediately after uses this same word for the keeping of the Law. But this is the sum, that they needed the utmost care and attention to beware lest forgetfulness of God should steal over them in happy circumstances, and thus they should shake off His fear, and cast away His yoke, and indulge themselves in the lusts of their flesh. For he shews that contempt of the Law would be a token of ingratitude; because it could not be but that they would submit themselves to God, and keep His Law, if they only reflected that it was to nothing but His blessing that they owed their prosperity. We have already observed elsewhere that his designation of the Law by various terms amounts to a commendation of its perfect doctrine; as much as to say, that no part of right conduct is omitted in it. He also asserts here (as often elsewhere) the faithfulness of his ministry, lest they should shufflingly contend that, whilst they refuse the commands of a mortal man, they are not therefore rebellious against God. He says, then, that their piety will not be acceptable to God, unless they keep the Law propounded by Him.
12. Lest when thou hast eaten and art full. He more fully explains what we have already observed, viz., that it might happen, in the gradual course of time, that they should fail in their fear of God and honor for His Law, and therefore should take the greater care lest continual peace and joy should bring this callousness upon them. We should diligently remark the cause of departure which he points out, viz., the pride whereby riches and abundance ordinarily puff up men’s minds. The examples of moderation in prosperity are rare; rather, as soon as men perceive themselves to be in a flourishing estate, they begin to swell with arrogance, and so admire their exaltation that they despise even God Himself. On this ground Paul charges
“the rich in this world that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches.” (1Ti 6:17.)
We ought., indeed, the more kindly we are dealt with by God, to submit ourselves the more meekly to His rule; but, as I have said, the depravity of our nature hurries us quite the other way, so that we grow insolent under God’s indulgence, which should bend us to submission. And if this does not happen immediately, yet whenever prosperity flows on uninterruptedly, its delights gradually corrupt even the best of us, so that they at last degenerate from themselves. If, then, we desire to steer a straight course, we ought to strive after the healing of this most deadly disease of pride. Again, since by the wiles of Satan continued prosperity softens and ensnares us, let us learn to beware not only for a day, but to keep watch through the whole course of our lives. Moses wisely anticipates their pride by recalling to the Israelites’ recollection what was their original condition. For whence does it arise that those who seem to themselves and others to be happy in the world are puffed up with self-confidence and pride, except because they reflect not on their origin, but despise all but themselves, just as if they had come down from the clouds? For there are few like Codrus, who, after gaining a kingdom, always ingenuously confessed that his father had been a potter. God here presents a remedy to this vice, (which reigns too extensively,) by representing to the Israelites their former state, and commanding them to reflect that they were rescued from it by His especial blessing. Nothing but the recollection of their deliverance could tame their arrogance; for what could be more unreasonable than that they should be insolent who were formerly the slaves of a most haughty nation, and who had not acquired their liberty by their own efforts, but contrary to their hope and deserts had obtained it by God’s mere favor, who then had wandered in exile through the wilderness, and at length, under God’s guidance, had entered the land promised them? In a word, God deals with them just as if one should reproach a man (who, having become suddenly rich, bore himself intemperately) with his former beggary and want. Moreover, since they were too slow of heart to receive this admonition promptly and cheerfully, Moses enlarges on the Divine benefits which they had experienced in the wilderness. For this was incredible, that this mixed multitude of men, and women, and children, and slaves should have lived so many years, not only amongst wild beasts, but amongst scorpions and vipers, and all that is most venomous in the serpent tribe. God’s goodness shone forth, too, still more brightly in that sudden miracle whereby He supplied water to them in their thirst from what was before an and rock. 265 But since he reminds them in the next verse how they had manna for their bread or food, I will join these two things together.
16. Who fed thee in the wilderness. He had said that water was brought forth from the rock of flint when the people were suffering from thirst; now, he adds that they had manna instead of bread; as if he had said that when meat and drink failed them they must have perished of want unless God had preternaturally given them both, causing the hard rock to flow down in water, and sending bread from heaven. Moreover he repeats what he had said before, that the people were afflicted with this need as a trial of their faith and patience; yet in this trial both their incredulity and intemperance were discovered, whilst God’s goodness and power were eventually more clearly displayed, since He pardoned their ingratitude, and, notwithstanding it, aided their necessity. For if they had not suffered from hunger, God’s bounty in supplying them with their daily food would have been neglectfully received. This is the meaning of the conclusion, “to do thee good at thy latter end.” From which words let us also learn that we are often deprived of our necessary supplies, in order that our senses may awaken to acknowledge God’s aid which appears in our extremity. For whilst abundance covers our eyes with a veil, or dims their sight, so, on the other hand, deprivation and want purge and remove this dimness that we may more clearly perceive the benefits afforded us by God.
17. And thou say in, thy heart. He describes that kind of pride of which we have lately spoken, viz., when men attribute to their own industry, or labor, or foresight, what they ought to refer to the blessing of God. It has indeed been said, that our hearts are uplifted in other ways also; but this is the principal ground of pride, to assume and assign to ourselves what belongs to God. For nothing so greatly confines us within the boundaries of humility and modesty as the acknowledgment of God’s grace; for it is madness and temerity to raise our crests against Him on whom we depend, and to whom we owe ourselves and all we possess. Rightly, then, does Moses reprove the pride of the human heart which arises from forgetfulness of God, if they think that they have gained by their own exertions (marte suo) what God has given them of His own pleasure, in order to lay them under obligation to Himself. “To say in the heart,” is a Hebraism for thinking in one’s self, or reflecting in one’s self. He does not, therefore, only require the outward expression of the lips, whereby men profess that they are grateful to God’s bounty, (for in this there is often nothing more than hypocrisy and vanity;) but he would have them seriously persuaded that whatever they possess is derived from His sheer beneficence. He has already said, that although when they entered the land they would be fed with bread and other foods, still the manna wherewith God had supported them in the wilderness would be a perpetual proof that man is not sustained by bread only, but by the secret virtue of God, which inspires the principle of life. Another lesson is now added, viz., that because God formerly fed and clothed them gratuitously, and without any act of their own, they thence are taught that, even whilst they strenuously labor and strive, whatever they acquire is not so much the reward of their own industry as the fruit of God’s blessing. For he not only affirms that at their first entrance into the land they were enriched, because God dealt with them liberally, but He extends this to the whole course of human life, that men obtain nothing by their own vigilance and diligence, except in so far as God blesses them from above. And this he more fully explains immediately afterwards, where he commands them to remember therefore that “it is God who giveth them power,” etc. For although God would not have us slumber in inactivity, yet what Paul says of the preaching of the Gospel, 266 holds good also in the most trifling matters, viz., that “neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth,” but all things are in the power of God, by whose only influence it is that the earth brings forth fruit. (1Co 3:7.) We must then recollect that although God reproves man’s slothfulness, and punishes it with want and hunger, still they who are active in labor do not get wealth by their own diligence, but by the blessing of God alone. On this doctrine the prayer which Christ dictated to us is founded, in which we ask to have our daily bread given us. But although this relates alike to all mankind, yet Moses appropriates it especially to God’s chosen people, in whom God’s blessing shines forth most brightly, and at the same time admonishes them that the fact of His supplying them with food depends on the covenant whereby He adopted the race of Abraham to Himself.
Take heed to thyself — Lat.
“LXX. autem pro eo (Jeshurun) substituerunt ὀ ἠγαπημένος, et V. imitatur per suum Dilectus. Unde autem sit illa versio, vix explicari video; fatente etiam Steucho, se nescire a quo verbo id nomen duct possit si Dilectum significat,” etc. — Marckius on Deuteronomy 32: C.’s own translation of the word is Rectus.
The following sentence is omitted in the French.
A parenthesis is here added in the Fr., (“selon qu’il est prins de la similitude des laboureurs;”) as it. is taken from the similitude of laborers.