Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 3: Harmony of the Law, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
PASSAGES WHICH HAVE REFERENCE
TO THE EXPOSITION OF THIS COMMANDMENT
Deut. 6:4, 13, 16
4. Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord.
4. Audi, Israel, Jehova Deus noster Deus unus est.
13. Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him.
13. Jehovam Deum tuum timebis, et ipsum solum coles.
16. Ye shall not tempt the Lord your God, as ye tempted him in Massah.
16. Non tentabitis Jehovam Deum vestrum, sicut tentastis in Masa.
20. Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave.
20. Jehovam Deum tuum timebis, eum coles, eique adhaerebis.
4. Hear, O Israel. When Moses proclaims that God is One, the statement is not confined to His sole essence, which is incomprehensible, but must be also understood of His power and glory, which had been manifested to the people; as though he had said, that they would be guilty of rebellion unless they abode in the One God, who had laid them under such obligations to Himself. Therefore he not only calls him Jehovah, but at the same time infers that He is the God of that people whom he addresses, “Thy God.” Thus all other deities are brought to nought, and the people are commanded to fly and detest whatever withdraws their minds from the pure knowledge of Him; for although His name may be left to Him, still He is stripped of His majesty, as soon as He is mixed up with a multitude of others. Thus He says by Ezekiel, (Eze 20:39,) “Go ye, serve ye every one his idols;” in which words He not only repudiates all mixed worship, but testifies that He would rather be accounted nothing than not be worshipped undividedly. The orthodox Fathers aptly used this passage against the Arians; 280 because, since Christ is everywhere called God, He is undoubtedly the same Jehovah who declares Himself to be the One God; and this is asserted with the same force respecting the Holy Spirit.
13. Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God. Hence it is more evident why He has just declared that there is One God, viz., that He alone may be undividedly worshipped; for unless our minds are fixed on Him alone, religion is torn, as it were, into divers parts, and this is soon followed by a labyrinth of errors. But, first, he calls for reverence, and then for the worship which may testify and demonstrate it. “Fear” contains in it the idea of subjection, when men devote themselves to God, because His terrible majesty keeps them in their proper place. Hence results worship, which is the proof of piety. But we must observe that the fear enjoined in this passage is voluntary, so that men influenced by it desire nothing more than to obey God. When I stated, therefore, that God brings us under the yoke by a sense of His power and greatness, I did not understand that a violent and servile obedience is extorted from us; I only wished to affirm that men cannot be induced to obey God, before they have been subdued by fear; because their innate corruption always carries with it a contempt for religion, and a spirit of licentiousness. Therefore, in Jeremiah (Jer 5:22), in order to exhort men to fear, He sets forth His terrible power in restraining the strength of the sea; but this fear leads on His true worshippers further. In the other passage which we have subjoined from Deuteronomy 10, the word cleave again confirms the truth, that as soon as men decline from God in the least degree, His worship is corrupted. For this is the meaning of that union with Himself to which He calls His worshippers, that they should be, as it were, glued to Him, and should not look elsewhere.
16. Ye shall not tempt the Lord. Since the doctrine here should undoubtedly be referred to the First Commandment, we gather from it that this is the main foundation of piety, to give to Him what is His own, and to diminish nothing from the prerogative which He claims. As we have already seen, unbelief was the fountain and cause of the tempting in Massah, for when the people neither relied on God’s providence nor rested on His paternal love, they burst forth into impatience, and at length advanced so far as to think that God was not with them, unless He complied with their wicked lusts. We perceive, then, that God cannot be rightly worshipped unless when He has His peculiar attributes acknowledged. Whence, also, it appears that true piety cannot be dissevered from faith, because, if we confess that every desirable good dwells in Him, we shall expect and seek for all things from Him; we shall also patiently and contentedly allow ourselves to be governed by His will, and, in a word, give up ourselves and our lives into His hands.
Lev. 19:1, 2
1. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
1. Loquutus est Jehova ad Mosen, dicendo:
2. Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy.
2. Loquere ad universum coetum filiorum Israel, et dic eis, Sancti estote, quia ego sanctus Jehova Deus vester.
1. And the Lord spake. This is the object of the exhortation: first, that they should not measure the service of God by their own conceits, but rather by His nature; and secondly, that they should begin by studying 281 to be holy. For nothing is harder than for men to divest themselves of their carnal affections to prepare for imitating God. Besides, they willingly lie slumbering in their own filthiness, and seek to cloak it by the outward appearance of religion. Here, then, they are recalled to the imitation of God, who, in adopting them, desired that they should bear His image, just as good and undegenerate children resemble their father. If any should pretend to equal God, his emulation would be madness; but although the most perfect come very far short even of the angels, yet the weakness of the very humblest does not prevent him from aspiring after the example of God. To this point did all the ceremonies tend, whereby God exercised His ancient people unto holiness, as we shall hereafter see. Although this declaration does not occur once only, yet because it is annexed in other places to special precepts in order to their confirmation, let it suffice at present to apprehend the general doctrine it contains.
Deut. 6:14, 15
14. Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you;
14. Non ambulabitis post deos alienos e diis populorum qui undique circum vos sunt:
15. (For the Lord thy God is a jealous God among you;) lest the anger of the Lord thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.
15. Quoniam Deus zelotes Jehova Deus tuus in medio tui est: ne forte irascatur furor Jehovae Dei tui in to, et disperdat te e superficie terrae.
14. Ye shall not go after. In this passage Moses commands the people not to turn away from the simple service of God, although examples of superstition may present themselves to their sight on every side. For this was a very destructive temptation, that none could be anywhere found who subscribed to the doctrine of the Law, although the respective nations had some religion, or at any rate the name of it existing among them. Since, therefore, these various forms of worship were so many temptations to forsake the right way, it was needful to provide against the danger betimes, and so to establish the authority of the One God, that the Jews might have courage to despise the common belief of all the Gentiles. A threat is added, that vengeance would not be far off if they should fall away into these superstitions, since God is a jealous God, and dwelling among them. As to the former epithet, I am about to say more under the Second Commandment. Meanwhile, let my readers observe that God is called jealous, because He permits no rivalry which may detract from His glory, nor does He suffer the service which is due to Him alone to be transferred elsewhere. When He reminds the people that he dwells among them, it is partly to inspire terror by reason of His presence, and partly to reprove indirectly their ingratitude, if they should forsake Him, and seek for themselves gods who are afar of.
9. When thou art come into the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations.
9. Quum tu ingressus fueris in terram quam Jehova Deus tuus dat tibi, ne discas ad faciendum secundum abominationes gentium istarum.
10. There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch,
10. Non inveniatur in medio tui qui tradueat filium suum, (ad verbum, Transire faciat,) vel filiam suam per ignem, qui divinet divinationes, augur, magus, et incantator,
11. Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.
11. Colligans colligationes, consulens Pythonem, prognostes, (vel, ariolus,) et qui sciscitatur a mortuis.
12. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee.
12. Abominatio enim est Jehovae quisquis facit haec, et propter abo. minationes istas evellit cos Jehova Deus tuus a facie tua.
13. Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God.
13. Integer eris cum Jehova Deo tuo.
14. For these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, the Lord thy God hath not suffered thee so to do.
14. Nam gentes istae quas tu obtinebis attentae sunt ad prognostas (vel, ariolos) et ad divinos: quod ad to, non ita permisit tibi Jehova Dens tuus.
9. When thou art come. It is too well known from experience how eagerly the human race lays hold of bad examples, and how prone it is to imitate them. Especially those who come into a foreign land, accustom themselves readily to its manners and customs. This is the reason why God expressly commands the Israelites to beware, lest, when they come into the land of Canaan, they should catch any infection from its inhabitants. The doctrine, indeed, is universal in its application; but there was a necessity for providing against the danger which immediately impended. Moreover, Moses explains clearly in this passage what it is to have other gods, viz., to mix up the worship of God with things profane, since its purity is only thus maintained by banishing from it all uncongenial superstitions. The sum, therefore, is, that the people of God should abstain from all the inventions of men, whereby pure and simple religion is adulterated. In general, God wished to deter His worshippers from every fallacy whereby, from the beginning, Satan has deluded and fascinated miserable men; but He enumerates certain particular points, which by usage and custom had obtained the greatest prevalence. But in order that God’s purpose may be more apparent, it is expedient to observe what it is that displeases Him in these vices which He condemns. Since men have a natural desire after knowledge, even in the superstitious this has always proceeded from a good principle, inasmuch as God has implanted it in the minds of all, when He would distinguish our race from the lower animals. Neither in this was there anything to be reprehended, that men, being conscious of their own ignorance, conceived that they were to obtain knowledge in no other way than by consulting God. Now this was the sole object of the Gentiles when they inquired of their magicians and sorcerers, to seek from heaven that knowledge of which they perceived themselves to be destitute. Thus they undoubtedly confessed themselves to be overwhelmed with darkness, and that the light of understanding was the special gift of God. Whence also came the name of divination, because they were persuaded that secret things were not within the compass of human apprehension, but that this knowledge must come from divine inspiration. But since by his machinations the devil perverts what is right in itself, these principles implanted in us, as I have said, by nature, have been corrupted by two errors, for both an immoderate desire of knowing more than is lawful has crept into our minds, and then we have had recourse to illicit means of knowledge. From these sources, viz., foolish curiosity and unrestrained temerity or audacity, all the superstitions and errors have flowed whereby the world has been assailed. Therefore does God, by forbidding magical arts, introduce a remedy for these two diseases, which arts were perversely invented that they might search out and bring to light things which He had chosen to conceal. For the best rule of knowledge is sobriety, that it may suffice us to know as much as is expedient for us. The lust of men has carried them deeper, so that they have desired to penetrate into all the most profound secrets. But the second error on which I have touched is much worse, that they should have sought by improper means to discover hidden things. We shall soon see that God also has foretold things to come by his servants; but no further than He knew to be profitable, and only with this object, to make it manifest that He exercises special care for His church. But since men’s curiosity is insatiable, they do not consider what is useful for them, but, like Adam, desire to “be as gods,” and to know all things without exception. When God indulges not these improper desires, they address themselves to the devil, the father of lies, still, however, as I have stated, under the false disguise of God’s name. This is the origin of all the vanities whereby the world has ever been entangled. I now descend to particulars.
10. There shall not be found among you. This horrible and altogether monstrous infatuation, whereby the Gentiles had been possessed, afterwards invaded the Jews also, that they should immolate and even burn their children in honor of the gods to which they had devoted themselves; although it is probable that the greater part of them were not inflamed by such an excess of madness, but satisfied their superstition more easily, by merely making their children to pass through the fire. This was with them a kind of lustration to purge away all filthiness. But their cruel zeal impelled many of them even to murder, so as not even to spare their own flesh and blood. Yet in this they pleaded the example of Abraham, as if there were any similarity between the obedience of that holy man who, led by God’s command, was ready to slay his son Isaac, and this barbarous act of violence in people who, though God prohibited and gainsaid, murdered their children. Yet in this horrible spectacle we perceive how much more fervently men engage in impious rites which their own temerity has dictated, than in efforts to worship God aright, when He openly and expressly enjoins them the thing that is good. This, indeed, ought to be the first care of parents to consecrate their children to God; but the only rite of initiation for the Jews was circumcision, and with this they should have been content. Moses then enumerates the various kinds of divination to which the heathen nations were addicted, in order to satisfy their foolish desire to know more than was lawful. I do not, however, disapprove of the view which some prefer, 282 that the generic term is first used, and the various species are then subjoined. I shall explain these briefly, and not waste time in refuting particular opinions, although it is evident that even some of the rabbis are grossly mistaken about them. The word מעונן, 283 magnonen, I willingly admit to be derived from (a word signifying) clouds; and therefore it may properly mean augurs, or judicial astrologers. There are some who are rather of opinion that its root is מגון, magnon, which in Hebrew means a place; and this etymology would not badly suit the fanatics who divine all things from the position of the stars, and assign their stations both to the planets and the signs of the zodiac for their respective aspects. At any rate this is fully agreed, that auguries, as well as frivolous observations of the stars, are here condemned, when men, in their preposterous curiosity, suppose all events and circumstances to be under the dominion of the stars. The word which follows מנחש, 284 menachesh, means a diviner or soothsayer, (ariolum,) which sufficiently appears from Ge 44:5, where Joseph pretends that he divined by his cup, because it was commonly believed that he possessed the art of soothsaying; and hence the name has been given to serpents on account of their subtlety. Some interpret the word מכשף, 285 mekasheph, a juggler, (praestigiatorem,) one who dazzles and deceives the eyes by optical illusions. Next follows the fifth 286 term, which I have translated “tying knots,” (colligans colligationes,) whereby some understand enchanters, who by magic arts gather together serpents into one place. But this, in my judgment, is a poor explanation, and I, therefore, rather agree with those who conceive the calling together of evil spirits to be alluded to. But since it may be correctly translated “collecting, or gathering an assembly,” I do not altogether reject the opinion of others, that it relates to those imaginary assemblies, to which unhappy men, whom the devil has bewitched, fancy themselves to be transported to feast and dance together, and to join in wicked conspiracies, and which are commonly called “synagogues.” In the sixth word there is no ambiguity, whereby the people are forbidden to consult a spirit of Python; for thus may we properly render the Hebrew אוב, 287 ob, as St. Luke, a faithful and competent interpreter, has done, when he relates that a spirit of Python was cast out of the damsel at the command of Paul, (Ac 16:16;) and sometimes the Scripture calls these by the name of אובות, oboth, who allure evil spirits to give replies, of which deception a remarkable example is given in sacred history, (1Sa 28:7,) in the case of the witch (Pythonissa) who shewed Saul Samuel, although dead. The Greeks have translated the word Python, because the delusions of Apollo Pythius were particularly famous. The seventh class (Ang., wizards) is ידעני, 288 yadgnoni, which may correctly be translated gnostics, or knowers; for I make no doubt that they adopted this honorable name for purposes of deceit, which is by no means an uncommon practice with impostors. Thus the Genethliacs, and others like them, vaunted themselves to be mathematicians. This is the craft of Satan to steal the respectable names of virtues and good things, and to make them a covering for his lies, as, for instance, he gave the name of wise men to the Chaldean and Egyptian impostors; and thus, since the Prophets are called seers, he set against them the vain prognostications of false prophets, to astonish the minds of the simple. 289 For to derive, as some do, this word from a certain bird, is too childish a conjecture; and I wonder that in such a plain matter they have been led so utterly astray, whilst they waste their acuteness upon nothing. Finally, necromancy 290 is condemned, i.e., the deceitful and delusive science of prophesying upon the answers of the dead, which some improperly restrict to those who sleep among tombs, in order to hear in their sleep the dead speaking, because foolish men have in many ways endeavored to obtain communications from the dead. But, let us learn from this passage, with how many monstrous and ridiculous fascinations Satan, whenever God loosens the chain by which he is bound, is able to bewitch unhappy men; and how great, power to deceive the father of lies obtains from the just vengeance of God, for the purpose of blinding unbelievers. As to the notion which some conceited persons entertain, that all these things are fabulous and absurd, it arises from inconsideration and presumption, because they do not reflect how severe a judgment is merited by those who wilfully extinguish the light and enwrap themselves in darkness. For God’s truth is too precious to Him, for Him to suffer it to be rejected with impunity. Certainly it would be an impudent blasphemy to deny that magical arras were ever practiced, since thus would God be accused of inadvertency, as though He had legislated 291 respecting things which did not exist. The objection that is made of its being absurd thus too highly to extol the power of Satan, as if he had the control of prophecies, which God claims for Himself alone, and as if he could cause the living to converse with the dead and change the forms of things, admits of an easy solution. With respect to vaticinations, there is no necessity for a subtle discussion as to how Satan can foreknow secret things, (on which point, as it seems to me, Augustine troubled himself too anxiously,) for this is a labor of supererogation, if we recollect that by God’s just judgment a certain kind of vaticination is permitted to the devils, in order more and more to deceive unbelievers, as will be more fully treated of elsewhere. Meanwhile, we know that unbelievers were mocked with 292 ambiguous responses by all the oracles of false gods, and at length discovered from the event that they had been beguiled by deadly artifices; and, therefore, in Isa 41:23, God justly charges every idol with ignorance of futurity. Yet this does not prevent Satan from revealing certain hidden matters, by the prediction of which he may ensnare, as by a bait, the reprobate. I admit, indeed, that in progress of time the Roman augurs abandoned the study of their art, and abused the credulity of the lower orders by nothing but gross fictions; but if in former times Satan had not led even the most sharp-sighted into error by this artifice, Xenophon, 293 the disciple of Socrates, would not have so often mentioned among the chief praises of Cyrus, 294 that he was devoted to augury, and had learnt to be so from his father. Finally, the experience of all ages teaches us that men of depraved curiosity have often received from Satan, by means of magicians, a knowledge of things which could not have been obtained naturally. As to the actual operations of Satan, whether he raises the dead, or bewitches men and beasts, or invests any substances with new forms through enchantment, we must consider that whatever miracles he appears to work are mere delusions; and, since he is the father of darkness, it is clear he has no power except upon unbelievers, whose minds are darkened, so as not to distinguish black from white. Yet we have already seen how Pharaoh’s magicians rivalled Moses in their miracles. Wherefore we need not wonder if, by God’s permission, he should disturb the elements, or afflict the reprobate with diseases and other evils, or present phantoms to their sight. On this account we should more earnestly implore of God to restrain from us an enemy armed against us with so many destructive arts.
12. For all that do these things are an abomination. First, he would have the authority of God act as a rein to guide them; and then sets before them that vengeance which they were soon about to see inflicted upon the heathen, nay, of which they were themselves to be the executioners and ministers. For since it could not be a matter of the slightest doubt, but that the inhabitants of the land of Canaan were rooted out from their peaceful habitations only by God’s hand, he assigns as the cause of this destruction that they had polluted themselves and their country by these blasphemous and abominable superstitions. By this striking example, then, he deters them from imitating the sins which facts themselves shewed to be thus severely punished. Thus Paul admonishes believers to seek diligently to avoid the sins which provoke God’s wrath against the disobedient. (Eph 5:6.)
13. Thou shalt be perfect. He refers to the mutual obligation of that holy covenant whereby as on the one side He had pledged Himself to the Jews, so on the other He had made them His debtors, not to prostitute themselves to idols, or to hanker after strange religions, whereby men’s minds are led astray. This perfectness, then, is opposed to all those mixtures or corruptions which withdraw us from the sincere worship of the one true God; because the simplicity which retains us in obedience to heavenly teaching, is that spiritual chastity which God requires in His Church. The context of the passage proves this with sufficient clearness, viz., that God would restrain the Jews from all licentiousness, so that being devoted to His service, they should not look this way or that way, nor be carried away by vanity and instability, but constantly abide in the pure worship which He had prescribed to them. For this reason Paul declares that he is jealous for Christ; and because he had “espoused” the Corinthians to Christ, he feared “lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve, through his subtlety,” so being ensnared by the wiles of impostors, they should fall “from the simplicity that is in Christ.” (2Co 11:2.)
14. For these nations. As God had just before been setting before them the punishment He was about to inflict upon these nations, in order to alarm and warn them, so now does he admonish them that the inheritance was handed over to them on this condition, that they should be mindful of so great a benefit, and beware of all pollutions; and that they succeeded the former inhabitants of the land, with a view to their being separate from them; for whence was this change, except that God might acquire to Himself a new people, and purify the land from all its defilements? Although He only mentions two classes of superstitions, yet thus, by synecdoche, He indicates them all. The sum is, that they should not be like the nations in vices and corruptions, which had been the cause of their destruction; since God had not only exterminated the men themselves, but their abominable rites also. Some divide the latter part of the verse into two clauses, “but thou shalt not do so;” and then, “Jehovah gives you the land,” which last word they supply. But I do not hesitate to think that the pronoun אתה, athah, must be thus rendered, “But as for thee;” and then I think it must be read continuously, “God hath not suffered thee to do so,” for the word נתן, nathan, is of extensive signification. The tendency of the whole is, that the prohibition of God should be of more weight with them than the example of the nations.
15. The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;
15. Prophetam e medio tui, ex fratribus tuis, sicut me, suscitabit tibi Jehova Deus tuns: illum audietis.
16. According to all that thou desiredst of the Lord thy God in Horeb, in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not.
16. Secundum omnia quae petiisti a Jehova Deo tuo in Horeb, in die conventus, dicendo, Non adjiciam audire vocem Jehovae Dei mei, et ignem hunc magnum non videbo amplius, ne moriar.
17. And the Lord said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken.
17. Et dixit Jehovah ad me, Bene egerunt in eo quod loquuti sunt.
18. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.
18. Prophetam suscitabo illis e medio fratrum suorum sicut to, ponamque verba mea in ore ejus: loqueturque ad eos quaecunque ei mandavero.
15. The Lord thy God will raise up. This is added by anticipation, lest the Israelites should object that they were more hardly dealt with than the rest of the nations of the world; for it was always most justly considered an extraordinary blessing to hold communication with God; and indeed there can be nothing more to be desired. But an opinion had obtained currency, that men approached more closely to God by means of magical arts, by the oracles of Pythonic spirits, and by the study of augury. The people of Israel, then, would have complained of being badly treated, if they had been shut out from all prophecies and revelations. Moses meets this complaint or objection by announcing, that their access to God would be not less familiar than as if He should Himself openly come down from heaven; if only they kept the right way, and were contented with that rule which He deemed best for them. He, therefore, commands that, instead of all the imaginations of the Gentiles, the doctrine of the Prophets should alone have force among them. Thus He signifies that although God should not openly come down from heaven, yet that His will, as far as was expedient, should be surely and clearly made known to them, since He would faithfully teach them by His servants the Prophets. On this ground when, in Isaiah, He has mocked at the prophecies of false gods, He calls the Israelites His “witnesses,” (Isa 43:1-10,) as having made them the depositaries of His secrets and of the treasures of divine wisdom. We see, then, the way pointed out in which God would have His people inquire concerning the things necessary to salvation; and this is more plainly declared in Isa. 8:19, 20,
“And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? To the law and to the testimony.”
Nor is there any doubt that Isaiah took this doctrine from the passage before us, when he first condemns the errors which men by their curiosity invent for themselves, and then enjoins the faithful simply to give attention to the Law, and to be content with this form of instruction, unless they desired to be miserably misled. Hence we conclude that the expression, “a Prophet,” is used by enallage for a number of Prophets. For it is altogether absurd, as some do, to restrict it to Joshua or Jeremiah; since Moses is here treating of the continual manner of the Church’s government, and is not speaking of what God would do within a short time. Not at all more correct is their opinion, who apply it strictly to Christ alone; for it is well to bear in mind what I have said respecting God’s intention, viz., that no excuse should be left for the Jews, if they turned aside to familiar spirits (Pythones) or magicians, since God would never leave them without Prophets and teachers. But if He had referred them to Christ alone, the objection would naturally arise that it was hard for them to have neither Prophets nor revelations for two thousand years. Nor is there any strength in those two arguments on which some insist, that the Prophet, of whom Moses bears witness, must be more excellent than him who proclaimed him; and that the eulogium that he should be “like unto” Moses could not be applied to the ancient Prophets, since it is said elsewhere that “there arose not a Prophet since like unto” him. (De 34:10.) For he does not at all detract from his own dignity, by recommending that whosoever might be sent by God should be hearkened to, whether they were his equals or his inferiors; and, as to the comparison, this particle translated like (sicut) does not always denote equality. Therefore it is true that there was no Prophet like Moses, that is to say, similar to him in every respect, or in whom so many gifts were displayed; yet it is no less true, that they were all like Moses; because God set over His Church a continual succession of teachers, to execute the same office as he did. This is referred to in the words, “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John,” (Mt 11:13, and Lu 16:16,) where we see others united as colleagues with Moses in the government of the Church, until the coming of Christ. Yet Peter aptly and elegantly accommodates this testimony to Christ, (Ac 3:22,) not to the exclusion of others of God’s servants, but in order to warn the Jews that in rejecting Christ they are at the same time refusing this inestimable benefit of God; for the gift of prophecy had so flourished among His ancient people, and teachers had so been constantly appointed to succeed each other, that nevertheless there should be some interruption before the coming of Christ. Hence, in that sad dispersion which followed the return from the Babylonish captivity, the faithful complain in Ps 74:9, “We see not our signs; there is no more any prophet.” On this account Malachi exhorts the people to remember the Law given in Horeb; and immediately after adds, “Behold I send you Elijah the prophet,” etc., (Mal. 4:4, 5;) as much as to say, that the time was at hand in which a more perfect doctrine should be manifested, and a fuller light should shine. For the Apostle says truly, that
“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son,” (Hebrew 1:1, 2;)
and, in fact, by the appearing of the doctrine of the Gospel, the course of the prophetic doctrine was completed; because God thus fully exhibited what was promised by the latter. And this was so generally understood that even the Samaritan woman said that Messias was coming, who would tell all things. (Joh 4:25.) To this, then, what I have lately quoted as to the transition from the Law and the Prophets to the Gospel refers; and hence it is made out, that this passage was most appropriately expounded by Peter as relating to Christ; for unless the Jews chose to accuse God of falsehood, it was incumbent upon them to look to Christ, at whose hand was promised both the confirmation of doctrine and the restoration of all things. They had been for a long time destitute of Prophets, of whom Moses had testified that they should never be wanting to them, and whom he had promised as the 295 lawful ministers for retaining the people in allegiance, so that they should not turn aside to superstitions; they had, therefore, either no religion, or else that greatest of Teachers was to be expected, who in his own person (unus) would present the perfection of the prophetic office. But we must remark the peculiar circumstances whereby God restrains the evil affections of the Jews. It was no common act of His indulgence, that He should take to himself Prophets from among that people, so that they should have no need to run about to a distance in search of revelations, and at the same time that they might be taught familiarly according to their capacity. But with regard to the comparison which Moses makes between himself and other prophets, its effect is to raise their teaching in men’s estimation. They had been long accustomed to this mode of instruction, viz., to hear God speaking to them by the mouth of a man; and the authority of Moses was so fully established, that they were firmly persuaded that they were under the divine government, and that all things necessary to salvation were revealed to them.
16. According to all that thou desiredst. He pronounces them to be guilty of ingratitude if they did not quietly submit themselves to their Prophets, since on this point God had complied with their own request. For in order that the prophetic office might be more reverenced and beloved by them, and lest it should fall into disrepute through their beholding the Prophet to be but a mortal, God had extracted the confession from them that nothing could be better than that He should make choice of human interpreters. At the promulgation of the Law, the visible majesty of God had shone forth, and the people, terrified at the sight, had voluntarily desired that Moses should be given to them as a teacher, and as the proclaimer of the heavenly voice. We have already seen how useful was this terror to recommend the teaching which is delivered by the mouth of man. We have abundant experience that our minds are often carried away by vain speculations. Thus we should wish to bring down God from heaven as often as any doubt creeps into them. It was necessary, therefore, that the Israelites should be convinced of their weakness, lest they should go beyond their due bounds, and that they might be led to ask for that as a great blessing which God had foreseen to be for their good, and at the same time might abandon that proud curiosity which would always have been exciting them, had it not been corrected betimes by the application of this remedy. But it would have been anything but excusable in them to have grown weary of that gift which they had judged to be so good for themselves. The sum is, that God had appeared once to obtain credit and authority for His Prophets; but that He had established that order for the government of His Church, and for the declaration of His will, which the people themselves had known by experience to be most highly advantageous to themselves.
17. They have well spoken. Moses relates how this desire of the people was approved by the judgment and the voice of God. Not as if whatever the foolish caprice of men may have urged them absurdly to ask, ought therefore to be immediately granted; but when God’s consent and, so to speak, His vote coincides with it, then whatever He shews to be pleasing to Him ought to stand firm and inviolable. Hence it follows that God, in sending the Prophets, provided for the salvation of men as was most expedient. Moreover, He asserts that when pious teachers arise, who faithfully shew the way of salvation, it is an extraordinary proof of His favor, and He takes to Himself the praise when He repeats it again, 296
“I will raise them up a Prophet.” (De 18:18.)
Thus also Paul teaches, —
“And how shall they preach except they be sent?”
The same Apostle, too, bears witness that none will be found sufficient for this office, and that the power of teaching aright is received from God. (2Co 2:14, and 4:1.) Hence it follows that God, by a certain evidence of His presence, declares His favor towards us as often as He enlightens with the gifts of His Spirit, and raises up faithful and true teachers. Moses afterwards reminds them that God so governs His Church by the hands and the operation of men as not to derogate from Himself; for He retains this as His attribute, to suggest to the mouth, as it were, of His Prophets what they are to say; neither does He permit them to say or advance more than He has commanded. We perceive, then, that pastors were from the first appointed, not that they should themselves rule, or subject the Church to their imaginations, but only to be the organs of the Holy Spirit. And those who in these days usurp a greater power, ought to be altogether deposed from their sacrilegious despotism.
1. If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,
l. Quum surrexerit in medio tui propheta, vel qui somnium somniabit, et dederit tibi signum vel portentum.
2. And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;
2. Eveneritque tibi signum et portentum quod dixerat tibi, dicendo, Eamus post deos alienos quos non nosti, et colamus eos.
3. Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul.
3. Non obedies verbis prophetae illius, aut somnium somniantis: quia tentat vos Jehova Deus rester, ut sciat an diligatis Jehovam Deum vestrum toto corde vestro, et tota anima vestra.
4. Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.
4. Post Jehovam Deum vestrum ambulabitis, illumque timebitis, ac praecepta ejus custodietis: voci ejus obedietis, et eum coletis, eique ad-haerebitis.
After having restrained the Israelites from the strange delusions of the Gentiles, Moses now forbids them from being too credulous if false teachers should arise from among themselves, and warns them diligently to beware of all novel inventions, and not to turn aside in the very least degree from the Law, at the instigation of any one. For there is peril to be apprehended, not only from professed and manifest enemies, or from foreign superstitions, but Satan plots also by means of intestine deceits, and abuses the holy name of God in order to betray us. Therefore it behoves that the faith of the godly should not only be externally fortified and protected by the ramparts of the word, lest corruption should creep in from without, but also that it should be garrisoned within by the same word, lest novel imaginations should secretly insinuate themselves and destroy the purity of doctrine. Moreover, we gather from this prohibition that there is such certainty in the divine doctrines as to prevent our faith from being undermined or shaken, provided it has put forth into them living roots, and is firmly grounded upon them. For it would be vain for God to warn us against giving admission to false teachers, unless He, at the same time, shewed the means by which they were to be guarded against. And assuredly nothing can be more improbable than that religion should be ambiguous; and since the rule and definition of it is faithfully prescribed and set forth in the Law, justly does God require of His people that they should not waver, but constantly persist in the truth delivered to them. For truly does Isaiah declare respecting the Law, that in it it has not been said in vain to the seed of Jacob, that they should seek God’s face. 297 (Isa 45:19.) But, in seeking God, it would not be sufficient to teach what is right, unless men’s minds are established in it; it is requisite, therefore, that religion should be sure and firm, or it will not be duly ordered. Nor is there any doubt that what Paul witnesses of the Gospel was true also of the Law, viz., that it armed its disciples against all the storms of temptation, that they “should be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men,” etc. (Eph 4:14.) But the words before us, when examined more closely and regularly, will shew, with greater clearness, the aim of the matter.
1. If there arise among you. We already perceive that the question is not respecting the falsities and errors which Satan had spread throughout the world, but respecting those which were to appear in the very bosom of the Church, as if it had been said that the Law was not only given in order to separate the Israelites from heathen nations, but to keep themselves in the purity and integrity of the faith; for just as now-a-days Christ betroths the Church to Himself by the preachers of the Gospel, (2Co 11:2,) that she may devote herself as a chaste virgin to His obedience, and not allow herself to be withdrawn from the simplicity of the faith by any seductions; so of old God espoused His ancient people to Himself, and bade them close their ears against impostors, who are, as it were, the seducers of Satan tempting them to violate that sacred and special bond of marriage whereby God would be united with His people. We shall speedily see wherefore God would have His Church exposed to this evil. Meanwhile it is useful to admonish believers of their danger, that they may be constantly watching against the snares of Satan; for this abomination did not only prevail in that particular age, but it will have its evil influence even to the end of the world. We must remember what Peter says, that “as there were false prophets among” the Jews of old, so also in the kingdom of Christ
“there shall be false teachers who privily shall bring in damnable heresies.” (2Pe 2:1.)
Moses, however, does not merely speak of domestic enemies, but, of such as shall assume the title of Prophets in order that they may deceive with greater license and impunity. From hence we infer that it is not enough to have an honorable position, or a plausible name, whether pastor, or prophet, or priest, unless it be allied to sincerity in accordance with our calling; for who are the persons whom God here commands to be avoided and held in abomination? Just those who boasted themselves to be Prophets, but who, when carefully inquired into, were obliged to drop their mask, and driven to confusion. A particular appellation is subjoined to their general one, since the same individual is spoken of as “a dreamer of dreams,” because God of old time manifested Himself to the Prophets sometimes in visions and sometimes in dreams. Either of these, then, was an honorable pretext for conciliating favor. But the temptation which follows was still more dangerous, viz., if such an one should have commended himself by a successful prediction; for who would despise a prophecy authenticated by events, especially when Isaiah declares this to be the attribute of God alone? (Isa 45:21.) And the difficulty here is still increased, because in chap. 18, God appears to distinguish false Prophets from true ones by this very test. 298 Thus I resolve the difficulty, God’s claiming to Himself the glory of foretelling events does not prevent Him from occasionally conferring even on the ministers of Satan the power of prophecy respecting some particular point. Balaam was worse than any hireling crier, wishing as he did to frustrate the eternal decrees of God, and yet we know that his tongue was directed by the divine inspiration of the Spirit so as to be the proclaimer of that grace which he had been hired to quench. There is, therefore, no inconsistency in this, that a man should be a perfidious impostor, and still endowed at the same time with a particular gift of prophecy, not so as always to deliver true revelations, (as, for instance, Caiaphas, who prophesied correctly once, was not always veracious,) but in so far as by God’s permission it shall be given him to foreknow this or that, so that one example of truth-telling may be the cloak for many falsehoods. Fitly, then, and properly, in the other passage, does God, by Moses, reprove the vanity of those rash spirits who promise what is not fulfilled. For we must take into consideration His intention. Many are there who bring themselves into notice by clandestine acts, and at length boldly burst forth and boast themselves to be prophets, whilst the people are in doubt whether they ought so to consider them. But since it most frequently happens that the folly of such men is betrayed by marks of infamy and disgrace inflicted upon them from above, so that the world may see that they have spoken falsely, justly does God declare that the event of their predictions is to be regarded, lest the Israelites should promiscuously and unreflectingly receive whatever they may hear. The principle, therefore, is established, that those speak in God’s name who predict what really comes to pass; for they could not declare the truth respecting things unknown to man unless God Himself should dictate it to them. This is the tendency of the answer of Jeremiah to Hananiah, —
“The prophets that have been before me and before thee of old, prophesied both against many countries, and against great kingdoms, of war, and of evil, and of pestilence. The prophet which prophesieth of peace, when the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known, that the Lord hath truly sent him.” (Jer. 28:8, 9.)
Hananiah promised that the war should end prosperously; but Jeremiah, knowing that he lied, brings him to an experimental proof of his falsehood, in case the facts should not correspond with what he had said. Thus far there is no inconsistency in our statement, that all true prophesies must proceed from God, and yet that the same Prophet who has predicted the truth may, in other points, be a deceiver And especially let us remark the admonition of Paul, that
“because they (the reprobate) receive not the love of the truth, that they may be saved; for this cause God sends them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie; that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
Hence we are taught that not only are the reins of Satan loosed in order that he may do injury, but that he is armed with power effectively to drag on the reprobate to final tied struction. Moses here teaches the same thing, for there are no reasonable grounds for the differences between Hebrew commentators as to the word sign. 299 It is unquestionable that signs were sometimes used in order to obtain credit for prophesies, as when Isaiah walked naked, (Isa 20:2,) and Jeremiah wore a yoke on his neck, (Jer 18:10;) it is also unquestionable that Satan often deceives by magical incantations; but I have no doubt that by the words signifying the sign and the wonder, Moses here means anything incredible and unexpected, for the purpose of vaticination. The Hebrews use the word מופתים, mophethim, to express miracles whereby God portends anything future, as if He spoke from heaven. The word אות, oth, is more general, and is sometimes used for a banner, or a watchword, or signal, (symbolum.) Both are here put for extraordinary signs which testify the power of God, as if it were present; in this sense, Christ warns His disciples to beware of signs and lying prodigies. (Mt 24:11.) But although Satan dazzles the eyes with his illusions, so as in his false rivalry to win to himself the glory of God, yet have we shewn from St. Paul, and Moses has before declared, that impostors in their working of miracles are the ministers of God’s vengeance, in order that the reprobate may be taken in their snares. Should any object that signs would be useless, which may be as well dangerous deceptions as confirmations of the truth, I reply, that such license has never been accorded to the devil, as that the light of God should not in the end shine forth from the midst of the darkness. It will happen, therefore, that the true power of God may be obscured for a time, (as we have seen before in the history of the magicians,) but that it will never be overwhelmed. Thus in the miracles, whereby the Law was ratified, the glory of God so shone forth that they might obtain credit without any hesitation from the godly. Such, without controversy, are the miracles which authenticate the Gospel, because they present evidences inscribed upon them by God by which all suspicion of deceit is fully removed. And, indeed, since men’s minds are involved in dull stupidity, and are blind even to the ordinary course of God’s dealings, so also they are almost always mistaken with respect to miracles, unless His word enlightens them to dispel the darkness. In order, therefore, that we may duly profit by signs, an inseparable connection must be established between them and doctrine; and Moses rightly teaches that they must be repudiated who shall endeavor to pervert piety under the pretext of signs, because they impiously and wickedly divide things which God has joined together, and improperly divert to a contrary use the signs which only serve as aids to righteous doctrine. But after the religion of the Jews had been sealed by sure and evident signs, it was wrong for them to attend to accidental signs, and not altogether without base ingratitude. We now arrive at the sum of this passage, viz., that they must persevere in the worship of the one God, so that not even prodigies should have any force to shake the people’s minds. The clause, therefore, “which thou hast not known,” must be observed; whereby Moses signifies that the glory of the God which they serve was so certainly testified that their levity in turning this way or that would be inexcusable; and thus the knowledge which ought to be firmly implanted in their hearts, and to abide therein, is opposed to all the artifices of the devil, which only affect unstable minds.
3. For the Lord your God proveth you. (Latin, tentat vos.) Whenever this word, which means to tempt, is applied to God, it is not used in a bad sense, for “to take by guile,” or, “to lay snares of deceit to entrap the unwary,” but only for “to prove or examine.” Now, God proves men’s hearts, not that He may learn what was before unknown, but to lay open what was before concealed. The expression, “to know,” therefore, refers to experimental knowledge only. The explanation of Augustine is tame and involved, 300 “That He may know, i.e., that He may cause you to know.” But, since it is so very common for human feelings to be attributed to God, where is the use of twisting words, which signify no more than that God makes trial, so that what might have been otherwise doubtful, should be actually displayed? Thus God tempted Abraham, when in an important matter He made trial of his faith or obedience. (Ge 22:1.) Nor is what I have lately touched upon, and which we often read of, at all contradictory to this, viz., that God uses the instrumentality of Satan and of wicked men, in order to tempt men; because we must take into consideration the object to which He directs these trials, whereby it will be manifest that His design is very different from the malice and wiles of Satan. The reason here given is worthy of remark, because it removes the difficulty by which weak minds might have been easily disturbed. For nothing is less probable than that Satan should insult God and involve heaven and hell in war, or that he should assume to himself with impunity an attribute of God. Lest, then, such a discussion should trouble and weary the good, or keep them in perplexity, Moses thus anticipates it, by reminding them, that God does not meanwhile lie idle or asleep, having abandoned the care of His Church; 301 but that He designedly brings the truly pious to the proof, in order to distinguish them from the hypocrites; and this takes place, when they constantly persevere in the true faith against the assaults of their temptations, and do not fall from their standing. The Apostle declares the same thing also with regard to heresies, that they must needs arise in the Church, “that they which are approved may be made manifest.” (1Co 11:19.) Wherefore we must not be impatient, nor murmur against God, if He chooses that the firmness of our faith, which is more precious than silver or gold, should be tried in the fiery furnace; but it behoves us humbly to acquiesce in His justice and wisdom. If any should still object, that, since the weakness of mankind is only too notorious, God deals with them somewhat unkindly, when He subjects them to these dangerous temptations, an answer may be readily given. I acknowledge indeed that, since our carnal sense is tender, this may seem hard, and inconsistent with the fatherly kindness of God; for, surely, when a miracle presents itself before our eyes, it is difficult not to submit to it. But, since the temptation injures none but those whose impiety, which it lays bare, was already convicted and condemned, whilst the sincere worshippers of God are preserved free from injury, how unjust would it be to take away from God this liberty of plucking the mask from treachery and deceit? Whosoever loves God with a pure heart is armed with the invincible power of the Divine Spirit, that he should not be ensnared by falsehoods; God thus rewards true and not fictitious piety, so that whosoever are of a true heart, should be protected by his faithful guardianship, and never feel the deadly wound. Meanwhile, why should He not devote to just destruction those who wilfully desire to perish? Nor need we be surprised at what He elsewhere declares, that it is He who deceives false prophets, 302 that by them he may inflict just vengeance on the reprobate, who eagerly go in search of their destructive deceits. Since, then, all the good are sure to overcome, so that the wiles of Satan are to them nothing but the exercises of their virtue; why should God be blamed, because the malice of Satan and of the wicked prepares for them the grounds of their victory and triumph? Only let us cleave to this axiom, that all, who heartily love and reverence God, will always be sure and safe under the protection of God. It is true, I confess, that integrity of heart is a peculiar gift of God and the fruit of His secret election; but, since their own consciences reproach the reprobate with their contempt of God, their hypocrisy, pride, or depravity, the blame of the iniquity that dwells in them is unjustly laid upon God. This, then, is sufficient to refute all carnal and perverse reasonings and blasphemies, viz., that whosoever are right in heart are guarded by the aid of the Spirit from the poisonous influence of Satan, and that no one perishes against his will. And thus we come to the conclusion, that all who, having once seemed to embrace the doctrines of salvation, afterwards reject and deny them, had never possessed anything more than the disguise of a false profession, because, if they sincerely loved God, they would remain firm in heart in the midst of all things tending to disturb them. It will indeed sometimes happen that the pious also will fall into errors, and will be seduced by the wicked; but it will only be in some respects and for a time; so that they never fall from the foundation, and presently recover themselves, (resipiscant.) And then, it must also be observed, they pay the penalty of their negligence, or instability, because they have not been sufficiently attentive to God’s Word, or have not sufficiently devoted themselves to religious pursuits. Hence we further gather, that whilst many turn away professedly from the doctrines of religion, on the ground of their seeing so many contentions and disputes to distract them, it is a mere vain excuse to cover their profane neglect or hatred of God. It is true that there are great discrepancies of opinion, and very warm contentions; but whosoever in a teachable and gentle spirit shall seek after truth, and shall give himself over and submit himself as the disciple of God, he will never be without the spirit of judgment and discretion. But, since some listen disdainfully, some supremely despise it, some wish that God’s Word were altogether destroyed, others think lightly of it, the saying of the Prophet holds good, “that that dieth, let it die;” (Zec 11:9;) and what Paul after him declares, “But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.” (l Corinthians 14:38.) Since it has always been the case that God’s truth was never hidden from anybody, except him whose mind the God of this world has blinded. (2Co 4:4.) And this especially takes place 303 when light has shone from heaven, which suffers none to go astray but those who shut their eyes. The remedy, therefore, is immediately subjoined, “Ye shall walk after the Lord your God;” as if Moses had said, it was sufficient for their preservation, that they had God to guide them in the right way, who had already prevented them by His gratuitous bounty. But, since numbers respond not to God’s call, and regard Him not when He points out the way to them, the words “and fear him” are added; because “the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” (Ps 111:10.) Finally, Moses again inculcates that, if men are only resolved to obey God, they will be sufficiently taught by His voice what they ought to do. By the word “cleave,” perseverance is denoted, and titus he indirectly reproves the instability of those who forsake and forget God, and go astray after empty imaginations.
Deut. 18:21, 22
21. And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken?
21. Quia si dixeris in corde tuo, Quomodo cognoscemus verbum quod non loquutus fuerit Jehova?
22. When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.
22. Quando loquetur propheta in nomine Jehovah, et non extiterit res illa, neque evenerit: sermo est quem non loquutus est Jehova, per superbiam enim loquutus est propheta ille: ne timeas ab eo.
21. And if thou say in thy heart. This exception has reference to the prohibition, which we have already noticed in this same chapter. God, in His appointment of Prophets to be His substitutes in teaching the people, had invested them with no common authority, enjoining obedience to be paid to their precepts. But those, upon whom the office of teaching is conferred, do not alwayduly fulfill it; and hence the doubt naturally arises, how the people shall determine when they are addressed as by Gods mouth, so as to distinguish the true from the false. There is, therefore, no question expressed in words, but God anticipates the secret scruples which might otherwise keep men’s minds in suspense; for to “say in the heart” is equivalent to doubting in one’s self when any danger is perceived. Now, to remove this difficulty, He does not enumerate all the marks of distinction; because He does not indeed allude to doctrine, but only to prophecies. But, speaking popularly, as to evil and ignorant persons, He commands them to observe whether those, who pretend to the name of Prophet, foretell the truth. But although, as we have lately seen, false teachers also rival in this respect the servants of God, and are found to be veracious in some particular prophecy; yet it is sufficient as the touchstone of their truth, to set down what happens for the most part, (ἐπὶ τὸ πολὺ;) just as God himself chooses to be distinguished and separated from idols by the same test. Nor does Moses affirmatively pronounce that credit must be given to prophets, whenever events correspond with their predictions; but only admonishes them, that, if they consider attentively, they cannot be deceived, because God will speedily expose the false prophets to ridicule, and will confound their folly. Thus Jeremiah prudently accommodates this passage to the circumstances of his own times, in order that it may be manifested how rashly and falsely Hananiah spoke in promising impunity for those sins over which God’s vengeance impended. (Jer 28:6.) In sum, Moses means nothing more than that the people would not be exposed to the danger of going astray, if they endeavored heartily to obey God; because it would come to pass by His just judgment, that the temerity of all who have falsely abused His holy name should be made to appear, and thus they should be unmasked.
22. The prophet hath spoken it presumptuously. He not only condemns the folly and vanity of those who advance their own inventions in the place of God’s commands, but also their arrogance; since doubtless, this is impious and intolerable audacity, to set forth the offspring of man’s earthly brain as if it were a divine revelation. And on this ground it is that their impiety is detestable, who fill the air with the fumes of their revelations in order to alarm the simple. Wherefore, he adds, that they should “not be afraid” of such a prophet; because, as nothing can be more arrogant than the ministers of Satan, they confidently utter their boastings, by which we may be easily moved and even overwhelmed, unless we had this buckler to protect us, viz., that their terrific noise may be safely despised. This doctrine is now-a-days very useful for us. We know how insolently the Papists boast of the Catholic Church; of the Apostolic See; how fiercely they rage in Peter’s name; how impetuously they fulminate their curses and anathemas; but, when it is ascertained that whatever they put forward as revelations of the Spirit are but the empty figments of men, it will be easy to dispel those terrors which flow from this same fountain of presumption.
21. And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the Lord.
21. E semine tuo non dabis quod trajiciatur coram Moloch: neque profanabis nomen Dei tui: Ego Jehova.
Lev. 19:26, 31
26. Neither shall ye use enchantment, nor observe times.
26. Non augurabimini, neque divinationi eritis intenti.
31. Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God.
31. Non respicietis post Pythones, et ariolos non inquiretis: ut polluamini in ipsis. Ego Jehova Dens vester.
18:21. Thou shalt not let any of thy seed. In these three precepts Moses more lightly touches on what we have lately seen set forth at greater length in Deuteronomy; for there he condemns impious offerings, as well as the responses of familiar spirits, magical arts, and enchantments. He now in the first place adverts to adulterous sacrifices, especially to that impure and detestable service of consecrating their children to Moloch, as they called him, the idol of the Gentiles; and then adds a prohibition, that they should give no heed to false revelations. But in these two passages of Leviticus he only enumerates two classes, 304 viz., to use auguries and divinations, and to seek responses from familiar spirits, and to consult magicians or enchanters; yet he includes all the others of which we have previously spoken. And, lest they should think the crime a light one, he says that all they are “defiled” who devote themselves to this kind of curiosity. The confirmation, which is added at the end of both clauses, has relation to the sum of the First Commandment; for when God declares Himself to be “Jehovah, and the God of Israel,” he both claims the worship which is due to Him alone, and also condemns all the superstitions whereby pure religion is adulterated. There is also an antithesis implied, in which God contrasts Himself with all fictitious idols; and therefore the words may be thus paraphrased, — Since I am the eternal God, and separated from all others which the Gentiles foolishly make to themselves, and since I have chosen you to myself as my peculiar people, I would have you, as you ought to be, pure and separated from all defilements.
29. When the Lord thy God shall cut off the nations from before thee, whither thou goest to possess them, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their land;
29. Quum exciderit Jehova Deus tuns gentes ad quas tu venis possidendas a facie tua, et eas possederis, et habitaveris in terra ipsarum.
30. Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise.
30. Cave tibi ne to illaquees post ipsas, postquam deletae fuerint a facie tua: et ne inquiras ad deos earum, dicendo, Quomodo servierunt gentes istae diis suis, sic etiam ego faciam.
31. Thou shalt not do so unto the Lord thy God: for every abomination to the Lord which he hateth have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods.
31. Non facies sic Jehovae Deo tuo: quia quicquid abominatio est Jehovae, et quod odit, fecerunt diis suis: quinetiam filios suos et filias suas combusserunt igni diis suis.
32. What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
32. Omne igitur verbum quod ego praecipio vobis, observabitis ad faciendum: non adjicies super illud, neque minues quicquam ex eo.
29. When the Lord thy God shall cut off. This passage has some affinity to that in the eighteenth chapter of Deuteronomy, which we have already remarked on. For inasmuch as it was easy for the people to lapse into the imitation of the Gentiles, and to worship their false gods, under whose protection the inhabitants boasted their land to be, all inquiry respecting them is also strictly forbidden. 305 For this is the origin of idolatry, when the genuine simplicity of God’s worship is known, that people begin to be dissatisfied with it, and curiously to inquire whether there is anything worthy of belief in the figments of men; for men’s minds are soon attracted by the snares of novelty, so as to pollute, with various kinds of leaven, what has been delivered in God’s word. Nor does he only withdraw and restrain them from the desire of inquiry, but expressly commands them to “take heed to” themselves, or to keep themselves; because men are naturally disposed to this wanton curiosity, and take much delight in it. Therefore God encloses His people with barriers, which may keep them back from all hurtful desires; nay, He would have them so abominate the practice of superstitions, as to fly even from the infection of hearing of them. We must briefly observe respecting the words, which we have translated “to possess the nations,” that Moses does not mean that they were to become their prey, so as to be their slaves by right of capture, but that he refers to the land. Therefore he says, “thou shalt possess them before thy face;” i.e., when they are destroyed, the land will be vacant for you to possess it. In the Hiphil conjugation this word signifies to expel, as we have already seen; and to this meaning Moses perhaps makes allusion. The word 306 which I have translated “illa-queare,” to snare, some interpreters render to stumble, and others to be carried away, which would be more agreeable to the construction, “lest you should be carried away after them;” yet I have been unwilling to depart from the generally received opinion, when the metaphor of “ensnaring” is very appropriate; as if he had said, that all the perversities of the Gentiles were so many nets or snares to entrap men, if they come too near them; for it presently follows, “after that they be destroyed,” which some also thus render, “lest you should perish after them,” as if He would awaken their fears by holding forth the example of their destruction.
31. Thou shalt not do so. From these words we may gather what it is not to make to one’s self the gods of others, viz., to bid farewell to all the inventions of men, and to pay attention to this one thing — what God commands. For why does God desire to be worshipped by His elect people, otherwise than the nations were in the habit of serving their gods, except because there ought to be a notable distinction, so that religion may not be confused? And surely unless men cleave to God’s word, so as resolutely to determine that nothing else is permitted to them except what is there taught, they will not only be vacillating, but. they will receive indiscriminately whatever comes in their way. We must then hold fast to this, “Thou shalt not do so;” and our minds must be restrained by this curb, lest any superstition which may defile the service of God should insinuate or establish itself. He adds, that God not only repudiates these strange worships, but even abominates them; and in order to impress this the more, he adduces one form of superstition, in which its absurdity was unusually manifest; for it is a foul barbarity that innocent children should be burnt by their parents.
32. What thing soever I command. In this brief clause he teaches that no other service of God is lawful, except that of which He has testified His approval in His word, and that obedience is as it were the mother of piety; as if he had said that all modes of devotion are absurd and infected with superstition, which are not directed by this rule. Hence we gather, that in order to the keeping of the First Commandment, a knowledge of the true God is required, derived from His word, and mixed with faith. By forbidding the addition, or diminishing of anything, he plainly condemns as illegitimate whatever men invent of their own imagination; whence it follows that they, who in worshipping God are guided by any rule save that which He Himself has prescribed, make to themselves false gods; and, therefore, horrible vengeance is denounced by Him against those who are guilty of this temerity, through Isaiah,
“Forasmuch as this people draw near me, etc., by the precept of men; therefore, behold I will proceed to do a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish,” etc. (Isa. 29:13, 14.)
Now, since all the ceremonies of the Papal worship are a mass of superstitions, no wonder that all her chief rulers and ministers should be blinded with that stupidity wherewith God has threatened them. 307
Vide St. Ath. Or. 3, contra At. sec. 7, 8. Jones of Nayland’s “Cath. Doctrine of Trinity,” chap. 4:2, sums up the argument concisely and well.
“Pour le servir deuement, ils commencent par ce bout, de se purifier de toutes souillures;” in order to serve Him duly, they should begin by purifying themselves from all uncleanness — Fr.
In observing that some choose to say that Moses first uses a general term for all soothsayers, and then proceeding to describe particular classes of them, C. is following S. M’s note on קסם קסמים; where the latter has said, “Alii putant esse generale vocabulum ad omnium divinationum species.” The verb seems to be so used in 1Sa 28:8, where A. V. renders it divine. — W.
The next term, מעונן, S. M. has explained as derived from ענן, a cloud, or its radical verb. Some have chosen to regard it rather as derived from ענן, to watch; but C. must have learnt from some other source that there are critics who derive it from מעון, a place of habitation. — W
מנהש. That this term here means some kind of diviner is certain; but the root is used in an inoffensive sense for making diligent search; and the best critics are now generally agreed that it ought to have been so understood and rendered in Ge 44:5, where S. M. has acknowledged (in his note on the present passage)that it is used for sciscitari rem occultam, notwithstanding his having there rendered it auguratur. — W.
מכשף. The explanation here given is from S. M. — W.
חבר חבר. The root signifies to join, or combine. How it came to mean enchanting, which it does in Syriac and Arabic, as well as in Hebrew, remains disputable. The explanation disliked by C. he had found in S. M.; that which follows is his own. — W
שאל אוב, S.M., Consulens pythonem. By saying that the Greeks have rendered אוב, Pythonem, C. would naturally lead his readers to suppose that the LXX. had done so, whereas, both in the Pentateuch and in I Samuel 28, where the Hebrew has an interrogator of אוב, the LXX. has ἐγγαστρίμυθος, a ventriloquist. The word אוב is allowed to mean properly a water-bottle, and its gurgling sound; and, from this last, a ventriloquist. It is obvious that Luke cannot be correctly spoken of as translating a Hebrew phrase when he was relating in Greek what the Greeks said of a person possessed by an evil spirit. — W
ידעני, from ידע, he knew. This word had previously been used by Moses in Le 20:27, where S. M. has said the Jews affirm that there were conjurers who put between their teeth the mouth of a certain animal called ידוע, and speak wonderful things through it. They add a wonderful fable, etc. The LXX. has ἐπάοιδος, an enchanter, in Leviticus, and its equivalent here. — W
Omitted in Fr. “The Hebrews describe him thus, that ‘he put into his mouth a bone of a certain bird called Jaduaugh, and burned incense, and did other works, until he fell down as with shame, (or, modestie,) and spake with his mouth things that were to come to pass’ — Maim. Treat. of Idolatry,.ch, 6, sect. 2.” Ainsworth in loco.
דרש אל-המתים, one who seeks to the dead, (compare last clause of Isa 8:19;) a necromancer.
“Fait des loix frivoles et superflues;” passed frivolous and superfluous laws. — Fr.
“Par circuits et responses a deux ententes;” by circuitous and ambiguous answers. — Fr.
Homme de jugement. — Fr.
See, for example, at the end of the 1st Book of the Cyropaedia, the advice of Cyaxares: Μάθε δὲ μς, ὦ παῖ, καὶ τάδε, ἔφη, τὰ μέγιςα· Παρὰ γὰρ ἱερὰ, καὶ οἰωνοὺς μήτ ᾿ ἐν σαυτῷ μηδέποτε μηδ ᾿ ἐν τὣ στρατιᾷ κινδυνεῦσὟς, κατανοὼν ὡς ἄνθρωποι μὲν αἱροῦνται πράξεις εἰκάβοντες, εἰδότες δὲ οὐδὲν ἀπὸ ποίας ἔςαι αὐτοῖς τἀγαθόν· κ. τ. λ.
Ordinaires. — Fr.
S. M. says, in his note on this verse, “Some of the Hebrews understand by that Prophet, Joshua, who succeeded Moses as ruler; others think Jeremiah must be meant, who rebuked the people in the same terms as Moses had done. But Christians who devoutly assert that this passage speaks of Christ, confute the Jews by referring to what is said in the last chap. of Deut., — ‘There arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses,’ etc. This passage must be prophetic of some other remarkable Prophet who should not be inferior to Moses, especially as the text says, like thee, ‘that as thou didst deliver the people from corporal bondage, so shall the prophet whom I will raise up for them deliver them from the bondage of sin.’” — W.
See note on Deuteronomy 30:11, ante.
Addition in Fr., “disant, Que si le cas n’advient, le Prophete s’est ingere par presomption;” saying, that if the thing does not come to pass, the Prophet has meddled with it presumptuously.
C. found in S. M.’s note on this verse that some of them understood the word signs to refer to such a sign as Jeremiah was to exhibit, (Jer 27:2,) the like to which was done by the false Prophet Zedekiah, (1Ki 22:12;) whilst others thought that the text spoke of what magicians might do by their art, as Moses had witnessed in Pharaoh’s presence. — W.
Aug. de Genesi, lib. 1:34. “Sic dicetur etiam illud, ‘Tentat vos Dominus Deus vester, ut sciat si diligitis eum;’ non enim ut sciat ipse, quem nihil latet, sed ut scire nos faciat, quantum in ejus dilectione profecerimus, tentari nos permittit.” See also Tractatus 43, in Johannem, 5, 6.
Addition in French, “quand les seducteurs brouillent tout;” when seducers confuse everything.
I presume that there is an allusion here to Eze 14:9.
“Cela se verifie et demonstre principalement;” and this verifies and demonstrates itself principally. — Fr.
“Il en raconte seulement quatre especes; mais il y comprend toutes celles que nous avons veus par ci-devant;” he mentions only four sorts, but comprehends in them all those which we have before observed. — Fr.
Addition in French, “de peur que de l’un ils ne vienent a l’autre;” for fear that they should pass from one to the other.
תנקש, 2. fut. pass. of נקש. The Chaldee paraphrast is cited by S. M. as explaining it by a word equivalent to thou stumble. It does not appear who has rendered it be carried away. — W.
Pol. Syn. gives “aberres,” as the Syriac version, and “ne captarts,” as that of Malvenda.
Addition in French, “avoit menace les anciens Sacrificateurs.”