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Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 6: Harmony of the Law, Part IV, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at

A Repetition of the same History

Deuteronomy 3

Deuteronomy 3:21-29

21. And I commanded Joshua at that time, saying, Thine eyes have seen all that the Lord your God hath done unto these two kings: so shall the Lord do unto all the kingdoms whither thou passest.

21. Ipsi quoque Josua praecepi eo tempore, dicendo, Oculi tui viderunt quaecunque fecit Jehova Deus vester duobus regibus: sic facturus est Jehova omnibus regnis ad quae tu pergis.

22. Ye shall not fear them: for the Lord your God he shall fight for you.

22. Ne timeatis eos, quia Jehova Deus vester ipse est qui pugnat pro vobis.

23. And I besought the Lord at that time, saying,

23. Rogaveram autem Jehovam tempore illo, dicendo:

24. O Lord God, thou hast begun to show thy servant thy greatness, and thy mighty hand: for what God is there in heaven or in earth that can do according to thy works, and according to thy might?

24. Domine Jehova, tu coepisti ostendere servo tuo magnitudinem tuam, et manum tuam validam. Quis enim Deus in coelo, aut in terra, qui faciat secundum opera tua, et secundum fortitudines tuas?

25. I pray thee, let me go over and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon.

25. Transeam quaeso, et videam terram illam bonam, quae est trans Jordanem, montem istum bonum et Libanum.

26. But the Lord was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me: and the Lord said unto me, Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter.

26. Iratus autem Jehova contra me propter vos, propterea non exaudivit me, sed dixit mihi, Sufficiat tibi, ne posthac addas verbum ad me super hac re.

27. Get thee up into the top of Pisgah, and lift up thine eyes westward, and northward, and southward, and eastward, and behold it with thine eyes: for thou shalt not go over this Jordan.

27. Ascende verticem Pisgah, et leva oculos tuos ad occidentem, ad aquilonem, ad meridiem, et ad orientem, ac vide oculis tuis, non enim transibis Jordanem istum.

28. But charge Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him: for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which thou shalt see.

28. Praecipe autem Josuae, et confirma eum, et robora eum, ipse enim transiturus est ante populum istum, et idem tradet illis terram possidendam, quam videbis.

29. So we abode in the valley over against Beth-peor.

29. Mansimus vero in valle e regione Beth-peor.


21. And I commanded Joshua at that time. He repeats what we have already seen, that he exhorted Joshua together with the whole people to prepare themselves to occupy the land with alacrity, relying as well upon God’s promise, as upon the numerous proofs of His assistance, which were so many pledges of the future continuance of His grace.

23 And I besought the Lord.  239 Others have, “I besought;” but I have preferred using the pluperfect tense, because, in my opinion, Moses interrupts himself to show why he had resigned his office to another, and did not rather declare that he would be their leader, as heretofore, and at the same time an example to the people of courage. He says, therefore, that when he had prayed that he might be permitted to enter the land, he received a refusal. For it is not probable that, after he had substituted Joshua for himself, he straightway conceived a desire, which was in direct opposition to it.

The drift of the prayer is that God, by granting him permission to enter the land, should thus fill up to the full the measure of His grace towards him: for he enumerates the blessings already vouchsafed to him, as the ground of his confidence in asking, and that God, who is not wont to forsake the work of His own hands, might carry on to the end the mercies He had begun. For this reason he says that the might of God had been shown him; modestly hinting that it was natural to expect that he should be a partaker of the crowning blessing, in order that the end might correspond with the beginning. He also magnifies the power of God as proclaimed by the miracles; that so magnificent a work might not be interrupted. On the other hand, he speaks in commendation of the goodness of the land, and expressly shows that his desire to see it springs from earnest piety; for I willingly subscribe to the opinion of those who understand Sion by the “goodly mountain;” for, with the exception of Lebanon, there was no other mountain so delectable in the land; whereas Lebanon, as if next to it in rank, is mentioned in the second place.

26. But the Lord was wroth with me. Some imagine that God was offended by such a longing as this; but Moses is rather giving the reason why he did not obtain what he sought, viz., because he had been already excluded from it. For, although he by no means enters into debate with God, as if he had been unjustly condemned for the faults of others, still he indirectly reflects upon the people, since it was well that they should be all reminded that the punishment which had been inflicted upon God’s distinguished servant was incurred by the guilt of them all. We have elsewhere seen  240 how it was that the penalty of their common transgression was with justice imposed upon Moses.

Its mitigation then follows, when God commands him to get up into the top of Mount Abarim, which is here called Pisgah, and elsewhere Nebo, that he might nevertheless enjoy a sight of the promised land.

In conclusion, he more clearly explains why he exhorted Joshua, viz., because he was about to go over before the people; and in the last verse he assigns the reason of their delay, and why they remained so long in the valley near Mount Abarim; for it is precisely as if he had said that they were retained by the extension of God’s hand, in order that they should not proceed any further until Joshua had been installed as his successor.



“I had besought, etc.” — Lat.


See ante, on Deuteronomy 1:37. p. 137.

Next: Deuteronomy 4:21,22