Deuteronomy 32: Song of Moses, song of the redeemed

“If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” (1John 1:10–2:2 NASB)

Being “Torah-observant” is not a “holier than thou” pursuit of perfection. Rather, it’s about listening to the Creator, observing where our lifestyles diverge from Heaven’s instructions and seeking return to the LORD’s ways. That restoration is possible by the perfect Atonement Offering, the Mashiakh (Christ). That’s the lesson of the Torah reading הַאֲזִינוּ Ha’azinu (“listen”) and a good preview of Yom haKippurim (Day of Atonement).

A lawsuit of epic proportions

Deuteronomy 32 spans a long period of Israel’s history from the past, to the present and even far into the future. The bookends of Deuteronomy are important. How we start and end on a personal level are important, too.

The language of Deuteronomy is of a treaty between a king and his vassal. Deuteronomy 32 sounds like a lawsuit in poetic form, with charges, witnesses and judgement with a punishment and vindication following — a prophetic lawsuit.1 There’s an accusation of disloyalty, an indictment, statements of facts, and then a punishment with a specific term limit as well.

There’s a reason that God puts a time limit to His punishment. He does not want to risk damage to His reputation if other nations see Israel utterly and eternally destroyed. When the Lord says “yes” or “no,” He means “yes” or “no.”

God transfers the punishment Israel’s enemies to vindicate Israel, and He picks off a remnant of Israel for Himself each time. Yeshua tells us about the refining process in several of His parables.

The Fall Appointed times are reflected in large portions of the book of Revelation. We see in the prophets how the nations will seek out those who are called by the name of the Lord and want to learn God’s ways from them.

It might appear that God’s people are being crushed but they will overcome. What seems foolish becomes wise.

God’s instructions did not fail but the hearts of the people failed God.

Deuteronomy 32 is not the only text that reads like a lawsuit or indictment.

  • Isaiah 1
  • Jeremiah 2
  • Micah 6
  • Psalm 50
  • Revelation 1–3 (22:16)

There are lots of chaisms in the Bible. Chaisms are a writing devise meant to reinforce ideas, not only by repetition but by channeling your mind to a particular point in the text. The focal point is the place in the text where there is no repetition. Deuteronomy 32 is a classic example of a chaism.

Chiasmus in the song (Deuteronomy 31:30–32:44)

Here is a chiasmus in the Song of Moshe.2

A (Deut. 31:30) The words of this song (דברי השׁירה)

B (Deut. 32:1-6) “A faithful God, without deceit” (32:4)

C (Deut. 32:7-18) “You forgot the God who gave you birth” (32:18)

D (Deut. 32:19-26) The wrath of God

C’ (Deut. 32:27-35) “these foes would mistakenly boast” (32:27)

B’ (Deut. 32:36-43) “there is no god besides Me” (32:39)

A’ (Deut. 32:44) The words of this song (דברי השׁירה)

We know how quickly things went downhill after Moshe died, and the same happened after Yeshua and the Apostles died. This theme of a soon falling away consumes a large portion of the Apostle Paul’s writings, too.

“I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.” (Acts 20:29–30 NASB)

Living water

“Give ear, O heavens, and let me speak; And let the earth hear the words of my mouth. Let my teaching drop as the rain, My speech distill as the dew, As the droplets on the fresh grass And as the showers on the herb.” (Deuteronomy 32:1–2 NASB)

Artificial light and irrigation is not as efficient as the natural light and rain God provides. Man’s ways are inferior to God’s ways. Where does our sustenance come from? Do we recognize that what God gives us is better than the stagnant substitutes we improvise?

The words of God are like rain. The Word of God is our living water (John 4:10–11; 7:38). It’s fresh water coming from God Himself. Do we really appreciate it or do we get bored of it? Do we prefer our stale cisterns?

What is in a name?

The blessing after the Shema is, “Blessed is the name of the glory of His kingdom forever and ever.” This is an added refrain that was added during the Temple period. It’s to remind us that God is very special and to treat Him with respect.

It’s good to remember that God’s Name is more than how it’s spelled or how it’s pronounced. His name carries His reputation, too. Quite frankly, God is far more concerned with the reputation of His name than its pronunciation.

Many of us remember when we were children that if we heard our parents call us by our full name, we knew we were in serious trouble. God said that His name was made common among the nations because of Israel’s poor behavior. They were carrying His name but not with respect.

Yeshua is “the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Heb. 1:3). God’s name and reputation is personified in the Mashiakh.

When Moshe called the children of Israel out as a “perverse and wicked generation” in Deut. 32:5, this verse was repeated by both Yeshua and Apostle Peter when they called out their generation out with similar candor (Matt. 16:4; Luke 11:29 (51); Acts 20:40).

““You neglected the Rock who begot you, And forgot the God who gave you birth.” (Deuteronomy 32:18 NASB)

There was a reason that the parents and grandparents of this second generation were not entering into the land with them. They died too young in the wilderness because of their rejection of the Lord.

Forgetting Torah is forgetting one’s first love

Forgetting the Torah is like forgetting one’s first love. Every Shabbat we remember the Creator. Every Pesakh (Passover), we remember freedom from bondage, not only Israel’s release from sin, but also our own. Praise God that He has moved us from the wrong direction we were following to the right direction.

“But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked — You are grown fat, thick, and sleek — Then he forsook God who made him, And scorned the Rock of his salvation.” (Deuteronomy 32:15 NASB)

Yeshrun means “upright one.” It seems paradoxical to say that Israel was “upright” in the midst of apostasy.

Yeshua was the true “upright one” in the midst of apostasy. He is the One who we look up to as an example. He was appointed for a difficult task and fulfilled it perfectly. Mashiakh is the model of uprightness, a model of what it means to be Israel. When the Day of the Lord comes, the entire world will be at its wits end. They will need His light to cut through their darkness.

The crux of this text is the coming wrath of God that will come down on them.

“The LORD saw this, and spurned them Because of the provocation of His sons and daughters. Then He said, ‘I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end shall be; For they are a perverse generation, Sons in whom is no faithfulness. They have made Me jealous with what is not God; They have provoked Me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.'” (Deuteronomy 32:19–21 NASB)

The Chosen People will see a message of repentance and return by a group of people who are not the chosen people. The prophecy of the exiles (Deut. 32:21–35) covers warnings we read earlier in Deuteronomy 28.

In Deut. 32:20–21 God “hide My face from them” to the point where He divorced His people, but He wooed them and called them back to Him. The Book of Hosea and Yeshua’s parable of the Prodigal Son has lots of parallels in Deut. 32, showing how the rebellious Israel left God and how God called them back. This happened during the exiles.

The Apostle Paul also saw this happening in the widespread rejection of Yeshua as the Mashiakh (Rom. 10:19, quoting Deut. 32:21).

“Were it not for wrath of the enemies so that they may not last long and so that their adversaries not collaborate, let them not say, “Our hand is high, and it was not the Lord who did all these things…. In a day of vengeance, I will repay, in a time when their foot slips, because near is the day of their destruction and things prepared for you are at hand.” (Deuteronomy 32:27, 35 New English Translation of the Septuagint)

The short-term fulfillment of this prophesy was the return of the children of Judah from exile in Babylon. For the exiles, this was a point of humility and taking a lesson to heart.

Prophet Daniel specifically prayed for several of the things we read in Deuteronomy (Daniel 9:1–19). Daniel prays in the first person collective, even though he had not committed any of the sins that brought Judah into exile. God’s correction came down upon all of them and he was praying that as God brought about the promised exile, He would also bring about the promised return.

We look forward to the long-term fulfillment of this prophesy when we witness the Day of the LORD.

“Indeed their rock is not like our Rock, Even our enemies themselves judge this.

“For their vine is from the vine of Sodom, And from the fields of Gomorrah; Their grapes are grapes of poison, Their clusters, bitter.

 “Their wine is the venom of serpents, And the deadly poison of cobras.” (Deuteronomy 32:31–33 NASB)

God’s yoke is easy and light and it will not direct you off the cliff. God will not lead us towards destruction.

Why did the apostasy happen so quickly? The children of Israel forgot what they had been taught, they did not prepare. They lost their first love, their first connection with God. There is a way that leads to life and a way that leads to death. Are you being lead in such a way that respects yourself and your neighbor or in such a way that despises yourself and your neighbor?

“When He sees that their strength is gone, And there is none remaining, bond or free.” (Deuteronomy 32:36 NASB)

The gods of Egypt had no power. The Egyptians lifted them up and God tore them down. Zechariah 14 speaks of a similar time at the Day of the LORD, when it looks like Israel is totally overrun, having lost two-thirds of its inhabitants, but God changes it all around.

“See, see that I am, and there is no god except me. I will kill, and I will make alive; I will strike, and I will heal, and there is no one who will deliver from my hands.” (Deuteronomy 32:39 New English Translation of the Septuagint)

The Sages long saw this as proof of the resurrection of the dead, brings back to life what was dead. Death for us is a huge deal. Once someone dies we know we won’t see them for a very long time. Their absence hits hard, but our hope rests in God, who will bring them up when He sees fit. Death and life are all in the hands of the Creator. That which is dead, He can bring back to life. The grave is not the end where the Creator is concerned. The people, even when they are dry bones, will become alive again. It will happen in a day. It’s a promise God is longing to keep. It seems like a long time for us but for God, it will be like the blink of an eye.

God is the one who takes vengeance. Our vengeance can’t compare to His. The “wrath of the Lamb” seems like an oxymoron, but this picture is given us in Scripture for a reason.

“Rejoice, O nations, with His people; For He will avenge the blood of His servants, And will render vengeance on His adversaries, And will atone for His land and His people.” (Deuteronomy 32:43 NASB)

This brings us back full circle now. All of heaven and earth is a witness to what is happening. This is a roadmap for how all of history will go. There’s the first love, then an apostasy, correction and restoration. Why should the nations be happy about this?

‘Days of Awe’: 10 days to awesome

The time between Yom Teruah and Yom Kippur is a time called the 10 days of Awe. Let’s go over a few passages that will help us prepare for this time. These passages are commonly read on the Shabbat between Yom Teruah and Yom haKippurim:

  • Hosea 14:2-10: Call to repentance
  • Micah 7:18-20: Loyal love pursues mercy
  • Joel 2:15-27: Hear the shofar call to repentance

One thing we noticed earlier in Deuteronomy is that it’s only the Holy Spirit who gives us the ability to follow Torah. When we do it on our own strength, we will inevitably stumble and fall down hard.

One of God’s best promises is when He promises to cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. This is repeated in in the New Covenant prophecy (Jeremiah 31:31-34). It happens when He gives us a new heart that He can write His law on.

Yeshua connected His offering at Golgotha with the New Covenant and with Pesakh (Luke 22:20).

It is the blood of Yeshua that was the greatest sin offering. Hebrews 4–10 puts if all into perspective. Yeshua’s offering covers and discharges all the sins, and God won’t see our sins anymore.

At the first Pesakh, the blood of a perfect lamb blocked the LORD’s Destroyer from the homes of those who trusted in the LORD. So, too, at our “Pesakh” from our former way of life — the blood of Yeshua — blocked the wrath of God due the behaviors of our old way of life.

Yeshua is the only solution for our guilt

The apostle Yokhanan offered a similar teshuvah (repentance) message (1John 1:1–2:11). This passage has lawsuit like that of Deuteronomy 32.

  • 1 John 1:1–5: The LORD is light without darkness.
  • 1 John 1:6–10: Don’t be a hypocrite.
  • 1 John 2:1–2: Yeshua is the solution for guilt.
  • 1 John 2:3–8: What now for the cleared conscience? Listen and do.
  • 1 John 2:9–11: Warning against self-deluded “Torah observance.”

1John has a more conversational style than the prophetic writings, but the message is the same. We see how Yeshua lived, and we have an example of how to do likewise. These “turnaround” points the LORD gives us don’t just have our best interest at heart but also the best interest of the entire world.

What is God’s will? The turnaround. Repentance is God’s will. At the end, we know that there will be those who don’t want to walk this way. We have to chose each minute, each hour, each day, each year to follow God and walk away from the sins, transgressions and iniquities that enslave us and direct us away from God. That is what true repentance is all about.

Summary: Tammy

Banner Photo: Illustration “Sing a New Song” by Freeimages.com/Amy Burton via Creative Commons License

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  1. Adele Berlin, Marc Zvi Brettler, and Michael A. Fishbane, eds. The Jewish Study Bible. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), paragraph 3067. 
  2. Hajime Murai, “Literary structure (chiasm, chiasmus) of Book of Deuteronomy,” <http://www.bible.literarystructure.info/bible/05_Deuteronomy_pericope_e.html#46>, updated July 15, 2015. 

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