- 1 Skies of heaven, quiet now.
All the world, listen to what I say.
- 2 May these words I speak fall like rain,
With insight that descends like dew,
Or as showers upon tiny sprouts.
Or steady rain on fields of grass.
- 3 I speak a name,
The name of the LORD.
What a wonderful God he is.
- 4 He’s our Rock. Perfect in action.
Just in every way.
A devoted God who’s never wrong,
Always righteous, always right.
- 5 His shameful children don’t deserve him,
the Generation Warped and Wild.
- 6 This is how you thank the LORD,
You emptyheaded people?
Is he not your Father and Creator,
Who shaped your shell and gave it life?
- 7 Take a lesson from your history,
from ages long ago.
Ask your papa. He will teach you.
Ask your elders. They’ll explain.
- 8 The Greatest One1 gave land away
Dividing it among the groups.
He set boundaries for every nation,
Based on numbers of their people.2
Israel is God’s share of earth
- 9 But God’s share of this world,
is the people of Israel.
Jacob’s family is his sacred claim.
- 10 He found them on a desert,
in a wasted, howling land.
He wrapped them in a care blanket,
And guarded them like they were part of him.3
- 11 As an eagle waking her chicks,
And hovering over the nest.
He spreads his wings, and picks them up,
and carries them to safety,
nestled in his feathers.
- 12 The LORD alone led them.
No other god. Just him.
Honey from the rock
- 13 He took them to hill country,
To fields grown with food.
He fed them honey from the rocks.4
And olives from crags of flint.
- 14 Yogurt and butter from cattle,
Milk from flocks, and goats,
Top-grade rams, Bashan-bred,5
Premium wheat, best of the best,
Blood of grapes, foaming fresh.
- 15 You6 got fat and sassy.
Too heavy, bloated, stuck on stubborn.
You gave up God who gave you life.
You stepped off the Rock that was saving you.
- 16 You worshiped idols and left God jealous.
Your sickening rituals left him sick with anger.
- 17 You sacrificed to demons, but not to God,
To new gods invented, gods you never knew,
And to gods your ancestors didn’t respect.
- 18 You left the Rock, the Father from which you came.
You forgot the God who brought you into this world.
Generation Warped and Wild
- 19 The LORD saw what they did and despised it.
He grew angry with his people.
- 20 God said: Okay, I’ll leave them.
Let’s see how that works out for them.
They are a Warped and Wild Generation,
With no idea what devotion means.
- 21 They made me jealous of their pretend gods.
They made me angry over their idols.
So, I’ll make them jealous of nomads without a country.
I’ll make them angry over a nation of godless idiots.
- 22 I’m blazing with anger.
This fire will burn to the bottom of the grave.
Crops will die, seared to nothing,
Mountain foothills consumed in flames.
- 23 I’ll give them a taste of trouble.
I’ll give them something to chew on.
- 24 They can waste away in a famine,
And starve to skin and bones in a plague.
I’ll send wild animals with sharp teeth,
And crawling critters loaded with venom.
- 25 Outdoors, swords will leave them childless.
Indoors, terror waits for young men and women,
For nursing babies and gray-haired elders.
- 26 I would have wiped them out,
Erasing them from the world’s memory.
- 27 But their enemies would exploit it.
They’d read it wrong.
They’d say, “We won.
The LORD did nothing.”
Israel without a clue
- 28 Israel is clueless.
They don’t even have common sense.
- 29 If only they were smart enough to figure it out.
If only they could see where they’re headed.
- 30 How could one man chase off 1,000 Israelites?7
How could two send 10,000 running for their lives?
They couldn’t—unless their Rock sold them to the enemy,
Unless the LORD gave them away.
- 31 The enemy’s rock is nothing like our Rock.
Even they figured that out.
- 32 Their vines come from Sodom,
With vineyards grown in Gomorrah.
Their grapes are poison,
Clusters are bitter.
- 33 Their wine is snake venom,
A cobra’s deadly poison.
- 34 The LORD says: I’ll remember this.
I’m filing it away and keeping it safe.
- 35 I’ll settle the score. I have that right.
When they slip, that’s my cue.
Their disaster is about to happen.
Doomsday rushes toward them.
- 36 The LORD will step up to help his people.
He’ll show them mercy again,
When all the power of their nation is gone,
And there’s no one left to lead them, slave or free.
- 37 He’ll say: Where are your gods?
Where’s the rock you stood on for safety?
- 38 Where are the gods
Who ate the juicy fat of your sacrifices,
Who drank the wine you offered?
Tell them to wake up and help you.
Let them protect you.
- 39 Look at me. I’m the one.
I’m the only God out there.
I bring people to life and to death.
I can hurt them or heal them.
When I have them, no one can take them.
- 40 I’m raising my hand high in a promise.
Sure as I live forever,
- 41 When I sharpen my sword to a shine,
I’ll hold justice in my hand.
I’ll settle the score with my enemies.
- 42 My arrows will get drunk on their blood.
My sword will eat its fill of their flesh.
There will be blood and stain from the injured and dead,
And the enemy leaders with severed heads.
- 43 Nations of the world, be happy for God’s people.
He will punish their enemies for killing them.
He’ll hold them accountable for what they did.
He’ll erase all sin in the land and from his people.
Moses warns the generations
- 44 Then Moses stood with Joshua, son of Nun, and recited the entire song to all the people.
- 45 When Moses finished talking,
- 46 He said, “Take these words seriously. I’m warning you today to teach your children to carefully follow all these laws.
- 47 This isn’t trivial stuff. This is life or death. If you follow the law, you’ll live longer in this land that you’re about to capture after you cross the Jordan River.”
- 48 That’s the same day the LORD said this to Moses:
- 49 "Go to the Abarim Mountains8 and climb Mount Nebo,9 in the land of Moab. From there, you can look toward Jericho. You’ll see the land of Canaan, which I’m giving to the people of Israel.
- 50 Afterward, you’ll die there on that mountain and return to your ancestors, just as your brother Aaron did at Mount Hor.10
- 51 You didn’t believe me enough to do what I said at the Complainer’s Spring11 in the Zin Desert. You didn’t do anything to show the people that I’m holy.
- 52 For that, I’m not going to let you lead them into the land I’m giving them."12
The Hebrew word is Elyon, one of the titles for God that shows up in the Bible on occasion. It’s often translated, “Most High” or “God Most High.”
Some manuscripts say it’s based on the number of “sons of Israel,” meaning the Israelites. Older manuscripts say “sons of God,” meaning “humanity.” That includes one from the Dead Sea Scrolls recorded in the first century and earlier. It also includes the Septuagint, which is the first translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, an international language of New Testament times, much like English is today. Translators began working on that before the birth of Jesus.
More literally, God guarded them “as the pupil of his eye.” That’s keeping a very close eye on them.
God provides food even in unlikely places.
Bashan was a land of pastures in Syria. Herders of Bashan were famous for raising some of the biggest and best livestock in the ancient Middle East. The prophet Amos, from the southern Jewish nation of Judah went up to the northern Jewish nation of Israel to deliver prophecies. There, he called the rich women of Israel, “fat cows of Bashan” (Amos 4:1 New Living Translation). He was told to go back to where he came from.
“You” in Hebrew is Jeshurun, a poetic nickname for Israel. It means honest, honorable, upright. See also 33:5.
The Hebrew text doesn’t say “Israelites.” But the context does. That’s who the songwriter is talking about.
Mountains east of the Jordan River. It includes Mount Nebo and extends south.
Mount Nebo has the highest summit on the plateau, at 2,300 feet elevation, or 710 meters. That’s an especially good vantage point to view what is now Israel and Palestinian territories since the Dead Sea is about 1,400 feet below sea level, or 430 meters. That’s more than a kilometer above the Jordan River Valley, about three-fourths of a mile.
Numbers 33:38-40. It’s unclear where Mount Hor was. There’s a long tradition that connects it to Jebel Nabi Harun (Mountain of Prophet Aaron), roughly a day’s walk south of Edom’s capital city of Petra. Some scholars say that mountain was well inside the country of Edom, which is where the Israelites were forbidden to go. Another contender is Jebel Madurah. It was about a two-day walk northwest of Petra. The mountain is southwest of the Dead Sea, along what would have been the border of the Promised Land and Edom.
Literally “the waters of Meribah-kadesh.” Meribah means to fight, argue, complain, rebel. Kadesh is a location. Scholars most often identify Kadesh, also called Kadesh Barnea, as the spring-fed oasis at Tel el-Qudeirat, on Egypt’s side of the border with Israel. Another contender is Ain Qadeis, also on Egypt’s side of the border. Bible writers put the location in different deserts: Zin Desert (Numbers 20:1) and Paran Desert (Numbers 13:26). Some theorize there were two Kadesh oases. West Kadesh and East Kadesh. Not many scholars seem to buy into that. The story of Moses disobeying God, as reported in Exodus, says Moses named the site “Pushy Complainers,” or literally in the Hebrew name, “Massah Meribah.” Massah means to test or to get pushy.
Scholars debate why God reacted this way. Two popular guesses: God told Moses to merely speak to the rock, but Moses angrily hit it with a stick—twice. Also, Moses seemed to take some credit for the miracle when he said “Do we have to bring water from this rock” (Numbers 20:9). As in God and Moses, the tag team? Some scholars say God’s complaint about Moses and Aaron in Numbers 20: 12 and 24 seem like an overreaction to what the men did. So, another guess is that the writer didn’t want to report what really happened. Instead, he wanted to protect the reputation of the men.