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In the previous post, we looked at the Song of Moses in its broader context—a passage I'm convinced is the most important ignored text in the Old Testament.

In this post, I'm going to show you why the Song of Moses is so important. This realization, in turn, sheds light on other doctrines which we will look at in future posts.

Don't miss this!

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Welcome to part 7 of my series on rethinking Christian eschatology. Because these articles build on each other, if you've not already done so, I invite you to read the previous posts before continuing here.

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Okay, you ready?

This post is lengthy but it's very important. Please pay close attention; resist the desire to skim.

Future posts rely upon a solid understanding of this message.

Why is the Song of Moses So Important?

If you didn’t have an immediate and profound “Aha!” moment reading the last post, don’t feel bad.

In order to understand the significance of the Song of Moses, we have to do some digging. Much of its value is found in its relationship to other Scripture.

Here are five reasons why the Song of Moses is super important. We will explore aspects of each as we continue the journey.

Reason #1: The Song of Moses foretells the physical nation of Israel’s end.

Before all the nation of Israel even set foot in the land of Canaan, much less conquered it, their end was determined.

GOD told Moses:

“You are going to rest with your ancestors, and these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering. They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them. 17 And in that day I will become angry with them and forsake them; I will hide my face from them, and they will be destroyed.
(Deut. 31:16b-17a NIV)

And within the Song itself, GOD gave Moses these words of prophecy:

17 They sacrificed to false gods, which are not God—
gods they had not known,
gods that recently appeared,
gods your ancestors did not fear.
18 You deserted the Rock, who fathered you;
you forgot the God who gave you birth.
19 The Lord saw this and rejected them
because he was angered by his sons and daughters.
20 “I will hide my face from them,” he said,
“and see what their end will be;
for they are a perverse generation,
children who are unfaithful.

28 They are a nation without sense,
there is no discernment in them.
29 If only they were wise and would understand this
and discern what their end will be!
(Deut. 32:17-20, 28-29 NIV)

Moses eliminates any remaining doubt in the conclusion of the Song with his instructions to Joshua:

45 When Moses finished reciting all these words to all Israel, 46 he said to them, “Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. 47 They are not just idle words for you—they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.”
(Deut. 32:45-47 NIV)

In other words, Moses effectively told Israel:

Your end has been determined. How long you delay this end depends upon how closely you obey these words. But these things will come to pass.

This truth alone is super important. By its wickedness, which resulted in their being vomited out of the land of Canaan, the physical descendents of Israel lost their right to that land.

So when people today claim that physical land as being Israel's eternal inheritance, they misunderstand the Scriptures. They're wrong. It isn't.

Reason #2: GOD first introduced a coming distinction between Israel and His servants.

The Song of Moses opens in praise of GOD (Deut. 32:1-4).

But in v.5, it abruptly and harshly turns to GOD’s anger towards Israel:

5 They are corrupt and not his children;
to their shame they are a warped and crooked generation.
6 Is this the way you repay the Lord,
you foolish and unwise people?

9 For the Lord’s portion is his people,
Jacob his allotted inheritance.
(Deut. 32:5-6, 9 NIV)

In v.10-14, the Song describes how GOD blessed and cared for the children of Israel. But they repaid Him with unfaithful rejection.

(Jeshurun means “upright one” and is another name for Jacob / Israel, per Isa. 44:2.)

15 Jeshurun grew fat and kicked;
filled with food, they became heavy and sleek.
They abandoned the God who made them
and rejected the Rock their Savior.
(Deut. 32:15 NIV)

Verses 16-18 describe how Israel embraced idolatry which made GOD jealous.

Because Israel rejected GOD, He in turn rejected them (vv.19-30), punishing them until they were destroyed.

Aside: It is important we observe that the Song speaks from Israel’s future in the past tense, as though the idolatry had already happened. This type of speech is not unique to this prophecy. GOD regularly spoke this way in prophecy throughout the Scriptures.

For example, consider Isaiah’s prophecy regarding Jesus’ crucifixion, written 700+ years before it occurred, speaking in the past tense: “Who has believed our message…?” (Isa. 53:1a NIV).

But in Deut. 32:31, GOD subtly introduced a second group of His people.

He says:

31 For their rock is not like our Rock,
as even our enemies concede.
(Deut. 32:31 NIV)

Just a few statements later, He again draws a distinction between two groups:

35 It is mine to avenge; I will repay.
In due time their foot will slip;
their day of disaster is near
and their doom rushes upon them.”
36 The Lord will vindicate his people
and relent concerning his servants
when he sees their strength is gone
and no one is left, slave or free.

40 I lift my hand to heaven and solemnly swear:
As surely as I live forever,
41 when I sharpen my flashing sword
and my hand grasps it in judgment,
I will take vengeance on my adversaries
and repay those who hate me.
42 I will make my arrows drunk with blood,
while my sword devours flesh:
the blood of the slain and the captives,
the heads of the enemy leaders.”
43 Rejoice, you nations, with his people,
for he will avenge the blood of his servants;
he will take vengeance on his enemies
and make atonement for his land and people.
(Deut. 32:35-36, 40-43 NIV)

So, from the Song of Moses, we learn that in Israel’s future—at the time of their end—there would be a distinction between the wicked Israelites and the “servants” of GOD.

This concept of a subset of Israel who are the people of GOD, first introduced here, is expounded upon throughout the rest of the Scriptures.

Curiously, in other passages often GOD refers to both groups as “Israel” or “Jacob.”

You’ll see a series of warnings and curses pronounced upon Israel, immediately followed by a series of blessings and promises ... upon Israel. Sometimes, the curses and promises even seem at first glance to contradict one another.

We must recognize when this pattern occurs in the Scriptures and discern to whom GOD is referring. We’ll discuss this further in future posts.

But this is the first time we see this distinction being made since Israel entered into covenant with GOD at Sinai.

Reason #3: The rest of Scripture describes the unfolding of the prophecy in the Song of Moses.

What I have come to realize in my studies over the past few years is that every bit of the remainder of Scripture concerns the unfolding of the Song of Moses.

In time, it will become apparent just how impactful this is and how it relates to key common Christian beliefs. I think you’ll be amazed just as I was.

I am now convinced that overlooking or misunderstanding the relationship of other Scriptures to this prophecy has heavily contributed to widespread misunderstandings with massive ramifications over the past 2,000 years.

Reason #4: The Song of Moses sheds some light on Jacob’s cryptic “last days” prophecy from Gen. 49.

I considered dedicating an earlier post to this point, but decided instead to address it here.

As Jacob was about to die in the land of Egypt, he called his twelve sons together and “blessed” them (per Gen. 49:28). Most of these “blessings” do not sound like blessings to me, but that’s what it says in the text.

Similar to Isaac’s prophetic blessing which Jacob stole from Esau, Jacob’s blessings to his sons were prophecy as well.

But the way Jacob introduces them is most curious.

This is a place where I think the NIV translation (which, as you may have observed, is my most heavily used version for study and writing) does a poor job in the translation. For it says:

1 Then Jacob called for his sons and said: “Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come.
(Gen. 49:1 NIV)

(To be fair to the NIV, the NASB and AMP translations, which I also use heavily, translate the same phrase at the end as “days to come.”)

But this phrasing obscures the true meaning, which you can see for yourself in the Hebrew here.

The NKJV and YLT translations more precisely translate the phrase as “in the last days.”

1 And Jacob called his sons and said, “Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days:
(Gen. 49:1 NKJV)

In the last days” is a more accurate translation and it helps us make more sense of the remainder of Jacob’s message to his sons. See, for example, Jacob’s prophecy to Judah:

8 “Judah, your brothers will praise you;
your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;
your father’s sons will bow down to you.
9 You are a lion’s cub, Judah;
you return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down,
like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
10 The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he to whom it belongs shall come
and the obedience of the nations shall be his.
11 He will tether his donkey to a vine,
his colt to the choicest branch;
he will wash his garments in wine,
his robes in the blood of grapes.
12 His eyes will be darker than wine,
his teeth whiter than milk.
(Gen. 49:8-12 NIV)

As you may know, much, if not all of Judah’s blessing has to do not with his own personal future but with Jesus. And Jacob said that these things would happen “in the last days.”

Returning to the Song of Moses, it too deals with Israel’s last days, for as we already observed, Moses foretold what would happen in Israel’s “end.”

Thus, we are able to connect the timing of the blessings of Jacob upon his sons with the events Moses foretold in the Song of Moses.

Reason #5: The Song of Moses is repeatedly quoted in the New Testament and divinely applied to the first century timeframe.

The most significant reason the Song of Moses is so important is because of when the Scriptures say it is fulfilled.

At least 5 times, the Song of Moses is quoted in the New Testament (NT). In each case, the application is made to the first century timeframe.

Paul quoted the Song of Moses 3 times in Romans

In Rom. 9-11, Paul explains to the Roman Christians how strongly he desires his fellow Israelites to be saved. The salvation here is two-fold—spiritual salvation from sin and physical salvation from the coming judgment upon rebellious Jews in the form of the Romans.

This text is so important to our understanding of the overall narrative of Scripture.

It is ripe with quotes from the Old Testament and is targeted at both the Jewish and Gentile Christians living in Rome.

Romans 10:19

In Rom. 10:16, Paul addressed the majority of the Israelites’ rejection of the gospel. In v.19, he quotes the Song of Moses:

19 Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says,

I will make you envious by those who are not a nation;
I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.”
(Rom. 10:19 NIV)

This quote is taken from Deut. 32:21, which says:

21 They made me jealous by what is no god
and angered me with their worthless idols.
I will make them envious by those who are not a people;
I will make them angry by a nation that has no understanding.
(Deut. 32:21 NIV)

Romans 12:19

Later, in Rom. 12, Paul addressed how Christians should live, in holiness and forbearance in the midst of suffering. At the conclusion of these instructions, Paul wrote:

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
(Rom. 12:17-19 NIV)

Verse 19 quotes Deut. 32:35 from the Song of Moses, which says:

35 It is mine to avenge; I will repay.
In due time their foot will slip;
their day of disaster is near
and their doom rushes upon them.”
(Deut. 32:35 NIV)

Before studying these things more closely in recent years, I had always understood Paul to be solely making a general statement about GOD’s justice and providence for His people.

But when we look more closely and reexamine the larger context of the message, what Paul meant was that the primary audience was going to witness the fulfillment of the Song of Moses during their lifetime.

GOD was going to punish those wicked rebellious Israelites and the Christians needed to endure the suffering they were undergoing because the time was drawing near.

Romans 15:10

As the Roman letter draws to a close, Paul encouraged the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians to be one and accept each other in Jesus.

7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed 9 and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written:

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles;
I will sing the praises of your name.”
10 Again, it says,

Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.”
11 And again,

“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles;
let all the peoples extol him.”
12 And again, Isaiah says,

“The Root of Jesse will spring up,
one who will arise to rule over the nations;
in him the Gentiles will hope.”
(Rom. 15:7-12 NIV)

In v.10, Paul quotes from the Septuagint version of Deut. 32:43.

43 “Rejoice, O Heavens, together with Him, And worship Him, all the sons of God; Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people; And let all the angels of God be strong with Him; For He will avenge the blood of His sons And render vengeance to His adversaries; And the Lord will purify His people’s land.”
(Deut. 32:43 OSB)

Hebrews 10:30 quotes Deuteronomy 32:35-36

The letter of Hebrews is believed to have been written in the late 60’s A.D. Internal evidence indicates this timeframe.

In Heb. 10, the writer encouraged the Jewish Christians to hold fast to their faith in the Lord because the suffering they were enduring at the time was drawing to its close.

Beginning in Heb. 10:19, we read:

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For,

“In just a little while,
he who is coming will come
and will not delay.”
38 And,

“But my righteous one will live by faith.
And I take no pleasure
in the one who shrinks back.”
39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.
(Heb. 10:19-39 NIV)

A crucial and oft-misunderstood text, in v.30 the writer quotes from Deut. 32:35-36, again from the Septuagint.

35 I shall repay on the day of vengeance; In time, when their foot shall slip; For the day of their calamity is at hand, And is waiting, ready for them.’ 36 “For the Lord will judge His people, And have compassion on His servants; For He sees them disabled And left in distress and weakened.
(Deut. 32:35-36 OSB)

This is a huge message that is being communicated!

I’ll only lightly touch on it here, but the “day” that the primary audience (the Jewish Christians who first received the letter of Hebrews) were to “see … approaching” in v.25 is the same day in v.30. And that day was the judgment day discussed in the Song of Moses.

Huge, huge truth there!

Figure out the judgment of the Song of Moses and you understand what Hebrews was pointing to because they are the same.

Peter seemingly quotes Deut. 32:5 in Acts 2:40

In addition to these direct quotes, it seems that Peter quoted the Song of Moses in his preaching recorded in Acts 2. He said:

38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”

40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.”
(Acts 2:38-40 NKJV)

This appears to be a reference to Deut. 32:5, which says:

5 “They have corrupted themselves;
They are not His children,
Because of their blemish:
A perverse and crooked generation.
(Deut. 32:5 NKJV)

Peter applied this description to the first century—to those listening to him at the time. And this would be entirely consistent, because…

Jesus referred to His generation as wicked and perverse at least 8 times

Peter was only imitating and following the footsteps of the Lord Jesus.

Jesus repeatedly spoke disparagingly about the first century Jews, on at least 8 occasions.

  1. Discussing John the Baptist (Matt. 11:11-19; Luke 7:28-35).
  2. Religious leaders ask for a sign (Matt. 12:38-45; Luke 11:29-32, 24-26).
  3. Rebukes religious leaders at a Pharisee’s dinner (Luke 11:37, 45-51).
  4. The cost of discipleship (Mark 8:34-38).
  5. Religious leaders ask for a sign following feeding of 4,000 (Matt. 16:1-4; Mark 8:11-13).
  6. Jesus heals a demon-possessed boy when His disciples had been unable (Matt. 17:14-18; Mark 9:14-29; Luke 9:37-43).
  7. A Pharisee asks about the coming of the kingdom of GOD (Luke 17:20-25).
  8. Jesus rebukes the religious leaders for their hypocrisy (Matt. 23:33-36).

Revelation references the Song of Moses in two places

Lastly, the Song of Moses is referred to twice in the Revelation letter.

First, in Rev. 15, the Song is directly mentioned in connection with GOD’s people rejoicing over their enemies (the very subject of the Song):

1 I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues—last, because with them God’s wrath is completed. 2 And I saw what looked like a sea of glass glowing with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and its image and over the number of its name. They held harps given them by God 3 and sang the song of God’s servant Moses and of the Lamb:

“Great and marvelous are your deeds,
Lord God Almighty.
Just and true are your ways,
King of the nations.
4 Who will not fear you, Lord,
and bring glory to your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship before you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
5 After this I looked, and I saw in heaven the temple—that is, the tabernacle of the covenant law—and it was opened. 6 Out of the temple came the seven angels with the seven plagues. They were dressed in clean, shining linen and wore golden sashes around their chests. 7 Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls filled with the wrath of God, who lives for ever and ever. 8 And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.
(Rev. 15:1-8 NIV)

The Song is explicitly mentioned in v.3.

But we also have a quote of Deut. 32:4 in Rev. 15:3:

4 He is the Rock, his works are perfect,
and all his ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong,
upright and just is he.
(Deut. 32:4 NIV)

Later in the Revelation letter, the Song of Moses is seen fulfilled:

1 After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting:

“Hallelujah!
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
2 for true and just are his judgments.
He has condemned the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth by her adulteries.
He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”
(Rev. 19:1-2 NIV)

This last line of v.2 is a reference to the prophecy of Deut. 32:43, which says:

43 Rejoice, you nations, with his people,
for he will avenge the blood of his servants;
he will take vengeance on his enemies
and make atonement for his land and people.
(Deut. 32:43 NIV)

Conclusion

This is a lot to process.

Let’s recap.

As Israel was about to enter the land of Canaan, Moses reminded them of their covenant with GOD.

Moses prophesied that Israel would eventually break their covenant and infuriate GOD, resulting in their being scattered and ultimately destroyed.

Yet, during the time of fulfillment of this prophecy, GOD would have servants whom He would protect and vindicate.

The remainder of Scripture tells the story of how this prophecy comes to pass. References to this prophecy throughout the rest of the Scriptures abound. We have only touched the surface with the examples in this post.

The New Testament writings plainly and repeatedly point to the timeframe of the first century as the fulfillment of the Song of Moses.

The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D. marked the completion of the fulfillment of the Song of Moses and the official and definitive end of GOD’s covenant with physical Israel.

Yet, when we examine the promises GOD made to Abraham, they were perpetual, including the possession of the land.

Therefore, we must ask ourselves how GOD could have kept His word? The answer, as I explained in post 4 of this series, is that the physical fulfillment of the promises were but a shadow of their ultimate spiritual meaning. And that is what the rest of the Scriptures describe.

The Song of Moses introduces the distinction between the physical people of GOD (Israel) and the true servants of GOD (children of Abraham by faith). This distinction is heavily discussed, and often misunderstood, throughout the rest of Scripture.


Continue to the next post, where we dig deeper into the physical-spiritual Israel distinction introduced in this post.

Got comments or questions? Drop them below.

Tim Harris
Author: Tim Harris

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