on Deuteronomy 32 :10
He - the Lord, found him - Jacob, in his descendants, in a desert land - the wilderness. He led him about forty years in this wilderness, Deuteronomy 8:2, or יסבבנהו yesobebenhu, he compassed him about, i. e., God defended them on all hands, and in all places. He instructed him - taught them that astonishing law through which we have now almost passed, giving them statutes and judgments which, for depth of wisdom, and correct political adaptation to times, places, and circumstances, are so wondrously constructed, as essentially to secure the comfort, peace, and happiness of the individual, and the prosperity and permanency of the moral system. Laws so excellent that they have met with the approbation of the wise and good in all countries, and formed the basis of the political institutions of all the civilized nations in the universe.
Notwithstanding the above gives the passage a good sense, yet probably the whole verse should be considered more literally. It is certain that in the same country travelers are often obliged to go about in order to find proper passes between the mountains, and the following extracts from Mr. Harmer well illustrate this point.
"Irwin farther describes the mountains of the desert of Thebais (Upper Egypt) as sometimes so steep and dangerous as to induce even very bold and hardy travelers to avoid them by taking a large circuit; and that for want of proper knowledge of the way, such a wrong path may be taken as may on a sudden bring them into the greatest dangers, while at other times a dreary waste may extend itself so prodigiously as to make it difficult, without assistance, to find the way to a proper outlet. All which show us the meaning of those words of the song of Moses, Deuteronomy 32:10 : He led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.
"Jehovah certainly instructed Israel in religion by delivering to him his law in this wilderness; but it is not, I presume, of this kind of teaching Moses speaks, as Bishop Patrick supposes, but God's instructing Israel how to avoid the dangers of the journey, by leading the people about this and that dangerous, precipitous hill, directing them to proper passes through the mountains, and guiding them through the intricacies of that difficult journey which might, and probably would, have confounded the most consummate Arab guides. They that could have safely enough conducted a small caravan of travelers through this desert, might have been very unequal to the task of directing such an enormous multitude, encumbered with cattle, women, children, and utensils. The passages of Irwin, that establish the observation I have been making, follow here: 'At half past eleven we resumed our march, and soon came to the foot of a prodigious hill, which we unexpectedly found we were to ascend. It was perpendicular, like the one we had passed some hours before; but what rendered the access more difficult, the path which we were to tread was nearly right up and down. The captain of the robbers seeing the obstacles we had to overcome, wisely sent all his camels round the mountain where he knew there was a defile, and only accompanied us with the beast he rode. We luckily met with no accident in climbing this height.' p. 325. They afterwards descended, he tells us, into a valley, by a passage easy enough, and stopping to dine at half past five o'clock, they were joined by the Arabs, who had made an astonishing march to overtake them, p. 326. 'We soon quitted the dale, and ascended the high ground by the side of a mountain that overlooks it in this part. The path was narrow and perpendicular, and much resembled a ladder. To make it worse, we preceded the robbers, and an ignorant guide among our people led us astray. Here we found ourselves in a pretty situation: we had kept the lower road on the side of the hill, instead of that towards the summit, until we could proceed no farther; we were now obliged to gain the heights, in order to recover the road, in performing which we drove our poor camels up such steeps that we had the greatest difficulty to climb after them. We were under the necessity of leaving them to themselves, as the danger of leading them through places where the least false step would have precipitated both man and beast to the unfathomable abyss below, was too critical to hazard. We hit at length upon the proper path, and were glad to find ourselves in the road of our unerring guides the robbers, after having won every foot of the ground with real peril and fatigue.' p. 324. Again: 'Our road after leaving the valley lay over level ground. As it would be next to an impossibility to find the way over these stony flats, where the heavy foot of a camel leaves no impression, the different bands of robbers have heaped up stones at unequal distances for their direction through this desert. We have derived great assistance from the robbers in this respect, who are our guides when the marks either fail, or are unintelligible to us.' The predatory Arabs were more successful guides to Mr. Irwin and his companions, than those he brought with him from Ghinnah; but the march of Israel through deserts of the like nature, was through such an extent and variety of country, and in such circumstances as to multitudes and incumbrances, as to make Divine interposition necessary. The openings through the rocks seem to have been prepared by Him to whom all things from the beginning of the world were foreknown, with great wisdom and goodness, to enable them to accomplish this stupendous march." See Harmer's Observat., vol. iv. p. 125.
He kept him as the apple of his eye - Nothing can exceed the force and delicacy of this expression. As deeply concerned and as carefully attentive as man can be for the safety of his eyesight, so was God for the protection and welfare of this people. How amazing this condescension!
on Deuteronomy 32 :10
In the waste howling wilderness - literally, "in a waste, the howling of a wilderness," i. e., a wilderness in which wild beasts howl. The word for "waste" is that used in Genesis 1:2, and there rendered "without form."
on Deuteronomy 32 :10
32:10 He found him - Not by chance, but as it were looking out and seeking for him. He did indeed manifest himself to him in Egypt, but it was in the wilderness at Sinai, God found him in an eminent manner, and revealed his will to him, and entered into covenant with him, and imparted himself and his grace and blessing to him. By this word he also signifies both their lost condition in themselves, and that their recovery was not from themselves, but only from God who sought and found them out by his grace. In the waste howling wilderness - In a place destitute of all the necessaries and comforts of life, which also was a type of that desolate and comfortless condition in which all men are before the grace of God finds them out; where instead of the voices of men, is nothing heard but the howlings and yellings of ravenous birds and beasts. He led them - He conducted them frons place to place by his cloudy pillar and providence. Or, he compassed him about, by his provident care, watching over him and preserving him on every side. As the apple of his eye - As men use to keep the apple of their eye, that is, with singular care and diligence, this being as a most tender, so a most useful part.