The Israelites were to hearken to the laws and rights which Moses taught to do (that they were to do), that they might live and attain to the possession of the land which the Lord would give them. “Hearkening” involves laying to heart and observing. The words “statutes and judgments” (as in Lev 19:37) denote the whole of the law of the covenant in its two leading features. חֻקִּים, statutes, includes the moral commandments and statutory covenant laws, for which חֹק and חֻקָּה are mostly used in the earlier books; that is to say, all that the people were bound to observe; מִשְׁפָּטִים, rights, all that was due to them, whether in relation to God or to their fellow-men (cf. Deu 26:17). Sometimes הַמִּצְוָה, the commandment, is connected with it, either placed first in the singular, as a general comprehensive notion (Deu 5:28; Deu 6:1; Deu 7:11), or in the plural (Deu 8:11; Deu 11:1; Deu 30:16); or הָעֵדֹת, the testimonies, the commandments as a manifestation of the will of God (Deu 4:45, Deu 6:17, Deu 6:20). - Life itself depended upon the fulfilment or long life in the promised land (Exo 20:12), as Moses repeatedly impressed upon them (cf. Deu 4:40; Deu 5:30; Deu 6:2; Deu 8:1; Deu 11:21; Deu 16:20; Deu 25:15; Deu 30:6, Deu 30:15., Deu 32:47). יְרִשְׁתֶּם, for יְרַשְׁתֶּם (as in Deu 4:22, Jos 1:16; cf. Ges. §44, 2, Anm. 2).
The observance of the law, however, required that it should be kept as it was given, that nothing should be added to it or taken from it, but that men should submit to it as to the inviolable word of God. Not by omissions only, but by additions also, was the commandment weakened, and the word of God turned into ordinances of men, as Pharisaism sufficiently proved. This precept is repeated in Deu 13:1; it is then revived by the prophets (Jer 26:2; Pro 30:6), and enforced again at the close of the whole revelation (Rev 22:18-19). In the same sense Christ also said that He had not come to destroy the law or the prophets, but to fulfil (Mat 5:17); and the old covenant was not abrogated, but only glorified and perfected, by the new.
The Israelites had just experienced how a faithful observance of the law gave life, in what the Lord had done on account of Baal-peor, when He destroyed those who worshipped this idol (Num 25:3, Num 25:9), whereas the faithful followers of the Lord still remained alive. בְּ דָּבַק, to cleave to any one, to hold fast to him. This example was adduced by Moses, because the congregation had passed through all this only a very short time before; and the results of faithfulness towards the Lord on the one hand, and of the unfaithfulness of apostasy from Him on the other, had been made thoroughly apparent to it. “Your eyes the seeing,” as in Deu 3:21.
But the laws which Moses taught were commandments of the Lord. Keeping and doing them were to be the wisdom and understanding of Israel in the eyes of the nations, who, when they heard all these laws, would say, “Certainly (רַק, only, no other than) a wise and understanding people is this great nation.” History has confirmed this. Not only did the wisdom of a Solomon astonish the queen of Sheba (1Ki 10:4.), but the divine truth which Israel possessed in the law of Moses attracted all the more earnest minds of the heathen world to seek the satisfaction of the inmost necessities of their heart and the salvation of their souls in Israel's knowledge of God, when, after a short period of bloom, the inward self-dissolution of the heathen religions had set in; and at last, in Christianity, it has brought one heathen nation after another to the knowledge of the true God, and to eternal salvation, notwithstanding the fact that the divine truth was and still is regarded as folly by the proud philosophers and self-righteous Epicureans and Stoics of ancient and modern times.
This mighty and attractive force of the wisdom of Israel consisted in the fact, that in Jehovah they possessed a God who was at hand with His help when they called upon Him (cf. Deu 33:29; Psa 34:19; Psa 145:18; 1Ki 2:7), as none of the gods of the other nations had ever been; and that in the law of God they possessed such statutes and rights as the heathen never had. True right has its roots in God; and with the obscuration of the knowledge of God, law and right, with their divinely established foundations, are also shaken and obscured (cf. Rom 1:26-32).