These are the words of the covenant, which the LORD commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, beside the covenant which he made with them in Horeb.Deuteronomy 29:1. These are the words of the covenant — Having thus repeated and enlarged upon the laws formerly delivered at Horeb, shown this new generation the covenant they were under, and the time and manner of their renewing it after they had entered Canaan; and having thus pathetically expatiated on the blessings and curses annexed to it, Moses summoned again the whole assembly, to press them to a careful obedience by considerations of the most powerful nature. Besides the covenant which he made with them in Horeb — Not a different covenant from that Exodus 24:3-8, but a renewal of the same, with some additions.
And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, Ye have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land;Deuteronomy 29:2. Ye have seen all that the Lord did — Some of them had seen, when they were young, the plagues which God had brought upon Pharaoh and his people, in order to accomplish their deliverance; and others from them had understood these things, which is often termed seeing, both in the Scriptures and elsewhere.
The great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and those great miracles:
Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.Deuteronomy 29:4. The Lord hath not given you a heart to perceive — Which he would have done had you sincerely and earnestly desired and asked it of him; and you are inexcusable that you have not, considering his signal mercies on the one hand, and awful judgments on the other, of which you have had such great experience, and which called loudly upon you to humble yourselves before him in true repentance, and seek his grace to enable you to understand and improve by such extraordinary dispensations and wonderful works. For he does not speak thus to excuse their wickedness, but to direct them to whom they must have recourse for a good understanding of God’s works; and to intimate that although the hearing ear, and the seeing eye, be the workmanship of God, yet their want of these was their own fault, and the just punishment of their former sins; their present case being like theirs in Isaiah’s time, who first shut their own eyes and ears that they might not see and hear, and would not understand, and then, by the righteous judgment of God, had their eyes and ears closed that they should not see, and hear, and understand. God’s readiness to do us good in other things, is a plain evidence, that if we have not grace, that best of gifts, it is our own fault and not his: he would have gathered us, and we would not.
And I have led you forty years in the wilderness: your clothes are not waxen old upon you, and thy shoe is not waxen old upon thy foot.Deuteronomy 29:5-6. Your clothes waxed not old — See on Deuteronomy 8:4.
Ye have not eaten bread — Common bread purchased by your own money, procured by your own labour, or made by your own hands, but heavenly and angelical bread. Neither have ye drunk wine — But only water out of the rock, and the water was made both pleasant and refreshing. The meaning is, that they were not nourished by the ordinary means of sustenance, but were constantly supported by a miraculous supply from God, who graciously fed them for a course of years without any labour of their own. That I am the Lord — That I am Jehovah, that is, the Being who can bring to pass whatever I will, (see on Exodus 6:3,) omnipotent and all-sufficient to provide for you without the help of any creatures, and your God, in covenant with you, who have a true affection to you, and a fatherly care of you.
Ye have not eaten bread, neither have ye drunk wine or strong drink: that ye might know that I am the LORD your God.
And when ye came unto this place, Sihon the king of Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, came out against us unto battle, and we smote them:
And we took their land, and gave it for an inheritance unto the Reubenites, and to the Gadites, and to the half tribe of Manasseh.
Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do.
Ye stand this day all of you before the LORD your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel,Deuteronomy 29:10-12. Ye stand — before the Lord your God — They were assembled at the tabernacle, from whence he delivered these words to them by the priests and Levites, Deuteronomy 27:9; Deuteronomy 27:14. Thy stranger —
Such strangers as had embraced their religion: all sorts of persons, yea, even the meanest of them. Into covenant, and into his oath — A covenant confirmed by a solemn oath. Hebrew, באלתו, bealatho, his adjuration, execration, or curse; for they entered into this covenant with imprecations upon themselves if they did not perform faithfully their engagements.
Your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water:
That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the LORD thy God, and into his oath, which the LORD thy God maketh with thee this day:
That he may establish thee to day for a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.Deuteronomy 29:13. That he may establish thee — Here is the summary of that covenant whereof Moses was the mediator; and in the covenant relation between God and them, all the precepts and promises of the covenant are included. That they should be established for a people to him, to fear, love, obey, and be devoted to him, and that he should be to them a God, to make them holy and happy; and a due sense of the relation we stand in to God as our God, and the obligation we are under to him as his people, is enough to bring us to all the duties and all the comforts of the covenant. And does this covenant include nothing spiritual? nothing that refers to eternity?
Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath;
But with him that standeth here with us this day before the LORD our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day:Deuteronomy 29:15. So also with him that is not here — With your posterity. For so the covenant was made at first with Abraham and his seed, by which, as God engaged himself to continue the blessing of Abraham upon his posterity, so he also engaged them to the same duties which were required of Abraham. Thus it is even among men: where a king confers an estate upon a subject and his heirs for ever, upon some certain conditions, all his heirs who enjoy that benefit are obliged to the same conditions. It may likewise include those who were then constrained to be absent by sickness, or any necessary occasion. Nay, one of the Chaldee paraphrasts reads it, “All the generations that have been from the first days of the world, and all that shall arise to the end of the whole world, stand with us here this day.” And thus, taking this covenant as a typical dispensation of the covenant of grace, it is a noble testimony to the Mediator of that covenant, who is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever.
(For ye know how we have dwelt in the land of Egypt; and how we came through the nations which ye passed by;Deuteronomy 29:16. Egypt — Where you have seen their idolatries, and learned too much of them, as the golden calf showed, and therefore have need to renew your covenant with God; where also we were in dreadful bondage, whence God alone hath delivered us; to whom therefore we are deeply obliged, and have all reason to renew our covenant with him. We came through the nations — With what hazard, if God had not appeared for us!
And ye have seen their abominations, and their idols, wood and stone, silver and gold, which were among them:)
Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood;Deuteronomy 29:18. Lest there be among you man or woman — These words are to be considered as connected with Deuteronomy 29:14-15, and as signifying the end for which he engaged them to renew their covenant with God, that none of them might revolt from him to serve other gods. Lest there should be a root — An evil heart inclining you to such cursed idolatry, and bringing forth bitter fruits: or rather, some secret or subtle apostate from the true God and his religion, secretly lurking and working as a root under ground, and spreading his poison to the infection of others; for both the foregoing and following words speak of some particular person. Gall and wormwood — Which though for the present it may please his fancy, yet in the end will produce bitter fruits; not only distasteful to God, but also destructive to yourselves. The word which we translate gall, is thought to signify some noxious and poisonous herb, but what herb, is difficult to say. It is rendered hemlock, (Hosea 10:4,) and is commonly joined with wormwood, as here, Jeremiah 9:15; Lamentations 3:19; Amos 6:12. To this passage the apostle alludes Hebrews 12:15, Lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you.
And it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst:Deuteronomy 29:19. The words of this curse — This oath and execration, wherein he swore he would keep covenant with God, and that with a curse pronounced against himself if he did not perform it. Bless himself — Flatter himself in his own eyes with vain hopes, as if God did not mind such things, and either could not, or would not punish them. Peace — Safety and prosperity. My own heart — Though I do not follow God’s command, but my own devices. To add drunkenness to thirst — The words may be rendered, to add thirst to drunkenness, and so the sense may be, that when he hath multiplied his sins, and made himself as it were drunk with them, yet he is not satisfied therewith, but still whets his appetite, and provokes his thirst after more, as drunkards often use means to make themselves thirst after more drink. This is well deserving of our most serious consideration. Moses here assures the Israelites that, how much soever they might flatter themselves with hopes of peace and safety on account of their privileges, none of these would avail them at all if they forsook the law of God, and apostatized from his worship and service. This people, however, notwithstanding this solemn warning, did, in after ages, confide in those outward privileges, and that at a time when they lived in the open violation of the divine commands. The temple, the temple of the Lord! was their cry and their confidence, as if the having that among them had been sufficient to save and render them prosperous and happy, even although they defiled it with their abominations. But they found, by sad experience, that the threatenings denounced by Moses against the violators of God’s law were fulfilled. Let us all take warning by this, and neither as a nation nor as individuals dare to promise ourselves security and peace while we walk in the imagination of our own hearts, and live in sin and forgetfulness of God.
The LORD will not spare him, but then the anger of the LORD and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the LORD shall blot out his name from under heaven.Deuteronomy 29:20-21. His jealousy shall smoke against that man — Shall burn and break forth like flame and smoke from a furnace. None shall be punished more exemplarily than those who abuse the goodness of God, and turn his grace into wantonness. Shall blot out his name — Shall destroy his person and the remembrance of him from among men, suffering no posterity to survive him, to perpetuate his name or memory. Shall separate him unto evil — Unto some exemplary plague; he will make him a monument of his displeasure to the whole land. According to all the curses of the covenant — For the covenant made with them, though a covenant of grace, had curses as well as blessings belonging to it, however averse the person here referred to might be to believe it.
And the LORD shall separate him unto evil out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this book of the law:
So that the generation to come of your children that shall rise up after you, and the stranger that shall come from a far land, shall say, when they see the plagues of that land, and the sicknesses which the LORD hath laid upon it;Deuteronomy 29:22-23. So that the generation — Hebrew And the generation: for it appears to be a new paragraph, the sense whereof is, Whenever your wickedness shall arrive at such a height as to bring upon your nation the terrible desolations before spoken of, all considerate people around you will be convinced that it is the effect of the just judgment of God upon your disobedience to his laws, and a perfect fulfilment of the very threats now left on record. The whole land is brimstone and salt — Is burned up and made barren for the sins of its inhabitants.
And that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom, and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, which the LORD overthrew in his anger, and in his wrath:
Even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger?
Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them forth out of the land of Egypt:
For they went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given unto them:Deuteronomy 29:26. Whom he had not given — For their worship, but had divided unto all nations, for their use and service. So he speaks here of the sun, and moon, and stars, which were the principal gods worshipped by the neighbouring nations.
And the anger of the LORD was kindled against this land, to bring upon it all the curses that are written in this book:
And the LORD rooted them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land, as it is this day.
The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.Deuteronomy 29:29. Secret things belong unto the Lord our God — That is, the counsels and purposes of God concerning persons or nations, and the reasons of his dispensations toward them, together with the time and manner of inflicting judgments or showing mercy, are hidden in his own bosom, and not to be pried into, much less fathomed, by us. But those which are revealed — Namely, that if we rebel against him he will pour out all these judgments upon us, except by true repentance and turning to him we prevent it. Belong to us and to our children — Are the proper objects of our inquiries, that thereby we may know our duty, and, by complying with it, may be kept from such terrible calamities as these now mentioned. To explain this a little further: Having mentioned the amazing judgments of God upon the whole land and people of Israel, and foreseeing the utter extirpation which would come upon them for their wickedness, he makes this declaration, either to check the curiosity of such as would be ready to inquire into the time and manner of so great an event, or to satisfy the scruples of those who, perceiving God to deal so severely with his own people, when in the mean time he suffered those nations which were guilty of grosser idolatry and impiety than the generality of the Jews were, to live and prosper in the world, might thence take occasion to deny his providence, or question the equity of his proceedings. The ways and judgments of God, he says, though never unjust, are often hidden from us, unsearchable by our shallow capacity, and matter for our admiration, not our inquiry: but the things which are revealed by God in his word must be attended to and considered, that we may be duly influenced by them. Thus Moses concludes his prophecy of the rejection of the Jews, just as St. Paul concludes his discourse on the same subject, when it began to be fulfilled, exclaiming, in a manner equally pathetical, How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! Romans 11:33.