Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Deuteronomy 29:2 (1)–30. A Discourse or Discourses
This section is presented as one discourse. The two chs. exhibit, however, such differences in address, in language and possibly (though this is not so clear) in standpoint that they can hardly have been originally a unity. Both, however, bear signs of an exilic date.
-1Deuteronomy 29:2-29 (1–28) is in the Pl. address (except for 2 vv. in which the Sg. is explicable on logical grounds); 30 is in the Sg. address, except for some phrases in its conclusion (which may well be an editorial peroration to the whole group of addresses since Deuteronomy 26:16). (2) Deuteronomy 29:2-29 while using some deuteronomic formulas is characterised by a large number of phrases not found elsewhere in Deut. nor in the Hex. but occurring (more frequently) in Jer., Ezek. and exilic writings; while 30, though also containing parallels to Jer., is much more deuteronomic than 29 (3) Some also contrast Deuteronomy 29:29, which represents the future as still hidden with God, with Deuteronomy 30:1-10 which reveals that when the exiled Israel repents, God will restore the nation to its land. But the meaning of Deuteronomy 29:29 is not quite clear, and its connection with the rest of 29 uncertain.
Deuteronomy 29:2-29 (1–28)
Moses, addressing all Israel, recalls what Jehovah has done in Egypt (Deuteronomy 29:1-3) (vv. though Israel have not had the spiritual power to appreciate this, Deuteronomy 29:4), and in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 29:5 f.), and to Siḥon and ‘Og (Deuteronomy 29:7 f.); and exhorts them to keep His covenant (Deuteronomy 29:9). To this the whole nation, even including women, children, gçrîm and serfs, and both the present and future generations, is a party (Deuteronomy 29:10-15); and the need for it Israel themselves have seen in the idolatries of the nations through whom they have passed (Deuteronomy 29:16 f.). Let no individual, family, or tribe turn to such idolatry, for its consequences shall be not only their own destruction but that of the nation (Deuteronomy 29:18-21); the plagues of the land and the exile of the people shall be proof to later generations that Israel forsook Jehovah’s covenant for other gods (Deuteronomy 29:22-28). Secret things (vv. i.e. the future) are with God, the things revealed (i.e. the law) are Israel’s, and to be carried out by them.—In the Pl. address, except for some quotations in Deuteronomy 29:3 and Deuteronomy 29:10 f., and Deuteronomy 29:12-13 where the change to the Sg. is explicable (see note). The comparatively small use of deuteronomic phrases, and the peculiarly large number of phrases not elsewhere found in Deut. but frequent in Jer. and Ezek. or found in exilic and post-exilic writings, may be seen from the notes. Deuteronomy 29:11 reflects late social conditions, and Deuteronomy 29:28 betrays a date in the Exile.
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 is thus an editorial addition, probably inserted to close what precedes, when 29 f. was added to D. On covenants, and those of Ḥoreb and Moab respectively, see on Deuteronomy 4:13.
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;2. And Moses called … unto them] Song of Solomon 5:1. For the rest cp. Deuteronomy 11:2. Ye is emphatic. Heb.: Ye, yourselves, have seen.
The great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and those great miracles:3. tests … signs … portents] See on Deuteronomy 4:34, Deuteronomy 7:19. Which thine eyes saw, Deuteronomy 4:9, Deuteronomy 7:19, Deuteronomy 10:21; the Sg. betrays the composite nature of the passage.
Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.4. an heart to know] The heart the seat of the practical understanding; ‘not the seat of the affections, but the mind itself, the intellectual faculty of the soul’ (Calvin), yet always in a moral aspect; see on Deuteronomy 4:39, Deuteronomy 6:6. Eyes and ears, figures here of the spiritual senses, cp. Jeremiah 5:21.
In form the connection with the preceding v. is difficult to trace, but the substance is clear. The deeds in which the Divine revelation consists are of no avail without the inward power to recognise and appreciate them, which is also, equally with them, of the gift of God; ‘Men are ever blind even in the brightest light, until they have been enlightened of God’ (Calvin). The speaker is made to express the truth in this negative way in order to emphasise to the people the urgent need of their at last, after so much neglect, awakening to the meaning of Jehovah’s Providence. The awkwardness of the construction is due to the effort to express both the grace of God and the responsibility of man.
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.5. I have led you, etc.] So Amos 2:10; cp. above Deuteronomy 2:7, Deuteronomy 8:2. I, here the speaker’s personality, is merged in that of the Deity; for other instances see on Deuteronomy 7:4. But LXX has ἤγαγεν.
your clothes, etc.] Varied from Deuteronomy 8:4. With Sam. LXX read your shoes and your feet.
Ye have not eaten bread, neither have ye drunk wine or strong drink: that ye might know that I am the LORD your God.6. The v. is parallel to Deuteronomy 8:3. The last clause is not found in D, but occurs (minus the deut. addition your God) in J, Exodus 7:17; Exodus 8:22; Exodus 10:2; in P, Exodus 6:7 (+ 5 times); and in Ezek. more than 50 times. Also the lighter form of the first personal pronoun is employed here as in all those passages, but in D it occurs only here and in Deuteronomy 12:30, q.v.
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:7. came unto this place] Deuteronomy 1:31, Deuteronomy 9:7.
Sihon … and Og …] Deuteronomy 2:32 ff., Deuteronomy 3:1 ff.
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.8. gave it for an inheritance] Deuteronomy 3:12 f.; for the formula see on Deuteronomy 4:21.
Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do.9. Keep … and do] See on Deuteronomy 4:6; and cp. Deuteronomy 4:1, Deuteronomy 5:1.
the words of this covenant] See above on Deuteronomy 29:1 and on Deuteronomy 4:13. prosper] But the vb. also covers the deal wisely of the R.V. margin.
‘Originally a mental process or quality—has insight, is farseeing—it includes the effect of this—understands so as to get on, deals wisely so as to succeed, is practical both in his way of working, and in being sure of his end. Ewald has found an almost exact equivalent in German: “hat Geschick,” for “Geschick” means both “skill” or “address” and “fate” or “destiny.” ’ (Isaiah xl.–lxvi., Expositor’s Bible, p. 346 on Isaiah 52:13.) In the Hex. only here, and elsewhere (except for one or two passages) only in later writings.
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,10, 11. Ye stand] The Heb. is stronger, and probably reflexive: ye have taken your station or position.
all of you] This comprehensiveness, and the exhaustive definition by which it is followed are striking. Not only the representatives of the people—your heads, your judges (which read for tribes—there is only the difference of one letter—unless we read with LXX and Syr. heads of tribes, for LXX has judges as well after elders), your elders and your officers (for all of which except elders see Deuteronomy 1:13; Deuteronomy 1:15 f., and for elders Deuteronomy 16:18, Deuteronomy 19:12, Deuteronomy 21:2 f., etc.); and not only all the men of Israel, your little ones and1 your wives, but also thy gçr … from the gatherer (not hewer) of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water (Joshua 9:21 ff.)—appear before Jehovah to take the covenant. Cp. the Sabbath law, Deuteronomy 5:14, covering sons, daughters, servants and thy gçr; Deuteronomy 31:12, men, women, little ones and thy ger; the assembly which received the law under Joshua, Joshua 8:33; Joshua 8:35, gçr and home-born, women and little ones; and the covenant renewed under Nehemiah, Nehemiah 10:28, all the temple-servants, wives, sons, daughters, every one that had knowledge and understanding (see further Jerusalem i. 435 ff.). On the phrase in the midst of thy camp cp. Deuteronomy 2:14 f., Deuteronomy 23:14.
 So Sam. and Syr.
The conception of the gçr as a proselyte and as under the covenant, and the mention of the temple-drudges may be taken (as by many critics) for signs of the late date of the whole passage. Or since their introduction is coincident with a change of address to the Sg., it is possibly a later gloss on the rest. Yet again the Sg. of 11b may be due to the attraction of the Sg. in Deuteronomy 29:12 f., in which its use by a writer otherwise employing the Pl. may be explained on the ground that he is addressing the whole nation as one party to the Covenant; while in Deuteronomy 29:14 he resumes the Pl., because there he is addressing the individuals of the present generation in distinction from others not present. Here then is a case on which the changes between Sg. and Pl. are reasonably explicable as by the same writer and on logical grounds. Steuern. and Marti’s proposal to consider the whole of the Sg. clauses as an addition is thus unnecessary.
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:12. enter into the covenant] Lit. pass over into only here. Cp. the passing over into a select and numbered body, Exodus 30:13 f. (P); also the prepositions in our terms ‘trans-act,’ ‘carry through.’ On covenant see Deuteronomy 4:13.
and into his oath] Cp. Nehemiah 10:29 : enter into an oath. God confirms His covenant by an oath, Deuteronomy 4:31, etc. The Heb. ’alah is used three times in this ch., 12, 14, 19 (q.v.), as = oath, and thrice Deuteronomy 29:20-21 and Deuteronomy 30:7 as imprecation, or curse; but nowhere else in Deut.
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.13. Cp. Deuteronomy 26:17 f. and Deuteronomy 28:9; as he sware, Deuteronomy 1:8.
Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath;14, 15. Cp. Deuteronomy 5:3. Deuteronomy 29:15 is better rendered, but at once with him that standeth here … and with him that is not here with us this day.
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:
(For ye know how we have dwelt in the land of Egypt; and how we came through the nations which ye passed by;16. for ye know, etc.] The necessity for such a covenant with Jehovah: viz. Israel’s experiences of the idolatry of other peoples, which otherwise might seduce them to itself. The Egyptian idolatry has not before been mentioned in Deut. Came through and passed are the same vb.: the idem per idem construction, see Deuteronomy 1:46.
And ye have seen their abominations, and their idols, wood and stone, silver and gold, which were among them:)17. abominations] Rather detestable things, not to ‘ebôth, as in Deuteronomy 7:25, but shiḳḳuṣîm, frequent in Jer. and Ezek. of idols, nowhere else in Deut., but the vb. from which it comes is found in Deuteronomy 7:26.
idols] Heb. gillulîm, a scornful term meaning either things gross or coarse, such as some forms of the root in Ar. mean (applied to dung, etc.), or things round or podgy, as from Heb. galal, to roll (cp. the nicknames ‘round-head’ and ‘rolling-pin’). In the Hex. only here and Leviticus 26:30 (H); Jeremiah 50:2; Jeremiah 50:39 times in Ezek. The gods of the heathen were mere blocks or boulders!
wood and stone] Deuteronomy 4:28, Deuteronomy 28:36; Deuteronomy 28:64.
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;18. lest there should be] Perhaps better, may there not be!
this day] Not in LXX and here out of place.
to go to serve] Deuteronomy 13:6; Deuteronomy 13:13 (7, 14), Deuteronomy 17:3.
a root that beareth] Only here.
gall] Heb. rôsh, lit. head, sometimes interpreted of the poppy; either that or some poison: Deuteronomy 32:32, Amos 6:12, Hosea 10:4; with wormwood, Amos 5:7; Amos 6:12, Jeremiah 9:15 (14), Deuteronomy 23:15, Lamentations 3:15; Lamentations 3:19, Proverbs 5:4. Such are the fruits of idolatry!
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:19. curse] Rather oath, for it is on the strength of Jehovah’s oath to be Israel’s God and so to protect them, that this Israelite flatters himself he is secure, no matter how he may behave. In the history of religion such a delusion has been lamentably frequent, and believers in extreme doctrines of election have presumed on these and recklessly indulged in evil.
bless himself in his heart] Flatter himself! Found only here.
stubbornness] Heb. sherirûth, firmness but always in a bad sense; only here, Jeremiah 3:17; Jeremiah 7:24; Jeremiah 9:13; Jeremiah 11:8; Jeremiah 13:10; Jeremiah 16:12; Jeremiah 18:12; Jeremiah 23:17, and in Psalm 81:12 (13). This of course is not the man’s own, but the writer’s, view of him.
to destroy the moist with the dry] An unmeaning translation. The construction is elliptic and we should render: so as to sweep away the moist (herbage?) with the dried up; bring down a hurricane of destruction that would uproot the whole people, so fatal is the infectiousness, and so universal will be God’s punishment, of idolatry.
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.20. the Lord will not consent to pardon him] There are two vbs as in Deuteronomy 1:26 q.v.
his jealousy] See on Deuteronomy 4:24; with this and the vb. smoke cp. Deuteronomy 32:21 f., Psalm 74:1.
shall lie] Or crouch, cp. Genesis 4:7. But LXX and Targ. read cleave unto, perhaps rightly.
blot out his name, etc.] Deuteronomy 7:2, Deuteronomy 9:14.
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:21. separate] See on Deuteronomy 4:41. Unto evil, Jeremiah 21:10; Jeremiah 29:11; Jeremiah 38:4; Jeremiah 39:16; Jeremiah 44:11; Jeremiah 44:27; Jeremiah 44:29; but also in Amos 9:4, Jdg 2:15 (deuteronomic).
this book of the law] See Deuteronomy 28:61.
22–28 illustrate the last clause of 19 and predict how the whole land and people shall suffer for the sins of the idolaters.
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;22. plagues] Or strokes, see Deuteronomy 28:59; Deuteronomy 28:61.
the sicknesses] This word only here, Jeremiah 14:18; Jeremiah 16:4, Psalm 103:3, 2 Chronicles 21:19.
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:23. brimstone, etc.] The prediction is in terms of the surroundings of the Dead Sea. Beareth, lit. causeth to sprout; grass better herbage.
Sodom … Zeboiim] Amos 4:11, Hosea 11:8; Genesis 14:2; Genesis 19:24 f.
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:25. Then men shall say, etc.] Similarly Jeremiah 22:8 f. The phrase, forsook the covenant occurs there, 1 Kings 19:10; 1 Kings 19:14 and Daniel 11:30, but not elsewhere in Deut. (forget is used instead); though Deuteronomy 28:20 has forsaking me, cp. Deuteronomy 31:16, Deuteronomy 32:15.
For they went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given unto them:26. went and served] See Deuteronomy 29:18; on whom they knew not cp. Deuteronomy 8:3; Deuteronomy 8:16, Deuteronomy 11:28; on given or allotted see note on Deuteronomy 4:19.
And the anger of the LORD was kindled against this land, to bring upon it all the curses that are written in this book:27. curse] As in Deuteronomy 28:15 ff.; and another word than in Deuteronomy 29:20 f.
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.28. rooted them out] Heb. natash, not elsewhere in the Hex. but common in Jer. e.g. Deuteronomy 1:10, Deuteronomy 12:15.
in anger, and in fury, and in great wrath] (Driver). So Jeremiah 21:5; Jeremiah 32:37.
cast them into another land] Jeremiah 22:26 : ‘I will cast thee out (another vb.) … into another land.’
as at this day] This can hardly belong to the predicted statement of the contemporaries of the Exile; it must either be the writer’s own and if so betrays his date at that time, or it is an editorial addition. In view of the language of the whole chapter, the former alternative is the more probable.
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.29. The still hidden things are the future (cp. Isaiah 48:6), the things that are revealed are those just reviewed, God’s deeds and words in the past and present. That among these present things is the Exile, as the result of Israel’s disobedience, is not certain, but it seems implied. Only its issue is still hidden, in contrast to the conditional prediction of a happy issue from it delivered in the following vv. Deuteronomy 30:1-10. All that Israel can do is to keep the law already revealed. It is difficult to see the connection between this v. and its context on either side; ‘perhaps a later addition … the use of the first person pl. suggests a form of liturgical response after hearing the reading of the law.’ This ‘liturgical close suggests that the discourse is concluded’ (Oxf. Hex.).
this law] Heb. this Tôrah, see Deuteronomy 28:58.