Deuteronomy 30
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Conditions of Restoration from Exile

When Israel, scattered among the nations, returns to Jehovah and obeys Him (Deuteronomy 30:1 f.), He will gather the nation again, even to its furthest outcasts (Deuteronomy 30:3 f.), and will not only restore it to its land, but work in it a full love to Himself (Deuteronomy 30:5 f.). The curses shall be turned upon its foes (Deuteronomy 30:7) and its obedience rewarded by material blessings, the expression of His restored joy in it (Deuteronomy 30:8-10).—The form of address changes to the Sg., which is sustained throughout, and the language is more fully that of D than was the language of 29. With 28 the connections are specially numerous. Also this passage breaks the connection between 29 and Deuteronomy 30:11 ff. The two can hardly be by the same writer. In substance Deuteronomy 30:1-10 is the expansion of Deuteronomy 4:29-31 (q.v.), which is also a Sg. interruption of a Pl. context. Like Deuteronomy 4:29-31 it appears to be from a deuteron. writer, writing during the Exile. (See also Dri.’s Deut. p. 76) On the question of the relation of Deuteronomy 30:1-10 with 11–14 see below.

And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee,
1. all these things are come upon thee] Deuteronomy 4:30.

the blessing and the curse, etc.] Deuteronomy 11:26; cp. Deuteronomy 4:8. Blessing as well as curse, because the memory that God, in His faithfulness, had blessed them, in such times as they were obedient, and therefore might be trusted to do so again, is as requisite for the repentance of the exiled people, as their bitter experience of His curses upon their disobedience. There is, thus, no need to take these words, or the blessing by itself, as a gloss (as Steuern. and Marti do).

which I have set before thee] Deuteronomy 4:8, Deuteronomy 11:26.

call them to mind] Lit. bring back to thy heart. See on Deuteronomy 29:4.

hath driven thee] Heb. hiddiah, in this sense used 11 times in Jer., but not so elsewhere in Deut.; the passive form occurs in Deuteronomy 30:4 below. For other applications of the root see Deuteronomy 13:13 (14), Deuteronomy 19:5, Deuteronomy 20:19, Deuteronomy 22:1.

And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul;
2. Expansion of Deuteronomy 4:30 b.

That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee.
3. turn thy captivity] The Heb. phrase can hardly mean this, for the return from captivity comes later in this passage, in Deuteronomy 30:4, and such a sense is impossible in Job 42:10. Render turn thy fortune. So Amos 9:14, Hosea 6:11, Ezekiel 16:53; Ezekiel 16:55, and frequently in Jer.

have compassion upon thee] Deuteronomy 13:17.

gather thee] So frequently in Jer. and Ezek.

scattered thee] Deuteronomy 28:64.

If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee:
4. If any of thine outcasts] quoted in Nehemiah 1:9; cp. above Deuteronomy 30:1 (driven), Deuteronomy 28:64, and in another sense Deuteronomy 22:1.

And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers.
5. will bring thee into the land] See on Deuteronomy 6:10.

do thee good] Deuteronomy 8:16, Deuteronomy 28:63.

multiply] See on Deuteronomy 6:3 and Deuteronomy 13:17 (18).

And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.
6. will circumcise thine heart] See on Deuteronomy 10:16, and in contrast Deuteronomy 29:4; and cp. Jeremiah 31:33.

to love, etc.] See on Deuteronomy 6:5.

that thou mayest live] lit. for the sake of thy life, Deuteronomy 30:16; Deuteronomy 30:19, Deuteronomy 16:20, all Song of Solomon 4:1 (see note), Deuteronomy 5:33, Deuteronomy 8:1, all Pl.

And the LORD thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies, and on them that hate thee, which persecuted thee.
7. curses] Heb. ‘alôth, Deuteronomy 29:20 f. (19 f.), q.v.; and not ḳelalôth as in Deuteronomy 30:1 and ch. 28. Because of this and the fact that the v. breaks the connection between Deuteronomy 30:6; Deuteronomy 30:8 it is probably an intrusion (Dillm.). With it cp. Deuteronomy 7:15.

And thou shalt return and obey the voice of the LORD, and do all his commandments which I command thee this day.
8. But thou, thyself, shalt, etc.] The emphatic thou is necessary after the intrusion of the previous v.

return] If this be meant in a spiritual sense, the like does not elsewhere occur in Deut.; but is found in Isaiah 10:21; Isaiah 19:22, Jeremiah 3:1; Jeremiah 3:7; Jeremiah 3:12; Jeremiah 3:22; Jeremiah 4:1; Jeremiah 15:19; Jeremiah 18:11 (=Jeremiah 35:15), Jeremiah 23:14, Jeremiah 24:7, Jeremiah 36:3, Ezekiel 18:23, etc. For the rest of this verse see above Deuteronomy 15:5, Deuteronomy 28:1; Deuteronomy 28:15.

And the LORD thy God will make thee plenteous in every work of thine hand, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy land, for good: for the LORD will again rejoice over thee for good, as he rejoiced over thy fathers:
9. See Deuteronomy 28:11; Deuteronomy 28:63.

If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou turn unto the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul.
10. Possibly an editorial transition to the next section (so Steuern.).

written in this book of the law] Cp. Deuteronomy 29:20; here the text curiously gives written in the sing. participle, as if quoting from there.

turn unto, etc.] See on Deuteronomy 30:8.

For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off.
11. This commandment] Miṣwah, see on Deuteronomy 5:31, Deuteronomy 8:1. Here probably both the substance of the Law—the enforcement of a loyal, loving obedience to Jehovah—and its various statutes and judgements.

which I command thee this day] Deuteronomy 8:1, Deuteronomy 27:1, etc.

too hard] So in Deuteronomy 17:8; beyond one’s power to do, 2 Samuel 13:2, or to understand, Psalm 131:1 (2); more frequently used of wonderful things, or extraordinary; Psalm 119:129 : Thy testimonies are wonderful, therefore doth my soul keep them—an interesting contrast to this clause.

11–14. The Conscience of the Law

11–20. The Close of the Concluding Addresses

The commandment is not too hard nor distant, but near, articulate, intelligible and practicable (Deuteronomy 30:11-14). Sheer life and death, good and evil, is set before Israel. Obedience means blessing, apostasy destruction (Deuteronomy 30:15-19 a). Choose life that thou mayest dwell in the land, sworn to thy fathers (Deuteronomy 30:19 b Deuteronomy 30:20).—The discourse turns back to the present of the (assumed) speaker and closes the whole series of his addresses upon the keynotes which have rung through them. As Driver says, ‘it is next to impossible that Deuteronomy 30:11-20 can have been originally the sequel of Deuteronomy 30:1-10.’ Deuteronomy 30:11-14 may be a fragment from an unknown source, for their subject connects neither with Deuteronomy 30:10 (Berth. and Marti notwithstanding) nor with anything else in Deut. except Deuteronomy 29:29 (28), which however is in the Pl. address. Deuteronomy 30:15-20 supply the needed peroration to 28, which ends abruptly; but the changes of address in them point to their editorial origin.

It is the old question whether the same writer thus clenches his argument with the repetition of a number of his formulas or the hand of a later editor has collected these. The probability is with the latter. Cullen takes Deuteronomy 30:11-20 as part of his Book of the Miṣwah, in his scheme the original Deuteronomy. Berth. regards Deuteronomy 30:15-20 as immediately following 28, and as belonging, therefore, to D. Steuern. holds at least Deuteronomy 30:15 b, Deuteronomy 30:19 b, and part of 20 as D’s. The changes of the form of address are signs that the passage largely consists of quotations.

It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?
12. not in heaven] Not among the hidden things still with God, Deuteronomy 29:29 (28), and requiring a mediator. God has not left men to hunger for it; it has been mediated and heard.

Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?
13. Neither … beyond the sea] Nor has Israel to search for it among other peoples.

But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.
14. But the word is very nigh unto thee] So of God Himself, Deuteronomy 4:7, q.v., explained by what follows, in thy mouth and in thy heart (cp. Deuteronomy 6:6 f., Deuteronomy 11:18 f.), articulate, understood and familiar (especially after so much exposition of it!). The speaker does not add that it is ‘easy,’ but more justly and finely that it carries with it the conscience and provocation to its fulfilment by man: that thou mayest do it! (Cp. Isaiah 45:19 on the clearness, straightforwardness, and efficiency of God’s Word.) Cp. Jeremiah 2:31. Another thought suggests itself. The local and domestic altars had been removed and God’s Presence fixed at the One Sanctuary. But in the Law Israel had received that which they could carry everywhere with them, and which touched their lives—and touched them to the quick—at all points.

On St Paul’s application of these words in the Law, to the Gospel in contrast with the Law, Romans 10:6-8, see Sanday and Headlam, Romans (Intern. Crit. Comm.) 286–290 and Denney’s Romans (Expositor’s Gk Test.) 670 f.: ‘It is irrelevant to point out that what the writer in Deut. means is that the law is not oppressive nor impracticable (as Paul in Deuteronomy 30:5 tacitly assumes it to be); the Apostle is not thinking in the least what the writer of Deut. meant; as the representative of the righteousness of faith he is putting his own thought—his inspired conviction and experience of the Gospel—into a free reproduction of these ancient inspired words.… There is no impossible preliminary to be accomplished before the true religion is got under way … The whole idea of the verses is that righteousness has not to be achieved but to be appropriated’ (Denney).

See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil;
15–20. The Peroration to the Discourses

15. Cp. Jeremiah 21:8.

set before thee this day] Deuteronomy 4:8.

life and good, etc.] Cp. Deuteronomy 11:26 : blessing and curse. For death and evil cp. Deuteronomy 4:26, Deuteronomy 8:19, etc.

In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it.
16. The constr. of the Heb. is faulty but may be restored from the LXX thus: If thou hearken to the commandment of the Lord thy God which I command thee (Dillm.). For Deuteronomy 30:16 a see on Deuteronomy 13:4 (5): his commandments (wanting in LXX), Deuteronomy 4:2; statutes and judgements, Deuteronomy 4:1. On 16b, that thou mayest live, cp. Deuteronomy 4:1, Deuteronomy 30:6; on whither thou goest in to possess it (characteristic of the Sg. passages) see Deuteronomy 7:1, for the Pl. synonym see Deuteronomy 6:1.

But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them;
17. But if thine heart turn away] Deuteronomy 29:18 (17); for drawn away see Deuteronomy 4:19, Deuteronomy 13:13 (14); for worship and serve see on Deuteronomy 4:19.

I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it.
18. denounce] An archaism for announce. The Heb. simply means declare, Deuteronomy 17:9; Deuteronomy 17:11, R.V. shew and tell of a judgement, i.e. make it public; Deuteronomy 26:3 R.V. profess.

unto you] Change to the Pl. address confirmed by Sam. LXX; it is striking that the following phrase, surely perish, also occurs in Deuteronomy 8:19, which is likewise an interruption of the Sg. by the Pl. address, and is found in Deut. only with the Pl. See on Deuteronomy 8:19.

ye shall not prolong, etc.] Elsewhere both with Sg. and Pl.; see on Deuteronomy 4:26.

thou passest over Jordan] Sam. LXX, ye; perhaps rightly, but see on Deuteronomy 6:1.

I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:
19. I call heaven and earth, etc.] As in Deuteronomy 4:26.

set before thee life and death] See on Deuteronomy 30:15.

choose life] In Deut. only here; but cp. Joshua 24:15, Isaiah 7:15 (choose the good). On that thou mayest live see Deuteronomy 30:6.

That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.
20. love … obey … cleave] See on Deuteronomy 6:5, Deuteronomy 10:20, Deuteronomy 13:4 (5).

for that is thy life, etc.] Variant from Deuteronomy 4:1; Deuteronomy 4:40, etc.

sware] See on Deuteronomy 1:8.

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