Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
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.CHAPTER 29:1–29
1THESE are the words of the covenant which the Lord commanded Moses to make [to close] with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant which he made [closed] with them in Horeb. 2And 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. 3The great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and those great miracles: 4[And (yet)] Yet the Lord hath not given you an heart to [know, understand] perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day. 5And I have led [let, made you go] you forty years in the wilderness: your clothes are not waxen old upon you, and thy shoe is not waxen old upon thy foot. 6Ye have not eaten bread, neither have ye drunk wine or strong drink: that ye might know that [(for)] I am 7the Lord your God. And when [Then] ye came unto this place, [and] Sihon the king of Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, came out against us unto battle, and we smote them: 8And we took their land, and gave it for an inheritance unto the Reubenites, and to the Gadites, and to the half-tribe of Manasseh. 9Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in1 [fix, fasten, make sure] all that ye do. 10Ye stand this day all of you before the Lord your God; your captains of [om. of] your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with [om. with] all the men of Israel, 11Your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood, unto the drawer of thy water: 12That thou shouldest enter [margin: pass] into covenant with [the covenant of] the Lord thy God, and into his oath [curse, imprecation] which the Lord thy God maketh with thee this day: 13That he may establish [set up] thee to-day for a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath said [promised] unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. 14Neither with you only [you, you only] do I make this covenant and this oath [this 15curse]; 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: 16(For ye know [ye, ye know] how [that] we have dwelt in the land of Egypt; and how we came through the nations [heathen] which ye passed by; 17And ye have seen their abominations, and their idols2 [detestable things], wood and stone, silver and gold, which were among them:) 18Lest 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 [heathen]; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall3 19[poison] and wormwood; And it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, 4 that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace [salvation, prosperity], though [for] I walk in the imagination [margin: stubbornness] of mine heart, to add5 drunkenness to thirst [to the end that the drunken may carry away the thirsting]: 20The Lord will not spare [release from punishment, forgive] him, but then the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses [the whole curse] that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven. 21And the Lord shall separate him unto evil [destruction, ruin] out of all the tribes of Israel according to all the curses of the covenant that are [om. that are] written in this book of the law: 22So 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 [this] land, and the sicknesses which the Lord hath 23laid upon it6 [with which Jehovah makes sick in it]: And that7 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: 24Even all nations [The heathen] shall say, Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger? 25Then men shall say [answer], Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord God of their fathers, which he made [closed] with them when he brought them forth out of the land of Egypt: 26For they went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given [literally, divided] unto them: 27And the anger of the Lord was kindled against this land, to bring upon it all the curses that are written in this book: 28And 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. 29The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us, and to our children8 for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1. Deut 29:1. [This verse is, in most editions of the Hebrew text, added to the chap. 28, and regarded as a recapitulation of what had been said. Our version follows the Sept. and Vulg.—A. G.] After the command for the setting up of the law in the land (Deut 27:1 sq.), and after the reception of this act in its whole bearing on the part of Israel (27:11 sq.) especially since chap. 28. has explained so minutely the blessing and the curse, this verse cannot be viewed as closing this full detail of the consequences of the covenant, or the whole discourse beginning with the fifth chapter. “The repetition, inculcation and completion of the divine law” (KNOBEL) cannot be viewed by the author as a “repetition and renewing of the covenant,” but rather as preparatory to it, since the law itself is the foundation of the covenant at Sinai. The discourse upon the law, chap. 5 sq., closes at Deut 26:16 sq., with a distinct reference to Deut 5:1. This verse, as is expressly said, effects the transition, and forms the title to what follows. Where, i.e. on one side God has once more clearly made known His will, and on the other side the people say, Yea and Amen to all, there the way for the making, closing the covenant is prepared, which now therefore occurs.—These are the words,i.e. the following words constitute the covenant; only words are now necessary; Moses has merely to speak; for what was to be done besides had been done at Horeb, Ex. 24 and Ex. 34 (comp. Deut. 5. and 10). That כָרַת, to divide, cut, with בְּרִית, is literally: to slay the sacrifice of the covenant, does not hinder us from understanding it here according to the whole method of Deuteronomy in a figurative sense, but with a back reference to the literal. It is worthy of notice also, for what follows, that Moses forms or closes the covenant in Moab, just as God did at Horeb. Thus the instrument and the founder are connected together in the presaging and prefiguration of the only Messiah. (The comparison with Lev. 26:46 points already to chap. 30.)
2. Deut 29:2–9. Since discourses constitute what follows, as throughout in Deuteronomy, so here, Deut 29:2: And Moses called, sq. (KNOBEL: “to another day;” HERXHEIMER: “to those already gathered”); comp. 5:1. The forming of the covenant now parallel to that at Horeb. But how it stands with the covenant appears here at once through the recalling that to mind which Jehovah had done for Israel. Since they are reminded of these acts, and first of that all-fundamental work of the Lord in Egypt, so truly “this covenant, notwithstanding the frequent transgressions on the part of the nation, has not been abrogated on the part of God” (KEIL); indeed its strength is generally, that it is the covenant of God with Israel, into which Israel has only to enter or pass (Deut 29:12). Comp. besides 4:9; 11:2. Deut 29:3. Comp. 4:34; 7:19. Deut 29:4. Comp. upon 5:26.—Hath not given—in this connection certainly much as: He could not give, therefore he hath not given. It is not said to excuse the people, but thus the ever-returning allusion to the works and wonders of God finds its ground and motives. Jehovah wrought in Egypt; but what He truly would have done to Israel—not only its external, but its inward real redemption—this gift of God was not actually bestowed; comp. 8:3, 5. They saw indeed, but they were deficient in the right eye (Isa. 6:10; Jer. 5:21; Matt. 13:13), namely, in heart-knowledge (knowledge out of the innermost life), in the eye of faith, in obedience.—[They had it not because they had not asked for it, or felt the need of it. It was not given because they were not prepared to receive the gift.—A. G.]—4:6 (comp. further 1:32; 9:6; 23:24). As Deut 29:1 shows, Moses and Jehovah work together (9:13 sq.). Deut 29:5. Comp. 8:2 sq. The leading through the wilderness is the building upon the foundation laid in the redemption from Egypt. Deut 29:6. Comp. 8:3; also 14:26. Deut 29:7 sq. gives the completion of the building through the first east Jordan victories. Comp. 2:24 sq.; chap. 3. (4:43). Deut 29:9. תַּשְׂכִּילוּ, to make sure, firm, i.e. so that all you do may be real, have lasting existence, and satisfy you.—[The ordinary sense of the words: to act wisely, prudently, seems better here, especially as to act wisely in keeping the covenant is the sure and only way to real prosperity.—A. G.]
3. Deut 29:10–15. After such an introduction, he draws nearer the case in hand.—This day, generally: the time of the deuteronomic discourses, specially according to Deut 29:2: the day of the words of the covenant in question. Comp. besides 1:15; 19:12. Deut 29:11. Comp. 1:39, 16. Not excluding those devoted to the most menial services, thus not even the Egyptian followers, Num. 11:4. Deut 29:12. עבר, to pass, enter, alluding to Gen. 15:17 sq. (Jer. 34:18?), as also in unison with the national name (15:12), more distinctly than בוא, with ב (2 Chron. 15:12; Neh. 10:29; Ezek. 17:13) of the full, hearty, entire entrance. SCHULTZ correctly says: that this covenant “is not so much between two parties as rather of one, into which the other has only to enter or pass.” Thus the interpretation of this chapter is clear, that it concerns “only a new declaration of the covenant at Horeb” (KEIL), a renewing of the covenant in a discourse, warning and exhorting to faithfulness to this covenant, and does not treat of the repetition of the ceremonial. And this corresponds entirely with the character of Deuteronomy. Thence אָלָה, from firm, be strong, of the confirmatory oath, usual in the forming of covenants (Gen. 26:28), here nearly synonymous with ברית, the oath of the covenant of God, and indeed predominantly upon the side of the curse against the transgressor, thus: the curse-oath, the oath-curse, designates the curse of the covenant (Num. 5:21; Isa. 24:6); and hence as עבר, so also כרת is connected with it. It is not as KNOBEL: “the obligation under oath of Israel to Jehovah.” Deut 29:13. Comp. 28:9; 27:9. Deut 29:14 (5:2 sq.). Moses in the charge or commission of God. Deut 29:15. So comprehensive is the method of God with men (John 17:20; Acts 2:39).—[The covenant was to embrace not merely the descendants of those now living, Israel in its generations, but in its true idea and apprehension, all nations—those far off.—A. G.]
4. Deut 29:16–29. Since the covenant has connected with it the oath or curse, so in connection with 28:27 there must be an intimation as to the consequences of an apostacy of the nation from him who will be its God (Deut 29:13), and all the more so, as Israel had a sufficient experience of other gods, both of their nothingness, and of their contagious nature notwithstanding. Thus Deut 29:16 confirms (כי) what has gone before, and lays the ground for what follows. What one may learn who dwells, goes through, etc.—[Literally: ye know what we dwelt, i.e., what our dwelling there showed. Deut 29:15 and 16 are not a parenthesis, as in the English version, but are closely connected with what precedes and follows.—A. G.]
Deut 29:17. שִׁקוּץ, the rejected, reprobate, hence abominable, used of the nature of idols, 1 Kings 11:5. Similarly: גִלּוּלִים, the separated, rejected, detestable. GES.: logs, blocks; OTHERS: dung, filth-idols; punning upon אלילים (the vain, nought)! Lev. 26:30. Deut 29:18. The power of such a spirit of the world; the danger is great, and your weakness not less (Deut 29:4). So! The discourse is indeed of individual men, but also of individual families, or of a tribe, and as if this day it might be true that such a שֹׁרֶש, literally, the first shoots of a plant in the ground (deep, root-shoot), were already existing in Israel. רֹאשׁ, poison. GES.: of the poppy-head, רֹאשׁ. The heaped up, pointed. Here bitterness appears rather to form the transition to poison. Hence the connection with wormwood, Heb. 12:15.—[The rosh appears to have been a poisonous plant growing in the furrows of the field. Hos. 10:4, bitter, Jer. 23:15, and bearing berries, Deut. 32:32. Anything more definite is uncertain. The view of GESEN. is perhaps the most probable. See SMITH’S Bib. Dict., Am. Ed., Art. Gall.—A. G.]—The heart turning away from Jehovah to heathen gods is at first compared to the root yielding this bitter evil fruit, and then Deut 29:18 is introduced, still more clearly speaking to itself in a soliloquy interpreted by God. The case supposed is of one who, when he heard the curse outwardly, nevertheless blessed himself inwardly; in whom thus the stubbornness of unbelief persuading itself of the utmost certainty of the very opposite of that which Jehovah had threatened against the idolater; hence caring for nothing, as seeing nothing, steadily follows the purpose of the evil lust. למען, in the following proverbial expression (as in Deut 29:18 in the figurative), can scarcely be anything else than: so to say, saying. סָפָה, to remove, Isa. 7:20; not precisely, to sweep off, Gen. 18:23 sq. It is not so much the results upon others which is spoken of as the person’s own purpose with respect to himself. הָרָוָה is the richly saturated soul which has fully satisfied its lust. Hence the effort of one who has so apostatized is for a satisfaction which should remove the thirst; which should continually remove by satisfying, the constant desire. KNOBEL, KEIL: “To sweep away (to destroy) the saturated (who has drunk the poison) with the thirsty” (who is thirsting after it). (The feminine taken as a collective neuter. A transfer from the land to persons.) SCHULTZ: “to sweep in the saturated (filled with good things and courage) with the thirsting (in this respect), empty souls.” BAUMGARTEN: “the watered and the thirsty, all the fruit of the land, all good and welfare, a total ruin.” OTHERS: “to hurry away the righteous with the wicked (Prov. 13:25), understood even with reference to God;” or: that the over-sated, glutted may corrupt the temperate. The interpretation which regards ספה as to add, enlarge, is not to be thought of, as e.g.JOHNSON: “that the drunkenness may increase the thirst.” Comp. not ROSENMULLER, but POOLE’SSynopsis. To such a purpose now follows Deut 29:20 sq., the judgment of Moses resting upon the impossibility of any redeeming purpose in God in this case, and carried out to the most terrible completeness.—Shall smoke is not used as a stronger term for the bated breath, but rather as the veil and proof of the fire, which since Sinai is the standing expression for the righteousness of the Holy One in Israel. Comp. upon chap. 4. Comp. for the rest 25:19 (Num. 15:30). Deut 29:21 refers formally to the man, but passes essentially to the family and tribe (Deut 29:18). Deut 29:22. Comp. Lev. 26:31 sq. Deut 29:23. Comp. Gen. 19.—[The ruin is both physical and spiritual; is true of the land and the people. But the description is borrowed from the locality of the Dead Sea and its surroundings. See KEITH’SLand of Israel.—A. G.]
Deut 29:24. An amplified continuation of Deut 29:22. The answer, Deut 29:25, is formulated by Moses, as if a reply by the questioners themselves. Deut 29:26. Comp. 11:28; 4:19; 18:14. Jehovah would be the eternal portion of Israel. As Moses has inspired the previous answer, so Deut 29:29 is his closing word, as a drawing back, in pious submission, from so distant a look into the future. Let us rest, he will say, upon the blessing and the curse, as God has revealed them to us; and it is actual doing, and not knowledge barely, which concerns us. The puncta extraordinaria over the לנו ולבנינו ע are emphatic.—[But what the emphasis is, is uncertain. The points are not inspired. And the emphasis, whatever it is, is a human interpretation, and no part of the text.—A. G.]
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. KURTZ: “The covenant in Moab rest’s upon the covenant at Sinai, and presupposes it. Although the generation of the wilderness was rejected, the covenant of the wilderness was not; it had remained even during the thirty-eight years of the rejection. Israel in the plains of Moab is a new generation, a renewed Israel, hence the renewing of the covenant; but they are the children and heirs of those at Sinai, and since that covenant was laid upon all the future generations of Israel, so now it has its renewal through the word, but without the covenant-sacrifices and meal.”
2. The redemption from Egypt, the leading in the wilderness, and the entrance into the promised land, as it is introduced by the victories, Deut 29:7 sq., are three stages which have their spiritual reality also in Christ. Upon the one rests the faith, in the other the life, and for the last the hope of the spiritual Israel.
3. Keep therefore. Deut 29:9 announces the obligation also of the covenant of God, whose sign and seal is holy baptism (Matt. 28:20), an obligation which has its conscious renewing and acceptance in the confession of faith, in the so-called “confirmation.”—[The allusion here is to the rite of confirmation as practised in the continental churches, corresponding very nearly to our term “uniting with the church.”—A. G.]
4. In Deut 29:10 sq. the covenant appears in almost a New Testament form, yet the significant mark of the curse accompanies it, and moreover the expression reminds us of a mediatory sacrifice (Ps. 50:5): thus the fulfilling of that symbolized at Horeb, “the power of an endless life” (Heb. 7:16) “the blood of Christ who, through the eternal Spirit, offered Himself without spot unto God, to purge our consciences from dead works to serve the living God (Heb. 9:14) remains in expectation.” Comp. J. H. MICHAELIS upon the passage.
5. The people of God is so connected with the covenant of God, that it must throughout, and over all, appear dependent upon God. Hence apostacy from Jehovah is the sin in Israel. Idolatry appears with it only as the external mould or form at the time; the essential inward reality is the self-hardening consciousness, whose occasional and changing fancies are the abominations of the idol worship. The self-righteousness of man, by nature, and in his whole life unrighteous before God, is not only a great evil, but literally destructive to men.
6. The transition from the individual to the whole, reveals the earnest look of Moses into the corrupt nature of Israel, and what he was solicitous about in the future of his people; at the same time we see therein the general truth that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump (1 Cor. 5.), and that the Christian Church also is under obligation to exclude the unbelieving and godless, through the office of the keys, for its own good. (Heid. Cate.).
7. “It is farther presupposed that in the future, even the heathen should attain to the knowledge of the Lord, and ask the reasons of that which He had done.” SCHULTZ. Such a knowledge on the part of the heathen world, indeed, over against the judgment upon Israel, appears as the future of things, hidden in God, as His decree as to the end.
8. “We should be satisfied with what God has revealed to us of His will and nature in the law and gospel.” PISCATOR. [The commands, promises, curses, blessings, and our consequent duty with all necessary truth, are perfectly clear. We may well rest with these.—A. G.].
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Deut 29:1. LUTHER: “Moses must live until he has renewed the law with the other generation.” STARKE: “Recall here the new covenant, where God has made with man, through the personal union, an indissoluble covenant of grace.” Deut 29:3. BAUMGARTEN: “As every good gift comes from above, so also the true sense of the Spirit and the flesh. Israel had shown itself through its own guilt, unsusceptible for such gifts, so that he immediately passes to an exhortation with respect to the same in Deut 29:9. Deut 29:4: Give me eyes that I may see Thy rich grace—The wondrous works of God; the most wonderful: a hearing ear, a seeing eye. Prov. 20:12.
Deut 29:9. RANDGLOSSE: Without the Word of God all our doing is folly. Deut 29:10sq. PISCATOR: God’s covenant demands obedience in all positions.—What a breadth and length, and depth and height, Eph. 3:18. BERL. BIB.: “So Christ commands His gospel to be preached to every creature.” Deut 29:15 sq. Whoever has true knowledge, knows with whom he has to do (the living God) where He is (in the world) and how weak man is in himself. Deut 29:19. RANDGLOSSE: “This is the godless word and thought; ay, hell is not so deep it has no want, the devil is not so awful as he is painted; which does boldly and eagerly all hypocritical deeds, and still looks for reward in heaven.” STARKE: “It is a certain sign that a man is still under sin if he make light of the threatenings and judgments of God, abandons himself to his desires and lusts, sorrows not, but rejoices in past sins and in godless society, and will not know God, nor has any desire to serve Him, opposes himself to the punishment, and sins against his conscience.” (Eph. 4:19). TUB. BIB.: “As the dry earth must be watered, so the godless strives, as he would increase the sins for which he thirsts, to satisfy perfectly all his lust. Or as the drunkard seeks for means to quiet the unnatural desires and thirst, to be able above all else to keep himself drunken; so the godless seeks to make himself even worse than he is, as if even thirsting for evil, heaps up sin with sin. ( Matt. 12:43 sq.; Heb. 6:8; 2 Pet. 2:20).” “Self-deception and a false conception of the good estate of Christendom leads most men to hell.” Deut 29:20, 21. STARKE: “Jesus also purges His threshing-floor. Matt. 3:12.” VOLNEY breaks out, “I have wandered through this desolated land. Great God! Whence so deplorable changes? Why has fortune turned this region so entirely into its opposite? Wherefore are so many cities laid waste? Why are these lands robbed of their former blessings?—A mysterious God, exercises His incomprehensible judgment! Beyond question He burdens this land with a secret curse.” Deut 29:25. Sin has destroyed the people, but it is the sin of apostacy from the way of God.
Deut 29:27. RICHTER: “For eighteen hundred years till this day.” Deut 29:29. Comp. Rom. 11:33. [WORDSWORTH: Secret things. “Especially God’s counsel concerning Israel, both as to the choice of it by God, and its rejection and restoration, both as to its manner and time. O Altitudo! exclaims St. Paul. Rom. 11:33.”—A. G.].
1[Deut 29:9. Literally: that ye may act wisely.—A. G.].
2[Deut 29:17. Margin: dungy gods, from the shape of the ordure. Literally, thin clods or balls, as that which can be rolled about.—A. G.].
3[Deut 29:18. Margin and Hebrew: לאשׁ, weed, a plant of bitter taste, but not necessarily poisonous. Most probably the poppy, as we speak of poppy heads.—A. G.].
4[Deut 29:19. The same word rendered oath, Deut 29:12, 14, but which SCHROEDER renders in every case curse.—A. G.].
5[Deut 29:19. םְפוֹת here is not to add—a sense which it rarely has unless followed by על, but to sweep away, destroy, as in Num. 16:2; Gen. 19:15, 17.—A. G.].
6[Deut 29:22. Margin: wherewith the Lord hath made it sick.—A. G.].
7[Deut 29:23. The italics should be omitted, and we should read: brimstone and salt and burning the whole land. The nouns are in apposition with strokes, plagues, Deut 29:22.—A. G.].
8[Deut 29:29. The pointing of the Hebrew here is peculiar, as if to draw attention to what is said.—A. G.].