Deuteronomy 29
Pulpit Commentary
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.
Verse 1. - Beside the covenant which he made with them in Horeb. This was not a new covenant in addition to that made at Sinai, but simply a renewal and reaffirmation of that covenant. At Sinai the covenant was, properly speaking, made; sacrifices were then offered, and the people were sprinkled with the sacrificial blood, whereby the covenant was ratified (Exodus 24; cf. Psalm 1:5); but on the occasion here referred to, no sacrifices were offered, for this was merely the recognition of the covenant formerly made as still subsisting.
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;
Verse 2. - Moses addresses the nation as such, and reminds them of their dullness to apprehend the manifestations of God's grace which had been so abundantly afforded in their past history, in order that he may arouse them to a better state of mind, and stimulate them to hearken to the voice of God in the future.
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.
Verse 4. - The Lord hath not given you an heart to perceive, etc. Moses says this "not to excuse their wickedness, but partly to direct them what course to take, and to whom they must have recourse for the amending of their former errors, and for a good understanding and improvement of God's works; and partly to aggravate their sin, and to intimate that, although the hearing ear and the seeing eye and the understanding heart are the workmanship of God (Proverbs 20:12), and the effects of his special grace (Deuteronomy 30:6; Jeremiah 31:33; Jeremiah 32:39, etc.), yet their want of this grace was their own fault and the just punishment of their former sins" (Poole). As they would not attend to God's word, as they had shut their eyes and their ears, that they might not see, or hear, or learn what God was teaching them by his conduct towards them, they had been left to themselves; and, as a necessary consequence, they had become as persons who had no eyes to see, or ears to hear, or heart to perceive what was set before them for their learning.
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.
Verse 5. - Having referred to the gracious dealing of God with them in the wilderness, Moses introduces Jehovah himself as speaking to them (cf. Deuteronomy 11:14). (On vers. 5 and 6, see Deuteronomy 8:3, 4; and on vers. 7 and 8, see Deuteronomy 2:26, etc.; Deuteronomy 3:1, etc.)
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.
Verse 9. - That ye may prosper in all that ye do. The verb here used (הִשְׂכִּיל) means primarily to look at, to consider or attend to, hence to become intelligent, to be prudent, to act wisely, and so to have success, to prosper. It is the prosperity which comes from wise and prudent action that God commends to his people (cf. Joshua 1:7, 8).
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,
Verses 10-15. - Summons to enter into the covenant of the Lord with fresh ardor and cordiality. Verse 10. - Translate: Ye stand this day all of you before Jehovah your God, your chiefs, your tribes, your elders, and your officers, every man of Israel. The two members are parallel: the heads or chiefs are the elders and officers, the tribes are all Israel The Authorized Version follows the LXX., but against the idiom of the Hebrew. Ibn Ezra says ראשֵׁיכֵם is instead of ראֹשֵׁי, but this can hardly be.
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:
Verses 11-14. - The covenant was a national engagement, and as such included not only the adults and existing generation, but the little ones, the strangers resident in Israel, the lowest menial servants, that is, all the elements of which the nation was composed, as well as their posterity in coming, generations. That thou shouldest enter into covenant. The expression in the Hebrew is a strong one, indicating not a mere formal engagement, but a going thoroughly into the covenant; the phrase is used of the sword going through the land (Leviticus 26:6), and of one going into the pit (Job 33:28). Into his oath. Covenants were confirmed by oath (Genesis 26:28; Hebrews 6:17); hence in Scripture the covenant of God is sometimes called his oath (ver. 14; 1 Chronicles 16:16; Hebrews 7:28). (On ver. 13, cf. Deuteronomy 28:9; Deuteronomy 27:9; Exodus 19:5, 6.)
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.
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:
(For ye know how we have dwelt in the land of Egypt; and how we came through the nations which ye passed by;
Verses 16-29. - The summons to renew the covenant is enforced by a fresh exposition of the evil and danger of apostasy from the Lord. This is introduced by a reference to the experience which the people already had of idolatry in Egypt, and among the nations with whom they had come in contact during their march through the wilderness, from which they must have learned the utter worthlessness of all idols, that they were no gods, but only wood and stone, Verses 16, 17. - These verses are not a parenthesis, as in the Authorized Version. Ver. 18 is connected, not with ver. 15, but with ver. 17; there should be a full stop at the end of ver. 15. Their idols; literally, their blocks or logs (גִלוּלִים, from גָלַל, to roll something too heavy to be carried), a term of contempt used frequently in Scripture of idols.
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;
Verse 18. - Lest there should be among you; rather, See that there be not among you, etc. The part. פֵן, lest, at the beginning of a sentence, sometimes implies a prohibition or dissuasion, as Job 32:13, "say not;" Isaiah 36:18," beware of saying" (Gesenius, Noldius in voc.). Gall. The Hebrew word so rendered (רלֺאשׁ) is supposed by Gesenius to be the poppy plant, by Celsius to be the hemlock (it is so rendered, Hosea 10:4; Amos 6:12, and by AEdman to be colocynth. It is probably a general name for what is poisonous and bitter; for it is used of poison generally (Deuteronomy 32:32) and of the venom of asps (Deuteronomy 32:33; Job 20:16), as well as of poisonous roots and bitter fruits (see Kitto, 'Bibl. Cycl.,' 3:701). Coupled here with wormwood, it must be a plant that is referred to; and the union of the two affords "a striking image of the destructive fruit borne by idolatry" (Keil).
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:
Verse 19. - That he bless himself in his heart; - congratulate himself - saying, I shall have peace - i.e., all shall be well with me - though - rather, for - I walk in the imagination of mine heart; literally, in the firmness or hardness of my heart, (שְׁרִירוּת, from שָׁרַר, to twist together, to be tough or firm); the word is always used in a bad sense in Hebrew, though not in Aramaic (cf. Psalm 81:13 [12]; Jeremiah 3:17; Jeremiah 7:24; Jeremiah 9:13 [14]; 11:8). To add drunkenness to thirst; a proverbial expression, of which very different explanations have been given. It is now generally admitted that the verb (סְפות) cannot be taken here in the sense of "add," but has its proper sense of pouring out, pouring away, destroying. The word rendered "drunkenness" (רָוֶת, from רָוָה, to be sated with moisture, to be drenched) means rather "sated, drenched, well-watered;" and the word rendered "thirst" (צְמֵאָה, from צָמֵא, to thirst) is properly thirsty, and is used of dry land (Isaiah 44:3); both are adjectives, and a substantive is to be supplied. Some supply נֶפֶשׁ, soul or person; others, אֶרֶץ, land. The former render, "The full [soul] with the thirsty" (Gesenius); or, "Them that are sated with them that are thirsty," i.e. as well those who have imbibed the poison as those who thirst for it (Knobel); or "That the sated [soul] may destroy the thirsty," i.e. that the impious one, restrained by no law and, as it were, drunk with crime, may corrupt others, also prone to evil, and bring on them destruction (Maurer). Those who supply "land," render "To destroy the well-watered [land] with the dry." This last seems the preferable rendering; but the general meaning is the same in either case, viz. that the effect of such hardness of heart would be to destroy one and all. "The Orientals are fond of such bipartite forms of expressing the whole (cf. Gesenius, 'Thes.,' p. 1008)" (Knobel; cf. Deuteronomy 32:36).
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.
Verses 20, 21. - Though the sinner fancies all is well with him, and is hardened in his iniquity, and is leading others astray by his example, the Lord will not suffer him to rest in impunity, but will send on him terrible punishments. The anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke, i.e. shall break forth in destructive fire (cf. Psalm 74:1: Isaiah 65:5; Psalm 18:8). The Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven (cf. Deuteronomy 25:19; Exodus 17:14). The Lord shall separate him unto evil out of all the tribes of Israel, - so that, excluded from the covenant nation, and placed beyond the sphere over which rests the salvation of the Lord, they will be exposed to destruction - according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this book of the law; rather, as in the margin, is written; the participle agrees with "covenant."
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;
Verses 22-24. - Future generations and foreign visitants, seeing the calamities with which the rebels had been visited, nay, all nations, should ask, in astonishment and horror, Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger? It is evident from this that Moses contemplates, and in fact here predicts, a defection, not of individuals or families merely, but of the nation as a whole from the Lord, and the punishment which came in consequence upon the nation. The words from "when they see" (ver. 22) to "wrath" (ver. 23) are a parenthesis, in which a reason for the main thought is given in a circumstantial clause; and the "say" of ver. 22 is resumed by the "say" of ver. 24.
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:
Verse 23. - And that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, etc.; rather, sulfur and salt, a burning the whole land thereof, it shall not be sown, etc. The words "sulfur," etc., are in apposition to the "plagues and sicknesses" of ver. 22, and thus so far depend on the "see." The description here is taken from the country around the Dead Sea, to which there is an express allusion in the close of the verse (cf. Genesis 19:23, etc.). As this country, which before had been as the garden of the Lord, became, when the wrath of God was poured upon it, utterly desolate and waste; so should it be with the land of Israel when the plagues and sicknesses threatened were laid on it by the Lord.
Even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger?
Verse 24. - What meaneth the heat of this great anger? The reply to this question comes in what follows (vers. 25-28).
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:
Verse 26. - Gods... whom he had not given unto them (cf. 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:
Verse 27. - All the curses; literally, every curse, or the whole curse (cf. Daniel 9:11, etc.).
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.
Verse 28. - And cast them. In the Hebrew the word east them (יַשְׁלִכֵם) has one of its letters, the ל, larger than the rest, and another letter, י which should be after the ל, is omitted; on which "Baal Hatturim noteth, There is a great lamed and a want of yod, to teach that there is no casting away like that of the ten tribes" (Ainsworth). According to Baxtorf, the large lamed represents the first letter of l'olam, forever, and the yod, the numeral 10, represents the ten tribes, whose perpetual omission from the nation of Israel is thus indicated ('Tiberias,' 1. c. 14, p. 157).
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.
Verse 29. - By secret things, here, some understand "hidden sins," which are known only to God, and which he will punish (Targum Jon.); but the meaning rather is, things in God's purpose known only to himself: these things, it is affirmed, belong to him, are his affair, and may be left with him. On the other hand, the things revealed are the things made known by God to man in his Word, viz. his injunctions, threatenings, and promises; and with these men have to do. This verse is by some regarded as part of the answer given to the question of ver. 24; but others regard it as a general reflection added by Moses by way of admonition to his previous discourse. This latter view is the more probable, and the scribes may have had this in their mind when they distinguished the words, unto us and to our children, by placing over them extraordinary points , in order to emphasize them, though by many this is regarded as a mere critical notation, indicating a various reading (Buxtorf, 'Tiberias,' 1. c. 17, p. 179; Havernick, 'Introd.,' p. 281; Bleek, 'Einleit,' p. 799).

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