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.
This and the following chapter contain the address of Moses to the people on the solemn renewal of the covenant. Consult the marginal references for proof of historical statements or explanation of obscure words.
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;
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.
Ability to understand the things of God is the gift of God (compare 1 Corinthians 2:13-14); yet man is not guiltless if he lacks that ability. The people had it not because they had not felt their want of it, nor asked for it. Compare 2 Corinthians 3:14-15.
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.
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.
That ye may prosper - literally, "that ye may act wisely." The connection of the two ideas of wisdom in conduct and prosperity in circumstances is noteworthy.
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,
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:
The covenant was national, and therefore embraced all the elements which make up the nation. The "little ones" would of course be represented by their parents or guardians; the absent Deuteronomy 29:15 by those present; nor were the servants and proselytes to be excluded (compare Acts 2:39). The text is fairly alleged in justification of the Church's practice of admitting little ones into covenant with God by Baptism, and accepting promises made on their behalf by sponsors.
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:
With him that is not here with us - i. e. as the Jews explain, posterity; which throughout all generations was to be taken as bound by the act and deed of those present and living.
(For ye know how we have dwelt in the land of Egypt; and how we came through the nations which ye passed by;
And ye have seen their abominations, and their idols, wood and stone, silver and gold, which were among them:)
Idols - See the margin, "dungy gods;" i. e. clods or stocks which can be rolled about (compare Leviticus 26:30).
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;
The word here and in Deuteronomy 32:32 rendered "gall," is in Hosea 10:4 translated "hemlock." It is the name of a plant of intense bitterness, and of quick growth; and is therefore repeatedly used in conjunction with "wormwood" (compare Jeremiah 9:15; Lamentations 3:19; Amos 6:12), to express figuratively the nature and effects of sin (compare the marginal references.). The herb is probably the poppy. Hence, the "water" (i. e. juice) "of gall" Jeremiah 8:14; Jeremiah 23:15 would be opium. This would explain its employment in the stupefying drink given to criminals at the time of execution (compare Psalm 69:21; Matthew 27:34), and the use of the word as synonymous with poison (compare Deuteronomy 32:33; Job 20:16).
Wormwood - is the plant "absinthium." It is used to denote metaphorically the distress and trouble which result from sin.
"The root that beareth gall and wormwood," means in this place any person lurking among them who is tainted with apostasy.
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:
Compare on the thought Jeremiah 23:17. The secret and presumptuous sinner is meant who flatters himself that all is well and will be well with him, since he follows his own devices and prospers. Compare Psalm 73:11 ff.
To add drunkenness to thirst - The sense is probably: "Himself, drinking iniquity like water, Job 15:16, he corrupts and destroys others who are thirsting for it or prone to it."
The sense of the whole passage from Deuteronomy 29:16 onward to Deuteronomy 29:20 may be exhibited thus: "Ye have seen the abominations of idolatry among the pagan. Do you therefore look diligently that there be no secret idolater among you; a root of bitterness to all about him. Let there be no one, I say, who when he hears the curses of the Law against this sin, flatters himself, saying within himself, 'All will be well, for I walk unmolested in my own self-chosen path; ' and thus acting, not only takes his own fill of sin, but destroys likewise every tempted brother within his reach, for the Lord will not spare him," etc.
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.
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;
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:
The description is borrowed from the local features of the Dead Sea and its vicinity. The towns of the vale of Siddim were fertile and well watered (compare Genesis 13:10) until devastated by the wrath of God Genesis 19:24-25. The ruin of Israel and its land should be of the like sort (compare Leviticus 26:31-32; Psalm 107:34; Zephaniah 2:9). The desolate state of Palestine at present, and the traces of former fertility and prosperity, are attested by every traveler.
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:
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.
The secret things belong unto the Lord our God - This verse seems to be added as a solemn admonition on the part of Moses, in order to close the series of blessings and curses which he has delivered. The sense seems to be this: "The future, when and how these good and evil things will take effect, it lies with the Lord our God to determine; it pertains not to man's sphere and duty. God's revealed will is that which we must carry out." The 17th of our Articles of Religion concludes with much the same sentiment.