Keil and Delitzsch OT 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.
Is not the close of the address in ch. 5-28, as Schultz, Knobel, and others suppose; but the heading to ch. 29-30, which relate to the making of the covenant mentioned in this verse (vid., Deuteronomy 29:12, Deuteronomy 29:14).
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 introduction in Deuteronomy 29:2 resembles that in Deuteronomy 5:1. "All Israel" is the nation in all its members (see Deuteronomy 29:10, Deuteronomy 29:11). - Israel had no doubt seen the mighty acts of the Lord in Egypt (Deuteronomy 29:2 and Deuteronomy 29:3; cf. Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 7:19), but Jehovah had not given them a heart, i.e., understanding, to perceive, eyes to see, and ears to hear, until this day. With this complaint, Moses does not intend to excuse the previous want of susceptibility on the part of the nation to the manifestations of grace on the part of the Lord, but simply to explain the necessity for the repeated allusion to the gracious acts of God, and to urge the people to lay them truly to heart. "By reproving the dulness of the past, he would stimulate them to a desire to understand: just as if he had said, that for a long time they had been insensible to so many miracles, and therefore they ought not to delay any longer, but to arouse themselves to hearken better unto God" (Calvin). The Lord had not yet given the people an understanding heart, because the people had not yet asked for it, simply because the need of it was not felt (cf. Deuteronomy 4:26).
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.
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.
With the appeal to the gracious guidance of Israel by God through the desert, the address of Moses passes imperceptibly into an address from the Lord, just as in Deuteronomy 11:14. (On Deuteronomy 29:5, Deuteronomy 29:6, vid., Deuteronomy 8:3-4; on Deuteronomy 29:7, vid., Deuteronomy 2:26., and Deuteronomy 3:1. and Deuteronomy 3:12.).
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.
These benefits from the Lord demanded obedience and fidelity. "Keep the words of this covenant," etc. (cf. Deuteronomy 8:18). השׂכּיל, to act wisely (as in Deuteronomy 32:29), bearing in mind, however, that Jehovah Himself is the wisdom of Israel (Deuteronomy 4:6), and the search for this wisdom brings prosperity and salvation (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,
Summons to enter into the covenant of the Lord, namely, to enter inwardly, to make the covenant an affair of the heart and life.
"To-day," when the covenant-law and covenant-right were laid before them, the whole nation stood before the Lord without a single exception - the heads and the tribes, the elders and the officers, all the men of Israel. The two members are parallel. The heads of the people are the elders and officers, and the tribes consist of all the men. The rendering given by the lxx and Syriac (also in the English version: Tr.), "heads (captains) of your tribes," is at variance with the language.
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 of the Lord embraced, however, not only the men of Israel, but also the wives and children, and the stranger who had attached himself to Israel, such as the Egyptians who came out with Israel (Exodus 12:38; Numbers 11:4), and the Midianites who joined the Israelites with Hobab (Numbers 10:29), down to the very lowest servant, "from thy hewer of wood to thy drawer of water" (cf. Joshua 9:21, Joshua 9:27).
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 thou shouldest enter into the covenant of the Lord thy God, and the engagement on oath, which the Lord thy God concludeth with thee to-day." עבר with בּ, as in Job 33:28, "to enter into," expresses entire entrance, which goes completely through the territory entered, and is more emphatic than בברית בּוא (2 Chronicles 15:12). "Into the oath:" the covenant confirmed with an oath, covenants being always accompanied with oaths (vid., Genesis 26:28).
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.
"That He may set thee up (exalt thee) to-day into a people for Himself, and that He may be (become) unto thee a God" (vid., Deuteronomy 28:9; Deuteronomy 27:9; Exodus 19:5-6).
Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath;
This covenant Moses made not only with those who are present, but with all whether present or not; for it was to embrace not only those who were living then, but their descendants also, to become a covenant of blessing for all nations (cf. Acts 2:39, and the intercession of Christ in John 17:20).
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;
The summons to enter into the covenant of the Lord is explained by Moses first of all by an exposition of the evil results which would follow from apostasy from the Lord, or the breach of His covenant. This exposition he introduces with an allusion to the experience of the people with reference to the worthlessness of idols, both in Egypt itself, and upon their march through the nations, whose territory they passed through (Deuteronomy 29:16, Deuteronomy 29:17). The words, "for ye have learned how we dwelt in Egypt, and passed through the nations...and have seen their abominations and their idols" (gillulim: lit., clods, see Leviticus 26:30), have this signification: In our abode in Egypt, and upon our march through different lands, ye have become acquainted with the idols of these nations, that they are not gods, but only wood and stone (see at Deuteronomy 4:28), silver and gold. את־אשׁר, as in Deuteronomy 9:7, literally "ye know that which we dwelt,' i.e., know what our dwelling there showed, what experience we gained there of the nature of heathen 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;
"That there may not be among you," etc.: this sentence may be easily explained by introducing a thought which may be easily supplied, such as "consider this," or "do not forget what ye have seen, that no one, either man or woman, family or tribe, may turn away from Jehovah our God." - "That there may not be a root among you which bears poison and wormwood as fruit." A striking image of the destructive fruit borne by idolatry (cf. Hebrews 12:15). Rosh stands for a plant of a very bitter taste, as we may see from the frequency with which it is combined with לענה, wormwood: it is not, strictly speaking, a poisonous plant, although the word is used in Job 20:16 to denote the poison of serpents, because, in the estimation of a Hebrew, bitterness and poison were kindred terms. There is no other passage in which it can be shown to have the meaning "poison." The sense of the figure is given in plain terms in Deuteronomy 29:19, "that no one when he hears the words of this oath may bless himself in his heart, saying, I will prosper with me, for I walk in the firmness of my heart." To bless himself in his heart is to congratulate himself. שׁרירוּת, firmness, a vox media; in Syriac, firmness, in a good sense, equivalent to truth; in Hebrew, generally in a bad sense, denoting hardness of heart; and this is the sense in which Moses uses it here. - "To sweep away that which is saturated with the thirsty:" a proverbial expression, of which very different interpretations have been given (see Rosenmller ad h. l.), taken no doubt from the land and transferred to persons or souls; so that we might supply Nephesh in this sense, "to destroy all, both those who have drunk its poison, and those also who are still thirsting for it" (Knobel). But even if we were to supply ארץ (the land), we should not have to think of the land itself, but simply of its inhabitants, so that the thought would still remain the same.
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:
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.
"For the Lord will not forgive him (who thinks or speaks in this way); but then will His anger smoke (break forth in fire; vid., (Psalm 74:1), and His jealousy against that man, and the whole curse of the law will lie upon him, that his name may be blotted out under heaven (vid., Deuteronomy 25:19; Exodus 17:14). "The Lord will separate him unto evil from all the tribes, - so that he will be shut out from the covenant nation, and from its salvation, and be exposed to destruction - according to all the curses of the covenant." Although the pronominal suffix refers primarily to the man, it also applies, according to Deuteronomy 29:18, to the woman, the family, and the tribe. "That is written," etc., as in Deuteronomy 28:58, Deuteronomy 28:61.
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;
How thoroughly Moses was filled with the thought, that not only individuals, but whole families, and in fact the greater portion of the nation, would fall into idolatry, is evident from the further expansion of the threat which follows, and in which he foresees in the Spirit, and foretells, the extermination of whole families, and the devastation of the land by distant nations; as in Leviticus 26:31-32. Future generations of Israel, and the stranger from a distant land, when they saw the strokes of the Lord which burst upon the land, and the utter desolation of the land, would ask whence this devastation, and receive the reply, The Lord had smitten the land thus in His anger, because its inhabitants (the Israelites) had forsaken His covenant. With regard to the construction, observe that ואמר, in Deuteronomy 29:22, is resumed in ואמרוּ, in Deuteronomy 29:24, the subject of Deuteronomy 29:22 being expanded into the general notion, "all nations" (Deuteronomy 29:24). With וראוּ, in Deuteronomy 29:22, a parenthetical clause is inserted, giving the reason for the main thought, in the form of a circumstantial clause; and to this there is attached, by a loose apposition in Deuteronomy 29:23, a still further picture of the divine strokes according to their effect upon the land. The nouns in Deuteronomy 29:23, "brimstone and salt burning," are in apposition to the strokes (plagues), and so far depend upon "they see." The description is borrowed from the character of the Dead Sea and its vicinity, to which there is an express allusion in the words, "like the overthrow of Sodom," etc., i.e., of the towns of the vale of Siddim (see at Genesis 14:2), which resembled paradise, the garden of Jehovah, before their destruction (vid., Genesis 13:10 and Genesis 19:24.).
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:
Even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger?
"What is this great burning of wrath?" i.e., what does it mean - whence does it come? The reply to such a question would be (Deuteronomy 29:25-29): The inhabitants of the land have forsaken the covenant of the Lord, the God of their fathers; therefore has the wrath of the Lord burned over the land.
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:
"Gods which God had not assigned them" (vid., Deuteronomy 4:19). "All the curses," etc., are the curses contained in Deuteronomy 28:15-68; Leviticus 26:14-38. - Those who give the answer close their address in Deuteronomy 29:29 with an expression of pious submission and solemn admonition. "That which is hidden belongs to the Lord our God (is His affair), and that which is revealed belongs to us and our children for ever, to do (that we may do) all the words of this law." That which is revealed includes the law with its promises and threats; consequently that which is hidden can only refer to the mode in which God will carry out in the future His counsel and will, which He has revealed in the law, and complete His work of salvation notwithstanding the apostasy of the people.
(Note: What the puncta extraordinaria above (ע)ד וּלבנינוּ לנוּ mean, is uncertain. Hiller's conjecture is the most probable, "that they are intended to indicate a various reading, formed by the omission of eleven consonants, and the transposition of the rest עולם והנגדלות (at magnalia saeculi sunt);" whereas there is no foundation for Lightfoot's notion, that "they served as a warning, that we should not wish to pry with curiosity into the secret things of God, but should be content with His revealed will," - a notion which rests upon the supposition that the points are inspired.)
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.