Deuteronomy 8
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Further Remembrances and Warnings for the Promised Land

Remembering God’s guidance through the wilderness, how it was both material and moral, sustenance and chastisement (Deuteronomy 8:1-5), Israel must keep His commandments (Deuteronomy 8:6); and in the land, whose richness contrasts so forcibly with the wilderness, must take heed not to forget Himself, His commandments and His discipline, nor ascribe to itself the new wealth on which it is to enter (Deuteronomy 8:7-17). He is the giver of this, in pursuance of His covenant (Deuteronomy 8:18). If Israel forgets all that and worships other gods, it shall surely perish (19, 20). This section of the discourse is fairly simple and compact (yet in any other style than the deuteronomic, Deuteronomy 8:6 would seem irrelevant and an intrusion). Except in Deuteronomy 8:1; Deuteronomy 8:19 b, 20, probably editorial additions, the form of address is Sg. throughout, and no other v. need be regarded as secondary.

All the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers.
1. The change from Sg. to Pl. is confirmed by Sam. LXX has Pl. throughout the v. Is the Heb. and Sam. Sg. in the first clause due to the attraction of the Sg. in the previous verses? Or is the LXX Pl. due to a harmonising purpose? It is impossible to say. The suspicion of the originality of the v., which is raised by the Pl. address, is strengthened by the character of the clauses, all of them frequently recurrent formulas, dear to editorial scribes, and none of them necessary just here. On all the commandment, see Deuteronomy 5:31; observe to do, Deuteronomy 5:1; multiply, Deuteronomy 6:3; go in and possess, Deuteronomy 6:1.

And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.
2. thou shall remember all the way] Another of the many calls in D to remember God’s Providence (Deuteronomy 5:15, Deuteronomy 7:18, etc.), but this time to fresh aspects of that Providence, cp. Deuteronomy 29:5.

forty years in the wilderness] See on Deuteronomy 2:7.

humble thee, to prove thee] Cp. Deuteronomy 8:3; Deuteronomy 8:16, Deuteronomy 13:3. On prove (whether as here of man by God, or of God by man) see on Deuteronomy 4:34, and Driver’s note on Exodus 17:2 (E). J also speaks of the manna as God’s proof of Israel. Exodus 16:4.

to know what was in thine heart] Cp. Deuteronomy 13:3 (4), and note on Deuteronomy 7:9.

whether thou wouldest keep his commandments] Steuernagel’s argument, that because the law was not yet given at the time of the provings described, therefore this clause must be regarded as a later addition, is quite insufficient. For either we may take it as implying some previous charges by God to Israel, without which Israel could not have set out in the wilderness (so Bertholet); or better, we may take these trials as of the people’s personal confidence in Jehovah and anticipatory to His entrusting them with His laws. Cp. Exodus 16:4, J.

And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.
3. And he humbled thee, etc.] Better, So He; for the v. proceeds to illustrate the facts by which God’s purpose of proving the people was carried out. In the main these were two: first the hunger of the people and then the provision of manna.

suffered thee to hunger] Heb. one verb, only here and in Proverbs 10:3.

and fed thee with manna] For manna see the full notes by Driver, Exodus 16:14 f., 31–35.

which thou knewest not, etc.] See on Deuteronomy 7:9. So J, Exodus 16:15, what is it? for they wist not what it was.

that not upon bread only doth man live but upon every thing that proceedeth out of the mouth of Jehovah] The language—in particular every thing—is ambiguous. It is usually read as expressing an antithesis between bread, the natural or normal support of man and produced by himself, on the one hand, and on the other, when bread fails, the creative word of God with whatever (= every thing) it may produce (so Driver and Bertholet, etc., with differences). But the antithesis is rather between only and every thing: man lives not upon bread only, but upon everything (bread included) that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. On the word of God, creative and determining, from time to time changing what man shall live upon, but always the cause of this, man is utterly and always dependent. This is in harmony with the teaching of D throughout, that of all material blessings the God of Israel alone is the author. By translating every word for every thing the LXX sways the meaning in another direction: that man lives not by material food only but by the spiritual guidance of God; and this is the antithesis which Christ appears to present in Matthew 4:4[127]. Although such a higher spiritual meaning is not expressed in this verse, it underlies the context, which reminds Israel that God’s providence of them has been not only physical, but moral as well.

[127] In his Synoptic Gospels Mr C. G. Montefiore limits the meaning of Jesus to that of Deut.: ‘Jesus asserts that the word of God will provide for his physical needs. God can by his creative word fashion material whereby man’s life can be sustained, as he did in the case of the manna. More simply, God will provide for the physical needs of his messenger.’

Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years.
4. Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee] Similarly Deuteronomy 29:5, Pl.; Nehemiah 9:21. On raiment see Deuteronomy 24:13.

neither did thy fool swell] or rise in blisters, only here and Nehemiah 9:21. Rhetorically applied to the nation as a whole; the Pl. passages dwell more on the damage to the nation and the destruction of one whole generation of them during the forty years, cp. Deuteronomy 2:14.

Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the LORD thy God chasteneth thee.
5. And thou shalt consider in thine heart] Lit. know with thy heart; cp. ‘conscire sibi,’ and see above on Deuteronomy 7:9.

as a man chasteneth his son] disciplineth, cp. Deuteronomy 4:36, Deuteronomy 11:2 q.v.; Hosea 11:1-4, also Deuteronomy 2:14 on the wilderness as a school of discipline. In Deut. which so frequently emphasises physical suffering and adversity as God’s punishment for sin this explanation of them as signs not of His hostility, but of His fatherly providence, is remarkable. It anticipates the more developed doctrine of later O.T. writings and of the N.T.

Therefore thou shalt keep the commandments of the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to fear him.
6. This v. has been marked by Steuernagel as a later addition on the ground that it gives a strange turn to the main thought of the context. But the enforcement of the keeping of the commandments is the chief purpose of the whole discourse; and is more particularly relevant here in view of the temptations to forget them, which are described in the next verses. Besides the for of Deuteronomy 8:7 follows more naturally on Deuteronomy 8:6 than on Deuteronomy 8:5.

For the LORD thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills;
7. bringeth thee] is about to bring thee: see above on Deuteronomy 6:10.

a good land] Deuteronomy 1:35 : Sam. and LXX add here and a large (Exodus 3:8).

brooks of water … fountains … depths] The principal and characteristic waters of Palestine (for the hydrography of the land see especially Robinson, Phys. Geog. of the Holy Land, ch. ii, Trelawney Saunders, Introd. to Survey of W. Pal.; also the present writer’s HGHL, 77 f., 657 f., and Jerusalem, Bk i. chs. 3–5). Brook: naḥal (Deuteronomy 2:13) is the Ar. wady, applied both to a valley with only a winter-torrent (e.g. Kidron) and one with a perennial stream (e.g. Arnon and Jabboḳ), the more exact name for which is naḥal ’çthan (HGHL, 657). Fountains: ‘ayanoth, springs of living water as distinct from cisterns (id. 77 f.). Depths: tehômôth, pl. of tehom, the mythical name not only of the open ocean round the earth, but of its supposed continuance under the earth (Deuteronomy 4:18, Deuteronomy 5:8), from which the fountains, salt and fresh alike, seemed to be derived (Amos 8:4); the depths here are therefore either the lakes of Palestine, perennial (Phiala or Birket er-Ram, Huleh, Gennesaret and the Dead Sea) and seasonal (e.g. Merj el-Ghuruk, HGHL, 327 n.), a possible meaning for tehômôth in Psalm 135:6; or the larger outbursts of water from underground, the births of full rivers (as at Tell el Ḳady) so characteristic of Palestine. This second meaning is the more probable here both because of the following springing forth, and the parallelism between depths and fountains (the larger word for fountains) in Proverbs 8:24. See below on Deuteronomy 33:13.

springing forth in valleys and hills] Lit. in the valley and on the mountain. The phenomenon is due to the limestone formation of the land, the larger outbursts occurring mainly at the foot of a hill or great mound, where the harder dolomitic limestone impenetrable by water comes to the surface, forcing the water out. Where the softer cretaceous strata lie deep the water sinks through them and fountains are either scanty or altogether wanting. Valley, biḳ‘ah, HGHL, 654 f.

A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey;
8. wheat and barley] Not the most characteristic products of Palestine, but put first as the staple food of man and the principal distinction of the cultivated soil from the desert, the land not sown (Jeremiah 2:2). On the distribution of wheat and barley in Palestine see Jerusalem, i. 298 f. These two grains are followed by four fruits.

vines and fig trees and pomegranates … oil olives] ‘Far more than any grain the staple products of the Judaean range have been its fruit-trees and especially the great triad of the Olive, Vine and Fig, the three which in the ancient parable the trees desire in turn to make their king’ (Jerusalem, 1:299 ff. which see for the distribution of these trees and their power as factors in civilisation and human wealth). Here the Olive is taken apart from its usual companions Vine and Fig either because of its importance or for the rhythm of the prose. Oil olives, lit. the olive of oil, the cultivated and grafted, as distinguished from the wild, olive. Cp. 2 Kings 18:32 with the other word for oil, yiṣhar, used above Deuteronomy 7:13 (q.v.); here it is shemen.

honey] See on Deuteronomy 6:3.

A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass.
9. without scarceness] The noun is found only here, and its adj. thrice only in the late Ecclesiastes 4:13; Ecclesiastes 9:15 f.; cp. Isaiah 40:20. Scarcity of bread is a great curse of the desert nomads: some tribes taste it but once a month, others not so often, and it is regarded as a luxury (Robinson, Bib. Res. ii. 497, cp. i. 197 f., Musil, Arabia Petr. iii. ‘Ethnolog. Reisebericht,’ 148). Their hunger for it is a frequent cause of their raids on the fellahin (for an instance see von Oppenheim, Vom Mittelmeer zum Pers. Golf, i. 269).

whose stones are iron] Whether iron here means basalt as in Deuteronomy 3:11 (q.v.) is doubtful, for basalt is not confined to fertile lands, but is also found in the desert. More probably it is iron proper: not introduced to Palestine till the arrival of Israel or perhaps later. Like copper it came from the North (Jeremiah 15:12), where the Phoenicians and Arameans seem to have moulded and worked it in the Lebanons (Ramman-Nirari III of Assyria records it as tribute from Aram-Damascus; and Idrisi, see ZDPV, viii. 134, mentions a mine above Beyrout). Josephus speaks of the Iron Mountain running as far as Moabitis (IV. B.J. Deuteronomy 8:2) and the Letter of Aristeas says that both iron and copper were brought before the Persian period from the Mts of Arabia. ‘Some have denied that the promise to Israel of iron in the rocks of their own land is justified by the geological facts. But ancient sources of the ore have been discovered at Ikzim on Mt Carmel, and near Burme, N. of the Jabbok’ (Jerus. i. 332). Some of the hot springs of Palestine are impregnated with iron (Driver quoting Burckhardt, 33 f.). The excess of the references to iron and to furnaces in Jer. and Deut. over those in previous writers points to an increase of the metal in Israel before 650 b.c.

brass] ‘In the O.T. this never refers to the alloy of zinc to which the term is now confined’ (J. H. Gladstone, PEFQ, 1898, 253 n.) but means either bronze, copper with alloy of tin, or pure copper. In W. Asia no source of tin has been certainly identified. But in a paper on ‘Copper and its Alloys in Antiquity’ (reported in Athenaeum, Feb. 3, 1906) the President of the Anthropological Institute gives his opinion that bronze was made directly from a copper ore containing tin long before the two metals were artificially mixed. The sources of copper for Palestine were Cyprus, the Lebanons (‘the land of Nuḥashshi’ or bronze), Edom, and N. Arabia (Tell-el-Amarna Letters (Winckler’s ed.), 25, 27, 31 ff.; see the present writer’s article ‘Trade, etc.’ in Enc. Bibl. § 7; and for the copper-mines and smelting furnaces of N. Edom at Fênân, the Phainôn of antiquity, see Musil, Edom, i. 156 f., 287, 298, 323, ii. 7 f.).

When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the LORD thy God for the good land which he hath given thee.
10. And thou shalt eat … and … bless, etc.] ‘The verse is the proof-text for the Jewish custom of prayer at table; possibly, however, the custom is older than our passage; cp. 1 Samuel 9:13’ (Bertholet). D’s renewed emphasis that Jehovah is the giver of the land and its fruits: see on Deuteronomy 7:13.

Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day:
11. Beware lest thou forget, etc.] Deuteronomy 6:12, Deuteronomy 8:14.

in not keeping his commandments, etc.] That this formula is a later intrusion (so Steuernagel) is possible: it changes the direction of the exhortation (10–17) which is not against disobedience, but against the nation imagining themselves to be the authors of their wealth, which was entirely the gift of Jehovah: in fact Deuteronomy 8:12 follows well on Deuteronomy 8:10.

12, 13 contain in their proper order such items as characterise the condition of the settled agriculturist in distinction from that of the nomad: sufficiency of food (see on Deuteronomy 1:28, Deuteronomy 8:9); the building of houses (see Jerus. i. 285 f.); the multiplication of herds and flocks (the cattle and sheep of the fellaḥin and even their camels are stouter and more powerful than those of the pure nomads: Robinson, Bib. Res. i. 311, 314, ii. 364, and the oxen and sheep are certainly more numerous: cp. Musil, Edom, i. 272: and the present writer, Expositor, Sept. 1908, 258 ff.); and as a consequence the increase of silver and gold (what of these the Beduin possess is nearly always in the form of ornaments; of money, except when they act as carriers or guides on trade routes there is very little, and coins are seldom seen with them); and all that thou hast is multiplied, the nomads never have reserves of any commodity, and are always near, if not actually on the verge of, extreme poverty.

Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein;
And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied;
Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the LORD thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage;
14. thine heart be lifted up] Deuteronomy 17:20; Hosea 13:6.

house of bondage] Deuteronomy 6:12.

Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint;
15. great and terrible wilderness] Deuteronomy 1:19 : cp. Deuteronomy 7:21.

fiery serpents and scorpions] The former, in the collective singular naḥash sarapḥ, are described in the plural in Numbers 21:6 E: cp. Isaiah 30:6 : the flying saraph. If saraph really means burning and is not a foreign word (for dragon or the like), it refers to the inflammation produced by the serpent’s bite. Scorpions is added characteristically by D.

out of the rock of flint] Exodus 17:6 (E): Numbers 20:8; Numbers 20:11 (JE): in both cases only the rock. D’s characteristic rhetoric adds of flint. The word does not occur before D, and elsewhere only in Deuteronomy 32:13; Psalm 114:8; Job 28:9; Isaiah 50:7.

Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end;
16. See on Deuteronomy 8:2-3 and Deuteronomy 4:34.

to do thee good] Deuteronomy 28:63, Pl., Deuteronomy 30:5, Sg.

thy latter end] Misleading translation. Lit. thine afterness, thy later years. There is nothing eschatological in the phrase. Steuernagel marks Deuteronomy 8:14 b, Deuteronomy 8:15 and Deuteronomy 8:16 as an intrusion on the grounds that they but repeat Deuteronomy 8:2 b, Deuteronomy 8:3, and spoil the connection between Deuteronomy 8:14 a and Deuteronomy 8:17. But the deuteronomic style is given to repetition, and here the writer not only repeats but carries his argument to a climax in the phrase to do thee good in thy later days.

And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth.
17. thou say in thine heart] That is not only as if convinced; but, whether or not thou sayest this expressly with thy lips, thou feelest and practically behavest as if thine own power and might had gotten thee this wealth.

But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.
18. Renewed emphasis on the writer’s chief principle that Jehovah is the author of the people’s blessings and that because of His faithfulness Deuteronomy 7:9; Deuteronomy 7:12 ff., etc., etc.

as at this day] The writer again betrays his date; it is when Israel is securely established in the enjoyment of the wealth promised them: cp. Deuteronomy 2:30.

And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish.
19. I testify against you] Here begins the Pl.: the phrase is found only with Pl. passages, here, Deuteronomy 4:26, Deuteronomy 30:19, Deuteronomy 32:46, cp. Deuteronomy 31:26; Deuteronomy 31:28; elsewhere only in Jeremiah 11:7; Jeremiah 42:19.

ye shall surely perish] Only here, Deuteronomy 4:26, Deuteronomy 30:18 all Pl.

19, 20. The change from the Sg. to the Pl. address (substantially so in Sam. and LXX) suggests that an expanding hand has been at work in these verses; and the suggestion is confirmed by the fact that the leading phrases in them are found elsewhere only with the Pl. Further, the destruction of the nation seems regarded as imminent.

As the nations which the LORD destroyeth before your face, so shall ye perish; because ye would not be obedient unto the voice of the LORD your God.
20. maketh to perish] is about to, etc. Here the writer is true to the standpoint of the speaker.

because ye would not hearken, etc.] The construction is found elsewhere only in another Pl. passage, Deuteronomy 7:12.

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