Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Therefore thou shalt love the LORD thy God, and keep his charge, and his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments, alway.XI.
(1) Therefore.—There is no break here in the original. “The Lord thy God hath made thee as the stars of heaven for multitude, and thou shalt love the Lord thy God.”
And keep his charge.—Literally, keep his keeping, i.e., all that is to be kept in obedience to Him.
Alway.—Literally, all the days. (Comp. “I am with you all the days” in Matthew 28:20) Israel must not omit one day in keeping the charge of Jehovah, for “He that keepeth Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”
And know ye this day: for I speak not with your children which have not known, and which have not seen the chastisement of the LORD your God, his greatness, his mighty hand, and his stretched out arm,(2) And know ye.—Or, and ye know.
Not with your children which have not known.—It must be remembered that all those who were less than twenty years of age at the date of the Exodus would still be living, and the events of their youth must have left a strong impression on their memories. Every man of forty-five years of age would feel the force of this address.
The chastisement.—Whether of the Egyptians in wrath, or of Israel in love.
His mighty hand. . . .—Or, His hand in its strength, and His arm in its length. The position of the adjectives is emphatic.
And what he did unto Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, the son of Reuben: how the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their households, and their tents, and all the substance that was in their possession, in the midst of all Israel:(6) What he did unto Dathan and Abiram. . . .—See Numbers 16. It is impossible to separate the rebellion of Korah from that of Dathan and Abiram, and seeing that the whole point of Korah’s rebellion was the priesthood, it is difficult to see how the writer of Deuteronomy could be ignorant of any priesthood save that of the whole tribe of Levi. The object of Koran’s rebellion was to abolish the distinction between a Kohathite and a priest,
But your eyes have seen all the great acts of the LORD which he did.(7) But your eyes have seen.—Literally, For your eyes are the witnesses (literally; the seers) of all the great working of Jehovah which He hath wrought.
Therefore shall ye keep all the commandments which I command you this day, that ye may be strong, and go in and possess the land, whither ye go to possess it;(8) The commandments.—Literally, the commandment. It is one course of action rather than many details which is enjoined.
Go in and possess—i.e., complete the conquest in detail, so as to enjoy the whole profit of the land.
And that ye may prolong your days in the land, which the LORD sware unto your fathers to give unto them and to their seed, a land that floweth with milk and honey.(9) To give unto them.—See Note on Deuteronomy 11:21, further on.
For the land, whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from whence ye came out, where thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs:(10) Not as the land of Egypt.—“But much better. And Egypt was praised above all lands, as it is said (Genesis 13:10), ‘As the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt.’ And the land of Goshen, where Israel dwelt, is called ‘the best of the land of Egypt’ (Genesis 47:6). And even this was not so good as the land of Israel” (Rashi).
Wateredst it with thy foot.—An allusion either to the necessity of carrying the water or to the custom of turning the water into little channels with the foot, as it flowed through the garden.
But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven:(11) Drinketh water of the rain of heaven.—Or, as it is prettily expressed by the Jewish commentator, “While thou sleepest on thy bed, the Holy One (blessed be He! ) waters it high and low.” (Comp. the parable in St. Mark 4:26-27.)
A land which the LORD thy God careth for: the eyes of the LORD thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.(12) A land which the Lord thy God careth for.—Literally, seeketh, as in the margin of our Bibles. Comp. Ezekiel 20:6 : “A land that I had espied for them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands.” “To search out a resting-place for them” (Numbers 10:33). It is difficult not to think of the better land in this description, and of our Saviour’s promise, “I go to prepare a place for you.” There “the poor and needy” shall not “seek water,” for “He shall lead them to living fountains of water.” They shall “hunger no more, neither thirst any more.”
That something unusual is indicated here seems to have occurred to the old Jewish writer, who says—“And does He not seek out all lands? as it is said, ‘To cause it to rain on the earth where no man is’” (Job 38:26).
And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul,(13) It shall come to pass.—At this point begins the formal sanction of this charge by a declaration of rewards and punishments. Such sanctions are a characteristic feature of the Law. (Comp. Exodus 23:20—end, at the close of the first code; Leviticus 26, and Deuteronomy 28; and, in the New Testament, the well-known close of the Sermon on the Mount in St. Matthew 7, and of the parallel sermon in St. Luke 6 )
To love the Lord your God.—“Not that thou shouldst say, ‘Behold, I am a disciple in order that I may become rich: in order that I may be called great: in order that I may receive reward; “but whatsoever ye do, do from love” (Rashi).
To serve him with all your heart.—The Jewish commentator says that this refers to prayer, and compares Daniel (Deuteronomy 6:16): “Thy God whom thou servest continually, He will deliver thee.” There was no religious service for Israel in Babylon except prayer. The thought seems worth preserving, though the words are obviously capable of a wider application.
That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil.(14) The first rain (after sowing), the latter rain (just before harvest). In the ninth month and the first month respectively. (See Ezra 10:9; Ezra 10:13, and Joel 2:23.)
That thou mayest gather in.—Literally, and thou shalt gather in. Rashi reminds us that this may mean “thou, and not thine enemies.” “They that have gathered it shall eat it” (Isaiah 62:8-9).
And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full.(15) That thou mayest eat and to full.—The same writer observes that “this is a further blessing, which belongs to the food itself in man’s inward parts.” It is possible to eat and not be satisfied.
Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them;(16) Take heed to yourselves—i.e., when you are satisfied. (Comp. Deuteronomy 8:10-11.)
Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes.(18) Therefore shall ye lay up these my words.—The same injunctions are found above (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). The Jewish commentator remarks, somewhat sadly, here, that they would remember them in their captivity, if not before. The “therefore” at the commencement of the verse is a simple “and,” so that the passage can be read in connection with what precedes: “Ye will perish quickly from off the good land, and ye will lay these my words to your hearts.” But the words of Deuteronomy 11:21 seem to show that this is not the primary meaning—only an application suggested, like many other applications of Scripture, by the actual event.
That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth.(21) In the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers to give them.—“It is not written here ‘to give you,’ but ‘to give them.’ Hence we find the resurrection of the dead taught in the Law.” If this were the remark of a Christian commentator, it would be thought fanciful; but it is only the comment of a Jew. And the Jewish belief in the literal fulfilment of these promises to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, simply on the ground of God’s word, is an unquestionable fact, whatever may be thought of it. Comp. Acts 7:5, which is singularly pointed. God “gave him (Abraham) none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on; yet He promised that He would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him,” besides.
For if ye shall diligently keep all these commandments which I command you, to do them, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, and to cleave unto him;(22) To walk in all his ways.—“He is compassionate, and thou shalt be compassionate. He showeth mercies, and thou shalt show mercies.” Again Rashi’s comment is worthy of the New Testament. What follows shows the need of a mediator.
To cleave unto him.—Is it possible to speak so? Is He not “a consuming fire “? (and how can we cleave unto Him?) “But cleave unto wise men and their disciples (the students of the Law), and I tell thee it will be as though thou didst cleave unto Him.” In New Testament language this would read, “Be ye followers of me, as I am of Christ;” and “He that receiveth Me, receiveth Him that sent Me.”
Every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread shall be yours: from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the river Euphrates, even unto the uttermost sea shall your coast be.(24) Every place.—Repeated in Joshua 1:3-4, where see Note.
There shall no man be able to stand before you: for the LORD your God shall lay the fear of you and the dread of you upon all the land that ye shall tread upon, as he hath said unto you.(25) The fear of you and the dread of you.—Rashi says: “The fear of you on those that are near, and the dread upon those that are far off.” It is a very far-reaching prophecy, for it may be read, “upon all the earth that ye shall tread upon.” (See Esther 8:2-3, where it was fulfilled throughout the whole Persian Empire.}
Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse;(26) Behold.—Another of the Jewish divisions of Deuteronomy begins here.
A blessing and a curse.—Literally, blessing and cursing—the blessing if ye obey, and the curse if ye do not.
And it shall come to pass, when the LORD thy God hath brought thee in unto the land whither thou goest to possess it, that thou shalt put the blessing upon mount Gerizim, and the curse upon mount Ebal.(29) The blessing . . . and the curse . . .—The Targum of Onkelos says, “Those that bless,” and “those that curse.” (See Deuteronomy 27:12-13, and Note.)
 The other Targums say, “When they bless they shall turn their faces towards Mount Gerizim; and when they curse they shall turn their faces towards Mount Ebal.” This confirms the antiquity of the view taken in the Talmud.
The plains of Moren.—Rather, the oaks or terebinths of Moreh. (See Genesis 12:6.)
For ye shall pass over Jordan to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God giveth you, and ye shall possess it, and dwell therein.(31) For ye shall pass over Jordan.—In the place of Sichern, by the oak of Moreh, “the Lord appeared to Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land.” It is the first recorded promise given to the patriarch that his seed should inherit that particular country. He had gone out from his own country, “not knowing whither he went” (Genesis 12:6-7).
Here ends the first portion of the exposition of the Decalogue—that which sets forth the relation of the people brought out of Egypt to Jehovah. The following chapters set forth the laws of the land of Israel—first, as the seat of worship of Jehovah; secondly, as the seat of His kingdom; thirdly, as the sphere of operation of certain rules of behaviour, intended to form a distinctive character for His people. For a complete analysis of this portion, see the Introduction to this Book. Some modern writers attribute these chapters to a later hand than that of Moses. It is therefore necessary to consider them carefully, not simply as chapters, but in their primary structure and according to their natural divisions.