Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee,CHAPTER 30:1–20
1AND it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set [given] before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind [thou turnest it back (takest) to thy heart] among all the nations [heathen] whither the Lord thy God hath driven thee, 2And shalt return unto the Lord thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart [with thine whole heart] and with all thy 3soul; That then [And (So)] the Lord thy God will turn [turns back to] thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return [so turns he] and gather [gathers] thee from all the nations whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee. 4If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost [If thy dispersion shall be at the ends] parts of heaven, [even] from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: 5And the Lord thy God will [cause thee to return] bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it: and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. 6And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live [because of thy life]. 7And the Lord thy God will put [give] all these curses upon thine enemies, 8and on them that hate thee, which persecuted thee. And [But] thou shalt return and obey the voice of the Lord, and do all his commandments which I command thee this day. 9And the Lord thy God will make thee plenteous [cause thee to abound] in every work of thine hand, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy land, for good: for the Lord will again [will 10return to] rejoice over thee for good, as he rejoiced over thy fathers: If [For] thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written [the written] in this book of the law, and if thou turu [for thou wilt turn] unto the Lord thy God with all thine heart and with all thy soul. 11For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden 12[too great, hard]1 from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven [to say] that thou shouldest [needest] say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto 13us, that we may hear it [and cause us to hear it] and [we will] do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and 14bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But [For] the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it. 15See, I have set 16[given] before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; In that [Which] I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments, and his statutes, and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the Lord thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it. 17But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear [obey], but shalt be drawn away [allowest thyself to be drawn away], and worship other gods, and serve them; 18I denounce unto you [have I you informed] this day, that ye shall surely2 perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou 19passest over Jordan to go to possess it. I call [have taken to witness] heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing [the blessing and the curse]: therefore choose life [so hast thou to choose life], that both thou and thy seed may live: 20That thou mayest [To] love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest [to] obey his voice, and that thou mayest [to] cleave unto him (for he [that] is thy life, and the length of thy days) that thou mayest dwell in the land [upon the ground] which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1. Deut 30:1–10. The conclusion of the last discourse of Deuteronomy. Hence Deut 30:1, the allusion to the blessing with the curse; for although the curse remains the last word, still Israel has not barely, in the fathers, commenced under the blessing, can ever exchange the curse for the blessing, but has lastly the conversion of the children in prospect. (Luke 1:16 sq). Comp. upon 4:29, 30. (Lev. 26:40 sq.). For the rest comp. 11:26. This conversion, which alone takes off the curse of the law, we know as that in Christ. Gal. 3:13, 10.—Thou shalt call to mind. SCHROEDER, turnest it, i.e., all that is said, and all which it had experienced.—The heart (from לָבָב, that which contracts itself) designates not only the innermost parts, but the chief organ of life, and hence the self-conscious will. (Luke 15:17), 4:39, (1 Ki. 8:46). Comp. 29:3, 28, 64. Thus the consideration of its history on the part of Israel goes before the conversion, the return to the Lord, in hearty and perfect obedience. Deut 30:2. (4:29). עַד, not אֶל, not barely the direction, but including the goal as one attained. “The return of the Lord to the captivity, while He had hitherto concealed His face from the wretchedness of His people” (HENGSTENBERG) follows Deut 30:3 upon the return of Israel. [The Sept. has the singular rendering, the Lord shall heal thy sins.—A. G.]. שׁוּב has as in verbs of motion, the goal of the return in the accusative, as in Ex. 4:19, 20; Num. 10:36. In all the other places in which it occurs, as a proverbial expression, it is derived from this original passage. In any case this view suits the connection, and especially the parallelism with the return to the Lord, better than the other explanation. MEIER, KEIL: To put an end to the captivity, to turn the imprisonment. GES., HUPF., as already J. H. MICHAELIS, KNOBEL, in a transitive sense likewise, but questionable (since it gives the Kal the force of the Hiphil); to turn back the captivity, or the captives. שׁבוּת (שׁבית as it is alternately pointed by Masoretic punctuators) from שָׁבָה to sweep away, to lead captive, is an abstract form designating the condition. It is impossible, in this connection, to take the abstract for the concrete, since the leading back of the captives, the gathering of Israel from the heathen, appears as the consequence of את־שבותך ושב—. Comp. Jer. 29:14; 30:3, 18. As there the consideration of what had been experienced, i.e., the bringing it back to heart, preceded the return of Israel to the Lord, so now, the leading back of Israel, the gathering of His people out from all the nations, follows upon the return of the Lord to His people. The expression, have compassion upon thee, which as is conceded, appears in the earlier prophets, and has no necessary connection therefore with the Babylonian exile, but as there used refers rather to the time of the Messiah, is moreover satisfactorily explained. (JOHLSON: “Or, so will—have compassion again upon thy captivity?”) OTHERS: He will return with thy captives and, sq., (?). The repeated וְשָׁב resumes the thought of the first, and indeed as a return of Jehovah to His people, thus confirming the interpretation given above. The gathering is the resumption of the compassion, but now in its actual experience. KNOBEL(as 23:14) and OTHERS:—And gather thee again. This gathering even from the remotest distance, Deut 30:4, is their restoration as a people, to which the restoration (Deut 30:5) to Canaan, the reference to the land of promise must follow; for Moses, from Genesis onwards, regards Israel in these two relations. To this stand-point of Moses, to which that taken by the prophets, and especially the apostles, is related as πνεῦμα to γράμμα—Moses knows only the entire conversion of Israel as a nation—corresponds now the blessing of the here announced enlargement. Its fulfillment through the Israel κατὰ πνεῦμα from all the ends of the world, as was perhaps intimated by the πνεν̄μα χριστοῡ in the prophets, first became clear after the outpouring of the Spirit, and is stated with peculiar clearness by Paul. [See also John 11:51, 52, which seems to be in part a citation from the Sept. here.—A. G.]. But Moses comes also to this work of God upon Israel in Deut 30:6, comp. 10:16; (29:3; Rom. 2:29; Col. 2:11 sq.; Jer. 32:39; 31:33; Ezek. 11:19 sq.; 36:26), except that it is presented in the form of the Old Testament covenant sign. On the other hand, Acts 2:38 sq.! Comp. further Rom. 5:5.—That thou mayest live; SCHROEDER: because of thy life; 4:1. Life in every way, pre-eminently the true life (John 10:10).—[The promises in these verses have received their partial fulfilment again and again in the Jewish history. But whether the general conversion of the Jews is to be accompanied or followed by their return to the earthly Canaan, may be well regarded as uncertain. This passage, with others, seems to point to a national and local return. The objection to this urged by KEIL, WORDSWORTH, that such a local return would be inconsistent with the promise to multiply them above their fathers, since the land could not well sustain a larger number than in the time of Solomon, is of little force. The land might easily be made capable of sustaining larger numbers if the Lord so pleased. But while there is no difficulty in the case if the restoration is promised, there is reason even in this passage for the opinion that these promises—as is certainly true in regard to the original promise made to Abraham, Gen. 17:6—are to be fulfilled to Israel, but not to the “Israel according to the flesh,” but to the “Israel according to the Spirit.” It is scarcely possible in any case to limit the promise in Deut 30:6. It is fulfilled as the Apostle teaches, Heb. 8:16—quoting the words of Moses as repeated by Jeremiah—in the Gospel of Christ. The presumption is strongly against any such local restoration; but there is room for the diversity of views which prevail here, and for that comparison of the promises and predictions of the word of God, with His providences in relation to this wonderful people, which will ultimately give the clear solution.—A. G.]. Deut 30:7. The reverse side of these acts of grace, in the manner of Gen. 12:3. Viewed not merely as rods in the hand of God, but in their persecution of His people, as hating them, and thus haters of God, the judgment which at all times begins at the house of God, passes upon them. Deut 30:8. And thou, sq.; or: And thou wilt again hear, sq. SCHULTZ: A continuation of Deut 30:6, the human result of that work of God. But after Deut 30:7 there is no such continuation, since the thought in the verse is there closed, in the opposition which is stated. It rather resumes again, Deut 30:2, partly to supplement the hearing by the doing, and partly to illustrate in Deut 30:9 over against what was said in Deut 30:7 still to be performed, the good promised in Deut 30:5. Comp. 28:11; 4:63. SCHROEDER: For return, sq., or as in our version, The Lord will again rejoice, sq. The same parallel as Deut 30:2, 3. כי Deut 30:10 expresses, in the connection, the condition, which is so much the more emphatic as it is repeated. The condition is, obedience and faithfulness to the law in all cases, and in case of disobedience or apostacy, sincere, hearty conversion. If the condition is not fulfilled on the part of the people (Matt. 23:37; Luke 13:34), when the national consciousness of Israel was just precisely the opposite (John 19:15) the fulfillment of the promise for the people as such fails also. For the people as such, not for the seed in Israel (Isa. 6:13), which it now was to the world; not for the ἐκλογή.
2. Deut 30:11–14. The condition is the more earnestly insisted upon, as Moses (and thus he comes to the close of Deuteronomy) himself can say, that after his preaching of the law, Israel has no true excuse; he himself must condemn it (John 5:45). Deut 30:11, (6:1; 17:8). The law as commanded Israel for the rule of righteousness, cannot be designated as extraordinary, difficult, for Israel, either with respect to its knowledge, or its fulfillment (1 John 5:3). But the main thought, that it is not far removed (neither unattainable generally, nor attainable only with great difficulty), is illustrated more fully in what follows. The heavens are not mentioned, Deut 30:12, “on account of their inaccessible height,” SCHULTZ, KEIL, which is too external, nor even because the law “was so high, unintelligible, incomprehensible, and demands superhuman powers” (KNOBEL), which regards too much its inward, real nature, and has been said already; but historically, since the law has been announced through the revelation from God out of heaven (chap. 4), there is nothing more concealed there. Deut 30:13. The sea forms first of all the contrast to the heavens, the deepest depths (5:8) to the highest heights; but here it is not to go down to its depths, but to cross to the further side of the sea. The contrast is between the divine concealment and that which is humanly remote, distant, i.e. belonging to the other side, the other world, as the realm of the dead (Rom. 10:7). The law has both its divine and human side; as to the latter, it was introduced, explained, made so clear to Israel by Moses, that as it does not need now first to be revealed, so neither does it require any further effort on the part of Israel to appropriate it. The law is Israel’s nationality. Through it, it became a nation at Sinai, and it stands in it, and continues its national life through it, as is clearly shown in Deuteronomy. Thus Deut 30:14: not far, but very nigh unto thee, since Israel had not only heard it, thus could and should talk of it (6:7), but had expressly confessed it with its mouth (chap. 27; Rom. 10:9). Moses indeed could suppose nothing else than that his preaching the deuteronomic discourse had brought the law home to the heart of the people (comp. 4:9; 11:18 sq.).—[As to the exposition of these words in Rom. 10, comp. DOCT. and ETH. 7.—A. G.]
3. Deut 30:15–20. Deut 30:15 as 11:26 sq., comp. 4:3 sq. Not only that thus setting before them includes all prosperity and salvation with life, and all adversity and ruin and the like with death; but (as epexegetical) Israel’s morality is its life, and its immorality its death. This thought distinguishes this verse from Deut 30:19, and agrees well with Deut 30:16, where the good was announced which leads to life (comp. 6:5; 8:6, 1), as Deut 30:17 announces the evil (29:17; 4:19) which, Deut 30:18, brings death (4:26; 8:19). In Deut 30:19 now life and death appear as blessing and curse. And finally, Deut 30:20 (comp. Deut 30:15, 16), what or who (Jehovah) conditions the life and permanence of the nation. Comp. further 4:4; 10:20; 11:22. The conclusion, the head and point of the whole—[“He is thy life, that is Christ, see John 14:6; 1 John 5:12, 20; Deut. 28:66; Rom. 10:4–9, which is the best exposition of this text.” WORDSWORTH.—A. G.]
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. It is thoroughly Mosaic that the land of Canaan, and Israel as a nation, are retained in sight in this outlook. But whether the restitutio in integrum of the Jews “is incontestably regarded by Paul, Rom. 11, as national” LANGE, Pos. Dog., p. 1266, appears the more questionable, since in that case there is no μυστήριον referred to in Rom. 11:25, as this lies clear and on the surface in the passage here.
2. The mystery of the apostle is much more the mystery of Israel, that as Christ is the true Israel, so the true Israel is the humanity in Christ (Gal. 3:29; 1 Pet. 2:9, 10).
3. Moses undeniably so announces the dispersion of Israel, that the Roman dispersion may be included, and on the other side it is true that the return from the Babylonian captivity cannot be regarded as the fulfilling of the here foreseen gathering. There remain thus only two views: either we may understand it according to the letter, and then “the conversion of the nation in the totality of its tribes or remnants of tribes” (LANGE upon Rom. 11:25 sq.), must be still future; comp. the express statement by HOFMANN (Schriftheweis, 2d Ed. II. 2, p. 88 sq.), or we may understand it according to the spirit, and then both the nationality of Israel, is that of the people of God, i.e., of the New Testament Church, composed of Jew and Gentile, and the land of Canaan, the earth under the new covenant. It will not do to understand that literally, and this spiritually, as is done by V. GERLACH upon this passage.
4. The direction to the correct understanding which Lev. 26:42 sq. offers reaches on to the covenant, comp. especially Deut 30:45 with Jer. 31:32, with which also (more especially Jer. 31:33) Deut 30:1, 2, 6, in this chapter agree, namely, to the New Testament economy after the Old Testament economy has passed away through its fulfillment in Christ and the Christian Israel. With the ἰσραὴλ κατὰ σάρκα both as to the nationality and as to Canaan, the εἰς τέλος has come, even to the uttermost, as Paul testifies, 1 Thess. 2:16, before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.
5. So also we must bear in mind for a correct understanding that those among whom Israel was scattered, appear as his enemies, his haters, Deut 30:7, which, in the sense at first at least conceivable, does not apply to the Christianized nations, while the destructive curse has been actually fulfilled upon the Assyrians, Babylonians and Romans, which permits us to infer a fulfilling (i.e. according to the Spirit), even the conversion of Israel, as it has actually occurred in the manifestation of Christ and through the testimony of the Spirit in His apostles.
6. “A testimony that grace and mercy run side and side with the wrath of God, and overcome the wrath, so far as we return and truly repent.” PISCATOR.
7. When Paul, Rom. 10, contrasts the righteousness which is by faith with the righteousness which is by the law, that is at the same time a contrast between Moses and Moses, or between the earlier and deuteronomic lawgiving. But he may so much the more regard Moses here, Deut 30:12, as speaking of the righteousness by faith, since Moses in this whole chapter uses essentially and truly evangelical language. He speaks from faith for faith; the former truly when he generally entertains such a prospect for Israel; the latter especially where he takes into view the return of Israel to itself, its return to Jehovah, its new birth and conversion, as this can come to pass upon no other than the Messianic back-grounds.—[The passage in Rom. 10 goes further than this. The apostle not only applies the words of Moses here, but expounds them. He gives their true and full interpretation. However near the law may have been brought to man, the word is very nigh unto thee and in thy heart only, in the preaching of the gospel and the righteousness which is by faith. The heart is so estranged from God, “that the objective nearness and ease of the commandment are never realized by any one until the heart is renewed.” It is by the word of faith, the gospel of the grace of God, that they become practicable to us. The question is not, as WORDSWORTH well says, “whether Moses understood all that St. Paul deduces from his words. But it cannot be doubted that the Holy Ghost, who spake through St. Paul, has given a correct view of what was in his own divine mind when he spake through Moses these words.” “The word of which Moses speaks as being in the heart is not only the word of faith preached by the apostles of Christ, but the Incarnate Word, the Word who came down from heaven, and has risen like a second Jonah from the depths of the sea, even from the lowest gulf of death. See Rom. 10:6–9, where, adopting the words of Moses here, the apostle says: ‘If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus Christ, and believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.’ ”—A. G.]
8. Paul the true “Deuteronomiker,” i.e. according to his profound and inward understanding of the words of Moses.
9. “The inability for good is not physical, but moral, the inability of the will.” V. GERLACH.
10. The spiritual nature of the law as well as its gracious character, appears as we look backwards to the law imprinted in the divine image, or inwards to the law written upon the conscience, and forwards to its full realization in Christ. Coming from God, it must lead to God.
11. The demand to choose life, although it turns upon or relates to the possibility of knowledge, is still no mere process of reasoning, still less an empty phrase as to strength and ability; but as through the revelation of God and the preaching of Moses, Israel must necessarily judge that life is the only thing to be chosen, so to the upright the choice must be successful. The demand is at the same time a promise.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Deut 30:1 sq. STARKE: “The best method of turning away punishment, or ameliorating it, is the true conversion of heart. A beautiful description of true repentance.” The three great steps: experience, consideration, faith.—CRAMER: “Saving repentance involves not only a recognition of sin and a hearty sorrow for it, but an apprehension of the mercy of God with true faith, and an earnest effort to reform the life and to obey the voice of God.”
Deut 30:3. If thou turnest to me, so I will to thee; as thou to me, so I to thee. BERL. BIB.: God is pure love and compassion. Deut 30:4 sq. The hand of God’s love is stretched out in all places to the returning penitent. Love is in a true sense His omnipresence. CRAMER: “No one has fallen too far, or is too widely removed.”
Deut 30:6. SCHULTZ: “The first conversion is only the rescuing of one in danger of death. But God gives more.” CALVIN: “What God offers in the sacraments depends upon the secret efficacy of His Holy Spirit.” Deut 30:9. STARKE: The repentance of the poor sinner gives true joy in heaven, Luke 15.
Deut 30:14. BERL. BIB.: “The essential word of life is the Lord.” CRAMER: “When we through faith and conversion have attained the evangelical righteousness in Christ, then the commandments of God are not grievous, then we keep His commandments, and do what is pleasing to Him, 1 John 5:3; 3:22.”
Deut 30:20. The question as to our relation to God concerns the very existence of men.
1[Deut 30:11. literally, too wonderful for thee.—A. G.].
2[Deut 30:18. The Hebrew idiom expresses both certainty and totality.—A. G.].