Deuteronomy 17 – Laws Pertaining to the Rulers of Israel
A. Laws regarding justice and courts.
1. (1-5) Religious offenses.
You shall not sacrifice to the LORD your God a bull or sheep which has any blemish or defect, for that is an abomination to the LORD your God. If there is found among you, within any of your gates which the LORD your God gives you, a man or a woman who has been wicked in the sight of the LORD your God, in transgressing His covenant, who has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, either the sun or moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded, and it is told you, and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently. And if it is indeed true and certain that such an abomination has been committed in Israel, then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has committed that wicked thing, and shall stone to death that man or woman with stones.
a. You shall not: This section, much like Exodus 21-23, is meant to give instructions to the judges of Israel in how to administrate justice for the nation. It is case law, upon which legal precedents for future cases may be understood.
b. Which has any blemish or defect, for that is an abomination to the LORD your God: God commanded that no one can bring to Him a sacrifice which has any blemish or defect, for that is an abomination to the LORD. God did not recognize the giving of cast-off, worthless items, as a true sacrifice unto Him. We have a tendency to always want to give God second best – if not third or fourth best. But God will not receive such a sacrifice.
i. There are countless jokes illustrating this point. One common one describes a farmer whose cow gave birth to twins, and he swore he would give one of the calves to God. He didn’t decide which one to give to God, until one day one of the calves died. He said to his wife: “Guess what? God’s calf died today!”
ii. Israel did not always live up to this standard: And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?” Says the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 1:8)
iii. David powerfully illustrated the idea behind this commandment when he refused to accept the threshing floor of Araunah as a gift, which David was going to give to the LORD as the place to build the temple. David said, nor will I offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God with that which costs me nothing (2 Samuel 24:24). David understood that if it didn’t cost something, it wasn’t a sacrifice.
c. Who has gone and served other gods and worshiped them: Judges are also commanded to make sure that any who have gone after idolatry are to be investigated, and if found to be guilty, are to be executed.
2. (6-7) The standard of evidence in capital crimes.
Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness. The hands of the witnesses shall be the first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So you shall put away the evil from among you.
a. Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses: There was never to be capital punishment unless there was evidence from at least two independent, unimpeachable sources.
i. We may comfort ourselves that we would never judge someone guilty of murder so quickly, without proper evidence. Yet many will murder someone’s reputation in their own mind or in the minds of others with no witnesses, much less one.
ii. God is concerned about the murder of reputation, as well as physical murder, and commands that one should not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses (1 Timothy 5:19) – the same standard as for proving murder.
iii. Remember 1 Timothy 5:19 does not say “except from two or three gossips”; it says except from two or three witnesses. If a matter is false, it does not become true because many people hear it or many people repeat it.
b. The hands of the witnesses shall be the first against him to put him to death: Additionally, the witnesses had to be so certain of what they saw, that they were willing to initiate the actual execution. This made certain that no one would be executed for a crime they did not commit.
i. This puts the words of Jesus regarding the woman taken in adultery in John 8 in perspective: He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first (John 8:7). Jesus asked for the official witness to step forward and identify themselves on record as having witnessed this act of adultery, yet was hypocritical enough to bring the woman and not the man.
c. And afterward the hands of all the people: The execution was a community event, in the sense that it was supported by the community. The whole village would know the justice of what was being done.
3. (8-13) Provision made for higher courts.
If a matter arises which is too hard for you to judge, between degrees of guilt for bloodshed, between one judgment or another, or between one punishment or another, matters of controversy within your gates, then you shall arise and go up to the place which the LORD your God chooses. And you shall come to the priests, the Levites, and to the judge there in those days, and inquire of them; they shall pronounce upon you the sentence of judgment. You shall do according to the sentence which they pronounce upon you in that place which the LORD chooses. And you shall be careful to do according to all that they order you. According to the sentence of the law in which they instruct you, according to the judgment which they tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left from the sentence which they pronounce upon you. Now the man who acts presumptuously and will not heed the priest who stands to minister there before the LORD your God, or the judge, that man shall die. So you shall put away the evil from Israel. And all the people shall hear and fear, and no longer act presumptuously.
a. If a matter arises which is too hard for you to judge: God allowed for courts of appeal in Israel. These were higher courts where cases were taken beyond the local judges to thepriests, the Levites – who were understood to be wiser judges because of their knowledge of God’s Word
b. Now the man who acts presumptuously and will not heed the priest… that man shall die: The authority of the judges had to be respected, therefore contempt of court was a capital crime. God thought it essential that the courts and the judges be respected by the people of Israel.
B. Laws pertaining to kings.
1. (14-15) God’s indirect promise of a future king for Israel.
When you come to the land which the LORD your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, “I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me,” you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother.
a. I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me: God looked forward – some 400 years forward – into Israel’s future, to the time when they would demand a king. God warned them to set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses, and that person had to be an Israelite and not a foreigner.
b. I will set a king over me: It is interesting to consider whether or not God wanted an earthly king over Israel. 1 Samuel 8:6-9, the record of Israel’s demand for king, puts the request for a king in a negative light. One might ask if God really did want Israel to never have an earthly king, and if He wanted them to recognize Him alone as king.
i. It is a debatable issue; but consider that Israel’s history without a king (the time of the book of Judges) was not a period of national glory. Perhaps we can say that God wanted Israel to have a king, but of His choosing, and at His timing. Saul is a perfect example of a king out of God’s will, chosen by the nation and at their timing; David is a perfect example of a king chosen by God and in His timing.
2. (16-17) Commands for the king.
But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the LORD has said to you, “You shall not return that way again.” Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself.
a. He shall not multiply horses for himself: The future king of Israel must not put undue trust in military might.
b. Neither shall he multiply wives for himself: The future king of Israel must not put undue emphasis on physical indulgence and personal status.
c. Nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself: The future king of Israel must not put undue emphasis on personal wealth.
d. Lest His heart turn away: Each of these issues is a matter of balance. The king had to have some military power, but not too much; one wife and certain comforts, but not too much; some personal wealth, but not too much. Such balances are often the hardest to keep.
i. Solomon was a notorious breaker of these commands. He had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots (1 Kings 4:26), and Solomon had horses imported from Egypt (1 Kings 10:28). He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart (1 Kings 11:3). He surpassed all the kings of the earth in riches (1 Kings 10:23).
ii. Yet, all along, we might see Solomon knowing the commands of Deuteronomy 17, yet deceiving himself by asking the self-justifying questions, “How much is ‘multiply’? I can handle this. I haven’t gone too far.” It might seem self-evident that 700 wives and 300 concubines is multiplying wives to yourself, but one should never underestimate the ability of the human heart to deceive itself in such situations.
iii. Each of these three areas reflects the places where many modern Christian leaders fall: In regard to power, pleasure, or money. God’s commands for leaders have not changed; and neither has the need to be on guard against the self-deception in these things which felled Solomon.
3. (18-20) The king and the word of God.
Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel.
a. He shall write for himself: It is striking to think of the king of Israel, laboring over parchment with a pen, making a personal copy of the law of Israel. This shows how greatly God wanted the word of God to be on the hearts of His rulers; God wanted every king to also be a scribe.
i. “Incidentally, the phrase a copy of this law (18) appears incorrectly in the LXX as ‘this second law’, to deuteronomion touto. It was this misunderstanding that gave rise to the English name Deuteronomy.” (Thompson)
b. It shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life: The word of God was to be constant companion of the king of Israel, and something he read every day.
i. All need the word of God; but the greater our responsibilities, the greater our need to depend on the truth of God’s word.
c. That he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law: Staying in the word of God was intended to build a reverence for God and a holy life in the king.
i. It is striking to consider that reading a book – the Great Book, the Bible – can keep a person from sin. We may not understand all the spiritual work behind the word of God, but staying in the word will keep one from sin. It has been well written in many Bibles: “This book will keep you from sin. Sin will keep you from this book.”
ii. Luther said he would rather live in hell with the Bible than to live in Paradise without the Bible.
d. That his heart may not be lifted up: Staying in the word of God would keep the king properly humble and help him to not think of himself as above those he ruled over.
i. “The Scriptures, diligently read and studied, are a powerful and probable means to keep him humble, because they show him that, though a king, he is subject to a higher Monarch, to whom he must give an account… sufficient to abate the pride of the haughtiest person in the world, if he duly consider it.” (Poole)
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
Deuteronomy 34 – The Death of Moses
A. Moses on Mount Nebo.
1. (1-3) The vision of the Promised Land.
Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is across from Jericho. And the LORD showed him all the land of Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the South, and the plain of the Valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar.
a. Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo: As Israel camped on the plains of Moab, Moses climbed the heights of Mount Nebo – from which he could see the Promised Land, as far as the Western Sea.
b. And the LORD showed him all the land: This was God’s sweet grace to Moses. Though he could not set foot in the Promised Land, God allowed him to see it. Standing on the peak of Nebo on the collection of Mountains called Pisgah, Moses stood on what is the modern nation of Jordan, looking towards the Promised Land.
2. (4) God’s last words to Moses: This is the land…
Then the LORD said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to give Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have caused you to see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.”
a. This is the land of which I swore to give: These words, being in the present tense, were spoken to Moses at the summit of Mount Nebo as he looked westward and saw the Promised Land.
i. The list of places here follows a large counter-clockwise circle from the north to the south. In this sweeping panorama, Moses saw the scope of the entire Promised Land.
ii. “The invitation to Moses to view the land was not merely a kindly provision of God to allow His servant to view Israel’s inheritance. It may have had some legal significance. There is some evidence that this was part of a legal process. A man ‘viewed’ what he was to possess.” (Thompson)
b. I will give it to your descendants: God swore to give it to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and now the promise was going to be fulfilled. Moses was allowed to take the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob up to the threshold of the Promised Land, but no further.
c. I have caused you to see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there: What a bittersweet moment! Moses saw this, and his heart was thrilled at being able to see the Promised Land as never before. Yet, there was no doubt a sadness in His heart, knowing that it was his own sin – his own misrepresentation of God (Numbers 20:7-12) – which led to his not being able to set foot in the Promised Land himself. Here he stood so close, yet so far away.
i. “What drama! What pathos! What inward pain! What sense of accomplishment mixed with disappointment must have been in Moses’ mind as he looked over the land the Lord had promised to Israel!” (Kalland)
ii. Looking out over the vast panorama, on what must have been a crystal-clear day, Moses saw the end result of his life’s work – leading the children of Israel into the Promised Land – and heard God say, as clearly as he had ever heard God speak, “this is the land.”
3. (5-8) The death and burial of Moses, the servant of the LORD.
So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. And He buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth Peor; but no one knows his grave to this day. Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died. His eyes were not dim nor his natural vigor diminished. And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days. So the days of weeping and mourning for Moses ended.
a. So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab: Moses’ epitaph – what we might call the line on his tombstone, though he actually had none – was simple.
· It was not “Moses, Prince of Egypt.”
· It was not “Moses, Murderer of an Egyptian.”
· It was not “Moses, Shepherd in the Wilderness.”
· It was not “Moses, Spokesman for a Nation.”
· It was not “Moses, Miracle Worker.”
· It was not “Moses, Prophet.”
· It was not “Moses, the Man Who Saw a Piece of God’s Glory.”
· It was not “Moses, Who Never Entered the Promised Land.”
· At the end of it all, the title was simple: Moses the servant of the LORD.
i. This should be enough for us. We often say it, and it sounds humble to say it, but it is more difficult to really live it. To be satisfied with simply being the servant of the LORD is a precious thing indeed. It is the happiest of all stations in life, for when the Master is glorified, the servants are satisfied.
ii. If one is truly a servant of the LORD, it can be demonstrated by a simple test: by how they react when someone treats them as a servant. Many are pleased to be servants for people of our own choosing or in circumstances of our own choosing. But that isn’t really being the servant of the LORD.
b. Moses the servant of the LORD died: Moses died just as God promised. The promises of God are sure, including His more severe promises. It all happened according to the word of the LORD.
i. Literally, the phrase according to the word of the LORD means upon the mouth of the LORD. From this, ancient Jewish traditions say that Moses died as God took away his soul with a kiss. The medieval Jewish rabbi Maimonides wrote that of the 903 different ways to die, this was the best.
ii. According to ancient Jewish legends – which should be regarded only as legends – the death of Moses was tender and full of God’s compassion.
“In the meanwhile, Moses’ time was at an end. A voice from heaven resounded, saying: ‘Why, Moses, dost thou strive in vain? Thy last second is at hand.’ Moses instantly stood up for prayer, and said: ‘Lord of the world! Be mindful of the day on which Thou didst reveal Thyself to me in the bush of thorns, and be mindful also of the day when I ascended into heaven and during forty days partook of neither food nor drink. Thou, Gracious and Merciful, deliver me not into the hand of [Satan].’ God replied: ‘I have heard thy prayer. I Myself shall attend to thee and bury thee.’ Moses now sanctified himself as do the Seraphim that surround the Divine Majesty, whereupon God from the highest heavens revealed Himself to receive Moses’ soul. When Moses beheld the Holy One, blessed be His Name, he fell upon his face and said: ‘Lord of the world! In love didst Thou create the world, and in love Thou guidest it. Treat me also with love, and deliver me not into the hands of the Angel of Death.’ A heavenly voice sounded and said: ‘Moses, be not afraid. “Thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rearward.”’”
“With God descended from heaven three angels, Michael, Gabriel, and Zagzagel. Gabriel arranged Moses’ couch, Michael spread upon it a purple garment, and Zagzagel laid down a woolen pillow. God stationed Himself over Moses’ head, Michael to his right, Gabriel to his left, and Zagzagel at his feet, whereupon God addressed Moses: ‘Cross thy feet,’ and Moses did so. He then said, ‘Fold thy hands and lay them upon thy breast,’ and Moses did so. Then God said, ‘Close thine eyes,’ and Moses did so. Then God spake to Moses’ soul: ‘My daughter, one hundred and twenty years had I decreed that thou shouldst dwell in this righteous man’s body, but hesitate not now to leave it, for thy time has run….I Myself shall take thee to the highest heavens and let thee dwell under the Throne of My Glory’….When Moses heard these words, he permitted his soul to leave him, saying to her: ‘Return to thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.’ God thereupon took Moses’ soul by kissing him on the mouth.” (Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews)
iii. “As a mother takes her child and kisses it, and then lays it down to sleep in its own bed; so did the Lord kiss the soul of Moses away to be with him for ever, and then he hid is body we know not where.” (Spurgeon)
c. And He buried him in a valley: Notably, the LORD buried Moses. This was more complicated than it sounds because the devil contended with God over the body of Moses.
i. Jude 9 speaks of an occasion when Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses. Apparently, there was a contention over the body of Moses, and according to Jude Michael the archangel won this contest as he appealed to the Lord’s authority: “The Lord rebuke you!” Yet why Michael contended with Satan over the body of Moses is less clear.
ii. Some say that the devil wanted to use Moses’ body as an object of worship to lead Israel astray into idolatry. Others think that Satan wanted to desecrate the body of Moses and claimed a right to it because Moses had murdered an Egyptian.
iii. But consider that God had another purpose for Moses’ body, which Satan wanted to defeat: Moses appears in bodily form with Elijah (whose body was caught up to heaven [2 Kings 2]) at the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-3); and perhaps Moses and Elijah are the two witnesses of Revelation 11.
iv. Apparently, God had a purpose to fulfill with the body of Moses before the time of general resurrection, so God made special provision to bury the body of Moses Himself. And, perhaps, God preserved the body of Moses in some way. God wanted to protect the body of Moses, so no one knows his grave to this day. Seemingly, they searched for it (as would be expected) out of a desire to memorialize this great leader of the nation.
d. Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died: Moses’ life was neatly divided into thirds. He spent 40 years as the crown prince of Egypt, 40 years as a humble shepherd in the wilderness, and 40 years leading the children of Israel to their destiny in the Promised Land. The first two-thirds were in preparation for the last one third. Moses was willing to let God prepare him for 80 years.
e. His eyes were not dim nor his natural vigor abated: This confirmed what was observed at Deuteronomy 31:1 (I can no longer go out and come in). Moses was not hindered by physical infirmity, but by the command of God.
f. The children of Israel wept… the days of weeping and mourning for Moses ended. As great as Moses was, the days of mourning for him ended. It was time to move on. God’s program did not end with Moses, nor does it end with any man. The torch is passed, and God’s work goes on.
B. The legacy of Moses.
1. (9) Joshua’s leadership in Israel.
Now Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; so the children of Israel heeded him, and did as the LORD had commanded Moses.
a. For Moses had laid his hands on him: Moses’ prayer for Joshua was answered. Joshua was indeed full of the spirit of wisdom. Best of all, the children of Israel heeded him. The real test of leadership is to see if people actually follow you.
2. (10-12) The unique legacy of Moses.
But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, in all the signs and wonders which the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, before Pharaoh, before all his servants, and in all his land, and by all that mighty power and all the great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.
a. Since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses: Joshua was a capable leader for Israel, and God’s work went on, but that did not diminish Moses’ unique legacy.
b. Since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses: Several things made Moses unique.
i. Whom the LORD knew face to face: Moses was unique because of his personal intimacy with God. The term face to face does not literally mean “physical face to physical face,” but it has the idea of free and unhindered communication. Moses had a remarkably intimate relationship with God.
ii. All the signs and wonders which the LORD sent him to do: Moses was unique in the number and kind of miraculous works he was associated with.
iii. All that mighty power and all the great terror which Moses performed: Moses was unique in the power and authority with which he led the nation of Israel.
c. Since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses: There were greater rulers over Israel than Moses, greater leaders, greater prophets, and greater priests. But before the coming of Jesus Christ the Messiah, there was never one man who held all offices so gloriously as Moses did.
i. “In him were concentrated all the great offices of Israel – prophet, ruler, judge and priest. If some who held these offices were great, Moses was the greatest of them all.” (Thompson)
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
Deuteronomy 33 – Moses Blesses the Tribes
A. Introduction to the blessing of the tribes.
1. (1) Now this is the blessing.
Now this is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death.
a. Moses the man of God: As he looked at Israel with a shepherd’s heart, he could not leave them without blessing them. It must be this way. Moses could not leave this earth without a final blessing of the people he has loved and served in the LORD for these 40 years.
b. This chapter is similar in its effect to the blessing of Israel (Jacob) upon his twelve sons as recorded in Genesis 49. Since Moses was the one who recorded the blessing of Israel in Genesis 49, it is not a stretch to think he consciously modeled his blessing on Jacob’s previous one.
2. (2-5) The context is set: The glory of God’s revelation to Israel.
And he said:
“The LORD came from Sinai,
And dawned on them from Seir;
He shone forth from Mount Paran,
And He came with ten thousands of saints;
From His right hand Came a fiery law for them.
Yes, He loves the people;
All His saints are in Your hand;
They sit down at Your feet;
Everyone receives Your words.
Moses commanded a law for us,
A heritage of the congregation of Jacob.
And He was King in Jeshurun,
When the leaders of the people were gathered,
All the tribes of Israel together.”
a. The LORD came from Sinai: In the midst of images of God’s glory in revealing Himself and His word to Israel (He shone… with ten thousands of saints… a fiery law… He was King). This adds a sense of drama and grandeur to Moses’ prophetic words to each tribe.
B. The blessing of the individual tribes.
1. (6) Reuben: Nor let his men be few.
Let Reuben live, and not die,
Nor let his men be few.
a. Let Reuben live: This is a general blessing for the tribe of Reuben. Moses prayed, “Nor let his men be few,” asking that the tribe of Reuben be blessed with growth.
b. Live and not die: This tepid blessing is in line with Jacob’s prophecy concerning the tribe of Reuben (you shall not excel, Genesis 49:4). The tribe of Reuben never did excel; as far as we know, there never came a prophet, a judge, or a king from the tribe of Reuben.
2. (7) Judah: May You be a help.
And this he said of Judah:
“Hear, LORD, the voice of Judah,
And bring him to his people;
Let his hands be sufficient for him,
And may You be a help against his enemies.”
a. Hear, LORD, the voice of Judah: Since the name Judah means praise, Moses prayed that the LORD would hear the voice of praise.
b. Let his hands be sufficient: Essentially, Moses prayed for the blessing and sustaining of the tribe of Judah, no doubt until it could fulfill its prophetic destiny to bring forth the Messiah.
i. Moses knew this destiny for the tribe of Judah from Jacob’s prophecy in Genesis 49:10: The scepter shall not depart from Judah.
3. (8-11) Levi: They shall teach… Israel Your law.
And of Levi he said:
“Let Your Thummim and Your Urim be with Your holy one,
Whom You tested at Massah,
And with whom You contended at the waters of Meribah,
Who says of his father and mother, ‘I have not seen them’;
Nor did he acknowledge his brothers,
Or know his own children;
For they have observed Your word
And kept Your covenant.
They shall teach Jacob Your judgments,
And Israel Your law.
They shall put incense before You,
And a whole burnt sacrifice on Your altar.
Bless his substance, LORD,
And accept the work of his hands;
Strike the loins of those who rise against him,
And of those who hate him, that they rise not again.”
a. They have observed Your word and kept Your covenant: Because of this, Levi had a blessed place among the tribes of Israel. Moses prayed that the substance of Levi would be blessed and that their enemies would be defeated.
b. They shall teach Jacob Your judgments, and Israel Your law: Especially, Levi had the blessed place of teaching Israel the word of God. They would accomplish this as they were scattered in Israel, as Jacob had prophesied (Genesis 49:7).
i. The prophecy I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel (in Genesis 49:7) was given to both the tribes of Simeon and Levi. For the tribe of Levi, it was a blessing, as they were scattered throughout the nation to minister to the people and to bring God’s word to the whole nation. For the tribe of Simeon, the scattering was a significant curse; they are not even mentioned among the tribes being blessed here.
4. (12) Benjamin: The beloved of the LORD.
Of Benjamin he said:
“The beloved of the LORD shall dwell in safety by Him,
Who shelters him all the day long;
And he shall dwell between His shoulders.”
a. The beloved of the LORD: The place of special love and blessing Benjamin had would be prophetically fulfilled in a Benjaminite city becoming the center of the nation – Jerusalem.
b. Shall dwell in safety by Him: Thus, though the tribe of Benjamin was indeed fierce and warlike (Jacob’s prophecy described Benjamin as a ravenous wolf, Genesis 49:27), the tribe was greatly beloved of the LORD.
5. (13-17) Joseph: Let the blessing come.
And of Joseph he said:
“Blessed of the LORD is his land,
With the precious things of heaven, with the dew,
And the deep lying beneath,
With the precious fruits of the sun,
With the precious produce of the months,
With the best things of the ancient mountains,
With the precious things of the everlasting hills,
With the precious things of the earth and its fullness,
And the favor of Him who dwelt in the bush.
Let the blessing come ‘on the head of Joseph,
And on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers.’
His glory is like a firstborn bull,
And his horns like the horns of the wild ox;
Together with them He shall push the peoples
To the ends of the earth;
They are the ten thousands of Ephraim,
And they are the thousands of Manasseh.”
a. Blessed of the LORD is his land: The two tribes of Joseph – Ephraim and Manasseh – were indeed blessed numerically in Israel. The descendants of this one son among twelve sons of Jacob were far more numerous than all the other tribes.
b. Ten thousands of Ephraim… thousands of Manasseh: This fulfilled Jacob’s prophecy in Genesis 49:22 (Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a well; his branches run over the wall).
6. (18-19) Zebulun and Issachar: They shall partake of the abundance of the seas.
And of Zebulun he said:
“Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out,
And Issachar in your tents!
They shall call the peoples to the mountain;
There they shall offer sacrifices of righteousness;
For they shall partake of the abundance of the seas
And of treasures hidden in the sand.”
a. They shall partake of the abundance of the seas: Both the tribes of Zebulun and Issachar were in the Galilee region and were blessed to take advantage of the Sea of Galilee.
b. Treasures hidden in the sand: This is consistent with what Jacob said of Zebulun in Genesis 49:13 (Zebulun shall dwell by the haven of the sea).
7. (20-21) Gad: He dwells as a lion.
And of Gad he said:
“Blessed is he who enlarges Gad;
He dwells as a lion,
And tears the arm and the crown of his head.
He provided the first part for himself,
Because a lawgiver’s portion was reserved there.
He came with the heads of the people;
He administered the justice of the LORD,
And His judgments with Israel.”
a. He dwells as a lion: The lion-like character of the tribe of Gad was shown by the fact that Gad furnished many fine troops for David (1 Chronicles 12:14). This is in fulfillment of Jacob’s words in Genesis 49:19: he shall triumph at last.
8. (22) Dan: A lion’s whelp.
And of Dan he said:
“Dan is a lion’s whelp;
He shall leap from Bashan.”
a. He shall leap from Bashan: This may not be a complimentary phrase. History records that Dan was a troublesome tribe. They were the tribe to introduce idolatry into Israel (Judges 18:30); Jeroboam set up one of his idolatrous golden calves in Dan (1 Kings 12:26-30), and later Dan became a center of idol worship in Israel (Amos 8:14). Indeed, Jacob said of Dan in Genesis 49:17, Dan shall be a serpent by the way.
b. From Bashan: The tribe of Dan originally was allotted land in the southern part of Israel but migrated to the north hundreds of years after this (Judges 18). Moses’ reference to Bashan (a region in northern Israel) prophetically anticipated this migration.
9. (23) Naphtali: Full of the blessing of the LORD.
And of Naphtali he said:
“O Naphtali, satisfied with favor,
And full of the blessing of the LORD,
Possess the west and the south.”
a. O Naphtali, satisfied with favor: The tribe of Naphtali was indeed satisfied with favor. Naphtali’s land was in a key portion near the Sea of Galilee, the region where Jesus did much of His teaching and ministry. No wonder Moses says this tribe is full of the blessing of the LORD, and that Jacob said of Naphtali in Genesis 49:21, he gives goodly words.
10. (24-25) Asher: Most blessed of sons.
And of Asher he said:
“Asher is most blessed of sons;
Let him be favored by his brothers,
And let him dip his foot in oil.
Your sandals shall be iron and bronze;
As your days, so shall your strength be.”
a. Asher is most blessed of sons: The abundance of the tribe of Asher was also expressed by Jacob in Genesis 49:20 (he shall yield royal dainties).
11. (26-29) Conclusion: Happy are you, O Israel!
“There is no one like the God of Jeshurun,
Who rides the heavens to help you,
And in His excellency on the clouds.
The eternal God is your refuge,
And underneath are the everlasting arms;
He will thrust out the enemy from before you,
And will say, ‘Destroy!’
Then Israel shall dwell in safety,
The fountain of Jacob alone,
In a land of grain and new wine;
His heavens shall also drop dew.
Happy are you, O Israel!
Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD,
The shield of your help
And the sword of your majesty!
Your enemies shall submit to you,
And you shall tread down their high places.”
a. The eternal God is your refuge: What blessing God bestowed on Israel! As Paul said in Romans 3:2: To them were committed the oracles of God. The true greatness of Israel is the same as the greatness of the Christian: not in and of themselves, but in their God: There is no one like the God of Jeshurun.
b. Who rides the heavens to help you: God is great and uses His greatness on behalf of His people, upholding them with the everlasting arms. When we are a people saved by the LORD, it means that God is for us and heaven is on our side! If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31) He is the shield of your help.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
Deuteronomy 32 – The Song of Moses
A. The song of Moses.
1. (1-4) Introduction.
Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak;
And hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.
Let my teaching drop as the rain,
My speech distill as the dew,
As raindrops on the tender herb,
And as showers on the grass.
For I proclaim the name of the LORD:
Ascribe greatness to our God.
He is the Rock, His work is perfect;
For all His ways are justice,
A God of truth and without injustice;
Righteous and upright is He.
a. Give ear, O heavens… and hear, O earth: Moses began by asking for attention, not only from Israel, but from all of creation.
b. I proclaim the name of the LORD: Ascribe greatness to our God: He then gave praise to God, both for who God is (He is the Rock… Righteous and upright is He) and for what God does (His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice).
2. (5-6) The accusation: The child has forsaken its father.
They have corrupted themselves;
They are not His children,
Because of their blemish:
A perverse and crooked generation.
Do you thus deal with the LORD,
O foolish and unwise people?
Is He not your Father, who bought you?
Has He not made you and established you?
a. They have corrupted themselves: Moses spoke as a witness against a rebellious Israel.
b. Is He not your Father, who bought you? Has He not made you and established you: Their sin is even more foolish and unwise in light of what God has done for them. It is foolish and unwise to rebel against the God who has did so much for them.
3. (7-14) Moses recounts God’s past faithfulness to Israel.
Remember the days of old,
Consider the years of many generations.
Ask your father, and he will show you;
Your elders, and they will tell you:
When the Most High divided their inheritance to the nations,
When He separated the sons of Adam,
He set the boundaries of the peoples
According to the number of the children of Israel.
For the LORD’s portion is His people;
Jacob is the place of His inheritance.
He found him in a desert land
And in the wasteland, a howling wilderness;
He encircled him, He instructed him,
He kept him as the apple of His eye.
As an eagle stirs up its nest,
Hovers over its young,
Spreading out its wings, taking them up,
Carrying them on its wings,
So the LORD alone led him,
And there was no foreign god with him.
He made him ride in the heights of the earth,
That he might eat the produce of the fields;
He made him draw honey from the rock,
And oil from the flinty rock;
Curds from the cattle, and milk of the flock,
With fat of lambs;
And rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats,
With the choicest wheat;
And you drank wine, the blood of the grapes.
a. Remember the days of old: Considering that this song was meant to be a witness against a rebellious Israel, Moses reminded Israel of all God’s goodness to them. This was to both bring a greater conviction of sin, and to remind them of God’s love and grace they could return to.
4. (15-18) Israel responded to God’s kindness with apostasy.
But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked;
You grew fat, you grew thick,
You are obese!
Then he forsook God who made him,
And scornfully esteemed the Rock of his salvation.
They provoked Him to jealousy with foreign gods;
With abominations they provoked Him to anger.
They sacrificed to demons, not to God,
To gods they did not know,
To new gods, new arrivals
That your fathers did not fear.
Of the Rock who begot you, you are unmindful,
And have forgotten the God who fathered you.
a. Jeshurun: This is a title for Israel, which literally means the upright one (Isaiah 44:2).
b. They sacrificed to demons: In forsaking God, Israel turned to the pagan idols of the nations around them and actually worshipped demons. There was a dark spiritual reality behind the idols of the nations, and Israel embraced that dark spiritual reality.
5. (19-27) God’s reaction: Withdrawal from and punishment of Israel.
And when the LORD saw it, He spurned them,
Because of the provocation of His sons and His daughters.
And He said: I will hide My face from them,
I will see what their end will be,
For they are a perverse generation,
Children in whom is no faith.
They have provoked Me to jealousy by what is not God;
They have moved Me to anger by their foolish idols.
But I will provoke them to jealousy by those who are not a nation;
I will move them to anger by a foolish nation.
For a fire is kindled by my anger,
And shall burn to the lowest hell;
It shall consume the earth with her increase,
And set on fire the foundations of the mountains.
I will heap disasters on them;
I will spend My arrows on them.
They shall be wasted with hunger,
Devoured by pestilence and bitter destruction;
I will also send against them the teeth of beasts,
With the poison of serpents of the dust.
The sword shall destroy outside;
There shall be terror within
For the young man and virgin,
The nursing child with the man of gray hairs.
I would have said, “I will dash them in pieces,
I will make the memory of them to cease from among men,”
Had I not feared the wrath of the enemy,
Lest their adversaries should misunderstand,
Lest they should say, “Our hand is high;
And it is not the LORD who has done all this.”
a. I will hide My face from them: When God’s people forsake Him, He withdraws the intimacy of His presence. At first, this is sometimes seen as a relief, because the conviction of sin is not so great. But then the darkness and desperation set in.
b. I will heap disasters upon them: When the hiding of His face does not draw God’s people into repentance, God then sends His hand of correction, and allows calamity to bring the attention of His people back upon Him.
6. (28-43) The LORD states His case and makes a plea unto Israel.
For they are a nation void of counsel,
Nor is there any understanding in them.
Oh, that they were wise, that they understood this,
That they would consider their latter end!
How could one chase a thousand,
And two put ten thousand to flight,
Unless their Rock had sold them,
And the LORD had surrendered them?
For their rock is not like our Rock,
Even our enemies themselves being judges.
For their vine is of the vine of Sodom
And of the fields of Gomorrah;
Their grapes are grapes of gall,
Their clusters are bitter.
Their wine is the poison of serpents,
And the cruel venom of cobras.
Is this not laid up in store with Me,
Sealed up among My treasures?
Vengeance is Mine, and recompense;
Their foot shall slip in due time;
For the day of their calamity is at hand,
And the things to come hasten upon them.’
For the LORD will judge His people
And have compassion on His servants,
When He sees that their power is gone,
And there is no one remaining, bond or free.
He will say: ‘Where are their gods,
The rock in which they sought refuge?
Who ate the fat of their sacrifices,
And drank the wine of their drink offering?
Let them rise and help you,
And be your refuge.
Now see that I, even I, am He,
And there is no God besides Me;
I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal;
Nor is there any who can deliver from My hand.
For I raise My hand to heaven,
And say, “As I live forever,
If I whet My glittering sword,
And My hand takes hold on judgment,
I will render vengeance to My enemies,
And repay those who hate Me.
I will make My arrows drunk with blood,
And My sword shall devour flesh,
With the blood of the slain and the captives,
From the heads of the leaders of the enemy.”
Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people;
For He will avenge the blood of His servants,
And render vengeance to His adversaries;
He will provide atonement for His land and His people.
a. That they would consider their latter end: This can be a remarkably effective preventative to backsliding. When we are in a backslidden state, we should consider where it will lead us.
b. And have compassion on His servants: When we are in a backslidden state, we should also see the compassion of God we could receive.
c. There is no God besides Me: When we are in a backslidden state, we should see the greatness of God. The backslidden man needs to know more of God’s character and His nature.
7. (44-47) Moses encourages Israel.
So Moses came with Joshua the son of Nun and spoke all the words of this song in the hearing of the people. Moses finished speaking all these words to all Israel, and He said to them: “Set your hearts on all the words which I testify among you today, which you shall command your children to be careful to observe; all the words of this law. For it is not a futile thing for you, because it is your life, and by this word you shall prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to possess.”
a. It is not a futile thing: One of Satan’s great lies to us is that it is a futile thing to serve God and obey His word. It often seems that those who are against God prosper more than those who are for Him. Yet, we need to see and understand – from an eternal perspective – that it is not a futile thing to love and obey God.
8. (48-52) God’s final command to Moses.
Then the LORD spoke to Moses that very same day, saying: “Go up this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, across from Jericho; view the land of Canaan, which I give to the children of Israel as a possession; and die on the mountain which you ascend, and be gathered to your people, just as Aaron your brother died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people; because you trespassed against Me among the children of Israel at the waters of Meribah Kadesh, in the Wilderness of Zin, because you did not hallow Me in the midst of the children of Israel. Yet you shall see the land before you, though you shall not go there, into the land which I am giving to the children of Israel.”
a. Go up this mountain… and die on the mountain: Moses, as the last act of his 120 years, will climb Mount Nebo, and die at the summit of the mountain.
b. You shall see the land before you, though you shall not go there: Though Moses will not be allowed to cross the Jordan and enter the Promised Land, he can view the land of Canaan.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
Deuteronomy 31 – Some Final Instructions from Moses
A. Moses charges the people, Joshua, and the priests.
1. (1-2) Moses at one hundred and twenty.
Then Moses went and spoke these words to all Israel. And he said to them: “I am one hundred and twenty years old today. I can no longer go out and come in. Also the LORD has said to me, ‘You shall not cross over this Jordan.’”
a. I am one hundred and twenty years old today: Moses, at 120 years, was not limited by his physical condition (in a short time he will climb to the top of a mountain). Instead, he could no longer go out and come in because he was limited by God’s command – the decree that Moses would not enter the Promised Land (Numbers 20:7-12).
b. You shall not cross over this Jordan: These specific words of God to Moses are not recorded in the Numbers 20 account; this must be a further elaboration of the decree you shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them (Numbers 20:12).
i. There is a difference between you shall not bring this congregation into the land and you shall not cross over this Jordan. By the first statement, it is allowable that Moses could go into the Promised Land, but not as the leader of the nation, having passed the torch of leadership to Joshua. But God made it even more clear to Moses: you shall not cross over this Jordan.
ii. God’s correction of Moses was hard; not only will he not lead Israel into the Promised Land, he will not even go there. That which he had dreamed of, and felt called to, as a child in the palaces of Egypt – to deliver God’s people – will not be completed. Another will finish the job, and Moses’ feet will never touch the soil of the land that God had promised to the covenant descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Why was it such a severe punishment? What did Moses do?
iii. Essentially, at Meribah (Numbers 20:7-12), when Israel complained and cried out for water, Moses misrepresented God. He misrepresented God by lecturing the nation harshly and unnecessarily. Moses misrepresented God by acting as if God needed him to provide water for the people. And Moses both misrepresented and disobeyed God by angrily striking the rock twice, instead of just speaking to the rock as God had told him to.
iv. This may seem an excessively harsh punishment for Moses; after all, with only one slip-up, he now must die short of the Promised Land? But Moses was being judged by a stricter standard because of his leadership position with the nation, and because he had a uniquely close relationship with God. It is right for teachers and leaders to be judged by a stricter standard (James 3:1); though it is unrighteous to hold teachers and leaders to a perfect standard. It is true the people’s conduct was worse than Moses’ but it is irrelevant.
v. Worst of all, Moses defaced a beautiful picture of Jesus’ redemptive work through the rock that provided water in the wilderness. The New Testament makes it clear this water-providing, life-giving rock was a picture of Jesus (1 Corinthians 10:4). Jesus, being struck once, provided life for all who would drink of Him (John 7:37). But it was unnecessary – and unrighteous – that Jesus would be struck again, much less again twice, because the Son of God needed only to suffer once (Hebrews 10:10-12). Jesus can now be come to with words of faith (Romans 10:8-10), as Moses should have only used words of faith to bring life-giving water to the nation of Israel. Moses “ruined” this picture of the work of Jesus God intended.
vi. So now, Moses must face his destiny. Not only you shall not bring this congregation into the land but also, you shall not cross over this Jordan.
2. (3-6) The charge to the children of Israel.
The LORD your God Himself crosses over before you; He will destroy these nations from before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua himself crosses over before you, just as the LORD has said. And the LORD will do to them as He did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites and their land, when He destroyed them. The LORD will give them over to you, that you may do to them according to every commandment which I have commanded you. Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.
a. The LORD your God Himself crosses over before you: Moses had led Israel for 40 years; he was the only leader most of these people had ever known. Yet the nation could be confident, and Moses could go his way in peace because He knew God was with Israel. Israel, Moses, or Joshua did not have to be afraid. Instead, they could Be strong and of good courage, because the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you.
i. Moses was a great man; one of the greatest to ever walk this earth. But Moses was not irreplaceable. God being with them, Israel was in good hands, with or without Moses.
b. Be strong and of good courage: It was now time for the nation to take courage in the LORD and not fear nor be dismayed. Moses passes from the scene, but God has not abandoned Israel.
3. (7-8) The charge to Joshua.
Then Moses called Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and of good courage, for you must go with this people to the land which the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall cause them to inherit it. And the LORD, He is the one who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”
a. Then Moses called Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel: Bringing the people into the Promised Land was God’s work. He was going to do it. But God almost always does His work through men and women who make themselves available to Him.
i. Sometimes people wrongly say, “It is all the LORD, it’s all the LORD.” True, God does His work, but He does it through people.
b. Be strong and of good courage: Since God was going to use Joshua, he must be strong and of good courage. But Moses knew Joshua and knew that he would. So he confidently said, you shall cause them to inherit it.
i. Men of encouragement like Moses are a blessing. Moses knew that Joshua might be wavering, so he encouraged him, and pushed him forward to be more than he perhaps thought he could be. God uses encouraging people to help us fulfill the destiny He has for us.
ii. Joshua was the man; but the work was the LORD’s: He is the one who goes before you.
4. (9-13) The charge to the priests.
So Moses wrote this law and delivered it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel. And Moses commanded them, saying: “At the end of every seven years, at the appointed time in the year of release, at the Feast of Tabernacles, when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather the people together, men and women and little ones, and the stranger who is within your gates, that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the LORD your God and carefully observe all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God as long as you live in the land which you cross the Jordan to possess.”
a. Moses wrote this law: Just as the kings of Israel were to write their own copy of God’s law (Deuteronomy 17:18), so Moses wrote this law. He, as an uncrowned king over Israel, loved God’s word and wanted to pass it on to the generation behind him.
b. You shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing: Part of the job of the Levites was to minister the word of God to the nation, as they were scattered throughout the nation. Every seven years they were to have a public reading and explanation of the law of God, as was modeled in Nehemiah 8:1-8.
i. The first we know of a public reading of the law is in Joshua 8:30. The next we hear of it is during the reign of Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 17:7), more than 500 years later. Then, in the reign of Josiah there was another public reading of the law (2 Chronicles 34:30), more than 250 years after Jehoshaphat. Of course, there might have been public readings of the law as commanded here which are not recorded; but the fact that some are recorded probably means they were unusual, not typical. With this kind of neglect of God’s word, no wonder Israel was so often in trouble!
c. And that their children… may hear and learn to fear the LORD: This seven-year national focus on God’s word was especially important for the children among the people of Israel. Through His word, they could come to a personal relationship with the LORD.
B. Moses insures his legacy.
1. (14-15) The preface to Joshua’s inauguration as leader of Israel.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, the days approach when you must die; call Joshua, and present yourselves in the tabernacle of meeting, that I may inaugurate him.” So Moses and Joshua went and presented themselves in the tabernacle of meeting. Now the LORD appeared at the tabernacle in a pillar of cloud, and the pillar of cloud stood above the door of the tabernacle.
a. Present yourselves in the tabernacle of meeting: Through the wilderness journey, we find Moses and Joshua together before the LORD often. Exodus 33:11 says, his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tabernacle. Joshua was qualified to serve because he was at home in the presence of the LORD.
b. Now the LORD appeared: This begins a solemn and important chapter in the history of God’s people. This will be Moses’ retirement ceremony and Joshua’s inauguration ceremony.
2. (16-22) A song of Moses to warn Israel in a time of future apostasy.
And the LORD said to Moses: “Behold, you will rest with your fathers; and this people will rise and play the harlot with the gods of the foreigners of the land, where they go to be among them, and they will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. Then My anger shall be aroused against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide My face from them, and they shall be devoured. And many evils and troubles shall befall them, so that they will say in that day, ‘Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?’ And I will surely hide My face in that day because of all the evil which they have done, in that they have turned to other gods. Now therefore, write down this song for yourselves, and teach it to the children of Israel; put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for Me against the children of Israel. When I have brought them to the land flowing with milk and honey, of which I swore to their fathers, and they have eaten and filled themselves and grown fat, then they will turn to other gods and serve them; and they will provoke Me and break My covenant. Then it shall be, when many evils and troubles have come upon them, that this song will testify against them as a witness; for it will not be forgotten in the mouths of their descendants, for I know the inclination of their behavior today, even before I have brought them to the land of which I swore to give them.”Therefore Moses wrote this song the same day, and taught it to the children of Israel.
a. This people will rise and play the harlot with the gods of the foreigners of the land: Because of this future idolatry in Israel, God instructed Moses to compose sort of a national anthem for ancient Israel.
b. Therefore Moses wrote this song the same day, and taught it to the children of Israel: Yet this was a strange national anthem, because the purpose of this anthem was to testify against them as a witness. God knew that words are more memorable when set to music, so He told Moses to compose the sermon in a song found in the following chapter, Deuteronomy 32.
3. (23) The inauguration of Joshua.
Then He inaugurated Joshua the son of Nun, and said, “Be strong and of good courage; for you shall bring the children of Israel into the land of which I swore to them, and I will be with you.”
a. Be strong and of good courage: It is remarkable how often this exhortation is directed towards Joshua. He hears it seven different times (Deuteronomy 31:6, 7, and 23; Joshua 1:6, 7, 9, and 18).
i. This exposes Joshua’s weakness; there was a need for such a command, because even a great leader like Joshua needed such encouragement.
ii. Most of us, God forgive us, are too big for God to use; we are too full of our own schemes and our own ways of doing things. Joshua needed to take strength and courage in the LORD and was small enough to be big in God.
iii. Wonderfully, the last time this phrase is used in connection with Joshua, he is encouraging others to be strong and of good courage (Joshua 10:25). He could encourage others with the encouragement the LORD, through others, had given him.
b. Be strong and of good courage: This was a manly way to speak to Joshua. God (and Moses) would not pander to Joshua’s weak and timid nature. He didn’t hear, “Oh Joshua, you’re so wonderful.” “Oh Joshua, you’re so strong.” “Oh Joshua, you’re so courageous.” Instead, he heard, “Now is the time. Step up to the challenge. Be strong and of good courage!”
c. You shall bring the children of Israel into the land: Joshua, by nature weak and lacking courage, needed to hear this from Moses. He needed to hear, “You are going to do it. It is going to happen.”
4. (24-27) Moses preserves the Law of God as a witness against Israel.
So it was, when Moses had completed writing the words of this law in a book, when they were finished, that Moses commanded the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying: “Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there as a witness against you; for I know your rebellion and your stiff neck. If today, while I am yet alive with you, you have been rebellious against the LORD, then how much more after my death?”
a. When Moses had completed writing the words of this law: Moses finished the first five books of the Bible and gave this to Israel, and to all creation, as the inspired words of God.
i. Some raise objections at this point, wondering who wrote the last three chapters of Deuteronomy, because the text says that Moses finished here. No doubt, Joshua had the remainder of Moses’ words and deeds recorded and added to the end of his magnificent work.
b. Put it beside the ark of the covenant: The Ten Commandments were placed inside the ark of the covenant (Hebrews 9:4). But the whole book of the law – Genesis through Deuteronomy – was placed beside the ark of the covenant.
c. That it may be there as a witness against you: Moses knew Israel would rebel. He knew this both from the promise of God (Deuteronomy 31:16-17), and from common sense (If today, while I am yet alive with you, you have been rebellious against the LORD, how much more after my death?). Therefore, the law would stand as a witness against a rebellious Israel.
i. We love to find refuge in God’s word in our times of stress and trouble, but we don’t often consider that God’s word, if we reject Jesus and rebel against God, is no friend to us. It is a witness against us, a witness that rises up to testify against us.
5. (28-30) The elders and officers of Israel gather for the song of Moses.
“Gather to me all the elders of your tribes, and your officers, that I may speak these words in their hearing and call heaven and earth to witness against them. For I know that after my death you will become utterly corrupt, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days, because you will do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger through the work of your hands.” Then Moses spoke in the hearing of all the assembly of Israel the words of this song until they were ended:
a. Then Moses spoke in the hearing of all the assembly of Israel the words of this song until they were ended: “In fact, the song of chapter 32 is strongly reminiscent in its structure and content of a well-known secular political form, namely, the formulation of a complaint against a rebel vassal by his overlord with the threat of punishment. It is not impossible that some, at least, in Israel would have understood such a pattern and Moses would certainly have met it in the pharaoh’s court.” (Thompson)
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
Deuteronomy 30 – The Choice
A. Restoration for a repentant Israel.
1. (1) When all these things come upon you.
Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God drives you,
a. Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you: Under the inspiration of the LORD, Moses carefully explained the blessings and curses that would come upon an obedient or disobedient Israel. Under the same inspiration, Moses knew that all these thingswouldcome upon Israel.
i. From the height of blessing during the reigns of David and Solomon, to the depth of cursing at the fall of Jerusalem, Israel’s history has been a legacy of either being blessed or cursed under the terms of the Old Covenant.
b. And you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God drives you: God knew that Israel would be scattered and exiled, and here through Moses, God calls the Diaspora (Israel dispersed among the nations) to remember the promises of the blessing and the curse.
2. (2-5) God’s promise to restore Israel in the Promised Land.
And you return to the LORD your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, that the LORD your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the LORD your God has scattered you. If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you. Then the LORD your God will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it. He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers.
a. Return to the LORD your God: As Israel would return to the LORD, God would bless them and bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you.
i. Of course, this was fulfilled in part by the return of the Babylonian exiles during the times of Ezra and Nehemiah. But the ultimate fulfillment of this would await the Twentieth Century, when God would regather Israel in the Promised Land. This modern regathering is a larger, broader, more sovereign, and more miraculous restoration than that recorded in Ezra and Nehemiah.
b. From all the nations where the LORD your God has scattered you: The modern restoration of Israel more accurately fulfills this promise than the return from the Babylonian exile. Today, Israel is populated from Jews from virtually every country in the world. The breadth of this promise is important because God repeats the idea in verse 4: If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under heaven, from there the LORD God will gather you.
i. Adam Clarke, writing in 1811, recognized that this regathering had to be fulfilled in a future time: “As this promise refers to a return from captivity in which they had been scattered among all nations, consequently it is not the Babylonish captivity which is intended; and the repossession of their land must be different from that which was consequent on their return from Chaldea.”
c. Then the LORD your God will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it: The restoration had to happen in the land of Israel. The modern restoration of Israel more accurately fulfills this promise than the return from the Babylonian exile. In the return from the Babylonian exile, Israel was still a vassal state of the Persians. But in the modern restoration of Israel, you shall possess it is literally fulfilled.
i. At one time, in the early days of the Zionist movement, the British offered the country of Uganda to the Jews as a place to establish a Jewish state. If that would have happened, and if Jews from all over the world had flocked there to establish a Jewish state, it would not fulfill the promise of restoration stated here and in other Old Testament passages. The promise here is plain: The land which your fathers possessed.
d. He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers: This promise is fulfilled only in the modern restoration of Israel, not in the return from the Babylonian exile. In the days of the return from the Babylonian exile, the Jewish community was small, weak, and poor. But today, under the modern restoration of Israel, the state of Israel does indeed prosper and the promise to multiply you more than your fathers is fulfilled. Israel, as a nation, is larger, stronger, and richer than at any time in Biblical history.
3. (6) The spiritual restoration of Israel.
And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.
a. And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart… to love the LORD your God with all your heart: As remarkable and as prophetically meaningful the modern restoration of Israel is, it is incomplete. The spiritual dimension of the restoration has not yet been accomplished.
i. Today Israel is a largely secular nation. There is respect for the Bible as a book of history and national identity, but there is not, and has not been, a true turning to the LORD God, particularly as a nation.
ii. We can say that in a sense, not even the religious or Orthodox Jews have completely turned to the LORD. Though they have had an important and precious part in God’s plan for Israel in helping a spiritual consciousness for the Jewish people to survive through the centuries of the Diaspora, they have not truly turned to the LORD. We can say this because the character and nature of the LORD is perfectly expressed in His Messiah, Jesus. Jesus said, He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me. And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me. (John 12:44-45) Since the Jewish people, except for a precious remnant, reject Jesus, they are rejecting the LORD God.
iii. But God’s promise still stands. As the final aspect of the promise to restore Israel, God will restore them spiritually. He promises to circumcise your heart. This is an idea repeated in the promises of the New Covenant, in passages like Ezekiel 36:26-27: I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Indeed, Paul promised that all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26). Jesus said that He would not return until Israel embraced Him as Messiah: For I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!” (Matthew 23:39)
iv. Some have thought that because the modern restoration of Israel has not yet demonstrated this spiritual dynamic that it has nothing to do with these prophesies. But the spiritual dynamic is properly listed in Deuteronomy 30:2-6 as the last of the blessings of restoration. Also, the picture of restoration in Ezekiel 37 – the vision of the dry bones – shows Israel restored, and strong, before the LORD breathed the breath of His Spirit on the restored Israel. We regard the modern restoration of Israel as a remarkable sign, and an extremely significant – but thus far only partial – fulfillment of these prophesies.
4. (7-10) Blessings upon repentant Israel.
Also the LORD your God will put all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you. And you will again obey the voice of the LORD and do all His commandments which I command you today. The LORD your God will make you abound in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your land for good. For the LORD will again rejoice over you for good as He rejoiced over your fathers, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this Book of the Law, and if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
a. Also the LORD your God will put all these curses on your enemies… The LORD your God will make you abound: In part, these prophecies are fulfilled now in the modern restoration of Israel. But perhaps their ultimate fulfillment will happen in the millennium, when Israel has restored as a people truly turned to the LORD and His Messiah, Jesus.
B. Moses concludes his great sermon: choose life!
1. (11-14) Israel’s capability to keep the covenant.
For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?” But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.
a. For this commandment which I command you today: The covenant which God made with Israel – the Old Covenant – was not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. Israel could indeed keep this covenant. God was not expecting the impossible from Israel when He expected them to keep this covenant.
b. But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it: However, this is not intended to mean that the Mosaic Law could be perfectly kept, and that a person could be sufficiently obedient to the Mosaic Law to earn a righteous standing before God.
i. Remember that the law was only one aspect of the Old Covenant. There were also the aspects of sacrifice and the choice. God never expected Israel to perfectly obey the law and find righteousness through law-obedience. That is why He provided for the sacrifice – the punishment of a perfect, innocent victim in the place of the sinner. God did not expect an Israelite to trust in his obedience to the Law to save Him (though God wanted Israel to love His law). God expected an Israelite to trust in the atonement made by sacrifice to make him righteous, and to understand that this sacrifice pointed towards a perfect sacrifice God would one day make through the Messiah. In this, a godly Israelite, in the Old Covenant, trusted in the work of Jesus the Messiah to save him even before the time of Jesus.
c. That you may do it: Yet the Old Covenant, as a whole, including the aspects of law, sacrifice, and choice could be kept. It wasn’t beyond Israel’s capability to keep.
2. (15-18) The choice.
See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess.
a. See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil: Under the terms of the Old Covenant, Israel had a choice: life or death, good or evil. It was up to them. God was going to glorify Himself through Israel one way or another. How it would happen was really their choice.
b. The LORD your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess: Under the terms of the Old Covenant, Israel, if obedient, would see blessing. If disobedient, then Israel would surely perish. It was up to Israel and based on their conduct.
i. It is essential for us to understand that we, in Jesus Christ, do not relate to God on the terms of the Old Covenant, but on the terms of a better covenant: The New Covenant. Under the New Covenant, my relationship with God is not based on what I do for God, but on what Jesus has done on my behalf. There is, of course, more to the New Covenant than this, but this is one crucial distinction between the two covenants.
ii. If this Old Covenant is inferior to the New Covenant, and if there was a high price to pay for rejecting the Old Covenant, should we not know there is an even greater penalty for rejecting an even greater covenant? (Hebrews 10:28-29)
3. (19-20) Choose life.
I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.
a. I call heaven and earth as witness today against you: In these most solemn words, Moses set the choice before Israel. They had to choose between life and death, blessing and cursing.
b. Therefore choose life: At the same time, though the choice belonged to Israel, God cared about what they chose. When Moses pled with Israel, crying out choose life, we know he reflected the heart of God toward Israel. How God glorified Himself through Israel was up to them, but it was obviously God’s preference that He glorify Himself through an obedient, blessed Israel. So He pled, choose life!
i. Man today, even outside the Old Covenant, is confronted with the choice. But the choice focuses first not on “Will I obey God or not?” but on “Will I trust in Jesus for my standing before God?” Jesus said, He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters. (Luke 11:23) Jesus is still asking the question, who do you say that I am (Matthew 16:15), and our choice in answering that question determines our eternal destiny.
c. That you may love the LORD your God: To love God this way, to really trust Him, is explained well in Deuteronomy 30:20. To love and trust God means to obey His voice, for a child who really loves and trusts their father will obey him. It means to cling to Him, for if we really love and trust Him, we will be attached to Him. It means to regard Him as our life and the length of your days, because if we love and trust Him, He is not part of our life, He is our life.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
Deuteronomy 29 – Renewal of the Covenant
A. God’s mighty works for Israel.
1. (1) The covenant in the land of Moab.
These are the words of the covenant which the LORD commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant which He made with them in Horeb.
a. These are the words of the covenant: Some 40 years before this, at Horeb (Mount Sinai), Israel made a covenant with God: Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.” And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.” (Exodus 24:7-8)
b. Besides the covenant which He made with them in Horeb: For the most part, the people who had the blood of the covenant sprinkled upon them had died in the wilderness. The generation of unbelief had died, now it was an opportunity for the generation of faith. So, Moses will reconfirm the covenant with the new generation.
2. (2-4) Israel saw wonders, but they did not see them.
Now Moses called all Israel and said to them: “You have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land; the great trials which your eyes have seen, the signs, and those great wonders. Yet the LORD has not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day.
a. You have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes: Israel saw great wonders from the hand of God since coming from Egypt. They saw the plagues, they saw the death of the firstborn, they saw the Red Sea parted, they saw the Egyptian armies destroyed, they saw victories won by prayer, they ate the manna, they drank the miraculously provided water, and they saw miracle after miracle.
b. Yet the LORD has not given you a heart to perceive: The miracles in and of themselves could not accomplish anything in the heart of Israel. If God did not send His Spirit to change their hearts, then the greatest wonder imaginable would not make a difference.
i. Some people today think the greatest help to evangelism would be to see more miraculous events. After all, who could not believe in the face of such displays of spiritual power? But seeing great wonders accomplishes nothing apart from a supernatural work of God in someone’s heart.
3. (5-9) God’s great works for Israel in the wilderness.
And I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn out on your feet. You have not eaten bread, nor have you drunk wine or similar drink, that you may know that I am the LORD your God. And when you came to this place, Sihon king of Heshbon and Og king of Bashan came out against us to battle, and we conquered them. We took their land and gave it as an inheritance to the Reubenites, to the Gadites, and to half the tribe of Manasseh. Therefore keep the words of this covenant, and do them, that you may prosper in all that you do.
a. And I have led you forty years in the wilderness: During their forty years in the wilderness, their clothes did not wear our, their sandals did not wear out, and though they had no bread to eat or wine to drink, their needs were provided for. Israel conquered over their enemies, and they took their land.
i. Plainly, these are remarkable miracles. Clothes and sandals simply do not last 40 years of hard marching in the wilderness apart from a miracle. The wilderness does not provide enough food and water to meet the needs of some two million people apart from a miracle. A nation of slaves for 400 years does not conquer standing nations and take their land apart from a miracle.
ii. Each of these great wonders (each proof in themselves of God’s power and love for Israel) has a spiritual counterpart in our lives.
· In the wilderness of this world, God provides clothes for us (Revelation 3:18).
· He gives us shoes (Ephesians 6:15).
· He gives us bread and wine to drink (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
· In Him we conquer our enemies (Romans 8:37).
· We can take the land of our spiritual enemies (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
b. Therefore keep the words of this covenant: Seeing these great works of God, there is one logical response. Knowing the greatness of God’s love and power should make Israel more committed than ever to His covenant.
B. Renewing the covenant.
1. (10-15) The parties to the covenant.
All of you stand today before the LORD your God: your leaders and your tribes and your elders and your officers, all the men of Israel, your little ones and your wives; also the stranger who is in your camp, from the one who cuts your wood to the one who draws your water; that you may enter into covenant with the LORD your God, and into His oath, which the LORD your God makes with you today, that He may establish you today as a people for Himself, and that He may be God to you, just as He has spoken to you, and just as He has sworn to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I make this covenant and this oath, not with you alone, but with him who stands here with us today before the LORD our God, as well as with him who is not here with us today
a. All of you stand today before the LORD your God: This means that the covenant was made with the entire nation. This included the leaders, the men, the women, the children, and even the servants.
b. That He may establish you today as a people for Himself: All of Israel was included in God’s desire to enter into covenant, to be the people for Himself. He wasn’t just looking for a few prominent and talented people, or for just one spiritual tribe like the Levites. God wanted the whole nation to be this people for Himself.
c. As well as with him who is not here with us today: But the covenant extended beyond those who stood before the LORD and Moses on that day. It also included him who is not with us here today. The descendants of this nation assembled before the LORD and Moses were also included in the covenant.
i. “The covenant demand is here extended to those who were yet to be born. Future generations were one with that early Israel who took the oath at Sinai.” (Thompson)
2. (16-20) The promise of judgment against the covenant-breaker.
(for you know that we dwelt in the land of Egypt and that we came through the nations which you passed by, and you saw their abominations and their idols which were among them; wood and stone and silver and gold); so that there may not be among you man or woman or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations, and that there may not be among you a root bearing bitterness or wormwood; and so it may not happen, when he hears the words of this curse, that he blesses himself in his heart, saying, “I shall have peace, even though I follow the dictates of my heart”; as though the drunkard could be included with the sober. The LORD would not spare him; for then the anger of the LORD and His jealousy would burn against that man, and every curse that is written in this book would settle on him, and the LORD would blot out his name from under heaven.
a. You saw their abominations and their idols which were among them: Israel had seen the abominations and… idols of their pagan neighbors. God promised that anyone who turns away from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations, should never presume on a sense of peace in his heart.
b. He blesses himself in his heart, saying “I have peace”: Perhaps one who has turned from the LORD and to idols hears the curses against the covenant-breaker, yet thinks he has escaped any penalty. So, he blesses himself in his heart, saying “I have peace.” He may have an immediate sense of peace at the moment, but it is the peace of the blind, the peace of the ignorant, who cannot see the peril of coming judgment.
i. A rank sinner may feel confident in his own heart, having a marvelous sense of “peace.” But this peace is an illusion. It is the peace of the blind, of the unknowing. If a bomb is on a plane, most everyone on the plane is at peace the moment before the bomb explodes. But their peace is based on their ignorance. In the same way, a sinner may be completely untroubled in his heart. But this is only because he is blind.
ii. As though the drunkard could be included with the sober: The drunkard may be happy when he is drunk, but his happiness is based on a illusion. God warns against including the peace of the righteous with the peace the wicked might seem to have.
c. The LORD would not spare him: This truth is plain “There is no peace,” says the LORD, “for the wicked.” (Isaiah 48:22) The score may be settled on either side of eternity, but it will be settled. No one can forsake the LORD and escape the consequences.
3. (21-28) The purpose for judgment against the covenant-breaker.
And the LORD would separate him from all the tribes of Israel for adversity, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this Book of the Law, so that the coming generation of your children who rise up after you, and the foreigner who comes from a far land, would say, when they see the plagues of that land and the sicknesses which the LORD has laid on it: “The whole land is brimstone, salt, and burning; it is not sown, nor does it bear, nor does any grass grow there, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, which the LORD overthrew in His anger and His wrath.” All nations would say, “Why has the LORD done so to this land? What does the heat of this great anger mean?” Then people would say: “Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD God of their fathers, which He made with them when He brought them out of the land of Egypt; for they went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods that they did not know and that He had not given to them. Then the anger of the LORD was aroused against this land, to bring on it every curse that is written in this book. And the LORD uprooted them from their land in anger, in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land, as it is this day.”
a. And the LORD would separate him from all the tribes of Israel for adversity: There is an obvious reason to punish the covenant-breaker for his own sake. But God has a purpose beyond the reason of individual covenant.
b. So that the coming generation of your children who rise up after you, and the foreigner who comes from a far land: God’s purpose in bringing judgment against a covenant-breaking Israel was also for the sake of the coming generation of your children… and the foreigner. When they see the devastation that comes from breaking God’s covenant, when they see what happens to the land which the LORD overthrew in His anger and wrath, they will be warned to obedience.
i. We can also learn from the calamity that comes on the lives of others when they break God’s covenant. We can learn that the price of disobedience is not worth it. We can learn that the commands of God are good, and protective in our lives.
c. All nations would say: God’s purpose in bringing judgment against a covenant-breaking Israel was also for the sake of all nations. When they see what happens to a nation who forsakes the LORD, they will be warned to obedience.
4. (29) God’s revelation to Israel.
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
a. The secret things belong to the LORD our God: In the midst of this encouragement to obedience, Moses pauses to give a principle of how God speaks to us. First, God never declares everything to man:. There are secrets God has, and will always have. He has the right to have secrets, because He is God.
i. God is bigger and smarter than us and always will be. We must simply accept this. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
b. Those things which are revealed: Second, God does reveal some things to man. Since God is there, and He is not silent, we must do all we can to pay close attention to Him.
c. Those things which are revealed belong to us: Third, God’s revelation is meant to say something to us. God did not speak just to blow our minds or to amuse us; there is a message which belongs to us. While we cannot perfectly understand God’s revelation, it is perfectly understandable.
d. To us and to our children: Fourth, God’s revelation is trans-generational. Yes, God had a specific message for Moses’ generation, but the message goes beyond its original audience to speak to all generations which follow.
e. To us and our children forever: Fifth, God’s revelation is eternal. His word not only lasts forever, it is forever relevant. God’s word is more relevant than any new fad or interest which might sweep through the world or the church.
f. That we may do all the words of this law: Finally, God’s revelation must matter to us. He has not spoken to us merely to satisfy our curiosity about spiritual things. He has spoken to us to affect the way we live. If we are only hearers of the word, and not doers also, then we have not really received His word.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
Deuteronomy 28 – Blessing and Cursing
A. Blessings on obedience.
1. (1-2) Overtaken by blessing.
Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God:
a. If you diligently obey the voice of the LORD: The word “if” looms large. In this chapter, Moses exhorted the nation with choice. The covenant God made with Israel contained three major features: The law, the sacrifice, and the choice.
i. The idea behind the choice is that God was determined to reveal Himself to the world through Israel. He would do this either by making them so blessed that the world would know only God could have blessed them so; or by making them so cursed that only God could have cursed them and cause them to still survive. The choice was up to Israel.
ii. As a literary form, this chapter is similar to ancient treaties between a king and his people; this is God the King, making a covenant with His people, Israel.
iii. “In the ancient Near East it was customary for legal treaties to conclude with passages containing blessings upon those who observed the enactments, and curses upon those who did not.” (Harrrison)
b. That the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth: Therefore, if Israel would obey the LORD, He would set them high above all nations of the earth, and the blessings would be so powerful that they would come upon you and overtake you. They wouldn’t be able to escape the blessings.
2. (3-14) God will richly bless Israel’s obedience to the covenant.
Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country.
Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks.
Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.
Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.
The LORD will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways. The LORD will command the blessing on you in your storehouses and in all to which you set your hand, and He will bless you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you. The LORD will establish you as a holy people to Himself, just as He has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in His ways. Then all peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they shall be afraid of you. And the LORD will grant you plenty of goods, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your ground, in the land of which the LORD swore to your fathers to give you. The LORD will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand. You shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. And the LORD will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not be beneath, if you heed the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, and are careful to observe them. So you shall not turn aside from any of the words which I command you this day, to the right or the left, to go after other gods to serve them.
a. Blessed shall you be: An obedient Israel would be blessed everywhere: In the city… in the country… when you come in… when you go out. An obedient Israel would be blessed in their homes and in their farms, and in their kitchens (the fruit of your body… the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds… Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl).
b. They shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways: An obedient Israel would be blessed in warfare. This degree of blessing speaks of a clearly Divine blessing.
c. The LORD will establish you as a holy people to Himself: Perhaps the best blessing had to do with Israel’s own relationship with God. God would separate an obedient Israel unto Himself, speaking of a special relationship. If not for this, all the material blessings described previously would be empty.
d. All the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the LORD… the LORD will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not be beneath: God’s purpose in blessing Israel was greater than just enriching the nation for its own sake. He intended to glorify Himself through blessing them.
i. When Israel walked after the LORD, these blessings were real; one example of this is when the Queen of Sheba came to Solomon and saw a nation so blessed, she knew it had to be of God (1 Kings 10:1-13).
B. Curses on disobedience.
1. (15) Introduction to the curses.
But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:
a. If you do not obey the voice of the LORD your God: The covenant’s aspect of the choice was a sword with two edges. Obedience would carry great blessing, but disobedience would carry terrible curses.
b. All these curses will come upon you and overtake you: Like the blessings for an obedient Israel, the curses for a disobedient Israel would be inevitable.
c. All these curses: The rest of the chapter is almost overwhelming. “Actually, a logical analysis of the chapter is almost impossible, since the final aim was not to be logical but to build up a vivid impression by presenting picture after picture until the hearer could see and feel the import of the preacher’s words.” (Thompson)
2. (16-68) The curses upon Israel’s disobedience.
Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the country.
Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.
Cursed shall be the fruit of your body and the produce of your land, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks.
Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out.
The LORD will send on you cursing, confusion, and rebuke in all that you set your hand to do, until you are destroyed and until you perish quickly, because of the wickedness of your doings in which you have forsaken Me. The LORD will make the plague cling to you until He has consumed you from the land which you are going to possess. The LORD will strike you with consumption, with fever, with inflammation, with severe burning fever, with the sword, with scorching, and with mildew; they shall pursue you until you perish. And your heavens which are over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you shall be iron. The LORD will change the rain of your land to powder and dust; from the heaven it shall come down on you until you are destroyed. The LORD will cause you to be defeated before your enemies; you shall go out one way against them and flee seven ways before them; and you shall become troublesome to all the kingdoms of the earth. Your carcasses shall be food for all the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and no one shall frighten them away. The LORD will strike you with the boils of Egypt, with tumors, with the scab, and with the itch, from which you cannot be healed. The LORD will strike you with madness and blindness and confusion of heart. And you shall grope at noonday, as a blind man gropes in darkness; you shall not prosper in your ways; you shall be only oppressed and plundered continually, and no one shall save you. You shall betroth a wife, but another man shall lie with her; you shall build a house, but you shall not dwell in it; you shall plant a vineyard, but shall not gather its grapes. Your ox shall be slaughtered before your eyes, but you shall not eat of it; your donkey shall be violently taken away from before you, and shall not be restored to you; your sheep shall be given to your enemies, and you shall have no one to rescue them. Your sons and your daughters shall be given to another people, and your eyes shall look and fail with longing for them all day long; and there shall be no strength in your hand. A nation whom you have not known shall eat the fruit of your land and the produce of your labor, and you shall be only oppressed and crushed continually. So you shall be driven mad because of the sight which your eyes see. The LORD will strike you in the knees and on the legs with severe boils which cannot be healed, and from the sole of your foot to the top of your head. The LORD will bring you and the king whom you set over you to a nation which neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you shall serve other gods; wood and stone. And you shall become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword among all nations where the LORD will drive you. You shall carry much seed out to the field but gather little in, for the locust shall consume it. You shall plant vineyards and tend them, but you shall neither drink of the wine nor gather the grapes; for the worms shall eat them. You shall have olive trees throughout all your territory, but you shall not anoint yourself with the oil; for your olives shall drop off. You shall beget sons and daughters, but they shall not be yours; for they shall go into captivity. Locusts shall consume all your trees and the produce of your land. The alien who is among you shall rise higher and higher above you, and you shall come down lower and lower. He shall lend to you, but you shall not lend to him; he shall be the head, and you shall be the tail. Moreover all these curses shall come upon you and pursue and overtake you, until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you. And they shall be upon you for a sign and a wonder, and on your descendants forever. Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything, therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of everything; and He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until He has destroyed you. The LORD will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flies, a nation whose language you will not understand, a nation of fierce countenance, which does not respect the elderly nor show favor to the young. And they shall eat the increase of your livestock and the produce of your land, until you are destroyed; they shall not leave you grain or new wine or oil, or the increase of your cattle or the offspring of your flocks, until they have destroyed you. They shall besiege you at all your gates until your high and fortified walls, in which you trust, come down throughout all your land; and they shall besiege you at all your gates throughout all your land which the LORD your God has given you. You shall eat the fruit of your own body, the flesh of your sons and your daughters whom the LORD your God has given you, in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you. The sensitive and very refined man among you will be hostile toward his brother, toward the wife of his bosom, and toward the rest of his children whom he leaves behind, so that he will not give any of them the flesh of his children whom he will eat, because he has nothing left in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you at all your gates. The tender and delicate woman among you, who would not venture to set the sole of her foot on the ground because of her delicateness and sensitivity, will refuse to the husband of her bosom, and to her son and her daughter, her placenta which comes out from between her feet and her children whom she bears; for she will eat them secretly for lack of everything in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you at all your gates. If you do not carefully observe all the words of this law that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and awesome name, THE LORD YOUR GOD, then the LORD will bring upon you and your descendants extraordinary plagues; great and prolonged plagues; and serious and prolonged sicknesses. Moreover He will bring back on you all the diseases of Egypt, of which you were afraid, and they shall cling to you. Also every sickness and every plague, which is not written in this Book of the Law, will the LORD bring upon you until you are destroyed. You shall be left few in number, whereas you were as the stars of heaven in multitude, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God. And it shall be, that just as the LORD rejoiced over you to do you good and multiply you, so the LORD will rejoice over you to destroy you and bring you to nothing; and you shall be plucked from off the land which you go to possess. Then the LORD will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods, which neither you nor your fathers have known; wood and stone. And among those nations you shall find no rest, nor shall the sole of your foot have a resting place; but there the LORD will give you a trembling heart, failing eyes, and anguish of soul. Your life shall hang in doubt before you; you shall fear day and night, and have no assurance of life. In the morning you shall say, “Oh, that it were evening!” And at evening you shall say, “Oh, that it were morning!” because of the fear which terrifies your heart, and because of the sight which your eyes see. And the LORD will take you back to Egypt in ships, by the way of which I said to you, “You shall never see it again.” And there you shall be offered for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you.
a. In the city… in the country… when you come in… when you go out: A disobedient Israel would be cursed everywhere.
b. The fruit of your body… the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds… Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl: A disobedient Israel would be cursed in their homes, their farms, and in their kitchens.
c. Plague… consumption… fever… the boils of Egypt… the scab… the itch… madness and blindness and confusion of heart: A disobedient Israel would be cursed in their health.
d. Your heavens… shall be bronze… the LORD will change the rain of your land to powder and dust: A disobedient Israel would be cursed in their weather.
e. To be defeated before your enemies: A disobedient Israel would be cursed in warfare.
f. You shall betroth a wife, but another man shall lie with her… Your ox shall be slaughtered before your eyes, but you shall not eat of it… Your sons and your daughters shall be given to another people: A disobedient Israel would be cursed by simple, terrible injustices and tragedies. All of these tragedies would bring a terrible result: you shall be driven mad because of the sight which your eyes see.
g. The LORD will bring a nation against you from afar: A disobedient Israel would be attacked and conquered by a nation of fierce countenance, and they would fight until they have destroyed you.
i. You shall eat the fruit of your own body: This became horribly true in the days of the later kingdom. 2 Kings 6:24-30 describes a famine so severe in a besieged Israelite city that there was a fight between two women over eating their children! A terrible fulfillment of the promise, he will not give any of the flesh of his children whom he will eat. Lamentations 4:1-11 vividly describes the horrors of the siege of Jerusalem.
h. The LORD will scatter you among all the peoples, from one end of the earth to the other: In the end, Israel would be dispersed. We find that because of their disobedience, these curses became the history of the nation of Israel.
i. Of course, many of these horrible curses upon a disobedient Israel were fulfilled in the years of history recorded in the Old Testament; but their fulfillment did not end with the end of Bible history, Old or New Testament.
ii. For example, around 68 A.D. the Romans finally had enough of the rebellious Jews in their province of Judea, so they laid siege to Jerusalem. At the time, the Jews fervently expected the coming of the Messiah to save them and conquer the Romans, based on God’s promise to destroy the armies laying siege to Jerusalem in Zechariah 12:1-9. Sadly, the Jews of that time refused to fulfill Zechariah 12:10 which described their humble, repentant embrace of a pierced Messiah.
ii. Nevertheless the Jews of that day were so confident of Messiah’s coming that their factions actually fought each other and burned each other’s food, trying to be the most powerful group when the Messiah came. According to Josephus, it was “as though they were purposely serving the Romans by destroying what the city had provided against a siege and severing the sinews of their own strength” (Wars 5.24). “Through famine certainly the city fell, a fate which would have been practically impossible, had they not prepared the way for it themselves.” (Wars 5.26)
iii. When the Roman general Vespasian came to Jerusalem, the Jewish factions were busy fighting each other. His staff urged him to attack immediately, but he knew that an attack would instantly unite the Jews. So he held back and let them destroy each other for as long as possible. He said that God was a better general than he, and that He was delivering the Jews into the hands of the Romans. Before Jerusalem was attacked, Vespasian became emperor, and he put his son Titus in charge of the attack.
iv. In contrast, Christians in Jerusalem heeded the words of Jesus in Luke 21:20-24, in which He told people to flee Jerusalem when it was surrounded by armies, because the days of vengeance were at hand.
v. In this siege of Jerusalem hunger became so great that many tried to escape the walls and forage for food. Five hundred or more were captured and crucified daily. “The soldiers out of rage and hatred amused themselves by nailing their prisoners in different postures; and so great was their numbers, that space could not be found for the crosses nor crosses for the bodies.” (War 5.451) More than 600,000 died from starvation, and their dead bodies were dumped over the walls of the city. In total more that a million died and 97,000 were captured, with most of the captives being shipped as slaves to Egypt. The promise of Deuteronomy 28:68 was tragically fulfilled: you shall be offered for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you. This happened as too many Jewish slaves glutted the Egyptian slave market, and no one could buy all the available slaves.
vi. After the conquest the Jews still living in Judea were continually subjugated and humiliated by the Romans. The Romans continued to collect the temple tax from the Jews, even though their temple had been completely destroyed. So the Romans took the temple tax and used it to support their pagan temples.
vii. After some years of this, the Jews of Judea rebelled against the Romans again in 132 A.D. with a man named bar-Kochoba leading the fight. He was proclaimed messiah by the rabbis who supported the revolt. But after the bar-Kochoba rebellion, Rome finally and utterly crushed the Jewish population of Judea. Josephus said that as a result of the many battles, the once beautiful land was destroyed, and that it could not even be recognized.
viii. But the curse for Israel had not ended. Now, tragically, the church and Christians turned on the Jews. It was as if the branches of the tree attacked their own root. As the church gained in political power and became the official religion of the Roman Empire, the church decided to attack the Jews.
ix. They did this in part as retribution for the distant early years of Jewish persecution of the Christians. It was also because the current Jewish rejection of Jesus as Messiah was thought so offensive. But the greatest motivation was a bizarre evangelistic strategy. Christians thought, “The Jews are cursed because they have killed their Messiah. The curses are meant to turn the heart of the nation back to God. We will help God by being His instrument to curse the Jewish people.”
x. For centuries, the worst enemies Jews ever had were the Christians who thought they could help God by cursing the Jewish people. At one time in Medieval Rome, the Pope commanded a procession of the Jews through the city, where they presented a scroll of the Old Testament to the Pope. He received the scroll and said, “Beautiful law; wretched people.” The shameful history of the Church against the Jews is recorded in the story of the Crusades, the slaughters, and the ghettos.
xi. This helps to explain the great corruption and lack of spiritual power in the church through the Dark Ages. God promised to Abraham and his covenant descendants, the Jewish people, I will bless those who bless you, and curse him who curses you (Genesis 12:3). Satan’s clever, and powerful strategy to curse the church was effective: Curse the church by inspiring them to curse the Jewish people. Just as God judged Assyria, Babylon, Rome, and Germany for their mistreatment of the Jewish people, so the church was cursed as long as it persecuted the Jews. The church ignorantly disregarded the words of Jesus in Matthew 18:7: For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes! If the Jewish people were to be cursed, it was God’s business, not the Church’s business!
xii. “They have, it is true, grievously sinned; but, O ye Christians, have they not grievously suffered for it? Is not the stroke of God heavy enough upon them? Do not then, by any unkind treatment or cruel oppression, increase their miseries. They are, above all others, the men who have seen affliction by the stroke of his rod.” (Adam Clarke, 1811)
xiii. Gloriously, the curse was not and is not the end of God’s plan for the Jewish people. As Ezekiel 37 describes, God will – and has begun to – revive the Jewish people as back from the dead and prepare them to be used in these last days. God is not done with Israel, and the curse will not be their final legacy.
i. You shall become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword among all nations where the LORD will drive you: Even as with the blessings, God’s purpose in cursing Israel would be greater than just immediately punishing them for their sin. It was to be a witness to the nations.
i. God would do this for His glory, and because it would glorify Him, it can even be said that He would rejoice in the work: just as the LORD rejoiced over you to do you good and multiply you, so the LORD will rejoice over you to destroy you and bring you to nothing.
ii. “For though he doth not delight in the death of a sinner in itself, yet he doth doubtless delight in the glorifying of his justice upon incorrigible sinners, seeing the exercise of all his attributes must needs please him, else he were not perfectly happy.” (Poole)
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
Deuteronomy 27 – Stones of Witness
A. A special altar.
1. (1-8) The command to set up a special altar.
Now Moses, with the elders of Israel, commanded the people, saying: “Keep all the commandments which I command you today. And it shall be, on the day when you cross over the Jordan to the land which the LORD your God is giving you, that you shall set up for yourselves large stones, and whitewash them with lime. You shall write on them all the words of this law, when you have crossed over, that you may enter the land which the LORD your God is giving you, ‘a land flowing with milk and honey,’ just as the LORD God of your fathers promised you. Therefore it shall be, when you have crossed over the Jordan, that on Mount Ebal you shall set up these stones, which I command you today, and you shall whitewash them with lime. And there you shall build an altar to the LORD your God, an altar of stones; you shall not use an iron tool on them. You shall build with whole stones the altar of the LORD your God, and offer burnt offerings on it to the LORD your God. You shall offer peace offerings, and shall eat there, and rejoice before the LORD your God. And you shall write very plainly on the stones all the words of this law.”
a. Keep all the commandments which I command you today: Moses finished his preaching to the people of Israel, so there was nothing more to say, other than the simple encouragement to do what God commanded. It isn’t enough for Israel to be hearers of the word; they must also be doers of the word.
b. There you shall build an altar: When Israel came into the Promised Land, they were to build a special altar. It was to be made of natural stone, with no iron tool used to carve the stones. With these whole stones making up the altar, they were also to write very plainly on the stones all the words of this law.
i. This was a special altar. It was clearly to be used for sacrifice (You shall offer peace offerings), but it was also to be a memorial of the law of Moses, and his great sermon to Israel in the book of Deuteronomy.
ii. This command was obeyed by Joshua in Joshua 8:30-32; there, at Mount Ebal, in the Promised Land, Joshua in the presence of the children of Israel… wrote on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written.
iii. Probably, what was written was the summation of the law contained in the Ten Commandments.
c. An altar of stones; you shall not use an iron tool on them: This was commanded because God did not want the glory of the stone carver to be the center of attention at His altar. God, at His altar, will share glory with no man – the beauty and attractiveness would be found only in the provision of God, not in any fleshly display.
d. You shall whitewash them with lime: So, the words could be easily seen, they were to whitewash them with lime. Anything we can do to make God’s word more accessible to others is a good thing, as long as the integrity of God’s word is preserved.
i. Any time God’s word is presented, it must be presented very plainly. Every preacher and teacher must endeavor to make the Word of God plain.
2. (9-10) This day you have become the people of the LORD your God.
Then Moses and the priests, the Levites, spoke to all Israel, saying, “Take heed and listen, O Israel: This day you have become the people of the LORD your God. Therefore you shall obey the voice of the LORD your God, and observe His commandments and His statutes which I command you today.”
a. Then Moses and the priests, the Levites, spoke to all Israel: Much of the book of Deuteronomy is written after the same pattern as ancient agreements between kings and their subjects. Here, the idea is clear: God is the king, and the people of Israel are His subjects. He has told them what He expects of them, and what they may expect from Him.
b. This day you have become the people of the LORD your God: Now that the agreement was settled, and it could be said to Israel, “you have become the people of the LORD your God.” The contract was signed, and Israel willingly submitted itself to the Lord God, recognizing Him as their king.
c. You shall obey the voice of the LORD your God, and observe His commandments and His statutes: If the LORD is our king, then it is fitting that we obey Him this way. Moses, and all the leadership of Israel simply declared a fact that was obvious to everyone.
B. The command to announce the curses from Mount Ebal.
1. (11-13) The division of the tribes between the two mountains.
And Moses commanded the people on the same day, saying, “These shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people, when you have crossed over the Jordan: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin; and these shall stand on Mount Ebal to curse: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali.”
a. These shall stand on Mount Gerizim… and these shall stand on Mount Ebal: When Israel came into the Promised Land, they were to separate the tribes according to these two groups. One group would gather on Mount Gerizim, and they would bless the people. The other group would stand on Mount Ebal and they would curse those who disobeyed the law of God.
b. To bless the people… to curse: This dramatic scene was fulfilled in Joshua 8:32-35. In Joshua’s day, it happened after a bitter defeat, then a dramatic repentance and recovery at Ai (Joshua chapters 7 and 8). After the victory at Ai, Joshua wanted to do everything he could to walk in obedience, so he led the nation in obedience to this command in Deuteronomy 27.
i. In this, Joshua was showing himself to be a man of the Book, and Israel a people of the Book; they would order their lives after God’s Word. This was done even at some cost or inconvenience; the distance from Ai to Ebal and Gerizim was not small distance to move all the tribes of Israel (from 20 to 25 miles).
ii. The rest of the chapter declares the curses; but where is the declaration of blessing? “The absence of a list of blessings may simply mean that they were omitted, since they would have corresponded with the curses except that they negatived everyone in turn. Those who were blessed did not offend in the areas in which those who were cursed did.” (Thompson)
c. These shall stand on Mount Gerizim… and these shall stand on Mount Ebal: God commanded this “open-air-audience-participation-sermon” to happen at Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal for several important reasons.
i. This would be a beautiful place to do this. The whole nation could hear this reading of the Law because the area has a natural amphitheater effect because of the contour of the hills.
ii. Because Gerizim and Ebal were in the geographic middle of the Promised Land, Israel had to control the middle of Canaan and the highlands to have the luxury of such an assembly at these mountains.
iii. Finally, the mountains themselves were pictures of blessing and cursing: “On all hands it is allowed that Gerizim abounds with springs, gardens, and orchards, and that it is covered with a beautiful verdure, while Ebal is as naked and barren as a rock.” (Clarke)
2. (14-26) The declaration of the curses.
And the Levites shall speak with a loud voice and say to all the men of Israel:
“Cursed is the one who makes a carved or molded image, an abomination to the LORD, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and sets it up in secret.” And all the people shall answer and say, “Amen!”
“Cursed is the one who treats his father or his mother with contempt.” And all the people shall say, “Amen!”
“Cursed is the one who moves his neighbor’s landmark.” And all the people shall say, “Amen!”
“Cursed is the one who makes the blind to wander off the road.” And all the people shall say, “Amen!”
“Cursed is the one who perverts the justice due the stranger, the fatherless, and widow.” And all the people shall say, “Amen!”
“Cursed is the one who lies with his father’s wife, because he has uncovered his father’s bed.” And all the people shall say, “Amen!”
“Cursed is the one who lies with any kind of animal.” And all the people shall say, “Amen!”
“Cursed is the one who lies with his sister, the daughter of his father or the daughter of his mother.” And all the people shall say, “Amen!”
“Cursed is the one who lies with his mother-in-law.” And all the people shall say, “Amen!”
“Cursed is the one who attacks his neighbor secretly.” And all the people shall say, “Amen!”
“Cursed is the one who takes a bribe to slay an innocent person.” And all the people shall say, “Amen!”
“Cursed is the one who does not confirm all the words of this law.” And all the people shall say, “Amen!”
a. The Levites shall speak with a loud voice: This would make a remarkable impression. The Levites declared curses upon those who break the covenant, and people answered Amen! to every declaration.
i. It is good to remind ourselves that the word Amen!means something. It means “so be it.” Every Amen! was a conscious agreement with the declaration of a curse.
b. Cursed is the one who: The Levites declared, and the people agreed to, curses upon those who break God’s law.
i. Curses upon idolaters (the one who makes any carved or molded image).
ii. Curses upon those who dishonor their parents (the one who treats his father or his mother with contempt).
iii. Curses upon those who steal (the one who moves his neighbor’s landmark).
iv. Curses upon those who are simply cruel (the one who makes the blind to wander off the road).
v. Curses upon the one who perverts the justice due the stranger, the fatherless, and widow.
vi. Curses upon those who disobey God’s sexual standards (regarding incest and bestiality).
vii. Curses upon the violent (the one who attacks his neighbor secretly).
viii. Curses upon those who cheat the courts (the one who takes a bribe to slay an innocent person).
c. Cursed is the one who does not confirm all the words of this law: Finally – if one believes they have escaped these curses – there was a curse pronounced upon the one who does not conform to all the words of this law. Even if somehow, we have escaped all the previous curses, none can conform to all the words of this law.
i. When all are found guilty before the law, and it is clear that they cannot conform to all the words of this law, there is still hope. A clue to this hope is found in the beginning of the chapter, where God declared that an altar be built – not upon Mount Gerizim, the mountain of blessing, but upon Mount Ebal, the mountain of cursing. We need the covering and atoning sacrifice exactly at the point where our sin and failures are revealed and God’s curse is pronounced on our sin.
ii. It is important to recognize that we, in Jesus Christ, do not have an Old Covenant relationship with God. We expect to be blessed, not because of our obedience, but because of our position in Jesus. The curse we deserved was laid upon Him (Galatians 3:10-14). Though there may be an inherent curse of consequences in our disobedience, or even the correcting hand of God, under the New Covenant, He does not punish us or curse us – because all that we deserved, past, present, and future, was poured out upon Jesus.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
Deuteronomy 26 – Presenting Firstfruits and Tithes
A. Instruction for bringing the firstfruits and tithes.
1. (1-4) Bringing the firstfruits to the priest.
And it shall be, when you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, and you possess it and dwell in it, that you shall take some of the first of all the produce of the ground, which you shall bring from your land that the LORD your God is giving you, and put it in a basket and go to the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide. And you shall go to the one who is priest in those days, and say to him, “I declare today to the LORD your God that I have come to the country which the LORD swore to our fathers to give us.” Then the priest shall take the basket out of your hand and set it down before the altar of the LORD your God.
a. When you come into the land: The Promised Land lay just across the Jordan River, and though there were formidable obstacles (such as a Jordan River swollen by Spring floods and the mighty armies of Canaanites), God still assured them that they will come into the land.
b. Some of the first of all the produce of the ground: Numbers 18:12 speaks of the firstfruits that must be regularly brought to the priests, but the firstfruits described here in Deuteronomy 26 seem to be a special offering of firstfruits, from the first of the harvest they gain in the Promised Land.
c. Set it down before the altar of the LORD your God: Firstfruit giving obviously honored the LORD, because it gave the LORD His portion off the top before any was used for one’s self.
2. (5-10) The words of thanks and praise at the giving of firstfruits.
And you shall answer and say before the LORD your God: “My father was a Syrian, about to perish, and he went down to Egypt and dwelt there, few in number; and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous. But the Egyptians mistreated us, afflicted us, and laid hard bondage on us. Then we cried out to the LORD God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and looked on our affliction and our labor and our oppression. So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. He has brought us to this place and has given us this land, ‘a land flowing with milk and honey’; and now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land which you, O LORD, have given me.” Then you shall set it before the LORD your God, and worship before the LORD your God.
a. And you shall answer and say before the LORD your God: This wonderful confession of thanks remembered the history of Israel from the time of Jacob and his family in the land of Canaan, to the family’s going down into Egypt, and to the eventual deliverance and Exodus into the Promised Land.
b. He went down to Egypt and sojourned there: Israel spent some 400 years in Egypt. Yet in the course of God’s eternal plan, it was nothing more than a sojourn. We can often focus so much on our own time of trial or misery that we think that it defines our whole life; God saw Israel’s experience in Egypt as a sojourn.
c. Few in number; and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous: This was the major reason God had for sending Jacob and his family on their sojourn in Egypt. When they lived in Canaan, there was great risk of the family just assimilating with the wicked, pagan peoples around them. To prevent this, and to allow the nation to grow, God sent them down to Egypt, which was a very racist society, and who would not intermarry with Israel. Therefore, they could go down there few in number; and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous.
d. And now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land: This initial giving of firstfruits when Israel came into the Promised Land was an appropriate way to say “thank you” to the LORD. This giving, and all giving done with the right heart, is a proper way to worship before the LORD your God.
3. (11) So you shall rejoice.
So you shall rejoice in every good thing which the LORD your God has given to you and your house, you and the Levite and the stranger who is among you.
a. Rejoice in every good thing which the LORD your God has given to you: When we receive from the LORD, and give back to Him, it makes us rejoice. It is the proper response of a creature to his Creator, who has supplied him with all good things.
4. (12-15) The prayer for the giving of the tithe.
When you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your increase in the third year; the year of tithing; and have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be filled, then you shall say before the LORD your God: “I have removed the holy tithe from my house, and also have given them to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed Your commandments, nor have I forgotten them. I have not eaten any of it when in mourning, nor have I removed any of it for an unclean use, nor given any of it for the dead. I have obeyed the voice of the LORD my God, and have done according to all that You have commanded me. Look down from Your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Your people Israel and the land which You have given us, just as You swore to our fathers, ‘a land flowing with milk and honey.’”
a. When you have finished laying aside all the tithe: The tithe was required of Israel every year, but every third year, the tithe was given not only to the Levites for their support (as was instructed in Numbers 18:21-24), but was to be shared by the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, so they may eat within your gates and be filled.
b. Then you shall say: The prayer described here shows that the giving was done with the right kind of heart. God not only wants us to give, but to give with the right heart.
i. Right giving is done according to God’s Word: According to all Your commandments which you have commanded me.
ii. Right giving is done within the context of a whole life of obedience: I have not transgressed Your commandments, nor have I forgotten them.
iii. I have not eaten any of it… nor have I removed any of it: Right giving genuinely sets aside what is to be given unto the LORD.
iv. Nor given any of it for the dead: Right giving is not done superstitiously; “Putting food in a grave with a dead body was a common Egyptian and Canaanite practice, which is most likely what the Israelites were not to emulate.” (Kalland)
v. Look down from Your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Your people: Right giving is done with the expectation of blessing.
B. Moses’ exhortation to Israel.
1. (16) A call to complete obedience.
This day the LORD your God commands you to observe these statutes and judgments; therefore you shall be careful to observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.
a. This day the LORD your God commands you to observe these statutes and judgments: Deuteronomy 4:1 began this long section with the words Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I teach you to observe. From Deuteronomy chapter 4 through chapter 26, Moses has reminded Israel of God’s commands. Now he exhorted them to keep the commands.
b. therefore you shall be careful to observe them: Sometimes we need to be instructed regarding the law of God; sometimes we need to be reminded regarding the law of God. But most often, we need to be exhorted regarding the law of God. We know what to do, but we need to be encouraged to actually do it.
2. (17) Israel’s proclamation.
Today you have proclaimed the LORD to be your God, and that you will walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments, and His judgments, and that you will obey His voice.
a. Today you have proclaimed the LORD to be your God: Israel was to proclaim two things. First, that the LORD to be their God. Second, that they will walk in His ways and keep His statutes. The two go together, because the identity of our God is always demonstrated by the direction of our obedience.
3. (18-19) God’s proclamation.
Also today the LORD has proclaimed you to be His special people, just as He promised you, that you should keep all His commandments, and that He will set you high above all nations which He has made, in praise, in name, and in honor, and that you may be a holy people to the LORD your God, just as He has spoken.
a. The LORD has proclaimed you to be His special people: Israel’s obedience to the LORD would be more than rewarded. God promised that He exalt an obedient Israel, to set them high above all nations which He has made, in praise, in name, and in honor.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
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