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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 29

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verse 1


Moses now gave the new generation its instructions concerning fresh commitment to the covenant when Israel would enter the land.

"The ratification of the new covenant which Moses was making with the second generation was to unfold in two stages. That was customary procedure in securing the throne succession to the appointed royal heir. When death was imminent, the suzerain required his vassals to pledge obedience to his son; then, soon after the son’s accession, the vassals’ commitment was repeated. Similarly, Moses and Joshua formed a dynasty of mediatorial representatives of the Lord’s suzerainty over Israel. Hence the succession of Joshua, which symbolized the continuing lordship of Israel’s God, was ensured by the oath elicited from Israel before Moses died, and again later by a ratification ceremony after Joshua’s accession. The pronouncing of curses and blessings is prominent in each of these ratification rituals." [Note: Kline, "Deuteronomy," pp. 190-91.]

Verse 1

E. Narrative interlude 29:1

Chapter 29 Deuteronomy 29:1 is the last verse of chapter 28 in the Hebrew Bible. Moses probably intended it to be a summary statement of what precedes rather than an introduction to what follows. The renewed Mosaic Covenant to which Moses now called on his hearers to commit themselves contrasts somewhat with the original Mosaic Covenant to which the Israelites committed themselves at Mt. Sinai.

". . . the verse forms an inclusio with the preamble section of Deuteronomy 1:1-5. Both passages begin with the phrase ’these are the words . . . which Moses,’ both locate the setting in Moab, and both make reference to Horeb and the earlier covenant. Thus the covenant text proper may be said to have been brought to a conclusion in Deuteronomy 29:1. . . .

"It seems quite clear, then, that a major break occurs between Deuteronomy 29:1 and Deuteronomy 29:2, with the former bringing all the previous material to a close and the latter introducing at least the epilogic historical review." [Note: Merrill, Deuteronomy, p. 373. Cf. Craigie, The Book . . ., p. 353; and Driver, p. 319.]

Verses 2-8

1. Historical review 29:2-8

The emphasis in this section is on God’s faithfulness in bringing Israel to its present position (cf. Deuteronomy 1:6 to Deuteronomy 4:40). To do this God had provided for the people in the wilderness and had given them victory over some of their enemies (e.g., Sihon and Og). He had also given them some of the land He had promised them. One writer concluded that most of the Israelites could not respond to God because they did not enjoy a faith relationship with Him, but those who did trust Him could. [Note: See Michael A. Grisanti, "Was Israel Unable to Respond to God? A Study of Deuteronomy 29:2-4," Bibliotheca Sacra 163:650 (April-June 2006):176-96.]

Verses 2-20


"The rest of chapter 29 contains many reminiscences of the Near Eastern treaty pattern. It is not presented in a systematic manner but in narrative form. However, elements of the pattern are clearly discernible, making it extremely likely that some kind of covenant ceremony underlies the events here reported." [Note: Thompson, p. 279.]

The form of this section argues for it being a covenant renewal. There is a historical prologue (Deuteronomy 29:2-9), reference to the parties covenanting (Deuteronomy 29:10-15), and basic stipulations (Deuteronomy 29:16-19). Then follow the curses (Deuteronomy 29:20-28), Moses’ preaching of repentance and restoration (Deuteronomy 29:29 to Deuteronomy 30:14), and the covenantal decision (Deuteronomy 30:15-20). The last section has three parts: the choice (Deuteronomy 30:15-18), the witnesses (Deuteronomy 30:19 a), and the call for decision (Deuteronomy 30:19-20). [Note: Miller, p. 201. See also Dennis McCarthy, Treaty and Covenant, pp. 199-205; and Klaus Baltzer, The Covenant Formulary, pp. 34-36.]

"There is general consensus that chaps. 29 and 30 of Deuteronomy (as well as Deuteronomy 31:1-8) are not strictly part of the covenant document as such documents were ordinarily crafted. [Note: Mayes, pp. 358-59.] This does not mean, of course, that this section does not serve a covenant function in Moses’ own unique creation of the book as a covenant instrument. [Note: Wenham, "The Structure . . .," pp. 208-10.] But even if it doesn’t, it is very much at home here as a parenesis that looks to the past, present, and future of the elect nation. It provides a summation of God’s past dealings with Israel, restates the present occasion of covenant offer and acceptance, and addresses the options of covenant disobedience and obedience respectively. Finally, it exhorts the assembled throng to covenant commitment. It is most fitting that these summaries and exhortations follow the body of the covenant text and precede the formalizing of the agreement by the Lord and his chosen vassal." [Note: Merrill, Deuteronomy, p. 375.]

Verses 2-29

A. An appeal for faithfulness 29:2-29

Moses began his third address to the Israelites with an appeal for them to remain faithful to their suzerain lord and His covenant with them.

Verses 9-15

2. The purpose of the assembly 29:9-15

In view of God’s past faithfulness the Israelites should keep "this covenant" (Deuteronomy 29:9), the Mosaic Covenant, so that they might prosper in the future. Moses assembled the people to commit themselves anew to their covenant with God. God had made the Mosaic Covenant with all the Israelites, not just the generation that stood before Moses on this occasion (Deuteronomy 29:14-15).

Verses 16-29

3. The consequences of disobedience 29:16-29

This generation needed to obey the laws of the Mosaic Covenant (Deuteronomy 29:21) under which the nation already lived to experience the maximum benefits of this covenant. The maximum benefits included not only ownership of the land but also the use (occupation) of it. The rebellious Israelite could anticipate physical death (Deuteronomy 29:20). Disobedience to the Mosaic Covenant (Deuteronomy 29:25) would result in the Israelites being driven out of the Promised Land. In Deuteronomy 29:29 the "secret things" refer to those things God knows but has not revealed (cf. Isaiah 55:8-9). In the context this refers specifically to how Israel would respond to the covenant in the future. The "things revealed" refer to what God has revealed so that humankind may enjoy God’s blessings. In the context this refers to the Mosaic Covenant.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 29". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/deuteronomy-29.html. 2012.
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