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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 8

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-6

God humbled the Israelites in the sense that He sought to teach them to have a realistic awareness of their dependence on Himself for all their needs. This is true humility. God’s provision of manna to eat and clothing to wear should have taught the people that they were dependent on His provision for all their needs, not just food and clothing.

What proceeds from God’s mouth (Deuteronomy 8:3) does not refer to the spoken revelations of God exclusively but, more comprehensively, to all that comes from God to man. [Note: See Gerhard von Rad, Deuteronomy, p. 72; Raymond Van Leeuwen, "What Comes out of God’s Mouth: Theological Wordplay in Deuteronomy 8," Catholic Biblical Quarterly 47 (January 1985):53-57; and Miller, p. 116.]

"The third means of divine self-disclosure in the context of the Deuteronomic covenant [in addition to historical event and theophany] was by word. It is important to note, however, that in the ancient Near East and in the Old Testament there is no essential distinction between act and word, for the act is produced by the word and the word is never without effective purpose. It is dynamic, entelic, purposeful, creative, powerful (cf. Genesis 1:3, etc.). It does not exist (as in Greek philosophy, for example) as a theoretical or neutral abstraction. In terms of revelation, and especially in Deuteronomy, it is necessary to see the powerful word as a covenant instrument; the word of the Sovereign commands and communicates, but it also effects, empowers, and creates." [Note: Merrill, "A Theology . . .," p. 64.]

The contrast intended is not between physical bread and the special revelation of God in Scripture. It is more generally between what man provides for himself and what God provides for him. God was warning the Israelites against excessive self-reliance (cf. Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4).

"Just as the Genesis narratives used God’s act of providing clothing for Adam and Eve to demonstrate his care for humankind after they were cast out of the Garden (Genesis 3:21), so God’s care for Israel in the wilderness is pictured here in his providing for their clothing (Deuteronomy 8:4). Moreover, the same picture of God as a loving father, which permeates the early chapters of Genesis . . ., is recalled again here: ’As a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you’ (Deuteronomy 8:5; cf. Deuteronomy 32:6)." [Note: Sailhamer, p. 441.]

Verses 1-20

Warning against pride and forgetfulness of God ch. 8

"Two important lessons from the past are now referred to. First, the experience of God’s care in the wilderness period, when the people of Israel were unable to help themselves, taught them the lesson of humility through the Lord’s providential discipline. The memory of that experience should keep them from pride in their own achievements amid the security and prosperity of the new land (Deuteronomy 8:1-20)." [Note: Thompson, p. 134.]

The Israelites were not only in danger of compromising with the Canaanites (ch. 7). They were also in danger of becoming too self-reliant when they entered the land (ch. 8). Note the double themes of remembering and forgetting, and the wilderness and the Promised Land in this chapter. They lead to the warning in Deuteronomy 8:19-20.

Verses 7-20

Moses applied the lesson to Israel’s future in this section. When the people settled in the land and experienced God’s blessing of material wealth, they would face temptation to think they were responsible for it rather than God (Deuteronomy 8:17). The prophylactic to this spiritual delusion was to remember what God had taught them in the past. It had been He, not themselves, that had been responsible for their prosperity. [Note: See Eugene H. Merrill, "Remembering: A Central Theme in Biblical Worship," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 43:1 (March 2000):27-36.]

"’To remember’ means literally to re-member the body, to bring the separated parts of the community of truth back together, to reunite the whole. The opposite of re-member is not forget, but dis-member." [Note: A. J. Heschel, Man Is Not Alone, p. 61.]

As God’s people move toward the realization of the inheritance that He has promised us, we need to remember His faithful provision in the past. If we do not remember, we may turn aside and stop following Him faithfully in the present. Failure to remember and follow faithfully will result in God’s punishment in the future (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:12-15).

"Always remember to forget

The troubles that passed your way,

But never forget to remember

The blessings that come each day." [Note: Anonymous.]

This section has great application value for Christians who enjoy material prosperity. God clearly revealed the essence of pride and humility here as well as the way to maintain a realistic outlook on material blessings.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 8". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/deuteronomy-8.html. 2012.
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