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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 8

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Verses 1-6


Deuteronomy 7 is about the dedication, the sanctification of the people to God. Deuteronomy 8 is another retrospective of the journey through the wilderness. Here is spoken about the ways of God with the people, but not about the unfaithfulness of the people. This is in Deuteronomy 9. It’s about how He let them go through all kinds of difficult circumstances. The purpose of this is to get to know their own heart, their own inability to face the difficulties, and then to trust Him. The application for us we find in Romans 8 (Romans 8:28).

Purpose of the Journey Through the Wilderness

Everything that Moses speaks to the people has the goal that the people will live the true life. And they will not only live, but there will also be multiplication of life. Life is not only about staying alive, but also about growing. The climate in which this life thrives is the climate of the promised land. The commandments contain so to say the raw materials for optimal enjoyment and growth of life, for increasing the quality and quantity of life.

At this special point in the life of the people of God, between the wilderness and the land, Moses calls for remembrance, to look back on the forty years behind them. Forty is the number of trial. The life of every day shows me what is in my heart. But God also shows what is in His heart. The question is what lessons we learn from the past to enter the land.

God humbles us, for every experience in the wilderness leads to more self-knowledge. Before we get to know ourselves through the trials, He sends us, there is usually a lot of self-deception with us. We do not get to know ourselves when we are in the meeting on the first day of the week, but rather in the life of every day, the wilderness life. God’s Word tells me that there is nothing good in me and that I am capable of all evil. Yet I do not believe, for example, how adrift I can become before I am bullied by another person and see what I am capable of. And only when I am as hungry as the others around me, I experience how selfish I am.

God deliberately lets us suffer hunger, so that we may gain more appreciation for the manna. Through the suffering of want we learn to know the inexhaustible resources of God. This is a great encouragement to the faith. The Lord Jesus connects hunger with the manna and with Himself, “the true bread out of heaven” (John 6:32). He says that He Himself – He is the eternal life – is the blessing of the land. In the wilderness we learn to know the Lord Jesus as the food that gives us strength to live in the wilderness to the glory of God, as He has lived here to the glory of God.

It also teaches us that our lives depend on all the words that emanate from the mouth of God. The people have the manna because it falls from heaven by His word, by His command. Not living from ‘bread alone’ means that man cannot live from bread obtained in independence or apart from His Word.

The Lord Jesus has walked in all the ways of God. He always stretched out His hand to the Word, He lived from it. He knew that God had not given the stones to his food and that the Father could give him food without therefore having to do a miracle (Matthew 4:3-Numbers :).

The food for our body is not the most important thing, but the food for our soul. Living with the Word of God is not only for the difficult cases, but for all circumstances, for every step we take.

God gives not only food, but also clothing. We put on clothes. Thus we put on the Lord Jesus (Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 4:24; Romans 13:14; Colossians 3:10; Colossians 3:12). This clothing does not wear out. Clothing represents our outer revelation, what people see of us. Is that Christ? Every revelation of me in word and deed that is to the glory of God, I recognize in the life of the Lord Jesus on earth. There I see those principles illustrated.

The discipline or punishment that strikes us comes from the hand of a loving God. It is a proof of His love for us (Hebrews 12:4-1 Kings :). It speaks of His pleasure in those whom He has chosen as sons to Himself (Proverbs 3:11-2 Kings :; cf. Proverbs 29:17). The true Son has been perfectly a pleasure to the Father: “And behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17). He needs no punishment or chastisement. The chastisement is not an end in itself, but aims to keep everything out of life and the heart that is not to a pleasure. Discipline is proof that we are sons. God wants us to share in His holiness by chastisement.

There is no book in the Old Testament that shows us so much of what the New Testament calls eternal life than the book Deuteronomy. Eternal life is the life of God Himself. Deuteronomy 8-9 show us what is in our hearts and also paint the blessings of the land. Everything is “to do good for you in the end” (Deuteronomy 8:16). That’s how God is.

Deuteronomy 9 shows a rebellious people. The fact that we are a rebellious people is a discovery we make in the wilderness. Every ‘wilderness experience’ shows me a little more that there is nothing in me that would allow God to give me His blessings. We are rebellious in ourselves from redemption onwards. This discovery must lead us to the deep humiliation.

In John 3, the Lord Jesus speaks of heavenly things. He calls it: the eternal life. We see this in the picture of the copper serpent and the meaning He gives to it (John 3:12-Ezra :). This is not a picture of how a sinner converts, but shows a phase in the history of the people of God, that is the end phase of the journey through the wilderness. After forty years, the people have not changed anything and see how they can still fall.

A new birth is not enough to understand eternal life. Everything you are by nature must be brought to the cross. To this end the experiences of the wilderness bring. There too, eternal life is known by looking up to the cross. We can say that the blessing of the land is summarized in: the eternal life. This blessing is enjoyed where brothers and sisters live together (Psalms 133:1-Leviticus :), that is to say, being at peace with one another to enjoy their fellowship with God and Christ and with one another.

Verses 7-10

Blessings and Gratitude

The waters of the land we find in the Gospel of John. There the Lord Jesus speaks of “rivers of living water”, that is the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-Malachi :). The waters – “the brooks, fountains and springs” – are needed to bring out the fruit of the land. We need the Holy Spirit to understand the blessings.

The Lord Jesus came to declare us the Father. Knowing the Father, that is eternal life (John 17:3). The Holy Spirit has come to be in us “a well of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:14). The Holy Spirit is in us to give us the enjoyment of eternal life. The “brooks of water” are the streams that flow out of our innermost being by the power of the Holy Spirit (John 7:38). We do not keep the blessings of the eternal life for ourselves, but pass them on to others. The “fountains and springs” are found in everything the Lord Jesus speaks to His disciples in the upper room and then to His Father (John 14-17). In those chapters he says a lot about the Holy Spirit.

These are all waters other than those of Deuteronomy 6 (Deuteronomy 6:11). There it is about self-dug wells with a collection of water, that is what others have drawn. Here too we can refresh ourselves. But here in Deuteronomy 8 it is directly the Holy Spirit. These waters are in valleys and hills, in the depths and on the heights of faith. The fruit in the land is everything that we learn to distinguish from the blessings of the land by the Holy Spirit.

Moses in his speech repeatedly speaks to the Israelites in the plains of Moab about “the good land” they will inherit (Deuteronomy 1:35; Deuteronomy 3:25Deuteronomy 4:21-Song of Solomon :; Deuteronomy 6:18). After exploring Canaan, Caleb even speaks of an “exceedingly good land” (Numbers 14:7). It is “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Deuteronomy 6:3). The good land forms a great contrast with the great and terrible wilderness through which they have gone.

Here we find a detailed description of the land in which the LORD will bring them. In this description, the word “land” is mentioned seven times, indicating that it is a land where God gives perfect blessing. The land is:
1. a good land (Deuteronomy 8:7; Deuteronomy 8:10);
2. a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs (Deuteronomy 8:7);
3. a land of wheat and barley, of vines, fig trees and pomegranates (Deuteronomy 8:8);
4. a land of olive oil and honey (Deuteronomy 8:8);
5. a land where there will be no poverty and no want of anything (Deuteronomy 8:9);
6. a land whose stones are iron and where one can dig copper out of the hills (Deuteronomy 8:9);
7. a land of praise for the rich blessing, the abundance which God has given them (Deuteronomy 8:10).

Life in the promised land is a richly blessed life. Thus Christ now gives life and abundance to His own. He says: “I came that they may have life, and have [it] abundantly” (John 10:10). For that they may thank Him also.

This blessing of the land gives a picture of the multitude of blessings that the Christian finds in the heavenly places. “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly [places] in Christ,” (Ephesians 1:3). Our blessings are related to the knowledge of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Our position as children, sons and heirs is based on this. This should also result in great gratitude and praise with us for the Source of our blessing, as the Apostle also clearly states: “Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:3)!

The land is well supplied with water. God takes care of that. The streams of water are a picture of the heavenly gift we have received as believers in the Holy Spirit of Whom we are “given to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:13). It is the Spirit who opens up to us and makes fruitful the good land which we have received as Christians, the land of blessing in the heavenly realms. If we sow in this “field”, we will “reap eternal life out of the Spirit” (Galatians 6:8). Eternal life, the precious fruit of the good land promised to us, is the knowledge of and the life community with the Father and the Son: “This is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Who sent You” (John 17:3).

That there is “a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs” is a sign of the abundance and rich working of the Spirit. When we think of “brooks of water”, we should not think of small, shallow waters, but of rivers and streams (Psalms 65:9-2 Samuel :). The Spirit is the “well of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:14). The “springs” are deep waters, floods of water, originating from subterranean water reservoirs – see the blessing of Joseph (Genesis 49:25; Deuteronomy 33:13). Here we can think of “the depths of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10), the mysteries of the wisdom of God, as revealed by the Spirit and recorded in the scriptures of the New Testament.

The waters can be found everywhere in the land, on the mountains and in the valleys. They appear in the valleys, but also in the mountains (Ezekiel 31:3-Numbers :). God “does not give the Spirit in moderation” (John 3:34). If we cannot perceive the working of the Spirit in our lives, we must first seek the cause of it in ourselves. We can grieve the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30) and even extinguish it, or extinguish it (1 Thessalonians 5:19).

The fountains in the valleys point more to the working of the Spirit here below, on earth. He dwells in us on earth and fills our hearts and our lives. The springs on the hills remind us of Christ in glory Who has clothed us with power from on high (Luke 24:49).

The fruit that the land produces is seven-fold. Egypt has only six ‘fruits’: “The fish …, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic’ (Numbers 11:5).

The first fruits of the land that are mentioned are “wheat and barley”. In Leviticus 23 is the sheaf of the first fruits of the barley harvest; the two wave breads at the Feast of Weeks are of the wheat harvest. The sheaf of the first fruits speaks of the Lord Jesus in the resurrection; the wave breads speak of the church, the heavenly fruit of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

Barley and wheat appear in the Gospel to John. In John 6 we read of “five barley loaves” (John 6:9). That makes us think of the resurrection. Four times in that chapter the Lord Jesus speaks about the resurrection and that in connection with eternal life. He is the bread that descended from heaven. Eternal life is resurrection life that we can possess because the Lord Jesus passed through death and rose.

In John 12 we read about the wheat: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). There we see that life is not only resurrection life, but that it is heavenly life. The Lord Jesus speaks there about life to “keep it to life eternal” (John 12:25), which is enjoyed when we are with Him and the Father. Death then has no more power over us.

The third fruit comes from the “vines”. The wine is a picture of joy. In John 15, the Lord Jesus speaks of true, complete joy. The result of the connection with the Lord Jesus and the keeping of the commandments is joy (John 15:10-1 Kings :). The bond of love and fellowship is knowing each other and leads to keeping the commandments that are characteristic of eternal life. Complete joy is the joy of knowing the Father and the Son.

The fourth, fifth and sixth fruits come from “fig trees and pomegranates” and “olive oil”. These fruits we find in the letters of Paul. The fig tree speaks of the “peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11), the pomegranate of the “fruit of sanctification” (Romans 6:22) and the olive tree of “the fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22).

The fig tree is a picture of the people of God from whom God could expect fruits. However, the fig tree has not given fruit and is cursed (Matthew 21:18-Psalms :). After their sin, Adam and Eve “sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings” (Genesis 3:7), as if they could exist for God. But a self-made garment, a garment of own righteousness, is reprehensible.

The fruit of righteousness originates from chastisement. Chastisement is the part of sons in whom the Father has a pleasure. He uses chastisement to remove what is not to His pleasure in those sons. The Father wants to become conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). Chastisement is not pleasant, but gives that fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:11).

Pomegranates have to do with the high priest, the sanctuary and a closed garden:
1. They are on the high priest’s garment (Exodus 39:24-Ezekiel :).
2. They are also on the capitals of the pillars in the temple (1 Kings 7:18; 1 Kings 7:201 Kings 7:42).
3. They are mentioned when the bridegroom compares his bride to a garden with pomegranate trees that is locked and is only open for him (Song of Solomon 4:12-1 Chronicles :).
It is a fruit that speaks of sanctification.

Olive trees speak of an abundance of activity of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is the fruit of the land (Galatians 5:22). There is no law – which is given to man in the flesh on earth – against such things. “The one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:8).

The seventh and last fruit, the “honey”, is not a fruit of trees, but a fruit produced by the zeal of bees. It is the sweetness of the affection of believers among themselves. It proposes to enjoy together with all believers the blessing of eternal life. God wants to gather His people together to enjoy with them of the Lord Jesus. In his first letter John speaks first of fellowship with the apostles and then of fellowship with the Father and the Son (1 John 1:3).

The mineral resources (Deuteronomy 8:9) are the most difficult to discover. To deepen this, a lot of effort is required. Not all blessings are on the surface. “Iron” and “copper” speak of strength. Iron speaks of victory; copper speaks of a righteousness so great that it can endure the judgment of God (Numbers 16:37-Zechariah :).

In the blessing which Moses pronounces on Asher, he says that his bars will be iron and bronze (Deuteronomy 33:25). When the wall around Jerusalem is rebuilt, the bars for the sheep gate are not mentioned; apparently, they are forgotten to be placed (Nehemiah 3:1; cf. Nehemiah 3:3). If the bars are not on the doors, the enemy can enter and rob us of the blessings.

In Job 28 we see the bars on the doors. They are hidden and the eye of the raptor has not discovered them. Iron and copper can be found, but wisdom, where is she found? But God knows, “God understands its way” (Job 28:23). The answer comes some verses further: “And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; And to depart from evil is understanding’” (Job 28:28). For the avoidance of evil, to forbid it entrance, iron and copper are suitable. True wisdom and real understanding are awe for the Lord and depart from evil, they are the basic elements to preserve the blessing of the land.

It is a land of abundance, where the believer has no shortage of anything. The effect of all the blessings enjoyed must be that we praise God for it. Praising the Lord for all His blessings also prevents us from forgetting Him. If all Christians knew and appreciated the blessing of the land, the land would be full of praise (Ephesians 3:21). Heaven shall be full of praise to God, the Giver of every blessing, and to the Lamb, by Whom it has become possible for us to receive the full blessing.

Verses 11-16

Do Not Forget the LORD

Again Moses makes the warning sound to remember the LORD. God knows our hearts. He knows that even possessing everything that speaks of His goodness can make us proud of what He has given us as if we had acquired it ourselves. We can be proud of our piety. But blessings do not give strength. Only the awareness that everything is grace preserves us from pride.

We become proud when we forget that we are lost sinners by nature and that we have been freed from a hopeless position by God. We also become proud when we forget how He saved us as Christians from so many dangers on our way. We become proud when we forget how He took care of us and gave us everything we needed.

He leads our way in such a way that we do not become proud, but humble, and will see that what matters to Him is to do good for us in the end. Just when we are humble, we are in a condition that we can enjoy all the blessings He has given us.

Verses 17-18

Only in the Power of the LORD

It is important to realize that we did not receive the blessing in our own power, but that the power of God has made everything available to us. All the experience of our own powerlessness and the rescues of the Lord are also meant to preserve us from attributing something we have received to our own merit.

God has given us strength to know what our blessings are. It is the power with which He raised Christ from the dead and seated Him to His right hand (Ephesians 1:19-Proverbs :). It is this power, united with His mercy, that has united us with Christ in heaven and has given us all the blessings (Ephesians 2:4-Judges :).

All the acts of God in favor and goodness are based on His promises and counsels. We may look at it as already fulfilled. We are blessed now with all spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, based on His election before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3-Numbers :).

Verses 19-20

If the LORD Is Forgotten

The consequence of forgetting the LORD will be that they will worship other gods. That in turn will lead to their perdition. If they want an example of how they will perish, they only need to remember how Sihon and Og were defeated.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Deuteronomy 8". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/deuteronomy-8.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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