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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

Deuteronomy 30

Verses 1-10

A Covenant Including the Possibility of a Second Chance (30:1-10)

In this section Moses is represented as foreseeing the rebelliousness of the nation and its dispersal among foreign peoples, as predicted in the section concerning the curses (ch. 28). Here the point is that God takes no delight in the punishment of the wicked, but his will is that none "should perish, but that all should reach repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). The message of the Old Testament, as well as the New, is that God loves his people with an everlasting love and seeks to bring them into a relationship of abiding fellowship and obedient service. If Israel will only turn to the Lord with all its heart and with all its soul (vss. 2, 10), then God will delight to be merciful and will open up to his repentant and obedient children the glorious future he promised to the fathers.

The Hebrew verb for the act of repenting is, literally, "to turn" and means not only a change of inner attitude but a complete redirection of life. If the sinner will "turn" to God, he will be empowered by God to live in obedience to the divine will; for God will circumcise the heart, "so that you will love the Loan your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live" (vs. 6). The circumcised heart is the heart open to God’s command and fully obedient to him (see Deuteronomy 10:16; Jeremiah 4:1-4; Romans 2:28-29). Openness and obedience are characteristic attitudes of those who are loved by God and who love him in return. In this passage the gospel of God’s pursuing, redemptive, empowering love is eloquently set forth.

Verses 11-20

A Covenant Requiring Radical Decision (30:11-20)

But is not the loving obedience commanded by God impossible for man? Can he really know what God wants of him and, knowing it, can he obey it? That God’s will is not inscrutable mystery which must be sought out by those who are able to ascend to heaven or traverse the seas—and therefore inaccessible to most men—the writer emphatically asserts: "The word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it" (vs. 14). The word is very near because God has brought it near: in the revelation he gave to Moses, in the terms of the Covenant which Israel is now taking upon its lips and into its heart. God has not revealed all his secrets to Israel (see 29:29), but he has told his people in unmistakable language what he wants them to know and to do. He asks nothing unreasonable of them.

A choice is thus presented to the will: to love God or not to love him; to obey or not to obey. The stakes are high: life or death, good or evil. Much is wrapped up in the term "life" here. It involves national stability and prosperity, abundant posterity, and the like, but it means more: to live in loving fellowship with God, obeying his voice, "cleaving" (that is, clinging in warm affection) to him (vs. 20). God’s greatest gift is himself. To live apart from him is death.

The seriousness of the choice is indicated by the appeal to heaven and earth as witnesses (vs. 19). In Hittite suzerainty treaties, the gods of the contracting parties and phenomena of the natural world (mountains, rivers, springs, winds, clouds, the sea) were called on to serve as witnesses to the covenant agreement. It is likely that in those treaties the gods mentioned were also expected to punish infractions of the terms of the covenant. In Hebrew Covenant theology the gods of polytheism seem to have become the Lord’s assembly or council of angels, his ministers and assistants in the administration of his universal dominions. The prophets called on this council, as original witnesses to the Covenant, to testify concerning the terms of that Covenant and thus to clear God of any charge of injustice in punishing his disobedient vassals (see the comment on 31:16-32:44). The Deuteronomic writer is saying here: If you break the terms of the Covenant, the angelic assembly will testify against you before God the Judge and your punishment will be speedy and severe.

The message is not simply an ancient one addressed to people of long ago. Life and death stand before us today as blessed and terrifying possibilities, and the condition remains the same: obedience or disobedience to the voice of God who calls us and all men into loving relationships with himself and with each other.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Deuteronomy 30". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/deuteronomy-30.html.