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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

Deuteronomy 8

Verses 1-20

Learning Dependence Upon God (8:1-20)

The wilderness period was variously interpreted by the writers of Israel. To Hosea and Jeremiah it was an idyllic age when Israel lived in intimate fellowship with God, before the abominable practices of Canaanite Baalism were learned and passionately espoused. In the time of Jesus the inhabitants of Qumran by the Dead Sea glorified the wilderness by fleeing to it and making of it a habitation of God and his devout worshipers, a place of preparation for entrance into the Promised Land of the Messianic Kingdom. They patterned their institutions after the forms set up by Moses in the wilderness.

But some of the psalmists thought of this time as one of ceaseless rebellion against God (see, for example, Psalms 106), and Paul and the author of Hebrews were chiefly impressed by the failure of so many of God’s people to get into the Promised Land—a warning to the complacent and the sensual in the Christian Church (1 Corinthians 10:1-13; Hebrews 3-4).

The Deuteronomic writer here thinks of the wilderness period as a time of schooling for God’s children. There they learned humble dependence on God—to wait for his will and his word, and to be grateful for his providential care. The writer is particularly impressed by the gift of manna to the hungry people (vss. 3, 16). This substance is now believed to be the excretion of insects which suck the sap of the tamarisk tree and leave a sweet deposit on the trees and bushes of the Sinai area in early summer. Starving people would find this sweet deposit a strength-giving delicacy.

A basic sin of life, as the Deuteronomic writer sees here, is man’s spirit of self-sufficiency. He feels adequate for every problem and in need of no help from God. When prosperity comes to him, he gloats inwardly; and he secretly boasts, "My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth" (vs. 17). He forgets the good hand from which all good things come, and settles down to self-gratification.

The view set forth here is that God is a merciful and benevolent Father who ever wills his children’s good (vs. 16). Their well-being depends on complete trust in him and obedience to his will. He will satisfy not only their physical but also their spiritual needs, if they trust him implicitly. Bread for the stomach he will provide, but more—bread also for the spirit: "Man does not live by bread alone, but . . . man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD" (vs. 3). The Jesus who rejected the temptation to turn stones into bread for himself and others by the use of this verse from Deuteronomy (Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4) is reported to have said also, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work" (John 4:34). It is this spirit that marks a true son of the Father.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Deuteronomy 8". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/deuteronomy-8.html.