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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 30

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-20

CRITICAL NOTES.—Israel were rejected and exiled on account of apostacy, but not absolutely east off for ever. If they would return to the Lord he would turn his favour towards them again, and gather them out of dispersion.

Deuteronomy 30:1-3. Mind, bethink themselves, not mere recollection, but consideration of their conduct and condition. Return (Deuteronomy 30:2) from idolatry to the service of Jehovah; in penitence and obedience. Thy captivity, Deuteronomy 30:3. Not to bring back the captives, but to end distress and have mercy upon them, Job 42:10; Psalms 85:2; Jeremiah 29:14.

Deuteronomy 30:4-8. Consequent upon deliverance would be the gathering of Israel from all parts into their land in greater numbers. This, partly fulfilled in Assyrian and Babylonian captivities, refers, according to some, to future restoration of Jews to Palestine. “But application is found in the spirit, not in the letter. The multiplication promised consists in realising the promise to Abraham that his seed should grow into nations (Genesis 17:6), i.e., not “Israel according to the flesh,” but “Israel according to the spirit,” whose land is not restricted to the earthly Canaan or Palestine” (Keil). Deuteronomy 30:7, after conversion the curses resting upon them would fall upon their enemies, Genesis 12:3. They would again return and obey, and rejoice in full privileges and covenant blessings.

Deuteronomy 30:11-14. Hidden literally not too wonderful, not too difficult to understand or practice cf. ch. Deuteronomy 27:8; not too distant, in Heaven inaccessible; nor beyond the sea (Mediterranean) too far away. Go for us. Who able to fetch it? No excuse of ignorance or inability to plead. Nigh, Deuteronomy 30:14, in the written and authorised word; subject of common conversation and daily examination.

Deuteronomy 30:15-20. Moses sums up the whole in the words of Deuteronomy 30:15, as in ch. Deuteronomy 11:26-27. Good prosperity and salvation; evil adversity and distraction (Keil) urges them to love the Lord, walk in his ways, and not permit themselves to be torn away into idolatry. For he, i.e., that is thy life, the condition of thy life and its prolongation in the land, viz., “to love the Lord,” cf. Psalms 27:1; John 11:25; John 17:3; 1 John 5:20.

PENITENT RETURN TO GOD.—Deuteronomy 30:1-7

The threatenings of the preceding chapter would not utterly destroy Israel. The mercy of God is in store for them, rejoices against judgment and gives room for repentence. These words may be taken as a prediction or a promise. As a promise they belong to Israel and to all who repent and turn to God. Repentance is described, which is the condition of promise as:

I. Return springing from remembrance of sins. “Call to mind.” Misery leads to reflection and reflection ends in self-reproach. When dreams of ambition are dissipated and conscience accuses, then the mind turns inward, preys upon itself and regret for the past ensues (Judas). “I am no longer the Great Napoleon,” said the exile of St. Helena. The mind, the disposition, is changed, which leads to change of relation to God, “repentance toward God” and to amendment of life—David and the prodigal. “Remember this and shew yourselves men; bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors!”

II. Return most sincere, “With all thine heart.” (Deuteronomy 30:2) No return without change of heart. Lot’s wife moved slowly forward and left her heart behind. Orphah stopped short at the moment of decision. Thus many go halfway, divide the heart with the world and God. The heart must be given and made contrite. “The sacrifices of God are a broken and contrite spirit” were written over the bed of Augustine to remind him of sincerity in life. “Rend your heart and turn unto the Lord.”

III. Return graciously encouraged. Many blessings are mentioned to induce return.

1. They will become objects of special pity. “The Lord will have compassion, &c.” (Deuteronomy 30:3).

2. They will be gathered from other nations and fixed in their own land. Penitents are not only delivered from misery but restored to happiness and divine inheritance.

3. They will be increased in number (Deuteronomy 30:5). Multiplication would give security and superiority. Through children joy and prosperity.

4. They will be weaned from idolatry (Deuteronomy 30:6). Circumcised in heart—an inward change which sets forth sanctification and obedience of life.

5. They will be relieved from curse—curses transferred to their enemies (Deuteronomy 30:7). When God undertakes for his people, opposition is vain. Omnipotence will reverse our condition, restore from rain, and pour out blessings most abundant and complete.


Consider—I. The blessing to be bestowed—circumcision of heart.

1. The truths which circumcision taught, and the blessings of which it was the pledge, are the birthright of every real child of God;
2. All these blessings are communicated to every genuine member of the Christian Church through Christ. A circumcised Saviour affords a pledge of—
(1) A perfect obedience on behalf of His people;
(2). The putting away of the guilt of sin;
(3). The personal and internal circumcision which distinguishes all the real children of God.
3. God, as sovereign, retains to Himself the application of these blessings.
4. Their extension to the seed of those who partake of this spiritual circumcision is a further illustration of God’s sovereignty and benignity towards His people. II. Its immediate result: love to God.
1. The source of this love: God Himself.
2. The ground on which he lays claim to it—
(1). His absolute excellencies;
(2). His particular relations.
3. Its extent and intensity. We must love God with all our heart. III. Its ultimate issue; everlasting life. A life of—
1. Enjoyment;
2. Activity;
3. Growth;
4. Permanency. Learn—
1. The due distinction between the symbolical and spiritual;
2. The blessed character of true religion.—J. Hill, M. A.

I do not shame

“To tell you what I was, since my conversion
So sweetly tastes, being the thing I am.”—Shakespeare.


Deuteronomy 30:1-2. Important steps; consideration—return to obedience. Description of true penitence.

1. Return to God, in sorrow, humiliation and confidence.

2. As our God to whom we owe personal allegiance and whom we are resolved to obey universally and heartily in future. “Behold we come unto Thee; for thou art the Lord our God.” (Jeremiah 3:22.)

Deuteronomy 30:1; Deuteronomy 30:7. Learn—

1. Repentance is needful to be restored to God’s favour.
2. Repentance prevails with God to show mercy.
3. Repentance is open to the most distant and degraded sinner.

4. Repentance is the gift of God. He works in the mind, seeks out the lost, and exalted Jesus to give repentance and remission of sins to Israel (Acts 5:31). “Repent ye therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.”

Deuteronomy 30:2-3. Return, &c. I. Attitude indicated. Inattention to God’s character, word and claims. The bark is upon God and not the face (Jeremiah 2:27).

2. Criminal negligence. Like a servant who disobeys orders, pays no regard to your command and keeps his back turned upon you (Jeremiah 32:33.)

3. Obstinate disobedience. Men always active and represented in scripture as walking in some way. Wicked walk “in the way of their heart, contrary to God.” II. Reasons for changing this attitude. “Shalt return, &c.”

1. God worthy—in himself: “the Lord” self existent, the centre and source of excellence. In his relation to us “the Lord thy God,” to dignify and enrich. “My soul,” said John Brown, of Haddington, “hath found inexpressibly more sweetness and satisfaction in a single line of the Bible, nay in two such words as these ‘thy God’ and ‘my God’ than all the pleasures found in the things of the world since the creation could equal.”

2. God warrants return. He will have “compassion upon thee.”

3. Scripture encourages return (Isaiah 55:7.)

SIGNS OF TRUE REPENTANCE.—Deuteronomy 30:8-10

I. True Repentance is accompanied with salutary fear. “If thou shalt hearken,” etc. The penitent does not trifle, but trembles at the word. He is afraid to offend. When God speaks, he listens to learn and obey.

II. True repentance leads to reformation of conduct. “Thou shalt return” (Deuteronomy 30:8). No murmuring, hatred, and departure from God, but right views, feelings, and relation to God. Re-tracing one’s steps, turning again. “I will arise and go to my Father.”

III. True repentance is evidenced by sincere obedience to God’s will. “Turn with all thine heart and keep his commandments” Deuteronomy 30:10). Self-will destroyed, God’s authority acknowledged, and His will supreme. The heart rightly affected, the life rightly directed, “Bring forth fruits meet for repentance.”

IV. True repentance meets with divine acceptance. “The Lord thy God will make thee plenteous rejoice over thee for good” (Deuteronomy 30:9). Sins forgiven, deliverance from enemies, restoration to lost blessings, and divine favours enjoyed: Men unfit to be forgiven, without sorrow for sin, incapable of mercy, if insensible to wrong doing, and resolved not to amend. We are only prepared for blessings ourselves and useful to others by deep personal repentance. Paul, Luther, Bunyan instances. Then are we “plenteous, prosperous in every work of our hand.”


The people are encouraged and reminded by necessary instruction placed in their reach. God had revealed His will, and made the performance of it easy. Ignorance is inexcusable, and disobedience unreasonable.

I. It is not hidden in obscurity and mystery. Heathen oracles shrouded in mystery; signs and wonders given in the grove of Dodona; the cave of Trophonius; the temple of Delphi; and the oasis of Ammon. But the commands of God are simple and duty clear. “I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth” (Isaiah 45:19).

II. It is accessible. “The word is very nigh unto thee” (Deuteronomy 30:14).

1. Not in heaven above. Shut up, beyond reach, but delivered and published in our hearing.

2. Not too distant from us. “Beyond the sea”—to be fetched like heathen wisdom from far off lands.

3. It is nigh. In our moral constitution, the word of God and the sound of the gospel. No long course of ceremonies and round of duties to obtain peace. “Confess with the mouth and believe with thine heart.”

III. It is practicable. “That thou mayest do it.” The word is clear, and available to be obeyed. Its obligations are not impracticable, beyond our power to fulfil. To know will not avail; we must loyally do the command. Creeds may be orthodox and accurate; but the law and the gospel must be put into the heart and the life.


The passage is not cited by St. Paul merely in the way of illustration, much less as accommodated to suit the purposes of the argument on hand, regardless of its significance in its own context. We have in Romans an authoritative interpretation of what the words of Moses do really and principally, if not obviously signify. The prophet spake, the apostle expounded, by one and the selfsame spirit. Those who believe this will not question its authority, and consequently not the correctness of the sense assigned by the latter to the words of the former.—Speak. Com.

I. God has clearly made known His will to man. “This commandment.” A law of Divine authority. Not to be mutilated, adjusted and treated at pleasure. Neither self-contradictory nor impossible to understand. But essential, plain and reasonable in requirement.

II. It is therefore needless for man to search for what is made known Such a revelation puts an end to all efforts for that which is revealed. We need not climb the sky, nor cross the sea.

1. This would imply ignorance, which is not excusable, for the word is nigh, spoken by human lips, and clear as day. 2 This would imply obstinacy. A rejection of God’s revelation, as much as if Moses or Israel had tried to obtain by human wisdom what God had made known.

III. It is man’s best interest to believe and obey God’s will. We can never guide and justify ourselves. Christ puts an end to self righteousness and brings a righteousness through faith.

1. This allays our anxiety. “Say not” in doubt, perplexity and unbelief, “who shall go up,” etc. Why search for a thing that is near?

2. This satisfies our moral need. It sufficeth intellect and heart—accords with our mental constitution and moral condition.

3. It is the only method of salvation. The word is required by all, within the reach of all, and must be appropriated by all. Its rejection is not due to physical or mental incapacity but to want of will, lack of faith. “Confess with thy mouth, believe in thine heart and thou shalt be saved.”

IV. That man may believe and obey—the gospel brings him help. Righteousness by works precluded. Human obedience could not reach the required standard. Faith not works the method of God’s righteousness. Law says do this and thou shalt live; gospel, “believe and thou shalt be saved.” Paul interprets the law, as Israel, as all men will look upon it when “circumcised in heart.” Christ is the only, the all-sufficient hope for the sinner. He delivers from despair and a broken law—brings peace to the heavy laden and confers that “righteousness which is unto all and upon all them that believe.”

O how unlike the complex works of man,
Heaven’s easy, artless, unincumber’d plan!
Inscribed above the portal from afar,
Conspicuous as the brightness of a Star,
Legible only by the light they give,

Stand the soul-quick’ning words—Believe and live I—Cowper Truth v. 21–31.


Deuteronomy 30:11-14. The Bible in itself. The text shows.

1. The closeness with which the word of God addresses the soul, and the paternal familiarity of its style: “the word is very nigh unto thee.” II. That His word is to be avowedly our counsellor, “in thy mouth.” III. That it is to be embraced by our affections, and dwell in them; “in thy heart.” IV. That obedience to it is the necessary proof of a believing reception of it; “that thou mayest do it.”—Biblical Museum.

Deuteronomy 30:12. Say. The anxious follower after righteousness is not disappointed by an impracticable code, nor mocked by an unintelligible revelation: the word is near him, therefore accessible; plain and simple and therefore apprehensible; and we may fairly add, deals with definite historical fact, and therefore certain (Alford on Romans 10:6.). The law of Christ is substantially the same as that of Moses, only

(1) exhibited more clearly in its spiritual nature and extensive application and
(2) accompanied with the advantages of gospel grace, is practicable and easy.—(Jamieson).

Deuteronomy 30:14. In the heart for our personal salvation in the mouth for God’s glory and the salvation of others. In the heart and not in the mouth is cowardice; in the mouth and not in the heart is hypocracy. The gospel believed is a fountain in the heart; the gospel confessed is the streams through the mouth.—Robinson.

THE ALTERNATIVE CHOICE.—Deuteronomy 30:15-20

Moses is extremely anxious for the welfare of his people. But he cannot force them to do right. He urges, persuades, and entreats; makes a final effort to win them over. “See, I have set before thee, etc.”

I. Obedience to God’s command leads to life. “That thou mayest live” (Deuteronomy 30:16). Under law and gospel this is the immutable order.

1. It pleases God the source of life. Without Him life is a shadow, a blank. “In Him we live.”

2. It secures outward blessings to sustain life. “Thy God shall bless thee in the land.” “Godliness hath promise of the life that now is.” “He is thy life, and the length of thy days” (Deuteronomy 30:20).

3. It gains divine favour, which is life, and His loving kindness, which is better than life (lives). Lives which are longest and happiest—all lives put together (Psalms 63:3).

II. Disobedience leads to death. “As righteousness tendeth to life,” is full of real enjoyment, of infinite and eternal pleasure, “so he that pursueth evil pursueth it to his own death” (Proverbs 11:19).

1. Death most dreadful. The curse of God (Deuteronomy 30:19). Sin, a constant warfare with God, can never succeed; hopes wither away and the curse rums.

2. Death most certain. “Ye shall surely perish” (Deuteronomy 30:18). It cannot be avoided; is the only possible result of disobedience. As sure as the shadow follows the substance, or the avenger of blood pursued the manslayer, so sure will sinners find evil and death at last.

3. Death of which warning has been given. “See, behold, I have set before you” (Deuteronomy 30:15). Warning with deepest anxiety and most passionate appeal. No excuse, you know; you see—“Forewarned, forearmed.” Flee impending evil and hide in Christ. “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself, etc.”

III. Hence the urgent request for right choice. “Therefore choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

1. You are free to choose. God interferes not, nor trifles with the power of free choice. We are alone before God, individually responsible, and must decide for ourselves the question on which eternal life or death depends.

2. You are urged to choose. Our Maker and Preserver commends his love, claims oar loyalty, and commands us to choose. “Choose life.”

3. There should be no delay. “This day.” The appeal from supreme authority to the noblest part of our nature and for our highest interests. “Choose ye this day whom ye will serve.”

I. Great moral truths are put before men. “Good and evil, life and death, blessing and cursing.” Not simply to decide for business and profession, but to adjust claims of heaven and earth. Grand opportunity. Lost spirits not the chance!

II. Men’s destiny will be decided according to their attitude towards these truths. Future results follow from present action. In worldly matters fortune made or marred, positions gained or lost by earnest decision. Paley at college shakes off habitual negligence, rises at four o’clock to study and write immortal books. “I will be a hero,” was the turning point in Nelson’s destiny. A decided “No” to evil, a firm purpose gives strength and security (Joseph and Daniel). Eternity—life or death, heaven or hell hang on your decision.

III. A solemn appeal is made for right decision. Right and good are revealed, commended and offered. They cannot be ignored or destroyed. A choice must be made. Direction and help offered. Ponder well. Ruin inevitably follows sin and indecision. “Therefore choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

Our doubts are traitors;

And make us lose the good we oft might win,
By fearing to attempt it.—Shakespeare.

Two PATHWAYS of Life.—Deuteronomy 30:16-20

God is the centre and sum of happiness—the author of our being, and should be the object of pursuit. Some cleave to God and others forsake him. Hence two pathways set forth.

I. Some are forsaking God, Deuteronomy 30:17. The soul made for fellowship with God, apart from Him is a world without sun. Yet what forgetfulness, departure and practical atheism in life!

1. Through alienated affection. “If thine heart turn away.” We have affections as well as intellect. These influence our judgment and discernment of truth. God seeks to instruct the heart, not the head, to captivate and improve the affections. “An evil heart of unbelief” leads to apostacy from God, Hebrews 3:12.

2. Manifest in wilful deafness. “Thou wilt not hear.” The voice loud as thunder, but the will fixed and stubborn, conscience resisted and warning refused. “They are like the deaf adder which stoppeth her ear.”

3. Indicative of weak attachment. “Drawn away” by counter attractions. If the heart not rightly fixed, attention is misdirected, then instability, feebleness and falling away. “Turn not aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart.”

4. Resulting in degraded idolatry. “Worship other gods and serve them.”—God out of our thoughts (Romans 1:28) and dethroned from heart and life, the creature will be set up. The conserving principle is destroyed; degradation, gross idolatry, and pollution ensue.

“God forbid that we should forsake the Lord to serve other Gods,”

When to our own devices left, we frame
A shameful creed of craft and cruelty.


II Others are loyal in obedience to God. “Love the Lord thy God—obey His voice—cleave to Him” (Deuteronomy 30:20).

1. Love, the spring of obedience. This its essential principle. Authority cannot kindle love, and service without love is slavery and disloyalty.

2. Love, the rule of daily life. “To walk in His ways.” Love is the dominant power in all activity and enterprise. Obedience is not for a season, but constant and universal. “Blessed is he who doeth righteousness at all times.”

3. Love, resulting in God’s favour. “Thy God shall bless thee.” Bless thee with preservation from danger; “the Lord preserveth all them that love Him”—with peace, “great peace have they which love thy law”—with perpetuation of life and attendant blessings, “bless thee in the land and prolong thy days.” God’s favour converts power and external possessions into blessings. Without this, fairest prospects and largest estates lose their charm—without this, no certainty of any possession and not a day’s lease of life. “He is thy life and the length of thy days.”


Deuteronomy 30:16. His ways

1. The pathway. Safe, pleasant, and attractive.

2. How to enter it. Love and obedience. “Love the Lord” and “keep His commandments.”

3. The benefits of walking in it. “Live, multiply and blessed in the land.” “Show me thy ways O Lord, teach me thy paths.”

Deuteronomy 30:15-19. Life and death set before the young. I. In what sense life and death may be justly set before you.

1. You are faithfully informed that the course you adopt and pursue through life will terminate at last in an immense and tremendous extreme, as distant from the opposite as life is from death.
2. The nature of the two ways is closely pointed out to you. II. The manner in which they are proposed to your choice. There are some things—
1. To alarm; promote self-jealousy and fear; the intrinsic depravity of your hearts; the fact that so much evil appears under semblance of good; prejudiced views of real religion.
2. To encourage: you never can be at a loss in deciding what is best.
3. To direct and admonish: beware of early levity, of bad habits, of ensnaring connections, of trifling with religion. III. Some considerations to enforce the importance of your choice.
(1.) Privileges from earliest days.
(2.) Special personal considerations.
(3.) Influence of posterity.—Bib. Museum.

Deuteronomy 30:19. Two witnesses. Heaven and earth. Moved, “called to record in solemn manner.” cf. Deuteronomy 4:26, Deuteronomy 31:28.

1. Because they indicate the presence of God. Heaven the throne and earth the footstool of God.
2. Because they help remembrance of events. Localities identified by the mind, spectators of scenes testify to the faithfulness of God and the sin of man.

3. Because influenced by the conduct of man. In his creation and fall they have felt the results and long for his redemption (Romans 8:19-23). Choose life. Divine advice.

1. The problems of life too difficult for us to solve.
2. God offers to be our guide; gives help and direction.
3. It is our duty to obey. When He speaks we should listen, obey and reverence His word.
4. It is madness to reject divine instruction, “Ye shall surely perish.”

Deuteronomy 30:20· Three steps. Love—obey—cleave, “Without close attachment and perseverance, temporary love, however sincere and fervent, temporary obedience, however disinterested, energetic and pure, while it lasts, will be ultimately ineffectual. He alone who endures to the end shall be saved.”—A. Clarke. Cleave. Notice.

1. God the object of life.
2. The strength of attachment.
3. The constancy of pursuit. “My soul followeth hard after (cleaveth unto) Thee” (Psalms 63:8).

Grace leads the right way; if you choose the wrong,
Take it and perish, but restrain your tongue;
Charge not, with light sufficient and left free,
Your wilful suicide on God’s decree.



Deuteronomy 30:2. Return. When wrong has been done among men, the only way to obtain again the favour of those who have been injured, is by repentance. No man who has done evil in any way can be restored to forfeited favour, but by just this process of repentance—by a process involving all the elements of shame, grief, remorse, reformation, confession that are demanded in religion.—Barnes.

Deuteronomy 30:11. Not hidden. “We ought not to attempt to draw down, or submit the mysteries of God to our reason; but, on the contrary, to raise and advance our reason to Divine truth.—Bacon.

Deuteronomy 30:14. Do it. “Sir,” said the Duke of Wellington to an officer of engineers, who urged the impossibility of executing the directions he had received, “I did not ask your opinion, I gave you my orders, and I expect them to be obeyed.” Such should be the obedience of every follower of Jesus, the words which he has spoken are our law, not our judgment or fancies. Even if death were in the way it is—

Not ours to reason why—
Ours, but to dare and die.

and, at our master’s bidding, advance through flood or flame.—Spurgeon.

Deuteronomy 30:15-19. This day. It is recorded of Archius, a Grecian magistrate, that a conspiracy was formed against his life. A friend, who knew the plot, despatched a courier with the intelligence, who, on being admitted to the presence of the magistrate, delivered to him a packet with this message,” My Lord, the person who writes you this letter conjures you to read it immediately—it contains serious matters.” Archius, who was then at a feast, replied, smiling, “Serious affairs to-morrow,” put the packet aside and continued the revel. On that night the plot was executed, the magistrate slain, and Archius, on the morrow, when he intended to read the letter, a mutilated corpse, leaving to the world a fearful example of the effects of procrastination.—J. A. James.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 30". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/deuteronomy-30.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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