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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Deuteronomy 11

 

 

Introduction

Introductory.

Part 1 of the commentary contained the first speech of Moses which proclaimed the recent history of Israel under the hand of Yahweh, demonstrating why they had reason to be grateful to Him, and finishing with a reminder of how gloriously and fearsomely the covenant had been given and an exhortation to keep the covenant requirements and remember Who had given them. From Deuteronomy 4:44 to Deuteronomy 29:1 this is followed by the central renewal of the covenant in Moses’ second speech, commencing with a renewed description of the giving of the covenant (Deuteronomy 5), followed by the basic principles lying behind the covenant (chapters 5-11), more detailed regulations (chapters 12-26), the requirement that the covenant be recorded in writing at Shechem (where Abraham first built an altar when entering the land and received his first theophany in the land) as confirmed by all the elders (Deuteronomy 27:1-8), the acknowledgement of it by the priesthood along with Moses as witnesses to it (Deuteronomy 27:9-10), and the applying to it of curses and blessings (chapters Deuteronomy 27:11 to Deuteronomy 29:1).

This section of the commentary will cover chapters 5-11, but these chapters must be seen as part of the greater whole to Deuteronomy 29:1, as incorporated in the whole book.

The Covenant Stipulations - the Basic Underlying Principles (chapters Deuteronomy 4:45 to Deuteronomy 11:32).

This introductory section begins the second section of the book which consists mainly of a proclamation of general basic principles related to the fulfilment of the covenant (chapters 5-11). This is then followed by a detailed review of the statutes and ordinances which have been spoken of previously, but with special reference to their applicability to the people and mainly ignoring priestly activity (chapters 12-26). It is ‘popular’ Law. In this second section Moses once again makes clear the demands that Yahweh is making on His people as a response to what He has done for them. But he will begin it by repeating, with minor alterations, the covenant made at Horeb, at Mount Sinai. Thus he declares that covenant in chapter 5 almost word for word, although slightly revised in order to bring out new emphases. This is then followed chapter by chapter by the requirements that Yahweh is laying on them as a response to His covenant love. In 6-11 he first deals with the basic principles involved, and then in chapters 12-26 moves on to the specific detailed requirements. This is a pattern typical of ancient treaty covenants.

Central to all the chapters are the ideas of how they must obey His commandment, His statutes and His ordinances that He might bless them in all they do (Deuteronomy 5:1; Deuteronomy 5:29; Deuteronomy 5:31-33; Deuteronomy 6:1-3; Deuteronomy 6:6-8; Deuteronomy 6:17-18; Deuteronomy 6:24-25; Deuteronomy 7:11-12; Deuteronomy 8:1; Deuteronomy 8:6; Deuteronomy 8:11; Deuteronomy 10:13; Deuteronomy 11:1; Deuteronomy 11:8; Deuteronomy 11:13; Deuteronomy 11:22; Deuteronomy 11:27; Deuteronomy 11:32); of how the reason that they are being blessed is not for their own sakes, but because of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Deuteronomy 6:10; Deuteronomy 6:18; Deuteronomy 7:8; Deuteronomy 7:13; Deuteronomy 8:1; Deuteronomy 8:18; Deuteronomy 9:5; Deuteronomy 9:27; Deuteronomy 10:15; Deuteronomy 11:9); of how they must remember Yahweh their God Who has mightily delivered them from Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:6; Deuteronomy 5:15; Deuteronomy 6:12; Deuteronomy 6:21-23; Deuteronomy 7:8; Deuteronomy 7:15; Deuteronomy 7:18; Deuteronomy 8:14; Deuteronomy 9:26); of how He is bringing them into a good and prosperous land where they will enjoy great blessings (Deuteronomy 6:10-11; Deuteronomy 6:18; Deuteronomy 7:13-16; Deuteronomy 8:7-10; Deuteronomy 8:12-13; Deuteronomy 11:10-12; Deuteronomy 11:14-15), and of how they must then beware of turning to false gods and false religion once they enter the land, and must rather totally destroy them (Deuteronomy 5:8-9; Deuteronomy 6:14-15; Deuteronomy 7:4-5; Deuteronomy 7:25-26; Deuteronomy 8:19; Deuteronomy 9:12; Deuteronomy 9:16; Deuteronomy 11:16; Deuteronomy 11:28).

These are the general emphases, but each chapter also has a particular emphasis.

· Deuteronomy 6 stresses their need to love Yahweh, their covenant Overlord, with all their beings (Deuteronomy 6:5), to fear Him (Deuteronomy 6:2; Deuteronomy 6:13; Deuteronomy 6:24), and to teach their children His instruction, and warns them that when they are prospering in the land they must not forget what He has done for them. Their Overlord is calling His subjects to love and obedience.

· Deuteronomy 7 confirms Yahweh’s elective covenant love for them (Deuteronomy 7:7-8; Deuteronomy 7:13) as His holy people, chosen and treasured (Deuteronomy 7:6), and promises them that because of that love He will bless them wonderfully, delivering the promised land into their hands. Here He reveals why they should love Him and respond to Him, because He has first loved them, and chosen them to be the recipients of His love with all its great benefits.

· Deuteronomy 8 reminds them of how they must remember and not forget the past (Deuteronomy 8:2; Deuteronomy 8:5; Deuteronomy 8:11; Deuteronomy 8:14; Deuteronomy 8:18), especially how He has looked after them in the wilderness, with the promise that He is bringing them to a good and prosperous land, and that once He has done so they must beware of self-glorification. Here the details of His watch over them are laid out demonstrating the practicality of His love.

· Deuteronomy 9 exhorts them on this basis to go forward and cross the Jordan knowing that Yahweh goes before them, while reminding them that their success will not be because of their own righteousness, a fact which he then demonstrates from their past history, reminding them how right from the very beginning they had broken God’s covenant that He had made with them. Here He emphasises how gracious He has been to them even though they had not been fully faithful to His covenant. While they do not deserve His goodness, He is pouring it on them anyway.

· Deuteronomy 10 stresses that God then graciously renewed that covenant which they had broken so quickly, and goes on to describe the greatness and uniqueness of Yahweh their covenant God and Overlord. They must recognise how good He has been to His erring subjects and take note of the fullness of His glory, lest they again break His covenant with them.

· Deuteronomy 11 urges them to learn from the past and go forward on the basis of it, repeats the promises and warnings of the previous chapters, constrains them to remember His words, and bear them about with them and teach them to their children, and promises the good things to come, and the certainty of their possession of the land because Yahweh is with them. It finally concludes the section with the reminder of the blessings and cursings, which will be solemnly applied on Mounts Gerizim and Ebal, which are by the oaks of Moreh, that is, at Shechem, and says that which of these will come on them will depend on whether they faithfully respond to His covenant or not. This conclusion prepares the way for Deuteronomy 27, although meanwhile being first of all preceded by the detailed stipulations of chapters 12-26.

So throughout these chapters the covenant is constantly stressed, a covenant which is the result of His love for their fathers and for them and is their guarantee of the future as long as their response to it is full and complete.

Chapter 11 They Face The Final Choice.

This chapter continues the themes of the previous chapters and brings this section to a close. In it Moses summarises what has gone before and lays emphasis on the past history which they have experienced, both of deliverance and judgment. On the basis of this he is concerned that they respond fully to the covenant, for if they do they will know the full blessing of the land and God’s fullness of provision for it, and will be able to drive out its inhabitants. This is then expounded in vivid pictures of the abundance of that provision. Thus if they would enjoy His blessing they must take His words to their hearts and apply them in every part of their lives. For if they keep His covenant then they will be blessed and will be victorious in what lies ahead, while if they turn to idolatry then only judgment will await them.

The choice is therefore with them as to whether they experience blessing or cursing, and once they are in the land they must ensure that they seal this very fact at the place that He has chosen by the oaks of Moreh, the place where He had first revealed Himself to Abraham, and where Abraham first worshipped Him, on entering the land, at Shechem (compare Genesis 12:6).


Verses 1-9

Chapter 11 They Face The Final Choice.

This chapter continues the themes of the previous chapters and brings this section to a close. In it Moses summarises what has gone before and lays emphasis on the past history which they have experienced, both of deliverance and judgment. On the basis of this he is concerned that they respond fully to the covenant, for if they do they will know the full blessing of the land and God’s fullness of provision for it, and will be able to drive out its inhabitants. This is then expounded in vivid pictures of the abundance of that provision. Thus if they would enjoy His blessing they must take His words to their hearts and apply them in every part of their lives. For if they keep His covenant then they will be blessed and will be victorious in what lies ahead, while if they turn to idolatry then only judgment will await them.

The choice is therefore with them as to whether they experience blessing or cursing, and once they are in the land they must ensure that they seal this very fact at the place that He has chosen by the oaks of Moreh, the place where He had first revealed Himself to Abraham, and where Abraham first worshipped Him, on entering the land, at Shechem (compare Genesis 12:6).

Let Them Consider Their Past, Recognising God’s Activity In It, and Respond To It (Deuteronomy 11:1-9).

Moses reminds them of different ways in which they have seen Yahweh at work, against Egypt, against rebels, and even against themselves, in all cases because of sin. But now that is behind them and they must therefore love Him and go forward in obedience to His commands and covenant stipulations.

Analysis in the words of Moses:

a Therefore you shall love Yahweh your God, and keep his charge, and his statutes, and his ordinances, and his commandments, always (Deuteronomy 11:1).

b And know you (ye mature Israelites) this day, for I speak not with your children who have not known, and who have not seen the chastisement of Yahweh your God, his greatness, his mighty hand, and his outstretched arm, and his signs, and his works, which he did in the midst of Egypt to Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, and to all his land (Deuteronomy 11:2-3).

c And what he did to the army of Egypt, to their horses, and to their chariots; how he made the water of the Reed Sea to overflow them as they pursued after you, and how Yahweh has destroyed them to this day (Deuteronomy 11:4).

d And what he did to you in the wilderness, until you came to this place (Deuteronomy 11:5).

c And what he did to Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, the son of Reuben, how the earth opened its mouth, and swallowed them up, and their households, and their tents, and every living thing that followed them, in the midst of all Israel (Deuteronomy 11:6).

b And your eyes have seen all the great work of Yahweh which he did (Deuteronomy 11:7).

a Therefore shall you keep all the commandment which I command you this day, that you may be strong, and go in and possess the land, to which you go over to possess it, and that you may prolong your days in the land, which Yahweh swore to your fathers to give to them and to their seed, a land flowing with milk and honey (Deuteronomy 11:8-9).

Note that in ‘a’ it commences ‘therefore (and) you shall love’ and requires the keeping of His commandments, and in the parallel it begins ‘therefore (and) you shall keep’ and promises rewards for keeping His commandment. In ‘b’ he reminds them that they have seen the great works that Yahweh has done in Egypt, and in the parallel refers to their eyes having seen all the great work of Yahweh which He did. In ‘c’ he refers to what He did to the Egyptians who were enemies of Israel and in the parallel to what He did to Dathan and Abiram who were (internal) enemies of Israel. And in ‘d’ he refers centrally to what He did to Israel in the wilderness.

Deuteronomy 11:1

Therefore you (thou) shall love Yahweh your God, and keep his charge, and his statutes, and his ordinances, and his commandments, always.’

Therefore, because of what he has been saying in the previous chapters, and especially what He has declared about Yahweh’s superlative greatness in chapter 10, and because He has demonstrated His love by multiplying them like the stars of heaven, they, as a nation and as responsible individuals (thou), are to recognise His great sovereignty and graciousness and love Him, and keep His charge, and His statutes, and His ordinances, and His commandments always.

Once again we see that loving response and appreciation comes first, to be followed by obedience (compare Deuteronomy 6:5; Deuteronomy 10:12). Unless there is that personal relationship with Yahweh the remainder will not happen. Love must come first. But then it must be followed by responsive action. And that responsive action is to be revealed by keeping His charge (compare Leviticus 8:35), in this case to possess the land, to destroy its inhabitants and to keep His commandments. This is the only use of the noun ‘charge’ in Deuteronomy. That charge is now to be described in some detail in the following chapters.

We can compare this verse with Deuteronomy 8:1, although the pronoun is there ‘ye’, which warns us about making too much of a distinction between ‘ye children of Israel’ and ‘thou nation of Israel’, while noting the distinction.

Deuteronomy 11:2-3

And know you (ye mature Israelites) this day, for I speak not with your children who have not known, and who have not seen the chastisement of Yahweh your God, his greatness, his mighty hand, and his outstretched arm, and his signs, and his works, which he did in the midst of Egypt to Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, and to all his land,’

He calls on the mature among them to recall on this day what wondrous things Yahweh has done for them in the past. For they are not like their children who have not seen His ‘chastening’ as in Deuteronomy 8:5 (chastening is suffering which was intended to bring about a change of heart by a combination of love and punishment), or known in experience His greatness, His mighty hand and His outstretched arm (a sign of His personal involvement), and His signs and His works which He did in the midst of Egypt to the mighty Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and to the whole of Egypt. No, they have seen it for themselves, as young men in their teens and as children.

There is a roughness of grammar in the reference to their children which springs out of the oratorical nature of the words, another evidence that we have here a genuine speech of Moses.

Deuteronomy 11:4

And what he did to the army of Egypt, to their horses, and to their chariots; how he made the water of the Reed Sea to overflow them as they pursued after you (ye), and how Yahweh has destroyed them to this day.’

(The pronouns are ‘ye, your’ up to Deuteronomy 11:9)

They know too how He humiliated and destroyed the army of Egypt, their horses and their chariots (compare Exodus 15:1; Exodus 15:4; Exodus 15:21). How He had made the Reed Sea overflow them when they were in pursuit of Israel, and how He had totally destroyed them. Thus can they be confident that He can deal so with all their enemies.

This is the only mention of this great incident in Deuteronomy, for Moses has concentrated more on the whole panorama of the mighty acts of God in Egypt as in Deuteronomy 11:3, but it comes out here as an outstanding individual example. The general is followed by the particular. In the same way He will now speak of God’s general activities in the wilderness, followed by a particular example. In both examples their enemies were destroyed.

Deuteronomy 11:5-6

And what he did to you in the wilderness, until you came to this place, and what he did to Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, the son of Reuben, how the earth opened its mouth, and swallowed them up, and their households, and their tents, and every living thing that followed them, in the midst of all Israel,’

And they know too all that happened in general in the wilderness up to this time, both good and bad, and especially what happened in particular to Dathan and Abiram when the earth opened up its mouth and swallowed them up, together with their households and all their possessions (Numbers 16:30-32), and that it was done in the midst of all Israel. And they would remember that this had happened because they had challenged Yahweh’s ordinances. The result had been immediate and catastrophic death. So they have seen both the positive and the negative. They have seen what happens when they obey Him, and they have seen what happens when men disobey Him.

The non-mention of Korah, the co-conspirator with Dathan and Abiram, may be due to his not having been specifically mentioned as coming out to the door of the tent, a picture rooted in Moses’ memory, and thus not being seen as openly consumed (Numbers 16:27), or may be out of delicacy for the feelings of descendants of Korah who were present, or may be because his name was not to be mentioned (note how his death is not even mentioned in Numbers 16, possibly because his name was seen as blotted out).

Deuteronomy 11:7

And your eyes have seen all the great work of Yahweh which he did.’

For their eyes have seen all the great work of Yahweh which He had done in defence of His covenant, destroying those in the wrong, whether outside oppressors or internal troublemakers, and in supporting His people. They are eyewitnesses! And the point he is making is that Yahweh does not change. He can and will do it again.

Deuteronomy 11:8-9

Therefore shall you keep all the commandment which I command you this day, that you may be strong, and go in and possess the land, to which you go over to possess it, and that you may prolong your days in the land, which Yahweh swore to your fathers to give to them and to their seed, a land flowing with milk and honey.’

So knowing that His hand is so with them, they must observe all that He commands this day, so that they may be strong and go in and possess the land, and so that they may prolong their days in the land. Both their victory and their continual presence in the land will be dependent on willingness to be obedient to His requirements. They cannot remain in His land and under His rule, if they are disobedient.

And this land is the land which Yahweh swore to give to their fathers and their descendants, a land flowing with milk and honey. For Yahweh’s gifts are subject to true response. But they may be assured that if they do respond Yahweh will fulfil His promises and give them the land, a land which is a good land, a land flowing with milk and honey (compare Deuteronomy 6:3; Deuteronomy 26:9; Deuteronomy 26:15; Deuteronomy 27:3; Deuteronomy 31:20; Joshua 5:6; Exodus 3:8; Exodus 3:17 etc.), God’s adequate provision for man’s need. Milk was man’s staple requirement, honey pleasant to man’s taste. Such a land promised all that was good.

And we too should look back on all that God has done, the death of His Son and His glorious resurrection and work amongst men, and should rejoice in it, and as a result of it commit ourselves fully to him revealing our confidence in Him (Romans 12:1-2).


Verses 10-12

The Land To Which They Are Going Is An Abundant Land. It Is Watered By God And Is Dependent On His Care, A Care Dependent On Their Obedience To The Covenant Requirements (Deuteronomy 11:10-17).

Analysis in the words of Moses:

a For the land, to which you are going in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from where you came out, where you sowed your seed, and watered it with your foot, as a garden of herbs (Deuteronomy 11:10).

b But the land to which you are going over to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinks water of the rain of heaven (Deuteronomy 11:11).

b A land which Yahweh your God cares for (Deuteronomy 11:12 a).

a The eyes of Yahweh your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year even to the end of the year (Deuteronomy 11:12 b).

Note that in ‘a’ the land that they are going over to possess is not a land which they will have to toil hard on, for in the parallel it is one on which Yahweh’s eyes are permanently set, from the beginning to the end of the year. In ‘b’ it is a land fed by wateer from heaven, and in the parallel is a land that Yahweh their God cares for.

Deuteronomy 11:10

For the land, to which you (thou) are going in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from where you (ye) came out, where you (thou) sowed your (thy) seed, and watered it with your foot, as a garden of herbs,’

For they were going to a far, far better land than the one from which they had come out. The land to which they are going is not like Egypt, the land which they had left. That was a flat land, and there they sowed their seed, and then had to keep it watered by building irrigation channels, and laboriously working equipment with their feet to bring the water to the land, as they would water a garden of herbs. They would then use their feet again to open and block small channels around their land. It all required constant effort. ‘A garden of herbs’ stressed the effort that had to be put in, and the fruitful result that followed, for the maintenance of such gardens required great effort.

Egypt enjoyed the blessing that the Nile rose and covered parts of their land every year, renewing the land, but it then fell, and they had to work hard to ensure that they made the best use of its waters. It required constant effort. The point is being made that the watering there was a result of man’s physical activity and exertions. They would remember only too well those activities and exertions in which they had had to engage, no doubt even as children.

Deuteronomy 11:11-12

But the land to which you (ye) are going over to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinks water of the rain of heaven, a land which Yahweh your (thy) God cares for. The eyes of Yahweh your (thy) God are always on it, from the beginning of the year even to the end of the year.’

But in the land to which they were now going, where water would be provided by God, it was not like that. It was to be a land of hills and valleys, a land that drank water that came from above (it did not need to be force fed), even the rain of heaven. It would receive water that fell where it was wanted, or flowed down to where it was wanted. And it was a land which Yahweh their God cared for continually, for His eyes were always on it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. So those who lived in it depended on His goodness for the provision of water, and when they were right with Him could be sure of that provision (except for occasional times of testing). Thus while Egypt depended on the Nile, they would rather depend directly on God, and while Egypt laboured to spread their waters Israel would receive God’s blessing with joy.

And what was more God cared for this land especially, because it was the land that He had promised to Abraham, and He was keeping it for his descendants. It does not mean that God did not care for other lands, only that they did not come under His special care. Here God was intimately concerned for the sake of His people.


Verses 13-21

Their Blessing And Fruitfulness Will Depend On Whom They Serve (Deuteronomy 11:13-18 a).

Analysis in the words of Moses:

a If you will listen diligently to my commandments which I command you this day, to love Yahweh your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul (Deuteronomy 11:13).

b I will give the rain of your land in its season, the former rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, and your new wine, and your oil, and I will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you shall eat and be full (Deuteronomy 11:15).

b Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them, and the anger of Yahweh be kindled against you, and He shut up the heavens, so that there shall be no rain, and the land shall not yield its fruit, and you perish quickly from off the good land which Yahweh gives you (Deuteronomy 11:16-17).

a Therefore shall you lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul (Deuteronomy 11:18 a).

Note that in ‘a’ they are to listen carefully to Yahweh’s commandments and to love and serve Him with all their heart and soul, and in the parallel they are to lay up His words in their heart and soul. In ‘b’ if they do so they will receive abundant rain from heaven and the earth will be fruitful, but in the parallel if they seek to other gods the heavens will be closed and there will be no rain, and their land will not be fruitful.

Deuteronomy 11:13-15

And it shall come about, that if you (ye) shall listen diligently to my commandments which I command you (ye) this day, to love Yahweh your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, that I will give the rain of your land in its season, the former rain and the latter rain, that you (thou) may gather in your (thy) grain, and your new wine, and your oil. And I will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you (thou) shall eat and be full.’

Note that the words now suddenly become a citation of Yahweh’s. Moses continues the revelation as though it was spoken by Him. Here Yahweh Himself is seen as speaking. The promises are personalised.

And what does the future hold when they have possessed the land? That if they diligently obey God’s command which He is giving through Moses this day, the command to love Him and serve Him with all their heart and soul, He will give the rain for the land, as it is required, in its season, both the early, pre-ploughing and pre-sowing rain, coming in October or sometimes a little later, the continuing rain showers necessary for the fruitfulness of the land, and the late rain in around April which consisted of the final showers of the rainy season, all of which watered the land and made it productive.

The result will be that they will be able to gather in their grain, and their new wine, and their olive oil, and their fields will be full of grass for the cattle, and they will themselves eat and be full.

For this stress on loving God we can compare Deuteronomy 6:5. So after the repeat of the covenant word for word in Deuteronomy 5 this whole section from chapters 6-11 is seen as beginning and ending with the same emphasis, the requirement to love God totally, and the need to bind His words in their hearts and minds and lives (see Deuteronomy 11:18-21 below and compare Deuteronomy 6:6-9).

So the lesson is clear. To live in that land, which was God’s land, was to be dependent on God, and the provision of all they needed would depend on His supply. But they need not fear, for it was His land for which He cared. And if they loved and feared Him, and lived rightly before Him, they could then be sure of His full provision.

This idea of who provided the rain was all important. For Baal, a main god of the Canaanites, whose worship was widespread in Canaan and even beyond, was seen by the present inhabitants of Canaan as the means by which the rain was provided in its season. According to them it was Baal, the god of storm and rain, who had to be stirred into action by their religious rites, which included sexual activities of a gross and immoral kind. Moses makes quite clear that this was not so. Baal had nothing to do with it. There was in fact only One provider of rain (as Elijah will reveal after him - 1 Kings 17:1; 1 Kings 18:41), and that was Yahweh.

Deuteronomy 11:16-17

Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you (ye) turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them, and the anger of Yahweh be kindled against you, and he shut up the heavens, so that there shall be no rain, and the land shall not yield its fruit, and you (ye) perish quickly from off the good land which Yahweh gives you.’

Thus when they entered the land they must not allow themselves to be deceived. Let them not turn aside to worshipping and serving the gods of the land, thinking that such gods could help them. For if they did God’s anger would be ‘set alight’ against them, and He would shut up the heavens so that there was no rain, and so that the land would not yield its fruit. And they would soon perish from the land which He had given them. Trusting Canaan’s rain gods might seem attractive for a while, but they could be sure that it would end disastrously.

So the stress here is on the fact that their continual presence in the land, and their continual provision, will be dependent on true obedience to the covenant. This is all part of His covenant. For the land was for the righteous, with full provision made, as long as they served Him faithfully, and repented when they slipped up.

Deuteronomy 11:18 a

Therefore shall you (ye) lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul.’

So with these promises and warnings in mind they must lay His words up in their hearts. Thus will they take heed to them and respond to them, being faithful to the covenant with Yahweh.

They Must Therefore Keep The Covenant Requirement Before Their Thoughts Always (deu Deuteronomy 11:18-21).

What follows brings out the care that they must take to constantly remind themselves of these facts. It is almost a repeat of Deuteronomy 6:6-9, with the ideas in a slightly different order, giving a different emphasis, and stressing the importance of keeping His words ever in their thoughts. For if they were to prosper in the land they and their children must be fully aware of His commandments. So this section of the covenant opens and closes with similar thoughts.

Analysis in the words of Moses:

· ‘And you shall bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes’ (Deuteronomy 11:18 b).

· ‘And you shall teach them to all your children, talking of them, when each of you sits in your house, and when each of you walks by the way, and when each of you lies down, and when each of you rises up’ (Deuteronomy 11:19).

· ‘And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house, and on your gates’ (Deuteronomy 11:20).

· ‘That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which Yahweh swore to your fathers to give them, as the days of the heavens above the earth’ (Deuteronomy 11:21).

Note that in ‘a’ they are to apply His word to hand and eye, and the result in the parallel is that their days will be long in the land which Yahweh gives them (they will not be thrown out) and their days will be as the days of the heavens above the earth. This suggests that heavenly days are seen as longer than earthly days. It may be that hand and eye relates to earth and heaven, for with the hands man toils (Genesis 5:29), and with his eyes uplifted he beholds the heavens (Psalms 8:3) he beholds the glory and righteousness of God (Psalms 19:1; Psalms 97:6). In ‘b’ they are to teach their children constantly and in the parallel they are to proclaim the truth to teach outsiders.

Deuteronomy 11:18 b

‘And you (ye) shall bind them for a sign on your (of ye) hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes.’

Compare and contrast Deuteronomy 6:8 where ‘thou’ is used. Each is to do it, every person is to do it, the whole nation must do it. The thought is symbolic and spiritual rather than literal. The word of God is to affect what they do with their hands and what they look at with their eyes.

Here a new phrase comes first in order to emphasise the spiritual nature of the requirement. They must lay up His words deep within them, in their hearts and souls. They must bind them on their hands and between their eyes. That is, they must ensure that His word sinks into their hearts and allow His word to determine what they do and what they look at. They were to be a people active in knowing and understanding and responding to God’s word.

It is questionable whether the last part was intended to be taken literally, although it was later so taken by the Pharisees and many others. They would wear small pouches containing Scripture on their persons during the time of morning prayer, on their foreheads and arms, and fasten them to their doors. Such pouches containing small scrolls have been discovered in the Dead Sea area. That was fine when it meant something genuine, but the danger came when it became a formality producing self-righteousness and vanity.

Deuteronomy 11:19

And you (ye) shall teach them to your (of ye) children, talking of them, when you (thou) sit in your house, and when you (thou) walk by the way, and when you (thou) lie down, and when you (thou) rise up.’

Compare and contrast Deuteronomy 6:7 where ‘thou, thee’ is used all the way through. There the thought was of one nation doing it, here it is of all of them doing it.

They must also teach them to their children by day and by night. Most of the children would be sleeping in the same place as their parents (compare Luke 11:7). Thus they must talk of such things under all circumstances, whether in the house, on their excursions, at breakfast time and at bed time, and in bed, so that all may know, and continually be reminded of, God’s covenant. The atmosphere was to be one where God’s covenant was ever seen as important. Today we would see this in terms of good reading matter with spiritual lessons suitable for children. But we should ever be willing to talk about such things with our children, and give them good guidance, and let them see that we talk about such things too.

Deuteronomy 11:20-21

And you (thou) shall write them on the doorposts of your (thy) house, and on your gates, that your (of ye) days may be multiplied, and the days of your (of ye) children, in the land which Yahweh swore to your fathers to give them, as the days of the heavens above the earth.’

This may be intended both outwardly, as a testimony that the inhabitants were people of the covenant, and as a witness to all who visited them that they were so, and inwardly as a reminder to them as they went in and out of the requirements of God’s covenant. Their presumed response to this would ensure that they lived long lives in the land, and their children after them.

“As the days of the heavens above the earth”, that is, continually all the while that the heavens were still above the earth. This would indicate for them everlastingness. Had they been obedient Israel would have enjoyed the everlasting kingdom on earth (the only promise for the future that they would be able at this stage to understand).

Alternately the idea may be that heavenly days are longer than earthly days, so that their children will enjoy longer lives just as the heavens have longer days.

All these things remind us that we too must make an effort to ensure by the reading of His word that we too ever keep before our thoughts what the Lord requires of us and offers us. If we disobediently neglect such matters we should not be surprised to find our spiritual lives waning.


Verses 22-25

The Result Of This Will Be That Their Way Will Prosper Before Them (Deuteronomy 11:22-25).

Note that love for Yahweh commenced chapter 6 and now ends chapter 11 of the general stipulations of the covenant. And if they do love Him and obey Him then their success in conquering the land is guaranteed.

Analysis in the words of Moses:

a For if you will diligently keep all this commandment which I command you, to do it, to love Yahweh your God, to walk in all his ways, and to cleave to him (Deuteronomy 11:22).

b Then will Yahweh drive out all these nations from before you, and you shall dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourselves (Deuteronomy 11:23).

b Every place on which the sole of your foot shall tread will be yours, from the wilderness, and Lebanon, from the river, the river Euphrates, even to the hinder sea shall be your border (Deuteronomy 11:24).

a There shall no man be able to stand before you. Yahweh your God will lay the fear of you and the dread of you on all the land that you shall tread on, as he has spoken to you (Deuteronomy 11:25).

Note than in ‘a’ they are to diligently keep His commandments and love Yahweh their God, and walk in His ways, and cleave to Him, and the result is that their enemies will fear them (in contrast to Yahweh loving them) and all the land that they tread on (in contrast with walking in it) will be filled with dread because of God’s powerful word. In ‘b’ Yahweh will drive out nations more powerful than themselves, and they will dispossess them, and in the parallel they will take possession on any land on which the sole of their foot treads within the area of the promised land.

Deuteronomy 11:22-23

For if you will diligently keep all this commandment which I command you, to do it, to love Yahweh your God, to walk in all his ways, and to cleave to him, then will Yahweh drive out all these nations from before you, and you shall dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourselves.’

Compare Deuteronomy 10:12; Deuteronomy 11:13. The dispossessing of the nations and Israel’s love for Yahweh, their walking in His ways, and their cleaving to Him had to go in tandem. If they looked to Yahweh for their victory, it must be because they loved Him and were genuinely in covenant with Him, and sought diligently to keep the totality of what He has commanded because of that love. Then would they drive out the nations mightier than themselves. The corollary is that if they did not have this covenant response then the covenant would not be valid, and they would not receive Yahweh’s assistance, in the same way that their fathers had not received His assistance (Deuteronomy 1:44). Then He would have to wait for another generation and begin again.

Deuteronomy 11:24-25

Every place on which the sole of your foot shall tread will be yours, from the wilderness, and Lebanon, from the river, the river Euphrates, even to the hinder sea shall be your border. There shall no man be able to stand before you. Yahweh your God will lay the fear of you and the dread of you on all the land that you shall tread on, as he has spoken to you.’

But if they do love Him and walk in His ways, cleaving to Him, and keeping all He has commanded, then every place on which the sole of their foot treads (see Deuteronomy 2:5; Joshua 1:3; Joshua 14:9) within the land promised to them will be theirs. They will take it and possess it. They will possess ‘from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the Euphrates to the western sea’ (the Mediterranean). Note how Lebanon here possibly represents both a part of Canaan and the land to the north, which also belonged to Canaanites whom we know as Phoenicians, (compare Isaiah 23:11). The wilderness lay to the south, the western sea lay to the west, the Euphrates lay to the ‘north’ (Deuteronomy 1:7; Genesis 15:18; Exodus 23:31; Joshua 1:4). It was to the north that they always went to reach the River Euphrates. The eastern border did not need to be mentioned because they were standing on it and possessed it, again evidence that this was spoken at the time when Moses was east of Jordan.

Indeed none would be able to stand against them for Yahweh would fill their enemies with fear at the very thought of them. Wherever they trod, those who were there would be terrified, just as he had always promised.


Verses 26-32

Blessing and Cursing (Deuteronomy 11:26-32).

Most suzerainty treaties and some law codes had cursings against those who disobeyed their requirements, and many had both blessings and cursings. This was especially true of second millennium BC Hittite treaties and the great law codes (1st century BC treaties stress the cursing). In the same way therefore, having laid out the general principles of their response to their Overlord, Moses introduces blessing and cursing here depending on how they carry them out.

Analysis in the words of Moses:

a I set before you this day a blessing and a curse, the blessing, if you will listen to the commandments of Yahweh your God, which I command you this day, and the curse, if you will not listen to the commandments of Yahweh your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which you have not known (Deuteronomy 11:26-28).

b And it will come about that when Yahweh your God shall bring you into the land to which you are going to possess it (Deuteronomy 11:29 a).

c You will set the blessing on mount Gerizim, and the curse on mount Ebal (Deuteronomy 11:29 b).

c Are they not in Beyond Jordan, behind the way of the going down of the sun, in the land of the Canaanites that dwell in the Arabah, over against Gilgal, beside the oaks of Moreh? (Deuteronomy 11:30).

b For you are to pass over the Jordan to go in to possess the land which Yahweh your God gives you, and you shall possess it, and dwell in it (Deuteronomy 11:31).

a And you shall observe to do all the statutes and the ordinances which I set before you this day (Deuteronomy 11:32).

Note than in ‘a’ the blessing is to be given if they obey His commandments, and the curse if they do not as a result of going after other gods. In the parallel they are to obey all His statutes and ordinances which Moses has at that time set before them. In ‘b’ there is reference to their going into the land to possess it and in the parallel they are going over Jordan in order to possess the land and dwell in it. In ‘c’ the blessing is on Mount Gerizim and the cursing on Mount Ebal, and in the parallel the siting of these mountains is described.

Deuteronomy 11:26-27

Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse, the blessing, if you will listen to the commandments of Yahweh your God, which I command you this day.’

In true covenant fashion and in the same way as some law codes, including that of Hammurabi (2nd millennium BC), the choice is laid by Moses before those to whom the covenant is directed as to whether they will be blessed or cursed. To listen to the commandments of Yahweh their God and to obey will bring abundance of blessing.

Deuteronomy 11:28

And the curse, if you will not listen to the commandments of Yahweh your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which you have not known.’

But if they refuse to obey they will receive only cursing. For if they will not listen to the commandments of Yahweh their God, but turn aside from the way that Moses commands them that day, to go after other gods which they have not known, then they will surely be cursed.

The Sealing Of The Covenant At Mounts Gerizim and Ebal.

That is why when they enter into the land successfully they must gather at the place appointed and chosen by Yahweh, and call on themselves both the blessing and the cursing, an acknowledgement by them that they subscribe to the covenant, seeking the blessing that it offers and confirming that if they fail to keep it they will only deserve cursing.

Deuteronomy 11:29-30

And it shall come about that when Yahweh your God shall bring you into the land to which you are going to possess it, you will set the blessing on mount Gerizim, and the curse on mount Ebal. Are they not in Beyond Jordan, behind the way of the going down of the sun, in the land of the Canaanites that dwell in the Arabah, over against Gilgal, beside the oaks of Moreh?’

Confirmation is now given of the certainty of success in the invasion by announcing that once they are established in the land they are to perform a covenant ceremony in the very land in a place connected with the two large mountains between which lies the valley in which is Shechem, the mountains of Gerizim and Ebal. Some will stand on one mountain, and some on the other (Deuteronomy 27:11-14), with the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh in the valley in between (Joshua 8:30-35). This is the place that Yahweh their God has chosen for such a ceremony. The blessing will be declared from Mount Gerizim, and the cursing from Mount Ebal.

The very general geographical position of the mountains is then described. They are in Beyond Jordan, behind ‘the way of the going down of the sun’, (the road to the west?), in the land of the Canaanites who dwell in the Jordan rift valley on the western side of Jordan, over against Gilgal, by the oaks of Moreh (Genesis 12:6; Genesis 35:4). The situation of this ‘Gilgal’ is disputed. There were a number of Gilgals (Joshua 12:23; Joshua 15:7), for the name refers to stone circles, and there were many of them, and there was quite possibly one near Shechem. Or it may simply mean ‘beyond Gilgal’ (referring to the well known Gilgal of Joshua 4:19), i.e. in that direction. (We must remember in this regard that our understanding of the ancient technical terms used in describing geographical position is limited, for we do not have enough examples from the most ancient times by which to work them out). The description is, in the final analysis, for those who are listening. He may simply be saying in a grand manner ‘over there beyond the river on the other side of Jordan’.

The mention of the oaks of Moreh, (known to them from their traditions), which were at Shechem, is partly in order to recall God’s dealings with Abraham and Jacob, for this was the first place that Abraham built an altar to Yahweh when he received his first theophany in the land (Genesis 12:6), and was later where Jacob bought land (Genesis 33:18-20). This probably largely explains why the area of Shechem was chosen for the purpose of establishing the covenant in the land.

It appears to have been a regular practise for godly men to copy past events. Thus when Samuel/Saul was re-establishing the Tabernacle worship he did so at Gilgal (1 Samuel 13, 4, 7-14) where the Tabernacle was first sited when Joshua entered the land over the Jordan. And both Elijah and Elisha follow the invasion trail, crossing the Jordan, Jericho, Bethel (Elijah in reverse order - 2 Kings 2:2-8; 2 Kings 2:13-23).

The statement here is only a pause in the detailing of the covenant, for this reference to a covenant ceremony incorporating blessing and cursing will be expanded on in Deuteronomy 27. Meanwhile the detailed stipulations of the covenant are to be declared in 12-26 (this Deuteronomy 27 is a necessary follow-up to this).

Deuteronomy 11:31

For you are to pass over the Jordan to go in to possess the land which Yahweh your God gives you, and you shall possess it, and dwell in it.’

For the truth is that they are to pass over Jordan in order to go in and possess the land which Yahweh their God is giving them. And they can be sure that they will possess it, and dwell in it. They have Yahweh’s assurance of that.

Deuteronomy 11:32

And you shall observe to do all the statutes and the ordinances which I set before you this day.’

And when they do they must ‘observe to do’ all the statutes and ordinance set before them that day. They must fully obey Yahweh’s commands. For that is what is required if they would possess this land which belongs to Yahweh.

Summary.

Having laid out the basic principles of their position before their Overlord, the more general part of Moses’s speech is now ended and he is about to enter into the more detailed regulations of the covenant. At this point therefore let us reconsider what lessons he has stressed.

Central to all the chapters from 5-11 have been the ideas of how they must obey His commandment, His statutes and His ordinances that He might bless them in all they do (Deuteronomy 5:1; Deuteronomy 5:29; Deuteronomy 5:31-33; Deuteronomy 6:1-3; Deuteronomy 6:6-8; Deuteronomy 6:17-18; Deuteronomy 6:24-25; Deuteronomy 7:11-12; Deuteronomy 8:1; Deuteronomy 8:6; Deuteronomy 8:11; Deuteronomy 10:13; Deuteronomy 11:1; Deuteronomy 11:8; Deuteronomy 11:13; Deuteronomy 11:22; Deuteronomy 11:27; Deuteronomy 11:32); of how they are being blessed because of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Deuteronomy 6:10; Deuteronomy 6:18; Deuteronomy 7:8; Deuteronomy 7:13; Deuteronomy 8:1; Deuteronomy 8:18; Deuteronomy 9:5; Deuteronomy 9:27; Deuteronomy 10:15; Deuteronomy 11:9); of how they must remember their God Who delivered them from Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:6; Deuteronomy 5:15; Deuteronomy 6:12; Deuteronomy 6:21-23; Deuteronomy 7:8; Deuteronomy 7:15; Deuteronomy 7:18; Deuteronomy 8:14; Deuteronomy 9:26); of how He is bringing them into a good and blessed land (Deuteronomy 6:10-11; Deuteronomy 6:18; Deuteronomy 7:13-16; Deuteronomy 8:7-10; Deuteronomy 8:12-13; Deuteronomy 11:10-12; Deuteronomy 11:14-15), and of how they must beware of turning to false gods and false religion once they enter the land and must totally destroy them (Deuteronomy 5:8-9; Deuteronomy 6:14-15; Deuteronomy 7:4-5; Deuteronomy 7:25-26; Deuteronomy 8:19; Deuteronomy 9:12; Deuteronomy 9:16; Deuteronomy 11:16; Deuteronomy 11:28). They must remember what their Overlord has done for them, must remember the promises that He has made to bless them for their forefathers’ sakes, must recognise the goodness of the land that He is providing for them, and recognise that they must not enter into association with His enemies.

However each chapter has developed a different theme around the central thesis.

· Deuteronomy 5 was a detailed declaration of the covenant as given at Mount Sinai (‘the Mount’) and the glory of how it was given.

· Deuteronomy 6 has stressed their need to love Yahweh their covenant Overlord with all their beings (Deuteronomy 6:5) and to fear Him (Deuteronomy 6:2; Deuteronomy 6:13; Deuteronomy 6:24), and that they are to teach their children His instruction. And it reminds them that they must not forget when they are prospering in the land what He has done for them.

· Deuteronomy 7 has confirmed His elective love for them (Deuteronomy 7:7-8; Deuteronomy 7:13) as His holy people, chosen and treasured (Deuteronomy 7:6), and promised them that He will bless them wonderfully, delivering the land into their hands, as long as they behave rightly towards His enemies.

· Deuteronomy 8 has reminded them of how they must remember and not forget the past (Deuteronomy 8:2; Deuteronomy 8:5; Deuteronomy 8:11; Deuteronomy 8:14; Deuteronomy 8:18), and especially how He had looked after them in the wilderness, with the promise that He was bringing them to a good and prosperous land, and that once He has done so they must beware of self-glorification.

· Deuteronomy 9 has exhorted them to go forward and cross the Jordan because Yahweh goes before them, while reminding them that this is not because of their righteousness. This last fact he has then demonstrated to them from their history, including reference to their first breaking of the covenant.

· Deuteronomy 10 has stressed the gracious renewal of that covenant which they had broken so quickly, reversing the damage described in Deuteronomy 9, and has described the greatness and uniqueness of Yahweh their covenant God.

· Deuteronomy 11 has urged them to learn from the past and go forward on the basis of it, repeated the promises and warnings of the previous chapters, constrained them to remember His words, bear them about with them and teach them to their children, and has promised the good things to come. And it has finally finished with the reminder of the blessings and cursings which will come on them depending on whether they faithfully respond to the covenant or not.

Thus the foundations having been laid for the covenant, he next turns to the detailed regulations which are required under the covenant.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 11:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/deuteronomy-11.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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