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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Deuteronomy 8

 

 

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 8 They Must Remember That Yahweh Is Their Provider and Observe His Instruction And Not Forget His Commandments.

In the previous chapters Moses has constantly reminded them of how Yahweh delivered them from Egypt and from bondage (see especially the details in Deuteronomy 7:19, compare Deuteronomy 4:20; Deuteronomy 6:12; Deuteronomy 6:21-23), now he calls on them to remember how He had also delivered them in the wilderness (compare Deuteronomy 2:7) and the lessons that they learned there. For he has begun to be aware of the danger that when they are comfortably settled in the land, in complete contrast to the wilderness experience, and all their wars were over, they might easily forget Yahweh and settle into the former ways of the land. (‘Thou is used all the way through apart from the first and last verses, in each of which both thou and ye are used).

We should note the parallels between this chapter and Deuteronomy 32:10-18 where the same themes are in mind. Some of the actual language of both passages, as well as the ideas, were also used by Hosea in Hosea 13:4-8, e.g. ‘from Egypt’, ‘satisfied’, ‘hearts lifted up’, ‘forgetting’. Hosea is full of echoes of Deuteronomy.


Verses 1-3

Chapter 8 They Must Remember That Yahweh Is Their Provider and Observe His Instruction And Not Forget His Commandments.

In the previous chapters Moses has constantly reminded them of how Yahweh delivered them from Egypt and from bondage (see especially the details in Deuteronomy 7:19, compare Deuteronomy 4:20; Deuteronomy 6:12; Deuteronomy 6:21-23), now he calls on them to remember how He had also delivered them in the wilderness (compare Deuteronomy 2:7) and the lessons that they learned there. For he has begun to be aware of the danger that when they are comfortably settled in the land, in complete contrast to the wilderness experience, and all their wars were over, they might easily forget Yahweh and settle into the former ways of the land. (‘Thou is used all the way through apart from the first and last verses, in each of which both thou and ye are used).

We should note the parallels between this chapter and Deuteronomy 32:10-18 where the same themes are in mind. Some of the actual language of both passages, as well as the ideas, were also used by Hosea in Hosea 13:4-8, e.g. ‘from Egypt’, ‘satisfied’, ‘hearts lifted up’, ‘forgetting’. Hosea is full of echoes of Deuteronomy.

Analysis in the words of Moses:

a All the commandment which I command you this day shall you observe to do, that you may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which Yahweh swore to your fathers (Deuteronomy 8:1).

b You shall remember all the way which Yahweh your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, to prove you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments, or not.

c And He did humble you, and allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you knew not, nor did you fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by every thing (or ‘word’) that proceeds out of the mouth of Yahweh does man live (Deuteronomy 8:2-3).

c Your clothes did not grow old on you, nor did your foot swell, these forty years (Deuteronomy 8:4).

b And you shall consider in your heart, that, as a man chastens his son, so Yahweh your God chastens you (Deuteronomy 8:5).

a And you shall keep the commandments of Yahweh your God, to walk in His ways, and to fear him (Deuteronomy 8:6).

Note that in ‘a’ They are commanded to observe to do all Yahweh’s commandment, and in the parallel they are to keep the commandments of Yahweh their God, to walk in His ways, and to fear him. In ‘b’ Yahweh had led them in the wilderness in order to prove them and in the parallel He will chasten them as sons. In ‘c’ He humbled them and fed them with manna, and in the parallel He watched over their clothing and their ability to go on trekking.

Deuteronomy 8:1

All the commandment which I command you (thee) this day shall you (ye) observe to do, that you (ye) may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which Yahweh swore to your (your) fathers.’

The problem with our chapter divisions is that because of them we can disconnect verses from each other. This verse is to be seen as continuing on from the last, as well as looking forward. Thus it may be seen as including the injunction to avoid graven images and not to take them into their houses, as well as being a general command to observe His other commandments. And this is so that they might live and not die, and so that they might multiply their families, and as they did so, expand and possess the land which Yahweh swore to their fathers. This last emphasis is continually repeated. All was based on the promises to the patriarchs, and therefore was unfailingly sure of performance.

“That you may live.” Constantly before him was the fact that their fathers had perished in the wilderness, excluded from the land. They had died because they were disobedient to Yahweh. If these who now listen to Him wished to live and not die they must now ensure that they were obedient. And it is not just a matter of life, but of having a good life, a life of abounding and flourishing and possessing the land. All these were dependent on obedience to Yahweh’s overall commandment as revealed in His statutes and ordinances.

For those who would enjoy fullness of life must listen to God’s requirement (‘commandment’) as He speaks to them through His word. Only in this way will they come into possession of what He has for His own.

Deuteronomy 8:2-3

And you shall remember all the way which Yahweh your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, to prove you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments, or not. And he did humble you, and allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you knew not, nor did you fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by every thing (or ‘word’) that proceeds out of the mouth of Yahweh does man live.’

Obedience to Yahweh’s commandments would be helped by remembering their time in the wilderness, so as they moved on they were to keep in mind the wilderness experience. In seeking to observe His commandment it was important that they remember all the way in which Yahweh their God had led them in the forty years in the wilderness. They needed to learn its lessons. How He had done this in such a way as to humble them and bring home to them how they were in fact constantly failing. How He had done it in order to test out their hearts, to see if in spite of all they would continue to keep His commandments. How He had done this in order that they might recognise that whatever they received, it would be from His mouth. It would be as a result of His promises and His provision. For God’s testings always have a purpose, even though they might appear bitter at the time. He had tested them because He had wanted to know what was really in their hearts and had wanted them to look to Him, and when necessary He had chastened them (Deuteronomy 8:5).

Let them then remember how they had previously been on the very verge of the promised land, and how it had resulted in forty years in the wilderness. That had been a huge disappointment. But they should also remember that in His graciousness He had not totally finished with them then because of their failure. He had stood by them. He had put them on probation, ready for the achieving of maturity of the next generation, so that His purposes for them might still go forward. And He had sought to bring home to them important lessons.

Indeed in their whole experience in the wilderness after leaving Egypt, even before His judgment on them because of their failure to enter the land, He had been humbling them. From the beginning He had allowed them to hunger. And then He had fed them, not with bread, but with something that neither they nor their fathers had previously known, the manna, something for which they had had to depend on Him day by day. They had had to forget what they had done in the past and look to Him for their provision. They had had to depend daily on what He had promised to give them, what came ‘from His mouth’. And He had done this in order that they might recognise that life is not dependent only on bread. They had to learn that bread is not everything. His purpose was that they might learn that they must receive their provision from His mouth. They must recognise that all that they had came from Him and resulted from His promises.

He had wanted them to recognise that it is what Yahweh says and what Yahweh commands and what Yahweh promises that is the basis of life, so that they might recognise that obedience to Him is all. His aim was that they learn the vital lesson of hearing God and trusting Him in all circumstances.

When the manna had been first provided it was said at the time that it would be a test of their willingness to obey Him (Exodus 16:4). The test lay in the fact that it was to be a daily provision, so that they were not to hoard it but to wait for it each day from Yahweh’s hand. They had constantly to look to Him and to trust Him. So were they to learn the lesson of the wilderness and now wait each day on God in the same way.

There have been a number of suggestions as to what the Manna consisted of. The sweet juice of the Tarfa which exudes from the tree and forms small white grains has been suggested, but the quantity required is against this, as are the other descriptions. The same applies to the honeydew excretions on tamarisk twigs produced by certain plant lice and scale insects which at night drop from the trees onto the ground where they remain until the heat of the sun brings out the ants which remove them. In favour is the fact that the Arabic word for plant lice is ‘man’, equivalent to the Hebrew for Manna. But these are seasonal and do not fit all the criteria. We are not told whether the Manna was seasonal or not, although many consider it was permanent in all seasons.

More pertinently examples have also been cited of an unidentified white substance which one morning covered a fairly large area of ground in Natal and was eaten by the natives, and also of falls of whitish, odourless, tasteless matter in Southern Algeria which, at a time of unusual weather conditions, covered tents and vegetation each morning. While not being the same as the Manna, or lasting over so long a period, these do indicate the kind of natural phenomena which God may have used to bring about His miracle, for it was clearly a time of extremely unusual weather conditions as demonstrated by the plagues of Egypt. But we must remember that the Manna lasted for forty years (Exodus 16:35; Joshua 5:12), did not arrive on the seventh day, and continued from the Wilderness of Sin to the entry into Canaan in all manner of environments. It was God arranged.


Verse 4

Your clothes did not grow old on you, nor did your foot swell, these forty years.’

They were to remember how, while they wandered in that wilderness, they were fully provided for. They did not live in poverty so that their clothes grew old and ragged. Rather they had had sufficient so that they could afford to renew their clothing. Nor had they suffered from debilitating feet problems. This may have been seen as because they had abundance of oils to soothe them. They had been short of nothing. They had always been able to clothe themselves well and keep their feet in good condition and go forward. Yahweh had watched over both their wardrobe and their health, as a father sees to the needs of his children.

The word translated ‘swell’ is rare. LXX has the sense of callused. The point is as much that Yahweh supplied the means to keep their feet healthy as that He worked a constant miracle. His care was over them constantly. They had lacked nothing (compare Deuteronomy 2:7).


Verse 5

And you shall consider in your heart, that, as a man chastens his son, so Yahweh your God chastens you.’

Furthermore when they are tested, as they were then and will be, they must consider in their hearts that just as a man chastens his children for their good, so does Yahweh chasten them, His children. Here again He emphasises that He is to them as a father. Remembering the lesson of God’s provision of the manna when all seemed hopeless, and the chastening that a good father always gives to his children, they should then be enabled to walk into the future with confidence, even in the face of adversities.

This is the second clear indication in Deuteronomy that they are His sons and daughters. Previously He had been pictured as like a father carrying His son on His shoulders through the wilderness (Deuteronomy 1:31). Now He is like a father chastening them for their good. In all this His fatherly care is revealed to His son, His firstborn (Exodus 4:22). He was depicting Himself as their Father (compare Deuteronomy 14:1 where he says ‘you are the sons of Yahweh your God’).


Verse 6

And you shall keep the commandments of Yahweh your God, to walk in his ways, and to fear him.’

So with this in mind they must truly continue to keep the commandments of Yahweh their God, to walk constantly in His ways, and to fear Him. As a son listens to his father, so must they listen to Him.


Verses 7-10

Yahweh Purposes To Make Wonderful Provision For Them (Deuteronomy 8:7-10).

In these verses we have a glowing picture of all the good things which Yahweh has ahead for His covenant people.

Analysis in the words of Moses:

a For Yahweh your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of wadis of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills (Deuteronomy 8:7).

b A land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig-trees and pomegranates; a land of olive-trees and honey; a land in which you will eat bread without scarceness. You shall not lack anything in it (Deuteronomy 8:8-9 a).

b A land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you may dig copper, and you shall eat and be full (Deuteronomy 8:9-10 a).

a And you will bless Yahweh your God for the good land which He has given you (Deuteronomy 8:10 b)

Note that in ‘a’ Yahweh their God is bringing them into a good land, and in the parallel they will bless Yahweh their God for the good land which He has given them. In ‘b’ it is a land in which they will eat bread without scarceness and not lack anything and in the parallel it is a land in which they will eat and be full. The idea is presumably that the iron and copper will make them wealthy and thus able to buy even more food.

Deuteronomy 8:7-9

‘For Yahweh your God is bringing you into a good land,

A land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs,

Flowing forth in valleys and hills,

A land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig-trees and pomegranates;

A land of olive-trees and honey;

A land in which you will eat bread without scarceness,

You shall not lack anything in it,

A land whose stones are iron,

And out of whose hills you may dig copper.’

For God’s intentions were good. Let them recognise what kind of a land it is that Yahweh is leading them into. It is in complete contrast with the wilderness that they have known for so long. It is a good land. It is a land of wadis (streams produced by plenteous rain) of water, made full by refreshing rain, a land of gushers and springs flowing forth in its valleys and hills, it is a land of wheat and barley, and vines, and fig trees and pomegranates. It is a land of olive tress and honey. It is a land of bread without shortage, so that they will lack nothing in it.

Moreover it is a land ‘whose stones are iron’. This indicates a plentiful supply of meteorites from which men had always been able to obtain useful iron. To come across a meteorite was considered a boon. Metorites were always seen as one of God’s special gifts. They came from heaven to provide, with their fused iron content, a useful material to men. And from the hills of the land they will be able to dig copper. Copper mining had been know for over a thousand years before this time, being well attested elsewhere. So every provision is there. They will go short of nothing, and they will have valuable metals to trade..

Water was the thing above all others that ancient man gloried in for it was the very basis of life. It was essential both for drinking and for growing food. Agricultural abundance was also necessary, for it provided full bellies for all. And recent excavations in the Arabah have revealed copper mines and smelting equipment there, while surveys have demonstrated the abundance of veins of copper ores in the hills. These were necessary for the provision of everyday utensils. Such a description of the assets of a land were often included in covenants to demonstrate how good the suzerain was being to his subjects.

But this was not a time when iron was in regular use in most places. The ‘land whose stones are iron’ must therefore probably have in mind meteorites which had landed and which were seen as a special treasure to man, for from the most ancient times they could provide easily usable iron for men to make use of (Genesis 4:22). The way it is described confirms this. It came ‘from stones’.

Alternately it may have been a way of stressing the amazing goodness of the land. Iron was a rare material whose secrets were mainly only known to the Hittites, and which everyone dreamed of being able to possess. The idea in Moses’ mind may have been that the land would be so good that they would even find iron there in such a form that they did not need the secrets of the Hittites, and thus they would be independent of the Hittites, which in those days would be like finding large supplies of oil would be for many countries today. In the event, of course, as God knew, iron was there, but they would only be able to benefit from it for themselves when they did learn the secrets of producing and working iron, although they could still have traded the iron ore.

This may be another example of a poem or song which was popular in the camp to keep their spirits up, taken up and used by Moses as they chanted it along with his speech (compare Deuteronomy 6:11).

Deuteronomy 8:10

And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless Yahweh your God for the good land which he has given you.’

Once in the land they would eat and be full, and would bless Yahweh for the good land which He had given them. They would not be dependent on God’s provision of the manna, and of water from unusual sources, but would have food and drink in abundance. One thing, however, would still keep their thoughts on Him, the need for the provision of rain (which would become an important aspect of the feast of tabernacles).


Verses 11-20

The Warning Lest When They are Blessed They Forget Who Has Blessed Them (Deuteronomy 8:11-20).

Knowing the hearts of the people Moses now saw fit to gave them a severe warning. He recognised that there was a danger that when they became prosperous they would forget Who had given them all these blessings, and would begin rather to commend themselves. He therefore seeks to prepare for such an eventuality.

Analysis in the words of Moses.

a Beware lest you forget Yahweh your God, in not keeping His commandments, and His ordinances, and His statutes, which I command you this day (Deuteronomy 8:11).

b Lest, when you have eaten and are full, and have built goodly houses, and dwelt in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied (Deuteronomy 8:12-13). .

c Then your heart is lifted up, and you forget Yahweh your God, who brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage (Deuteronomy 8:14 b).

d Who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions, and thirsty ground where was no water (Deuteronomy 8:15 a).

d Who brought you forth water out of the rock of flint, who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers knew not; that He might humble you, and that He might prove you, to do you good at your latter end (Deuteronomy 8:15-16).

c And lest you say in your heart, “My power and the might of my hand has obtained for me this wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:17).

b But you shall remember Yahweh your God, for it is He Who gives you power to obtain wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as at this day (Deuteronomy 8:18).

a And it shall be, if you forget Yahweh your God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that you will surely perish. As the nations that Yahweh causes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not listen to the voice of Yahweh your God (Deuteronomy 8:19-20).

Note that in ‘a’ the warning is lest they forget Yahweh their God, and in the parallel the warning of what will result from doing so is given. In ‘b’ their wealth is multiplied, and in the parallel they are warned to remember that it is Yahweh their God who has given them power to obtain their wealth. In ‘c’ the fear is that their heart will be lifted up and they forget Yahweh their God, and the parallel fears lest they see the wealth as self-acquired. In ‘d’ He led them through the terrible and dry wilderness, and in the parallel He provided food and water.

Deuteronomy 8:11

Beware lest you forget Yahweh your God, in not keeping his commandments, and his ordinances, and his statutes, which I command you this day,’

But Moses had led men, and especially these men, for too long not to be aware that times of plenty could pose a danger so he adds a further warning. They must beware lest in all their plenty they forget Yahweh. The point was not that men would forget altogether, for that was unlikely, but that they would forget their covenant responsibility. Their ‘forgetfulness’ would be revealed by their not keeping His commandments, and His statutes and His ordinances. We too may still regularly enjoy our attendance at worship, but the test of the genuineness of our faith is whether we still remember Him by the way we live our lives in the daily grind.

Deuteronomy 8:12-14

Lest, when you have eaten and are full, and have built goodly houses, and dwelt in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart is lifted up, and you forget Yahweh your God, who brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.’

Compare here Hosea 13:6. ‘According to their pasture so were they filled, they were filled and their heart was exalted, therefore have they forgotten me’. The danger was lest, when they were full and satisfied, and had their own splendid homes, and large flocks, and great wealth, and when it all continued to multiply seemingly endlessly, they forgot the One Who had given it to them, the One Who brought them to this wealth and freedom by bringing them out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. It is one of the strange quirks of man that when God is too good to him he revels in it and tends to overlook God. It was in recognising this that the writer in Proverbs, while not wanting to be poor, also did not want to be too rich (Proverbs 30:9). Let them not then, says Moses, be like those who remember Him when they are in slavery but forget Him when they are free.

Deuteronomy 8:15-16

Who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions, and thirsty ground where was no water, who brought you forth water out of the rock of flint, who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers knew not; that he might humble you, and that he might prove you, to do you good at your latter end,’

Let them remember that it was He Who had watched over them in the wilderness. Compare for this Deuteronomy 32:10, ‘Who found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness, He compassed him about, He cared for him’, and Hosea 13:5. ‘I knew you (and therefore cared for you) in the wilderness in the land of great drought’. The wilderness period was ever seen as a time of God’s constant care.

So let them think what Yahweh had done for them. He had led them through a great and terrible wilderness, stretching mile after mile, with water short and food scarce, and the way rough, in the burning sun. It was a wilderness where there were fiery snakes and scorpions waiting to bite and sting, and inject with venom, where the ground was thirsty and waterless. But He had supplied them with water from the flinty rocks (Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:8), and had given them the wonderful provision of the manna for food, that manna which was unknown to their fathers (compare Deuteronomy 2:7). And He had brought them through all this in order to humble them, and as a test to them, so that finally He might do them good.

It was during those experiences that they had been forced to look to Yahweh, for they had had nowhere else to look. And He had been the author and file-leader of their deliverance (compare Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 12:2). In a way it had been much easier to trust under those conditions, simply because they had had to, even though their trust had been a very wavering trust (it had been as much in Moses as in God). But once life was safe and placid forgetfulness would come easily.

“Fiery serpents.” This may refer to the result of their venom as seeming to set men on fire, or refer to the dazzling sun shining on their skins, or it may simply signify ‘venomous’.

But note here the vivid contrast between this and Deuteronomy 8:7-10. In those verses there was plenteous water with which the ground was satiated (Deuteronomy 8:7), there was fruitfulness in abundance (Deuteronomy 8:8-9), there were no creatures needing to be avoided, but here in the wilderness the ground had been thirsty with no water, they had had to rely on the manna, and snakes and scorpions abounded. Thus the danger now was that they would begin to think that they did not need to rely on Yahweh any more.

Deuteronomy 8:17

And lest you say in your heart, “My power and the might of my hand has obtained for me this wealth.’

An equal danger was that when they prospered they might then say within their hearts, ‘I have achieved this by myself. It is my power and the might of my hand that has obtained all this wealth for me’. Certain conditions lead men to trust God, but conditions that are too good tend to make men forget God and depend only on themselves. We need to be most concerned about our spiritual lives when we prosper most, for it can make us foolish so that we forget that behind all is God.

We have here the idea of a subtle form of idolatry which does not involve graven images, it is the idolatry of man’s worship of himself, man placing himself and his society in the place of God.

Deuteronomy 8:18

But you shall remember Yahweh your God, for it is he who gives you power to obtain wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he swore to your fathers, as at this day.’

So at that time they must ensure that they remembered Yahweh their God, and that it was He who had given them power to obtain wealth. And that He had done it in order to establish His covenant at that time, the covenant by which He had promised to bring prosperity to His own, the very covenant that He had sworn to their fathers whom He had also prospered most of the time. It was important that the covenant be established in their hearts. Then all he had been warning against would not prevail against them. It is by remembering our vows made in the hard times that we can ensure that we remain constant.

Deuteronomy 8:19-20

And it shall be, if you (thou) shall forget Yahweh your (thy) God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you (ye) this day that you (ye) shall surely perish. As the nations that Yahweh causes to perish before you (ye), so shall you (ye) perish, because you (ye) would not listen to the voice of Yahweh your (your) God.’

Let them, however, beware of the alternative route, the route of idolatry and flagrant disobedience. This warning may seem to come somewhat abruptly, but not if we see it in the context of the whole speech, and in the light of the fact that in those days men would always worship something, so that if they forgot Yahweh they would soon turn to other gods. The danger of succumbing to the gods of the land was ever present in Moses’ mind, and he came back to it constantly. When they were at ease it would be so easy to relax their rigid obedience to Yahweh and find the easygoing gods of the land preferable (man loves to have something to worship. That is how he is made, but he prefers it not to be too demanding). For they offered lustful pleasure rather than stern demands, and when all was well nothing was required of them.

Moses now cites himself as a witness, as earlier he had called on heaven and earth as witnesses (Deuteronomy 4:26), to the fact that if they forgot Him, if they walked after other gods and served them, and worshipped them, gods who would undoubtedly enable them to satisfy their deepest lusts, then let them know that Yahweh would ensure that they surely perished. In the same way as they will see the nations of the land perish when they put them to the sword, so would they perish because they refused to listen to Yahweh’s voice, the voice of ‘Yahweh their God’.

In the Western world today people have never had it so good. Even the poorest are comparatively wealthy and possess things that their forebears never dreamed of. And the result has not been gratitude to God, but greed for more, and a readiness to seek entertainment and satisfaction for their lustful natures regardless of righteous living. They too have succumbed to idols. Their gods are idols of music and sport and entertainment, but these, which can be good in themselves, are equally destroying their souls, and the souls of others, because they have become the be all and end all of their lives, and lead them into behaviour which is displeasing to God and harmful to themselves.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 8:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/deuteronomy-8.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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