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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Deuteronomy 10

Verses 1-11

Warning against self-righteousness 9:1-10:11

"From a literary standpoint Deuteronomy 9:1 to Deuteronomy 10:11 is a travel narrative much like Deuteronomy 1:6 to Deuteronomy 3:29, with which, in fact, it shares much in common. For example, both are introduced (Deuteronomy 1:1-5; Deuteronomy 9:1-6) and concluded (Deuteronomy 3:29; Deuteronomy 10:11) by a setting in the plains of Moab in anticipation of the conquest of Canaan." [Note: Merrill, Deuteronomy, p. 189.]

This pericope contains the second important lesson from the past.

"Secondly, any success they might enjoy in the coming conquest was not to be interpreted as a mark of divine approval for their own righteousness (Deuteronomy 9:1-6). In fact, both in the incident of the golden calf (Deuteronomy 9:7-21) and in a number of other incidents (Deuteronomy 9:22-23), Israel had proved herself stubborn and rebellious. She was delivered only after the intercession of Moses (Deuteronomy 9:24-29). Past experience should remind the people that they needed discipline for their rebellious ways. Yet through all their recalcitrance Yahweh remained faithful, even to the extent of granting them two more tables of stone when the first ones were broken (Deuteronomy 10:1-11; cf. Exodus 32:19; Exodus 34:1-4). All the experiences of the past would underline the fact that Israel was dependent on Yahweh for divine care, provision, protection, and forgiveness. To forget these facts was to display base ingratitude and self-deifying pride." [Note: Thompson, p. 134.]

"Besides the more vulgar pride which entirely forgets God, and attributes success and prosperity to its own power and exertion, there is one of a more refined character, which very easily spreads-namely, pride which acknowledges the blessings of God; but instead of receiving them gratefully, as unmerited gifts of the grace of the Lord, sees in them nothing but proofs of its own righteousness and virtue. Moses therefore warned the Israelites more particularly of this dangerous enemy of the soul, by first of all declaring without reserve, that the Lord was not about to give them Canaan because of their own righteousness, but that He would exterminate the Canaanites for their own wickedness (Deuteronomy 9:1-6); and then showing them for their humiliation, by proofs drawn from the immediate past, how they had brought upon themselves the anger of the Lord, by their apostasy and rebellion against their God, directly after the conclusion of the covenant at Sinai; and that in such a way, that it was only by his earnest intercession that he had been able to prevent the destruction of the people (Deuteronomy 9:7-24), and to secure a further renewal of the pledges of the covenant (Deuteronomy 9:25 -chap. x. 11)." [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, 3:334-35.]

Verses 1-11

God renewed the broken covenant with Israel because of Moses’ intercession, not because Israel deserved it. Moses made the ark (Deuteronomy 10:3) in the sense that he directed Bezalel to make it (cf. Exodus 25:10; Exodus 37:1). "Ark" was a common English word for box, chest, or basket in seventeenth-century England, and most modern English translations still use this old word. Other evidences of God’s grace were His appointment of another high priest when Aaron died (Deuteronomy 10:6) and His provision of water in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 10:7). Moserah (Deuteronomy 10:6; Numbers 33:31) may be another name for Mt. Hor (Numbers 33:38), the district in which Mt. Hor stood, or Moserah may not be a place name at all but a common noun (Heb. mosera, "chastisement") indicating the reason for Aaron’s death rather than the site. [Note: See R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 511.] God also set apart the tribe of Levi as priests even though the nation had failed in its calling as a kingdom of priests (Deuteronomy 10:8-9). Furthermore He permitted the disobedient people to proceed on to the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 10:11). Again the order of events is logical rather than chronological.

Excessive self-reliance (ch. 8) and self-importance (Deuteronomy 9:1 to Deuteronomy 10:11) would erode Israel’s proper concept of God. The people would regard God as less than He was. This is a violation of the third commandment (Deuteronomy 5:11) that aims at keeping man’s view of God’s reputation (name) consistent with His character.

Verses 12-13

In view of His past grace to His people, what did God require of them? Moses summarized Israel’s responsibility: fear, walk, love, serve, and keep. God expected total allegiance to Himself and obedience to His covenant.

"These are the central ideas not only of Deuteronomy but of the whole Pentateuch in its final shape." [Note: Sailhamer, p. 444.]

The fear of the Lord (Deuteronomy 10:12) includes the response that springs from one’s knowledge of his personal sinfulness as he realizes that he stands before a holy God.

"Reverence, obedience, total commitment are the ingredients of the fear of the Lord." [Note: Miller, p. 107.]

Verses 12-22

Admonition to fear and love God 10:12-22

Having recited what God had done for the Israelites, Moses now called on them to respond and make a commitment to Him.

"The structure of the passage reveals an enveloping pattern in which injunctions to obey God (Deuteronomy 10:12-13; Deuteronomy 20-22) embrace the corollary command to exhibit proper care and concern for other people, especially the socially and economically disadvantaged (Deuteronomy 10:14-19). The motive clause and that which binds the whole together is Deuteronomy 10:17, a confession of the sovereignty of God and of his justice." [Note: Merrill, Deuteronomy, p. 201.]

Verses 14-19

The rationale behind this response was that as God had demonstrated love for her so Israel was to demonstrate love for God (Deuteronomy 10:14-15). The phrase "highest heavens" (Deuteronomy 10:14) is a Hebrew idiom indicating the totality of heaven; it does not mean that there are multiple levels of heaven. [Note: Craigie, The Book . . ., p. 204; Merrill, Deuteronomy, p. 203.]

"Above all, therefore, they were to circumcise the foreskin of their hearts, i.e., to lay aside all insensibility of heart to impressions from the love of God (cf. Lev. xxvi. 41; and on the spiritual signification of circumcision, see vol. i. p. 227), and not stiffen their necks any more, i.e., not persist in their obstinacy, or obstinate resistance to God (cf. chap. ix. 6, 13). Without circumcision of heart, true fear of God and true love of God are both impossible. As a reason for this admonition, Moses adduces in Deuteronomy 10:17 sqq. the nature and acts of God." [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, 3:344.]

"God chose Israel to be an elect nation, not true of any other nation in this world. However, national election does not guarantee the salvation of every individual member of that nation. Individual salvation is based on individual election on God’s part and faith on man’s part. In Deuteronomy 10:16, individual members of the elect nation are encouraged to ’circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart.’ Whereas circumcision of the flesh is a sign of one’s membership in the elect nation, circumcision of the heart is a sign of individual election." [Note: Fruchtenbaum, p. 115.]

Verses 20-22

". . . Moses emphasized a vital relationship with God as fundamental to all other issues in life. Second to this was a genuine love relationship with fellow-man." [Note: Schultz, p. 48. Cf. Matthew 22:37-39.]

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 10". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/deuteronomy-10.html. 2012.