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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Deuteronomy 30

Verses 2-20

VI. MOSES’ THIRD MAJOR ADDRESS: AN EXHORTATION TO OBEDIENCE 29:2-30:20

"The rest of chapter 29 contains many reminiscences of the Near Eastern treaty pattern. It is not presented in a systematic manner but in narrative form. However, elements of the pattern are clearly discernible, making it extremely likely that some kind of covenant ceremony underlies the events here reported." [Note: Thompson, p. 279.]

The form of this section argues for it being a covenant renewal. There is a historical prologue (Deuteronomy 29:2-9), reference to the parties covenanting (Deuteronomy 29:10-15), and basic stipulations (Deuteronomy 29:16-19). Then follow the curses (Deuteronomy 29:20-28), Moses’ preaching of repentance and restoration (Deuteronomy 29:29 to Deuteronomy 30:14), and the covenantal decision (Deuteronomy 30:15-20). The last section has three parts: the choice (Deuteronomy 30:15-18), the witnesses (Deuteronomy 30:19 a), and the call for decision (Deuteronomy 30:19-20). [Note: Miller, p. 201. See also Dennis McCarthy, Treaty and Covenant, pp. 199-205; and Klaus Baltzer, The Covenant Formulary, pp. 34-36.]

"There is general consensus that chaps. 29 and 30 of Deuteronomy (as well as Deuteronomy 31:1-8) are not strictly part of the covenant document as such documents were ordinarily crafted. [Note: Mayes, pp. 358-59.] This does not mean, of course, that this section does not serve a covenant function in Moses’ own unique creation of the book as a covenant instrument. [Note: Wenham, "The Structure . . .," pp. 208-10.] But even if it doesn’t, it is very much at home here as a parenesis that looks to the past, present, and future of the elect nation. It provides a summation of God’s past dealings with Israel, restates the present occasion of covenant offer and acceptance, and addresses the options of covenant disobedience and obedience respectively. Finally, it exhorts the assembled throng to covenant commitment. It is most fitting that these summaries and exhortations follow the body of the covenant text and precede the formalizing of the agreement by the Lord and his chosen vassal." [Note: Merrill, Deuteronomy, p. 375.]

Verses 1-10

1. The possibility of restoration 30:1-10

When banished to the ends of the earth, the Israelites could repent and return to Yahweh in their hearts, purposing to obey Him again (Deuteronomy 30:1-2). In that event God would do several things for them. He would bring them back to their land and allow them to occupy it again (Deuteronomy 30:3-5). He would also permanently change the people’s heart attitude toward Himself (Deuteronomy 30:6). Here Moses anticipated a new covenant that eventually replaced the old Mosaic Covenant (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:22-28; Romans 10:4-13; Hebrews 10:1-9).

"While the repossession of the land can be said to some extent to have been fulfilled by the return of the Jews following the Babylonian exile (cf. Jeremiah 29:10-14; Jeremiah 30:3), the greater prosperity and population was not achieved in Old Testament times. In fact, it still awaits realization in any literal sense (cf. Haggai 2:6-9; Zechariah 8:1-8; Zechariah 10:8-12). As for the radical work of regeneration described here as circumcision of the heart, that clearly awaits a day yet to come as far as the covenant nation as a whole is concerned.

"Just as circumcision of the flesh symbolized outward identification with the Lord and the covenant community (cf. Genesis 17:10; Genesis 17:23; Leviticus 12:3; Joshua 5:2), so circumcision of the heart (a phrase found only here and in Deuteronomy 10:16 and Jeremiah 4:4 in the OT) speaks of internal identification with him in what might be called regeneration in Christian theology. . . .

"The miraculous, totally regenerating nature of the circumcision of the heart would be manifest by Israel’s ability to love the Lord ’with all your heart and with all your soul’ (Deuteronomy 30:6). This is an obvious reference to the demand of the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-5), adherence to which was at the very core of covenant commitment." [Note: Merrill, Deuteronomy, pp. 388, 389. Cf. Deere, p. 315.]

God would, furthermore, punish Israel’s enemies (Deuteronomy 30:7). Because of Israel’s obedience, God would prosper her greatly (Deuteronomy 30:8-10). The "fathers" (Deuteronomy 30:9) probably refers to all the pious ancestors of the Israelites, not just the patriarchs.

Some premillennial commentators have called Deuteronomy 30:1-10 the "Palestinian Covenant." [Note: E.g., L. S. Chafer, Systematic Theology, 4:317-23; J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come, pp. 95-99; idem, Thy Kingdom . . ., pp. 109-23; and The New Scofield Reference Bible, note on Deuteronomy 30:3.] They have not used this term as much in recent years because these verses do not constitute a distinctively different covenant. They simply elaborate on the land promises made earlier to Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 12:7; et al.). However some modern commentators still refer to chapters 29-30 as a distinct covenant. [Note: E.g., Miller, p. 200.] I would say this is a call to commit to the Mosaic Covenant (cf. Joshua 24:1-28) that contains further revelation concerning the land.

The steps in Israel’s experience enumerated here as possibilities provide an outline of the history of Israel, since this is how things have happened and will happen for Israel. These steps are seven: dispersion for disobedience (Deuteronomy 30:1), repentance in dispersion (Deuteronomy 30:2), regathering (Deuteronomy 30:3), restoration to the land (Deuteronomy 30:4-5), national conversion (Deuteronomy 30:6; Deuteronomy 30:8), the judgment of Israel’s oppressors (Deuteronomy 30:7), and national prosperity (Deuteronomy 30:9).

". . . the overall purpose of the author of the Pentateuch seems to be to show that the Sinai covenant failed for lack of an obedient heart on the part of God’s people Israel. We have also seen that his intention in writing the Pentateuch is not to look back in despair at the failure of man but to point in hope to the faithfulness of God. The hope of the writer of the Pentateuch is clearly focused on what God will do to bring his covenant promises to fulfillment. Nowhere is he more clear on this than at the (structural) conclusion to his work: Deuteronomy 30:1-10, where Moses tells the people of Israel that they will fail and that they will be cursed, but God’s work with them will not end there. The Lord will again bring them into the land, gather them from all the lands where they have been exiled. But this time, things will be different. Israel is going to obey God. God is going to give them a heart that will obey, a heart that will love the Lord and keep his commandments. It is on this high note that the Pentateuch finally draws to a close.

"If we go beyond the Pentateuch to the other historical books, the Prophets and finally to the New Testament, the fulfillment of Moses’ hope is made certain. It is also clear in these later books how God is going to give his people a new heart: ’I will give you a new heart, a new Spirit I will put within you; I will turn away the heart of stone from your flesh and I will give you a heart of flesh. My Spirit I will put within you and I will make you walk in my statutes and my judgments you will keep’ (Ezekiel 36:26-27). It is by means of God’s Spirit that his people are able to do his will. No one is clearer on this point than the apostle Paul (Romans 8:4). What is often overlooked, however, is that we needn’t go beyond the Pentateuch itself for exactly the same conclusion. The author of the Pentateuch has as one of his central purposes to show that God’s work must always be done in God’s way: by means of the Spirit of God. To show the centrality of this idea in the Pentateuch we need only compare the author’s description of God’s own carrying out of his will (Genesis 1:2 b) with that of man’s obedience to God’s will (Exodus 31:1-5)." [Note: John H. Sailhamer, "Exegetical Notes: Genesis 1:1-2:4a," Trinity Journal 5 NS (Spring 1984):81-82.]

Later revelation confirms that the conditions Moses spoke of here as possible will prevail in the future. Israel will indeed return to the Lord as a nation (Deuteronomy 30:2; cf. Ezekiel 16:53-63; Amos 9:9-15; Zechariah 12:10-12; Acts 15:16-17). The Lord will gather her again to the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 30:3-5; cf. Isaiah 11:11-12; Jeremiah 23:3-8; Ezekiel 37:21-28; Matthew 24:29-31). She will experience a permanent change in her attitude to God as a nation (Deuteronomy 30:6; cf. Ezekiel 20:33-44; Hosea 2:14-16; Zechariah 13:8-9; Malachi 3:1-6; Romans 11:26-27). She will see her oppressors punished (Deuteronomy 30:7; cf. Isaiah 14:1-2; Joel 3:1-8; Matthew 25:31-46). God will prosper her abundantly (Deuteronomy 30:9; cf. Amos 9:11-15). God has not yet fulfilled these predictions. Therefore we look for a future fulfillment. The passages cited above indicate that this fulfillment will take place at the second coming of Christ and in His millennial kingdom that will follow that return. A distinctive of dispensational theology is the recognition that God has a future for Israel as a nation that is distinct from the future of the church or the Gentile nations. [Note: See Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, pp. 43-47; or idem, Dispensationalism, pp. 38-41.] Non-dispensationalists believe God will fulfill these promises to the "New Israel," the church. Some of them believe that Joshua and his successors conquered the Promised Land sufficiently to warrant the conclusion that we should look for no future fulfillment. Others of them believe the land promises are spiritual and will find fulfillment in the future, either in heaven or in the new earth.

Verses 1-20

B. A call to decision ch. 30

Having appealed for the Israelites’ faithfulness to the covenant, he now called on the people to make a formal commitment to obey it.

Verses 11-20

2. The importance of obedience 30:11-20

Obeying did not lie beyond the average Israelite’s ability if he or she turned to Yahweh wholeheartedly (Deuteronomy 30:10). God was not asking something impossible of His people (Deuteronomy 30:11-15; cf. Romans 10:6-8). He had given them the Mosaic Law so they could obey Him.

"The point at issue here was not the ease or even possibility of keeping the word of the Lord . . . but of even knowing what it was. Contrary to the inscrutable and enigmatic ways of the pagan gods, the Lord’s purposes and will for his people are crystal clear. They are not ’too difficult’ (lo’ niple’t, lit. ’not too wonderful,’ i.e., beyond comprehension) or beyond reach (Deuteronomy 30:11). That is, they can be understood by the human mind despite its limitations." [Note: Merrill, Deuteronomy, p. 391.]

The choice before the Israelites was ultimately one of life or death (Deuteronomy 30:15-18; cf. Genesis 1:28; Genesis 2:9; Genesis 2:17; Genesis 3:8; Genesis 3:22-24; Genesis 5:22-24; Genesis 6:9; Genesis 17:1). [Note: See Sailhamer, The Pentateuch . . ., p. 474.] Moses called the permanent, unchanging heaven and earth to witness the making of this covenant (Deuteronomy 30:19). Those who made ancient Near Eastern treaties commonly called witnesses to attest them, as God did here. God also urged the people to look at the consequences of their choice and to choose life and obedience deliberately (Deuteronomy 30:19-20). The highest motive, love for God, would enable the Israelites to obey the Lord steadfastly. They would consequently "live in the land" God had promised the patriarchs (Deuteronomy 30:20).

"The notion of choice, with its implication of freedom to determine one’s own actions or mode of life, is one which is characteristic of Deuteronomy. God chooses, but human beings also have that freedom." [Note: Whybray, p. 96.]

"Participants in Israel’s liturgies of covenant renewal, listeners to the word of the Lord and the words of Moses, readers of Deuteronomy then and now are all confronted with one of the most explicit calls for a decision that the Bible presents." [Note: Miller, p. 214.]

This final exhortation lifted Moses’ third major address to the people to an emotional climax (cf. Deuteronomy 4:32-40).

"This decision to love or not to love God is one of life’s major decisions." [Note: Schultz, p. 102.]

"The opening words of Moses’ first address were ’See, I have set before you the land; go in and take possession’ (Deuteronomy 1:8). Now, as his speaking comes to an end, those words are echoed: ’See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil . . . therefore choose life’ (Deuteronomy 30:15). Between those two addresses is all the teaching of the commandments, the statutes, and the ordinances. And therein lies the theological structure of Deuteronomy in a nutshell." [Note: Miller, p. 214.]

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 30". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/deuteronomy-30.html. 2012.