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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

Deuteronomy 30

Verse 1


(1) When all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse.—The curse is still upon them, and therefore this chapter contemplates the possibility of a restoration still to come. Some would go much further than this. But thus much is undeniable.

And thou shalt call them to mind.—An awakening among the people themselves must precede their restoration.

Verse 3

(3) The Lord thy God will turn thy captivity.—The word “turn” is not active as we should expect (in the Hebrew), but neuter, and upon this fact the Rabbis have grounded the following observation that “in some way the Shechinah is abiding upon Israel during the stress of their captivity, and whensoever they are redeemed, He has prescribed Redemption for Himself, that He will return with them.” And further, that the day of the gathering of the captivity is great, and attended with difficulty; as though He Himself must be there to take hold visibly of the hand of each man, and bring him from his place, as it is said, “And ye shall be gathered one by one, O ye children of Israel” (Isaiah 27:12). But it is observed that the same form of the verb is employed in Jeremiah with respect to Moab (Jeremiah 48:47). This note at least shows that the Jews look for the fulfilment of this prophecy as a thing yet to come.

Verse 4

(4) If any of thine be driven out.—In the LXX., “If thy dispersion be.”

Unto the outmost parts of heaven.—The LXX. version of these words is traceable in Matthew 24:31, “From the one end of heaven to the other.”

Verse 5

(5) Into the land which thy fathers possessed.—It is very difficult to interpret these words of any land except Palestine. Comp. Jeremiah 29:13-14, for their fulfilment in the first restoration, from Babylon.

Verse 8

(8) And thou shalt return and . . . do all his commandments.—It is as certain as anything can be in this world that the laws of Deuteronomy have never been kept perfectly. The minute observances of the Talmudical system took the heart and spirit out of the law of Moses. Christians do not profess to obey any commandments but those which are called moral. If the Law itself is to be fulfilled, a restoration of Israel would seem to be necessary.

Verse 10

(10) If thou shalt hearken.—“If” is the LXX. translation. The Hebrew word signifies “for,” or “when.”

Verses 11-14


(11) For this commandment.—Heb., Mitzvah. This duty, this form of obedience to the law.

Is not hidden from theei.e., not too hard. Literally, too wonderful for thee. (Comp. Deuteronomy 17:8; Psalms 139:6.)

(12) It is not in heaven.—St. Paul cites the words thus: “The righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? that is, to bring Christ down from above” (Romans 10:6-7).

(13) Neither is it beyond the sea.—St. Paul continues, “Or (say not), Who shall descend into the deep? that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.” The alteration here is remarkable. The LXX. will not account for it. “Beyond the sea” generally suggests the idea of a land on the other side of the surface of the ocean. But a descent into the abyss,” which is what St. Paul indicates, means a passage through the sea to that which is beneath it, “beyond the sea “in a very different sense. No one but Jonah ever went beyond the sea in this way, as he says, “Out of the belly of hell cried I . . . Thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the heart of the seas . . . I went down to the bottoms of the mountains . . . The deep (abyss) closed me about.” And this descent of Jonah is chosen as the “sign” of Christ’s descent into hell.

(14) But the word is very nigh unto thee.—Here the difference between the Jewish and the Christian commentator is very striking. “The Law is given you in Scripture and in tradition” (written and orally), says Rashi on this place. But St. Paul continues thus: “But what saith it (the righteousness of faith)? The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thine heart, that is, the word of faith which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” It is worthy of notice that St. Paul in this place contrasts the righteousness of faith with the righteousness of the law, and describes both alike in the words of the Pentateuch. Concerning the righteousness of the law, he says, Moses describeth it, “The man which doeth those things shall live by them.” The citation is from Leviticus 18:5. And there is a similar passage in Deuteronomy 6:25. What could more clearly prove that the covenant of Deuteronomy 28:29 was meant to present the way of salvation from a different point of view to the Sinaitic covenant, and was “beside the covenant which he made with them in Horeb.” Not that we are to suppose there was ever a different way of salvation. The Decalogue itself begins (like the new covenant) with “I am the Lord thy God.” But, unlike the new covenant, it makes no provision whereby Israel may keep the laws arising out of the relationship. The new covenant not only asserts the relationship, but provides the means whereby men may walk worthy of it. “I will put my laws in their mind, and write them in their heart.” (See Note on Deuteronomy 29:13.)

It is only in the power of this principle that Moses, in the exhortation which he founds on this statement of the way of righteousness through faith, could say as he did in Deuteronomy 30:19, “therefore choose life.”

Verse 20

(20) He is thy life, and the length of thy days.—This is the Old Testament form of a well-known saying in the New Testament, which may yet be fulfilled in Israel, “I am the resurrection and the life. He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).

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Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 30". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.