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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

Deuteronomy 29

Verses 1-15

THIRD ADDRESS OF MOSES:

WHAT GOD PROPOSES

The third address of Moses (29:1-30-20) may have been added to the core of the Book of Deuteronomy (4:44-28:68, with the exception of chapter 27) after the experience of exile, probably that in Babylonia (sixth century B.C.). In 29:28 the phrase "as at this day" may point to the exilic or postexilic stance of the writer. He seems to know of the existence of the original Book of Deuteronomy (29:20, 21, 27), to whose laws he counsels unconditional obedience.

In chapters 29-30 the writer represents Israel as entering into a covenant with God in Moab, just prior to the entrance into Canaan. This covenant is a renewal of the Covenant sealed at Horeb (29:1). It is likely that parts of these chapters, at least, contain elements of an old liturgy of Covenant renewal.

A Covenant in Perpetuity with Israel (29:1-15)

In verses 10-15 the nation is pictured as standing in the presence of God and Moses, ready to take upon itself the solemn obligations of the Covenant relationship. It is carefully indicated that all Israel was there, including children, women, sojourners, servants, and even unborn Israel (vss. 14-15). Not a single soul was to be exempt from the obligations of the Covenant relationship, and they were to be binding on the nation in perpetuity.

The ground of their obligation is again said to be God’s gracious acts from the time of their deliverance from Egypt (vss. 2-9). Though Moses is talking to the new generation, it is said once again that those events took place before their eyes (vs. 3; compare 4:34; 6:22; 9:17). Israel past, present, and future is bound together in an indivisible whole. The Hebrews and other ancient peoples took seriously the concept of tribal solidarity: that individuals bear responsibility for and the consequences of the acts of all other members of the group; that no man "lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself" (Romans 14:7). Our individualistic, pluralistic society rests upon concepts quite unknown to the ancient world. Many today feel that their sins will hurt no one but themselves, so why not indulge one’s private appetites and lusts? But both sins and acts of righteousness have social consequences: in the family, in the world where we do our work, and on the generations that follow us. The history of families and social groups is determined by the decisions of individual members.

Verses 16-29

A Covenant Involving Total Obedience (29:16-29)

The responsibility of individual members of the community—the other side of the coin—is now emphasized. After the nation has entered into the Covenant, the individual must not be tempted to feel that God’s protection and help will be assured by the obedience of others (vs. 19). Upon such a man the judgments of God, as recorded in the Book of Deuteronomy, will surely fall (vs. 21). And his secret sins will lead to tragic consequences for the entire nation—"to the sweeping away of moist and dry alike" (vs. 19). In other words, his evil deeds will lead not only to his own destruction (he is the dried-up plant) but to the annihilation of the innocent (the watered and green plants). It is a tragic fact of life that the innocent frequently suffer with the guilty.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Deuteronomy 29". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/deuteronomy-29.html.