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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 29

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Deuteronomy 29:0


The Covenant Renewed in MoabMoses' Third Address (Deuteronomy 29:1-20)The Lord's Covenant with Israel in the Land of MoabThe Third Discourse (28:69-30:20)
Historical Introduction
Deuteronomy 29:1Deuteronomy 29:1Deuteronomy 29:1Deuteronomy 29:1-3
Deuteronomy 29:2-9Deuteronomy 29:2-9Deuteronomy 29:2-9
Deuteronomy 29:4-5
Deuteronomy 29:6-7
Deuteronomy 29:8
The Covenant in Moab
Deuteronomy 29:9-14
Deuteronomy 29:10-13Deuteronomy 29:10-29Deuteronomy 29:10-15
Deuteronomy 29:14-29
Deuteronomy 29:15-16
Deuteronomy 29:16-21
Deuteronomy 29:17-20
A Threat of Exile
Deuteronomy 29:21-23
Deuteronomy 29:22-28
Deuteronomy 29:24-28
Deuteronomy 29:29[MT Versing]

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verse 1

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 29:1 1These are the words of the covenant which the LORD commanded Moses to make with the sons of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant which He had made with them at Horeb.

Deuteronomy 29:1 “the words of the covenant which the LORD commanded Moses” This is Moses' third address in Deuteronomy (chapters 29-30). He reminds us that these laws are from YHWH, not himself.

“besides the covenant” This refers to the covenant at Mt. Sinai/Horeb (see Special Topic at Deuteronomy 1:2, cf. Deuteronomy 5:2ff; Exodus 19-24) and on the plains of Moab (cf. Deuteronomy 1:5; Deuteronomy 5:1, Deuteronomy 5:3, Deuteronomy 5:5-26). It was spelled out clearly in Exodus 20-31. It was renewed in Exodus 34:0; Deuteronomy 29-30; and Joshua 24:0. See Special Topic: Covenant.

Verses 2-9

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 29:2-9 2And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, “You have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and all his servants and all his land; 3the great trials which your eyes have seen, those great signs and wonders. 4Yet to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear. 5I have led you forty years in the wilderness; your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandal has not worn out on your foot. 6You have not eaten bread, nor have you drunk wine or strong drink, in order that you might know that I am the LORD your God. 7When you reached this place, Sihon the king of Heshbon and Og the king of Bashan came out to meet us for battle, but we defeated them; 8and we took their land and gave it as an inheritance to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of the Manassites. 9So keep the words of this covenant to do them, that you may prosper in all that you do.”

Deuteronomy 29:2 “all Israel” This usually refers to only the elders, but because of Deuteronomy 29:1-13, it seems to refer to the entire nation. See Special Topic: Israel (the name).

Deuteronomy 29:2-3 “You have seen. . .your eyes have seen” This is a figure of speech (cf. Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 7:19) because these people were the children of those who had seen (cf. Numbers 14:29). Verses Deuteronomy 29:2-8 form a historical review like chapters 1-4, which was a common element of Near Eastern treaties.

“sign and wonders” These terms “signs” (BDB 16) and “wonders” (BDB 68) are mentioned often in Deuteronomy (cf. Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 6:22; Deuteronomy 7:19; Deuteronomy 11:3; Deuteronomy 26:8; Deuteronomy 29:2; Deuteronomy 34:11) to help the current generation of Israelis to remember YHWH's powerful, gracious acts of deliverance and provisions (cf. Deuteronomy 29:5-7) during the Exodus and Wilderness Wandering Period.

Deuteronomy 29:4 “to this day” The blindness of Israel to their special place in YHWH's eternal redemptive plan was not just an ancient problem (i.e., Deuteronomy 29:4), but also a current problem (cf. Matthew 13:14-17; Mark 4:10-12; Luke 8:9-10; John 12:36-43; Acts 28:26-27; and especially Romans 11:25-32).

The gospel is described as the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God (cf. Acts 2:23; also note Deuteronomy 3:18; Deuteronomy 4:28; 13:29). See Special Topic: YHWH's ETERNAL REDEMPTIVE PLAN.

“the LORD has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear” The Israelites of the exodus and wilderness wanderings saw the physical, but did not comprehend the spiritual dimension of YHWH's actions (i.e., they were a special covenant people who were part of an eternal redemptive plan). This phrase becomes a metaphor for spiritual blindness and hardness (cf. Isaiah 6:9-10; Acts 28:26-27; Romans 11:8).

There is a word play between Deuteronomy 29:2, “you have seen” and Deuteronomy 29:4, where it is stated they cannot see! This may refer to Israel's rebellions mentioned in Deuteronomy 9:7-24. Without faith God is invisible in history, but with faith history becomes God's track record. It takes a gift (i.e., “given,” BDB 678, KB 733, Qal PERFECT) of YHWH's grace for fallen humans to sense and understand His presence!

Deuteronomy 29:5 “clothes have not worn out. . .sandal has not worn out” Rashi says clothes and shoes grew as the children grew (cf. Deuteronomy 8:4; Nehemiah 9:21).

Deuteronomy 29:6 Verses Deuteronomy 29:5 and 6 show God's providential care during the entire period of judgment known as the Wilderness Wandering Period (cf. Deuteronomy 8:2-3). The Israelites were to help maintain the relationship by focusing on YHWH (not food, drink produced by human hands, but on His provision). But these verses also show the continual spiritual blindness of God's people (cf. Isaiah 6:9-10).

Deuteronomy 29:7 This shows YHWH's military presence on behalf of Israel (cf. Numbers 21:21-24, Numbers 21:33-35; and Deuteronomy 2:26-17).

Deuteronomy 29:8 These are the tribes that settled on the eastern side of Jordan (cf. Deuteronomy 3:12-13; Numbers 32:28-32).

Deuteronomy 29:9 “So keep the words. . .do th” The conditional nature of the covenant (i.e., “keep,” BDB 1036, KB 1581, Qal PERFECT and “do,” BDB 793, KB 889, Qal PERFECT) is recurrent in Deuteronomy (cf. Deuteronomy 4:2, Deuteronomy 4:6, Deuteronomy 4:9, Deuteronomy 4:15, Deuteronomy 4:23, Deuteronomy 4:40; Deuteronomy 5:1, Deuteronomy 5:10, Deuteronomy 5:12, Deuteronomy 5:29, Deuteronomy 5:32; Deuteronomy 6:2, Deuteronomy 6:3, Deuteronomy 6:12, Deuteronomy 6:17, Deuteronomy 6:25; Deuteronomy 7:9, Deuteronomy 7:11, Deuteronomy 7:12; Deuteronomy 8:1, Deuteronomy 8:2, Deuteronomy 8:6, Deuteronomy 8:11; Deuteronomy 10:13; Deuteronomy 11:1, Deuteronomy 11:8, Deuteronomy 11:16, Deuteronomy 11:22, Deuteronomy 11:32; Deuteronomy 12:1, Deuteronomy 12:28, Deuteronomy 12:32; Deuteronomy 15:5; Deuteronomy 16:12; Deuteronomy 17:19; Deuteronomy 19:9; Deuteronomy 24:8; Deuteronomy 26:16, Deuteronomy 26:17, Deuteronomy 26:18; Deuteronomy 27:1; Deuteronomy 28:1, Deuteronomy 28:9, Deuteronomy 28:13, Deuteronomy 28:15, Deuteronomy 28:45, Deuteronomy 28:58; Deuteronomy 29:9; Deuteronomy 30:10, Deuteronomy 30:16; Deuteronomy 31:12; Deuteronomy 32:46). Obedience is a visible measure of the spiritual faithfulness of Israel. To love YHWH is to obey YHWH!

This verse was later read by the rabbis when some of the people were publicly whipped (cf. Deuteronomy 25:3). It contains 13 words to correspond to 13 stripes. Psalms 78:38 was also read.

“that you may prosper in all that you do” This VERB (BDB 968, KB 1328, Hiphil IMPERFECT) usually means “be prudent” or “circumspect,” but in the Hiphil stem it can mean “prosper,” “have success” (cf. Joshua 1:7-8; 1 Samuel 18:5, 1 Samuel 18:14, 1 Samuel 18:15; 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 18:7; 1 Chronicles 22:13). Notice that success and prosperity are contingent on obedience!

Verses 10-13

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 29:10-13 10”You stand today, all of you, before the LORD your God: your chiefs, your tribes, your elders and your officers, even all the men of Israel, 11your little ones, your wives, and the alien who is within your camps, from the one who chops your wood to the one who draws your water, 12that you may enter into the covenant with the LORD your God, and into His oath which the Lord your God is making with you today, 13in order that He may establish you today as His people and that He may be your God, just as He spoke to you and as He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Deuteronomy 29:10 “You stand” Notice the different groupings of Israeli society mentioned in Deuteronomy 29:10-11:

1. chiefs, BDB 910

2. tribal members, BDB 986

3. tribal elders, BDB 278

4. tribal officers, BDB 1009, Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE

5. all the men of Israel, BDB 481, 35, 975 (same as #2)

6. children, BDB 381

7. wives, BDB 61

8. resident aliens, BDB 158

9. servants, described in their servant tasks

All these different groups are called upon to attest to their commitment to the covenant (cf. Deuteronomy 29:14-15). This is a formal covenant renewal ceremony!

The number of groups mentioned varies from translation to translation. Some translations (REB) assume that #1 and 2 should be combined (e.g., KJV, “your captains of your tribes,” JPSOA, “your tribal leaders”). The ASV, NASB, NIB all have #1-4.

Deuteronomy 29:12-13 This is a covenant renewal text. Notice how “the covenant” (BDB 136) and “the oath” (BDB 46) are parallel. YHWH's regulations are linked to His promises!

YHWH wants to culminate the promises made to the Patriarchs in Genesis by establishing a people (cf. Deuteronomy 28:9), a people who reflect His character!

Deuteronomy 29:12

NASB, NKJV, NRSV, TEV“that you may enter into the covenant” NJB“and you are about to pass into the covenant”

The VERBAL (BDB 716, KB 778, Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT) literally means “pass over.” It is used only in the sense of entering into a covenant here. It is possibly connected to the idea of “cutting” a covenant by passing between the parts of the sacrificial animal as in Genesis 15:17-18. The inference is that the fate of the animal will pass on to the one making the covenant if they disobey the stipulations.

Verses 14-21

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 29:14-21 14”Now not with you alone am I making this covenant and this oath, 15but both with those who stand here with us today in the presence of the LORD our God and with those who are not with us here today 16(for you know how we lived in the land of Egypt, and how we came through the midst of the nations through which you passed; 17moreover, you have seen their abominations and their idols of wood, stone, silver, and gold, which they had with them); 18so that there will not be among you a man or woman, or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of those nations; that there will not be among you a root bearing poisonous fruit and wormwood. 19It shall be when he hears the words of this curse, that he will boast, saying, 'I have peace though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart in order to destroy the watered land with the dry.' 20The LORD shall never be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of the LORD and His jealousy will burn against that man, and every curse which is written in this book will rest on him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven. 21Then the LORD will single him out for adversity from all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant which are written in this book of the law.”

Deuteronomy 29:15 “and with those who are not with us here today” This refers to future generations (cf. Deuteronomy 29:22, Deuteronomy 29:29; Deuteronomy 5:3-5; Deuteronomy 12:25, Deuteronomy 12:28).

Deuteronomy 29:16-17 These verses form a summary parenthesis about the pagan nations Israel encountered in its pilgrimage to the Promised Land.

“their abominations” See Special Topic: Abominations.

Deuteronomy 29:18 The warnings against covenant disobedience (esp. idolatry) is clearly spelled out for each and every member and social group in Israeli society (i.e., individuals, families, tribes).

“a root bearing poisonous fruit and wormwood” This phrase is parallel to “whose heart turns away” (BDB 815, KB 937, Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE). The poison is disobedience and the consequences a re severe!

1. YHWH will never be willing to forgive him (Deuteronomy 29:20, negated Qal IMPERFECT, BDB 2, KB 3) and a Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT (BDB 699, KB 757).

2. YHWH's anger and jealousy will burn against him (Deuteronomy 29:20, BDB 798, KB 896, Qal IMPERFECT).

3. every curse will rest on him (Deuteronomy 29:20, BDB 918, KB 1181, Qal PERFECT). This same VERB describes sin as a crouching animal in Genesis 4:7.

4. YHWH will blot out his name from under heaven (Deuteronomy 29:20, BDB 562, KB 567, Qal PERFECT).

5. YHWH will single him out for adversity (Deuteronomy 29:21, BDB 95, KB 110, Hiphil PERFECT).

Deuteronomy 29:19 “he will boast, saying, 'I have peace though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart” This is the recurrent attitude of sinners who take God's patience as an excuse to continue to rebel. God's judgment, though often seemingly delayed, will call every stubborn covenant violation into account (i.e., we reap what we sow, cf. Job 34:11; Psalms 28:4; Psalms 62:12; Proverbs 24:12; Ecclesiastes 12:14; Jeremiah 17:10; Jeremiah 32:19; Matthew 16:27; Matthew 25:31-46; Romans 2:6; Romans 14:12; 1 Corinthians 3:8; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Galatians 6:7-10; 2 Timothy 4:14; 1 Peter 1:17; Revelation 2:23; Revelation 20:12; Revelation 22:12).

NASB“to destroy the watered land with the dry” NKJV“as though the drunkard could be included with the sober” NRSV“(thus bringing disaster on moist and dry alike)” TEV“That would destroy all of you, good and evil alike” NJB“much water drives away thirst” JPSOA“to the utter ruin of moist and dry alike” NET Bible“This will destroy the watered ground with the parched”

This is a proverb whose exact meaning is unsure, but the context demands an idiom of complete destruction. Because of one stubborn violator of YHWH's covenant all Israel would suffer. Today we might say, “one bad apple spoils the barrel” or “one bad egg spoils the omelet.”

Deuteronomy 29:20 “The LORD shall never be willing to forgive him” This hyperbole must be seen against the background of YHWH's willingness to forgive and accept any repentant believer. Some Bible teachers link this verse with Psalms 103:9 and assert that there is a limit or threshold to YHWH's grace. I do not accept this. Psalms 103:9 in context (i.e., Deuteronomy 29:8-14) shows He will forgive! The problem is not God's forgiveness, but fallen, rebellious mankind's continual sin! The relationship is broken from mankind's side and it remains broken from mankind's side. Unbelief and rebellion issue in destruction, both temporally and eternally!

“jealousy” This term (BDB 888) is derived from something dyed an intense red (i.e., when anger or zeal caused the blood to flush the face). Human emotions are used to describe YHWH's emotions (anthropomorphism, see Special Topic: God Described As Human [anthropomorphism]). He is zealous for His people (cf. Isaiah 26:11). This zealousness can turn to jealousy (cf. Ezekiel 5:13; Ezekiel 16:38, Ezekiel 16:42; Ezekiel 23:25; Ezekiel 36:5, Ezekiel 36:6; Ezekiel 38:19; Zephaniah 1:18; Zephaniah 3:8).

“will blot out his name from under heaven” This idiom means (1) no children or (2) death (cf. Genesis 7:4; Exodus 17:14; Exodus 32:32; Deuteronomy 9:14; 2 Kings 14:27; Psalms 9:5-6).

Deuteronomy 29:21 “all the curses of the covenant” See Deuteronomy 29:27-28; Deuteronomy 27:15-26; Deuteronomy 28:15-19, Deuteronomy 28:20-26, Deuteronomy 28:27-37, Deuteronomy 28:38-48, Deuteronomy 28:49-57.

Verses 22-28

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 29:22-28 22”Now the generation to come, your sons who rise up after you and the foreigner who comes from a distant land, when they see the plagues of the land and the diseases with which the LORD has afflicted it, will say, 23'All its land is brimstone and salt, a burning waste, unsown and unproductive, and no grass grows in it, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, which the LORD overthrew in His anger and in His wrath.' 24All the nations will say, 'Why has the LORD done thus to this land? Why this great outburst of anger?' 25Then men will say, 'Because they forsook the covenant of the LORD, the God of their fathers, which He made with them when He brought them out of the land of Egypt. 26They went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods whom they have not known and whom He had not allotted to them. 27Therefore, the anger of the LORD burned against that land, to bring upon it every curse which is written in this book; 28and the LORD uprooted them from their land in anger and in fury and in great wrath, and cast them into another land, as it is this day.'“

Deuteronomy 29:22-23 YHWH's blessing, which was meant to attract those who did not know Him, will be turned into a mocking questioning by foreigners:

1. plagues of the land, Deuteronomy 29:22

2. diseases, Deuteronomy 29:22

3. land is brimstone, Deuteronomy 29:23

4. land is salt, Deuteronomy 29:23

5. land is a burning waste, Deuteronomy 29:23

6. land is sown, and no germination, Deuteronomy 29:23

7. land is unproductive, Deuteronomy 29:23

8. land has no grass, Deuteronomy 29:23

9. land like the cities of the Plain (cf. Genesis 19:24)

All of these YHWH sent (cf. Deuteronomy 29:22-28).

Deuteronomy 29:22 “Now the generation to come. . .will say” This literary form (i.e., children asking questions) is seen earlier in Deuteronomy 6:20, which reflects Exodus 13:8, Exodus 13:14; Exodus 10:2; Exodus 12:26, Exodus 12:27. Deuteronomy often speaks of teaching the children (e.g., Deuteronomy 4:10; Deuteronomy 6:7).

Deuteronomy 29:23 “All its land is brimstone and salt” The land will be as the Dead Sea area, which was the site of Sodom and Gomorrah (cf. Genesis 19:24-26).

Deuteronomy 29:24 “And all nations will say” Israel was a sign to all nations concerning YHWH. It was meant to be a blessing sign but even if judgment, still a sign!

Deuteronomy 29:25 “Because they forsook the covenant” This was and is the basic reason for the divine curses (cf. 2 Kings 17:9-23; 2 Chronicles 36:13-21).

Deuteronomy 29:26 “gods. . .gods” Literally this is Elohim. This term is plural. It usually is translated “God.” It can also refer to angelic beings and judges. See Special Topic: NAMES FOR DEITY.

NASB, NRSV, JPSOA“He had not allotted to them” NKJV“He has not given to them” NJB“no part of their heritage from him”

In the Septuagint translation of Deuteronomy 32:8 the term “Elohim” (i.e., “according to the number of the angels of God”) seems to refer to national angels, as here (cf. Isaiah 24:21; Daniel 10:13, Daniel 10:20).

Deuteronomy 29:27 “the anger of the LORD burned against the land” The land is effected by Israel's sin (cf. Genesis 3:17) and human sin in general (cf. Romans 8:18-22). God uses natural phenomena to redirect mankind's thoughts and priorities.

Deuteronomy 29:28 “the LORD uprooted them” This VERB (BDB 684, KB 737, Qal IMPERFECT, cf. 1 Kings 14:15; 2 Chronicles 7:20; Jeremiah 12:14) is the opposite of “planted”! The covenant has been reversed!

Notice how YHWH's actions are described:

1. in anger - BDB 60 I

2. in fury - BDB 404

3. in great wrath - BDB 893 and 152

4. cast them into another land (i.e., exile, BDB 1020, KB 1527, Hiphil IMPERFECT)

Verse 29

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 29:29 29”The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.”

Deuteronomy 29:29 “The secret things belong to the LORD our God” This refers to (1) the destiny of humans (cf. Deuteronomy 29:19-20; (2) complete knowledge of God; or (3) to His future plans.

“but the things revealed belong to us” Humans are responsible for the light they have. If they have no contact with the Bible or the gospel, they are responsible for the revelation in nature (cf. Psalms 19:1-6; Romans 1:0) and an inner moral nature (cf. Romans 2:0). If they have been exposed to Scripture, they are responsible for it content! Believers can know truth and are responsible for it!


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why did God have the covenant renewed so often (Deuteronomy 29:1)?

2. Why did God blind the eyes of the Jews to His purposes (Deuteronomy 29:4-6)?

3. Does God ever become unwilling to forgive man (Deuteronomy 29:20)?

4. Why does the land suffer for man's sins (Deuteronomy 29:27)?

5. What is Deuteronomy 29:29 referring to?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 29". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/deuteronomy-29.html. 2021.
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