Sunday, February 17, 2013

Bible Commentary - Deuteronomy 29

This chapter is a peculiar mixture of historical prologue and renewed threats of destruction for disobedience.

This chapter is interesting.  The first 9 verses seem like a repeat of the historical prologue that we read in Deuteronomy chapters 1-3, which recounted the history of Israel as they traveled from Sinai towards the promised land.  The passage in this chapter adds an additional detail, that the clothing and shoes of the Israelites did not wear out on their journey.

This is an interesting point because it reminds us that in the harsh conditions of the desert, they would have had few opportunities to make or repair clothing and shoes, just as they also depended on the manna and water from supernatural sources to sustain their diets.  While this doesn't seem like an overt miracle, it shows that the LORD was acting in a subtle way to maintain their possessions when they would not have been replaceable.  Usually it seems that people are more interested in overt miracles where there is something that obviously happened, but the LORD does not always work in that way.

Verses 10-18, and to a certain extent the rest of the chapter, are reminiscent of Deut 4 which similarly exhorts the reader to follow the laws of the covenant and avoid sin.  A quick note about verse 12: chopping wood and drawing water are two kinds of forced or slave labor in the OT, probably because these were very repetitive and heavily physical tasks.  For another reference to this, see Joshua 9:21.

Verses 19-28 conclude with a stern and verbose description of all the horrors and calamity that will result from ignoring the covenant.  This passage quietly transitions from curses falling upon the individual sinner (v. 19-21) to curses falling upon the entire nation and land (v. 22-28) due to the collective influence of many people sinning against the LORD.

The overall effect, as I see it, is to combine the historical prologue and exhortations of Deut 1-4 with the lengthy curses and blessings of the previous two chapters (Deut 27-28).  In that sense, this chapter and those that follow mirror the introduction.  While the introduction emphasizes Israel's past with the LORD, the conclusion emphasizes their future as Moses repeatedly references the probability of Israel falling away from the LORD and the turmoil that would follow such an event.

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