So far in our study of Deuteronomy, we have learned about the history of the Israelites from Egypt to the Jordan River and recalled the Ten Commandments, God’s covenant with the Israelites. On top of this, we learned about the blessings and curses God promised to the Israelites for covenant faithfulness and unfaithfulness, respectively. These things occur in the first two sermons/speeches of Moses from Deuteronomy 1 – Deuteronomy 28.
From Deuteronomy 29 – Deuteronomy 32, we will learn about Moses’ third speech/sermon to the Israelites. Some biblical scholars call Deuteronomy 29 the covenant renewal at Moab while others call it the covenant of Moab. Since no difference appears between the Mount Sinai covenant with its blessings and curses from the covenant in Deuteronomy 29, I consider this the covenant renewal at Moab. Chapter 29 is not the end of Moses’ thoughts on the Israelites’ faithfulness to their covenant with God. He continued speaking about it through chapter thirty. Deuteronomy 30:19-20 summarizes Moses’ third and last sermon to the Israelites. Those two verses very well summarize the entirety of sermons one and two. When you read it, you will recognize it to be similar to what Joshua said in Joshua 24:15. Both passages are an entreaty to the Israelites to follow and serve the LORD God and only Him.
Because Deuteronomy 29 begins the final entreaty/sermon to the Israelites to follow the LORD faithfully, we would expect it to have common words from the earlier passages of Deuteronomy. In this chapter, Moses used the word “covenant” six times, “know” four times, and “observe,”, “keep,” and “do” once apiece. Remember that “covenant” comes from the Hebrew word beriyth and means pledge, treaty, or agreement. Moses used “covenant” in verses one, nine, twelve, fourteen, twenty-one, and twenty-five. Only in the last two instances did he use it in relation to a negative aspect – the curses of the covenant and the Israelites forsaking the covenant. “Know” comes from the Hebrew word yada and means a progressive, growing knowledge from learning to know, perceiving, recognizing, acknowledging, and confessing. “Observe” and “do” both come from the Hebrew word ‘asah and mean to do, act upon, and accomplish. “Keep” comes from Moses’ oft used word shamar and means to listen, hear, and obey. In addition to these words, Moses used a word in this chapter he did not often say, the word “oath.” Moses used it twice, both times when speaking about God’s covenant. The “oath” is in addition to the covenant. “Oath” comes from the Hebrew word ‘alah and means a promise or oath of a covenant. An oath is part of a covenant.
Outline and Structure.
Verses 12-13 are the covenant renewal text of this chapter. Around these verses, the outline of the chapter unfolds. The structure of the text is A, B, C, D, ‘C, ‘B, *, ‘A. Biblical writers used this literary technique often. This structure is a chiastic structure. It presents a sequence of ideas, that then repeat in reverse order. The middle idea, the one not repeated, is the main idea of the passage. By placing it in the center of the passage, the writer emphasized it. In Deuteronomy 29, verses twelve and thirteen are the focal point of the passage. These two verses are the D in the structural outline mentioned earlier. D in this passage is the covenant renewal.
When a writer used the chiastic technique in the Bible, the last verse(s) of the chapter supported the emphasized focal point of the passage. Here verse twenty-nine supports verses twelve and thirteen. In Deuteronomy 29, God said the Israelites were responsible for acting on the things He revealed to them – in this case, the covenant – and living them out by obeying and teaching their children to obey them. They were accountable to being faithful to God because of the things they knew of Him. God had not revealed everything to the Israelites. The time for that had not yet arrived, but they were responsible for what He had shown them.
This idea brings us to another fact about this chapter’s chiastic structure. The asterisk (*) in the earlier chapter structure layout – A, B, C, D, ‘C, ‘B, *, ‘A shows a modification of the regular chiasm. It represents a mind change encompassing the future, not just the past and present of the Israelites. The asterisk represents the Israelites’ future if they did not keep their covenant with the LORD God. God, through Moses, reminded the Israelites how and where He had been for them in their past and their present. He wanted to make sure the Israelites realized He would be faithful to them in the future, too. He is I AM, the God of the past, present, and future. His power for them would not be only in what they have seen and experienced. God’s power was for all time and, therefore, His covenant with them was for all time, including the future. That was the purpose of the modification of the chiasm in this chapter. The future section (vs. 22-28) told the Israelites God was eternal and His covenant with them, including the blessings and curses, would stand throughout eternity. They were responsible to choose to be faithful to their covenant with Him based on what He revealed to them.
The chiastic form of this chapter leads the hearers and later readers to focus on the most important point of this chapter and of the book of Deuteronomy – the covenant relationship with the LORD and God’s promises through it. The modification (*) guides the hearers and readers to understand God is not bound by time, but His covenant with blessings and curses would go into the future. I AM is what God told Moses to tell the Israelites when they asked who came to release them from bondage in Egypt (Exodus 3:14). Jesus used “I am” statements in the Gospel of John. He said in John 8:58, “Truly, I say to you, even before Abraham was born, I am.” John, in his last writing, Revelation, recorded this revelation, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the LORD God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8). Alpha and omega are the first and last of the Greek alphabet, which means God is the beginning and the end of all time and all things. Even the four winged living creatures of Revelation 4:8 declared the LORD Almighty as the one who was, who is, and who is to come. That was the significance of the modification of the chiastic structure. God was not just one who made the covenant with the Israelites and then would not appear in the future. God was, is, and would be their God and Savior. With these things in mind, here is the chapter outlined using the chiastic format.
- v Introduction – the LORD’s covenant with Israel (vs. 1)
- Ø Past - God for the Israelites (vs. 2-9)
- § Present - God with all of Israel (vs. 10-11)
- ¨ Covenant Renewal (Present) (vs. 12-13)
- § Present segueing to future - with all of Israel in the future (vs. 14-15)
- Ø Past - God for the Israelites (vs. 16-17)
- Ø *Future – (vs. 18-28)
- v Conclusion – God has secret things, but He reveals things to Israel and all humans expecting them to act on that knowledge, like this covenant. (vs. 29)
The Introduction – A.
Moses, in the introduction of his final sermon to the Israelites, summed up what he wanted the Israelites to focus upon and what was most important for them as they entered the Promised Land. In verse one, he said, “These 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.” Moses explained that the succeeding words/speech, were the covenant. The LORD commanded Moses to say these words. God meant the covenant to be with the sons of Israel, not other people. In addition, this covenant was since the covenant at Horeb. Something new occurred in the covenant relationship between the LORD and Israel since Horeb. These are all significant facts and should have made the hearers aware of their importance.
Two things that must be pointed out is that this covenant of which Moses was about to speak was new since Horeb where God gave the Ten Commandments. This covenant added the blessings and curses of God for the Israelites’ faithfulness or unfaithfulness. The Ten Commandments did not include blessings or curses though they were assumed and implied. This covenant spelled out by Moses since Deuteronomy 27 left nothing assumed or implied. Moses taught and warned the Israelites. They had no excuse.
The second thing to notice is the idiom Moses used in the middle of verse one. This verse says, “The covenant which the LORD commanded Moses to make with the sons of Israel.” Saying “to make” a covenant used a common idiom of the time. This meant to cut a covenant. The word, “make,” comes from the Hebrew word karath and means to cut off. At the time of the Israelites entering the Promised Land, people who made covenants sealed the promise/contract/covenant by cutting animals in half, laying the halves opposite each other, and walking between the two halves. When God witnessed the contract/covenant between two parties, His Spirit walked between the halves as a tongue of fire. By doing this – cutting animals in half – there was an inference that if one party of the covenant proved faithless to the covenant, that person’s fate would be the same as the animal’s – death. From understanding this, we can understand more fully the idiom of making/cutting a covenant as Moses used it in verse one.
Past - B.
The B section of the chiastic formula is the section that reminded the Israelites who the LORD had been for them (vs. 2-8). It ends with an admonishment for them to keep (shamar) their covenant with the LORD (vs. 9). This section begins with Moses summoning all Israel to listen to him. The word “summon” comes from the Hebrew word qara’ and means to call out, cry out, and proclaim. It reminds me of other leaders of Israel who called out or cried out to the people, like Isaiah in Isaiah 40:3. Moses called out and got the attention of the Israelites. From verses ten and eleven, we understand Moses spoke to everyone of Israel, not just the elders and heads of tribes. He called out to get everyone’s attention because this covenant of theirs with God was for all the people who of Israel.
Moses called out and reminded them of what God did before their eyes in verse two. This is a figure of speech because these people were children when the Israelites left Egypt. The Israelites’ parents and grandparents were the ones who saw what God did in Egypt. They passed on the story of God saving them from Egypt as eyewitnesses. This expression also reminds us of what Moses said in Deuteronomy 4:34 and 7:19, that the Israelites saw what God did before them with their eyes.
Moses reminded the Israelites of the great trials God placed upon Pharaoh, his servants, and his land (vs. 3). “Great” comes from the Hebrew word gadowl and means large in magnitude, intensity, and extent. Moses reminded them of the great signs and wonders God performed for the Israelites against Egypt. He spoke of God’s signs and wonders often in Deuteronomy (4:34, 6:22, 7:19, 11:3, 26:8, 29:2, and 34:11). This made the current generation remember the greatness and power of the LORD who made this covenant with His people, Israel.
In verse 4, Moses said, “Yet to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.” The Israelites saw the LORD in His power and greatness, though not this generation, but they saw through the eyewitness testimony of their parents and grandparents. Yet they did not see completely. The Israelites did not know everything about God and His plans. They did not understand their special place in God’s redemptive plan. The Israelites were blind to that. This verse is a metaphor about the spiritual blindness of the Israelites. Paul spoke of this in Acts 28:26-27, too. Even in the New Testament era, people did not and will not see, hear, or understand because of their lack of faithfulness to God. Only when the Israelites were 100% faithful to their covenant with God and were exclusively God’s own, would they see, hear, and know everything about God. The same applies to today. When people accept by God’s grace through faith the new covenant that came through Jesus Christ, they will completely see, hear, and know God because of the Holy Spirit living within them. The Israelites saw the LORD God in the past, Moses told them. They saw the LORD God in their present. Still the Israelites did not see completely because of their spiritual blindness and because God had not revealed His plan completely to them.
Because God is I AM, He is of the past, present, and future. When we talk of seeing in the past, we must always consider how we see God now and know God will have us see Him work in the future. He is eternal – working in the past, present, and future. God is ever faithful to His covenant with His people. We can see Him at work for His people and know with faith He will continue to work His great signs and wonders in the future. Keep this thought in mind. Moses spoke about seeing several times in this chapter, verses 2, 4, 17, 22, 29. Do we see or are we blind like the Israelites were? Do we show our lack of faith in God and our lack of faithfulness to our covenant with God?
In the next two verses, five and six, Moses reminded the Israelites about God’s provision for them during their exodus wandering. Moses said the LORD led them. The Israelites did not wander in blindness, but God led them. “Led” comes from the Hebrew word halak, which means to lead, bring, or carry. God carried them for forty years in the wilderness. Moses reminded them how God carried them. He recalled for them that their clothes and sandals did not wear out. Imagine growing up from child to adult and not having to make any new clothes over a forty-year period. Imagine the same for sandals. The Israelites did not live in one place long enough to set up a loom to weave new cloth, neither did they stay in one place long enough to tan new hides for shoes or mantles. Added to this, Moses told the Israelites, “You 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.” They did not live in one place long enough to build ovens in which to bake or have vats in which to ferment grape juice. Remember, the people of the time drank wine and strong drink because the water would give them diseases. Yet even though the Israelites could not bake or ferment drink, the LORD provided what they could not - clean water (unusual for the time and place) and nourishing food - while walking in a wilderness. In Exodus 16:31, the people did not realize of what the manna came from but said it tasted like honey and possibly had coriander seed. The seed and honey gave them the energy to walk and exist though they had no ovens. In addition, the manna foreshadowed Jesus to them (John 6:34). Here again we can understand that the LORD was not just a God of might in the past or present, but He was busy preparing for the future of His children through His salvation plan, Jesus Christ.
At the end of verse six, we must note that God did these providential things for the Israelites so they would know Him. Remember, the word “know” comes from the Hebrew word yada, which means progressively to come to know – learning to perceive, perceiving, acknowledging, and then confessing. The LORD was teaching them about Himself. The Israelites still did not know the LORD completely. They were spiritually blind. The Israelites were like children needing to be led to realize who God was for them and who He would be for them. They had to learn what God required of them to be His children, too. This reminds me of Paul’s writing in 1 Corinthians 13:11-12 when he said, “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” The Israelites were still babes in their faith. Thinking beyond their present time was difficult. It was like looking through a dim mirror. Moses kept teaching them about who God had been for them and was for them. He led them to comprehend who God would be for them in the future. The covenant helped point them to God.
In verses seven and eight, Moses reminded the Israelites God gave military victory to them. God’s might allowed the Israelites to defeat the kings of the Amorites, Sihon and Og, on the eastern side of the Jordan River. Without the LORD, the Israelites were too few to beat any nation. Besides these victories against their enemies, God gave the Amorites’ land to two-and-a half tribes of the Israelites. Moses said the LORD fulfilled part of His covenant to Abraham with the two victories against kings Sihon and Og. God was not just someone of the past who provided material things to the Israelites. He was for them when He gave them the Promised Land. This showed the Israelites the LORD God was faithful to His covenant with their forefathers.
Because of God’s faithfulness to the Israelites in the past and present and because of God choosing them and making a covenant with them – the current Israelites, their acceptance of the covenant with God required them to be faithful to the LORD. In verse nine, Moses stated this. He said, “So keep the words of this covenant to do them.” Moses said this same thing in Deuteronomy 4:6, too. Remember, “keep” comes from the Hebrew word shamar and means, hear, listen, and obey. Moses entreated them to be faithful to their covenant with God. Obeying the LORD and His commands showed their love of Him and their faithfulness to their covenant with Him. Obedience is a visible measure of faithfulness and shows love of the LORD. Moses continued entreating them by saying, “that you may prosper in all that you do.” This is the same as what God said earlier in Deuteronomy that by keeping to their covenant, the Israelites would possess the land and have prolonged life in it. This means He would bless them with of life, not curse with death. The word “prosper” relates to that idea. “Prosper” comes from the Hebrew word sakal. It means to be prudent, wisely understand and act, have insight, prosper, and have success. If the Israelites wisely considered their covenant with God, they would show their love to Him through obedience to His commands. He would then bless them with success and prosperity that came through their wisdom, insight, and prudence. Moses made sure they understood obedience required action when he added for emphasis they were “to do” the words of the covenant.
Present – C.
Moses explained to the Israelites about their covenant with the LORD. He reminded them of the LORD’s past activity in their lives. Moses reminded the Israelites of the LORD’s faithfulness to their covenant and to His covenant with Abraham. He carried this narrative from their past to present lives – the second and third generations of the exodus people. Moses made sure the Israelites realized God sought each individual person to be part of this covenant. He covenanted with ordinary people, not just the priests – the kohen’im and the levi’im. In verses ten and eleven, Moses explicitly stated with whom God covenanted - from chiefs to elders, from officers to little ones and wives. God covenanted even with the “aliens” within their camp who chose to be with the Israelites and follow the LORD. The LORD said they each could enter into the covenant with Him.
Covenant Renewal – D.
Within verses twelve and thirteen, we read the covenant renewal text. It is to these two verses that all the other verses of this chapter point. Moses told the people of Israel they stood that day on the eastern side of the Jordan River in Beth-peor because God brought them to that place - He chose them. The big question is why. Why did God bring them to that place? Moses answered that question in these two verses. He said,
That 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, in 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. [NASB]
The LORD God wanted them to be His people and to receive His love and blessings just as their forefathers did. For the Israelites, this meant they had to choose Him, too, just as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did. A covenant had to exist as a testimony of this – the Israelites choice to worship and follow the LORD God alone. Abraham chose to be God’s man and God made a covenant with Him. Now the current generation of Israelites had to choose to make a covenant with God – to be His people, which meant worshipping Him and obeying His commands. That is the point of Moses’ speech in this chapter. The Israelites had to choose to be God’s people and receive His covenant and oath. They had to choose to be faithful to the LORD God. God was cutting a covenant with them that day (same wording as in verse one). He swore on His own name His faithfulness to this covenant He made with the Israelites that day. He testified as a witness to the covenant between Himself and the people. No one could give a stronger oath or witness a stronger covenant because it God swore it in His.
Verse thirteen says God did this to establish the Israelites as His people. Why was that so important? God is true to His word to Himself and to their forefathers. Moses said that in verse thirteen. God made the covenant with them, “in 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.” God cannot be untrue/unfaithful to Himself or to His word – His oath. He summoned the Israelites to stand before Moses at that time so He could enter into a covenant with them that would establish them as His people. “Establish” comes from the Hebrew word quwm and means to confirm, prove, ratify, and constitute. With this covenant, God confirmed and ratified to the Israelites and to the surrounding nations that the Israelites were His people and He was their God. He would provide for them and give them life if they were faithful to their covenant with Him. This life came as the blessings from chapter twenty-eight. God’s linked the promises of His oath to His covenant; they were the blessings He promised. Just as the His promises related to His blessings so, too, they related to His curses. With the Israelites’ faithfulness, God’s promise of blessings would occur. Should the Israelites prove unfaithful, God’s promise of curses would occur. The latter would fulfill the reverse inference of the animal sacrifice for the covenant – the people would receive death for their unfaithfulness to the covenant. (See comments on verse four above.)
Present segue to Future – ‘C.
Just as verses ten and eleven related to the Israelites’ present time with the LORD, verses fourteen and fifteen related to their present time with the LORD. Yet, the modification of the chiastic structure begins in these verses. We read Moses segueing into the future from their present place and relationship with the LORD. Since the LORD was the Lord of their past – forefathers, Egypt, and exodus – then He can and will also be the LORD of their future. Moses taught them the LORD they learned to know from their past and the one they now perceived and acknowledged would be in their future. The “I AM” theme carries over from past to present and future in these verses.
Moses said, “Now not with you alone am I making this covenant and this oath, but 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.” The covenant of God with the Israelites was for the current generations of Israelites and future generations. We understand that as God’s intention when we read verses twenty-two and twenty-nine. Moses taught this in Deuteronomy 12:25 and 28 as did Paul in Acts 2:39. This covenant of the LORD, including His promises, were for all generations of Israelites and whoever in Israel followed the LORD God. (Consider Ruth the Moabitess.) The LORD is the I Am of past, present, and future – the Alpha and Omega. Moses called all the people of Israel to stand before God and covenant with Him for themselves and their future generations that they would worship and obey the LORD God exclusively. This moment was their chance before walking into the Promised Land to stand for, testify of, and make a covenant with God for all to hear and understand that He alone was their God.
Past – ‘B.
At this point in Moses’ speech, he gave a parenthetical summary of God with them from Egypt (vs. 16-17). He reminded the Israelites of how they lived in Egypt and how they exited from there through other nations. God was their strength and power to release them from bondage and give them safe travel through foreign land. Besides that, the Israelites saw the temples to false gods and their idols made of many materials. They heard God declare them abominations and put them under the law of the ban for total annihilation. The Israelites saw that the foreign gods did not defeat the LORD who prevailed and brought them through to the Promised Land. These reminded the Israelites of the might of the LORD against foreign people and their gods. While doing that, it reminded them of the LORD’s might should they choose to follow a false god, too. The LORD God of their past would be as strong against them in the future as He was against the abominations of the surrounding nations.
Future – *.
From verse eighteen, the Israelites’ present time segues into their future. This section continues the thought of verses fourteen and fifteen. It gives the reason for God calling all the people of Israel to stand and confirm their covenant with Him. The reason the LORD called them to stand before Him to make/renew their covenant with Him (vs. 14-15) was so no person would turn his or her heart away from the LORD to go after and serve the gods of other nations (vs. 18). In verses nineteen through twenty-eight, Moses explained what would happen inside the person who broke covenant with God, what actions God would bring against the person, and what would happen to the land of Israel because of unfaithfulness. Because of these dire consequences, each person of Israel had to stand before God and make the covenant (remember the idiom “cutting a covenant”) with Him as a person and as a nation. The ramifications of unfaithfulness would affect individual people and the whole nation.
On a personal level, God said the unfaithful person would become a root of poison fruit and wormwood (vs. 18b). Roots feed nutrients to a plant. If the root has poison in it, the plant will die. “Poisonous” comes from the Hebrew word ro’sh and means bitter, poisonous, and gall. “Wormwood” is a metaphor for bitterness. In Deuteronomy 32:32, Moses used this same metaphor when he spoke of the vine of Sodom and Gomorrah bearing poison grapes and bitter clusters. Just as Sodom and Gomorrah fed bitterness and poison to their inhabitants and God destroyed those vines, God would destroy any poisonous and bitter vines in Israel. God included in this statement any man, woman, family, or tribe in Israel. No one of Israel was exempt.
With verse nineteen, the Israelites learned what the poisonous, bitter root would be like. Moses said, “It shall be when he (the unfaithful person) 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.’” The poisonous person would be stubborn and do what he or she wanted to do no matter what he or she knew the LORD said. This person would boast of his or her freedom to do what he or she wanted even though he or she understood it would destroy the land – both the watered and dry land. When Moses spoke of this boasting, he used an idiom that meant the person blessed himself/herself in his or her heart. Yet the person could not have peace (shalowm - completeness with God) by disobeying God proudly. He or she would just fool him or herself. The person’s rebellion would cause the destruction of everything – the good, productive land and the dry, barren land. That person’s rebellion would destroy the Promised Land God was giving the people of Israel. Though God is patient hoping a person would turn back from following his or her own way, the person would perceive God’s patience as an excuse to continue to rebel. God told the Israelites that though it seemed He did not see them when they rebelled, they could not hide from Him anything done in secret. His judgment would come. God’s love and mercy would be what kept Him from punishing the people immediately. From this verse then, the Israelites heard because of one person’s violations, all Israel would suffer.
Moses used a hyperbole in verse twenty. He said, “The 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.” We understand this to be an exaggeration because we know the LORD will forgive and accept any repentant believer. David wrote about God’s graciousness, mercy, compassion, and love in Psalm 145:8 and 103:14. Before him, Moses taught the Israelites and wrote in Numbers 14:18a, “The LORD is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression.” We realize then that Moses used this hyperbole to emphasize the importance of the Israelites not rebelling, but instead being faithful to their covenant with God. This verse emphasizes, too, how serious God took this covenant with Israel.
One other literary technique Moses used in this verse is anthropomorphism. Anthropomorphism is the placing of human characteristics or behavior on a god, animal, or object. In verse twenty, Moses used the human emotion of jealousy and applied it to God. In our earlier studies of Deuteronomy, we learned that “jealous” comes from the Hebrew word rendered “zealous.” God was zealous for His people, Israel. He protected them with fierceness because He chose them and consecrated them for Himself. God’s zealousness can turn to jealousy. He did not want the one poisonous root to lead the rest of Israel astray, so He would punish the bad root to protect the Israelites. The Israelites understood this emotion. They understood how great the power of jealousy was so they would understand how seriously God took rebellion against Him and how serious His punishment would be on them. His punishment for rebellion, God said, would be the blotting out of their name forever. This is like the law of the ban. Their name would not be remembered in the future because that person would have no children and he or she would die.
Added to these things – anger, jealousy, curses, and blotted out name, verse twenty-one tells one other thing God would do to the rebellious, boastful, and poisonous root in Israel. Moses said the LORD would single that person out for adversity from all the other tribes. On that person especially would God place all the curses of the covenant. In God’s attempt to get the person to repent and return to being faithful to his covenant, He would apply the curses of the covenant against the person. God did not want the one willful, poisonous person to lead the whole nation of Israel astray. This reminds us of why God told the Israelites to destroy the temples and idols of the people of Canaan. If they remained standing in the land, there would be a temptation to follow those gods and leave their covenant with the LORD God. The poisonous person would be like the temples and gods. He or she might lead other Israelites astray so that the nation would become rebellious against God.
From verse twenty-two through twenty-eight, Moses told the Israelites that the nation of Israel who rebelled against God by being unfaithful to their covenant with Him would be an example to other generations and nations. Verses 22-23 say the land would be like brimstone and salt (dead). It would be a burning waste, unsown, and unproductive. Even grass would not grow there. The land of Israel would be like Sodom and Gomorrah. The people of the Near East knew the history and fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. Other nations would equate Israel to those evil cities because of God’s punishment of them for their unfaithfulness to Him and His covenant.
As a continued teaching tool useful for recitation, after nations saw what became of Israel, they would ask why it occurred. Moses then explained the nations would learn why the LORD would be angry and destroy Israel. The teaching moment for future generations and nations followed with his answer of their question. Moses said in verse twenty-five, “Then 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.’” Moses explained that forsaking the LORD God meant they served and worshipped other gods, gods whom they did not know (vs. 26). The Israelites knew the LORD and yet other nations would see they forsook their covenant with Him and chose to follow gods they did not know.
Remember, Moses spoke repeatedly about the Israelites knowing the LORD. Knowing comes from the Hebrew word yada’. It means a progressive learning about someone or something. Moses taught the Israelites it was Yahweh God who covenanted with their forefathers. He taught them Yahweh God was the one who rescued them from Egypt, provided for them in the wilderness, and protected them against their enemies so far. The Israelites learned about the LORD God, learned to perceive Him, and then confirmed and acknowledged Him as their own God. That is what yada’ knowing means. So when Moses said the future generations and nations would know the Israelites served and worshipped gods they did not know, he meant they would follow those foreign gods to whom he had not introduced them and had not taught them to worship. The Israelites’ fickleness, immaturity, and rebelliousness would lead them away from the LORD God in spite of knowing Him well from their history with Him.
Moses said in verse twenty-seven this explained why the LORD’s anger would burn against the land of the Israelites so every curse written occurred to the people of Israel. What would occur to the one poisonous, bitter, and boastful root, would occur to the entire nation who willfully were unfaithful to the LORD and their covenant with Him. The LORD would uproot them in anger, rage, and great wrath and cast them, that is “fling” them, into another land. The Israelites would no longer have a nation of their own, but would live in other nation as foreigners with no rights because of their unfaithfulness. Their unfaithfulness to their covenant with the LORD would become the reverse covenant because of their unfaithfulness. What God meant to be a covenant of blessing and peace (completeness), the Israelites would turn into a covenant of curses. The nations and generations to come would understand what became of the Israelites. The Israelites would be a sign to all the nations about Yahweh. They could choose how other people remembered them - as positive examples of faithfulness to God or as negative examples of unfaithfulness. The results would teach other nations about the LORD one way or another.
The Conclusion – ‘A.
This concluding verse supports the focal verses of this chiastic outline. Remember verses twelve and thirteen are the focal point of this chapter. These two verses say,
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, in 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. [NASB]
The Israelites during their wilderness years came to yada’ know the LORD. They recognized and knew Him from their past and present. The Israelites acknowledged the LORD’s power and greatness and professed Him as their LORD God. They fully knew the LORD. Verse 29 says, “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.” What the Israelites knew about the LORD, He had revealed to them. They were accountable and responsible for what they did with that knowledge. By proclaiming and professing the LORD as their God, the Israelites covenanted with the LORD. Verse twelve said they may enter into covenant with the LORD their God. Verse twenty-nine implies the LORD would hold the Israelites accountable to Him, to acknowledging Him as the LORD God and following Him, since He revealed Himself to them. The Israelites recognized the LORD God as the one God, greater than all manmade gods and greater than themselves. They agreed to and confirmed the covenant with God with its blessings and curses. By stepping over the Jordan River into the Promised Land, they sealed their covenant with the LORD.
The Israelites standing on the shore of the Jordan River waiting to cross into the Promised Land did not literally see the power and might of God at work in Egypt to bring about their release from slavery. Their parents and grandparents did. The Israelites did not see and have complete knowledge about the LORD as Moses said in verse four. Yet for what they knew via eyewitnesses and firsthand experiential knowledge, God held them accountable. These same Israelites agreed to the covenant at Moab. They agreed to be faithful to the LORD God and serve and worship Him alone. The Israelites agreed to live by the commandments, statutes, and laws of the LORD contained in the covenant agreement. For the knowledge they had of the LORD to that the LORD held them accountable. Moses spent many days reminding and teaching the Israelites about the LORD and His laws. His final plea was that they and their sons enter into the covenant with the LORD and observe all the words of the law of the LORD. When they did that, they would walk into the Promised Land knowing the LORD God, I AM, from past, present, and future experiences. They would know I AM is all-encompassing – LORD of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Relevance and Conclusion
Today we do not live in the era of the Mosaic covenant. That covenant led the people to the LORD to worship, serve, and follow Him. God sent the better covenant, the one He planned from the beginning of time. That covenant is the Messianic covenant. Through the life, death, and resurrection of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, we have complete atonement for sin. Sin no longer can separate us from God. Because God is holy, He cannot be in the presence of sin. Each human sins in his or her life. Any time we go against the divine order God established, we sin. Do not fool yourself; all of us are sinners. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” None of us is pure enough to be in the presence of God. Separation from God is death. That is the judgment for sin – the death penalty. Yet God wants us in His presence. He loves us that much. God provided atonement for our sin.
In Old Testament days, the laws of the Torah God gave to the Israelites provided an animal that would bear the sin penalty of people – death. People would kill a prescribed animal for their sins. Those sacrifices had to occur often because people sin often. The sacrifice was only good enough for the sin as of the time of the sacrifice.
God provided a better sacrifice, one that would take away the sin penalty of the world for all time. It is called a “once-for-all-sacrifice” because only one sacrifice was necessary. What sacrifice could be pure enough and good enough to pay the death penalty for a world full of sin? The sacrifice of God’s pure, sinless Son, Jesus Christ. God allowed His Son to live in the world, to be tempted and not sin, so He could die as the sacrifice for the sin of all people. Because Jesus Christ is eternal, His sacrifice is sufficient for all time. When Jesus died on the cross, He did not stay dead. Death is separation from God. Jesus had the power to break the chains of sin and death and rose from the grave to live again. He beat sin and death - the power Satan holds over all humankind. Because Jesus is God’s Son and was the sin sacrifice who beat death, when we accept Jesus Christ as the Lord and Master of our lives and repent of our sins accepting God’s forgiveness and Jesus as the Savior (the atonement) for our sins, we beat sin and death, too.
We are called to be accountable to what God revealed to us just as He called the Israelites in verse twenty-nine to be accountable for the things He revealed to them. We learned that the LORD – I AM – is God of the past, present, and future. The Israelites had to trust I AM was the God of the future since they had not experienced that yet. We realize since the Israelites’ time, as we look at the past 3400 years, the LORD truly is I AM of past, present, and future. We see He was faithful to His covenant with the Israelites. The Israelites had to trust He would be faithful, but we see and know He was.
Since we have this testimony of thousands of years and God has given the new and better covenant, we have to decide for ourselves if we will covenant with God. This Messianic covenant shows how great God’s love is for you. It comes through His Son’s, Jesus Christ’s, death and resurrection. You have heard about it from eyewitnesses and testimonies from other people. You have seen God’s faithfulness to His covenant at work in the lives of people in the world. Now you are accountable and responsible for how you respond to God’s greatest revelation. You must decide, as the Israelites did of the Mosaic covenant, if you will join God in His Messianic covenant. Will you accept His gift of forgiveness and eternal life? Will you believe in Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior? It is up to you. God will hold you accountable for acting on what you know as Moses said of the Israelites in verse twenty-nine.