Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy 29

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Deuteronomy 29

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The Land Covenant 

Here, on the verge of crossing into the Promised Land, an additional covenant is made between God and “the children of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant which He made with them in Horeb”—i.e., Mount Sinai (verses 1, 14). Many refer to this as the Land Covenant. (Some call it the Palestinian Covenant but the name Palestine was not used until Roman times—and that to spite the Jews.) As pointed out before, a covenant is simply a contract or an agreement between two or more parties. It is not identical to the law on which a covenant is based. Since a covenant is merely a contract, it should not surprise us that when Israel broke a covenant by violating the law on which the covenant was based, God would make a new covenant with Israel based on the same or similar laws. In fact, God made at least three covenants with the entire nation of Israel in the book of Exodus, not just one, as some have erroneously concluded (compare Exodus 24:1-8 Exodus 24:1-8 [1] And he said to Moses, Come up to the LORD, you, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship you afar off. [2] And Moses alone shall come near the LORD: but they shall not come near; neither shall the people go up with him. [3] And Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD has said will we do. [4] And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and built an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. [5] And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. [6] And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basins; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. [7] And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD has said will we do, and be obedient. [8] And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you concerning all these words.
American King James Version×
; Exodus 31:12-18 Exodus 31:12-18 [12] And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, [13] Speak you also to the children of Israel, saying, Truly my sabbaths you shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that you may know that I am the LORD that does sanctify you. [14] You shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy to you: every one that defiles it shall surely be put to death: for whoever does any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. [15] Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whoever does any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. [16] Why the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. [17] It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed. [18] And he gave to Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him on mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.
American King James Version×
; Exodus 34:10 Exodus 34:10And he said, Behold, I make a covenant: before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among which you are shall see the work of the LORD: for it is a terrible thing that I will do with you.
American King James Version×
, 27).

Here, in Deuteronomy 29, God made still another covenant. It was to apply to future generations as well as the people of that day (verses 15, 25). But God had not yet given the people “a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear” (verse 4). He therefore knew that they would not obey Him, and He warns them that the “curses of the covenant written in this Book of the Law” would come on them for their disobedience (verses 20-21, 27; compare Deuteronomy 31:15-29 Deuteronomy 31:15-29 [15] And the LORD appeared in the tabernacle in a pillar of a cloud: and the pillar of the cloud stood over the door of the tabernacle. [16] And the LORD said to Moses, Behold, you shall sleep with your fathers; and this people will rise up, and go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land, where they go to be among them, and will forsake me, and break my covenant which I have made with them. [17] Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come on us, because our God is not among us? [18] And I will surely hide my face in that day for all the evils which they shall have worked, in that they are turned to other gods. [19] Now therefore write you this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel. [20] For when I shall have brought them into the land which I swore to their fathers, that flows with milk and honey; and they shall have eaten and filled themselves, and waxen fat; then will they turn to other gods, and serve them, and provoke me, and break my covenant. [21] And it shall come to pass, when many evils and troubles are befallen them, that this song shall testify against them as a witness; for it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed: for I know their imagination which they go about, even now, before I have brought them into the land which I swore. [22] Moses therefore wrote this song the same day, and taught it the children of Israel. [23] And he gave Joshua the son of Nun a charge, and said, Be strong and of a good courage: for you shall bring the children of Israel into the land which I swore to them: and I will be with you. [24] And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished, [25] That Moses commanded the Levites, which bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying, [26] Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against you. [27] For I know your rebellion, and your stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, you have been rebellious against the LORD; and how much more after my death? [28] Gather to me all the elders of your tribes, and your officers, that I may speak these words in their ears, and call heaven and earth to record against them. [29] For I know that after my death you will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days; because you will do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger through the work of your hands.
American King James Version×
). Still, despite their lack of spiritual conversion, the laws God had revealed to them would have enabled the nation of Israel to build a just and equitable society and be richly blessed even if they would have kept only the letter of the law, which they could have followed (Deuteronomy 29:29 Deuteronomy 29:29The secret things belong to the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.
American King James Version×
). Yet, more often than not, they failed in that also.

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