Search Bible Outlines and commentaries




David Whitcomb: Now that we know we must love God first and foremost, we can learn with Israel that our LORD expects us to keep His rules. Once we decide to agree with God and attempt to keep His rules, we will wonder what we are supposed to keep. Moses expressed that with the words keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments (v.1b). Here are four words that map out our manual for living out our love for God, “charge, statutes, rules, and commands.”

A charge is an obligation, commission, or duty assigned. God assigns a duty in connection with the covenant He makes with His people. Statutes refer to a decree or something prescribed. Literally the word means to cut or etch in stone like God did with the Ten Commands. This body of instruction is like a president issuing “executive orders.” The third word, rules, speaks of the act of deciding. It is like a sentence or what the judge concludes. Rules are not voted on but decreed. Finally there is the word, commands, with which we are very familiar. Commands make up instruction from an authority to a subordinate. But more than that, commands are a statement that must be obeyed. Thus we read that God commanded creation. For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm (Psalm 33:9). All creation had to appear in obedience to God’s command.

In comparison, how do we relate to God’s rules, commands, requirements? God’s plan is for us to keep them. The word “keep” means to watch over, observe, and protect. Therefore, keeping God’s rules has to be an activity not a theory, philosophy, or theological discussion. Keeping God’s rules is the “DOING” of faith. That is what James meant when he wrote, So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead (James 2:17). Moses also spelled out when God’s people are expected to keep His rules. In a word, it is always. Actively applying God’s rules is to be the character of His peoples’ lives. We must not forget that the motivation for this activity is love, and love implies a relationship. If God is a theory, a topic of theological discussion, a mystical spirit out there somewhere, there is no love – He is not. He is a being who created us in His image so that we understand that we must know God personally, intimately. When God breaks into your naturally sinful life, convicts you of sin, gives you faith and saves you, love begins and continues to grow. Your entire relationship with God is rooted in love. You are now with Him, for Him, in Him part of His family, and on His team.


A. (:2) Extolling the Personal Attributes of God

“And know this day that I am not speaking with your sons who have not known and who have not seen the discipline of the LORD your God—

His greatness, His mighty hand, and His outstretched arm,”

Daniel Block: Verses 2–7 comprise one complex sentence in Hebrew. Referring twice in verses 3 and 7 to the deeds Yahweh has performed, Moses’ primary concern is to review again his mighty acts on Israel’s behalf. Moses frames this recitation with awkward references to his audience (vv. 2a, 7), keenly aware that the addressees are not equally familiar with what he will describe. This review of past events provides vital background for verses 8–28, especially verses 26–28, in which Moses calls for decision by the people standing before him.

Gerald Gerbrandt: History is an important teacher for Deuteronomy, especially in the first speech (chs. 1–4), but also here in the first half of the second. The review now reminds the readers of God’s lessons in the past. The term discipline is used (v. 2), but much more than punishment is meant (cf. 4:36; 8:5). It is God preparing Israel, nurturing Israel, training them for life in the land. God’s education includes both acts of correction as well as acts demonstrating God’s power and nature, deeds of deliverance, and deeds of judgment. The three cited examples reflect both aspects of discipline.

B. (:3-6) Extolling the Powerful Actions of God

1. (:3) The Deliverance from Pharaoh in the Exodus

“and His signs and His works which He did in the midst of Egypt

to Pharaoh the king of Egypt and to all his land;”

David Guzik: Moses called Israel to remember what God did in their history. Most of history – both official and personal – is simply concerned with what man has done. But God wants us to look at history and see what He did. We learn far more, and are far more benefited, by looking at what God has done, rather than looking at what man has done.

2. (:4) The Deliverance from Egypt’s Army in the Crossing of the Red Sea

“and what He did to Egypt’s army, to its horses and its chariots,

when He made the water of the Red Sea to engulf them

while they were pursuing you,

and the LORD completely destroyed them;”

3. (:5) The Discipline of Israel in the Wilderness

“and what He did to you in the wilderness until you came to this place;”

Peter Craigie: Israel had experienced not only the provision and help of God, but also the chastisement and rebuke of God.

Daniel Block: Moses has in mind Yahweh’s punitive acts against the Israelites themselves for their faithlessness and rebellion (cf. Ex. 32; Num. 25; Deut. 1:22–45).

Gerald Gerbrandt: As Deuteronomy has earlier emphasized, although the desert is generally a place of great danger, for Israel this has been a time when it lacked nothing (2:7; cf. 8:2–6, 15–16). God led Israel, protected it, and gave it food and water. In the wilderness Israel learned that it was totally dependent upon God.

Jack Deere: The discipline of the Lord refers to God’s moral education of His people. Because of the waywardness of the human heart, diligent and drastic measures were needed to quell that waywardness. So God sent Israel “to school” in Egypt so that she might learn of His majesty and power (mighty hand and outstretched arm; cf. Dt 4:34; 5:15; 7:19) and respond with grateful obedience for her deliverance from Pharaoh.

4. (:6) The Destruction of the Rebellious Ringleaders Dathan and Abiram

“and what He did to Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, the son of Reuben, when the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them,

their households, their tents, and every living thing that followed them, among all Israel — “

C. (:7) Eyewitness Confirmation of the Mighty Acts of God

“but your own eyes have seen all the great work of the LORD which He did.”

Eugene Merrill: Both of these lessons from history—the positive in Egypt and the negative in the desert sojourn—should have been fresh in the minds of Moses’ audience, for it was they, and not their children (cf. vv. 2,5), who had seen them. As adult participants, therefore, they could not plead either ignorance or lack of personal accountability. What they had experienced should have provided the highest motivation to loving response and obedience.

Earl Kalland: The dominant personnel in the nation were those who had seen what the Lord had done for them in Egypt (v. 3) and in the desert (v. 5). They had seen this with their own eyes (v. 7). They were not of the generation doomed to die in the desert for their disobedience at Kadesh-Barnea (1:35-36) but those who ranged from infancy to the age of twenty (Num 14:29-30). These were the children who remained alive (14:31), whom their fathers had said would be taken as plunder in the desert (14:3, 31). Though they were then young, they too had seen the great redemptive acts of God and were thus about to enter the Promised Land.

Jack Deere: Moses exhorted the people to learn from their past, for God had constructed their history with a didactic purpose. The stress on your own eyes and the double mention of the children not seeing the events of this period (Deut. 11: 2, 5), hint at the parents’ responsibility to set an example of obedient living for their children and to pass on the main truths learned from these experiences.


A. (:8-9) Charge to Obey and Possess the Land

1. (:8a) Priority of Absolute Obedience

“You shall therefore keep every commandment

which I am commanding you today,”

2. (:8b) Possession of the Land Requires the Strength Derived from Obedience

“so that you may be strong and go in and possess the land

into which you are about to cross to possess it;”

David Thompson: This word “strong” (chazaq) is fascinating. It is a word that describes something that needs to be repaired or restored or rebuilt. The word means that something that is previously weak or broken or damaged is made into something that is strong and mighty and fully recovered from the previous condition (William Gesenius, Hebrew Lexicon, pp. 269-270). This is what a commitment to God’s written word can do for any person. When a person gets serious about God’s written word, it will restore them and rebuild them and strengthen them.

3. (:9a) Prolonging Your Days is the Added Benefit

“so that you may prolong your days on the land

which the LORD swore to your fathers to give to them and to their descendants,”

4. (:9b) Productivity of the Land is Unsurpassed

“a land flowing with milk and honey.”

B. (:10-12) Comparison of the Promised Land to the Land of Egypt

1. (:10) The Land of Egypt Required Difficult Human Cultivation

“For the land, into which you are entering to possess it,

is not like the land of Egypt from which you came,

where you used to sow your seed and water it with your foot

like a vegetable garden.”

Gerald Gerbrandt: Although the precise nature of the work assumed by the phrase irrigate by foot is not clear (building dams for water? digging irrigation ditches? operating lifting devices?), it likely refers to some type of irrigation. In a land of hills and valleys, irrigation is viable primarily for small vegetable gardening (Weinfeld: 445). But instead of seeing this as a problem, the passage emphasizes that here God waters the fields.

It is admitted that the contrast “has a touch of theological exaggeration about it” (Cairns: 115). As the stories of the ancestors reflect (e.g., Gen 12:10–20; chs. 41–47), Egypt was the breadbasket of the world of that day, comparable to the garden of the Lord (Gen 13:10). Irrigation might be hard work, but with rich soil and a plentiful water supply, it virtually assured sufficient food. But the point of the comparison is that in the Promised Land Israel is dependent upon God and not on human technique. The land God is giving Israel is a land that God looks after, a land upon which the eyes of the Lord are always present.

R. K. Harrison: The reference is to a water-wheel and pump worked by the feet.

Michael Grisanti: Others suggest that here Moses makes a sarcastic contrast between the desirability of the Land of Promise and the land of Egypt. Understanding “foot” as a euphemism for the genitals, they see Moses as contrasting the Egyptian practice of irrigating with impure water (i.e., urine), whereas God provides Canaan with pure rainwater (Walton and Matthews, 233). Some suggest he contrasts the small fields in Egypt (small enough to be watered with urine) with the spacious lands of Canaan (G. Nicol, “Watering Egypt (Deuteronomy xi 10–11) Again,” VT 38 [1988]: 347–48).

2. (:11-12) The Promised Land is Cultivated by the Lord

a. (:11) The Lord Waters the Land with Pure Rain

“But the land into which you are about to cross to possess it,

a land of hills and valleys, drinks water from the rain of heaven,”

Daniel Block: Moses’ excitement at Israel’s prospect of entering the land (vv. 9b–12) is evident in his excursus extolling its virtues even more effusively than in 6:10–11 and 8:7–9. Unlike Egypt, this land yields its bounty spontaneously. Moses develops this point with three basic statements.

(1) This land flows naturally with milk and honey (v. 9b).

(2) This land contrasts sharply with Egypt, from where the Israelites have come

(v. 10) and where food production depended entirely on human effort.

(3) This is a land of hills and valleys that drink water from the rains of heaven (v. 11).

Clarifying his comment in 8:7, Moses invites his hearers to imagine ever-flowing streams of fresh water coursing down the hills and watering the landscape, in contrast to the stagnant and brackish waters of the Nile Delta.

b. (:12) The Lord Constantly Cares for the Land

“a land for which the LORD your God cares;

the eyes of the LORD your God are always on it,

from the beginning even to the end of the year.”

Daniel Block: In verse 12 Moses adds a fourth reason why the land is special: it is the object of Yahweh’s special attention and care (v. 12). He “cares for” (dāraš) it continuously, and his eyes are fixed on it from one year to the next. This statement expresses Yahweh’s disposition toward the land more dramatically and tenderly than any other in Scripture. Here the verb dāraš does not bear its common meaning, “to seek” something that is lost (22:2), but a nuance of election (cf. Lev. 25:23). Just as Yahweh has chosen Israel out of all the peoples of the earth, so he has chosen the land of Canaan (Palestine) from all the territories of the earth.


Daniel Block: The Test of Faith

Moses presents life in the land as a test, with significant consequences (cf. 6:10–15; 8:6–20). The land symbolizes a choice between two ways: the way of blessing, prosperity, and life, or the way of the curse, adversity, and death. Moses presents the options before the people in two frames almost identical in length and remarkably parallel in content and form, as the following synopsis of relatively literal translations shows:

A. (:13-15) Promise of Blessing, Prosperity and Life

1. (:13) Response of Love and Loyalty

“And it shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the LORD your God

and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul,”

2. (:14-15) Reward of Productivity and Prosperity in the Land

“that He will give the rain for your land in its season,

the early and late rain,

that you may gather in your grain and your new wine and your oil.

15 And He will give grass in your fields for your cattle,

and you shall eat and be satisfied.”

Gerald Gerbrandt: The early rain, coming in late fall, softens the soil baked hard by the summer sun, thereby making seeding possible. The later rain, coming in spring, provides the moisture needed for the final maturation of the grain. When these rains come, harvests are bountiful and pastures provide ample feed for the herds; when these rains come, Israel will eat its fill (cf. 8:10). Truly enjoying the land comes only through obedience.

IVP Bible Background Commentary: Israel has a rainy season (winter months) and a dry season (summer months). The rainy season begins with the autumn rains (“early rains,” October-November) and ends with the spring rains (“latter rains,” early April). These are important for what they contribute to the overall moisture levels in the earth and for softening the ground for plowing. Grain is harvested in the spring (barley in May, wheat in June), and the summer months (July and August) are for threshing and winnowing. Grapes are harvested in the fall, while the olive harvest stretches into the winter.

Peter Pett: So the lesson is clear. To live in that land, which was God’s land, was to be dependent on God, and the provision of all they needed would depend on His supply. But they need not fear, for it was His land for which He cared. And if they loved and feared Him, and lived rightly before Him, they could then be sure of His full provision.

B. (:16-17) Warning of Cursing, Adversity and Death

1. (:16) Perversion of Apostasy and Idolatry

“Beware, lest your hearts be deceived

and you turn away and serve other gods and worship them.”

David Thompson: Now the word “deceive” is one that means to let yourself be persuaded or enticed by something that is not consistent with God’s word William Gesenius, Hebrew Lexicon,., p. 696). The tense of the verb is Imperfect, which means this is a continual and unfinished threat (William Gesenius, Hebrew Grammar, p. 125). God’s people must always be on guard that they do not permit something or someone to seduce them away from God and His word.

2. (:17) Punishment of Adversity and Banishment from the Land

“Or the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you,

and He will shut up the heavens so that there will be no rain

and the ground will not yield its fruit;

and you will perish quickly

from the good land which the LORD is giving you.”

Gerald Gerbrandt: God will give Israel the land, but it is not a gift that can be taken for granted. Forgetting and forsaking God, serving and worshiping other gods—all such lead to the loss of that gift.

Michael Grisanti: Since Yahweh demands absolute loyalty of his covenantal nation, he prohibits Israel from worshiping any other gods (Dt 11:16–17; cf. 4:15–19; 6:14). The Canaanite gods might seem enticing to the Israelites because they were allegedly responsible for rain and the fertility of the land (Baal/Hadad; ABD, 1:546–49). However, if the Israelites fail to recognize that Yahweh alone brings rain and fertility to the land, and if they worship other gods to accomplish that end, they will learn a painful lesson. God will cause the rain to stop and prevent the fields from producing. Because of their rebellion, rather than enjoying a long tenure in the land they will not survive.


A. (:18-21) Legacy of Faithful Propagation of God’s Word

Daniel Block: Verses 18–21 hold the key to the future relationship of deity, people, and land. In order to ensure that God’s design for Israel will be realized, the people must commit themselves wholeheartedly to him and his covenant. Yahweh’s desire is to see their population explode as the lifespan of each generation increases on the land that he had promised the ancestors. The final temporal reference, “as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth” (v. 21), alludes to the eternality of Yahweh’s covenant commitment to his people. Although Yahweh has previously characterized his covenant with Israel as eternal, this is first time the cosmic symbols are applied to it (cf. Gen. 8:22).

But how can Moses say in one breath that Israel will be destroyed, and in the next appeal to the cosmos as a symbol of the eternality of God’s covenant with the nation? The answer is found in the fact that every generation and all individual Israelites must accept the covenant by faith and demonstrate fidelity to Yahweh through obedience. Moses seems to think that Israel’s exile is inevitable, but he knows it will not be the last word (4:31; 30:1–10). Yahweh’s promise to Israel is firm, like the cosmos itself.

1. (:18-20) Methodology of Faithfully Propagating God’s Word

a. (:18a) Personal Appropriation and Application

“You shall therefore impress these words of mine

on your heart and on your soul;”

b. (:18b) Public Representation of God’s Truth

“and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand,

and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.”

c. (:19) Persistent Teaching in the Course of Life

“And you shall teach them to your sons,

talking of them when you sit in your house

and when you walk along the road

and when you lie down and when you rise up.”

d. (:20) Prominent Display of God’s Truth

“And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house

and on your gates,”

2. (:21) Benefits of Faithfully Propagating God’s Word

“so that your days and the days of your sons may be multiplied

on the land which the LORD swore to your fathers to give them,

as long as the heavens remain above the earth.”

B. (:22-25) Yields Victory in Conquesting the Land

1. (:22) Condition of Obedience, Love and Loyalty

“For if you are careful to keep all this commandment

which I am commanding you, to do it,

to love the LORD your God,

to walk in all His ways and hold fast to Him;”

2. (:23-25) Claim to Victory in Possessing the Land

a. (:23) Dispossessing Stronger Nations

“then the LORD will drive out all these nations from before you, and you will dispossess nations greater and mightier than you.”

b. (:24) Dominion Throughout the Land

“Every place on which the sole of your foot shall tread shall be yours;

your border shall be from the wilderness to Lebanon, and from the river, the river Euphrates, as far as the western sea.”

Eugene Merrill: The extent of their conquest would be measured by the amount of territory on which they trod, specifically from the desert (i.e., the Negev) to Lebanon, the south to north extremities, and from the Euphrates River to the western (i.e., Mediterranean) sea, the east to west boundaries (v. 24). This was very much in line with the land grant promised to Abraham (Gen 15:18) and reaffirmed to Moses (Exod 23:31; Num 34:1-15; Deut 1:7-8). It is worth noting that David and Solomon created an empire that included all this (2 Sam 8:1-14; 1 Kgs 4:21-24), but it is equally significant that the Transjordan was not in the ancient promises even though it was settled by the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh’s tribe (cf. Num 32:33-42), even with God’s blessing (Deut 3:18-23).

To tread on the land (d rak) was to assert dominion as many instances of the use of this verb attest.

Earl Kalland: The land that the people would acquire by obedience to the Lord (vv. 22-23) under the covenant was limited in two ways:

(1) by “every place where you set your foot” (v. 24a) and

(2) by geographic boundaries (v. 24b).

The Lord confirmed this promise to Joshua (Josh 1:3). He also had made a particular promise of this sort to Caleb (1:36), a promise that was fulfilled (Josh 14:9-13).

c. (:25) Dread of you Paralyzing Your Enemies

“There shall no man be able to stand before you;

the LORD your God shall lay the dread of you

and the fear of you on all the land on which you set foot,

as He has spoken to you.”

Norman Geisler: Is this a False Prophecy?

PROBLEM: Moses told the children of Israel that “No man shall be able to stand against you; the Lord your God will put the dread of you and the fear of you upon all the land where you tread, just as He has said to you.” But this seems clearly false both in the short view and in the long run. Even under Joshua, Israel lost some battles (Josh 7:4). And in the long run, they were overrun by the Assyrians (2 Kings 16:9) and the Babylonians (2 Kings 25:22).

SOLUTION: This was not a false prophecy—it was a conditional promise. Notice it is prefaced by the condition “if you diligently obey My commandments which I command you” (v. 13), and “if you carefully keep all these commandments” (v. 22). In short, these were not categorical predictions, but conditional projections. When the people of Israel obeyed God, they were invincible against the most formidable foe (cf. Josh. 6). But when they did not obey Him, they fled in the face of the tiniest adversary (cf. Josh. 7). (When Critics Ask)


R. K. Harrison: 11:26-32 – These seven verses sum up the second discourse, and at the same time form an introduction to the detailed commandments.

A. (:26-28) Decision Time Today — Two Options: Blessing or Cursing

1. (:26) The Choice

“See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse:”

Daniel Block: The formality of the situation is reinforced by the repetition of “today” in the presentation of the blessing and the curse. While the nature of the occasion is unclear, it seems that the covenant renewal ceremony reflected in 26:16–19 underlies this text. By choosing the blessing the people formally accept their status as Yahweh’s covenant people and him as their covenant Lord.

Eugene Merrill: The climax of this lengthy conclusion to the general stipulation section of the Deuteronomy covenant document is found in vv. 26-32, the setting forth of a statement of blessing and curse for covenant obedience and disobedience respectively. This call to commitment is, in fact, the pervasive theme of the whole chapter, a fact suggested by reference to “decrees” (uqqîm) and “laws” (mi p tîm) in both the opening and closing verses. It was only as Israel took these to heart and obeyed them that they could expect the blessing of the Lord. It is fitting, moreover, that the general stipulation section should conclude with exhortation to covenant loyalty, for that is exactly how it began (5:1-5; cf. 4:32-40).

Michael Grisanti: For the first time in Deuteronomy (cf. 27:9–28:68), Moses utilizes the technical terms of the covenant, “blessing” and “curse.” Ancient Near Eastern treaties generally included a section promising blessings and threatening curses contingent on the faithfulness of the vassals to their covenantal commitments. Yahweh “sets before” or “gives” these promises and threats to Israel. Throughout Deuteronomy, Yahweh affirms that he has or is giving to Israel the land he has promised.

2. (:27) The Blessing

“the blessing, if you listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, which I am commanding you today;”

3. (:28) The Curse

“and the curse, if you do not listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way which I am commanding you today, by following other gods which you have not known.”

Patrick Miller: So a choice has to be made. Blessing and curse, the possibilities for life or death, are out there before Israel; it is up to the people now to choose. In a preaching manner, and consistent with the character of covenant, Moses calls for a verdict by the people; their choice will determine what the future holds for them—obedience to the Lord’s will and way in the land, which will open up all its possibilities for life and blessing, or disobedience, which will bring loss of the land, its rich abundance, its provision for life, and thus will lead to death.

B. (:29-32) Decision Time Restaged – Same Two Options: Blessing or Cursing

1. (:29) Symbolism of Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal

“And it shall come about, when the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it,

that you shall place the blessing on Mount Gerizim

and the curse on Mount Ebal.”

Eugene Merrill: Just as the original covenant was made at a special place, namely, Mount Sinai, so the renewal could not have been undertaken at just any place in Canaan. It had to, in fact, occur at Shechem, at the base of the mountains Gerizim and Ebal (v. 29). Half the tribes would stand on one mountain and half on the other and in antiphonal chorus assent to the curses and blessings as they were shouted out by the Levites (cf. 27:11-14; Josh 8:30-35). The reason for the selection of Shechem and its vicinity was clearly the association of this holy place with the patriarchs to whom the Lord had first appeared and made covenant promises concerning the land. It was there that Abraham had built his first altar (Gen 12:6-7); there Jacob had bought a piece of property (Gen 33:19), where he built an altar (Gen 33:20) and dug a well (John 4:6); and there his son Joseph was buried (Josh 24:32). From those ancient days onward Shechem was closely associated with covenant making of all kinds, both legitimate and illegitimate (cf. Josh 24:1-28; Judg 9:1-21).

Peter Pett: Confirmation is now given of the certainty of success in the invasion by announcing that once they are established in the land they are to perform a covenant ceremony in the very land in a place connected with the two large mountains between which lies the valley in which is Shechem, the mountains of Gerizim and Ebal. Some will stand on one mountain, and some on the other (Deuteronomy 27:11-14), with the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh in the valley in between (Joshua 8:30-35). This is the place that Yahweh their God has chosen for such a ceremony. The blessing will be declared from Mount Gerizim, and the cursing from Mount Ebal.

Meredith Kline: This twofold prospect and its challenge, which Moses placed before Israel this day in Moab, would be set before them again by Joshua on the other side of the Jordan in Canaan, that the nation might be careful to obey God and live (11:29-32). The transition from the Mosaic to the Joshuan leadership was thus to be marked by a two-stage renewal ritual, which would exhibit the continuity of the more ultimate divine leadership. This arrangement was the equivalent of measures taken in vassal treaties by human suzerains to guarantee the dynastic succession on their thrones. See Deuteronomy 27 for the more detailed directions concerning the second stage of the ceremony to be conducted on Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal (cf. Josh 8:30-35).

2. (:30) Significant Location of the Two Mountains

“Are they not across the Jordan, west of the way toward the sunset,

in the land of the Canaanites who live in the Arabah,

opposite Gilgal, beside the oaks of Moreh?”

3. (:31-32) Strategic Moment

“For you are about to cross the Jordan to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you, and you shall possess it and live in it, 32 and you shall be careful to do all the statutes and the judgments which I am setting before you today.”