THE PERSPECTIVE OF HISTORY SHOULD MOTIVATE COVENANT LOYALTY
Michael Grisanti: Moses begins this section by reminding the children of Israel of Yahweh’s faithfulness to them in bringing them from Egypt to the plains of Moab, as well as of the covenantal relationship into which they are entering with the Lord—a relationship that promises cursing for disobedience and blessing for obedience. In the light of those realities, Moses challenges Israel to renew this covenant and choose life and blessing rather than death and cursing.
Peter Craigie: In the concluding charge, Moses returns first of all to dwell briefly on some of the themes already contained in the earlier discourses (vv. 1–8.) The substance of the material presented here in summary form is a recollection of God’s acts in history, from the Exodus, through the testing period in the wilderness, and up to the arrival of the people on the plains of Moab. To the reader, the repetition may seem somewhat tedious at first sight, but the significance of the repetition appears in v. 3: the Lord has not granted you, up to this day, a mind to understand, and eyes to see, and ears to hear. With the perspective of time, the Israelites could learn to see God’s presence in their past experience, but it required insight and perception. God’s participation in the course of human events was not always in a dramatic form, such as miracle. When we read today the accounts of Hebrew history, the divine perspective has already been provided, and it is easy to forget that for the Israelite in ancient times, beset by anxieties of various kinds, that perspective was not automatically present, but required from him the vision of faith. Hence there is a continual return to the theme in the address of Moses, in order that the audience might be brought to real understanding of the ways of God, real seeing of the acts of God, and real hearing of the words of God. If the days ahead were to be successful, it was necessary to have this profound understanding which was so closely associated with faith in God.
Duane Christensen: vv. 9-14 — Chiastic Structure
A Present: you are all standing here today before YHWH 29:9–10
B Stipulations: “the covenant of YHWH . . . and his oath” 29:11a
C Present: YHWH is making this covenant with you today 29:11b
X Formula: to establish you as his people and he as your God 29:12a
C´ Past: the covenant was promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob 29:12b
B´ Stipulations: “this covenant and this oath” 29:13
A´ Future: this covenant is also with those not here today 29:14
The inner frame in this structure (vv 11, 12b) focuses on the fact that this covenant, which the people are about to make with YHWH, is the same covenant that was promised to the ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in Genesis. The center of this structure presents the unique relationship that this covenant establishes between God and Israel: they are to become his people and he will henceforth be their God.
(:1) TRANSITION – COVENANT RENEWAL
“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.”
Gerald Gerbrandt: The opening verse of Chapter 29 serves equally as a fitting conclusion to the material that preceded it (in Hebrew it is the last verse of ch. 28), and as an introduction to chapters 29–30. The phrase the words of the covenant point back to all that has preceded it in the book of Deuteronomy: the historical retrospect and prospect of the opening chapters (chs. 1–4), the focus on the Decalogue and the Horeb covenant (ch. 5), the preaching on the foundational commandment (chs. 6–11), the preaching of the Moab covenant (chs. 12–26), and the concluding blessings and curses (chs. 27–28). This verse together with the introductory verses of the book (1:1–5) form a frame for the preaching in between.
Yet it also looks forward as one of a series of verses in Deuteronomy that open the three major speeches of the book (cf. 1:1–5; 4:44–48). Here it introduces the part of Deuteronomy most strongly influenced by the ancient political treaty structure. The term covenant occurs twice in the opening verse, replacing the focus on torah of the previous two speech introductions (1:5; 4:44), and then five more times in the remainder of the chapter (vv. 9, 12, 14, 21, 25), highlighting the emphasis of this third speech.
I. (:2-13) UNDERSTANDING THE PROVISION OF GOD’S FAITHFULNESS IN THE PAST SHOULD MOTIVATE COVENANT LOYALTY
A. (:2-9) Review of God’s Faithfulness in the Past
1. (:2-3) Acknowledgement of God’s Mighty Works of Deliverance
“And 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; 3 the great trials which your eyes have seen, those great signs and wonders.’”
2. (:4) Absence of Spiritual Perception
“Yet to this day the LORD has not given you
a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.”
Michael Grisanti: The repetition of the verb “to see” and the repeated reference to “eyes” emphasizes that God’s people had personally witnessed what Yahweh had done in their behalf. For this new generation, some of whom had not themselves witnessed those events in Egypt or at the Red Sea, Moses makes it clear that this indictment for failing to trust Yahweh was not simply based on hearsay evidence from some previous generation. God had continued to intervene miraculously in Israel’s affairs even after their rebellion at Kadesh Barnea. And they continued to lack the spiritual perception that they should have had.
MacArthur: In spite of all they had experienced (vv. 2, 3), Israel was spiritually blind to the significance of what the Lord had done for them, lacking spiritual understanding, even as Moses was speaking. This spiritual blindness of Israel continues to the present day (Ro 11:8), and it will not be reversed until Israel’s future day of salvation (see Ro 11:25-27).
3. (:5-6) Apologetic Value of God’s Gracious Provision in the Wilderness
“And I 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.
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.”
Eugene Merrill: All this he did to manifest his providential care and thus, in the face of their total dependence on him, to prove to them that he was the Lord their God (v. 6b [5b]; cf. 4:35). The notion that the Lord can and does prove himself to be God by his mighty works of deliverance and provision is a major biblical and theological motif (cf. Exod 6:7; 7:5,17; 8:10,22; 9:14; 10:2; 14:4; Ezek 6:7,10,13-14; and passim in Ezekiel).
4. (:7-8) Appropriation of the Land of Sihon and Og
“When 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; 8 and we took their land and gave it as an inheritance to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of the Manassites.”
Eugene Merrill: From beginning to end, Israel’s covenant history had been a record of miracle, and for this reason alone the present plea for covenant commitment was most reasonable indeed.
Gerald Gerbrandt: This survey focuses on three main events:
(1) the escape from Egypt (29:2b-3);
(2) the period of wandering in the wilderness (vv. 5-6); and
(3) the defeat of Kings Sihon and Og in the Transjordan, a foretaste of the gift of the Promised Land (vv. 7-8).
Each of these are well-known themes in Deuteronomy. References to God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt, the most important of the three, pervade the whole book, consistently providing background to the preaching and motivation for obedience (1:27, 30; 4:20, 34, 37, 45, 46; 5:6, 15; 6:12, 21, 22; 7:8, 18-19; 8:14; 9:7, 12, 26, 29; 11:3, 10; 13:5, 10; 15:15; 16:1, 3, 6, 12; 20:1; 23:4; 24:9, 18, 22; 25:17; 26:8; 29:25; 34:11). The period in the wilderness is treated both as a time of miraculous care, with God providing manna and water for Israel (the probably meaning of the clauses You have not eaten bread, and you not drunk strong drink; 29:6; cf. 8:3) and even taking care of their clothes (29:5; cf. 8:4), and as a time of testing and discipline (29:6; cf. 8:2-5). The defeat of Kings Sihon and Og is described in detail earlier in the book (2:24 – 3:17), and then mentioned again in the important Chapter 4 (4:46-47). The survey is brief, but it makes the point: covenant stipulations are not the beginning of the story but a framework for response to God after God has delivered them from slavery, provided for them in the wilderness, and started to give them the Promised Land.
5. (:9) Appeal for Covenant Loyalty
“So keep the words of this covenant to do them,
that you may prosper in all that you do.”
Michael Grisanti: In the light of God’s repeated faithfulness to his children, the Israelites should obey his commands so that they might enjoy the covenantal blessings of the Lord. The exhortation to wholehearted obedience of Yahweh’s covenantal demands is again predicated on his abundant acts of faithfulness in behalf of his covenantal nation.
Daniel Block: Within the chapter as a whole, verse 9 is a hinge. Here Moses challenges his audience to continue to prove their faith in Yahweh, keeping the words of this covenant by doing them. The covenant ceremonies Moses is about to supervise involve a reaffirmation of the commitments made earlier by the exodus generation and by the people gathered here in the presence of Moses (26:16–19). The clause “so that you may prosper in everything you do” highlights the future importance of maintaining the commitment the Israelites had shown in their victory over the Amorite kings. The dimensions of this prosperity are summarized in the blessings of 28:1–14.
B. (:10-15) Renewal of the Covenant Revitalizes the Relationship between God and His People
1. (:10-11) Present Scope of the Covenant
“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, 11 your 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,”
Peter Craigie: all the categories of people standing before Moses are enumerated (see also Josh. 24:1). The leaders and males are mentioned first, then the women and children, and finally the resident aliens. The wood-gatherers and water-drawers were probably classes of people within the group resident aliens, on whom many of the more menial tasks would have fallen.
Michael Grisanti: Moses describes the comprehensive nature of this covenantal renewal. This listing of diverse individuals demonstrates that the entire believing community, without reference to social, economic, gender, or age differences, has been invited to enter into a covenantal relationship with Yahweh.
2. (:12-13) Substance and Significance of the Covenant
“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, 13 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.”
Peter Craigie: The emphasis in this passage is upon the present (today is used five times), not in the sense that a new covenant was being initiated, but rather in the sense that the renewing of the covenant was a revitalizing of the relationship. The essence of the covenant is described in v. 12. God would raise up the Israelites to be a people for himself; that is, God willingly and freely took upon himself certain obligations toward his chosen people. The people, in response, were bound to him as their God (he shall be God for you). Thus both “parties” to the covenant undertook obligations, but the nature of the obligations differed (the relationship was one of “suzerainty,” not one of “parity”). God, in sovereignty and grace, initiated the relationship and in so doing committed himself in a promise to the chosen people; the people’s obligation to commit themselves in the covenant was based not simply on law or demand, but on a response of love, for the purpose of the covenant relationship elicited such a response.
Eugene Merrill: It is important to remember that this was not so much a ceremony of covenant making as it was one of covenant affirmation or renewal. The original covenant had been made at Horeb, so what was in view here was the Lord’s offer of the same covenant (albeit, with necessary amendments) to the next generation of Israelites.
3. (:14-15) Future Scope of the Covenant
“Now not with you alone am I making this covenant and this oath, 15 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.”
Peter Craigie: “those who are not with us here today” — the reference is not to those who could not be present for some reason such as ill health. Rather, the words indicate the generations to be born in the future. The reference to future generations impressed even more firmly the responsibility incumbent on those who were present on the plains of Moab, for not only their own future, but also the future of their posterity would be contingent upon their obedience to the law of the covenant. The potential failure of any one generation, already potential in the elaboration of curses in ch. 28, reintroduces a solemn note in the subsequent discourse in ch. 29.
II. (:16-29) UNDERSTANDING THE PAINFUL CONSEQUENCES OF UNFAITHFULNESS SHOULD MOTIVATE COVENANT LOYALTY
Michael Grisanti: Moses describes the painful consequences, for the individual and for the nation, of failing to obey the covenantal stipulations. His warning here suggests that God’s chosen people had been tempted by idolatry and had defected from Yahweh in the past. That reality adds weight to Moses’ concern that Israel might do the same in the future. Moses looks to the future from the perspective of his time (29:16–21) and then looks back hypothetically from some future day (29:22–28).
A. (:16-21) Present Perspective on the Future –
Unfaithfulness by Any Individual, Family Unit or Tribe Will Bring Divine Cursing
1. (:16-17) Familiarity with the Temptation of Idolatry
“(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.
Moreover, you have seen their abominations and their idols of wood, stone, silver, and gold, which they had with them);”
Peter Craigie: The Israelites already had some knowledge of foreign forms of worship; they had experience of foreign religion in Egypt and during their travels through the desert and to the east of the Dead Sea. They knew already the nature of that worship, its detestable things and idols, which were made from wood or stone and decorated with silver or gold. Thus, although the Israelites would meet an alien form of worship when they entered the Promised Land, they had already experienced various forms of alien culture and should be equipped to deal with it. Nevertheless, Moses warns the people once again: beware … (v. 17).
John Schultz: Moses warns the people against idolatry. The Israelites had been familiar with the practices of idolatry in Egypt. Although the majority may not have been eyewitnesses, as their parents were, they must have had sufficient knowledge of the facts to understand what Moses referred to. The countries Israel passed through on their way to Canaan were Moab, Heshbon, and Bashan. The Bible does not give us much information about the practices of idolatry in Egypt, Canaan, and neighboring countries. Moses describes the idols as “detestable images.” The Hebrew word used is shiqquwts which Strongs defines as, “disgusting, i.e. filthy; especially idolatrous.” Archeology has brought to light that many idolatrous practices were linked to perverse sexual behavior. The Bible has coined for us the expression “abomination of desolation” which is used, among others, by Daniel and referred to by Christ when speaking about the coming of the Antichrist.
2. (:18-21) Inescapable Judgment for Idolatry
a. (:18) Significance of Idolatry
1) Perversion of the Heart of the Offender
“lest there shall 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;”
Gerald Gerbrandt: After stating that the people as a whole have been confronted by the possibility of worshiping other gods, the text turns to the individual: It may be there there is among you a man or a woman . . . (v. 18). The phrase continues by including a family or tribe, but then concentrates on the individual person. This is more apparent in versions that retain the singular pronouns.
Duane Christensen: The covenant community must be on guard against any member who, having taken the vows to YHWH, then decides that it is safe to do as he or she pleases (vv 18–19). The promises of God are conditioned on sincere and continued obedience, and the danger is that defection on the part of one person will infect the whole community. The whole community hence stands responsible for the individuals in their midst who make light of the obligations of the covenant. At the same time, these very individuals, with their reservations about keeping the covenant, stand responsible under the law for their own behavior. If an individual member of the community chooses the path of willful rebellion, “YHWH will single him out for misfortune from all the tribes of Israel according to all the curses of the covenant (that are) written in this scroll of the Torah” (v 20). The teaching of individual responsibility inherent in this text is developed further in Jeremiah, and even more so in Ezekiel.
2) Permeation of Evil throughout the Community
“lest there shall be among you a root bearing poisonous
fruit and wormwood.”
Peter Craigie: The metaphor indicates the permeation of evil throughout Israel because of the action of an individual, family, or tribe. To express it in another way, “no man is an island”; when a man or group sinned by serving other gods, that sin was like a poisonous branch with bitter fruit, which by its nature spoiled the whole tree. The emphasis is thus placed on Israel’s nature as a covenant community, the whole of which was affected, for good or evil, by the actions of its constituents. As a community, Israel would stand or fall; as a community, it would experience blessing or cursing. However, the anonymity of the individual within the community could lead to a wrong attitude of independence and a feeling of false security within the community, regardless of a man’s own righteousness—or lack of it. The theme is developed further in the following verses.
b. (:19) Smugness of Self Deception
“And it 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.’”
Daniel Block: The opening line of the idolater’s utterance is clear (v. 19b), reflecting the smugness of a man who imagines that the blessings listed in 28:1–14 are guaranteed for him unconditionally.
MacArthur: The meaning is that the deceived individual rebel against the Lord follows only his wicked heart and could not hide within the total community. The idolater would stand out and bear the judgment for his idolatry.
Eugene Merrill: To drive home his point, Moses appears to have cited a proverb to the effect that the wet (land?) and the dry alike were unable to escape the scorching heat of God’s wrath (v. 19c [18c]). That is, even if one was a member of the covenant community and sought to protect himself by verbalizing covenant blessings, he would be no safer in his sin than the unbeliever who made no pretense and stood beneath no such contrived shelter. The appropriateness of the proverb is evident in the statements of the burning wrath and zeal of the Lord that follow (v. 20 ).
Michael Grisanti: Any Israelite who worships other gods and hopes to escape divine judgment by some deceptive means can expect to experience the full force of covenantal curse. Moses depicts an individual Israelite who, upon hearing the covenantal curses and the judgment they pronounce on idolatry, thinks he can escape that curse and still worship false gods. The clause at the end of this verse can be rendered literally, “thus destroying the watered with the parched.” The expression appears to be a proverbial observation employing a figure of speech called a merism, which suggests totality by referring to two polar elements. This clause affirms that the Israelite who violates the letter and even the spirit of the covenant will harm not only himself but also everything he touches—“the watered and the parched” (NET note). Although the sin might appear hidden and committed by only one person, it will affect the entire nation.
c. (:20-21) Certainty of Judgment – Painful Consequences of Unfaithfulness
“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.
Then 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.”
Michael Grisanti: To highlight the severity of the divine judgment this person will experience, Moses makes five powerful statements:
• Yahweh will never be willing to forgive him,
• his zealous wrath will burn against him,
• all the covenantal curses will fall on him,
• Yahweh will blot out his name and
• the Lord will single him out for disaster or calamity.
In this covenantal relationship between Israel and Yahweh, there are no secret sins in the ultimate sense.
Daniel Block: Because verses 19–21 focus on the apostasy and arrogant response of an individual, some argue that this paragraph concerns primarily individual infidelity. However, the quartette of subjects in verse 18 suggests a corporate interest as well. Furthermore, the sequel (vv. 22–28) portrays the effects of corporate and national rebellion. While interest in the individual is obvious, this person is singled out as a representative of the nation. The actions he performs, the disposition he expresses, and the fate he experiences represent the actions, disposition, and fate of the apostate nation as a whole.
Peter Craigie: Yet the emphasis on the community did not mean that the individual was an anonymous nonentity. The health and vitality of the whole community depended on the health and vitality of the religious commitment of each individual within it. Far from being anonymous, each individual carried a heavy burden of responsibility for the whole community. The element of responsibility is emphasized by another metaphor, which may have been an ancient proverb: the moist along with the parched shall be swept away. That is, because of the evil acts of one man (the one who thought to himself, I shall have peace), the whole community was in immediate danger of God’s judgment. The individual, however, would carry the heavy burden of responsibility (vv. 19–20); the curse of God would come upon him in its awesome dimensions.
B. (:22-29) Future Perspective on the Past –
The Disloyal Generation Has Been Shockingly Devastated and Uprooted from the Land
1. (:22-23) Future Devastation Of Israel Will Shock the Next Generation
“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.’”
Michael Grisanti: In a hypothetical scenario in which the nation of Israel has disobeyed the stipulations of the covenant and has been judged appropriately, later generations of Israelites as well as the nations of the world will be amazed at the destruction that has fallen on Israel. They will learn that the cause of all this sorrow was Israel’s violation of their covenant with the Lord by worshiping other gods.
Jack Deere: The future judgment (calamities and diseases on the land; cf. 28:22b, 59-61) would be so severe that it was compared to the judgment that fell on Sodom and Gomorrah, and Admah and Zeboiim. These last two cities, near Sodom and Gomorrah, were in a treaty with them (Gen. 14:2). The land would be covered with salt and sulfur and therefore be unproductive. This comprehensive judgment must refer to the devastation in the Assyrian and Babylonian invasions.
2. (:24-28) Forsaking the Covenant Brings Angry Divine Judgment
a. (:24) Inquiry Due to the Severity of Devastation
“And all the nations shall say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land? Why this great outburst of anger?’”
b. (:25-28) Idolatry Deserved God’s Angry Judgment
1) (:25-26) Spiritual Adultery
“Then men shall 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. 26 And they went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods whom they have not known and whom He had not allotted to them.’”
2) (:27-28) Severe Judgment
“Therefore, the anger of the LORD burned against that land, to bring upon it every curse which is written in this book; 28 and 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.”
Michael Grisanti: Because of that rebellion, Yahweh (according to the depicted scenario) brought upon his covenantal people the curses delineated in chs. 27–28. Using two verbs of violence, he “uprooted” them from their land and “thrust” them into a foreign land, away from the place of covenantal blessing—all this for the opportunity to worship gods that are lifeless and powerless!
Gerald Gerbrandt: The representative or paradigmatic sin is idolatry, transgression against the foundational commandment: they have turned and served other gods (v. 26; cf. v. 18). As result, the anger of the Lord was kindled against that land, bringing upon it every curse written in this book (v. 27; cf. vv. 20-21). The anger of God receives greater attention in these two paragraphs than anywhere else in Deuteronomy. After declaring that God’s wrath and zeal will burn against them (v. 20 NIV) in the first paragraph, the second expands this with four further references to God’s anger (vv. 23, 24, 27, 28; here in vv. 16-19 are five of Deuteronomy’s thirteen uses of this term) and warns of God’s fury and great wrath (v. 28). It is the “fundamental breach of covenant,” the betrayal of the mutual agreement (26:16-19) that Israel has solemnly sworn to accept that precipitates this heightened sense of passion (McConville 2002: 418). God’s anger in Deuteronomy thus is directed at Israel, the same people God has loved and chosen as his treasured possession (e.g., 7:6).
Daniel Block: This speech is filled with irony. Like those who had come out of Egypt (cf. v. 4), the future generation of Israelites envisioned here seems clueless about spiritual realities, apparently having forgotten Yahweh their God, his covenant (4:23; cf. 29:25), and the event at which they formally became the people of Yahweh (cf. 4:9–14). Furthermore, they abandoned the one who had revealed himself so dramatically in their rescue from Egypt and at Sinai in favor of other gods that they did not know (v. 26; cf. 11:28; 13:2, 13). By contrast, the anonymous speaker is keenly aware of the special covenant relationship that existed between Yahweh and Israel: of Israel’s origins in Egypt and Yahweh’s gracious acts of redemption, of Yahweh’s passion for his people, of his personal involvement in their demise, and of the written Torah and every curse written in it. The concluding note, “as it is now,” does not refer to the immediate rhetorical situation, but reflects the context and perspective of the interlocutor. “Now” is the day of Israel’s judgment.
3. (:29) Focus on Your Responsibility for Covenant Loyalty
“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.”
David Whitcomb: To avoid judgment against sin, God’s people need to pay attention to what God has already revealed. The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law (v.29). There was much about the future the people did not know. There was much about God’s covenant relationship they did not grasp (cf. v.4). God held the people responsible for what He had revealed. If God did not reveal it, it was not necessary for them to know.
Peter Craigie: The stark portrayal of the possible future, however, was not designed to cause apathy and despair among the people. If such a future was inevitable, the people might ask, then what was the point of obedience? Rather, the dark picture of the future was intended to have the opposite effect: the revealed things belong to us and to our children forever, so that we might do all the words of this law. That is to say, one thing was certain and revealed, namely, the words of this law. The law placed upon the people the responsibility of obedience, the result of which would be God’s blessing in the land they were going in to possess. This general principle was clearly revealed; obedience would lead to God’s continuing blessing, but disobedience would bring about the curse of God. To go beyond that and speculate about the future things (the secret things) was not man’s prerogative.
The verse has also broader, theological implications. It would be presumptuous of man to assume that in revelation he has been given total knowledge of God. The revelation given is adapted to man, so that we might do all the words of this law. The latter clause does not reduce religion to the sphere of law and ethics, as Spinoza would have it, but rather indicates the means by which a living relationship with God might be maintained. It may never be possible to know all things, the secret things, for man’s mind is bound by the limits of his finitude; though the nature of God’s revelation is not such as to grant man total knowledge of the universe and its mysteries, however, it does grant to him the possibility of knowing God. And it is possible to know God in a profound and living way, through his grace, without ever having grasped or understood the secret things.
Eugene Merrill: The main difficulty lies in the identification of “the secret things” and “the things revealed” and how these phrases (and the whole verse) relate to the overall context.
The best solution, perhaps, is to view the main clause as a proverbial evaluation of the conundrum produced by the fact of the exile of the people of the Lord to whom were given unconditional promises of ongoing existence as his servants. That is, how could Israel, the recipient of the everlasting promises to the forefathers, be destroyed and deported? The ongoing of Israel and their apparent termination seem to be mutually exclusive concepts. This perception, however, was that of the nations only, the unbelievers to whom the Lord’s ultimate purposes had not been revealed. It was they who had asked incredulously how God could bring such judgment on his own chosen ones (v. 24 ). From an empirical standpoint all was at an end, and there was no hope of recovery. God’s own people knew better, however, for he had revealed to them the end as well as the beginning (cf. 30:11-14). The dry bones of Israel in exile would be infused with divine breath that would resuscitate the nation to its role as servant of the Lord and mediator of his saving grace (cf. Ezek 37:1-28). It was this knowledge and hope that should have inspired obedience to “all the words of this law” (v. 29).
Michael Grisanti: Primarily, this passage affirms that God has made it clear what he expects from his children. Their responsibility is not to wonder about the future but to live in accordance with his expectations. Yahweh is fully capable of taking care of those issues beyond human comprehension and control. What he expects of his children is that they live in the light of the knowledge he has graciously given to them. Having said that, and secondarily, since the human mind is bound by its finitude, it will never be possible to know all things.