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The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Study Bible that provides essential scholarship and guidance for Bible readers.

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Commentary on Deuteronomy

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29.1–30.20 : Third discourse of Moses. The ratification ceremony for the covenant of the Plains of Moab.

Israel is formally adjured to enter the covenant: To swear to obey the laws of chs 12–26 under penalty of the sanctions of ch 28 .

29.1–29 :

A didactic review of Israel's history (vv. 2–9 ) precedes an imprecation to ensure loyal adherence to the covenant (vv. 10–29 ).

1 : Editorial heading.

The laws, hitherto plural (“statutes and ordinances,” 5.1; 12.1; cf. 4.45 ), are now a coherent, single tradition: the covenant. In addition to, presentation of the laws as a supplement to the Decalogue, in contrast to 4.44–45; 12.1 , which mention neither the Decalogue nor the laws’ supplementary status. This may be an effort to explain addition of the Decalogue to an earlier form of Deuteronomy.

2 :

You have seen, as at 5.2–4 , the present generation is in reality one generation removed from the miraculous events.

3 :

Signs … wonders, see 28.46n.

4 :

But to this day, more accurately: “The LORD has not given you … until today.” The admonition creates a tension with the preceding two verses: The addressees who “have seen” the miraculous events (v. 2 ), which their own “eyes saw” (v. 3 ), are accused of having lacked eyes to see. The castigation reflects the episodes of rebellion ( 9.7–24 ).

5–6 :

The Mosaic homily reinterprets the wilderness wandering, originally intended as divine punishment of Israel (Num 14.13–35 ), and presents it positively, in didactic terms.

5 :

I, see 7.4; 17.3; 28.20 ,68. Clothes … feet, see 8.4 .

6 :

You have not eaten bread … not drunk wine, the sense is, “It was not bread that you ate … nor wine that you drank.” The manna, quails, and water that Israel consumed were supplied by divine providence ( 8.2–5; Ex 16; Num 11.4–9,31–33 ). Know, not abstract speculation but the recognition of God's historical actions on behalf of the nation. I am the Lord your God, better, “I, Yahweh, am your God” ( 6.4; Ex 20.2 ).

7–8 :

See 1.4; 2.26–3.22; Num 21.21–35 .

10 :

Stand assembled in formal array for a public legal ceremony (cf. Ps 82.1 ). Today, transition from historical review (vv. 1–8 ) to present adjuration (similarly, VTE § 33).

12 :

Covenant … sworn by an oath, the formula recurs at v. 14 , thus framing the central idea, the binding relationship between God and Israel. Oath, more accurately, “its imprecation” or “its curse.” Neo‐Assyrian treaties were validated by means of a concluding imprecation (VTE § § 37–56,58–106). The partner accepts the consequences of noncompliance. The laws of chs 12–26 represent the stipulations; ch 28 , the sanctions; and ch 29 , the imprecation.

14–15 :

The covenant binds even future generations (as in VTE § § 25,33,34,57); consequently, punishment for infraction extends to the third and fourth generation ( 5.9; Ex 20.5; 34.7 ).

17–27 :

A stark, two‐part warning, showing how the attempt of even a single individual secretly to withdraw from the covenant (vv. 17–19 ) jeopardizes the entire nation (vv. 20–28 ).

18 :

Turning away, transferring loyalty to other gods ( 13.6–11; 17.2–7 ). Poisonous and bitter growth, Hos 10.4; Am 5.7; 6.12 .

19 :

Bless themselves, rather than proclaim the imprecation, hoping to escape the sanctions of the covenant. Moist and dry, probably paired antonyms designating totality (see 28.3–6n. ).

20 :

Passion, God's zeal to defend the mutual exclusivity of the covenant relation ( 5.9; Ex 34.14 ). Descend on them, more literally, “crouch down upon them” (cf. Gen 4.7 ), an animate image. Blot out, the erasure of a tablet or scroll (Num 5.23 ), given a theological cast: Following Mesopotamian models, the divine decree of human fate is recorded in a heavenly book, with erasure symbolizing punishment ( 9.14; Gen 6.7; Ex 17.14; 32.32; 2 Kings 14.27; Ps 9.6 ).

22–28 :

The negative instruction. As the wilderness wandering provided an instructional lesson for the nation (vv. 5–6 ), so will Israel, transformed into a devastation, provide an object lesson. Vv. 24–28 provide a reversal of the Israelite child's inquiry about God's redemptive acts ( 4.32–38; Ex 12.25–27; 13.8–10 ).

23 :

Sulfur and salt were used in antiquity as chemical defoliants by invading armies. Sodom … Zeboiim, proverbial wicked cities in the arid area around the Dead Sea (cf. Gen 19.24–25; Isa 1.9–10 ).

25 :

The covenant, conflating the covenants of Horeb and Moab ( 29.1 ).

26 :

Gods … not allotted to them, as at 32.8–9 , each nation is allocated its own god, and the LORD is the God of Israel. As at 5.8–9 , the existence of other deities is here conceded. Contrast 4.19 , where it is rather only inanimate “stars … that God has allotted,” which reinterprets the polytheistic image from the later perspective of monotheism.

28 :

As is now the case, reference to the present implies that the chapter was composed subsequent to the Babylonian exile of 586 BCE.

29 :

Secret, concealed acts that God will punish (vv. 18–19 ), or future events. More likely, the antithesis with revealed rejects religions of esoteric speculation that restrict access to truth to a learned few. Torah, based upon a public revelation (ch 5 ) and Mosaic instruction (chs 12–26 ), is accessible to all.

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