Chapter 29

DEUTERONOMY CHAPTER 29

The Land Covenant (29:1-30:20)

        • These are the terms of the covenant that the Lord commanded Moses to make with the Israelites while they were in Moab, besides the covenant He made with them at Horeb.

        • The NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “The land of Moab was the region east of the Jordan where Deuteronomy was composed.”

        • Believe it or not, quite complicated controversies hinge on this tiny little verse. In question is whether the verse refers to the covenant stipulations that we have just finished reading, or if it is the introduction to a covenant that is in addition to the one made at Mount Sinai. Why does it matter? The answer alters ones understanding of the following verses as either a renewal of the Mosaic covenant with additional terms added, or another covenant, separate/distinct from the Mosaic Covenant. These differing perceptions have massive implications- both theological and even political. Theological implications include positions on the law (Old Covenant versus New Covenant), eschatology (study of end times), and God’s plan for Israel in the future (is He done with them or has He made promises that are still awaiting fulfillment? Are His promises to Israel transferred to the Church? This latter issue is referred to as “replacement theology”.) One’s perspective on whether or not Israel has a modern day claim to land within certain boundaries will directly affect political views regarding foreign policy between the US, Israel, and the surrounding Middle Eastern counties. One’s view on this topic may even lead to anti-Semitic feelings- particularly if one views Israel as consistently warring for possession of land they have no right to.

        • To drastically oversimplify, I will note that views fall into two general categories: adherents of “Covenant Theology” or “Dispensational Theology.” (This is painfully simplistic due to the fact that there are different stripes of both Covenant Theologians and Dispensationalists. To make matters worse, most probably have no idea which camp they fall into from merely reading the terms above.) Personally, I believe that Dispensational Theology (of the stripe presented by Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum) is most consistent with Scripture. Therefore, the information that I will include in the following sections (chapters 29 and 30) will correspond to this position.

          • Peter J. Gentry of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has written a very academic treatment of the debate. His article argues the Covenant/Reformed position, which is “that it is a renewal and expansion of the Sinai covenant.” One will definitely get an appreciation of the complexity of the arguments. However, I do not believe Gentry always provides an accurate presentation of the Dispensational view. This could be due to differences between various Dispensationalists. His article: The Relationship of Deuteronomy to the Covenant at Sinai

          • The Dispensational view takes 29:1 at its plain meaning when it states that the covenant that follows is a separate covenant, distinct from the covenant the previous verses have been referencing which originated at Sinai. This distinct covenant is traditionally known as the “Palestinian Covenant,” however most theologians agree it would is better referenced as simply the “Land Covenant.” Additional information can be accessed at the following links:

          • Hal Harless’ book How Firm a Foundation: The Dispensations in the Light of Divine Covenants includes an excellent treatment of some of the structural/grammatical arguments for understanding 29:1 to be the beginning of a new section rather than the end of the previous section, and why the covenant is clearly separate/distinct from the Mosaic Covenant. A few excerpts follow:

            • On whether or not 29:1 is the close of the previous address or the beginning of a new one:

            • If Deuteronomy 29:1 were a subscript for Deuteronomy 27:1-28:68 it would be the only such instance in Deuteronomy and would break the structural pattern for the rest of the book.”

            • The language used in Deut 29:1 is very similar to the language of the other prologues…The similarity of all these prologues is apparent and indicates a similar function as headers introducing the following discourses.” He cites the notable Keil and Delitzch as well as R.K. Harrison in support of this view.

          • On whether or not this covenant is distinct from the previous:

            • Here, Harless makes an argument from Hebrew grammar citing the Brown, Driver, Briggs definition of the relevant Hebrew terms as “separation” and “in a state of…separation, alone, by itself.” He further notes that in in Hebrew grammar, the arrangement present in the relevant passage “functions as a preposition, ‘apart from, besides.’” Additionally, “This expression is (also) used to express God’s uniqueness” in Deut 4:35. He concludes, “This covenant is at its heart separate and isolated from the Mosaic Covenant.”

            • Three additionally recommended sources are:

            • For the reader who desires an exhaustive discussion of the topic and all the relevant issues, I highly recommend Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s book Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology. Fair warning: it is a considerable tome weighing in at over 1,000 pages. However, if one wants an exhaustive comparison of each theological system, you won’t find a better, more fairly written, resource.

Prophecy of Israel’s Coming Disobedience to the Mosaic Covenant

        • Moses called all of the Israelites together and said:

          • You witnessed with your own eyes everything the Lord did in Egypt to Pharaoh, his officials, and the whole land- all those great trials, signs, and wonders. However, to this very day the Lord hasn’t given you minds that understand, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.”

          • HCSB notes, “The apparent contradiction between this verse (v. 4), which says that the people could not see, and verse 3, which says that they did see is easily resolved by recognizing that v. 3 is speaking of physical sight and verse 4 of spiritual insight. It is possible to look without seeing, to hear without listening (cp. Isaiah 6:10; John 9:40-41).”

        • I led you around the wilderness for 40 years during which time neither your clothes nor the sandals wore out, and you didn’t eat bread or drink wine or beer- so that you would know that He is the Lord your God. When we got here, King Sihon of Heshbon and King Og of Bashan came out to fight against us, but we defeated them. We took their land and gave it to the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh as their inheritance. Therefore, obey the terms of this covenant so that you will be successful in everything you do.”

          • HCSB writes, “King Sihon and King Og did not both encounter Israel in the plains of Moab. In fact, Og did battle with them at Edrei, near the Sea of Galilee (Numbers 21:33). ‘This place,’ then, refers to the Transjordan as a whole, an area embracing the territories of both Sihon and Og.”

          • Guzik adds, “During their forty years in the wilderness, their clothes did not wear our, their sandals did not wear out, and though they had no bread to eat or wine to drink, their needs were provided for. Israel conquered over their enemies, and they took their land...Plainly, these are remarkable miracles. Clothes and sandals simply do not last 40 years of hard marching in the wilderness apart from a miracle. The wilderness does not provide enough food and water to meet the needs of some two million people apart from a miracle. A nation of slaves for 400 years does not conquer standing nations and take their land apart from a miracle.”

        • All of you- your leaders, tribes, elders, officials, all the men of Israel, your children, your wives, and the foreigners living among you who chop your wood and draw your water- are standing in the presence of the Lord your God. You are all standing here so that you can enter into the covenant with the Lord your God that He is making with you today, and so you can enter into His oath to establish you as His people, and be your God as He promised you and as He swore to your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I am making this covenant and oath not only with you who are standing here in the presence of the Lord our God today, but also with those who aren’t standing here with us today.”

          • On “those who aren’t standing here with us today,” NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “The covenant made with Moses’ generation was also for generations yet to be born…”

        • You know how we lived while we were in Egypt and how we traveled through the nations after we left. You saw the detestable images and idols of wood, stone, silver, and gold these nations had among them. Make sure there is no one among you- man, woman, clan, or tribe- whose heart turns away from the Lord our God and goes to worship the gods of those nations. Make sure there is no root among you that bears bitter, poisonous fruit. Those who hear the words of this oath should not bless themselves in their own mind thinking, ‘I’ll be safe even if I follow the desires of my own stubborn heart.’ This thinking will lead to the destruction of both the well-watered and the dry land, and the Lord will not be willing to forgive such people. Instead, His anger and jealousy will be kindled against that individual and every curse written in this book will come down upon them. The Lord will erase their names from under the heaven. The Lord will specifically single them out from among the other tribes of Israel to harm them with all the curses of the covenant recorded in this book of the law.”

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “An attitude of nonchalance or smugness regarding God’s judgment would lead to utter ruin.”

          • Guzik adds, “This truth is plain ‘There is no peace,’ says the LORD, ‘for the wicked.’ (Isaiah 48:22) The score may be settled on either side of eternity, but it will be settled. No one can forsake the LORD and escape the consequences.”

        • Then the generations that are to come, both your descendants and the foreigners who come from far away lands will see the calamities and the diseases the Lord has inflicted on the land. The whole land will be a burned out wasteland of sulfur and salt, with nothing planted and no plants growing, just like Sodom and Gomorrah, and Admah and Zeboiim, which the Lord destroyed in His fierce anger.”

            • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “In the days of Abraham and Lot, these cities were destroyed because of their gross immorality; their destruction was associated with sulfur and salt. (Genesis 19:23-28).”

          • Guzik adds, “We can also learn from the calamity that comes on the lives of others when they break God’s covenant. We can learn that the price of disobedience is not worth it. We can learn that the commands of God are good, and protective in our lives. God’s purpose in bringing judgment against a covenant-breaking Israel was also for the sake of all nations. When they see what happens to a nation who forsakes the LORD, they will be warned to obedience.”

        • The other nations will ask, ‘Why has the Lord done this to this land? What caused Him to be so angry?’ Then the people will respond, ‘It’s because they abandoned the covenant that their ancestors had made with the Lord, their God, which He had made with them when He brought them out of Egypt. They began to serve and worship other gods- gods they had not known and that the Lord had not allotted to them. That is why the Lord’s anger burned against this land and He brought down every curse recorded in this book upon it. In His great anger, fury, and wrath, the Lord uprooted the people from their land and threw them into another land where they are today.’”

          • HCSB writes, “’Where they are today’ refers to a future time when Israel would be in exile, not to the time of the speaking or writing of the text. Moses is quoting what people would say later on if Israel abandoned the covenant…”

          • Fruchtenbaum notes that there are “eight provisions (that) can be gleaned” from the Land Covenant. The first of these eight is seen in this chapter (chapter 29) and the very first verse of the next (chapter 30), “First, Moses prophetically spoke of Israel’s coming disobedience to the Mosaic Law and subsequent scattering all over the world.” We will see the remaining seven provisions which “speak of various facets of Israel’s final restoration” in the following chapter.

        • The things that are secret, hidden from us, belong to the Lord. But, the things that have been revealed to us belong to us and our children forever so that we may obey all the words of this law.”

          • Guzik lists six insights to be gleaned from this last verse:

            • In the midst of this encouragement to obedience, Moses pauses to give a principle of how God speaks to us. First, God never declares everything to man: There are secrets God has, and will always have. He has the right to have secrets, because He is God. God is bigger and smarter than us and always will be. We must simply accept this. ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’ (Isaiah 55:8-9).”

            • Second, God does reveal some things to man. Since God is there, and He is not silent, we must do all we can to pay close attention to Him.”

            • Third, God’s revelation is meant to say something to us. God did not speak just to blow our minds or to amuse us; there is a message which belongs to us. While we cannot perfectly understand God’s revelation, it is perfectly understandable.”

            • Fourth, God’s revelation is trans-generational. Yes, God had a specific message for Moses’ generation, but the message goes beyond its original audience to speak to all generations which follow.”

            • Fifth, God’s revelation is eternal. His word not only lasts forever, it is forever relevant. God’s word is more relevant than any new fad or interest which might sweep through the world or the church.”

            • Finally, God’s revelation must matter to us. He has not spoken to us merely to satisfy our curiosity about spiritual things. He has spoken to us to affect the way we live. If we are only hearers of the word, and not doers also, then we have not really received His word.”

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