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Asbury Bible Commentary – IV. Moses' Third Exhortatory Address (29:1–30:20)
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IV. Moses' Third Exhortatory Address (29:1–30:20)

Ch. 11 describes a covenant ritual of commitment to be performed by Israel in the land of Canaan after crossing the Jordan. The covenant renewal described here is one Israel is going “to enter” (lit. “to go over into the covenant”) so that Yahweh may confirm that Israel is his people and he is their God. Israel is to guard its heart so that it will not turn from Yahweh (v. 18 [Heb. v. 17], leḇaḇ &ōneh). But the foreboding message of this passage is found in v. 4 (Heb. v. 3). For there it is asserted that Yahweh has not yet “to this day” given his people a heart to know (comprehend), eyes to see, and ears to hear.

The true essence of the Torah still escapes them. But the implication is that in doing it they shall know it. The sequence of several “heart” passages in Deuteronomy (4:29; 5:29; 10:12, 16; 30:2, 6, 10) adds a major motif in the book. Israel's self-inflicted blindness should not, however, be used to cloud the proper appeal and significance of Yahweh's Torah so perfectly stated in 6:4-9 and 10:12-13. Any future failure of Israel will be because Israel forsakes Yahweh's covenant (29:24-25). This clearly implies and emphasizes an improper heart attitude and not the mere breaking of a specific decree of Yahweh. Any persistent future failure of Israel will be a failure of the heart. The final verse indicates that it was not necessary for Israel to know additional secret counsels of Yahweh in order to be his people. The public Torah was enough.

Ch. 30 continues the thought of the future apostasy and exile of Israel. The return and acceptance of Israel are based on the circumcision of the heart that Yahweh himself will accomplish (v. 6). “Heart” is used six times in this chapter (vv. 1, 2, 6, 10, 14, 17). Each time its use is significant. The amazing work of God in circumcising the heart (v. 6) is predicted upon Israel's turning its own heart (v. 1) and returning to him (wešaḇtâ 'aḏ yhwh, v. 2) with the whole heart. Yahweh will then circumcise the heart, making possible Israel's love of the Lord with all the heart and soul. Then Yahweh will bless his people (v. 9) as he blessed their fathers, “if [they] obey the Lord [their] God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the Lord [their] God with all [their] heart and with all [their] soul” (v. 10). No biblical concept teaches the love of God without the concomitant expression of obedience to his words. So Jesus could say that he came to fulfill the law, not to destroy it.

The ability to choose Yahweh's way is made possible because of God's grace, the gift of the Torah to Israel. In words the people can adopt and comprehend, the Torah is now completed and sufficient (30:11-14). They are in her mouth and in her heart. She can, if she will, do them (v. 14). For Paul's reference to this passage, see Ro 10:6ff. A true Jew was one who obeyed because he loved with all of his heart (vv. 17-18). His life lay in loving Yahweh from his heart (vv. 6, 19-20). By choosing to be holy unto Yahweh, Israel would live (vv. 19-20). A choice for Yahweh and his holy way is life.

A comparison of 4:25-31 with 30:1-20 reveals many parallel concerns. Chs. 4 and 30 bracket the central chapters of the book. Both talk about covenant curses, exile, a converted (“turned”) heart, the future days, the call of “heaven and earth as witnesses” (4:26; 30:19), and more. The structure of the book itself, especially the bracketing of the central chapters by these parallel sections, witnesses to the primary concern of the writer. He encloses the book with the call that “if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul” (4:29; cf. 30:2)—no matter where you are (4:29), even in the most distant place (30:4).