Deuteronomy 11:11
But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven:
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(11) Drinketh water of the rain of heaven.—Or, as it is prettily expressed by the Jewish commentator, “While thou sleepest on thy bed, the Holy One (blessed be He! ) waters it high and low.” (Comp. the parable in St. Mark 4:26-27.)

Deuteronomy 11:11. A land of hills and valleys — Which could not be made fruitful but by rain from heaven, which seldom fell in Egypt, whose fruitfulness depended on the overflowing of the Nile. Thus he informs them that the promised land was of such a condition as would keep them in a constant dependance upon God for the fruitfulness of it. He means, however, also to signify that it was much more pleasant and healthful than Egypt, which, as it was enriched, so it was annoyed with the Nile, which, overflowing the land in summer-time, made the country both unpleasant and unhealthy. And health being the greatest of all outward blessings, Canaan must therefore be a more desirable habitation than Egypt. The rain of heaven — Which was more easily obtained, being given them without any charge or pains; more sweet and pleasant, not hindering their going abroad upon their affairs, as the overflowing of the Nile did; more safe and healthful, being free from that mud which attended the waters of the Nile; and more certain too, while they were obedient, the former and the latter rain being promised to be given to them in the proper season, on condition of their adhering to God’s worship, and obeying his laws. And even this condition, though it might seem a clog and inconvenience, yet indeed was a great benefit; for thus, by their own interest and necessities, they were obliged to that obedience and reliance on God upon which their happiness depended, both for this life and the next.

11:8-17 Moses sets before them, for the future, life and death, the blessing and the curse, according as they did or did not keep God's commandment. Sin tends to shorten the days of all men, and to shorten the days of a people's prosperity. God will bless them with an abundance of all good things, if they would love him and serve him. Godliness has the promise of the life that now is; but the favour of God shall put gladness into the heart, more than the increase of corn, and wine, and oil. Revolt from God to idols would certainly be their ruin. Take heed that your hearts be not deceived. All who forsake God to set their affection upon any creature, will find themselves wretchedly deceived, to their own destruction; and this will make it worse, that it was for want of taking heed.Another motive for fidelity is added, namely, the entire dependence of the promised land upon God for its fertility. It was "a land flowing with milk and honey;" yet this its richness was not, as was that of Egypt, the reward of truman skill and labor, but was, on the contrary, the gift of God simply and entirely; the effect of "the former and the latter rains" sent by Him. The spiritual significance of these and many other such peculiarities of the promised land must not be overlooked.

Egypt and Canaan are distinguished in this and the following verses, by certain of their most remarkable physical traits. Canaan as a mountainous country (compare Deuteronomy 3:25 note) was well watered, but by the rains of heaven, on which it absolutely depended for its crops. Artificial irrigation could do nothing to remedy this dependence. Hence, it was a land on which, so long as God's people were faithful and consequently prosperous, "the eyes of God" would always be: i. e., He would supply at each successive season (compare Deuteronomy 11:14-15) the useful conditions of productiveness. But Egypt, fit emblem here as elsewhere of the world of nature in distinction from the world of grace, though of course deriving its all ultimately from the Giver of all good things, yet directly and immediately owed its riches and plenty to human ingenuity and capital. It enjoyed no rain worth speaking of, but drew its water supply from the annum overflowing of the Nile. This only lasts about a hundred days; but is rendered available for agricultural purposes throughout the year by an elaborate and costly system of tanks, canals, forcing machines, etc. To these mechanical appliances allusion is made in Deuteronomy 11:10. The inhabitants of Egypt probably watered "with the foot" in two ways, namely, by means of tread-wheels working sets of pumps, and by means of artificial channels connected with reservoirs, and opened, turned, or closed by the feet. Both methods are still in use in Egypt.

10-12. For the land, whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from whence ye came out—The physical features of Palestine present a striking contrast to those of the land of bondage. A widely extending plain forms the cultivated portion of Egypt, and on the greater part of this low and level country rain never falls. This natural want is supplied by the annual overflow of the Nile, and by artificial means from the same source when the river has receded within its customary channel. Close by the bank the process of irrigation is very simple. The cultivator opens a small sluice on the edge of the square bed in which seed has been sown, making drill after drill; and when a sufficient quantity of water has poured in, he shuts it up with his foot. Where the bank is high, the water is drawn up by hydraulic engines, of which there are three kinds used, of different power, according to the subsidence of the stream. The water is distributed in small channels or earthen conduits, simple in construction, worked by the foot, and formed with a mattock by the gardener who directs their course, and which are banked up or opened, as occasion may require, by pressing in the soil with the foot. Thus was the land watered in which the Israelites had dwelt so long. Such vigilance and laborious industry would not be needed in the promised land. Instead of being visited with moisture only at one brief season and left during the rest of the year under a withering blight, every season it would enjoy the benign influences of a genial climate. The hills would attract the frequent clouds, and in the refreshing showers the blessing of God would especially rest upon the land. A land of hills and valleys; and therefore much more healthful than Egypt was, which as it was enriched, so it was annoyed with Nilus, which overflowed the land in summer time, and thereby made the country both unpleasant and, which is much worse, unhealthful. And health being the greatest of all outward blessings, Canaan must therefore needs be a more desirable habitation than Egypt, which is the thing here implied.

Drinketh water of the rain of heaven which is more honourable, because this comes not from man’s art or industry, but immediately from God’s power and goodness; more easy, being given thee without thy charge or pains; more sweet and pleasant, not hindering thy going abroad upon thy occasions, as the overflow of Nilus did, whereby the Egyptians were confined in a great measure to their several houses; more safe and healthful, being free from that mud which attends upon the waters of Nilus; and more certain too, the former and the latter rain being promised to be given to them in their several seasons, upon condition of their obedience, which condition, though it may seem a clog and inconvenience, yet indeed was a great benefit, that by their own necessities and worldly interest they should be obliged to that obedience, upon which their happiness depended both for this life and for the next.

But the land whither ye go to possess it is a land of hills and valleys,.... And so could not be watered by the overflow of a river, and by canals cut out of it, and in the manner Egypt was; which was for the most part a plain and flat country, but not so Canaan, in which were many hills and mountains, as those about Jerusalem, Carmel, Tabor, Lebanon, and others; and plains and valleys, as the valley of Jezreel, &c. and which made it more delightful and pleasant for prospects; see Deuteronomy 8:7 and drinketh water of the rain of heaven; by which it was watered, refreshed, and made fruitful; not by means of men, but by the Lord himself, and so with much more ease to men, and without the toil and labour they were obliged to in Egypt, as well as it was both more healthful and pleasant; for the damps that arose from the overflow of the Nile were sometimes prejudicial to health; and during the season of its overflow, which was in the summer, they were obliged to keep in their houses, and could not walk abroad for weeks together; to which inconveniences the land of Canaan was not subject; but then, as its fertility depended on rain from heaven, the Israelites would be under the greater obligation to observe the commands of God, who could give and withhold it at his pleasure, and as they conducted themselves; which seems to be the general drift of this passage. But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven:
11. whither ye go over to possess it] This Pl. interruption is redundant even for the deuteronomic style (cp. 8 and 10) and unnecessary for the contrast which the writer is making: most probably editorial.

a land of hills and valleys] This, too, is essential to the writer’s contrast of the land with Egypt: for the configuration of the land (cp. Erman’s remarks on Egypt and Greece above) is not only utterly different from the flatness of Egypt, but affects the distribution of the rainfall, and is responsible for numerous springs (Deuteronomy 8:7).

According to the rain of heaven it drinketh water] So the emphatic order of the original.

Deuteronomy 11:11And this knowledge was to impel them to keep the law, that they might be strong, i.e., spiritually strong (Deuteronomy 1:38), and not only go into the promised land, but also live long therein (cf. Deuteronomy 4:26; Deuteronomy 6:3). - In Deuteronomy 11:10-12 Moses adduces a fresh motive for his admonition to keep the law with fidelity, founded upon the peculiar nature of the land. Canaan was a land the fertility of which was not dependent, like that of Egypt, upon its being watered by the hand of man, but was kept up by the rain of heaven which was sent down by God the Lord, so that it depended entirely upon the Lord how long its inhabitants should live therein. Egypt is described by Moses as a land which Israel sowed with seed, and watered with its foot like a garden of herbs. In Egypt there is hardly any rain at all (cf. Herod. ii. 4, Diod. Sic. i. 41, and other evidence in Hengstenberg's Egypt and the Books of Moses, pp. 217ff.). The watering of the land, which produces its fertility, is dependent upon the annual overflowing of the Nile, and, as this only lasts for about 100 days, upon the way in which this is made available for the whole year, namely, by the construction of canals and ponds throughout the land, to which the water is conducted from the Nile by forcing machines, or by actually carrying it in vessels up to the fields and plantations.

(Note: Upon the ancient monuments we find not only the draw-well with the long rope, which is now called Shaduf, depicted in various ways (see Wilkinson, i. p. 35, ii. 4); but at Beni-Hassan there is a representation of two men carrying a water-vessel upon a pole on their shoulders, which they fill from a draw-well or pond, and then carry to the field (cf. Hengstenberg, Egypt and the Books of Moses, pp. 220-1).)

The expression, "with thy foot," probably refers to the large pumping wheels still in use there, which are worked by the feet, and over which a long endless rope passes with pails attached, for drawing up the water (cf. Niebuhr, Reise, i. 149), the identity of which with the ἕλιξ described by Philo as ὑδρηλὸν ὄργανον (de confus. ling. i. 410) cannot possibly be called in question; provided, that is to say, we do not confound this ἕλιξ with the Archimedean water-screw mentioned by Diod. Sic. i. 34, and described more minutely at v. 37, the construction of which was entirely different (see my Archaeology, ii. pp. 111-2). - The Egyptians, as genuine heathen, were so thoroughly conscious of this peculiar characteristic of their land, which made its fertility far more dependent upon the labour of human hands than upon the rain of heaven or divine providence, that Herodotus (ii. 13) represents them as saying, "The Greeks, with their dependence upon the gods, might be disappointed in their brightest hopes and suffer dreadfully from famine." The land of Canaan yielded no support to such godless self-exaltation, for it was "a land of mountains and valleys, and drank water of the rain of heaven" (ל before מטר, to denote the external cause; see Ewald, 217, d.); i.e., it received its watering, the main condition of all fertility, from the rain, by the way of the rain, and therefore through the providential care of God.

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