Deuteronomy 11
Pulpit Commentary
Therefore thou shalt love the LORD thy God, and keep his charge, and his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments, alway.
Verse 1. - His charge; what he has appointed to be observed and done (cf. Leviticus 8:35; Numbers 1:53); more fully explained by his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments.
And know ye this day: for I speak not with your children which have not known, and which have not seen the chastisement of the LORD your God, his greatness, his mighty hand, and his stretched out arm,
Verse 2. - Knew ye; take note of, ponder, lay to heart. The words that follow, for... seen, are a parenthesis thrown in by the speaker to attract the attention especially of the older generation, who had witnessed the acts of the Lord. The words, the chastisement, etc., are to be connected with know ye, as the object of the knowing, And know ye this day the chastisement, etc. Which have not known, and which have not seen; supp. "what ye have known and seen." Your children; those born during the wandering in the wilderness. Chastisement; not punishment, but discipline, education, training (LXX., παιδεία), including both correction and instruction (cf. the use of the Hebrew word מוּסָר in Proverbs 1:2; Proverbs 5:12; Proverbs 6:23, etc.). His greatness...stretched out arm (cf. Deuteronomy 3:24; Deuteronomy 4:34).
And his miracles, and his acts, which he did in the midst of Egypt unto Pharaoh the king of Egypt, and unto all his land;
And what he did unto the army of Egypt, unto their horses, and to their chariots; how he made the water of the Red sea to overflow them as they pursued after you, and how the LORD hath destroyed them unto this day;
And what he did unto you in the wilderness, until ye came into this place;
Verse 5. - What he did unto yon in the wilderness. The doings of God to the people in the wilderness comprehend the manifestations of his omnipotence, both in their guidance and protection, and in the punishment of those who transgressed. One instance of the latter is expressly referred to - the destruction of those who joined in the insurrection of Korah (cf. Numbers 16:31-33). Moses does not mention Korah himself here, but only his accomplices Dathan and Abiram, probably, as Keil suggests, "from regard to his sons, who were not swallowed up by the earth along with their father, but had lived to perpetuate the family of Korah;" perhaps also because, though Korah was at the head of the insurrection, Dathan and Abiram were the more determined, audacious, and obdurate in their rebellion (cf. Numbers 16:12-15, 25, 26), so that it came to be named from them.
And what he did unto Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, the son of Reuben: how the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their households, and their tents, and all the substance that was in their possession, in the midst of all Israel:
Verse 6. - All the substance that was in their possession; literally, every living thing (Genesis 7:4, 23) that was at their feet, i.e. all their followers (cf. "all the people that follow, thee," Exodus 11:8; "all the men that appertained unto Korah," Numbers 16:32).
But your eyes have seen all the great acts of the LORD which he did.
Verses 7-9. - Thus from what they themselves had witnessed does Moses admonish the elder members of the congregation, summoning them to recognize in that the purpose of God to discipline and train them, that so they might keep his commandments and be strengthened in soul and purpose to go in and possess the land, and to live long therein (Deuteronomy 1:38; Deuteronomy 4:26; Deuteronomy 6:3). Verse 7. - For but, read yea: Yea, your eyes have seen, etc.
Therefore shall ye keep all the commandments which I command you this day, that ye may be strong, and go in and possess the land, whither ye go to possess it;
And that ye may prolong your days in the land, which the LORD sware unto your fathers to give unto them and to their seed, a land that floweth with milk and honey.
For the land, whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from whence ye came out, where thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs:
Verses 10, 11. - An additional motive to fidelity and obedience is here adduced, drawn from the peculiar excellence and advantages of the land. Canaan was not like Egypt, a country that depended for its fertility on being irrigated by man's labor or by artificial processes, but was a land where the supply and distribution of water was provided for in natural reservoirs and channels, by means of which the rain which God, who cared for the land, sent plentifully on it, was made available for useful purposes. In Egypt there is little or no rain, and the people are dependent on the annual overflowing of the Nile for the proper irrigation of their fields; and as this lasts only for a short period, the water has to be stored and redistributed by artificial means, often of a very laborious kind. Wateredst it with thy foot. "The reference, perhaps, is to the manner of conducting the water about from plant to plant and from furrow to furrow. I have often watched the gardener at this fatiguing and unhealthy work. When one place is sufficiently saturated, he pushes aside the sandy soil between it and the next furrow with his foot, and thus continues to do until all are watered. He is thus knee-deep in mud, and many are the diseases generated by this slavish work. Or the reference may be to certain kinds of hydraulic machines which were turned by the feet. I have seen small water-wheels, on the plain of Acre and elsewhere, which were thus worked; and it appeared to me to be very tedious and toilsome, and, if the whole country had to be irrigated by such a process, it would require a nation of slaves like the Hebrews, and taskmasters like the Egyptians, to make it succeed. Whatever may have been the meaning of Moses, the Hebrews no doubt had learned by bitter experience what it was to water with the foot; and this would add great force to the allusion, and render doubly precious the goodly land which drank of the rain of heaven, and required no such drudgery to make it fruitful" (Thomson, ' The Land and the Book,' 2:279; edit. Lend. 1859). Philo describes a machine cf. this sort as in use in Egypt ('De Confus. Linguar.,' Opp. 1:410, edit. Mangey); and in that country, "a garden of herbs" is still generally watered by means of a machine of simple construction, consisting of a wheel, round which revolves an endless rope to which buckets are attached; this is worked by the feet of a man seated on a piece of wood fastened by the side of the machine, labor at once monotonous and severe (Niebuhr, 'Voyage en Arabic,' 1:121, 4to, Amst. 1776; 'Description de l'Arabic,' 1:219, 4to, Paris, 1779; Robinson, 'Bib. lies.,' 1:542; 2:21).
But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven:
A land which the LORD thy God careth for: the eyes of the LORD thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.
Verse 12. - Careth for; literally, searcheth or inquireth after, i.e. thinks about and cares for (LXX., ἐπισκοπεῖται, oversees; cf. Job 3:4; Psalm 142:4; Jeremiah 30:17; Ezekiel 34:8; Isaiah 62:12). The eyes of the Lord thy God; i.e. his special watchful providence (cf. Psalm 33:18; Psalm 34:15; Ezekiel 4:5). It was a land on which Jehovah's regard was continually fixed, over which he watched with unceasing care, and which was sustained by his bounty; a land, therefore, wholly dependent on him, and so a fitting place for a people also wholly dependent on him, who owed to his grace all that they were and had.
And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul,
Verse 13. - Being thus wholly dependent on God, it behooved them to be careful to attend to his commandments and to obey them, that so his blessing might be continued to them and to the laud. If they would love and serve the Lord as they were bound to do, he would give them the rain of their land, i.e. rain for their land, such as it required (cf. "rain of thy seed," Psalm 30:2, 3), in the proper season, the early and the latter rain, so that they should fully enjoy the benefits of the land.
That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil.
Verse 14. - The first rain; the rain which falls from the middle of October to the end of December, which prepares the soil for the seed, and keeps it moist after the seed is sown. The latter rain; that which falls in March and April, about the time when the grain is ripening for harvest; during the time of harvest no rain falls in Palestine. But if they allowed themselves to be deceived and misled, so as to apostatize from the Lord and serve other gods and worship them, the Divine displeasure would be shown in the withholding from them of the blessing, so that they should miserably perish.
And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full.
Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them;
Verse 16. - That your heart be not deceived; literally, lest your heart be enticed or seduced (יִפְתָה). The verb means primarily to be open, and as a mind open to impressions from without is easily persuaded, moved either to good or evil, the word came to signify to induce in a good sense, or to seduce in a bad sense. Here the people are cautioned against allowing themselves to be enticed so as to be led astray by seductive representations (cf. Job 31:27; Proverbs 20:19 ["flattereth"]; Job 5:2 ["silly one"]; Hosea 7:11).
And then the LORD'S wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the LORD giveth you.
Verse 17. - He shut up the heaven. "The heaven conceived as a womb" (Schulz); cf. Genesis 16:2. The want of rain was regarded as a sign of the Divine displeasure and as a curse (1 Kings 8:35; Zechariah 14:17; Revelation 11:6).
Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes.
Verses 18-20. - (Cf. Deuteronomy 6:7-9.)
And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates:
That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth.
Verse 21. - (Cf. Deuteronomy 4:40; Deuteronomy 6:2.) As the days of heaven upon the earth; as long as the heavens continue stretched over the earth, i.e. to the end of time, forever (cf. Job 14:12; Psalm 89:29; Genesis 8:22).
For if ye shall diligently keep all these commandments which I command you, to do them, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, and to cleave unto him;
Verses 22-25. - If they were sedulous to keep God's commandments, and faithfully adhered to him, loving him and walking in all his ways, he would drive out before them the nations of the Canaanites, and cause them to possess the territory of nations greater and mightier than themselves. Every place on which the soles of their feet should tread should be theirs, i.e. they had but to enter the land to become possessors of it. This is more exactly defined as restricted to the land the boundaries of which are given - from the Arabian desert on the south to Lebanon on the north, and from the river Euphrates on the east to the Mediterranean on the west (Deuteronomy 1:7). From the wilderness and Lebanon; read, even unto Lebanon; הַעֶ בָנון is for עַד־הַלְּ בַנון(cf. עדהַיָּם in the end of the verse). The uttermost sea; rather, the hinder sea (Numbers 34:6), the sea that lay behind one looking to the east (ver. 26; cf. Deuteronomy 7:24; Deuteronomy 2:25; Exodus 23:27).
Then will the LORD drive out all these nations from before you, and ye shall possess greater nations and mightier than yourselves.
Every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread shall be yours: from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the river Euphrates, even unto the uttermost sea shall your coast be.
There shall no man be able to stand before you: for the LORD your God shall lay the fear of you and the dread of you upon all the land that ye shall tread upon, as he hath said unto you.
Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse;
Verses 26-32. - Moses, in conclusion, refers to the blessing and the curse consequent on the observance or the transgression of the Law, and prescribes that when they had entered on possession of the land the blessing should be proclaimed from Mount Gerizim, and the curse from Mount Ebal. Verse 26. - Behold, I set before you; place for your consideration (Deuteronomy 4:8; Deuteronomy 30:15), so that you may see whither tends obedience on the one hand, and disobedience on the other.
A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day:
And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known.
Verse 28. - Other gods, which ye have not known; in contradistinction to Jehovah, the revealed God, made known to them by word and deed.
And it shall come to pass, when the LORD thy God hath brought thee in unto the land whither thou goest to possess it, that thou shalt put the blessing upon mount Gerizim, and the curse upon mount Ebal.
Verses 29, 30. - (Cf. Deuteronomy 27:11.) Thou shalt put the blessing; thou shalt give (נָתַתָּה), i.e. give forth, utter, announce, proclaim (cf. Genesis 49:21; Job 1:22 [gave, i.e. uttered impiety to God]; Psalm 50:20, gavest, didst utter, slandered. The two mountains named stand opposite to each other, with a valley between, about two hundred yards broad at the widest part, in which stood the town of Shechem, now Nablus. They were selected for the purpose mentioned, doubtless, because of their relative position, and probably also because they stand in the center of the land both from north to south, and from east to west. It has been suggested that Ebal was appointed for the uttering of the curse, and Gerizim for the uttering of the blessing, because the former was barren and rugged, the latter fertile and smooth; but this is not borne out by the actual appearance of the two bills, both being equally barren-looking, though neither is wholly destitute of culture and vegetation. That Gerizim was selected for the blessing because of its position on the south side of the valley "towards the region of light," while Ebal was appointed for the curse because it was on the north side, can be regarded only as an ingenious fancy. In ver. 30, the position of the two mountains is defined as on the other side of Jordan, i.e. on the side opposite to where the Israelites then were, the western side; and as by the way - rather, behind the way - where the sun goeth down; i.e. the road of the west, the great road which passed through the west-Jordan country, and which is still the main route from south to north in Palestine (Ritter, 4:293, etc.; Robinson, 3:127), passing Nablus and the two menu-rains on the east, so that they are behind it. Which dwell in the Champaign; in the 'Arabah (see Deuteronomy 1:1), "mentioned here as that portion of the land on the west of the Jordan which lay stretched out before the eyes of the Israelites, who were encamped in the steppes of Moab" (Keil). Over against Gilgal; i.e. not the Gilgal mentioned in Joshua 4:19, which was east of Jericho (hod. Jiljulia), nor the Gilgal of Joshua 12:23 (probably the modern Jiljulieh, in the plain of Sharon), but the Gilgal of Joshua 9:6; Joshua 10:6; and 2 Kings 2:1 (hod. Jiljilia), to the north of Bethel, from which there is "a very extensive prospect over the great lower plain, and also over the sea" (Robinson, 'Bib. Res,' 3:138); so that the mountains by Nablus may be very well described as "over against it." Beside the plains of Moreh; for "plains" read oaks (cf. Genesis 12:6; Genesis 35:4).
Are they not on the other side Jordan, by the way where the sun goeth down, in the land of the Canaanites, which dwell in the champaign over against Gilgal, beside the plains of Moreh?
For ye shall pass over Jordan to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God giveth you, and ye shall possess it, and dwell therein.
Verses 31, 32. - The assurance that they should pass over Jordan and possess the land of Canaan, is assigned as a reason and motive why they should observe to do all that God had commanded them.

And ye shall observe to do all the statutes and judgments which I set before you this day.
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