Deuteronomy 8
Pulpit Commentary
All the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers.
Verses 1-6. - That they might be induced the more faithfully to observe all the commandments which had been enjoined upon them so as to go on and prosper, they are called to remember the experiences of the forty years in the wilderness, when God guided them and disciplined them for their good. He humbled them that he might test the state of their heart and affections towards him, using the distress and privations to which they were subjected as means of bringing out what was in them, and of leading them to feel their entire dependence on him for help, sustenance, and guidance. Not only by commands difficult to be obeyed laid on men, and by mighty works done in their view, does God prove men (cf. Genesis 22:1, etc.; Exodus 15:25; Exodus 20:20); but also by afflictions and calamities (Judges 2:22; 3:4; Psalm 17:3; Psalm 81:7, etc.), as well as by benefits (Exodus 16:4). Humbled so as to see his own weakness, chastised out of all self-conceit by affliction, man is brought to submit to God, to hear and obey him; and along with this the experience of God's goodness tends to draw men, in grateful acknowledgment of his mercy and bounty, to yield themselves to him and sincerely and lovingly to serve him (cf. Romans 2:4). Verses 1, 2. - God's dealings with the Israelites were disciplinary. Both by the afflictions and privations to which they were subjected, and by the provision they received and the protection afforded to them, God sought to bring them into and keep them in a right state of mind towards him - a state of humble dependence, submissive obedience, and hopeful trust. But that this effect should be produced, it was needful that they should mark and remember all his ways towards them.
And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.
And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.
Verse 3. - God humbled the Israelites by leaving them to suffer hunger from the want of food, and then supplying them with food in a miraculous manner. They were thus taught that their life depended wholly on God, who could, by his own creative power, without any of the ordinary means, provide for the sustaining of their life. And fed thee with manna (cf. Exodus 16:15). It is in vain to seek to identify this with any natural product. It was something entirely new to the Israelites - a thing which neither they nor their fathers knew; truly bread from heaven, and which got from them the name of manna or man, because, in their wondering ignorance, they knew not what to call it, and so they said one to another, Manhoo? (מָן הוּא), What is it? and thenceforward called it man. That he might make thee know, etc. "Bread," which the Jews regarded as "the staff of life," stands here, as in other places, for food generally; and the lesson taught the Israelites was that not in one way or by. one kind of means alone could life be sustained, but in the absence of these God could, by his own fiat, provide for the sustenance of his children. Every word - literally, all, everything whatever - that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord, i.e. all means which God has by his word provided, or by his word can provide, for the sustenance of life. So our Lord cites this passage in replying to the tempter, who had suggested that if he was the Son of God he might relieve himself from the pangs of hunger by commanding the stones which lay around to become bread. Our Lord's reply to this is virtually." I have this power, and could use it, but I will not; for this would imply impatience and distrust of God, who has engaged to sustain the life of his servants, and who can, by the mere word of his mouth, by his creative will, provide in an extraordinary way for the sustenance of life when the ordinary means of life are wanting." "Jesus means to say, ' I leave it with God to care for the sustaining of my life, and I will not arbitrarily and for selfish ends help myself by a miracle'" (De Wette, note on Matthew 4:4; see also Meyer on the place).
Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years.
Verse 4. - As the manna furnished by God's creative power saved them from hunger, so by God's providence and care their raiment was marvelously kept from decay, and they had not to go barefoot from their sandals being worn out. Waxed not old upon thee; literally, did not fall away, waste away from upon thee. This cannot mean that such was the abundant supply of raiment to the Israelites in the Arabian desert, that there was no need for them to wear garments rent and tattered from long use, as they had large flocks and herds whence a sufficient supply of wool and leather could be obtained, and there were among them skilled artificers, by whom these could be made into articles of clothing (Rosenmüller, J. D. Michaelis, etc.). For, as Knobel observes, "This were something too insignificant beside the miraculous manna; and besides, this does not lie in the expression, which rather intimates that the clothes upon them were not worn out nor fell from them in rags, because God gave them a marvelous durability." At the same time, there is no reason to suppose that the Israelites did not make use of such supplies as were within their reach for purposes of clothing, any more than that they lived only on manna during the forty years of their wandering. Still less need we resort to such fanciful suppositions as that the garments of the Israelitish children expanded as they grew up, like the shells of snails - which is the notion of some of the Jewish rabbins, and adopted by some of the Christian Fathers (see Deyling, 'Obss. Sacc.,' II. 17. p. 247). Neither did thy foot swell. The verb here is found in only one other passage (Nehemiah 9:21), where this passage is repeated; and the meaning is doubtful. The LXX. render here by ἐτυλώθησαν, became callous; but in Nehemiah the rendering they give is διερράγησαν, were torn, the object torn being, according to the Cod. Vat., πόδες abbey, their feet, according to the Cod. Alex., τὰ ὑποδήματα αφφραψ, their sandals. In Deuteronomy 29:5, the shoe or sandal is specially mentioned in the same connection as here. The verb, however, cannot mean tear or torn, neither does it mean swell; the idea involved is rather that of softening, or , melting or flowing; and the meaning here seems to be, "Thy foot did not get into a bruised and wounded state" - which would have been the case had their sandals not been preserved from breaking or being worn out.
Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the LORD thy God chasteneth thee.
Verse 5. - Thus God educated, disciplined, and trained his people as a father does his child. Chasteneth. The idea is not so much that of punishment or chastisement, properly so called, as that of severe discipline and training. God made them feel his hand upon them, but ever for their good; the end of the discipline to which they were subjected was that they might keep his commandments and walk in his ways, so as to enjoy his favor (cf. Hebrews 12:5, etc.).
Therefore thou shalt keep the commandments of the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to fear him.
For the LORD thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills;
Verses 7-20. - The land on which they were about to enter is described as a good laud, fertile and well watered, and yielding abundant produce to its cultivators; and they are cautioned against forgetting, in their enjoyment of the gift, the bounty of the Giver, or congratulating themselves on having achieved the conquest of such a land, instead of gratefully acknowledging the grace which had sustained them during their protracted wandering in the wilderness, and by which alone they had been enabled to take possession of that favored land. Verses 7, 8 - Brooks of water, running streams, mountain torrents, and watercourses in the narrow valleys or wadys; fountains, perennial springs; depths, "the fathomless pools from which such streams as the Abana (now Barada), near Damascus, spring up full-grown rivers, almost as broad at their sources as at their mouths" (Condor, 'Handbook to the Bible,' p. 214), or this may include also the inland seas or lakes, such as the sea of Galileo and Lake Haleh. Palestine is in the present day, on the whole, well supplied with water, though the distribution is very unequal, many parts being almost wholly destitute of supply, except from what may be collected from rain in tanks or cisterns; and there is no reason to suppose it was different in the ancient times. As compared, however, with the desert to which the Israelites had been so long accustomed, and even with Egypt from which they had escaped, the country on which they were about to enter was well watered.
A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey;
Verse 8. - "Palestine has been celebrated in all ages for three products: corn, wine, and oil, which still continue to be its most valuable crops" (Ibid., p. 189). The principal corn crops were wheat and barley. The vine was largely and carefully cultivated; the olive required little cultivation, being almost a spontaneous growth, and forming one of the most valuable productions of the country; the fig was also indigenous in Palestine, and still grows there, both wild and cultivated, in abundance; that the pomegranate (firemen) also was very abundant may be inferred from the number of places named from this (cf. Joshua 15:32; Joshua 19:7, 13; Judges 20:45, 47; Judges 21:13; 1 Chronicles 4:32, etc.). Honey. The word so rendered (d'bash) is used both of the honey of bees (Leviticus 2:11; Deuteronomy 32:11; 1 Samuel 14:26, etc.; Psalm 81:17; Proverbs 16:24, etc.), and of the honey of grapes, a syrup obtained by boiling down the newly expressed juice of the grape to a half or third part of its bulk, and still known among the Arabs by the name of dibs (Robinson, 'Bib. Res.,' it. p. 442; Smith, Bib. Dict.,' s.v. 'Honey'). In the wilderness, the people had murmured that they had been brought into an evil place, no place of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; and where there was no water to drink (Numbers 20:5). Moses here tells them that the land they were about to occupy was not such a place, but one abounding in all those things of which they had found the wilderness so destitute.
A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass.
Verse 9. - A land whose stones are iron. Minerals do not abound in Palestine; the hills are for the most part calcareous; but by the side of the limestone in the north of Canaan ferruginous basalt appears in largo masses, and on Lebanon ironstone abounds. Near Tiberius are springs largely impregnated with iron, as are also those at Has-beija, on the Hermon range, as well as the soil around that place. Traces of extinct copper works are also to be found on Lebanon (cf. art. 'Metals,' in Kitto and Smith; Ritter, 'Geography of Palestine,' 1:248). The Israelites, however, do not seem to have carried on mining operations themselves, but to have been content to obtain supplies of the useful metals from their neighbors (2 Samuel 8:8; 1 Chronicles 18:8; 1 Chronicles 22:3, 14).
When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the LORD thy God for the good land which he hath given thee.
Verse 10. - When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the Lord thy God. "From this place the Jews have made it a general rule, or, as they call it, an affirmative precept, that every one bless God at their meals, that is, give him thanks for his benefits; for he blesses us when he bestows good things on us, and we bless him when we thankfully acknowledge his goodness therein" (Patrick).
Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day:
Verses 11-14. - Wealth is apt to engender in the possessor of it a spirit of self-gratulation and pride, and abundance of good things to induce men to be luxurious, "to trust in uncertain riches," and to be forgetful of the bounteous hand from which all that they enjoy has come. Against this the people are here cautioned and warned.
Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein;
And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied;
Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the LORD thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage;
Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint;
Verse 15. - Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, etc. "The fiery serpent" and "the scorpion" (sing.) are in apposition to the "wilderness," and illustrate its terribleness. Fiery serpents - ὔφεις τοὺς θανατοῦνσας LXX. - or burning serpents, so called from the burning pain caused by their bite; probably the cerastes, or one of the naja species (cf. Numbers 21:6).
Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end;
Verse 16. - The grand end of all God's dealings with the Israelites in the desert, both the trials to which they were subjected and the benefits they received, was that he might do them good ultimately. Thy latter end; not the end of life, as in Numbers 23:10, but the state ensuing on the termination of their period of discipline and probation in the desert (cf. Job 8:7; Job 42:12; 2 Peter 2:20). God thus dealt with the Israelites as he still deals with his people; he afflicts them not for his pleasure but for their profit (Hebrews 11:12); he subjects them to trial and varied discipline that he may fit them for the rest and joy that in the end are to be theirs.
And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth.
Verses 17, 18. - The blessing in store for them was God's free gift to them; and when they came to enjoy it they were not to allow themselves to say in their heart, i.e. to think or imagine, that the prosperous condition in which they were placed was the result of their own exertions; they were to ascribe all to God's gracious bounty, for from him had come the power by which prosperity had been gained, and this he had given, not on account of any merit in them, but that he might fulfill his covenant engagements to their fathers. Get wealth עָשָׂה חַיִל, to make strength, to gather substance (Genesis 12:5), to procure wealth (Ruth 4:11, margin; Ezekiel 28:4). As it is this day. "As was quite evident then, when the establishment of the covenant had already commenced, and Israel had come through the desert to the border of Canaan (see Deuteronomy 4:20)" (Keil).
But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.
And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish.
Verses 19, 20. - Moses enforces his counsel by reminding them again that only destruction awaited them should they forget the Lord their God and apostatize from him (cf. Deuteronomy 4:25, etc.; Deuteronomy 6:14).

As the nations which the LORD destroyeth before your face, so shall ye perish; because ye would not be obedient unto the voice of the LORD your God.
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