Bible Commentary

Deuteronomy 29

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

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Verse 1

[1] These are the words of the covenant, which the LORD commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, beside the covenant which he made with them in Horeb.

These are the terms or conditions upon which God hath made, that is renewed his covenant with you. The covenant was but one in substance, but various in the time and manner of its dispensation.

Verse 4

[4] Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.

Yet the Lord — That is, you have perceived and seen them with the eyes of your body, but not with your minds and hearts; you have not yet learned rightly to understand the word and works of God, so as to know them for your good, and to make a right use of them, and to comply with them: which he expresseth thus, the Lord hath not given you, etc. not to excuse their wickedness, but to direct them to whom they must have recourse for a good understanding of God's works; and to intimate that although the hearing ear, and the seeing eye, be the workmanship of God, yet their want of his grace was their own fault, and the just punishment of their former sins; their present case being like theirs in Isaiah's time, who first shut their own eyes and ears that they might not see and hear, and would not understand, and then by the righteous judgment of God, had their eyes and ears closed that they should not see and hear, and understand. God's readiness to do us good in other things, is a plain evidence, that if we have not grace, that best of gifts, 'tis our own fault and not his: he would have gathered us, and we would not.

Verse 6

[6] Ye have not eaten bread, neither have ye drunk wine or strong drink: that ye might know that I am the LORD your God.

Ye have not eaten bread — Common bread purchased by your own money, or made by your own hands, but heavenly and angelical bread.

Neither drank wine — But only water out of the rock.

The Lord — Omnipotent and all-sufficient for your provision without the help of any creatures, and your God in covenant with you who hath a true affection to you, and fatherly care of you.

Verse 11

[11] Your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water:

Thy stranger — Such strangers as had embraced their religion: all sorts of persons, yea, even the meanest of them.

Verse 12

[12] That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the LORD thy God, and into his oath, which the LORD thy God maketh with thee this day:

Into covenant and into his oath — Into covenant, confirmed by a solemn oath.

Verse 13

[13] That he may establish thee to day for a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

That he may establish thee — Here is the summary of that covenant whereof Moses was the mediator, and in the covenant relation between God and them, all the precepts and promises of the covenant are included. That they should be established for a people to him, to fear, love, obey, and be devoted to him, and that he should be to them a God, to make them holy and happy; and a due sense of the relation we stand in to God as our God, and the obligation we are under to him as his people, is enough to bring us to all the duties, and all the comforts of the covenant. And does this covenant include nothing spiritual? nothing that refers to eternity?

Verse 15

[15] But with him that standeth here with us this day before the LORD our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day:

So also — With your posterity. For so the covenant was made at first with Abraham and his seed, by which as God engaged himself to continue the blessing of Abraham upon his posterity, so he also engaged them to the same duties which were required of Abraham. So it is even among men, where a king confers an estate upon a subject and his heirs for ever, upon some certain conditions, all his heirs who enjoy that benefit, are obliged to the same conditions. It may likewise include those who were then constrained to be absent, by sickness, or any necessary occasion. Nay one of the Chaldee pharaphrasts reads it, all the generations that have been from the first days of the world, and all that shall arise to the end of the whole world, stand with us here this day. And so taking this covenant as a typical dispensation of the covenant of grace, 'tis a noble testimony to the Mediator of that covenant, who is the same yesterday, to day, and for ever.

Verse 16

[16] (For ye know how we have dwelt in the land of Egypt; and how we came through the nations which ye passed by;

Egypt — Where you have seen their idolatries, and learned too much of them, as the golden calf shewed, and therefore have need to renew your covenant with God; where also we were in dreadful bondage whence God alone hath delivered us, to whom therefore we are deeply obliged, and have all reason to renew our covenant with him.

Through the nations — With what hazard, if God had not appeared for us!

Verse 18

[18] Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood;

A root — An evil heart inclining you to such cursed idolatry, and bringing forth bitter fruits.

Verse 19

[19] And it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst:

Of this curse — Of that oath where-in he swore he would keep covenant with God, and that with a curse pronounced against himself if he did not perform it.

Bless himself — Flatter himself in his own eyes, with vain hopes, as if God did not mind such things, and either could not, or would not punish them.

Peace — Safety and prosperity.

My own heart — Though I do not follow God's command, but my own devices.

To add drunkenness to thirst — The words may be rendered, to add thirst to drunkenness, and so the sense may be, that when he hath multiplied his sins, and made himself as it were drunk with them, yet he is not satisfied therewith, but still whets his appetite, and provokes his thirst after more, as drunkards often use means to make themselves thirst after more drink.

Verse 20

[20] The LORD will not spare him, but then the anger of the LORD and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the LORD shall blot out his name from under heaven.

Shall smoke — Shall burn and break forth with flame and smoke as it were from a furnace.

Verse 21

[21] And the LORD shall separate him unto evil out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this book of the law:

Unto evil — Unto some peculiar and exemplary plague; he will make him a monument of his displeasure to the whole land.

Verse 23

[23] And that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom, and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, which the LORD overthrew in his anger, and in his wrath:

Salt and burning — Is burnt up and made barren, as with brimstone and salt.

Verse 26

[26] For they went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given unto them:

Whom God had not given to them - For their worship, but hath divided them unto all nations, for their use and service. So he speaks here of the sun and moon and stars, which were the principal gods worshipped by the neighbouring nations.

Verse 29

[29] The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.

The secret things — Having mentioned the amazing judgments of God upon the whole land and people of Israel, and foreseeing the utter extirpation which would come upon them for their wickedness, he breaks out into this pathetic exclamation, either to bridle their curiosity, who would be apt to enquire into the time and manner of so great an event; or to quiet his own mind, and satisfy the scruples of others, who perceiving God to deal so severely with his own people, when in the meantime he suffered those nations which were guilty of grosser atheism and idolatry, might thence take occasion to deny his providence or question the equity of his proceedings. To this he answers, that the ways and judgments of God, tho' never unjust, are often times hidden from us, unsearchable by our shallow capacities, and matter for our admiration, not our enquiry. But the things which are revealed by God and his word, are the proper object of our enquiries, that thereby we may know our duty, and be kept from such terrible calamities as these now mentioned.

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