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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Deuteronomy 10

 

 

Introduction

Introductory.

Part 1 of the commentary contained the first speech of Moses which proclaimed the recent history of Israel under the hand of Yahweh, demonstrating why they had reason to be grateful to Him, and finishing with a reminder of how gloriously and fearsomely the covenant had been given and an exhortation to keep the covenant requirements and remember Who had given them. From Deuteronomy 4:44 to Deuteronomy 29:1 this is followed by the central renewal of the covenant in Moses’ second speech, commencing with a renewed description of the giving of the covenant (Deuteronomy 5), followed by the basic principles lying behind the covenant (chapters 5-11), more detailed regulations (chapters 12-26), the requirement that the covenant be recorded in writing at Shechem (where Abraham first built an altar when entering the land and received his first theophany in the land) as confirmed by all the elders (Deuteronomy 27:1-8), the acknowledgement of it by the priesthood along with Moses as witnesses to it (Deuteronomy 27:9-10), and the applying to it of curses and blessings (chapters Deuteronomy 27:11 to Deuteronomy 29:1).

This section of the commentary will cover chapters 5-11, but these chapters must be seen as part of the greater whole to Deuteronomy 29:1, as incorporated in the whole book.

The Covenant Stipulations - the Basic Underlying Principles (chapters Deuteronomy 4:45 to Deuteronomy 11:32).

This introductory section begins the second section of the book which consists mainly of a proclamation of general basic principles related to the fulfilment of the covenant (chapters 5-11). This is then followed by a detailed review of the statutes and ordinances which have been spoken of previously, but with special reference to their applicability to the people and mainly ignoring priestly activity (chapters 12-26). It is ‘popular’ Law. In this second section Moses once again makes clear the demands that Yahweh is making on His people as a response to what He has done for them. But he will begin it by repeating, with minor alterations, the covenant made at Horeb, at Mount Sinai. Thus he declares that covenant in chapter 5 almost word for word, although slightly revised in order to bring out new emphases. This is then followed chapter by chapter by the requirements that Yahweh is laying on them as a response to His covenant love. In 6-11 he first deals with the basic principles involved, and then in chapters 12-26 moves on to the specific detailed requirements. This is a pattern typical of ancient treaty covenants.

Central to all the chapters are the ideas of how they must obey His commandment, His statutes and His ordinances that He might bless them in all they do (Deuteronomy 5:1; Deuteronomy 5:29; Deuteronomy 5:31-33; Deuteronomy 6:1-3; Deuteronomy 6:6-8; Deuteronomy 6:17-18; Deuteronomy 6:24-25; Deuteronomy 7:11-12; Deuteronomy 8:1; Deuteronomy 8:6; Deuteronomy 8:11; Deuteronomy 10:13; Deuteronomy 11:1; Deuteronomy 11:8; Deuteronomy 11:13; Deuteronomy 11:22; Deuteronomy 11:27; Deuteronomy 11:32); of how the reason that they are being blessed is not for their own sakes, but because of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Deuteronomy 6:10; Deuteronomy 6:18; Deuteronomy 7:8; Deuteronomy 7:13; Deuteronomy 8:1; Deuteronomy 8:18; Deuteronomy 9:5; Deuteronomy 9:27; Deuteronomy 10:15; Deuteronomy 11:9); of how they must remember Yahweh their God Who has mightily delivered them from Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:6; Deuteronomy 5:15; Deuteronomy 6:12; Deuteronomy 6:21-23; Deuteronomy 7:8; Deuteronomy 7:15; Deuteronomy 7:18; Deuteronomy 8:14; Deuteronomy 9:26); of how He is bringing them into a good and prosperous land where they will enjoy great blessings (Deuteronomy 6:10-11; Deuteronomy 6:18; Deuteronomy 7:13-16; Deuteronomy 8:7-10; Deuteronomy 8:12-13; Deuteronomy 11:10-12; Deuteronomy 11:14-15), and of how they must then beware of turning to false gods and false religion once they enter the land, and must rather totally destroy them (Deuteronomy 5:8-9; Deuteronomy 6:14-15; Deuteronomy 7:4-5; Deuteronomy 7:25-26; Deuteronomy 8:19; Deuteronomy 9:12; Deuteronomy 9:16; Deuteronomy 11:16; Deuteronomy 11:28).

These are the general emphases, but each chapter also has a particular emphasis.

· Deuteronomy 6 stresses their need to love Yahweh, their covenant Overlord, with all their beings (Deuteronomy 6:5), to fear Him (Deuteronomy 6:2; Deuteronomy 6:13; Deuteronomy 6:24), and to teach their children His instruction, and warns them that when they are prospering in the land they must not forget what He has done for them. Their Overlord is calling His subjects to love and obedience.

· Deuteronomy 7 confirms Yahweh’s elective covenant love for them (Deuteronomy 7:7-8; Deuteronomy 7:13) as His holy people, chosen and treasured (Deuteronomy 7:6), and promises them that because of that love He will bless them wonderfully, delivering the promised land into their hands. Here He reveals why they should love Him and respond to Him, because He has first loved them, and chosen them to be the recipients of His love with all its great benefits.

· Deuteronomy 8 reminds them of how they must remember and not forget the past (Deuteronomy 8:2; Deuteronomy 8:5; Deuteronomy 8:11; Deuteronomy 8:14; Deuteronomy 8:18), especially how He has looked after them in the wilderness, with the promise that He is bringing them to a good and prosperous land, and that once He has done so they must beware of self-glorification. Here the details of His watch over them are laid out demonstrating the practicality of His love.

· Deuteronomy 9 exhorts them on this basis to go forward and cross the Jordan knowing that Yahweh goes before them, while reminding them that their success will not be because of their own righteousness, a fact which he then demonstrates from their past history, reminding them how right from the very beginning they had broken God’s covenant that He had made with them. Here He emphasises how gracious He has been to them even though they had not been fully faithful to His covenant. While they do not deserve His goodness, He is pouring it on them anyway.

· Deuteronomy 10 stresses that God then graciously renewed that covenant which they had broken so quickly, and goes on to describe the greatness and uniqueness of Yahweh their covenant God and Overlord. They must recognise how good He has been to His erring subjects and take note of the fullness of His glory, lest they again break His covenant with them.

· Deuteronomy 11 urges them to learn from the past and go forward on the basis of it, repeats the promises and warnings of the previous chapters, constrains them to remember His words, and bear them about with them and teach them to their children, and promises the good things to come, and the certainty of their possession of the land because Yahweh is with them. It finally concludes the section with the reminder of the blessings and cursings, which will be solemnly applied on Mounts Gerizim and Ebal, which are by the oaks of Moreh, that is, at Shechem, and says that which of these will come on them will depend on whether they faithfully respond to His covenant or not. This conclusion prepares the way for Deuteronomy 27, although meanwhile being first of all preceded by the detailed stipulations of chapters 12-26.

So throughout these chapters the covenant is constantly stressed, a covenant which is the result of His love for their fathers and for them and is their guarantee of the future as long as their response to it is full and complete.

Chapter 10 The Renewing of the Covenant and The Priesthood and the Servants of the Tabernacle.

The covenant having been broken we come now to the renewing of the broken covenant, followed by the renewal of the priesthood and the replacing of the firstborn sons of failed Israel with the Levites who had proved their worth. The first part of the chapter is a miscellany of different activities importantly involved in the renewing of the broken covenant and the provision for its protection once renewed. It includes the renewing of the priesthood and the appointment of the Levites, put together in no particular chronological order in a typical speech approach. The purpose was to indicate that the renewed covenant was finally prepared, sealed, delivered and put under the direct protection of Yahweh with the priesthood renewed and new servants appointed for the Tabernacle. he is concerned with what happened, not the order in which it happened.

These activities had involved the command to cut two tablets of stone like the first which had been broken; the command to make the Ark for the purpose of receiving the covenant so that it was under Yahweh’s watchful eye; the fulfilling of these commands; Moses’ entry into ‘the Mount’ (which was how Mount Sinai was now spoken of); Yahweh rewriting ‘the ten words’ of the covenant; and Moses return to Israel and the placing of the tablets in the Ark. This was then followed by the dedication of Eliezer to minister before it and the appointment of the Levites as its protectors. As a result of these things all would now be secure for the future. It was the factual fulfilment which was important. The chronology of when these things took place was irrelevant.

The total disregard for chronology comes out in that in verse 1 the command to make the ark comes after the entry into the mount while in Deuteronomy 10:3 it comes before, and in Deuteronomy 10:5 Moses returns from the Mount while in verse 10 he is still there. This is typical of a speech when information from various sources is being briefly amassed because of its content, and commented on, when it is the total picture that matters. This is then followed by an exhortation, which includes a call to prepare their hearts and a description of the greatness of Yahweh.

It will immediately be noted that in Deuteronomy 10:1-3 certain extracts from Exodus 32:1-4 are included, some cited exactly, and some paraphrased, with additional comments made as Moses now felt appropriate so as to introduce the fact of the Ark. Exodus 32:1 reads as follows, with the words cited here in Deuteronomy in italics. ‘Cut yourself two tablets of stone like to the first, and I will write on the tablets the words which were on the first tablets which you broke --- and come up in the morning into Mount Sinai ---and he cut two tablets of stone like to the first --- and he went up into Mount Sinai --- and he took in his hand two tablets of stone.’ (The words in italics are cited exactly in Deuteronomy, but with change of person between he and I in the last phrases).


Verses 1-5

Chapter 10 The Renewing of the Covenant and The Priesthood and the Servants of the Tabernacle.

The covenant having been broken we come now to the renewing of the broken covenant, followed by the renewal of the priesthood and the replacing of the firstborn sons of failed Israel with the Levites who had proved their worth. The first part of the chapter is a miscellany of different activities importantly involved in the renewing of the broken covenant and the provision for its protection once renewed. It includes the renewing of the priesthood and the appointment of the Levites, put together in no particular chronological order in a typical speech approach. The purpose was to indicate that the renewed covenant was finally prepared, sealed, delivered and put under the direct protection of Yahweh with the priesthood renewed and new servants appointed for the Tabernacle. he is concerned with what happened, not the order in which it happened.

These activities had involved the command to cut two tablets of stone like the first which had been broken; the command to make the Ark for the purpose of receiving the covenant so that it was under Yahweh’s watchful eye; the fulfilling of these commands; Moses’ entry into ‘the Mount’ (which was how Mount Sinai was now spoken of); Yahweh rewriting ‘the ten words’ of the covenant; and Moses return to Israel and the placing of the tablets in the Ark. This was then followed by the dedication of Eliezer to minister before it and the appointment of the Levites as its protectors. As a result of these things all would now be secure for the future. It was the factual fulfilment which was important. The chronology of when these things took place was irrelevant.

The total disregard for chronology comes out in that in Deuteronomy 10:1 the command to make the ark comes after the entry into the mount while in Deuteronomy 10:3 it comes before, and in Deuteronomy 10:5 Moses returns from the Mount while in Deuteronomy 10:10 he is still there. This is typical of a speech when information from various sources is being briefly amassed because of its content, and commented on, when it is the total picture that matters. This is then followed by an exhortation, which includes a call to prepare their hearts and a description of the greatness of Yahweh.

It will immediately be noted that in Deuteronomy 10:1-3 certain extracts from Exodus 32:1-4 are included, some cited exactly, and some paraphrased, with additional comments made as Moses now felt appropriate so as to introduce the fact of the Ark. Exodus 32:1 reads as follows, with the words cited here in Deuteronomy in italics. ‘Cut yourself two tablets of stone like to the first, and I will write on the tablets the words which were on the first tablets which you broke --- and come up in the morning into Mount Sinai ---and he cut two tablets of stone like to the first --- and he went up into Mount Sinai --- and he took in his hand two tablets of stone.’ (The words in italics are cited exactly in Deuteronomy, but with change of person between he and I in the last phrases).

The Re-establishing of the Covenant (Deuteronomy 10:1-5).

We may analyse this in the words of Moses as follows:

a At that time Yahweh said to me, “Cut yourself two tablets of stone like to the first, and come up to Me into the mount, and make yourself an ark of wood (Deuteronomy 10:1).

b And I will write on the tablets the words which were on the first tablets which you broke, and you shall put them in the ark (Deuteronomy 10:2).

c So I made an ark of acacia wood, and cut two tablets of stone like to the first,

c And I went up into the mount, having the two tablets in my hand (Deuteronomy 10:3).

b And He wrote on the tablets, in accordance with the first writing, the ten commandments, which Yahweh spoke to you all in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the gathering, and Yahweh gave them to me (Deuteronomy 10:4).

a And I turned and came down from the mount, and put the tablets in the ark which I had made, and there they are as Yahweh commanded me (Deuteronomy 10:5).

Note that in ‘a’ he makes two tablets and a wooden chest as Yahweh tells him to, and goes up into the Mount, and in the parallel he comes down from the Mount and puts the tablets in the chest as Yahweh had commanded. In ‘b’ Yahweh says that He will write on the tablets what was on the first tablets, and in the parallel He does so. In ‘c’ he makes the chest and the two tablets, and in the parallel he takes the two tablets which he has made up into the Mount.

Deuteronomy 10:1-2

At that time Yahweh said to me, “Cut yourself two tablets of stone like to the first, and come up to me into the mount, and make yourself an ark of wood. And I will write on the tablets the words which were on the first tablets which you broke, and you shall put them in the ark.’

Moses describes how Yahweh told him (at two different times here conjoined to prevent the need for complicated explanations) to cut two tablets of stone (Exodus 32:1) and to make an ark (chest) of wood (Exodus 25:10). This was so that He might rewrite the ten words on the tablets, and so that Moses might put them in the ark. In response to Moses’ intercession Yahweh was re-establishing the covenant, and was writing it Himself as a personal assurance to both Moses and Israel. Treaties that were made were always put in a sanctuary, often in a chest, in order that they might be watched over by the gods. Here the covenant was to be watched over by the cherubim.

Deuteronomy 10:3

So I made an ark of acacia wood, and cut two tablets of stone like to the first, and I went up into the mount, having the two tablets in my hand.’

He then explains that he had done exactly as Yahweh commanded. He had made the Ark (that is, arranged for it to be made by Bezalel while he was in the Mount the second time - Exodus 37:1), and had cut the two tablets of stone similar to the first (note the different order from Deuteronomy 10:2. There is no attempt at chronological exactness. He did not consider that important. It was what happened, not when it happened, that mattered). Then he had gone up into the Mount with the two tablets in his hand.

The Exodus narrative never explains when exactly the Ark was made or how it fitted in with Moses’ different visits to the Mount, but we may presumably assume that it commenced on Moses coming down from the Mount the first time, which was when he had received the instructions for it.

There were less than ten months from the first arrival at Sinai (Exodus 19:1) to the erection of the tabernacle with all the furniture completed (on the first day of the first month of the second year - Exodus 40:17) and nearly two months, and possibly more, had passed between the arrival and Moses’ first descent from the Mount. Thus that left less than eight months for all the complicated work involved, including the planning. It must therefore have been begun almost immediately.

This rare mention of the Ark in Deuteronomy stresses how much the speeches concentrate on the entry into the land and the keeping of the covenant. Matters peripheral to these are not dealt with, even though they are clearly known about, for there is little emphasis on cultic matters. But here it was important because he wanted the people to be aware that the tablets were still among them in the Ark. All this would be unlikely in a manufactured speech and confirms that here we have actual speeches by Moses which are the products of the urgency of the moment. To some extent he deliberately had tunnel vision.

Deuteronomy 10:4

And he wrote on the tablets, in accordance with the first writing, the ten commandments, which Yahweh spoke to you (ye all) in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the gathering, and Yahweh gave them to me.’

The covenant was to be renewed on exactly the same terms as the first. Yahweh wrote (He may have done it using Moses as His scribe, Exodus 34:28 c is ambiguous, but the impression is that the inscribing was done by Yahweh Himself) ‘in accordance with the first writing’ and in accordance with all that Yahweh had spoken from the Mount out of the midst of the fire on the day of the gathering. Yahweh then solemnly handed the finished covenant to Moses to indicate the renewal of the covenant.

We note here how Moses constantly brings ‘the fire’ to mind (Deuteronomy 4:12; Deuteronomy 4:15; Deuteronomy 4:33; Deuteronomy 4:36; Deuteronomy 5:4-5; Deuteronomy 5:22; Deuteronomy 5:24; Deuteronomy 5:26; Deuteronomy 9:10). It was vivid in his mind and probably connected in his mind with his first call at the burning bush, and it emphasised the unique presence of the living God revealed in glorious display, and His glory and holiness.

Deuteronomy 10:5

And I turned and came down from the mount, and put the tablets in the ark which I had made, and there they are as Yahweh commanded me.’

Moses had then turned and come down from the Mount and once the Ark was completed (and it was probably the first thing made as it was of such importance) had put the tablets in it, which, as he points out, is where they still were, just as Yahweh had commanded. The covenant had been finally solemnised.

“And there they are as Yahweh commanded me.” This personal note confirms that this information comes direct from Moses.

There is no necessity for Moses to expand here on the whole significance of the Ark. By this time this was well known to them all. His concern here was to demonstrate the final sealing and guarantee of the second covenant. Whether the tablets were put in the Ark immediately on the Ark being made (which could well have been during the forty days while Moses was in the Mount), being then taken out while it was later moved into the tabernacle when that was erected, and then placed in it again (Exodus 40:20) we do not know, but they must have been kept somewhere suitable for such sacred objects.


Verse 6-7

The Establishment of a New Priest for Israel, of the Levites, And The Renewal of the Journey With The People Mainly Still Alive (Deuteronomy 10:6-11).

This summary section covers the replacement of Aaron, on his dying respectably, death by Eliezer, his son, which is shown to be a new and refreshing new start for Israel, the appointment of the Levites to bear the Ark of the covenant, the priestly Levites to bless in His name and of both to serve before Yahweh in their different ways, the final confirmation that they will not be destroyed, and their going forth on their journey towards the promised land.

Analysis in the words of Moses:

a And the children of Israel journeyed from Beeroth (the wells of) Bene-jaakan to Moserah (chastisement) (Deuteronomy 10:6).

b There Aaron died, and there he was buried; and Eleazar his son ministered in the priest’s office in his stead. From there they journeyed to Gudgodah; and from Gudgodah to Jotbathah, a land of brooks of water (Deuteronomy 10:7).

c At that time Yahweh set apart the tribe of Levi, to bear the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh, to stand before Yahweh to minister to Him, and to bless in His name, to this day (Deuteronomy 10:8).

c For that reason Levi has no portion nor inheritance with his brothers. Yahweh is his inheritance, just as Yahweh your God spoke to him (Deuteronomy 10:9).

b And I stayed in the mount, as at the first time, forty days and forty nights, and Yahweh listened to me that time also. Yahweh would not destroy you (Deuteronomy 10:10).

a And Yahweh said to me, “Arise, take your journey before the people, and they shall go in and possess the land, which I swore to their fathers to give to them (Deuteronomy 10:11).

Note that in ‘a’ the journey that might not have taken place (because of the destruction of the Israelites) begins, and in the parallel they are commanded by Yahweh to journey on towards the land (the journey is not in doubt). In ‘b’ one of the supreme duo dies (but respectably and in the favour of Yahweh) because of his failures, he had needed to be interceded for, and in the parallel the other more senior member of the duo goes into the Mount to carry out his intercession. In ‘c’ the Levites (the whole tribe of Levi including the priests) are set apart for Yahweh’s service, and in the parallel it is pointed out that Yahweh is their inheritance.

Deuteronomy 10:6-7

And the children of Israel journeyed from Beeroth (the wells of) Bene-jaakan to Moserah (chastisement). There Aaron died, and there he was buried; and Eleazar his son ministered in the priest’s office in his stead. From there they journeyed to Gudgodah; and from Gudgodah to Jotbathah, a land of brooks of water.’

With the renewal of the covenant came the requirement for a new representative for Israel before Yahweh. Chronologically it did not happen immediately. One importance of these verses lies in their indication that Aaron still continued in the Priest’s office until he died, and that his son then carried on as Priest. It was an indication that Moses’ prayer for Aaron had been heard. He was probably quoting from a historical source so that he himself was not seen as justifying Aaron. But they also suggest that his replacement was seen as inevitable in preparing for entry into the land (Deuteronomy 10:11).

It is indeed probable that the progress from ‘the wells of the sons of Jaakan’, through Moserah (chastisement) to the ‘land of brooks of water’ is intended to be seen as an indication of the extra blessing that would follow on the consecration of Eleazar. Wells are replaced by rivers. We can compare this with Numbers where the death of Aaron (Numbers 20:22-29) also leads on to abundance of water (Deuteronomy 21:13-18). The point was that while Aaron had been a well to the people, even though he had needed to be chastised, Eliezer would be a flowing water source. This would further explain why this itinerary is mentioned here. Along with the renewed covenant it was a new beginning. Aaron’s death had been a punishment for his failures as all well knew. But Eleazar was unblemished in any serious way.

There is here an apparent difference with the list of places visited on their journeys by Numbers. Numbers 33:31-34 reads, ‘And they journeyed from Moseroth, and pitched in Bene-jaakan, and they journeyed from Bene-jaakan and pitched in Hor-haggidgad, and they journeyed from Hor-haggidgad and pitched in Jotbathah.’ Hor-haggidgad is possibly the same as Gudgodah. (Look at the final consonants - ‘gidgad’ with ‘gudgod’. It has been suggested that it means ‘the cave (hor) of the crickets’). But it should be noted that the journey in Numbers was a different journey on the way to Ezion-geber on the Reed Sea. In Numbers 33:37-38 Aaron is said to have died in Mount Hor, on the edge of the land of Edom, which they reached after leaving Kadesh. There is no problem with that. It was presumably near Moserah.

In this regard we must recognise that this was a time of wandering, and that some places would be visited twice, especially if they were sources of water. And movement was not always in a straight line. This was a wilderness, not a motorway. It may be that Moserah (‘chastisement’) was visited twice. They may have arrived at Moseroth (plural of Moserah), experienced chastisements by extreme shortage of water, and thus have been driven off-track to find water, which they did at the wells of the sons of Jaakan. Later they may have returned to Moserah (singular of Moseroth; the chastisement having now lessened) and gone on to Hor-haggidgad. On the other hand it could well be that Moseroth and Moserah were different places of chastisement given similar names with the former being more severe chastisement for all (plural) connected with severe shortage of water, which caused the seeking out of the wells, and the latter indicating the later place of Aaron’s chastisement (singular) where he died, a name suggested by the previous place that they had visited. The ancients loved playing with names.

In some cases they gave the places names as they went along and were clearly not above giving the same name to different places in similar circumstances (e.g. Meribah in Exodus 17:7 and Numbers 20:13). Certainly the death of Aaron was to be seen as a further chastisement, but not as a judgment. The suggestion would also seem to be that this Moserah was near Mount Hor. This could well be. After the visit to Kadesh they may well have come back on their tracks. Despite brave attempts we can neither identify these sites specifically nor be dogmatic about their names or whereabouts with relation to each other. The Numbers itinerary probably makes simple a journey that was quite complicated. The search for water would be almost continual, and would cause deviations, for they were a sizeable group.


Verses 8-10

The Setting Aside of The Tribe of Levi And the Command To Go Forward (Deuteronomy 10:8-10).

The chronological movement is now back to Horeb, but this is placed here in order to follow the replacement of the Levite Aaron by Eliezer. Also replaced are the firstborn sons of Israel by the other families of Levites (Numbers 1:47-53; Numbers 3:39-51). Along with the new covenant are a new High Priest and new servants for the Tabernacle. This is the nearest we come to being told that the appointment of the other Levites was because of Israel’s failure at the Mount.

Deuteronomy 10:8-9

At that time Yahweh set apart the tribe of Levi, to bear the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh, to stand before Yahweh to minister to him, and to bless in his name, to this day. For that reason Levi has no portion nor inheritance with his brothers. Yahweh is his inheritance, just as Yahweh your (thy) God spoke to him.’

“At that time” is a vague connecting reference to the whole process of establishing the covenant after it had been broken at Mount Sinai and the replacement of Aaron thirty eight years later which is simply saying ‘not quite at the same time, but in connection with them’. Chronologically it happened after the renewal of the covenant but before the death of Aaron (Numbers 1:47-53). But it comes in here in order to show that their position still remained firm. Here it comes third in importance of the three renewals: the renewal of the covenant, the renewal of Aaron and the people, and now in a sense the renewal of the priesthood and the Levites.

It was at that time that Yahweh set apart the tribe of Levi ‘to bear the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh, to stand before Yahweh to minister to Him, and to bless in His name’. The first description fits the Levites as such, for the Levites bore the Ark and the Tabernacle with its furniture in the ordinary course of events (Numbers 1:47-53; Numbers 4:4). The second, ‘standing before Yahweh to serve Him’ could fit both, for ‘standing before Yahweh’ only necessarily includes entering the court of the Tabernacle, which both could do. The third fits only the levitical priests who alone could give an official blessing (Numbers 6:23-24). All were, of course, of the tribe of Levi. For ‘ministering to (serving) Yahweh’ and ‘ministering to His name’ compare Deuteronomy 18:5; Deuteronomy 21:5, but there were many types of service.

And because of this they had no portion or inheritance among their fellow-tribesmen (Numbers 18:24). Rather the tithe was their inheritance (Numbers 18:26). They would receive no land as their own possession. And even more importantly Yahweh was their inheritance, and their joy should be to serve Him only. They enjoyed the greatest inheritance of all. And this is just as Yahweh had spoken to them. He was faithful in all His dealings.

“The Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh” is the full name for ‘the Ark’ mentioned in verse 1, although it is fairly often referred to in shortened forms.

Excursus on The Levites.

The Levites.

It is often claimed that the Book of Deuteronomy knows nothing of Levites as separate from the priests, but only of ‘levitical priests’ (‘the priests, the Levites’) but Deuteronomy 18:6 clearly differentiates ‘the Levites’, who have a lesser ministry than the priests. It also constantly demands that concern be shown for the welfare of the Levites who dwelt among the people within their gates (Deuteronomy 12:12; Deuteronomy 12:18-19; Deuteronomy 14:27; Deuteronomy 14:29; Deuteronomy 16:11; Deuteronomy 16:14; Deuteronomy 18:6; Deuteronomy 26:11-13), because they had no inheritance in Israel. God was their inheritance. We should note that the levitical priests are never stated to be ‘within their gates’. They lived in the few priestly cities, although admittedly among non-priests.

The phrase ‘levitical priests’ (‘the priests, the levites), found regularly in Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 17:9; Deuteronomy 17:18; Deuteronomy 18:1; Deuteronomy 24:8; Deuteronomy 27:9) is elsewhere used regularly even by those who certainly separate between priests and levites (2 Chronicles 23:18; 2 Chronicles 30:27; Ezekiel 43:19; Ezekiel 44:15; Ezekiel 48:13). It is also found in Jeremiah 33:18; Joshua 3:3; Joshua 8:33.

“Within their gates” may indicate Levites who were not living in the levitical cities, like the Levite of ‘Bethlehem-judah of the family of Judah’ (Judges 17:7) and the Levite who sojourned on the farther side of the hill country of Ephraim (Judges 19:1). These could be Levites who were travelling around the cities in their duty of supervising and assessing tithes, and would thus sojourn in different towns for a considerable period of time, and Levites who were moving around as advisers in the Law, often taking up residence in a city (compare Judges 19:29 where the Levite has his own house). They were like lay helpers, doing what the priests did not have time for.

Much depends on the interpretation of the phrase ‘the priests the levites all the tribe of Levi’ in Deuteronomy 18:1. The Hebrew appears to be ambiguous. It could in general at first sight indicate that ‘the priests the levites’ comprised the whole tribe of Levi, or it could indicate that the whole tribe of Levi was an expansion on the idea of ‘the priests the levites’. However, usage of clauses in apposition elsewhere in Deuteronomy makes the position quite clear. It abundantly confirms the latter. See Deuteronomy 3:4-5; Deuteronomy 15:21; Deuteronomy 16:21; Deuteronomy 17:1; Deuteronomy 23:19; Deuteronomy 25:16 where in all cases one clause in apposition is not just declaring similarity but is an expansion on the idea contained in the other, compare also Deuteronomy 3:18 where there is a reduction in the idea. This would stress that here ‘the whole tribe of Levi’ is an expansion on the priests the levites and not just parallel with it. In Deuteronomy 2:37; Deuteronomy 3:13; Deuteronomy 4:19; Deuteronomy 5:8; Deuteronomy 20:14; Deuteronomy 29:10 the clauses in apposition are always of one against a number and therefore not strictly comparable.

Furthermore while ‘to minister in the name of Yahweh’ and to ‘stand there before Yahweh’ (in Deuteronomy 18:7) could be used of priestly activity, they could also be used of lesser Levite activity. Thus in Deuteronomy 19:17 even litigants are described as ‘standing before Yahweh’ (compare 1 Kings 17:1). There is no exact parallel to ‘minister in the name of Yahweh’. The priests ‘stand to minister before Yahweh’ in Deuteronomy 17:12, ‘stand to minister in the name of Yahweh’ in Deuteronomy 18:5, and ‘minister to Him and bless in the name of Yahweh’ in Deuteronomy 21:5. But in Deuteronomy 10:8 ‘Yahweh separated the tribe of Levi to bear the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh, to stand before Yahweh to minister to Him, and to bless in His name’. In Numbers 3:31 the bearing of the Ark was a levitical activity, while in Numbers 6:23 blessing in His name was a priestly prerogative. Thus in Deuteronomy 10:8 to ‘stand before Yahweh to minister to Him’ could be a collective activity of both.

In 2 Chronicles 29 ‘you Levites’ (which includes both priests and Levites specifically distinguished - 2 Chronicles 29:4-5) are chosen to ‘stand before Him, to minister to Him, and to be his ministers, and to burn incense’, again a mixing of levitical and priestly duties. In 1 Samuel 2:11 the child Samuel ‘did minister to Yahweh before Eli the Priest’. At his young age this could not include direct priestly ministry. In Numbers 8:25-26 the Levites ‘minister with their brothers in the tent of meeting’. To be in the Tabernacle courtyard (Leviticus 1:3; Leviticus 1:5; Leviticus 1:11 and often, see Leviticus 4:15), or even gathered round it (Exodus 34:23-24), was always to be ‘before Yahweh’. (See also Numbers 7:3; Numbers 8:10; Numbers 14:37; Numbers 15:15; Numbers 32:21-22 etc; Deuteronomy 1:45; Deuteronomy 4:10; Deuteronomy 6:25; Deuteronomy 12:7; Deuteronomy 12:12; Deuteronomy 12:18; Deuteronomy 16:16 etc). In Numbers 16:9 the Levites ‘do the service of the Tabernacle of Yahweh’. The phrases would therefore seem to cover a wide variety of possible ministries, and to be largely applicable to both Levitical priests and to non-priestly Levites.

The Levites in the Wilderness.

The task of the Levites in the wilderness was mainly that of backroom boys. They were the porters who carried (but did not pack) the tabernacle and its equipment and furniture (Numbers 1:50-53; Numbers 4:15). It would be quite extraordinary for this to be so continually emphasised if in fact it had never happened. In Numbers 3:19 they were ‘given’ to Aaron and his sons. Thus they were servants to the priesthood. In relation to the Tabernacle they clearly did some kind of service with regard to it, probably that of repair and maintenance within the limits of where they were allowed to go and making replacements for worn out sections of the Tabernacle (compare Exodus 38:21), organisation of visitors who came to the Tabernacle and general guardianship (Numbers 1:53), assisting those who found difficulty in slaying their sacrifices (compare Ezekiel 44:11), assisting with sanctifying the house of Yahweh (2 Chronicles 29:16) and certainly later singing and music. Thus they ‘ministered before Yahweh’. (The total lack of mention of singers in the Pentateuch in connection with the Tabernacle is a strong argument for it being an early writing. It is extremely unlikely that later inventors would not have included singers when they were such an important part of later worship).

They would also oversee and monitor the collection of tithes, of which they gave one tenth to the priests (Numbers 18:23-30). Once in the land this would be a huge task and would require constant inspection of crops and herds, collection, storage and disbursement as required. During this activity they would no doubt act as general advisers on the Law, which they would have to know well in order to deal with collecting the tithes (compare 2 Chronicles 17:7-9; Nehemiah 8:7-9). That is why they were scattered among Israel in levitical cities. There was therefore no reason for Moses to refer to them in detail in his speeches. But what do the records actually tell us about them?

There can be no doubt that the term Levites could simply be used to describe the ‘descendants’ of Levi, the son of Jacob. They are often addressed as ‘the sons of Levi’ (Numbers 4:2; Numbers 16:7-8; Numbers 16:10), a phrase which can also refer to the priests (Deuteronomy 21:5; Deuteronomy 31:9). They are also described as ‘the tribe of Levi’ (Numbers 1:49; Numbers 3:6; Numbers 18:2; Deuteronomy 10:8; Deuteronomy 18:1; Joshua 13:14; Joshua 13:33). However, in Exodus 4:14 Aaron is called ‘your brother, the Levite’. This would probably suggest that Aaron was at that time head of the family, and therefore seen as ‘the Levite’. When the tribe had to be consulted it was to Aaron that men went. Or it could possibly suggest in context that ‘the Levite’ indicated something special other than just being a descendant of Levi, indicating that members of the tribe were seen as especially skilled at public relations or something similar. While Moses was of the tribe of Levi, his life had taken him far from that sphere. Either way the description indicates Aaron’s suitability to act as a front man. Thus it may well be that the tribe of Levi had among them those who were well known for specialising in public relations so that ‘the Levite’ had become synonymous with Levites who performed such activity. This would then explain why they were selected out to serve the tabernacle by collecting its dues and watching over its guardianship. But the fact that Aaron was also a Levite by descent must be included in the explanation (compare Exodus 6:25). It is too much of a coincidence otherwise, and ties in with the other references to ‘the tribe of Levi’ and ‘the sons of Levi’ above.

The appointment of the Levites is never said to have been due to their defence of Moses at the incident of the molten calf, although that may have had some influence, but is more probably connected with their relationship with Moses and Aaron. The sense of tribal unity was strong, and it would be appropriate, especially if combined with the special skills hinted at above. They performed a service for the whole of Israel in that they performed the duties that would otherwise have fallen to the firstborn sons, ‘redeeming’ the sons so that they could live normal lives (Numbers 3:12; Numbers 3:40-43; Numbers 3:45). They were therefore very much seen as ‘holy’ to Yahweh.

Their inheritance in Israel included their right to tithes and other gifts (Numbers 18:31), although this becomes less absolute in Deuteronomy; the right to dwell in the levitical cities in perpetuity; and the right to harvest the land around those cities (Numbers 35:2), as well as a right to consideration when they were sojourning in other cities. But in fact every Levite was a ‘sojourner’ for his true home was ‘the place which Yahweh chose out of all the tribes of Israel to set His Name there’ (Deuteronomy 12:5). Yahweh was his inheritance (Numbers 18:20; Deuteronomy 10:9; Deuteronomy 18:2; Joshua 13:33; Joshua 18:7; compare Deuteronomy 12:12; Deuteronomy 14:27-29; Deuteronomy 18:1; Numbers 18:23-26).

One problem that we have is that ‘the Levites’ could sometimes mean the whole tribe of Levi and therefore include the priests (2 Chronicles 29:4-5). Compare 1 Samuel 6:15 where Bethshemesh was a priestly city (Joshua 21:13; Joshua 21:16). All priests were Levites even though not all Levites were priests. Thus some tasks spoken of as to be done by ‘the Levites’ were to be done by the priestly Levites with the ordinary Levites playing such a part as they could (see 2 Chronicles 29:12-16). It may also be that due to the shortage of mature members of priestly families (they had been decimated at Nob and would often be the target of invaders) the services performed by the Levites were extended during the monarchy to assist in every way possible in excess of what was previously allowed in spite of the strict injunctions of the Law (compare Ezekiel 44:9-14; 1 Chronicles 23:28-31). It is in fact strictly stated to be because they no longer had porterage duties (1 Chronicles 23:26). This lowering of the barriers would tie in with Ahimelech’s and David’s attitude to the shewbread (1 Samuel 21:4-6). It does not mean that the laws were not there, only that they were allowed to be stretched because it was felt necessary.

For the fact is that no theory about the Levites can be acceptable which does not explain why they were seen as rewarded with their major nine tenths share in the tithes, and other privileges, something not likely to have happened if they were separated as Levites much later as a result of being degraded. Such generosity to the demoted would have been unprecedented. It can only be explained by the fact that they were numerous and had heavy duties early on. Any theory must also explain the great stress in Numbers on their being mere porters of holy things (once they had been packed by the priests), with a sentence of death on them if they touched the holy things. These things are unlikely to have been inventions of a later date when they had wider, even though limited duties, which included contact with holy things. Nor at a time when they were comparatively few in number. But they do very much indicate wilderness conditions, the latter because transportation was constantly required, and the former because the overall level of tithes in the wilderness would be comparatively limited, and therefore they would need all in order to be able to enjoy life reasonably. This serves to confirm that the picture drawn in the Pentateuch of the Levites in contrast with the priests is the true one. Once they entered the land and there was an expectation of larger tithes, the use of these tithes was also expanded (Deuteronomy 12:17-19; Deuteronomy 14:22-29) although they still remained ‘sanctified’ to Yahweh. But even here a large portion of the tithes would go to the Levites for there was no way in which all the tithes could be conveyed to the Central Sanctuary, and even if turned into money could be eaten in one short week. Thus there would be much left for the Levites (Deuteronomy 14:27) and every third year for others as well (Deuteronomy 14:29). That being so we can accept the picture drawn in the Pentateuch as the accurate one from the beginning.

End of Excursus.

The renewal of the covenant, the High Priesthood, and the service of the Tabernacle being settled and described discreetly in order to cause the least offence, Moses reminds them that their own destruction had only been prevented by his intercession.

Deuteronomy 10:10

And I stayed in the mount, as at the first time, forty days and forty nights, and Yahweh listened to me that time also. Yahweh would not destroy you (thee).’

The reference to forty days and forty nights was obviously important to Moses for this is the fifth time that he has stressed it (compare Deuteronomy 9:9; Deuteronomy 9:11; Deuteronomy 9:18; Deuteronomy 9:25) (five regularly signifies covenant connection). He clearly saw it as a complete period which was necessary in His dealings with Yahweh. It stressed that His dealings with Yahweh had been lengthy and considered, not just of the pop-in pop-out variety. The same would be true of Elijah (1 Kings 19:8). Compare for the phrase Genesis 7:4; Genesis 7:12 where it spoke of a lengthy period of Yahweh’s activity in judgment. But as a result of his continual intercession over that period Yahweh had ‘listened to’ him. That was why Yahweh had not destroyed the covenant-breaking nation of Israel.

Deuteronomy 10:11

And Yahweh said to me, “Arise, take your journey before the people, and they shall go in and possess the land, which I swore to their fathers to give to them.” ’

Thus it was as a result of Moses’ intercession that they had been spared to begin their journey, and now that they had been commanded to continue their journey.

“Arise, take your journey.” Compare Deuteronomy 2:24 where similar words are used of their present going forward; and Deuteronomy 1:6 with Deuteronomy 2:3 where the departure from Horeb and the departure after the wilderness wandering was described in similar terms. The command to go forward can thus be seen as indicating the command given at Horeb, and also indicating the recent command, which was a renewal of the first command.

For as a result of the renewal of the covenant Yahweh had called on him to take the people forward (Exodus 2:34; Exodus 33:1-2). The covenant had been made safe. There is a contrast here with Deuteronomy 9:12, ‘Arise, get down quickly--.’ Then the covenant had been in jeopardy. Now that is seen to be behind them and he can ‘arise’ for another purpose,. so as to begin the successful carrying out of the covenant.

But the phraseology also parallels Deuteronomy 2:24, ‘Rise up, take your journey --’ referring to their going forward to defeat Sihon, king of the Amorites. There is the same certainty of victory here. So Moses may well have intended the comparison of these two verses, missing out the sad episodes in between. In the first instance they were to leave Sinai/Horeb, and journey on so as to go in and possess the land, which Yahweh had sworn to their fathers to give them, just as they had possessed Sihon’s land. The promises were secure, and they could go forward with confidence. Yet there had been a loss of privilege. Yahweh’s angel would go with them rather than Yahweh Himself (Exodus 33:1-6). In some way His presence among them was to be lessened after this. But in the second instance they had to go forward from where they now, confident on the back of their victories over Sihon and Og, so as to take possession of the land.


Verse 12-13

Back to the Present And The Greatness of Yahweh (Deuteronomy 10:12-22).

In view of the command to go forward Moses now draws attention to what Yahweh requires of them, followed by a description of the glory of Who and What He is. He wants the people to have a full appreciation of what God requires of them, and a full appreciation of the God Whom they serve, and He wants them to have a full confidence in Him.

Analysis in the words of Moses:

a And now, Israel, what does Yahweh your God require of you, but to fear Yahweh your God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul, to keep the commandments of Yahweh, and His statutes, which I command you this day for your good? (Deuteronomy 10:12-13).

b Behold, to Yahweh your God belongs heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth, with all that is in it (Deuteronomy 10:14).

c Only Yahweh had a delight in your fathers to love them, and He chose their seed after them, even you above all peoples, as at this day (Deuteronomy 10:15).

d Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked (Deuteronomy 10:16).

e For Yahweh your God, He is the God of gods, and Lord of lords, the great God, the mighty, and the terrible, Who does not regard people with favouritism (literally ‘does not lift up faces’), nor takes reward (Deuteronomy 10:17).

e He executes justice for the fatherless and widow, and loves the resident alien, in giving him food and clothing (Deuteronomy 10:18).

d You, therefore, love the resident alien, for you were resident aliens in the land of Egypt (Deuteronomy 10:19).

c You shall fear Yahweh your God; Him shall you serve; and to Him shall you cleave, and by His name shall you swear (Deuteronomy 10:20).

b He is your praise, and He is your God, Who has done for you these great and terrible things, which your eyes have seen (Deuteronomy 10:21).

a Your fathers went down into Egypt with threescore and ten persons; and now Yahweh your God has made you as the stars of heaven for multitude (Deuteronomy 10:22).

Note that in ‘a’ Yahweh their God requires of them that they fear Yahweh their God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve Yahweh their God with all their heart and with all their soul, to keep the commandments of Yahweh, and His statutes (note the threefold reference to Yahweh their God), and in the parallel Yahweh has multiplied them from small beginnings so that they are as the stars in heaven for multitude. This is poignant for it contrasts with the situation that had been a real possibility that they would be few in number indeed through Yahweh’s judgment. But having renewed the covenant and having accepted them again as His blessed people He can now make His requirement of them. In ‘b’ to Yahweh their God belongs heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth, with all that is in it, and in the parallel He is their praise, and He is their God, Who has done for them these great and terrible things, which their eyes have seen. In ‘c’ Yahweh had a delight in their fathers to love them, and He chose their seed after them, even them above all peoples, and in the parallel they must fear Yahweh their God; Him shall they serve; and to Him shall they cleave, and by His name shall they swear demonstrating that they recognise that they are chosen and delighted in. In ‘d’ they are to circumcise the foreskin of their heart, and be no more stiffnecked, and in the parallel one of the results of this will be that they love the resident alien, for they had been resident aliens in the land of Egypt. In ‘e’ Yahweh your God, is the God of gods, and Lord of lords, the great God, the mighty, and the terrible, Who does not regard people with favouritism (literally ‘does not lift up faces’), nor takes reward, that is, He is the great Judge of all, and in the parallel He executes justice for the fatherless and widow, and loves the resident alien, in giving him food and clothing as would be expected of such a great Judge.

What God Requires of Them (Deuteronomy 10:12-13).

Deuteronomy 10:12-13

And now, Israel, what does Yahweh your God require of you (thee), but to fear Yahweh your (thy) God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul, to keep the commandments of Yahweh, and his statutes, which I command you this day for your good?’

Note that ‘thee, thy’ is used throughout the verse. They are to go forward in obedience as one nation, and each one individually.

“And now, Israel.” Moses has reached the point of summing up the first part of his speech, and has come to the point of decision. They must now face up to what God has demanded of them. Compare ‘this day’ (Deuteronomy 10:13), ‘as at this time’ (Deuteronomy 10:15), With the command to go forward came the requirement. What did He require of them as a result of the renewal of the covenant and His not decimating them? (Compare Deuteronomy 10:22). That they should fear Yahweh their God, walk in all His ways, love Him, and serve Him with all their heart and soul, keeping His commandments and the statutes that he was about to set before them. This sums up much of what has gone before. It is very possible that Micah 6:8, where Yahweh’s requirement are described as being to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God, echoes this passage.

Note the two twofold injunctions, ‘fear Him -- love Him’ (compare Deuteronomy 5:26; Deuteronomy 6:2; Deuteronomy 6:5; Deuteronomy 6:13; Deuteronomy 6:24; Deuteronomy 10:20; Deuteronomy 11:1; Deuteronomy 11:13; Deuteronomy 11:22), followed by the need to, ‘walk in all His ways -- serve Him with all their heart and soul’ (Deuteronomy 5:33; Deuteronomy 8:6; Deuteronomy 11:22; Deuteronomy 13:4; Deuteronomy 19:9; Deuteronomy 26:17; Deuteronomy 28:9; Deuteronomy 30:16; Deuteronomy 6:5; Deuteronomy 11:13; Deuteronomy 30:6). Fear (awe of the Overlord) was to be balanced by love (genuine response to and affection for the Overlord). Both had to be from the heart. For what He sought was a pouring out of their hearts, a devotion to Him that would do anything. This was then to result in a step by step obedience to His ways as they feared Him and walked in them, and wholehearted service with heart and soul because they loved Him. And this in accordance with the stipulations laid down in the covenant. Their service was not to be in order to obtain favour, but because they acknowledged Yahweh as their God, were in awe of Him and loved Him, and therefore were filled with a desire to please Him.


Verse 14-15

What God Is And Why He Has Chosen Them (Deuteronomy 10:14-15).

Deuteronomy 10:14

Behold, to Yahweh your God belongs heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth, with all that is in it.’

For it was necessary for them to recognise Him for what He is. Look! he says, Let them now consider Yahweh. They must recognise His greatness, the greatness of Yahweh, their God and their Overlord. He is the One Who not only possesses the heavens that they can see, the heavens that declare the glory of God, but also the heaven of heavens, that which is beyond all that they can see and know, the Great Unknown. Nothing is outside His scope. The whole of what others speak of as the dwellingplace of the gods actually belongs to Him. He alone is Lord in the heavens. And He owns the earth also. He owns and controls all that is in them. He is supreme and over all (compare Deuteronomy 4:35-36). And He is their praise and their God for He has done great and terrible things on their behalf (Deuteronomy 10:21).

Deuteronomy 10:15

Only Yahweh had a delight in your (thy) fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you (ye) above all peoples, as at this day.’

And yet in spite of this greatness, or possibly because of it, this is the remarkable fact, that He had delighted in their fathers, so that He had loved them. Here is a remarkable thing indeed. This great and wondrous and mighty God had set His love on their fathers, as they trudged as wandering Aramaeans along the dusty ways with staff in hand, together with their households, their family tribe. This was because He had delighted in them when He had called them, and had the same delight in them as they had walked before Him in faith, and love, and obedience. In this was love, not that they loved Him, but that He loved them, with the kind of love that was possible only to such a God. That is why He had said of Abraham, ‘For I have known (yatha‘) him, to the end that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of Yahweh, to do justice and judgment, to the end that Yahweh may bring on Abraham that which he has spoken of him’ (Genesis 18:18-19).

So it was because of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that He had ‘chosen’ their seed after them with His elective love (compare Deuteronomy 7:6-11). They must think of that! They too stood there, having been chosen by Yahweh, for their fathers’ sakes, even them. They had been chosen above all peoples to be His, so that they stood there this very day as the chosen of Yahweh.

But the reason why they were His people above all peoples, was not because of their doing or deserving. It was because of Yahweh’s love. And because of others who had faithfully responded to that love. It was because of their fathers, and what they meant to Yahweh. Nevertheless they too would have their full part in it and could gain comfort from the fact that God was blessing them for the sake of others, and not for a righteousness of their own which might easily fail. Thus are they to fear Him, serve Him, cleave to Him and swear by His name (because He is their sole God - Deuteronomy 10:20).

We also are loved by Him (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:4; Ephesians 5:2; Ephesians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 2:16; 1 John 4:10-11), not for our own sakes but for the sake of Him Who loved us and gave Himself for us (Galatians 2:20), and we too therefore in the same way have our full part in Him, and should fear Him, serve Him, cleave to Him and swear by His name (because He is our sole God - Deuteronomy 10:20).


Verses 16-22

Their Required Response In The Light of What He Is, Is Now Expanded On (Deuteronomy 10:16-22).

Deuteronomy 10:16

Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your (of ye) heart, and be no more stiffnecked.’

In lieu of this, therefore, they, as a gathering of people, were all to circumcise the foreskins of their hearts, putting aside their obstinacy and stubbornness. They had to cast it from them. In other words just as the covering of their foreskin was removed in circumcision, so their obstinacy was to be seen as a covering that had to be cut out and removed, so that they no more hid behind it. All barriers that separated their hearts from God and from their fellowmen must be incisively removed. Thus they must also love the resident alien (Deuteronomy 10:19).

Alternately he may be referring to the fact that circumcision would soon be required as a seal of the covenant (Genesis 17:9-12), but that what they must do even more importantly was ensure that the covenant was cut into their hearts. The making of a covenant was often spoken of as ‘cutting a covenant’, for it was sealed by blood, and circumcision involved the shedding of blood (compare Exodus 4:24-26 where this is stressed). Either way the idea is the same. They must become responsive to the covenant from their hearts.

Deuteronomy 10:17

For Yahweh your God, he is the God of gods, and Lord of lords, the great God, the mighty, and the terrible, who does not regard people with favouritism (literally ‘does not lift up faces’), nor takes reward.’

And this was because they must recognise Who they were dealing with. They must acknowledge Who Yahweh is, that He is their God. But not only is He their God, they must recognise that He is more than that. They must recognise that He is the God of all gods, God over all spiritual beings (the elohim), and He is the Lord of all lords. All gods and all lords, whether superhuman or human, are therefore under His rule and judgment. He is the great God, the mighty, the terrible. Note the threefoldness, great, mighty and terrible; great on behalf of the righteous, mighty on behalf of His own people, a terror to the sinful. The picture gains added significance in the light of their experiences of His power in Egypt. Their God is over all.

Alternately we may take ‘God of Gods’ and ‘Lord of Lords’ as expressing the superlative. Compare ‘Holy of Holies’, which mean the ‘most Holy’, the Holiest of All. In the same way God of Gods can mean ‘Supremely God’, ‘uniquely God above all’. And similarly Lord of Lords can mean ‘the Supreme Lord’. The latter is especially significant in the terms of the covenant where He is the Supreme Overlord.

“Who does not regard people with favouritism (literally ‘does not lift up faces”), nor takes reward.’ He is the One Who judges all equally. He does not regard anyone with favouritism or accept bribes and softeners, putting one in a favoured position against another. He is absolutely just and fair, for He is the One Who is above all. Having spoke of the superlative greatness of God, this now emphasises that as such He is so great that He has dealings with men, with all men, on a totally fair basis. He is the Judge of all the earth (Genesis 18:25). And in those dealings all His judgments are based on His commandment, His statutes and ordinances as they were revealed to His people, and as they were to be fulfilled by them in love and godly fear. There is no varying from truth with Him.

“The great God, the mighty, and the terrible.” In ancient days the supreme ruler was often called ‘the Great King’ (compare this of Yahweh in Psalms 48:2; see also Ezekiel 26:7; Ezra 7:12. It was a title known at Ugarit and in Akkadian records). But Yahweh is even greater, He is ‘the Great God’. What is more He is the Mighty One (see Psalms 24:8; Isaiah 42:13), the great warrior (compare 1 Samuel 2:4; 2 Samuel 10:7), and the terrible One, feared by His opponents. The point that is being stressed is that He is invincible and far above all.

Deuteronomy 10:18

He executes justice for the fatherless and widow, and loves the resident alien, in giving him food and clothing.’

And this comes out in that He especially ensures that justice is found for those who are the least important in society, those who are unable to help themselves and have no one to defend them, those who have no fathers, those who are widows and those who are resident aliens, those who have no one to protect them (Deuteronomy 24:17; Deuteronomy 27:19; Exodus 22:22). But He watches over such. As we will see later, among other things He demonstrates His love for orphans, widows and resident aliens by the way He seeks to ensure for them sufficient food and clothing (Deuteronomy 14:29; Deuteronomy 16:14; Deuteronomy 24:19-21; Deuteronomy 26:12-13).

This trait was often spoken of as being the sign of a great king in ancient records, including the law code of Hammurabi and at Ugarit in the second millennium BC. No king was greater than the one who could even watch over the weak because all was completely under his control and he did not need favours (compare Psalms 72:11-15; Psalms 146:7-10).

Deuteronomy 10:19

You, therefore, love the resident alien, for you were resident aliens in the land of Egypt.’

And He not only does this but He exhorts His people to do as He does and be the same as He is. Let them bring to mind in this regard that they had been resident aliens in Egypt, and remember how it was then, how they had been treated as strangers, and subjected to forced labour, and how they had groaned. And they must remember how He had loved them and delivered them And with that to spur them on they are to love the resident aliens, both those among them now and when they are in their own land, His land, and act towards them with compassion (compare Leviticus 19:34).

Deuteronomy 10:20

You shall fear Yahweh your God; him shall you serve; and to him shall you cleave, and by his name shall you swear.’

They were also to fear Yahweh their God, ‘for the fear of Yahweh, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil that is understanding’ (Job 28:28). And as a result of fearing Him with a godly fear and love they must serve Him, must cleave to Him faithfully, and swear by His name. For it is how men respond that reveals what they see to be real. Note the threefold ‘serve -- cleave -- swear’. Serving includes both worship and obedience. Cleaving involves loyalty, commitment and integrity. Swearing by His name means acknowledging Him above all. Swearing was done in the name of the highest sole authority. This latter may refer to dedication to the covenant, or it may indicate a determination to be as true as He is in matters of justice. So He requires dedication, love and submission to His authority, and true justice in all things.

The word ‘cleave’ is a powerful one. It is used of a man ‘cleaving’ to his wife when they become one flesh (Genesis 2:24), and of bones cleaving to the skin (Job 19:20).

Deuteronomy 10:21-22

He is your praise, and he is your God, who has done for you these great and terrible things, which your eyes have seen. Your fathers went down into Egypt with threescore and ten persons; and now Yahweh your God has made you as the stars of heaven for multitude.’

But He is also the One fitted for praise. He is totally praiseworthy, and is to be the object of their worship. And the reason that they should praise Him is because He is their God, the very God Who has done great and terrible things for them which their eyes have seen. Many of the oldest had been in Egypt as small children and had seen His power revealed there, and the great and terrible things that He had done, and even more of them had seen what He had done since in the wilderness, including especially the defeat of the Amorite kings, Sihon and Og, and their territories.

Their fathers had gone down into Egypt few in number, and here they now were as the result of His watch over them, as the stars of heaven for multitude, just as Yahweh had promised. It is hard to believe, he says, that when they went down into Egypt they had been comparatively few, seventy males with their households (and thus a few hundred, or even one or two thousands). It demonstrated how Yahweh had blessed them in spite of all attempts to decimate them. And it was mind-boggling to consider that they had all almost been destroyed.

“Seventy” indicates divine perfection intensified. An examination of the seventy described in Genesis 46:8-27 makes clear that the number has been artificially made up to seventy in order to bring out this point. This was one way in which the ancients used numbers. Their question was not ‘how many’, but ‘of what quality?’ Joseph and his sons, for example, were already in Egypt. It is saying that the party that went down to Egypt in one way or another (Joseph’s sons ‘in his loins’) was the perfect group from which Yahweh would produce His holy people. And now here they were, multiplied in numbers because of His working.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 10:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/deuteronomy-10.html. 2013.

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