Deuteronomy 29

 

וַיִּקְרָא מֹשֶׁה אֶל־כָּל־יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם אַתֶּם רְאִיתֶם אֵת כָּל־אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה יְהוָה לְעֵינֵיכֶם בְּאֶרֶץ    29:1

מִצְרַיִם לְפַרְעֹה וּלְכָל־עֲבָדָיו וּלְכָל־אַרְצֹו

Deut. 29:1  And Moses called to all of Israel and said to them, “You saw all that the Lord did for your eyes in the land of Egypt to Pharoah and to all his servants and to all his land,

הַמַּסֹּות הַגְּדֹלֹת אֲשֶׁר רָאוּ עֵינֶיךָ הָאֹתֹת וְהַמֹּפְתִים הַגְּדֹלִים הָהֵם   29:2

Deut. 29:2  the great trials that your eyes saw, those great signs and wonders,

וְלֹא־נָתַן יְהוָה לָכֶם לֵב לָדַעַת וְעֵינַיִם לִרְאֹות וְאָזְנַיִם לִשְׁמֹעַ עַד הַיֹּום הַזֶּה   29:3

Deut. 29:3  but the Lord has not given you a heart to know and eyes to see and ears to hear up to this day.”

These are three very strange and interesting verses on two counts.  First of all, the Israelites then living had not seen with their own eyes what the Lord did in Egypt.  Why did Moses say this in vss. 29:1 and 29:2?   The next verses after this one may refer to what they had seen and experienced, and maybe this is meant to be a kind of introduction to them.  On the other hand, the word for “saw” in vss. 29:1 and 29:2 may be intended to indicate something other than direct sight.  Perhaps Moses was able to reenact for them the miraculous events of Egypt as if they had been seeing them.  Thus he would be making this statement without exaggeration or distortion.  The wording of the two verses, however, doesn’t lend itself to this interpretation, as eyes are mentioned twice.

Secondly, Moses here again refers to the miracle in the wilderness identified in Deut. 8:3, and continues to describe and amplify it in the next two verses.

Note also that in these three verses, 29:1 to 29:3, Moses is speaking to each of the people, as all the second-person pronouns are plural.

וָאֹולֵךְ אֶתְכֶם אַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה בַּמִּדְבָּר לֹא־בָלוּ שַׂלְמֹתֵיכֶם מֵעֲלֵיכֶם וְנַעַלְךָ לֹא־בָלְתָה מֵעַל רַגְלֶךָ   29:4

Deut. 29:4  “As I had to lead you forty years in the wilderness, your garments did not grow old from being on you, and your shoe did not grow old from being on your foot;

לֶחֶם לֹא אֲכַלְתֶּם וְיַיִן וְשֵׁכָר לֹא שְׁתִיתֶם לְמַעַן תֵּדְעוּ כִּי אֲנִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם   29:5

Deut. 29:5  you did not eat bread, and you did not drink wine or strong drink, so that you might know that I am the Lord, your God.”

I believe that in this verse it must be the Lord speaking, not Moses  On the other hand, Moses may be quoting the Lord.  Another possibility is that Moses is remembering what the Lord had said to him.  I chose to interpret the verse as coming from God.

The number of the second-person pronouns in vss. 29:4 and 29:5 is rather strange.  All of the pronouns but two are plural.  The two that are singular are in v. 29:4, your [shoe] and your [foot].  Weird, indeed!  I can‘t see any reason for this.  These first five verses in this chapter are indeed mysterious and not primarily because of the pronouns.  Most of the remaining second-person pronouns in this chapter are plural.  I will point out where they are singular.

וַתָּבֹאוּ אֶל־הַמָּקֹום הַזֶּה וַיֵּצֵא סִיחֹן מֶלֶךְ־חֶשְׁבֹּון וְעֹוג מֶלֶךְ־הַבָּשָׁן לִקְרָאתֵנוּ לַמִּלְחָמָה וַנַּכֵּם   29:6

Deut. 29:6  “Then you came to this place and Sihon, king of Heshbon, came out, with Og, king of the Bashan, to meet us for battle and we could smite them.”

The last word in this verse, translated by me as and we could smite them, contains a first-person imperfect verb with a non-inverting vav prefix.

וַנִּקַּח אֶת־אַרְצָם וַנִּתְּנָהּ לְנַחֲלָה לָראוּבֵנִי וְלַגָּדִי וְלַחֲצִי שֵׁבֶט הַמְנַשִּׁי   29:7

Deut. 29:7  “And we could take their land and give it to the Reubenite for an inheritance, and to the Gadite and to the half tribe of the Manassite.”

The first and third words in this verse, translated by me as and we could take ... and give it, contain first-person imperfect verbs with non-inverting vav prefixes.

וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם אֶת־דִּבְרֵי הַבְּרִית הַזֹּאת וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֹתָם לְמַעַן תַּשְׂכִּילוּ אֵת כָּל־אֲשֶׁר תַּעֲשׂוּן   29:8

Deut. 29:8  “So you must mark the words of this covenant and do them, so that you may make all that you will do prosper.”

אַתֶּם נִצָּבִים הַיֹּום כֻּלְּכֶם לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם רָאשֵׁיכֶם שִׁבְטֵיכֶם זִקְנֵיכֶם וְשֹׁטְרֵיכֶם כֹּל אִישׁ   29:9

 יִשְׂרָאֵל

Deut. 29:9  “You are standing today, all of you, before the Lord, your God, your heads of your tribes, your elders, and your officials, every man of Israel,

טַפְּכֶם נְשֵׁיכֶם וְגֵרְךָ אֲשֶׁר בְּקֶרֶב מַחֲנֶיךָ מֵחֹטֵב עֵצֶיךָ עַד שֹׁאֵב מֵימֶיךָ   29:10

Deut. 29:10   your children, your wives, and your foreigner who is in the midst of your camp, from the hewer of your wood to the drawer of your water,

לְעָבְרְךָ בִּבְרִית יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ וּבְאָלָתֹו אֲשֶׁר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ כֹּרֵת עִמְּךָ הַיֹּום   29:11

Deut. 29:11   for your being set apart by the covenant of the Lord, your God, and with His oath that the Lord, your God, is making with you today,

לְמַעַן הָקִים־אֹתְךָ הַיֹּום לֹו לְעָם וְהוּא יִהְיֶה־לְּךָ לֵאלֹהִים כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר־לָךְ וְכַאֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע לַאֲבֹתֶיךָ   29:12

לְאַבְרָהָם לְיִצְחָק וּלְיַעֲקֹב

Deut. 29:12   in order to raise you up today for His people, that He may be your God, as He spoke to you and as He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”

Verses 29:10, 11 and 12 contain singular pronouns.  Verse 29:10 starts out with two plural pronouns, your [children] and your [wives].  These two are probably plural because the verse is continued from v. 29:9, in which all the pronouns are plural.  The remainder of the pronouns in v. 29:10, your [foreigner], your [camp], your [wood] and your [water], are singular.  The four second-person pronouns in v. 29:11 are singular, as are the four in v. 29:12.  According to me, they refer to the people as a whole.  Certainly those in vss. 29:11 and 29:12 do.  All the second-person pronouns in the rest of the chapter are plural.

וְלֹא אִתְּכֶם לְבַדְּכֶם אָנֹכִי כֹּרֵת אֶת־הַבְּרִית הַזֹּאת וְאֶת־הָאָלָה הַזֹּאת   29:13

Deut. 29:13   “And not with you alone am I making this covenant and this oath,

כִּי אֶת־אֲשֶׁר יֶשְׁנֹו פֹּה עִמָּנוּ עֹמֵד הַיֹּום לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ וְאֵת אֲשֶׁר אֵינֶנּוּ פֹּה עִמָּנוּ הַיֹּום   29:14

Deut. 29:14   but with whoever is standing with us today before the Lord, our God, and with whoever is not here with us today.”

Vss. 29:13 and 29:14 are typically interpreted to mean that future generations are also included in the covenant.  So the sages and rabbis tell us it is incumbent on us to pass the words of the covenant on to our children.  To me that seems too simple an interpretation, for the following reason.  The “you” in v. 29:13 is plural, but the two instances of “whoever” in this verse are singular.  Thus I see v. 29:13 as already including everyone who is standing there that day.  So why should v. 29:14 repeat that?  I believe that the two instances of “whoever” in this verse refer to the man or woman in v. 29:17 below, who is turning away – or will be turning away -- from the Lord.  Therefore, I believe that the “you” in v. 29:13 refers to those among the people who are completely with Moses and the Lord, and the “whoever” in v. 29:14 addresses each of those who is, or will be, turning away.  Of course, I’m not rejecting the notion that we have the responsibility of passing these words on to our children.  I’m saying merely that I don’t believe this verse is telling us that.  Other verses do that very adequately (see Exod. 12:26 and 27, Deut. 4:96:6 and 7, and 11:19).  I believe what I’m saying will be more apparent by the end of this chapter.

כִּי־אַתֶּם יְדַעְתֶּם אֵת אֲשֶׁר־יָשַׁבְנוּ בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם וְאֵת אֲשֶׁר־עָבַרְנוּ בְּקֶרֶב הַגֹּויִם אֲשֶׁר עֲבַרְתֶּם   29:15

Deut. 29:15   “For you have known how our dwelling in the land of Egypt was and how was our crossing in the midst of the nations that you passed,

וַתִּרְאוּ אֶת־שִׁקּוּצֵיהֶם וְאֵת גִּלֻּלֵיהֶם עֵץ וָאֶבֶן כֶּסֶף וְזָהָב אֲשֶׁר עִמָּהֶם   29:16

Deut. 29:16   and you have seen their detestable things and their idols of wood and stone, of silver and gold, that were with them,

פֶּן־יֵשׁ בָּכֶם אִישׁ אֹו־אִשָּׁה אֹו מִשְׁפָּחָה אֹו־שֵׁבֶט אֲשֶׁר לְבָבֹו פֹנֶה הַיֹּום מֵעִם יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ   29:17

לָלֶכֶת לַעֲבֹד אֶת־אֱלֹהֵי הַגֹּויִם הָהֵם פֶּן־יֵשׁ בָּכֶם שֹׁרֶשׁ פֹּרֶה רֹאשׁ וְלַעֲנָה

Deut. 29:17   lest there is with you a man or a woman or a family or a tribe whose heart is turning away today from being with the Lord, our God, to go to serve the gods of those nations, lest there is with you a root of fruit of poison and of wormwood,

וְהָיָה בְּשָׁמְעֹו אֶת־דִּבְרֵי הָאָלָה הַזֹּאת וְהִתְבָּרֵךְ בִּלְבָבֹו לֵאמֹר שָׁלֹום יִהְיֶה־לִּי כִּי בִּשְׁרִרוּת לִבִּי   29:18

אֵלֵךְ לְמַעַן סְפֹות הָרָוָה אֶת־הַצְּמֵאָה

Deut. 29:18   that it would come to pass, in his listening to the words of this oath, that he would bless himself in his heart saying, ‘There shall be peace for me, though I will walk in the lust of my heart,’ lest the watered perish with the dry,

לֹא־יֹאבֶה יְהוָה סְלֹחַ לֹו כִּי אָז יֶעְשַׁן אַף־יְהוָה וְקִנְאָתֹו בָּאִישׁ הַהוּא וְרָבְצָה בֹּו כָּל־הָאָלָה   29:19

הַכְּתוּבָה בַּסֵּפֶר הַזֶּה וּמָחָה יְהוָה אֶת־שְׁמֹו מִתַּחַת הַשָּׁמָיִם

Deut. 29:19   the Lord will not be willing to grant pardon to him, but then the anger of the Lord shall smolder, and His jealousy, upon that man, and every curse written in this scroll will lay on him, and the Lord will erase his name from under the heavens,

וְהִבְדִּילֹו יְהוָה לְרָעָה מִכֹּל שִׁבְטֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל כְּכֹל אָלֹות הַבְּרִית הַכְּתוּבָה בְּסֵפֶר הַתֹּורָה הַזֶּה   29:20

Deut. 29:20   and the Lord will separate him from all the tribes of Israel for trouble like all the curses of the covenant that are written in the scroll of this Torah,

וְאָמַר הַדֹּור הָאַחֲרֹון בְּנֵיכֶם אֲשֶׁר יָקוּמוּ מֵאַחֲרֵיכֶם וְהַנָּכְרִי אֲשֶׁר יָבֹא מֵאֶרֶץ רְחֹוקָה וְרָאוּ אֶת־   29:21

מַכֹּות הָאָרֶץ הַהִוא וְאֶת־תַּחֲלֻאֶיהָ אֲשֶׁר־חִלָּה יְהוָה בָּהּ

Deut. 29:21   and the generation to come would say, your children who will rear up behind you, and the alien who will come from a land far off, when they see the plagues of that land and the sicknesses that the Lord had laid on it,

גָּפְרִית וָמֶלַח שְׂרֵפָה כָל־אַרְצָהּ לֹא תִזָּרַע וְלֹא תַצְמִחַ וְלֹא־יַעֲלֶה בָהּ כָּל־עֵשֶׂב כְּמַהְפֵּכַת סְדֹם   29:22

וַעֲמֹרָה אַדְמָה (וּצְבֹיִּים) [וּצְבֹויִם] אֲשֶׁר הָפַךְ יְהוָה בְּאַפֹּו וּבַחֲמָתֹו

Deut. 29:22   brimstone and salt, a burning, all its land not being sown and not bearing, and no grass coming up on it, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, that the Lord overthrew in His anger and in His wrath,

The third word in the second line, in the parentheses, contains an error.  The yad should be a vav, as shown in the corrected spelling within the brackets.

וְאָמְרוּ כָּל־הַגֹּויִם עַל־מֶה עָשָׂה יְהוָה כָּכָה לָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת מֶה חֳרִי הָאַף הַגָּדֹול הַזֶּה   29:23

Deut. 29:23   and all the nations would say, ‘Why has the Lord done so to this land?  What is the reason for the heat of this great anger,’

וְאָמְרוּ עַל אֲשֶׁר עָזְבוּ אֶת־בְּרִית יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי אֲבֹתָם אֲשֶׁר כָּרַת עִםָּם בְּהֹוצִיאֹו אֹתָם מֵאֶרֶץ    29:24

מִצְרָיִם

Deut. 29:24   and they will say, ‘Because they forsook the covenant of the Lord, God of their fathers, that He made with them on His bringing them forth from the land of Egypt,

וַיֵּלְכוּ וַיַּעַבְדוּ אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים וַיִּשְׁתַּחֲוּוּ לָהֶם אֱלֹהִים אֲשֶׁר לֹא־יְדָעוּם וְלֹא חָלַק לָהֶם   29:25

Deut. 29:25   and they went and served other gods and bowed down to them, gods of which they did not know, and He did not allot to them;

וַיִּחַר־אַף יְהוָה בָּאָרֶץ הַהִוא לְהָבִיא עָלֶיהָ אֶת־כָּל־הַקְּלָלָה הַכְּתוּבָה בַּסֵּפֶר הַזֶּה   29:26

Deut. 29:26   so the anger of the Lord was kindled upon that land to bring upon it every curse that was written in this scroll;

וַיִּתְּשֵׁם יְהוָה מֵעַל אַדְמָתָם בְּאַף וּבְחֵמָה וּבְקֶצֶף גָּדֹול וַיַּשְׁלִכֵם אֶל־אֶרֶץ אַחֶרֶת כַּיֹּום הַזֶּה   29:27

Deut. 29:27   and the Lord rooted them out from their land with anger and in wrath and in great indignation, and cast them off to other lands, like it is this day.’”

הַנִּסְתָּרֹת לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ וְהַנִּגְלֹת לָנוּ וּלְבָנֵינוּ עַד־עֹולָם לַעֲשֹׂות אֶת־כָּל־דִּבְרֵי הַתֹּורָה הַזֹּאת   29:28

Deut. 29:28   “The hidden things belong to the Lord, our God, but the revealed things belong to us and to our children forever to do all the words of this Torah.”

Vss. 29:13 to 29:27 could constitute one sentence.  I broke it up in only one place (v. 29:14) to make it a bit more readily understandable.  But it has to be one thought, so that the dots can be connected.  Vss. 29:15 to 29:27 explain what vss. 29:13 and 29:14 mean.  After we’ve examined them, we will then be able to understand the meaning of v. 29:28.  Notice that v. 29:17 mentions one’s heart turning away, and v. 29:18 mentions one blessing himself in his heart.  These behaviors are hidden to us.  So in these verses Moses is telling us that – if we obey the words of this Torah (a mighty big if) -- the Lord will take care of the hidden behaviors so they don’t contaminate the children of Israel.  In obeying the words of the Torah, we are responsible as a people for taking care of the overt behaviors.  In choosing us as His people, the Lord has given us an enormous responsibility.  It is a responsibility we have basically failed from day one, and we must live with the awfully unhappy consequences.

 

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