The last nine chapters of Deuteronomy are, perhaps, the best known of the entire book because they summarize God’s blessings and curses upon the nation of Israel for obedience and disobedience. These chapters also detail Moses’ own disobedience and what it cost him personally – entering the Promised Land. Chapters 24 and 25 continue the summation and recounting of the Law to the Israeli nation. These laws include a discussion on divorce, the marriage duty of the surviving brother and some miscellaneous laws. Although divorce was not sanctioned in Deuteronomy 24:1-4, it was recognized as a common practice among the Israelites.
The requirement of a “certificate of divorce” for the wife had the effect of nullifying all of the husband’s rights to the dowry she had brought with her into the marriage. (The Spirit-Filled Life Bible NKJV 1991) Moses goes on to detail the reasons that a man can give a bill of divorcement. First, he must find “some uncleanness in her” and show cause for his dislike. (Deut. 24:1) The uncleanness must be something less than adultery for which she must die, but must make her disagreeable to her husband “though it might not make her so to another”.
Some believe that the bill of divorcement obliged the man to make provision for the woman so that she might marry again since it was not her fault that he divorced her. Accordingly, she was permitted to marry again since the divorce had dissolved the bonds of marriage as effectually as if her husband had died. However, if she chose to marry again, she could never remarry her first husband for she had renounced him forever and was looked upon as defiled. (Henry 1706) It is sometimes best to be happy with what we already have since the changes made by discontent often prove to be worse.
Through this law, God illustrates the richness of his grace and his willingness to be reconciled to his people, Israel even though they had gone whoring from him. “. . . You have played the harlot with many lovers; Yet return to Me, says the Lord. ” Jeremiah 3:1b (The Spirit-Filled Life Bible NKJV 1991) In Deuteronomy 25:6 God was not authorizing polygamy when he said that “If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband’s brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. (The Spirit-Filled Life Bible NKJV 1991) Instead, Moses was stating that anyone who had been brought up together in the father’s house and was now unmarried should marry the widow and raise up the first born with the name of the deceased brother so that his linage would not be forgotten. This only applied when there were no children from the marriage. (Gill 1748-1763) If there were, there was no obligation to marry a brother’s wife.
When Moses spoke of not marrying a stranger, he did not mean a Gentile but instead, was speaking of any Israelite that was not of her husband’s family. This custom existed before the age of Moses as shown in Genesis 38:8. However, the Mosaic Law rendered this custom obligatory (Robert Jamieson n. d. ) so that inheritances would be secure and continue in the family to which they belonged. The marriage, however, was not to take place until at least three months after the brother’s death according to the Jewish canon. (Gill 1748-1763)
If the younger brother refused to comply, the widow could bring a claim before the authorities where she was ordered to loose the thong of his shoe and spit upon the ground which was a sign of degradation – the strongest expression of public disgrace and contempt among Eastern people. The shoe was kept by the magistrate as an evidence of the transaction, and the parties separated. (Robert Jamieson n. d. ) This act of disgrace remained with his family after him. (Henry 1706) In the 26th chapter of Deuteronomy Moses brings to a close his dissertation on the statutes he thought fit to give Israel prior to his parting.
First, he gives them a form of confession to be made when offering a basket of first fruits. This is followed by a prescription for the disposal of the third year’s tithe in the latter part of the chapter. Finally he binds all the precepts together in Deuteronomy 26:16-18a by divine authority and mutual covenant between God and his people. (Henry 1706) “This day the Lord your God commands you to observe these statutes and judgments; there fore you shall be careful to observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.
Today you have proclaimed the Lord to be your God, and that you will walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments, and His judgments, and that you will obey His voice. Also today the Lord has proclaimed you to be his special people. . . ” (The Spirit-Filled Life Bible NKJV 1991) In a joint address by Moses and the elders of Israel, Moses once again commands the people to “Keep all the commandments which I command you today. ” Deuteronomy 27:1 (The Spirit-Filled Life Bible NKJV 1991) Many believe that this joint speech was to stress upon the elders their future responsibilities as leaders.
The specific responsibility addressed is that of the renewal of the covenant on Mount Ebal in the Promised Land. (The Spirit-Filled Life Bible NKJV 1991) Chapter 28 is a litany of the blessings and curses given by Moses that belongs to the doers as well as the transgressors of the Law. The blessings and curses either concern individuals or the nation of Israel as a whole body of people. (Gill 1748-1763) Those that were blessed were obedient, and those cursed were disobedient. In other words, the favor of God is the spring of all blessings and the wrath of God the spring of all curses.
Moses describes the personal, familial and national blessings that would come for obedience and details at length the curses for disobedience which included their extreme vexation (v. 15-44) and utter ruin and destruction. (v. 45-68). Just as the latter part of Leviticus 26 sets forth life and death, good and evil, the promise of restoration upon repentance is repeated in chapter 30 of Deuteronomy. (Henry 1706) Moses, during this covenant renewing ceremony, which was a recital of God’s dealings with them, talked about how God brought Israel into the covenant, (Deut. 29:2-8).
He gave Israel a solemn charge to them to keep the covenant (Deut. 29:9) and provided an abstract of the covenant itself (Deut. 29:12-13). Also he described the type of persons taken into the covenant (Deut. 29:10-11, 14-15) and gave a recital of God’s dealings with them, so that they may enter into a covenant relationship with the Lord their God. (Deut. 29:2-8) (Henry 1706) All this took place on the plains of Moab prior to entry into Canaan and was a foreshadowing of the ceremony to be carried out later on Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. (The Spirit-Filled Life Bible NKJV 1991) Thus, as they had precept upon precept in the repetition of the law, so they had line upon line in the repetition of the promises and threatenings. And these are both there and here delivered, not only as sanctions of the law, what should be conditionally, but as predictions of the event, what would be certainly, that for a while the people of Israel would be happy in their obedience, but that at length they would be undone by their disobedience; and therefore it is said (Deut. 30:1) that all those things would come upon them, both the blessing and the curse. (Henry 1706) Ultimately, one would think that the curses Moses detailed would have ended the nation of Israel.
However, chapter 30 discusses the mercy that God had in store for them in the latter days. In other words, “mercy . . . rejoices against judgment and has the last word”. (Henry 1706) God’s exceedingly great and precious promises are made to the nation of Israel “upon their repentance and return to God” (Deut. 30:1-10) (Henry 1706) and the “righteousness of faith” is “set before them in the plainness and ease of the commandment that was . . . iven. ” (Deut. 30:11-14) (Henry 1706) Moses, having finished his sermon encourages the people and Joshua as they are about to enter Canaan. He orders the book of the Law to be read every seven years and foretells of Israel’s renunciation of faith in time and the judgments they would bring upon themselves. The song of chapter 32 was to be a witness against the people. Moses wrote it and delivered it to Israel as he had received it from the Lord. The song which Moses, by the appointment of God, delivered to the children of Israel, takes up most of chapter 32.
It includes references to the high character of God, as opposed to the bad character of the people, a rehearsal of the great things God had done for them, in opposition to the account of their “ill carriage” (Henry 1706) towards him, a prediction of the judgments God would bring upon them for their sins, a promise of the destruction of their enemies and oppressors at last, the glorious deliverance of a remnant of Israel, the exhortation with which Moses delivered this song to them and the orders God gives to Moses to go up to Mount Nebo and die. Henry 1706) Yet Moses is not finished with the children of Israel even though one would think, based on the close of chapter 32, that he had taken final leave of them. After all, he had preached them a farewell sermon and given out a psalm.
However, he now dismisses them with a blessing in the name of the Lord. “He pronounces them . . . blessed in what God had done for them already, especially in giving them his law, . . . (he) pronounces a blessing upon each tribe . . . and finally) pronounces them all in general blessed upon the account of what God would be to them, and do for them if they were obedient. The last chapter, probably written by Joshua or Eleazar tells of the death of Moses. We have an account of his dying words, a visual account of Moses’ view of Canaan just before he died, his death and burial and his age. The chapter also tells how Israel mourned for Moses and the time of it (Gill 1748-1763), appoints his successor and discusses the character of Moses (Henry 1706), to whom no prophet was to be compared. (Gill 1748-1763)
Gill, John. John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible. Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible. Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown. A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. The Spirit-Filled Life Bible NKJV. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc. , 1991.