Deuteronomy - Lesson 2

Covenant Document

Deuteronomy is primarily a collection of sermons but its structure is covenantal. The structure of the covenant was commonly used in other cultures in the Ancient Near East during this time period. God tells the people of Israel that he is their God and the people say that they are God’s treasured possession. (Note: Mt. Sinai and Mt. Horeb are referring to the same thing. They are used interchangeably)

Daniel Block
Lesson 2
Watching Now
Covenant Document

Covenant Document

I. Introduction

A. Definition of Covenant

B. Categories of biblical covenants

1. Traditional covenants

2. Sociological categories

3. Functional categories

C. Background to the covenant

D. Historical and geographical background to Deuteronomy

1. Forty years after Sinai

2. Farewell address of Moses

II. Deuteronomy as a Covenant Document

A. The Hebrew word for covenant appears 28 times in Deuteronomy

B. Moses referring to God and the people of Israel

C. Covenant formula

D. Pet name

E. Special expressions to identify Israel

III. Covenantal Structure

A. Preamble

B. Historical prologue

C. Stipulations

D. Document

E. Blessings and curses

F. Treaty witnesses

IV. Covenant Elements in Deuteronomy

A. Preamble

B. Historical prologue

C. General stipulations

D. Specific stipulations

E. Document clause

F. Consequences

G. Covenant ratification

H. Covenant witnesses

V. Covenantal Significance of the Rituals on the Plains of Moab

VI. Nature of the Covenant Rituals on the Plains of Moab

A. Formal assembly of the people

B. Presentation of the Torah to the People

C. Verbal binding of the covenant partners

D. Concluding oath ritual

E. Making a covenant

  • The book of Deuteronomy contains the gospel message. Even though there are some laws mentioned, the essence of the book is prophetic preaching. Your presuppositions and principles for interpretation that you use will make a difference in how you view the meaning and significance of the book of Deuteronomy.

  • Deuteronomy is primarily a collection of sermons but its structure is covenantal. The structure of the covenant was commonly used in other cultures in the Ancient Near East during this time period. God tells the people of Israel that he is their God and the people say that they are God’s treasured possession. (Note: Mt. Sinai and Mt. Horeb are referring to the same thing. They are used interchangeably)

  • God gave the Decalogue to Moses so they have authority as Scripture. The book of Deuteronomy as whole is also Scripture. It contains the speeches of Moses and narrative passages. It’s the lense through which we view the other books of the Pentateuch.

  • Moses begins by recalling events that happened during their wandering in the wilderness, then recent events as they have gotten closer to entering the promises land from the east. Moses is idealized in the Old and New Testaments and in the writings of historians. You get a different picture when you read his first address. It shows Moses as faithful but flawed.

  • The Law was given to the nation of Israel after they had been freed from Egypt as the way to respond to God’s grace. God gives them the boundaries for right and wrong and a process to restore relationship when it is broken.

  • With the privilege of salvation and covenant relationship comes the call for a righteous response, demonstrated in joyful obedience to the Savior and Lord. A covenant is a formally confirmed agreement between two or more parties that creates, formalizes, governs a relationship that does not exist naturally or a natural relationship that has disintegrated.

  • God’s people are a privileged people; they have been graciously redeemed, and set apart as his special treasure, his holy covenant people. God acts graciously to undeserving people and they respond joyfully with obedience. The is the end of the first speech of Moses, Deuteronomy 4:32-40.

  • The Decalogue is the bill of rights of the people of ancient Israel. It is the ten principles of covenant relationship. It creates a picture of covenant righteousness and provides a foundation for later revelation. The Decalogue contains the features of a typical covenant and conditional and unconditional laws. The addressee is the head of the household because they can be a threat to others.

  • When Moses recites the Decalogue in Deuteronomy 5, there are parts that are similar to the passage in Exodus, and there are some significant differences. He begins with getting the attention of the people of Israel and appealing for covenant fidelity, restates the Decalogue, then ends with a document clause, using covenant language.

  • The Shema is a call for whole-hearted, full-bodied commitment. This passage is a theological exposition and pastoral proclamation to impress on the minds of the people of Israel the special relationship they enjoyed with YHWH. The grace God showed them must be embraced with grateful and unreserved devotion to their redeemer and covenant Lord.

  • God chooses the covenant partner, sets the terms, declares the goal, identifies the sign and determines the consequences of disobedience of the covenant. After Moses explains the purpose of the Law, he explains to the children how the Law was given and that learning it and putting it into practice will bring them life.

  • Moses talks to the people of Israel as they are entering the land, about how they will respond to the external test of confronting and dispossessing the surrounding nations. He reminds them of their special status with God and the covenant that he offers them unconditionally. He challenges them with the theological, ethical and missional significance of the test.

  • How can you worship a God that asks the people of Israel to wipe out the Canaanites? The reason for Israel taking the land is so the people of Israel as a holy people will be preserved so the world will be preserved. God is fundamentally compassionate and gracious, he does what is right and God offers us grace and mercy.

  • When everything goes right, what do you do then? The message of this passage is, “don’t forget.” YHWH provided manna in the wilderness to feed the people of Israel. God was also teaching them in the wilderness that life comes from every word of the mouth of God, not just by eating physical food. Moses challenges the people to respond to prosperity by praising God, not by taking the credit themselves.

  • The enemies in the Promised Land are formidable. God promises to defeat them. Moses warns that people to acknowledge that God is responsible. Even though the Canaanites do not follow God, the reason God chose the people is not because they are morally superior to the Canaanites.

  • Israel’s covenant with YHWH is based entirely on his grace and they don’t deserve it. Moses interceded on behalf the of people of Israel to ask God to not judge them and God is described as, “changing his mind” and renewing his covenant with them.

  • “What does YHWH ask of you?” Moses answers this question, then gives a doxology to confirm it and an application to illustrate it. God wants you to have a soft heart toward him, to live in an attitude of trusting awe and to act in a way that honors the covenant that God has established with you.

  • Moses has given a profound theology of land. He gives the people of Israel instructions for what God wants them to do when they enter the land to confirm their covenant with God. This included using uncut stones and plastering them and writing the Torah on them and then praising God. The land is an integral part of the covenant. The people shout blessings on Mount Gerizim and curses on Mount Ebal.

  • As the people of Israel enter the land, God has instructions for them on how to live in relationship with him and worship him so that it may go well with them and their children. They are to reject the false worship practices of the surrounding nations and accept God’s invitation to come and worship him in the place and in the way he has designed for them.

  • The Levites represent a barometer on where the people of Israel are in their ethical religion. They are not given land as an inheritance so it is the responsibility of people in the other tribes to support them. Moses presents a theology of worship but doesn’t go into detail.

  • This is a warning to the people of Israel to not imitate the materialistic preoccupation and the brutal rituals associated with the worship practices of the surrounding nations when they worship YHWH. There are warnings against following false prophets, someone in your family or people in your community if they are promoting seditious religious practices. The apostle Paul uses similar language in the New Testament when warning people about following people who teach heresies.

  • In contrast to worship with the purpose of satisfying the gods, YHWH delights in fellowship with his people and for them to celebrate in his presence. YHWH encourages his people to eat in his presence and with other people. His guidelines about which foods are acceptable to eat set the people of Israel apart from other nations.

  • A main purpose of the national festivals was to keep alive the memory of God’s grace and maintain their faith in god and their covenant with him.

  • Moses describes the key offices and roles that keep the society going by providing political and spiritual structure. The primary concern is righteousness. The king is to be the embodiment of Torah righteousness. Moses outlines specific steps to achieve this and describes what it will look like.

  • Moses, in his role as prophet, is the commissioned envoy of righteousness to the people of Israel. Moses was a mediator between God and the people of Israel. He warned the people of Israel about false prophets and the danger of adopting the worship practices of the surrounding nations.

  • Moses provides a picture of covenant life and godliness in a way that you can apply it to every situation in life. It’s important to care for the poor and the resident alien and to show justice to them. The resident aliens were invited to participate in the feasts and covenant life.

  • The ideal for the people of Israel was a patricentric society but in often the reality was a patriarchal society. In a patricentric society, the male head of the clan will provide resources and security in a way that gives his family and the community opportunities to flourish. The vision for women in Deuteronomy is different than the world that is described in Israelite narratives.

  • Celebrating God’s goodness and grace in the Land. Bringing an offering from the firsfruits of the harvest is a time to remember how God has provided for the people of Israel in the past, both as individuals and as a community. There are lessons we can learn about worhship and living faithfully. This is the Deuteronomic creed.

  • Some people view the curses in Deuteronomy 28 as a stumbling block to accepting the Old Testament as Christian Scripture because they say it represents God as vengeful. However, this was a common way of writing covenants in the Ancient Near East, they follow a list of extraordinary blessings, they serve a pastoral function and there are similar curses articulated in the New Testament.

  • Deuteronomy 29 begins with Moses recounting how YHWH brought the people out of Egypt and gave them victory in the land east of the Jordan River. Then he describes the curses they will experience when they turn away from the Lord. Chapter 30 describes the eschatological restoration. Deuteronomy 29:29 refers to the mystery of divine grace. (The movie and book series that Dr. Block is referring to is Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien. The prequel to this series is The Hobbit.)

  • This is the final altar call of Moses to the people of Israel to appeal to them to choose life by living in covenant relationship with YHWH. The revelation of YHWH given through Moses is to be memorized, recited and used as a guide for conduct. It is understandable and doable.

  • The Torah that Moses has been preaching was written down. This is the introduction to the song of Moses and contains the commissioning of Joshua, who will take over after Moses dies. Part of the book of Deuteronomy is the death narrative of Moses.

  • This passage is a poetic witness to the people of Israel of the faithfulness of YHWH and the faithlessness of Israel. Moses was told to teach it to the people of Israel so they could pass it on to their descendants. People could sing it throughout the day and it could be presented as a musical drama at national celebrations.

  • At the end of the sermons of Moses, he pronounces a benediction by saying something specific for each tribe. Deuteronomy 33 and Genesis 49 have some similarities and differences in the way the sons of Jacob and their descendants are blessed. The exordium and the coda frame the blessings by describing YHWH’s care and provision for the people of Israel as their king.

  • This is the last narrative story about Moses in the Old Testament. God tells him to go up on Mt. Nebo where he is able to see the land. Joshua takes over as the leader of the people. There is a eulogy for Moses at the end.  

The Gospel according to Moses. This is a collection of sermons of Moses as the people of Israel are poised to enter the promised land after being in the wilderness for 40 years. Deuteronomy is a special book, calling God’s people to celebrate his grace and demonstrate covenant love for him with action that glorifies his name. Until we recognize the gospel in this book, we will not read this book. (Note: Mt. Sinai and Mt. Horeb are referring to the same mountain. They are used interchangeably)

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Covenant Document

Lesson Transcript


[00:00:00] In our previous session, we dealt with Deuteronomy as as prophetic preaching at its finest. In this session, I'd like to talk about Deuteronomy as a covenant document at its finest. We're talking now about the genre of the book. What is it? Deuteronomy is not the actual covenant document. It is a collection of sermons. But they have been arranged and organized, and our vocabulary is such that it is clearly profoundly covenantal from the ground up. Deuteronomy as a covenant document. Now, to begin with, we have to talk about what a covenant is in Scripture. We do have different words for this in Hebrew, but read and in Greek they are fake. But that doesn't get us very far. The etymology of those words. It's how the words are used that we need to be aware of. And so my understanding of a covenant is a formally a covenant is a formally confirmed agreement between two or more parties that creates, formalizes or governs a relationship that does not exist naturally or a natural relationship that may have been broken or may have disintegrated. And it takes a covenant to fix that. Now, we can use this kind of language in our family matters. We have two children. Our oldest is an adopted boy. He wasn't naturally ours. It took a covenant, a legal process whereby he became ours and that made him as much our child as our second our daughter, who is our biological daughter. We didn't need to make a covenant with her. It was natural. She was born into it. But when these relationships break to put Humpty Dumpty together again, you need some kind of formal process and that we call a covenant. Now, in biblical theology terms. We talk about different kinds of covenants, conditional versus unconditional.


[00:02:46] And some people will say the Abrahamic Covenant is unconditional, the Sinai Covenant is conditional. You'll hear me say over and over again, those categories don't fit. In my view. All covenants are, on the one hand that God makes, are conditional and all are unconditional. They are both, every one of them. The second category is covenants of grant versus covenants of obligation. Again, using the Abrahamic Covenant, which some argue God is giving to Abraham something as a gift and grant without any reciprocal demand. He doesn't have to pay for it. It's a gift. Whereas the covenant made at Sinai is a covenant of obligation. There are lots of stipulations that God puts into this covenant. So those are categories. There are other categories, sociological categories. We talk about parity versus disparity covenants. I don't hear that second word used very often. We talk about parity versus SUSA in vassal covenants as SUSA and Vassal Covenant is a covenant between one who is the pope, who has the power and the other one who is a subject and they agree on their relationship. A parity treaty is between equals. Marriage in the Bible is viewed as a parity treaty. Husband and wife. I will be your husband and you will be my wife. And she says, I will be your wife and you will be my husband. This is a parity treaty. Whereas disparity treaty like the this like the treaty between the Emperor of Assyria and King Ahaz, he says, I am your son. You are my father. That's Suzan vassal relationship. So and then we have functional categories, ecclesial or missional covenants versus administrative. And I put the I call it the Israelite covenant. That's a covenant that God made with Israel. That is an ecclesial or missional.


[00:05:08] It it has to do with regulating God's relationship to a whole group of people. A community of faith. But it is not for the sake of the community. It is for the sake of the mission for which God is commissioning them as his covenant people. So that's an ecclesial one versus an administrative covenant. God makes a covenant with David as king over Israel. We will have a chance to talk about that some more later on and how this works. But he is not he he is installed as the administrator of the broader covenant triangle involving God, the land and the people. He is the internal administrator. His function is to keep that machine well oiled and lubricated so that that covenant flourishes. That's his job. He is a vice regent for God. Well, those are the categories we use in my understanding of the book of Deuteronomy. This is a very covenantal book. And so as background, let's see how it fits in. And here again is my my idiosyncratic interpretation of the of the evidence. I call this the Israelite covenant. We often talk about the covenant that God made with Israel at Sinai as either the Sinai Covenant or the Mosaic Covenant, which to me as a problem covenant should be identified always on the basis of the part he part partner that God selects for his covenant relationship. So we talk about Abrahamic. God made it with Abraham, we talk about a Davidic, God made it with David. We talk about the Adam, a covenant. God made it with Adam. Or no as the second Adam. And that's what we should be doing here. This is not a covenant with Moses, and it's certainly not a covenant with Sinai. Signy added. So, but in recognizing Deuteronomy place, we begin with the origins of the Israelite Covenant and Abraham.


[00:07:38] Stage one two It is established at Sinai with the Exodus generation of Abraham's descendants. Stage three it is renewed on the plains of Moab. This is due to Ron and me with a desert. The generation that was born in the desert and stage four its full realization in the distant future. Jeremiah calls it the New Covenant. But if you read that text even casually, you recognize that this is not just a spiritual thing. It is totally parochial. It's with Israel. And what happens in the New Covenant. As Jeremiah Ezekiel and others envisage, it is finally the ideals of the Israelite covenant from the beginning will be realized. It's all to me, this is all. One covenant originated with Abraham, established with the generation at Sinai, renewed with his new generation on the plains of Moab, and ultimately realized in the New Covenant. We can look at this diagrammatic play something like this. You will see the core of this covenant rests at the seed. That's a better metaphor, as planted in Genesis 15 and 17, where God makes a covenant with Abraham. Then that same covenant he establishes at Sinai, then that same covenant he renews with this generation on the plains of Moab and finally in the New Covenant, as envisaged by the Prophets and Moses himself in chapter 30 of Deuteronomy. Or we can look at it, take a that's a bird's eye view. We can take a sheep's eye view of this horizontally. The covenant made with Abraham in Canaan, Genesis 15, the Covenant established with Israel at Sinai, the Covenant renewed with Israel on the plains of Moab, and the Covenant realized in Christ. But actually the work of Christ is the basis of all of these covenants. Any time God reaches out in mercy to anybody, it is rooted in the work of Christ from the beginning.


[00:09:57] So anyway, this is where Deuteronomy fits in. God has been working with Israel. To Abraham. He had said, And you and your descendants shall all the world be blessed. And he told Abraham in chapter 18, I will establish my covenant that I made with you. I will establish it with your descendants later on. Well, let's talk about the geographic context of this. What happens in Deuteronomy approximately 40 years separated the events underlying the book of Deuteronomy from the events that sign. I remember when they came out of Egypt. They went down to Sinai. And I am assuming the traditional interpretation of the location of Sinai down here. And they were here for about a year and three or four months, and then they headed to the Promised Land. And Kadish Barnea was supposed to be the gate that opened the door, but they refused to go in and God says, sorry, turn around. And and and they wandered around in the desert in circles, accomplishing nothing other than every one of that generation was to be buried. So we can start over again. And then when 40 years later, God says, Head up here, head north, and this time we're going to enter from the east side and we can talk about why the east side rather than the from the south again. But that's an interesting thing to think about. Now, here's another map of where we are. Moses dies on Mt. Nebo, Jericho. They can see where they are, where they are. They can see Jericho that they are part here and in the plains of Moab right here. They can see Jericho. And the first thing when they cross the Jordan is they're going to head for terrorism and Ebola for another ceremony.


[00:11:58] We'll talk more about that later. So this is the context, the geographic context. And this simply clarifies what's what's happened. This is the context of Moses farewell address. He has brought the Israelites out of Egypt 40 years ago now. Actually, God has brought them out. Let's let's keep that straight. Moses was not Israel's savior. God was. I am Yahweh. Who are God? Who brought you out of the land of Egypt? So. But Moses has been his agent and he has brought them from Egypt all the way here. They are parked here getting ready to cross the Jordan River. But as we will see, Moses is not crossing with them. This is the context of it. What we want to do in the rest of this session to talk about how Deuteronomy works as a covenant document, it is very covenantal. The procedure that Moses supervises on the plains of Moab were rich. The procedures were rich in their covenantal significance. How significant is covenant in this book? Well, so significant that the word for covenant occurs 28 times. There are 30 to 34 chapters in the book. That's almost one for every chapter. It doesn't appear in all the chapters, but in any case, 28 times we have the word covenant. It's a big deal. It is a book of the covenant. Second, Moses refers to Yahweh as your God, our God. And the people as He is. That is your people. And your people. This is a relationship. How did we get this relationship? And of course, it has to do with the covenant formula. What happened at Sinai is a marriage. The marriage metaphor and the ad they. What we call the covenant formula. I will be your God and you shall be my people, which occurs at critical junctures in this book that is an adaptation of ancient marriage formulas.


[00:14:23] At a wedding ceremony, the husband would say, I will be your husband and you will be my wife. And the wife would reciprocate. I will be your wife and you will be my husband. This was all part of the verbal thing. And that's what's happened in the book of. In fact, in chapter 27, verses nine and ten, he will say today you have become the people of the Lord, your God. That's what happened there. They have been formally inducted into that status. He also has a special pet name for Israel, gesture Rune. I've never heard a sermon on gesture. And what does this mean? It comes from a root meaning to be straight, and it looks like a passive participle, meaning my straight hand one the one who I whom I have straight and will talk about what that means. I don't think it's moral straightness. The Israelites are rarely morally straight. I think it has to do with they were bogged down with a yoke of slavery on their shoulders and God lifted their yoke. We'll hear about that in the book. God lifted the yoke and now they can walk straight. He is. It's a redemption and salvation where there are other special expressions for Israel in this one. Israel is his own possession, usually translated inheritance. You are my heritage or my inheritance. But of course that does not work to us. Inheritance is what you get when your parents die. It's what's left over. There's no way Israel is that to God? It's not because Israel's parents have died and that he then has received this inheritance. No, no, no, no. It is simply a word for possession. His allotted possession 32 nine, his holy, sanctified people belonging to the Lord.


[00:16:38] These are all covenantal expressions and those loyal to his chosen people, his sons. Chapter 14, Verse one Sons You are to the Lord your God. Well, how did that happen? How does a person become the son of God? And of course, the answer is by covenant. That's what happened at Sinai. So on the one hand, we mix metaphors at Sinai. And on the one hand, this is marriage. At Sinai, Israel became the bride of cry of God at Sinai. Also, Israel, God's firstborn, was formally inducted as his son, he said. Moses says the pharaoh God says, Let my people go, that they may worship me or my firstborn son. Well, Israel and his treasured people, his arms galore. We'll have time to talk about all of these expressions in the next sessions. So that's the vocabulary of the world. It is covenantal from beginning to end. This is a very special relationship that it talks about. We notice a sixth of a covenantal feature. Here is the covenantal structure of the book. This is a colorful diagram, and I have the I'm inspired to do it this way by Kenneth Kitchen and Egyptologist who has gathered all the ancient covenants, along with a colleague, Paul Lawrence. And they've created these colorized chromatic schemes of how these covenants work. And in the ancient world, this is the structure that you see in the covenants. Typically, they consist they begin with a title which identifies the parties. Then a Prolog tells how we got here. Then the stipulations, these are the terms, then a reference to making a written copy and depositing it somewhere. Then a call for witnesses. Then curses and blessings. Well, this we have all of this in the book of Deuteronomy. It is all in the book of Deuteronomy.


[00:18:48] And you have, you know, the second column is Exodus and Deuteronomy pattern. The first one is Hittites, and then you've got the Saphira and the new Neal Israelite. This book, even in its structure, is covenantal. Now let's review these parts again in the preamble, the title. It's an introduction, especially of the sousaphone. Normally I would say I am the great King Esarhaddon influence with the Assyrians or how to shield the Hittite guy. That's the first. Second, the historical Prolog, which summarizes how we got here. How did we get to this covenant moment? And in other contexts usually would be by like the great king beating the tar out of the other the subject. Or they have been frightened into bowing down before him before he beat the tar out of them. I'm the big boy. You're the little boy and you're better. So historical prolog. Then the stipulations detail outline of responses of the vassal, usually focusing on the absolute loyalty to the SUSA and very little on what the sojourn promises for the vassal. But in the Bible you have that all over the place document clause and arranges for the transcription, making a written copy of it, and then to be used in covenant renewal contexts, blessings and curses the consequences. If you obey. This is what will happen. If you disobey, then the consequent disastrous outcome and then treaty witnesses. In pagan circles, this would involve the names of all sorts of gods whom you invoke with a curse. If you don't keep this covenant made, then to wipe out your seed that your seed perish. That's the worst curse you could experience. All right. And so they'll have lots of these. Now, let's apply this then, to Deuteronomy. How does this fit the book of Deuteronomy? It's remarkable, the treaty structure, and we've known this now for 40 or 50 years after they found all the Hittite treaties.


[00:21:06] But the book of Deuteronomy is not an actual in the introduction preamble. We saw the first few verses earlier. It's not an introduction of the king, but it's an editorial introduction to the book. So this is different, but it starts there. But then we have the first address of Moses in this book functions as what we call the historical Prolog. It explains to the Israelites, How did we get here to the plains of Moab, where God is inviting us into this relationship with us with Him, and He, through the process of this covenant ratification procedure, we become his people. That's what's happening in the book. But the historical Prolog is largely recollections of what God has done for Israel in the past. There are very little, very few stipulations here. This is not law in the way we typically view law. Then you have general stipulations. In my view. This is the second address. He begins by reciting the Decalogue. And then he which presents the foundation of Israel, Israel's covenant worldview. And then he especially from chapters six seven all the way through 11, it's especially the great command I am Yaffa, your God, you shall have no other gods besides me. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with also that this is the first son great command. So this is a sermon or a series of some sermons on what does it mean to be covenantal related to your home. And we will see how that works. Then in 12 one two 2619, the sermon on a tone continues. But now you actually have a repetition of a lot of the laws. You heard me use the word the regulations, the stipulations revealed at Sinai. Moses repeats lots of them, but he gives them in homily, article, sermon form with your hopefully inspiring motivation by saying reminding them of God's grace in their past.


[00:23:31] Then the fourth address. Well, Chapter 31 is not fourth address. This is a got document clause. We already read the text and 31. Moses wrote down all the words of this Torah on a scroll, and he handed them to the priests, Leviticus priests. And he said, Put this beside the Ark of the Covenant. That's the document clause. We now have a written record of this, which is to be really read by the Leviticus Priests every seven years at the Festival of Births. Nowhere else in the entire First Testament does anybody tell us what to do with any scriptures in worship. But we have clear instruction here on what to do with Deuteronomy in worship. Or certain, like the speeches of Moses in worship every seven years are to be read to the whole gathering at the Festival of Booze. That's the document clause. Then you have detailed a detailed outline of the consequences of Israel, the blessings and the curses, 28 to 2029 and then covenant ratification procedures. We'll talk about how this works in chapter 29 and 30 later on. And this is when they put themselves under the oath of the covenant. And after that, if they ever go back on their covenant promises, the Lord is fully authorized to invoke on them all the curses to which they've signed on. Those curses are part of the covenant document. So if the curses come and they will, it is not because the covenant is off. It's because the covenant is on. So that the curses are always or the judgment is always in terms that God had specified and then witnesses. Well, this is this is an orthodox monotheistic system, the Israelite system, there's only one God. So you can't appeal to all the other gods to be witnesses to what the Israelites are signing on to or to be witnesses to what Yahweh has signed on to.


[00:25:49] So what does he do? He says, I call heaven and earth to witness. By the time we get to chapter 37, you will hear that the procedure over there is in a loud voice. They shout on the mound, scares them and evil so that the mountains can hear their their their swearing in. And that way, if they ever go off track, the prophets can call attention wholesale, will say Here, Oh heavens, give here on Earth. The Lord has a case against this people. And of course, they were the witnesses at the at the original signing. And so that's it. Well, in the covenantal relationship, underlying Deuteronomy your way was the great king. Israel was his privileged vassal here that. Privileged, Basil. God rescued them from the slavery of Egypt, not to make them slaves to himself and burden them with a law that they could keep. That's not great. That's tyranny. But he rescued them from the slavery of Egypt to become his vassals, which in Hebrew is exactly the same word his agents of revelation and grace to the world. It's the commission and we'll have more to say about that. Unlike other vessels of the day, Israel didn't become the Lord's vassal by being beaten up by the Lord and cowed into significance. No, they became His vassal by the Lord, defeating the enemy who held them as slaves. And so that the response is always a response of gratitude indebtedness. Look at all that God has done for us. Why wouldn't we be faithful to Him? For the Israelites vassal done to Yahoo! It was not humiliating. It was an honorific status really. Here. This at the end of chapter 26. The end of the third address, Almost the end. See, I've set you high above the nations for praise, for honor and for glory.


[00:28:06] Whose praise, whose honor and whose glory? No, of course it is that Israel may prosper, but in so doing, the Israelites will show to the world what grace can do. To God be the glory. And that's what will happen there. Well, they were drawn to himself, called to a personal relationship exalted high above the nations that they might praise him before the watching world. Well, this leads us then to the covenantal significance of the rituals on the plains of Moab. Deuteronomy 27 nine stuck in the middle of Chapter 27. All of a sudden, he he's been looking forward to another part of the ceremony in the future once you've crossed the Jordan. But it only brings him back. Listen. All Israel. And he says today you have become the people of Yahweh, your God. That is the significance of this so that when they cross the Jordan tomorrow. And of course, in my vocabulary here, I can define words any way I want to use them. Yesterday is always the last time we were together. Tomorrow is the next significant event on the calendar. When they cross the Jordan tomorrow, it's probably three weeks later that they could actually cross. But when they cross it, they are not going just as a band of bandits from the desert. They are going as the people of Yardley to claim the gift that Yahweh had given them. Today you have become and then 29 one. These are the words of the covenant. This is at the end of the long third address. These are the words of the covenant that the Lord charged Moses to make on his behalf with the descendants of Israel in the land of Moab. Apart from the words of the covenant that he made with them at Horeb.


[00:30:10] So this is another covenant ratification. We need a new covenant proceedings. And what's happening here is this generation. You see that despite what Moses will say in chapters in chapter five, where he says, God didn't make a covenant with your fathers at Sinai, but with you. I mean, literally, that's false. It's a false statement. It was with their fathers that he made the covenant with. With whom? He made the covenant at Sinai. This the people standing in front of Moses weren't that Sinai or those who were under 20 at that point were here. But they didn't count the you know, they hadn't reached voting age, so their signatures didn't matter. This generation were born in the desert. They weren't there when God brought them out of Egypt. They weren't there when they were at Sinai. They need their own ceremony by which they are brought into the covenant relationship and by which they are then sent out. Moses was well aware of the Lords earlier sworn covenantal oath to give the land of Kanan to the Patriarchs and the Descendants. And what he is doing here is giving this people the rights. To to claim what God had promised their ancestors. And that's what's happening here. Well, look at verse four. We'll come back to this some more later. But remember the day you stood before Yahweh. Now he's remembering Sinai, your God at Horeb. He never uses the word Sinai in the book, except in one poem at the end. Otherwise, he always calls it Horeb. Same place. Horeb. Horeb assembled the people before me and have them hear my words, which they must learn so that they may fear me as long as they live in the land, and they must teach them to their children.


[00:32:13] So, you know, from that right off the bat that he is deeming his words to be canonical scripture from the very beginning. That will be the subject of our next session. So you came near and you stood at the foot of the mountain, one that blazed with fire to the very heavens. He's talking about Sinai Horeb. It was wrapped in the darkness. Then the Lord spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of voices, but you saw no form. There was only a voice. And he declared to you as covenant. That is, he commanded you to put it into practice, but not this generation. He's talking collectively. Israel there. At Sinai. This is what happened. And he gave them the ten words. He wrote them on to stone tablets, which are symbolic of the relationship. And at that time, the Lord charged me to teach you ordinances and stipulations. He didn't charge him to legislate. He officially installed him as his prophetic teacher authorizing him to do this. Well, what sort of procedures did they go through in this instance? Well, it begins with a formal assembly of the people of Israel in the presence of the Lord, as they had at Mount Sinai. Here it is on the plains of Moab. The opening verse of the book suggests the words he spoke to all Israel, east of the Jordan. He had been talking to them all along the way already, but now they're condensed into shamanic form to this assembled gathering. Moses spoke to the descendants of Israel, according to all that Yahweh had charged him to say. Well, what would that tell you about Moses? Sense of authority. Moses isn't making this up. These are this is not a made up speech by Moses.


[00:34:12] Moses is simply declaring to the people what God commands Moses to tell the people He is as his inspired teacher. Not until the final address do we learn that Moses that actually delivered them in a formal context. The Assembly of All Israel in chapter 29 says You have taken your stand today in this covenantal moment, all of you before Yahweh, your God, your tribal leaders, elders, officials, all the men of Israel, as well as your small children, your wives and the foreigners in your camp, from those who chop your wood to those who draw water. Everybody's wrapped up in this covenant. You're standing before him. God has invited us to an audience with himself. Which he speaks through most his words. And they all sign on in this assembly. To take one stand is not just to get up. You're sitting down. Get up. No, it's formally. We are here for very serious official business. And that's what happens here. The narrative reinforces the significance of this covenant moment by noting the specific date on the first day of the 11th month in Israel's 40th year. Shabbat one year 40. Deuteronomy one three. It's on the calendar. This is the day we became the people of God. Well. So that's the first stage and covenant procedure. The assembly bring the people together. We know of no other covenant in ancient history that a God makes with a collection of people. We know of covenants between a God and a king. Elsewhere. But never with the people here. God is making his covenant with the people. Then you have the presentation of the Torah. The people have come for an audience with God and Moses starts talking. That is the voice of God. Speaking to the people through the lips of Moses.


[00:36:31] And so he talks about these are the words of the covenant from your Susan. The narrator captures his legal elocution. It's a big word. I'll talk about it in a moment. The goals even more clearly on the other side. This is one five on the other side of the Jordan in the land of Moab. Moses began to put in force this Torah by saying, Now, that's not the normal and normal translation of this. Usually this is translated as Moses began to expound. The law. Which in my view is wrong on two counts. One, Torah doesn't mean law. We talked about that, too. The word here does not mean the verb. Does not mean to expound. You know, as if this is a sermon on previous revelation. In this context, Torah means refers to what Moses is giving, not what they got at Sinai. The Torah. Here is Moses address. But what he's doing in this word that it's a Hebrew word, bay air, which happens only three times in the Bible here, and Deuteronomy 27 eight, where they write the words of this Torah on the pillars. Very puzzling ritual. They're usually translated right Very plainly. Doesn't mean right very plainly. It means put in into effect by writing. Here. It's put into effect by declaring that's what's happening. This is a formal procedure at which Israel becomes the people of God. It's putting into effect through the proclamation of the Torah. Now, at the beginning, when he talks about this Torah, chapter one, verse five, that is the heading narrative, heading across the Jordan in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to expound this Torah. That's what my translation is. Moses put this Torah into effect by saying, Now go to chapter four, verse 44.


[00:39:01] This is that at the end of the first address, you have it. Now, this is the Torah that Moses set before the Sons of Israel. That's a conclusion. What's happening in that first speech is Torah that Moses is presenting, but that same word is applied to the other speeches as well. It's all Torah. Everything that Moses teaches is Torah. Well, I think I'm going to skip the technical discussion of the word error of doesn't mean explain carefully or write carefully. It means to put into effect the relationship. That is represented by this Torah, and he does it by. Declaring to the people all the words of this Torah through the proclamation of the Torah, through the performance of covenant rituals implied in the book, the Israelite Covenant, ratified at Horeb, is put in force for this generation. I said before, they weren't these people weren't there then, but they need to know that we are God's people and God is here by giving them a brand new ceremony by which to which they can always look back and said, That was the moment we became the people of God. It was the moment of our legal adoption, even this generation. And you have reference allusion to the same procedure at the end of the third address. Chapter 26 1619. We'll come back to this in Fuller, but he begins Chapter 2616 This Day your Way, Your God is commanding you to do these ordinances and stipulations you shall keep and do them with all your heart and with all your being. And then now I'm reading. And I've. Sorry, Dr. Mounts. You have declared this day that the Lord is your God, that you will walk in obedience to Him, that you will keep His decrees, commands and laws that you will listen to him.


[00:41:18] I've got all kinds of problems with that one. Laws. No instructions, whatever. Commands What? Yes, but that you will listen to him. And the Lord has declared this day that you are His people, His treasured possession as he promised, and that you are to keep. So you've got references to the two sides of this relationship. Who is the Lord after this? He is the God of Israel. Who are the people after this? They are the people of Yahweh. That's what's happened here. But now let's go back to those two words. You have declared. This day that the Lord is your God. It's not what the text says here. Verse 17 Today you have had Yahweh declare to be your God. This is a technical discussion. Now, just three sentences. Bear with me in here. Feel you. The hayfield stem is used when you want to say that somebody has somebody else, do something. And in this case it is. You have had Yahweh declare that he would be your God. Then look at verse 18 today, Yahweh has had you declare that you would be his treasured people. What's happening here? This is the only place in all of Scripture where you have this hip feel form of the verb, never anywhere else. The author, Moses, is using a very special technical semi legal vocabulary. This word appears thousands of times in the Bible. It's simply the word for say. Here. Israel has had Yahweh say Yahweh has had Israel's say. This is formal language of covenant ratification whereby each party hears the other person commit himself to them. And the other party hears Israel commit themselves to the Lord. Yahweh has is heard Israel say, I am yours, I will keep your commands. Israel has had Yahweh say, I am your God.


[00:43:52] And I will set you high above the nations. This is formal legal covenant ratification language. What? We can reconstruct it in something like this. Moses Presumably we're trying to recapture the event. Today you have had Yahweh declare, and then Yahweh speaks. I will be your God. You shall walk in my ways. You should keep my audience, listen to my voice. And then Moses says to Israel, Today, Yahweh has had you declare. And they say, We will be your treasured people, just as you promised us. We will keep all your commands. We will be our holy people to you, our God, just as you promised, and you will set us high above them. We've heard you say that. We've had you say that. So this is a technical covenant ratification moment. And of course, the reference to he will set you high above the nations. This is the mission to which God calls Israel. And that's the point of the covenant. God doesn't make a covenant to because Israel is special. God makes a covenant with Israel because the world is special and this is his means. They are the agents by which he wants to reach the world. This is the message, your logical mission of the nation of Israel. And of course, they forgot that very quickly. This whole notion opens up again in chapter 28, where he unpacks this special status. And then finally, there is a concluding or old ritual, as was the case at Horeb. You remember at Horeb, when they know Moses read all the words of the covenant document and the Decalogue to the people. Then they built an altar, offered sacrifices, and while they are offering sacrifices, they they saved some of the blood and they splattered some blood on the altar.


[00:46:02] This was the ritual by which Yahweh was putting himself under oath. The altar represents God, and God is thereby saying, So be it to me if I ever go back on my word. May I give my blood? There are other analogs to this. But then after they've read all the words of the covenant one more time, the people say all that the Lord has spoken. We will do the same for the third time. And then Moses takes the blood and sprinkles it on the people. What's happened? This is signed, sealed, delivered. It's done. And we have put ourselves under oath so that if we ever break it, may all the curses come upon us. And what does God say if I break kids? I mean, often script you have by my life as I live. That's God's way of saying guaranteed. And of course, he is the eternal, the living God. You will never you will never die. But then it is it's a ritual for the sake of communication. Well, and then chapter 29. Today all of you are standing before you off where your God, the heads of your tribes, elders, little ones, sojourners with you. All of you are standing so that you may pass into the covenant of your way, your God and the oath of the Lord, your God, which you are the Lord Your God is making with you today. That He may establish you today as His people, that He may be your God as He promised you and as he swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Here it is. The Abrahamic Covenant is this is an extension of the Abrahamic covenant. Through this ritual, this generation is is wrapped into that covenant relationship. What Abraham was to the mission.


[00:48:01] The nation is now to the mission. But then he says, It's not with you alone, but with all those whoever is standing here. Yes, you're all here. But also with whoever is not here with us today. So this covenant is not only for this generation. It is in perpetuity for those who will be your children. They're wrapped into this as well. I have here an illustration of cutting the covenant, and the Hebrew expression for to make a covenant is to cut it. We use the word of manufacture for covenant, nor the cutting. Well, what did that mean? This is from Genesis 15. Remember that very puzzling text? Abraham is lying there. He's in a coma. That's what the Hebrew word here, is it? Thought they might. He's in a deep sleep. He's a passive observer to what is happening. But the Lord has said, take this, create these critters and cut them in half. And then what happens is that that torch passes between the two parts in Akkadian. That is the language of Babylonia. And in that language, the idiom for making a covenant is to cut the donkey. And we have one or two illustrations in which people who are parties to a covenant cut the donkey and then the partners to the covenant walk between the two parts. And in so doing, they say, made this happen to me if I don't keep my covenant. But in this case, in Genesis 15, there God alone is passing through. Later in Chapter 17, Abe Abraham himself, through the act of circumcision, he signs on. So that's the second half of it. But in this case, God binds himself to Abraham and his descendants irrevocably. Well, Genesis 17 seven, through the Israelites actions on the plains of Moab, the Lord fulfilled his ancient promise by having Israelites born after the Exodus passage into the Covenant and the oath they are now God's covenant people.


[00:50:30] He had kept his word. He remembered his covenant with Abraham and hereby established his descendants as his people. Exactly as he said. Now, the infidelity, faithlessness and consequent death of the Exodus generation after they signed on at Sinai raised questions about whether God would keep His covenant. What would God do now that all the Israelites have died? That was the point. Have you ever done the math on how how many what? On how many funerals there were in the in the desert after they turned around from Kadesh Barnea and it was hundreds every day. The dominant sound in the Israelite camp for those 40 years would have been the death wail. That which they heard ringing in their ears as they left Egypt. The Egyptians were all wailing the death of their firstborn for 40 years. Every day, a hundred funerals in the camp of Israel. The point of those 40 years was to get rid of this generation, start over, and this is the generation with which God would do this. There's one more stage to this and that will happen. We'll talk about this in chapter 27. Moses says, I can't cross the Jordan with you, but when you cross the Jordan, you are to head straight for Garrus and evil. Which? Two mountains right here for a very special procedure. And it's also covenantal. And this notice, it's right in the very dead center of from Dan to Beersheba, which defines the boundaries from New York to L.A., whatever. Right in the dead center there, they go through one more ritual, but that will be the subject of later conversation. Deuteronomy is covenantal from beginning to end. What's happening here is the creation, I should say the renewal, the establishment, the confirmation of this generation as the people of God.


[00:52:49] And that's a privilege status. Sons you are to the Lord your God. 14 one You are his chosen ones. His Holy people called that you might show the praises of him, who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. That's Deuteronomy.