Deuteronomy 11 is the last chapter of the first part of the book. This can be seen in the first verse of Deuteronomy 12 (Deu 12:1). In Deuteronomy 1-11 we have a retrospect on the wilderness journey and a look ahead to the land that Israel will take possession of. First they are taught what they are themselves, what is in their hearts, and what the flesh, that is sinful nature, is. Then the gaze is turned to the land they will inherit to warm the hearts of the people to take possession of it. Both aspects are discussed again in Deuteronomy 11.
Deuteronomy 11 can be divided into three sections:
1. Verses 1-9 look back on what lies behind them, so that they may learn lessons from it.
2. Verses 10-21 show what lies before them, a description of the land, to awaken the people to long to enter the land.
3. Verses 22-32 suggest that the people are responsible for making the right choice now: the blessing or the curse.
The love of God occurs in every section (verses 1,13,22). God has every reason to ask us for the love response.
1 - 7 The Deeds of the LORD for the People
1 “You shall therefore love the LORD your God, and always keep His charge, His statutes, His ordinances, and His commandments. 2 Know this day that I [am] not [speaking] with your sons who have not known and who have not seen the discipline of the LORD your God—His greatness, His mighty hand and His outstretched arm, 3 and His signs and His works which He did in the midst of Egypt to Pharaoh the king of Egypt and to all his land; 4 and what He did to Egypt’s army, to its horses and its chariots, when He made the water of the Red Sea to engulf them while they were pursuing you, and the LORD completely destroyed them; 5 and what He did to you in the wilderness until you came to this place; 6 and what He did to Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, the son of Reuben, when the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, their households, their tents, and every living thing that followed them, among all Israel— 7 but your own eyes have seen all the great work of the LORD which He did.
Moses addresses the word to those who have seen with their own eyes (verse 7) what the LORD has done in Egypt (verse 3) and in the wilderness (verse 5). They do not belong to the family condemned to die in the wilderness because of their disobedience to Kadesh-barnea (Deu 1:35-36). They are people who were, at the time, between zero and twenty years of age (Num 14:29-30) and have remained alive (Num 14:31). Although young at the time, they have seen the great redemptive acts of God as a result of which they are now about to enter the promised land.
Moses speaks to men aged between forty and sixty, the most responsible, a generation rich in experience. Their children don’t have that experience. He repeats his exhortation to love the LORD and to keep his commandments. Love and obedience always belong together.
The constant repetition of thoughts, words and sentences is characteristic of the message of this book. The repetition shows the intensity of the LORD’s desire to mold His people so that they are ready to conquer Canaan and settle there. Through this repetition Moses tries to imprint the necessity of a full adherence to the LORD in the minds of the people. This chapter is a remarkable illustration of this hammering repeating style. We find the exhortations to love, to remember, to perceive, to worship and serve, to obey, to learn, and to walk in the ways of the LORD.
In the retrospective of the past, Moses points to three special lessons:
1. The redemption from Egypt (verses 3-4).
2. The journey through the wilderness (verse 5).
3. The rebellion of Dathan and Abiram (verses 6-7).
The LORD has destroyed Egypt “completely”, literally “till this day”. Although the extermination of the Egyptians took place forty years ago, its effect is noticeable on the day when Moses speaks his words to the people. A spiritual application is that what God did to the world when His Son died on the cross (Gal 6:14) must have its effect on every day of our lives.
The lesson of Egypt is that the wisdom of the world has come to an end. The letter to the Colossians shows the danger of it. Everything of God is in Christ, of Whom it is said to us: “And in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority” (Col 2:10). Anyone who believes that the wisdom of the world can contribute something to taking possession of the land has not learned the lesson of what God has done with Egypt.
The second lesson is the journey through the wilderness, where I meet the second enemy: my own flesh. Do I know and recognize that enemy? Do I give up the flesh to the place where rightfully it belongs, death. Do I “consider” myself “to be dead to sin” (Rom 6:11a)? To take possession of the land, an enemy must always be expelled.
The third enemy, Dathan and Abiram, comprise the third lesson. This enemy is among the people of God, can be considered as the Christian testimony. Dathan and Abiram have attempted to appropriate the authority of Moses and rebelled against it. [Korah is not mentioned, possibly because his sons have been spared (Num 26:9-11).] This rebellion has been seen in the posturing of the roman catholic church since the Middle Ages. The question we can attach to it is: With us, does Christ have all authority?
8 - 12 Difference Between Egypt and Canaan
8 “You shall therefore keep every commandment which I am commanding you today, so that you may be strong and go in and possess the land into which you are about to cross to possess it; 9 so that you may prolong [your] days on the land which the LORD swore to your fathers to give to them and to their descendants, a land flowing with milk and honey. 10 For the land, into which you are entering to possess it, is not like the land of Egypt from which you came, where you used to sow your seed and water it with your foot like a vegetable garden. 11 But the land into which you are about to cross to possess it, a land of hills and valleys, drinks water from the rain of heaven, 12 a land for which the LORD your God cares; the eyes of the LORD your God are always on it, from the beginning even to the end of the year.
Keeping the Word of God gives spiritual strength (1Jn 2:14b). If we take to heart the lessons of verses 1-7, the Word of God is given the opportunity to give us strength to take possession of the land: “Strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light” (Col 1:11-12).
The inheritance speaks of the realm of peace that encompasses both earth and heaven and over which, according to God’s counsel, we will reign together with the Lord Jesus. Of this Paul says: “Which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, [that is,] the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him 11also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph 1:9b-11).
There is also an inheritance in the light that is already our part and can be enjoyed by us. That is the kingdom of the Son of the love of the Father, Who “rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col 1:13). That is where we are already. The fruits of the land of Canaan are a picture of the blessings of that inheritance.
In addition to the characteristic “flowing with milk and honey”, a special land feature is added, namely that the land will drink water “from the rain of heaven” (verse 11). The rain of heaven makes the fruit grow well in the land (verses 14,17). This characteristic is the big difference with the way Egypt is supplied with water. Egypt has practically no rain. Fertility is obtained in Egypt by an annual overflowing of the river Nile and harnessing manmade irrigation systems. This means that fertility in Egypt mainly results of men’s efforts and is not exclusively caused by the rain of heaven as in Israel.
Egypt says that the Nile is his (Eze 29:3). He does not think about its origin. Egypt represents the man of the world who believes that he derives all his blessing from natural sources. The natural man hogs this blessing without thinking of God. He believes he is entitled to it and sees it as the result of his own efforts.
The blessing of the promised land just comes from the heaven of God. The land is under His constant care. His eyes are always on it, all year round (Psa 65:9-13). Wouldn’t these eyes notice all the needs of His children? And are not His love and His power great enough to meet these needs?
The rain has to do with doctrine, teaching. The teaching of Moses is also a rain (Deu 32:2). It represents the blessing we receive through the preaching that emanates from the glorious Head in heaven, and through His gifts comes to us to perfect us as saints.
The rain is here in connection with the land. This blessing is also present but obvious. It requires the coming down of the heaven, without natural resources. In all ecclesiastical systems where ‘the water’ is conducted through human regulations and statutes, very little can be heard about the heavenly blessings. That is not for nothing. Providing or obtaining blessing from the Lord does not involve theological instruction and diplomas, but obedience of the heart.
13 - 15 Promise of Blessing
13 “It shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the LORD your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul, 14 that He will give the rain for your land in its season, the early and late rain, that you may gather in your grain and your new wine and your oil. 15 He will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.
The rain does not come on demand, but on God’s time, when He gives it. He connects the rain to obedience. The early rain is the time for us to see for the first time something that goes beyond the forgiveness of sins. We live in the time of late rain, since the Lord in His goodness at the beginning of the nineteenth century again gave sight to the blessings of the land. Have we drunk and tasted of it?
The rain of the heaven is needed to collect “your grain and your new wine and your oil”. In Psalm 104 we see that grain is meant for food, wine is linked to joy, and oil gives a glistening face (Psa 104:14-15).
For us this means that we may constantly feed on the food of the land, which for us is the Lord Jesus as the bread from heaven (Jn 6:47-58). Feeding on Him as eternal life means that we realize inwardly that He is our life and that thereby we have fellowship with the Father and the Son. The Father and the Son are of eternity in that land. With this we may strengthen ourselves, we may share in a practical way with the Father of the things His heart is full of.
The new wine represents the complete joy we may know consequential to fellowship with the Father and the Son. That too is a blessing of the eternal life (1Jn 1:1-4). The oil represents yet another aspect of eternal life. Something of it we see in Psalm 133:
“A Song of Ascents, of David.
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brothers to dwell together in unity!
It is like the precious oil upon the head,
Coming down upon the beard,
[Even] Aaron’s beard,
Coming down upon the edge of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon
Coming down upon the mountains of Zion;
For there the LORD commanded the blessing—life forever” (Psa 103:1-3)
In this psalm eternal life is enjoyed by brothers and sisters who dwell together. It is a place where the LORD commands the blessing. That place is the heavenly places. Here, it is enjoyed in a place where brothers dwell together. In the beginning of 1 John 1 there is not only fellowship with the Father and the Son, but also with our brothers and sisters (1Jn 1:3). Things that could separate us on earth has disappeared there.
What unites us gives us an intense love for each other. That is because of the possession of the same eternal life. It is precisely where we are together that we can most intensely experience that fellowship with the Father and the Son. Our unity is incorporated into the closed unity of the Father and the Son. As a result of our divisions we often do not experience this, but in principle it is there and can therefore also be enjoyed. There the oil comes down.
16 - 17 Warning of Idolatry
16 Beware that your hearts are not deceived, and that you do not turn away and serve other gods and worship them. 17 Or the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and He will shut up the heavens so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its fruit; and you will perish quickly from the good land which the LORD is giving you.
The blessing comes when the people are obedient. But if the people turn away from the LORD to serve other gods, then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against them. If they think that other gods will give them the blessing, the LORD will withhold from them the blessing.
18 - 21 Impressing and Making Visible
18 “You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 19 You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up. 20 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21 so that your days and the days of your sons may be multiplied on the land which the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens [remain] above the earth.
The warning words of verses 16-17 should be an extra incentive for God’s people to imprint God’s words on themselves and their children. They must be visible in the houses in which they live, in the families they form, and they must be taught by the children they have.
It takes a lot of energy to keep all this alive. It should permeate the whole of life. We can only talk about it fruitfully with our children when we show it ourselves. Eternal life is not only a delight in the meetings, but can be there every day of our lives in all circumstances. Then we already experience the days of heaven on earth. “As long as the heavens [remain] above the earth” not only means the quality of life, but also its duration. This is a life lived for as long as the heavens remain above the earth, that is, always, as long as the earth exists.
22 - 25 Victory Through Obedience
22 For if you are careful to keep all this commandment which I am commanding you to do, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and hold fast to Him, 23 then the LORD will drive out all these nations from before you, and you will dispossess nations greater and mightier than you. 24 Every place on which the sole of your foot treads shall be yours; your border will be from the wilderness to Lebanon, [and] from the river, the river Euphrates, as far as the western sea. 25 No man will be able to stand before you; the LORD your God will lay the dread of you and the fear of you on all the land on which you set foot, as He has spoken to you.
Obedience will give victory, while the previous blessings will be lost through disobedience. But first comes the encouragement resulting from obedience. We must take possession of what is still in the hands of enemies, who must be driven out. What areas in our hearts and lives still need to be conquered? Which enemies still reign there? We must break down strongholds “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2Cor 10:3-5).
26 - 28 The Choice Between Blessing and Curse
26 “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: 27 the blessing, if you listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, which I am commanding you today; 28 and the curse, if you do not listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way which I am commanding you today, by following other gods which you have not known.
This is not a repetition, but a new aspect in the speech of Moses. After all he has said, the people are now faced with a choice. It is a conclusion.
29 - 32 Mount of the Blessing and Mount of the Curse
29 “It shall come about, when the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, that you shall place the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal. 30 Are they not across the Jordan, west of the way toward the sunset, in the land of the Canaanites who live in the Arabah, opposite Gilgal, beside the oaks of Moreh? 31 For you are about to cross the Jordan to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you, and you shall possess it and live in it, 32 and you shall be careful to do all the statutes and the judgments which I am setting before you today.
The blessing and curse are linked to two mountains. These mountains are situated in the land. Mount Gerizim is located on the south side, Mount Ebal on the north side. On Mount Gerizim the blessing is pronounced, possibly because the mountain lies on the south side, the side of the warmth and light. Mount Ebal lies on the north side, the side of cold and darkness.
The place where God causes us to choose is “opposite Gilgal”. Gilgal is the place where the people were circumcised just after entering the land. When this circumcision has taken place, the LORD says: “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you” (Jos 5:9). Spiritually speaking, circumcision means that the judgment of the flesh is exercised (Col 2:11).
“Moreh” means “teaching”, for us: spiritual teaching. The word for “oak” has the meaning of “strong” or “hard” which is indicated in the long life of that tree. In the ‘oaks’ we can see in this context the spiritual power that is the result of the teaching received. If we take to heart the teaching of God’s Word, the choice between blessing or curse, between eternal life or destruction becomes simple.