Our reading begins today with Moses preparing Israel for the taking of the land and their life in the land by calling their attention to all of God’s commandments (4:1-2). They need to remember what disobedience brings, looking back to their worship of the false god, Baal of Peor, and what happened as a result (v. 3). In view here are the first and second commandments. Beginning in verse 15, Moses expounds the second commandment. He warns of the consequences of idolatry (vv. 25-31), which would play out in the Babylonian captivity and the return of a remnant almost a millennium later.
Beginning in verse 32, Moses expounds the first commandment. In verse 40, we see that this is indeed the basis of all the other commands God has given. Then, before reiterating all the commands of God, Moses assigns the cities of refuge (see Numbers 35) on the eastern side of the Jordan. In verse 44, we see the written introduction to this “second” giving of the Law.
Chapter 5 begins with a call to Israel to hear (5:1). He then repeats the Ten Commandments to Israel. Seven of the ten are repeated verbatim. There is a change in the order of wife and house in the tenth commandment, which is not a substantial change. The differences to notice are in the fourth and fifth commandments. Added into the command to observe the Sabbath is the stipulation about their slaves, so Israel would remember that they were slaves. It is a call to humility for Israel. When they were slaves, God acted on their behalf. If they mistreat their own slaves, what can they expect Him to do? To the fifth commandment is added the clause: “and that it may go well with you…” God’s salvation and provision is not just about living, it is about living well. It is about having life, and having it abundantly.
Notice how throughout this address, Moses does not distinguish between the first generation that He saved, and this current generation. In fact, he equates them (see 5:2-3, 22-30). Not only that, but Moses’ mediation is brought into sharp view (vv. 4-5, 31). We see in this that idea of representation again. Clearly, God made promises to a previous generation which they did not receive. This shows us that the physical individuals themselves are not really in view. Rather, it is a whole people of God that receive the promises. This is exactly what happens in the New Covenant. Christ is our mediator, and we receive the promises as the true people of God. The promises God made, He made to us.
In chapter 6, Moses continues giving the commands to Israel. In 6:4-5, we have what Christ calls the most important commandment of all (Mark 12:29-30). This is what is known as the Shema, a transliteration of the Hebrew imperative “hear” or “listen” (Hebrew שׁמע). It is the same way Moses calls attention to the commands he is about to give (translated “listen in 4:1) and how he introduces the Ten Commandments (5:1). The call to obedience is the same as the Ten Commandments, which are all rooted in the first commandment, and is the same as this call to love God. In other words, love for God is where obedience starts. In 6:14-15 we see a warning against idolatry, in verses 16-19 an exhortation to obedience, and in verses 20-25 an encouragement to always remember what God has done in order to obey. All of this is rooted in love for God.
Chapter 7 begins with the promise that God will be the one to win the victory against God’s enemies. Note that six of these nations (all but Girgashites) are the same in Exodus 23:23, where God says “an angel” will drive out the inhabitants. Six of them (all but Hivites) are also part of the original promise to Abraham (Gen 15:20). Almost 500 years later, and God is still working to keep His promise. In verse 2, God commands Israel that they “must devote to complete destruction” these nations that God hands over to them. Here, we have the repetition of the Hebrew verb that means “to devote” or “to dedicate”. Literally, God tells Israel you must “devote devote” them. And while there is debate over what, exactly, this means, it becomes clear that, for these nations, God wants Israel to completely wipe them out (see Deut 20:16-17). This has been a hard pill to swallow for many. Some Christians need to dance around it to make it mean something other than what it does. Many unbeliever have pointed to this and challenged people of faith to defend this “cruelty.” But there is no cruelty here. Our God is just. He is using Israel as a means of judgment on sinful nations.
And we need to realize that this has always been part of the promise. Go back and read Genesis 15. God told Abraham that Israel would be enslaved for 400 years (Gen 15:13). And they were. God told Abraham that He would punish the nation that enslaved them and that Israel would plunder that nation (Gen 15:14). He did, and they did. He said they would come back to the land in the fourth generation, which they are here in Deuteronomy. But notice why God was waiting to bring them back: it wouldn’t be time to punish the iniquity of these nations until then (Gen 15:16).
Now, in Deuteronomy 7, God is saying that the time had come. He will not clear the guilty. This is why it is God Who is going to do the work in giving them into Israel’s hands (7:2). But here is the important part – Israel is not different than these other nations! The only reason God chose them, is because He chose them (vv. 6-7). Because He promised redemption to Abraham, whom God also chose for no reason in himself (v. 8). This is about Who God is (vv. 9-10) – He is loving Savior, and He is holy Judge. And this is Who He has always been and always will be. Because the wicked will all be judged, and justly so. And the fact that we won’t be has nothing to do with us. It is only because God has chosen us to be holy unto Him.
The chapter ends with God’s exhortation to obedience, and His promise of blessing if they listen. Note that He will not make an abrupt end of these nations, but this will be a process (vv. 22-23). This is God’s normal method of working in the world, but it is no less miraculous.