Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
A recapitulation of God's gracious dealings with Israel, Deu 29:1-8. An exhortation to obedience, and to enter into covenant with their God, that they and their posterity may be established in the good land, Deu 29:9-15. They are to remember the abominations of Egypt, and to avoid them, Deu 29:16, Deu 29:17. He who hardens his heart, when he hears these curses, shall be utterly consumed, Deu 29:18-21. Their posterity shall be astonished at the desolations that shall fall upon them, Deu 29:22, Deu 29:23; shall inquire the reason, and shall be informed that the Lord has done thus to them because of their disobedience and idolatry, Deu 29:24-28. A caution against prying too curiously into the secrets of the Divine providence, and to be contented with what God has revealed, Deu 29:29.
These are the words of the covenant - This verse seems properly to belong to the preceding chapter, as a widely different subject is taken up at Deu 29:2 of this; and it is distinguished as the 69th verse in some of the most correct copies of the Hebrew Bible.
Commanded Moses to make - לכרת lichroth, to cut, alluding to the covenant sacrifice which was offered on the occasion and divided, as is explained, Gen 15:18 (note).
Beside the covenant which he made - in Horeb - What is mentioned here is an additional institution to the ten words given on Horeb; and the curses denounced here are different from those denounced against the transgressors of the decalogue.
The Lord hath not given you a heart, etc. - Some critics read this verse interrogatively: And hath not God given you a heart, etc.? because they suppose that God could not reprehend them for the non-performance of a duty, when he had neither given them a mind to perceive the obligation of it, nor strength to perform it, had that obligation been known. Though this is strictly just, yet there is no need for the interrogation, as the words only imply that they had not such a heart, etc., not because God had not given them all the means of knowledge, and helps of his grace and Spirit, which were necessary; but they had not made a faithful use of their advantages, and therefore they had not that wise, loving, and obedient heart which they otherwise might have had. If they had had such a heart, it would have been God's gift, for he is the author of all good; and that they had not such a heart was a proof that they had grieved his Spirit, and abused the grace which he had afforded them to produce that gracious change, the want of which is here deplored. Hence God himself is represented as grieved because they were unchanged and disobedient: "O that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them and with their children for ever!" See Deu 5:29 (note), and the note there.
Your clothes are not waxen old - See on Deu 8:4 (note).
Ye have not eaten bread, etc. - That is, ye have not been supported in an ordinary providential way; I have been continually working miracles for you, that ye might know that I am the Lord. Thus we find that God had furnished them with all the means of this knowledge, and that the means were ineffectual, not because they were not properly calculated to answer God's gracious purpose, but because the people were not workers with God; consequently they received the grace of God in vain. See Co2 6:1.
Ye stand - all of you before the Lord - They were about to enter into a covenant with God; and as a covenant implies two parties contracting, God is represented as being present, and they and all their families, old and young, come before him.
That thou shouldest enter - לעבר leaber, to pass through, that is, between the separated parts of the covenant sacrifice. See Gen 15:18 (note).
And into his oath - Thus we find that in a covenant were these seven particulars:
1. The parties about to contract were considered as being hitherto separated.
2. They now agree to enter into a state of close and permanent amity.
3. They meet together in a solemn manner for this purpose.
4. A sacrifice is offered to God on the occasion, for the whole is a religious act.
5. The victim is separated exactly into two equal parts, the separation being in the direction of the spine; and those parts are laid opposite to each other, sufficient room being allowed for the contracting parties to pass between them.
6. The contracting parties meet in the victim, and the conditions of the covenant by which they are to be mutually bound are recited.
7. An oath is taken by these parties that they shall punctually and faithfully perform their respective conditions, and thus the covenant is made and ratified. See Jer 34:18, Jer 34:19, and the notes on Gen 6:18 (note); Gen 15:18 (note); Exo 29:45 (note); Leviticus 26 (note).
Him that standeth here - The present generation. Him that is not here - all future generations of this people.
A root that beareth gall and wormwood - That is, as the apostle expresses it, Heb 3:12, An evil heart of unbelief departing from the living God; for to this place he evidently refers. It may also signify false doctrines, or idolatrous persons among themselves.
To add drunkenness to thirst - A proverbial expression denoting the utmost indulgence in all sensual gratifications.
Gods - whom he had not given unto them - This is an unhappy translation. Houbigant renders the original words ולו חלק להם velo chalak lahem, et quibuscum nulla eis societas, "And with whom they had no society;" and falls unmercifully on Le Clerc because he had translated it, From whom they had received no benefits. I must differ from both these great men, because I think they differ from the text. חלק chalak signifies a portion, lot, inheritance, and God is frequently represented in Scripture as the portion or inheritance of his people. Here, therefore, I think the original should be rendered, And there was no portion to them, that is, the gods they served could neither supply their wants nor save their souls - they were no portion.
The secret things belong unto the Lord, etc. - This verse has been variously translated. Houbigant renders it thus: Quae apud Dominum nostrum abscondita sunt, nobis ea filiisque nostris palam facta sunt ad multas aetates, "The things which were hidden with the Lord our God, are made manifest to us and our children for many generations." I am not satisfied with this interpretation, and find that the passage was not so understood by any of the ancient versions. The simple general meaning seems to be this: "What God has thought proper to reveal, he has revealed; what he has revealed is essential to the well-being of man, and this revelation is intended not for the present time merely, nor for one people, but for all succeeding generations. The things which he has not revealed concern not man but God alone, and are therefore not to be inquired after." Thus, then, the things that are hidden belong unto the Lord, those that are revealed belong unto us and our children. But possibly the words here refer to the subjects of these chapters, as if he had said, "Apostasy from God and his truth is possible. When a national apostasy among us may take place, is known only to God; but he has revealed himself to us and our children that we may do all the words of this law, and so prevent the dreadful evils that shall fall on the disobedient."
The Jews have always considered these verses as containing subjects of the highest importance to them, and have affixed marks to the original לנו ולבנינו lanu ulebaneynu, "to Us and to our Children," in order to fix the attention of the reader on truths which affect them individually, and not them only, but the whole of their posterity.