Deuteronomy 30:15-20

Deuteronomy 30:15-20
Sixth Sunday after Epiphany A


15 “See,A I have setB beforeC you todayD

Notes on verse 15a

A “see” = raah. This is to see in a literal or figurative sense so stare, advise, think, view.
B “set” = natan. This is to give, put, set, offer. It is to give literally or figuratively.
C “before” = paneh. From panah (to turn, face, appear). This is face in a literal or figurative sense. It could be face, presence, anger, respect. It can also be used of God to indicate divine favor or presence.
D “today” = yom. Root may mean being hot. This is the day in a literal or figurative sense. It can also mean birth, age, daylight, continually or other references to time.

lifeE and prosperity,F deathG and adversity.H 

Notes on verse 15b

E “life” = chay. From chayah (to live or keep alive literally or figuratively). This is alive, living, lifetime. It can also be used to describe someone’s age. It can refer to animals, plants, water, or a company or congregation of people. It is life in a very broad sense.
F “prosperity” = tob. From tob (to be pleasing, to be good). This is good, beautiful, pleasant, agreeable, bountiful, at ease. This word is used for goodness as a concept, a good thing, a good person. This can refer to prosperity and welfare as well as joy, kindness, sweetness, and graciousness. So, this is ethically good, but also enjoyably good.
G “death” = mavet. From muth (to die in a literal or figurative sense). This can be death, deadliness, the dead, or the place where the dead go. It can be used figuratively for pestilence or ruin.
H “adversity” = ra’. From ra’a’ (to be evil, bad, afflict; properly, to spoil – to destroy by breaking into pieces; figuratively, to cause something to be worthless; this is bad in a physical, social, or moral sense; that which displeases, to do harm or mischief, to punish or vex). This is bad, disagreeable, that which causes pain, misery, something having little or no value, something that is ethically bad, wicked, injury, calamity. This refers to anything that is not what it ought to be – a natural disaster, a disfigurement, an injury, a sin.

16 If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commandingI you today, by lovingJ the LordK your God,L

Notes on verse 16a

I “commanding” = tsavah. This is to charge, command, order, appoint, or enjoin. This is the root that the Hebrew word for “commandment” comes from (mitsvah).
J “loving” = aheb. This is to love, beloved, friend. It is to have affection for sexually or otherwise.
K “Lord” = YHVH. From havah (to be, become) or hayah (to come to pass, become, be). This is the name of the God of Israel, the self-existent and eternal one, the tetragrammaton. This pronunciation has been lost to time so “Lord” is generally used in its place.
L “God” = Elohim. From eloah (God, a god); from el (God, a god). This is most commonly used as a name for God. Technically, it’s in the plural, i.e. gods. It can also mean great, mighty, judge, or ruler.

walkingM in his ways,N and observingO his commandments,P

Notes on verse 16b

M “walking” = halak. This is go, come, walk. It is walk literally and figuratively and includes people and animals. It can be used figuratively for one’s moral life – how we walk according to God’s way or against it. It can also refer to the walk of life as in the course one’s life takes, the choices we make, etc.
N “ways” = derek. From darak (to tread, march, to walk. Can also mean affixing a string to a box since one needs to step on it to bend it in the process; so also an archer). This is a road as a thing that is walked on. Can be used figuratively for the path that one’s life takes or how one chooses to live one’s life.
O “observing” = shamar. This is to keep, watch, or preserve. It means to guard something or to protect it as a thorny hedge protects something.
P “commandments” = mitsvah. Related to “commanding” in v16. From tsavah (see note I above). This is a commandment, law, ordinance obligation, or tradition. It is something commanded whether by God or by a human authority. This term is sometimes used collectively to refer to the Law.

decrees,Q and ordinances,R then you shall liveS and become numerous,T

Notes on verse 16c

Q “decrees” = chuqqah. From choq (statute, boundary, condition, custom, limit, ordinance; something that is prescribed or something that is owed); from chaqaq (to inscribe, carve, or decree; a lawmaker; literally, this is engraving, but it implies enacting a law because laws were carved into stone or metal). This is something prescribed such as a statue, custom, or ordinance.
R “ordinances” = mishpat. From shaphat (to judge, defend, pronounce judgment, condemn, govern). This is a verdict or formal sentence whether from humans or from God. It includes the act of judging as well as the place that judging takes place, the suit itself, and the penalty. Abstractly, this is justice, which includes the rights of the participants.
S “live” = chayah. Related to “life” in v15. See note E above.
T “become numerous” = rabah. This is increasing in any aspect whether quantity, authority, size, quality, greatness, etc.

and the Lord your God will blessU you in the landV that you are enteringW to possess.X 

Notes on verse 16d

U “bless” = barak. This is to kneel, to bless. It is blessing God as part of worship and adoration or blessing humans to help them. It can be used as a euphemism to say curse God.
V “land” = erets. Root may mean to be firm. This is earth, ground, field land, or country.
W “entering” = bo. This is to enter, come in, advance, fulfill, bring offerings, enter to worship, attack. It can also have a sexual connotation.
X “possess” = yarash. This is inheriting or dispossessing. It refers to occupying or colonizing – taking territory by driving out the previous inhabitants and living there instead of them. By implication, it can mean to seize or rob, to expel, ruin, or impoverish.

17 But if your heartY turns awayZ and you do not hearAA but are led astrayBB

Notes on verse 17a

Y “heart” = lebab. May be related to labab (to encourage; properly, to be encased as with fat; used in a good sense, this means to transport someone with love; used in a bad sense, it can mean to dull one’s senses). This is the heart, courage, one’s inner self, the mind, or the will. Heart is only used in a figurative sense in the Old and New Testaments.
Z “turns away” = panah. Related to “before” in v15. See note C above.
AA “hear” = shama. This is to hear, call, consent, or consider. It implies listening intelligently, giving attention, and, because of these two factors, obedience and action are often implied.
BB “led astray” = nadach. This is scatter, seduce, banish, draw away, drive away, outcast, scatter. It means to push off in a literal or figurative sense so it could also be mislead, inflict, or withdraw.

to bow downCC to otherDD godsEE and serveFF them, 

Notes on verse 17b

CC “bow down” = shachah. This is to bow down, make a humble entreaty, to do homage to royalty or to God.
DD “other” = acher. From achar (to be behind, delay, be late, procrastinate, continue). This is following, next, strange, other.
EE “gods” = elohim. Same as “God” in v16. See note L above.
FF “serve” = abad. This is to work, serve, or compel. It can describe any kind of work or service (including religious devotion).  Also, till or cultivate. Used causatively, it can mean to enslave or keep in bondage.

18 I declareGG to you today that you shall certainly perish;HH you shall not live longII

Notes on verse 18a

GG “declare” = nagad. This is to declare, make conspicuous, stand in front, manifest, predict, explain.
HH “perish” = abad + abad. To wander off, lose self. This implies to perish, destroy, die, vanish, or be broken or corrupt. The word is repeated twice – the first time as an Infinitive Absolute. The Infinitive Absolute serves to emphasize the sentiment of the word. It is rather like Foghorn Leghorn’s speech pattern, “I said, I said.”
II “not live long” = arak + yom. Literally, “you shall not prolong your days.” Arak is Yom is the same as “today” in v15. See note D above.

in the landJJ that you are crossingKK the JordanLL to enter and possess. 

Notes on verse 18b

JJ “land” = adamah. From the same as adam (man, humankind); perhaps from ‘adom (to be red). This is ground, earth, soil as red, or land.
KK “crossing” = abar. This is to pass over or cross over. It is used for transitions, whether literal or figurative. It can also mean to escape, alienate, or fail. This is the root verb from which “Hebrew” is drawn.
LL “Jordan” = Yarden. From yarad (to go down, descend; going down in a literal or figurative sense; going to the shore or a boundary, bringing down an enemy). This is the Jordan River, meaning “descending.”

19 I call heavenMM and earthNN to witnessOO against you today that I have set beforePP you life and death,

Notes on verse 19a

MM “heaven” = shamayim. Root may mean being lofty. This is sky, the air, or heaven. It is in a dual noun form so this might refer to the part of the sky where the clouds move on the one hand and the part beyond that where the sun, moon, and stars are on the other hand.
NN “earth” = erets. Same as “land” in v16. See note V above.
OO “call…to witness” = ud. This is to repeat, return, do again. This implies testifying something since that is a repetition. It can also mean to charge, admonish, protest, relieve, restore, or lift up.
PP “before” = paneh. Same as “before” in v15. See note C above.

blessingsQQ and curses.RR ChooseSS life so that you and your descendantsTT may live, 20 loving the Lord your God, obeyingUU him,VV

Notes on verses 19b-20a

QQ “blessings” = barakah. Related to “bless” in v16. From barak (see note U above). This is blessing, which implies prosperity or peace.
RR “curses” = qelalah. From qalal (to be little, insignificant, swift; to bring down in esteem, create contempt, curse). This is cursing or vilification.
SS “choose” = bachar. This is to choose, appoint, try, excellent.
TT “descendants” = zera. From zara (to sow or scatter seed; conceive or yield). This is seed or sowing. It can, thus, mean a fruit, plant, sowing time, child, offspring, or posterity.
UU “obeying” = shama. Same as “hear” in v17. See note AA above.
VV “him” = qol. Literally, “his voice.” This is a sound, used often for human voices. Also used when God speaks or angels, animals or instruments. It can be a cry or a noise, thunder or earthquakes and so on.

and holding fastWW to him, for that means life to you and lengthXX of days,YY

Notes on verse 20b

WW “holding fast” = dabaq. This is to follow closely or abide fast, to cling or be joined together. Figuratively, it can mean to catch something by chasing after it, to overtake, or to stick. A man clings to his wife in Genesis 2:24, Shechem was deeply attracted to Dinah in Genesis 34:3, Ruth clung to Naomi in Ruth 1:14, Solomon clung to his foreign wives and concubines in 1 Kings 11:2. It is also used of a tongue sticking to the mouth, pursuing or overtaking as in battle, and also clinging to God.
XX “length” = orek. Related to “live long” in v18. From arak (see note II above). This is length, long, or forever.
YY “days” = yom. Same as “today” in v15. See note D above.

so that you may liveZZ in the landAAA that the Lord sworeBBB to giveCCC

Notes on verse 20c

ZZ “live” = yashab. This is to sit and so to remain and so to dwell. It is sitting for any reason – as a judge, in order to ambush, or just sitting quietly. Causatively, this can mean settling or marrying. This can also mean continue, endure, or establish.
AAA “land” = adamah. Same as “land” in v18. See note JJ above.
BBB “swore” = shaba. Perhaps from sheba (seven – the number of perfection/sacred fullness). This is to swear, curse, vow, make a covenant. Properly, it can mean to be complete. This is to seven oneself – as in affirming something so strongly it is as though it were said seven times.
CCC “give” = natan. Same as “set” in v15. See note B above.

to your ancestors,DDD to Abraham,EEE to Isaac,FFF and to Jacob.”GGG

Notes on verse 20d

DDD “ancestors” = ab. This is father, chief, or ancestor. It is father in a literal or figurative sense.
EEE “Abraham” = Abraham. Related to “ancestors” in v20. From the same as Abiram (exalted father, a high father – lofty) {from ab (see note DDD above) + rum (rise, bring up, being high, extol, exalt, haughty; to raise in a literal or figurative sense)}. This is Abraham, father of many nations or father of a multitude.
FFF “Isaac” = Yitschaq. From tsachaq (to laugh, mock, play, make sport; this is laughing out loud whether in joy or in a scornful way). This is Isaac, meaning “he laughs.”
GGG “Jacob” = Yaaqob. From the same as aqeb (heel, hind part, hoof, rear guard of an army, one who lies in wait, usurper). This is Isaac’s son and his descendants. The name means heel-catcher or supplanter.

Image credit: “Thar Desert” by Karan Dhawan India, 2015.

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