Further Prophecies of Dispersion (The Diaspora)
29:16 For you know. For you have experienced the idolatry in both Egypt and among the other nations bordering on Canaan; and you can judge consequently their sins.
You came through the midst of the nations through which you passed. You experienced trying times and endured their sinfulness, when you contacted the people of Edom, Ammon, Moab and Mdian.
29:17 Their abominations and their idols. Or, “detestable things.” A contemptuous reference for idols, with an implied reference to the immoral rites that went hand in hand with idol-worship. Their idols were “inanimate blocks,” fetishes of silver and gold. The costly ornaments with which their worshippers beautified themselves. (Talmud)
29:18 Lest there be a man or woman … whose heart turns away today from the Lord our God. An elliptical phrase with the full sense: “I adjure you to enter into this oath and covenant, for fear lest there should be among you someone who falls away and goes the way of the pagans.
A root bearing poisonous fruit. “Rosh,” a poisonous herb—gall. “Wormwood,” Poison and bitterness—the consequences of idolatry. The sinner is here pictured as a bitter root bearing deadly fruit, destroying the life of the nation—the theocracy over which God rules!
29:19 When he hears the words of this curse. The sinner will rebel against the curse that God says will come when he walks away from the Lord. He will congratulate himself or delude his own heart. Because of God’s oath to Israel, this one flatters himself that he is secure, no matter how recklessly he indulges in evil.
“In the stubbornness of my heart.” “Though I persist in the strong wayward impulses of my heart.” See Jeremiah 23:17. People know when they are sinning but they delight in the experience and in the expression of evil. Somehow it feeds the sinful soul!
“[My stubbornness] will destroy the watered land with the dry.” Or, “to sweep away the well-watered soil with the dry. A proverbial phrase, denoting a hurricane of destruction that would annihilate the community through the sinfulness of individual members here and there. The consequences of idolatry.
29:20 The Lord’s jealousy will burn against that man. God’s anger will break forth in a destructive fire. See Psalm 18:9. “Every curse that is written in this book will rest on him.” The Hebrew word “will rest” denotes the crouching of a wild animal at the moment of pouncing upon its prey. So here, retribution will pounce upon the evil-doer unawares.
29:21 The Lord will single him out for adversity. Or, “shall separate him for trouble.” Sin has a consequence and a repercussion, a result, a residual effect. If the sinners be a whole tribe, then shall it be cut off from the other tribes and its members carried away into exile. (Ibn Ezra) This is a fate which later came upon the Ten Tribes when they were taken into exile into Assyria (2 Kings 17:6).
29:22 When the generation comes and sees the plagues of the land with which the Lord has afflicted it, it will say … The Jews will turn from God, as here prophesied. They will depart from God and the land will suffer. The “foreigner” (or stranger) will come also and see what God has done to Israel for their sins. The entire land and its people will suffer for apostasy, and future generations and the most distant nations will learn with horror God’s judgment upon the depopulated land.
29:23 All the land is like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah. The land will become like a great big desert or swamp. This is exactly what happened over the last 2,000 years when the Jews were dispersed and scattered around the world. Touring Palestine, Mark Twin said it was a cursed land and nothing but ruin and sand. This curse was literal; the Jews’ return and their restored blessing will be literal. Only the foolish amillennialist and allegorist denies the prophecy of the literal return of Christ, as Israel’s Messiah, to reign and rule for 1,000 years in the Holy Land!
Brimstone and burning waste. The imagery is drawn from the desolate surroundings of the Dead Sea. See Genesis 19:24-29.
29:24-28 The world will ponder the reason Israel was devastated by the Lord. They will understand that they forsook the covenant of the Lord, the God of their fathers; they departed from both the Abrahamic covenant and the Mosaic law covenant. They served other gods whom they had not known. Therefore, the Lord uprooted them from their land in anger and in fury and in great wrath, and cast them into another land—the land of the pagan. God put upon them every curse that is written in the books of Moses (the Torah). The Jews had it all! They had protection and prosperity in the land. But most of all they had the Lord but they departed from Him in every way—body, soul, and spirit!
29:29 The secret things belong to the Lord our God. God has things that are unknowable to finite human beings, but the things revealed to us and our sons should be observed forever, i.e. “all the words of this law.”
There are limits as to what mortal beings can know. Certain things are in the hands of God alone, and must be left with Him. But there are other things which are “revealed”—the words and ordinances of the Torah—and to these we and all successive generations must render willing obedience.