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Go to Bible: Deuteronomy 30
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“life.” In the scope of Scripture, this is both “life” (a blessed, successful life) now and everlasting life later. Deuteronomy 30:15 is an example of the word “life” having two meanings—life now and life later. When a word has two or more meanings, or a meaning that is much more expansive than just the common dictionary definition (such as often happens when a word is used idiomatically) such as “life” and “good” have here, or “life” and “death” do in Deuteronomy 30:19, scholars sometimes refer to the word as having a “pregnant sense,” as if the word could have a baby that was like itself. In this case in Deuteronomy 30, the words “life,” “good,” and “death” have a pregnant sense in that they all refer to the here and now as well as the next life, the hereafter. [For more on the pregnant sense of some of the words in the Bible, see commentary on Luke 23:42].
“good.” “Good” in this context primarily refers to success and prosperity now, although it would include salvation and everlasting life later.
“death.” In the scope of Scripture, this is both a short life here on earth and everlasting death later. [For more on “death” being actual death, see Appendix 5, “Annihilation in the Lake of Fire”].
“evil.” “Evil” in this context primarily refers to evil or bad things happening in this life: suffering and adversity and “bad things” of every kind, although it would also include everlasting death.(top)
“in that I command you this day.” This phrase and the verse show how God has set before each person life, good, death, and evil. God sets life and death before us by giving us commandments and showing us how to live a godly life, and we choose what happens by either walking in God’s ways and obeying His commands or rejecting God’s ways and being rebellious against Him. Deuteronomy 30:15-16 are integrally connected, although many English versions break them into two sentences. God does not just say that He sets before us life and good and death and evil. He tells us He has done that by commanding us to love Him, walk in His ways, and follow His commands. Then the way we choose to live is the choice we make either to live or die. In a few verses (Deut. 30:19), God makes it explicit that we choose life or death (“I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life”). On the Day of Judgment no one will be able to say, “I never made a choice,” because the way a person lives is their choice. In essence, Deuteronomy 30:15, 16, and 30:19 say, “Today I have set before you life and death in that I command you to love God, walk in his ways and keep His commandments—so choose life.”
In this same general context, Deuteronomy 30:19-20 says the same basic thing as Deuteronomy 30:15-16: that each person chooses life and blessing by making the decision to obey God.
“bow down.” The common biblical way of bowing down before people or God was to fall to one’s knees and bow the upper body to the earth. It is the same Hebrew word as “worship.” [For more on bowing down, see commentary on 1 Chron. 29:20].(top)
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“witnesses against you.” The heavens and earth were not witnesses in a trial that very day, but rather that the heavens and earth were called to hear what God had done for Israel and to be willing to be witnesses against Israel should they ever accuse God of not giving them choice between life and death and encouraging them to choose life. In Ezekiel 33:11 God declares that He does not have any pleasure when wicked people die, and he urges the wicked to turn from their evil ways and live. On the Day of Judgment there will surely be some wicked people who are facing annihilation in the Lake of Fire who will accuse God of never giving them the choice to live forever.
The heavens and the earth will be around forever in one state or another, so they are a good witness for God—they won’t be absent on the day of the trial. Furthermore, God speaks to them about what He does (Deut. 32:1; Isa. 1:2) and says to the people that the heavens and earth will be His witnesses against them (Deut. 4:26; 30:19; 31:28). Moreover, the very nature of the heavens and earth point to a creator. There is more and more evidence for intelligent design in the creation around us, and Romans 1:20 says that God’s power and divine nature can be understood from what He has made. That, combined with the innate ability that mankind has to know good from evil (Gen. 3:22), means that a person should know to find God and then obey Him. If a person chooses to ignore God, that is his choice and God will honor that choice, but it is a poor choice and will result in the person’s death.
The idea that inanimate things that would be around for a long time could be witnesses to an oath was common in the culture and occurs at different times in the Bible (cp. Gen. 31:52; Josh. 24:27; Micah 6:2).
[For more on annihilation in the Lake of Fire, see Appendix 5, “Annihilation in the Lake of Fire”].
“choose life so that you may live—you and your seed—.” This is very similar to Deuteronomy 30:15-16 in that Deuteronomy 30:19-20 are one sentence and God asks each person to “choose life,” which we do by living a godly lifestyle and obeying God. Note that the sentence reads, “choose life so that you may live—you and your seed—by loving Yahweh your God, by obeying his voice and by holding fast to him.” God tells us exactly how to live a successful life here and now and have everlasting life later: love God, obey God, hold fast to God.(top)
“by loving.” The Hebrew can be translated “by loving,” which makes very good sense in English (cp. CEB; Geneva Bible (1599); NAB; NASB; NRSV; TNK; The Shocken Bible). Deuteronomy 30:20 tells us how to make the choice to live (see commentary on Deut. 30:16; 30:19).
“for he is your life.” The parenthetical reminder is that Yahweh is the true source of life. No one should think that if they keep a certain set of rules and regulations they will live successfully here on earth and live forever later. All life comes from God, and obeying God and walking in His ways is not to be a rote mechanical process, but the outward demonstration of a living and loving relationship with the Living God. In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees kept the commandments of the Law but did not understand the heart behind the Law and thus omitted things that represented the heart of the Law such as love, mercy, and justice (Matt. 23:23; Luke 11:42).
The Hebrew text can also be translated “for THAT is your life,” instead of “for he is your life,” which makes the verse say that loving Yahweh, obeying Him, and holding fast to Him is the source and purpose of life. Although a number of English versions and commentators support that reading (NASB; NLT; NRSV; RSV), and although it is certainly possible that the Hebrew text was written such that it could have—and indeed might have—both meanings, it seems that the primary meaning is that God is the source of life and blessing. Omitting the relationship with God from obeying God can lead to Pharisaical behavior; just doing the action without the relationship. The parenthetical statement keeps God in the picture, and the YLT is another version that has the parenthesis.(top)