Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
In Deu 11:1-12 the other feature in the divine requirements (Deu 10:12), viz., love to the Lord their God, is still more fully developed. Love was to show itself in the distinct perception of what had to be observed towards Jehovah (to "keep His charge," see at Lev 8:35), i.e., in the perpetual observance of His commandments and rights. The words, "and His statutes," etc., serve to explain the general notion, "His charge." "All days," as in Deu 4:10.
To awaken this love they were now to know, i.e., to ponder and lay to heart, the discipline of the Lord their God. The words from "for (I speak) not" to "have not seen" are a parenthetical clause, by which Moses would impress his words most strongly upon the hearts of the older generation, which had witnessed the acts of the Lord. The clause is without any verb or predicate, but this can easily be supplied from the sense. The best suggestion is that of Schultz, viz., ההוּא הדּבר, "for it is not with your children that I have to do," not to them that this admonition applies. Moses refers to the children who had been born in the desert, as distinguished from those who, though not twenty years old when the Israelites came out of Egypt, had nevertheless seen with their own eyes the plagues inflicted upon Egypt, and who were now of mature age, viz., between forty and sixty years old, and formed, as the older and more experienced generation, the stock and kernel of the congregation assembled round him now. To the words, "which have not known and have not seen," it is easy to supply from the context, "what ye have known and seen." The accusatives from "the chastisement" onwards belong to the verb of the principal sentence, "know ye this day." The accusatives which follow show what we are to understand by "the chastisement of the Lord," viz., the mighty acts of the Lord to Egypt and to Israel in the desert. The object of them all was to educate Israel in the fear and love of God. In this sense Moses calls them מוּסר (Eng. Ver. chastisement), παιδεία, i.e., not punishment only, but education by the manifestation of love as well as punishment (like יסּר in Deu 4:36; cf. Pro 1:2, Pro 1:8; Pro 4:1, etc.). "His greatness," etc., as in Deu 3:24 and Deu 4:34. On the signs and acts in Egypt, see at Deu 4:34; Deu 6:22; and on those at the Red Sea, at Ex 14. פּניהם - הצּיף אשׁר, "over whose face He made the waters of the Red Sea to flow;" cf. Exo 14:26. - By the acts of God in the desert (Deu 11:5) we are not to understand the chastenings in Num 11-15 either solely or pre-eminently, but all the manifestations of the omnipotence of God in the guidance of Israel, proofs of love as well as the penal wonders. Of the latter, the miraculous destruction of the company of Korah is specially mentioned in Deu 11:6 (cf. Num 16:31-33). Here Moses only mentions Dathan and Abiram, the followers of Korah, and not Korah himself, probably from regard to his sons, who were not swallowed up by the earth along with their father, but had lived to perpetuate the family of Korah. "Everything existing, which was in their following" (see Exo 11:8), does not mean their possessions, but their servants, and corresponds to "all the men who belonged to Korah" in Num 16:32, whereas the possessions mentioned there are included here in the "tents." היקוּם is only applied to living beings, as in Gen 7:4 and Gen 7:23. - In Deu 11:7 the reason is given for the admonition in Deu 11:2 : the elders were to know (discern) the educational purpose of God in those mighty acts of the Lord, because they had seen them with their own eyes.
And this knowledge was to impel them to keep the law, that they might be strong, i.e., spiritually strong (Deu 1:38), and not only go into the promised land, but also live long therein (cf. Deu 4:26; Deu 6:3). - In Deu 11:10-12 Moses adduces a fresh motive for his admonition to keep the law with fidelity, founded upon the peculiar nature of the land. Canaan was a land the fertility of which was not dependent, like that of Egypt, upon its being watered by the hand of man, but was kept up by the rain of heaven which was sent down by God the Lord, so that it depended entirely upon the Lord how long its inhabitants should live therein. Egypt is described by Moses as a land which Israel sowed with seed, and watered with its foot like a garden of herbs. In Egypt there is hardly any rain at all (cf. Herod. ii. 4, Diod. Sic. i. 41, and other evidence in Hengstenberg's Egypt and the Books of Moses, pp. 217ff.). The watering of the land, which produces its fertility, is dependent upon the annual overflowing of the Nile, and, as this only lasts for about 100 days, upon the way in which this is made available for the whole year, namely, by the construction of canals and ponds throughout the land, to which the water is conducted from the Nile by forcing machines, or by actually carrying it in vessels up to the fields and plantations.
(Note: Upon the ancient monuments we find not only the draw-well with the long rope, which is now called Shaduf, depicted in various ways (see Wilkinson, i. p. 35, ii. 4); but at Beni-Hassan there is a representation of two men carrying a water-vessel upon a pole on their shoulders, which they fill from a draw-well or pond, and then carry to the field (cf. Hengstenberg, Egypt and the Books of Moses, pp. 220-1).)
The expression, "with thy foot," probably refers to the large pumping wheels still in use there, which are worked by the feet, and over which a long endless rope passes with pails attached, for drawing up the water (cf. Niebuhr, Reise, i. 149), the identity of which with the ἕλιξ described by Philo as ὑδρηλὸν ὄργανον (de confus. ling. i. 410) cannot possibly be called in question; provided, that is to say, we do not confound this ἕλιξ with the Archimedean water-screw mentioned by Diod. Sic. i. 34, and described more minutely at v. 37, the construction of which was entirely different (see my Archaeology, ii. pp. 111-2). - The Egyptians, as genuine heathen, were so thoroughly conscious of this peculiar characteristic of their land, which made its fertility far more dependent upon the labour of human hands than upon the rain of heaven or divine providence, that Herodotus (ii. 13) represents them as saying, "The Greeks, with their dependence upon the gods, might be disappointed in their brightest hopes and suffer dreadfully from famine." The land of Canaan yielded no support to such godless self-exaltation, for it was "a land of mountains and valleys, and drank water of the rain of heaven" (ל before מטר, to denote the external cause; see Ewald, 217, d.); i.e., it received its watering, the main condition of all fertility, from the rain, by the way of the rain, and therefore through the providential care of God.
It was a land which Jehovah inquired after, i.e., for which He cared (דּרשׁ, as in Pro 31:13; Job 3:4); His eyes were always directed towards it from the beginning of the year to the end; a land, therefore, which was dependent upon God, and in this dependence upon God peculiarly adapted to Israel, which was to live entirely to its God, and upon His grace alone.
This peculiarity in the land of Canaan led Moses to close the first part of his discourse on the law, his exhortation to fear and love the Lord, with a reference to the blessing that would follow the faithful fulfilment of the law, and a threat of the curse which would attend apostasy to idolatry.
If Israel would serve its God in love and faithfulness, He would give the land early and latter rain in its season, and therewith a plentiful supply of food for man and beast (see Lev 26:3 and Lev 26:5; and for the further expansion of this blessing, Deu 28:1-12).
But if, on the other hand, their heart was foolish to turn away from the Lord and serve other gods, the wrath of the Lord would burn against them, and God would shut up the heaven, that no rain should fall and the earth should yield no produce, and they would speedily perish (cf. Lev 26:19-20, and Deu 28:23-24). Let them therefore impress the words now set before them very deeply upon themselves and their children (Deu 11:18-21, in which there is in part a verbal repetition of Deu 6:6-9). The words, "as the days of the heaven above the earth," i.e., as long as the heaven continues above the earth, - in other words, to all eternity (cf. Psa 89:30; Job. Deu 14:12), - belong to the main sentence, "that your days may be multiplied," etc. (Deu 11:21). "The promise to give the land to Israel for ever was not made unconditionally; an unconditional promise is precluded by the words, 'that your days may be multiplied'" (Schultz). (For further remarks, see at Deu 30:3-5.) For (Deu 11:22-25) if they adhered faithfully to the Lord, He would drive out before them all the nations that dwelt in the land, and would give them the land upon which they trod in all its length and breadth, and so fill the Canaanites with fear and terror before them, that no one should be able to stand against them. (On Deu 11:23, cf. Deu 7:1-2; Deu 9:1, and Deu 1:28.) The words, "every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread shall be yours," are defined more precisely, and restricted to the land of Canaan on both sides of the Jordan by the boundaries which follow: "from the desert (of Arabia on the south), and Lebanon (on the north), and from the river Euphrates (on the east) to the hinder sea" (the Mediterranean on the west; see Num 34:6). The Euphrates is given as the eastern boundary, as in Deu 1:7, according to the promise in Gen 15:18. (On Deu 11:25, cf. Deu 7:24; Deu 2:25, and Exo 23:27.)
Concluding summary. "I set before you this day the blessing and the curse." The blessing, if (אשׁר, ὅτε, as in Lev 4:22) ye hearken to the commandments of your God; the curse, if ye do not give heed to them, but turn aside from the way pointed out to you, to go after other gods. To this there are added instructions in Deu 11:29 and Deu 11:30, that when they took possession of the land they should give the blessing upon Mount Gerizim and the curse upon Mount Ebal, i.e., should give utterance to them there, and as it were transfer them to the land to be apportioned to its inhabitants according to their attitude towards the Lord their God. (For further comment, see at Deu 27:14.) The two mountains mentioned were selected for this act, no doubt because they were opposite to one another, and stood, each about 2500 feet high, in the very centre of the land not only from west to east, but also from north to south. Ebal stands upon the north side, Gerizim upon the south; between the two is Sichem, the present Nabulus, in a tolerably elevated valley, fertile, attractive, and watered by many springs, which runs from the south-east to the north-west from the foot of Gerizim to that of Ebal, and is about 1600 feet in breadth. The blessing was to be uttered upon Gerizim, and the curse upon Ebal; though not, as the earlier commentators supposed, because the peculiarities of these mountains, viz., the fertility of Gerizim and the barrenness of Ebal, appeared to accord with this arrangement: for when seen from the valley between, "the sides of both these mountains are equally naked and sterile;" and "the only exception in favour of the former is a small ravine coming down, opposite the west end of the town, which is indeed full of foundations and trees" (Rob. Pal. iii. 96, 97). The reason for selecting Gerizim for the blessings was probably, as Schultz supposes, the fact that it was situated on the south, towards the region of the light. "Light and blessing are essentially one. From the light-giving face of God there come blessing and life (Psa 16:11)." - In Deu 11:30 the situation of these mountains is more clearly defined: they were "on the other side of the Jordan," i.e., in the land to the west of the Jordan, "behind the way of the sunset," i.e., on the other side of the road of the west, which runs through the land on the west of the Jordan, just as another such road runs through the land on the east (Knobel). The reference is to the main road which ran from Upper Asia through Canaan to Egypt, as was shown by the journeys of Abraham and Jacob (Gen 12:6; Gen 33:17-18). Even at the present day the main road leads from Beisan to Jerusalem round the east side of Ebal into the valley of Sichem, and then again eastwards from Gerizim through the Mukra valley on towards the south (cf. Rib. iii. 94; Ritter, Erdkunde, xvi. pp. 658-9). "In the land of the Canaanite who dwells in the Arabah." By the Arabah, Knobel understands the plain of Nabulus, which is not much less than four hours' journey long, and on an average from a half to three-quarters broad, "the largest of all upon the elevated tract of land between the western plain and the valley of the Jordan" (Rob. iii. p. 101). This is decidedly wrong, however, as it is opposed to the fixed use of the word, and irreconcilable with the character of this plain, which, Robinson says, "is cultivated throughout and covered with the rich green of millet intermingled with the yellow of the ripe corn, which the country people were just reaping" (Pal. iii. 93). The Arabah is the western portion of the Ghor (see at Deu 1:1), and is mentioned here as that portion of the land on the west of the Jordan which lay stretched out before the eyes of the Israelites who were encamped in the steppes of Moab. "Over against Gilgal," i.e., not the southern Gilgal between Jericho and the Jordan, which received its name for the first time in Jos 4:20 and Jos 5:9; but probably the Gilgal mentioned in Jos 9:6; Jos 10:6., and very frequently in the history of Samuel, Elijah, and Elisha, which is only about twelve and a half miles from Gerizim in a southern direction, and has been preserved in the large village of Jiljilia to the south-west of Sinjil, and which stands in such an elevated position, "close to the western brow of the high mountain tract," that you "have here a very extensive prospect over the great lower plain, and also over the sea, whilst the mountains of Gilead are seen in the east" (Rob. Pal. iii. 81). Judging from this description of the situation, Mount Gerizim must be visible from this Gilgal, so that Gerizim and Ebal might very well be described as over against Gilgal.
(Note: There is much less ground for the opinion of Winer, Knobel, and Schultz, that Gilgal is the Jiljule mentioned by Robinson (Pal. iii. 47; and Bibl. Researches, p. 138), which evidently corresponds to the Galgula placed by Eusebius and Jerome six Roman miles from Antipatris, and is situated to the south-east of Kefr Saba (Antipatris), on the road from Egypt to Damascus. For this place is not only farther from Gerizim and Ebal, viz., about seventeen miles, but from its position in the lowland by the sea-shore it presents no salient point for determining the situation of the mountains of Gerizim and Ebal. Still less can we agree with Knobel, who speaks of the village of Kilkilia, to the north-east of Kefr Saba, as the name itself has nothing in common with Gilgal.)
The last definition, "beside the terebinths of Moreh," is intended no doubt to call to mind the consecration of that locality even from the times of the patriarchs (Schultz: see at Gen 12:6, and Gen 35:4).
Deu 11:31-32 contain the reason for these instructions, founded upon the assurance that the Israelites were going over the Jordan and would take possession of the promised land, and should therefore take care to keep the commandments of the Lord (cf. Deu 4:5-6).