Theology/Deuteronomy 8: 7-18 term paper 2366

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Deuteronomy 8: 7-18

Scope, Selection and Content of Pericope

Deuteronomy 8, an independent exhortation within the second speech of Moses (4:44-28:68), has the motif of remembrance/forgetting (verses 2, 11, 14, 18, 19) as a call to obedience (verses 1,2, 6, 11, 19).

Beginning the pericope with 8:7 is unsatisfactory because it presupposes the preceding context ("For…"). At least 8:1 should be retained to clarify the antecedent. The proper ending for the pericope is 8:20, completing the thought sequence begun in 11. Without 19-20 the reason for the demand of remembrance is not stated. A reasonable choice of pericope, then, is 8:1, 7-20.


Chapter 8 is part of the core source of Deuteronomy, representing a complex of traditions from the seventh and eighth centuries, incorporated by the Deuteronomistic historian(s) during the sixth century. Theological emphases of this source include insistence on Yahweh as Israel's only God, rejection of idolatry, the offer of reward for obedience, and the claim that Yahweh's acts in history are personally relevant to each Israelite. These themes expand the central theological concept of Deuteronomy, the meaning of the covenant relationship.

The form is a speech or sermon by Moses. The listeners are the Israelites prior to entering the land. This form calls for each Israelite to appropriate the Exodus, wilderness time, and conquest as personal events.

Summary of Content

Preceding context

You must observe the whole Torah that I (Moses) give you so that you will stay alive and possess the land.

You must remember the time in the wilderness, where Yahweh kept you humble and tested your obedience. Yahweh fed you manna so you would know that you are totally dependent on Yahweh. Yahweh disciplined you like Yahweh's children. Because of this experience, you must obey Yahweh's commandments.


You must observe the whole Torah that I (Moses) give you so that you will stay alive and possess the land.… You must obey because there is a danger here--you are going into a land with abundant waters, where much food grows. You will have everything you need; both food and metal.

Eat well and be thankful to Yahweh who has given you the land. Do not forget Yahweh by disobeying.

When you have all the food you want, fine houses, many domestic animals, and plenty of money, don't forget Yahweh, who led you out of slavery, through the dangerous desert with snakes and scorpions and gave you water from the rock and fed you manna. Yahweh tested you in the wilderness and humbled you. Don't exalt yourself and think that all this wealth is your doing but remember Yahweh (who gives you the ability to get all this) so that the covenant with your ancestors will be confirmed for you.

If you are disobedient, if you forget Yahweh and serve other gods, then you will die, just like the previous inhabitants of the land.


Yahweh does not give you the land because you are righteous. You are Yahweh's people only because of Yahweh's choice.



The pronoun of address in the pericope is consistently second person masculine singular. Although Deuteronomy uses plural and singular forms inconsistently in many places, the consistent use of the singular in this text may underscore the intent that it be heard by each individual as a direct, personal, address.

Do not forget the LORD your God by failing to keep his commandments

The text focuses on "forgetting" Yahweh and its antonym, "remembering" Yahweh. Disobedience (following other Gods, v 19, and failing to keep Yahweh's commandments, v 11) is both a literal forgetting of Yahweh and a consequence of forgetting Yahweh. Remembering Yahweh's deeds is the source of obedience.

The context of the recitation of the exodus event and time in the wilderness in 14b-16 makes it clear that these acts (or more broadly speaking, salvation history) must be remembered in a personal sense. These acts must be thought by the hearers/readers as done for them. However, in verse 11, failing to keep Yahweh's commandments is equated with forgetting Yahweh, while verse 19 implies that following other gods is synonymous with forgetting Yahweh. Thus, disobedience/idolatry is possible only if one has forgotten Yahweh.

Do not exalt yourself, forgetting the LORD your God

Exalting oneself also is equated with forgetting God. The "humbling" in verse 16 is the model for the remembrance required by verses 17-18. The verbs in v 13 (translated by passives in English ) emphasize the point that the creation of wealth is God's action. Thus the exultant attitude of v 18, "My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth" is also a forgetting of Yahweh's acts. Thus not only Yahweh's acts for the community in history are to be remembered, but also the power of Yahweh in one's own life.

So that he may confirm his covenant

The antecedent of otyr1b<4jta3 Myq1h= Ni-m-l4 could be either t<=r4k-z=v4, "you shall remember", or ly!c= toSi7l- "to get wealth". The NRSV translation preserves the ambiguity. Is the covenant confirmed because of remembrance or is the power to gain wealth given so that the covenant may be confirmed, or is the power to gain wealth a sign of the confirmation of the covenant?

Covenants in the ANE included a review of past events through which the covenant relationship was created. Obedience to the covenantal norms is prompted by the memory of those events. The covenant pattern suggests that the text means that the individual's remembrance of Yahweh's acts maintains the covenant.

Punch Line

The text has no complete and concise thematic statement. Verses 18 and 19 together can be abridged to state the theme: "Remember the Lord your God…so that he may confirm his covenant…; if you do forget the Lord…you shall perish." Remembering past acts (v7-10, 14-16) is an essential part of covenant relationship that results in obedience (v 1, 11, 19-20). Self-exaltation is a form of forgetting those acts (12-14, 17-18).

The Sixth Century Message

This text explained the exile's plight: they had lost the land because they had no longer "remembered" Yahweh. Obedience is a response to Yahweh's acts that maintains the covenant. The disobedience of Israel was then a consequence of forgetting Yahweh's acts; the covenant was broken by forgetting salvation history.

The greatest danger to the exilic community was assimilation. If they no longer identified themselves with the historical people of Yahweh they would lose identity as a covenant community. The text instructed them to keep the memory of their history with Yahweh alive; thus they would remain Yahweh's people and be obedient, maintaining the covenant relationship and gaining the land and wealth.

Twentieth Century Message

In modern terms, the text informs us about the nature of maintaining relationship with God. Each individual is to personally appropriate God's acts in history as undeserved actions for them, and also God's acts in their own life. Obedience to God is a consequence of that remembrance, while disobedience constitutes forgetting of God's acts. The consequence of breaking the relationship is destruction.


Anderson, Bernhard W., "Deuteronomy" in The New Oxford Annotated Bible, with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, New Revised Standard Version, Metzger, editors Bruce M, and Roland E. Murphy, New York: Oxford University Press, 1994

Boadt, Lawrence, Reading the Old Testament, An Introduction, New York: Paulist Press, 1984

Bright, John, A History of Israel, third edition, Philadelphia: Westminster Press 1973

Brown, Francis, S. R. Driver, Charles A. Briggs, The New Brown--Driver--Briggs--Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon, with an ap-pendix containing the Biblical Aramaic, annotated by Jay P. Green Sr, Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1979

Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, The New American Bible, St. Joseph Medium Size Edition, New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1970.

Kohlenberger, John R. III, editor, The NIV Interlinear Hebrew-English Old Testament, Volume 1, Genesis-Deuteronomy, Grand Rapids: The Zondervan Corporation 1979

Luther, Martin, translator, Die Bibel oder die ganze Heilige Schrift des Alten und Neuen Testaments, nach der deutschen ubersetzung Martin Luthers, Stuttgard: Wurttembergische Bibelanstalt, 1964.

McKenzie, Stephen L., "Deuteronomistic History" in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, editors David Noel Freedman, et al, 6 volumes, New York: Doubleday, 1992, II 160-8.

Mendenhall, George E., and Gary A. Herion, "Covenant", in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, editors David Noel Freedman, et al, 6 volumes, New York: Doubleday, 1992, I 1179-1202.

Miller, Patrick D., Deuteronomy, Interpretation, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching Series, Louisville: John Knox Press, 1990

O'Collins, Gerald G., "Salvation", in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, editors David Noel Freedman, et al, 6 volumes, New York: Doubleday, 1992, V 907-914.

Owens, John Joseph, The Analytical Key to the Old Testament, volume 1, Genesis-Joshua, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1990,

Stuart, Douglas, "Exegesis" in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, editors David Noel Freedman, et al, 6 volumes, New York: Doubleday, 1992, II 682-688

Von Rad, Gerhardt, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, translator Dorothea Barton, The Old Testament Library, Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1966

Weinfeld, Moshe, "Deuteronomy, Book of" in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, editors David Noel Freedman, et al, 6 volumes, New York: Doubleday, 1992, II 168-183

Wigram, George V, The New Englishman's Hebrew Concordance, revised by Jay P. Green Sr, Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1984

____, Biblia. Det ar all den heliga skrift after den uppa konnung Carl den Tolftes Befallning, Introduction by Martin Luther, edition of 1703, Lund: C. W. K. Gleerup, 1874

____, La Santa Biblia, Antiguo y Nuevo Testamentos, Antigua version de Casiodoro de Reina (1569), revisada por Cipriano de Valera (1602) y cotejada posteriormente con diversas traducciones, y con los textos Hebreo y Griego, London: Sociedad Biblica Trinitaria, date not given


8:6 could provide context but itself needs 8:1 for an antecedent and is more naturally viewed as a conclusion to 8:2-5. The vav conjunction beginning v 6 implies a tighter connection to the preceding phrase than does the yk<4 that begins v 7.

In comparison, Miller considers chapter 8 as a single unit with sub-units v 2-6, 7-17, 18-20, while von Rad divides it into two "sermons"--v 1-6 and 7-20. The NAB divides it into v 1-5, 6-20. Verse 9:1 clearly begins a new unit. Patrick D. Miller, Deuteronomy, Interpretation, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching Series, (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1990), 114-8; Gerhardt Von Rad, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, translator Dorothea Barton, The Old Testament Library, (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1966), 71-2.

See complete discussion in Moshe Weinfeld, "Deuteronomy, Book of" in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, editors David Noel Freedman, et al, 6 volumes, (New York: Doubleday, 1992), II 168-183.

Further discussion of these themes as applied to D in Miller, Deuteronomy, 5-7; von Rad, Deuteronomy, 28-30; Stephen L. McKenzie, "Deuteronomistic History", in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, editors David Noel Freedman, et al, 6 volumes, (New York: Doubleday, 1992), II 160-8.

The covenantal character of Deuteronomy is discussed von Rad, Deuteronomy, 21; Miller, Deuteronomy, 12-13.

With two poetical inter-polations (v 7-9 and 14b-16).

It begins by praising the wealth of this land in unmistakable imitation of the style of a hymn (cf. the fivefold 'a land' followed each time by a statement arranged in parallel phrases).…We may conjecture that there really were such hymn-like poems about the land which the preacher took as his model, or even quoted.…No sooner has the preacher mentioned Yahweh than his pen runs away with him and he adopts the hymn-like style. (von Rad, Deuteronomy, 72-3)

Apparently the tradition of "That reminds me of a poem" has a long history.

"Deuteronomy is not to be received as a legal reference text for checking on particular matters. It is divine instruction--laid on the heart, encouraged, motivated, explained. Several features reflect the book's character as speech or preaching…(6) appeal to memory as a way of actualizing the past in the present.", Miller, Deuteronomy, 12.

see discussion of use of singular and plural in Weinfeld, "Deuteronomy, Book of", 173-4.

Idiomatic. literally "then your heart be lifted up", parallel to "lest you say in your heart" (v 17).

The Qal of hb=r= with herds, flocks, silver, and gold as the subjects implies natural increase. The Spanish translation using reflexive forms captures the sense better than English. Natural increase is clearly not human action--the sheep do not reproduce through human power.

"Remember the Lord your God; it is he who gives you strength to become prosperous, so fulfilling the covenant guaranteed by oath with your forefathers" (REB); "Remember then, it is the Lord, your God, who gives you the power to acquire wealth, by fulfilling, as he has now done, the covenant which he swore to your fathers." (NAB)

"As complex acts they [covenants] combine: (1) historical events that create relationships, usually (though not necessarily) between unequal partners.…(3) descriptions of norms for future behavior (which are often confused with "laws")." George E. Mendenhall and Gary A. Herion, "Covenant", in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, editors David Noel Freedman, et al, 6 volumes, (New York: Doubleday, 1992) I 1188.

"Morally and psychologically, [covenant] implies that persons under covenant are capable of recognizing the fact that individually and corporately they have received benefits in their past that they have in no way earned. It furthermore implies that it is the good things in life that they have received in the past…that provide the basis for defining the good they hope to realize in their future choices in community life and in their dealings with other people." (Mendenhall, "Covenant", 1191)

"Since the obligations were to the giver of the covenant, they were binding upon the individual no matter where and in what context he may find himself." ibid.

The essential meaning of "covenant" in current English.

Theologically, justification and sanctification are intimately connected in this text; justification is the covenant relationship, sanctification is obedience. According to the text, neither can exist independently.


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