March 3 Reading: Deuteronomy 11-13 Commentary

Below is our Deuteronomy 11-13 commentary from our Beginning to End Bible reading program. You can find an email link at the end of this page to share your thoughts or comments with us.

Key Verse(s):

“Therefore you shall love the Lord your God, and keep His charge, His statutes, His judgments, and His commandments always.” (Deut. 11:1)

“You shall not at all do as we are doing here today—every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes…” (Deut. 12:8)

Deuteronomy 11 – God Rewards Obedience

commentaryGod loved the people of Israel unconditionally. There was nothing they had to do to earn his love. He gave it freely. However, there was something they had to do to receive his continual blessing – obey him and keep his commandments. Deuteronomy 11 outlines the provisions of what God would do for them if they served him with all their heart and soul.

It’s important to realize that this generation of people had seen all the dramatic events the Lord had done in Egypt and in their wilderness journeys. Most likely, some of them had their own children during the forty years of wandering. Those children would have not known the exploits of the Lord that brought them to this point (v. 2-6). They had not been born until until after their grandparents refusal to enter the land at Kadesh-Barnea (Num. 13).

But their parents did know. They had seen the plagues in Egypt (v. 3). They experienced crossing the Red Sea and had seen God destroy Pharaoh’s armies (v. 4). How could they forget God providing them food and water in the wilderness (v. 5). And they had even seen God’s judgment on those who questioned him and rebelled against Moses (v. 6).

So there should have been no excuse for obedience. Their eyes had “seen every great act of the Lord which He did” (v. 7). It should have been easy for them to obey.

Rewards of Obedience

Obedience seems like a simple formula for success, right? If they obeyed, God would bless them. How would he do that? Moses lists the following as blessings flowing from God: 

1. They would be strong (v. 8) and possess the land.

2. He would grant long life in a land “flowing with milk and honey” (v. 9) that God looks after and cares for all year long (v. 12).

3. Rain would come in the proper amounts during the proper seasons so the crops could grow (v. 14).

4. Grass would grow in the fields for their livestock (v. 15).

5. The nations would not be able to stand against them and God would be drive them out (vv. 23-25).

Obedience to God was so important that Moses reiterated his words from Deut. 6:6-9:

“Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates..” (vv. 18-20)

Unfortunately, the people didn’t always follow God’s prescription. They would disobey and turn their backs on him. Their disobedience caused them countless problems in the future. 

Deuteronomy 12 – A Place to Worship

Upon entering Canaan, God wanted Israel to rid the land of all signs of heathen worship. The Canaanites believed the gods resided in the mountains, so they built shrines as gateways to their gods. They also built places of worship near green trees, thinking this would bring them prosperity. So God required the people to destroy all the places of worship built “on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree” (v. 2).

Additionally, God directed them to destroy all altars, all sacred pillars, all wooden images and to cut down any carved image of their gods (v. 3). These were in violation of the first two commandments (see Ex. 20) and would tempt the people to worship someone or something other than God (v. 4).

Instead, they were to seek the Lord and worship him at the place He chose. Instead of shrines of worship to multiple gods dotted around the countryside, Israel would worship one God, in one way, at one place (v. 5).

God had graciously chosen to live among the people. This occurred first in the wilderness at the tabernacle. Later, his presence would fill the temple built in Jerusalem. Ultimately today, his presence in our lives occurs through the person of Jesus Christ (see John 2:18-22).

Right in Their Own Eyes

Moses envisioned a day when the people would “come to rest” in the land (v. 9). However, there was major obstacle. They had to changed their way of thinking and their way of acting. He points this out in Deut. 12:8:

“You shall not at all do as we are doing here today—every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes…”

Throughout their wilderness journey, the people lacked a common focus on the Lord. At times they would follow Him as a group. But most often, every person did what was right in their own eyes. This attitude is reminiscent of a later time frame in their history during the time of the Judges (see Judges 21:25).

Moses challenged this mindset. The people needed to become one body of believers with their focus on the Lord. This would only come through repentance and renewed commitment to obedience.

Obedience comes in many forms as we have seen. In the rest of this chapter, Moses highlights a few ways this could occur:

1. Worshipping in the right location (vv. 13-14).

2. Understanding where offerings could be eaten (vv. 17-19).

3. Eating no blood with meat (vv. 20-27).

4. Avoiding the heathen customs of worship, like burning children in fire (vv. 29-31).

If they observed all these things, God said “…it may go well with you and your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the sight of the Lord your God” (v. 28).

Deuteronomy 13 – Punishing False Prophets

God used prophecy and dreams in the Bible (see Joseph for starters – Gen. 37, 40-41) to get his message out. However, prophecy and dreams required two things: 1) interpretation and proof, the most vital being proof. If a prophet’s word came true, it validated his message.

However, Moses points out in Deut. 13 that sometimes a prophet or a dreamer could give “…a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass…” (vv. 1-2) but the message was anti-God. In this case, they were to ignore the words of anyone who led them to follow some other god (v. 3). 

God took this so seriously that he commanded them to put to death the prophet or dreamer who tried to turn them away from the Lord (v. 5).

The warning against false teaching also included close family members and friends (vv. 6-7). The penalty for these individuals spreading false teaching was likewise death (by stoning)(vv. 9-10).

Finally, God warned against corrupt men within cities who enticed people to “go and serve other gods” (v. 13). In this instance, they conducted an investigation first (v. 14). If corroborating evidence was found, they were instructed to:

“…strike the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying it, all that is in it and its livestock…And you shall gather all its plunder into the middle of the street, and completely burn with fire the city and all its plunder…It shall be a heap forever; it shall not be built again” (vv. 15-16). 

God took false teaching seriously then and he takes it seriously now. Those who teach are held to a higher standard to make sure they are leading people to, not away from the Lord.

Questions to Consider:

There is nothing we can do to earn more of God’s love. His love is not based on our status or abilities. It’s also not based on our mistakes and failures. He loves us unconditionally, all the time, no matter what.

While it is true God loved Israel unconditionally, their measure of success as a nation was based on their obedience. God said if they obeyed he would bless them in all facets of life. If not, his presence would not be with them. Is there an issue of disobedience in your life that might be stopping the blessing of God?

What comfort do you receive in knowing that God loves you unconditionally despite your faults?

What other points would you want to know about in our Deuteronomy 11-13 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.