Messianic Education Trust
    Nitzavim/Vayelekh  
(Deut 29:9(10) - 30:20)

D'varim/Deuteronomy 29:11   ... for you to pass into the covenant of the L-rd your G-d and into its oath that the L-rd your G-d is making with you today.


Moshe has just summed up all the people who are standing before The Name ...

HaShem: literally, Hebrew for 'The Name' - an allusion used to avoid pronouncing the Tetragrammaton, the so-called 'ineffable' name of G–d
HaShem on the plains of Moab - men and women, adults and children, strangers and servants - and as he draws towards the end of his peroration, he gathers them together as one people. You are not here, he says, by accident; you are here for a specific purpose and that purpose is to enable you to enter into the covenant that HaShem is making with you today.

The usual word for making a covenant, as we can see from the second verb in the verse - , the Qal ms participle of the root , "to cut, cut off, cut down" (Davidson) - is "to cut". The Hebrew verb meaning "to enter" is . Why does the text use the word - the Qal infinitive of the root with a 2ms suffix? means to pass over, pass through, pass by, pass away (Davidson) - what is its connection with covenants? To answer that we need to look at HaShem's first covenant making ceremony with Avram. The text there tells us that HaShem said, "'Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old she-goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young bird.' He brought Him all these and cut them in two, placing each half opposite the other" (B'resheet 15:9-10, NJPS). Later in the day, "When the sun set and it was very dark, there appeared a smoking oven, and a flaming torch which passed between those pieces. On that day the L-RD made a covenant with Avram" (vv. 17-18, NJPS). The verb translated "passed between" is and the scene describes ancient covenant ceremonies when the parties to the covenant would cut a number of animals in half and then walk between the pieces, signifying that they would be cut in half if they did not keep the terms of the covenant. Jeremiah acts as HaShem's mouthpiece generations later when he rebukes the people for failing to obey Him: "I will make the men who violated My covenant, who did not fulfill the terms of the covenant which they made before Me, like the calf which they cut in two so as to pass between the halves" (Jeremiah 34:18, NJPS), where once again "pass between" is .

A number of the commentators notice the 2ms suffix, rather than a 2mp suffix, indicating that the people are being spoken together as one, rather than as a group. The Who Is ...

Sforno: Rabbi Ovadiah Sforno (1470-1550 CE), Italian rabbi, philosopher and physician; born in Cesena, he went to Rome to study medicine; left in 1525 and after some years of travel, settled in Bologna where he founded a yeshiva which he conducted until his death
Sforno imagines Moshe saying, "You stand here with all this order and united consent, prepared to pass over into the covenant, and thus it is apparent that you are all desirous to accept this covenant upon yourselves wholeheartedly." Rabbi Who Is ...

Hirsch: Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888 CE), German rabbi, author and educator; staunch opponent of the Reform movement in Germany and one of the fathers of Orthodox Judaism
Hirsch agrees, echoing, "You are all standing there in your ranks, all together to enter unitedly the covenant with G-d." The Who Is ...

Bekhor Shor: Joseph ben Isaac Bekhor Shor; a twelfth century French tosafist, commentator and poet; he lived in Orleans and was a pupil of the Rashbam and Rabbenu Tam; wrote a commentary to the Torah and made contributions to the Talmud commentaries; followed the p'shat method of interpretation in the style of Rashi, to the extent of rationalising many miracles
Bekhor Shor pragmatically recognises the opportunity that Moshe and HaShem have to do this before the Israelites enter the Land: "Since everyone was together, this was the best time to do it; once they crossed the river, it would be impossible to gather all of them together at once."

Reflecting on the verb choice, Hirsch points out that "if you want to enter the covenant with G-d you must leave the whole standpoint you have had hitherto, you must pass over everything else, must renounce everything else to enter quite exclusively into the relation to G-d. Hence not (for you to enter) but (for you to pass into). Having entered into the covenant with G-d you stand on quite a different mental point of view than before." We can see this idea at work in the image that many have of "crossing the Jordan" as a euphemism for death - passing into the presence of of the L-rd. Nothing can be taken with you; everything must be left behind as our spirit moves - passes over - from this world to the next.

The Bible talks of a number of occasions when people stand before G-d. Joshua calls the people of Israel together before he dies to remind them of all that the L-rd had done for them and urge them to choose to serve the L-rd (Joshua 24). When the people returned from Babylon, "When the seventh month arrived -- the Israelites being settled in their towns -- the entire people assembled as one man in Jerusalem" to build the altar to the L-rd before "they offered burnt offerings on it to the L-RD, burnt offerings each morning and evening. Then they celebrated the festival of Tabernacles as is written" (Ezra 3:1-4, NJPS). In Ezekiel's vision of the temple, "the Levitical priests, the sons of Zadok, who kept the charge of my sanctuary when the people of Israel went astray from me ... shall stand before me to offer me the fat and the blood, declares the L-rd G-D" (Ezekiel 44:15, NJPS). Rav Sha'ul writes to the community in Rome that, "For we will all stand before the judgment seat of G-d; for it is written, 'As I live, says the L-rd, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to G-d'" (Romans 14:10-11, ESV).

Perhaps the two most dramatic occasions are events of final judgement. Yeshua tells the disciples about what will happen when He returns: "But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats" (Matthew 25:31-32, NASB), and in John's apocalyptic vision John says that, "I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds" (Revelation 20:11-12, NASB).

Everything has a purpose and Solomon writes that "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven" (Ecclesiastes 3:1, NKJV). We are standing here today before G-d for a purpose, whether at home, at church or in congregation, at work; even in hospital or a hospice. What is your purpose in standing before G-d? Are you seeking wisdom or healing, grace or forgiveness, favour or success in business or employment, help in a time of trouble? Remember Yeshua's words that "everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened" (Matthew 7:8, NASB. What is His purpose for you standing before Him? Is He wanting to know you, offering counsel and direction, calling for attitude adjustments or changes in behaviour, speaking in judgement or calling the end of your life here on this earth? He cannot be avoided or ignored and He will have His way. The Psalmist reminds us that:

As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes.

When the wind has passed over it, it is no more; and its place acknowledges it no longer.

But the lovingkindness of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children's children,

To those who keep His covenant, and who remember His precepts to do them.

(Psalm 103:15-18, NASB)

The L-rd is calling all of us to pass into His covenant that he is making with us in Yeshua His Son. He is calling us to put down what we are carrying so that we may single-mindedly enter further and deeper into covenant with Him and know His full provision, guidance and direction in and for our lives. Like the ancient Israelites, waiting on the plains of Moab, now is the moment, before we enter the land, before we receive the fulfillment of His promise.

Further Study: 2 Chronicles 15:12-15; 2 Corinthians 5:6-10

Application: Have you entered fully into the covenant with G-d that He is offering you today? How can you engage further and become more deeply involved with and committed to His covenant and life in Yeshua?

03:46 07Sep18 DS: I find YHVH's expectations of us very clear & comforting, removing any uncertainty about our role in His master plan

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© Jonathan Allen, 2018



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