I’m spending the time writing all of this commentary on a few verses in Deuteronomy because I believe the themes of this Old Testament passage are so important. This series may have a bit too much of an academic feel to it… but the detail, I believe, is really cool! Basically, we learn from Deuteronomy that: God loves, we should reciprocate God’s love, and we should imitate God’s love towards others. While these are the themes we have come to expect from the New Testament, we tend to overlook the fact that these are the themes of the Old Testament too! It’s true that each of these themes is highlighted in one remarkably rich section in Deuteronomy 10:12-11:1- which is why I am taking the effort to study it so in depth.
This passage makes plain God’s desire to be loved by his people, reminds Israel of God’s extraordinary love for them, and urges Israel to display a life of love towards others patterned after God’s loving action. As well, this section exemplifies Moses’ rhetorical stylistic purpose for Deuteronomy so that listeners of its oral presentation would best be able to absorb the substance of the message.
This frequently visited deuteronomic theme comes to a crescendo in this passage. With this in mind, Christopher J.H. Wright says:
[This] is unquestionably one of the richest texts in the Hebrew Bible, exalted and poetic in its language, comprehensive and challenging in its message. It purposely tries to ‘boil down’ the whole theological and ethical content of the book into memorable phraseology, packed and pregnant, rich and resonant of all the surrounding preaching. Indeed, there are not many dimensions of ‘OT Theology,’ that are not directly expressed or indirectly echoed in this mini-symphony of faith and life.
This section, which is bracketed by a call to exhibit love to the Lord (10:12; 11:1), is the first part of a cohesive speech running from 10:12 to 11:31. J.G. McConville notes that this speech is “a kind of summation of themes up to this point” and that it also prepares and exposits the “main deuteronomic themes” to come. He also points out that this section “is forward-looking, though it draws extensively on themes and motifs in 1:1-10:11.”  The second part of this speech serves as an extrapolation of the compact proclamations of 10:12-11:1.
We learn in these verses that the Lord promotes love as the uniquely identifying marker of his people. Though God will not force love, he does call for it. God wants his people to embody his love in such a way that they embrace the transformational implications of it. Receiving God’s love means responding reciprocally to the Lord and also responding outwardly in a show of love for others. Just as God loves, so are his people to love. Just as God loves through emotion and action, so are his people to love emotionally and in action. The following five rhythmic movements of the passage reveal these themes; namely, that God’s purpose for giving the law was namely to draw people into a living relationship with him evidenced in loving reciprocal and imitative action.
- We discover in verses 10:12-13 a profound summary of the practice God desires from his people. It is a practice hinged upon love, acted upon through obedience, stemming from their relationship with God.
- Verses 14-16 remind the reader (or listener) that despite God’s infinite identity, he lovingly and humbly chose Israel to be his own. Therefore, Israel should reciprocate in loving humility towards God.
- Verses 17-19 remind the reader/listener of God’s reign over every other power (whether actual or perceived) and as such God has no need to favor anyone. And repeated positively, it could be said that God offers his favor to everyone by defending and caring for them. Therefore, Israel should, likewise, love others without partiality.
- Verses 20-22 remind the reader/listener that because God chose Israel uniquely, he also requires a unique obligatory response from them.
- And finally, verse 11:1 serves as a book-ending and summarizing statement echoing the call of love.
- Tigay notes: “As befits Moses’ purpose, Deuteronomy has adopted a rhetorical style well suited to oral presentation. Its sentences are long and flowing. They are marked by assonance, key words, and stereotyped expressions, all valued features of oral presentation. Themes are repeated frequently, a practice that enables listeners in a large audience to catch everything that is said.” Tigay, xviii-xix
- Wright, Christopher J.H. Deuteronomy: New International Biblical Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1996, 144.
- Some commentators (e.g. McConville) suggest that the first section of this unified speech is bracketed by “and now” in 10:12 and 10:22b.
- McConville, J.G. Deuteronomy: Apollos Old Testament Commentary. Leicester, England, 2002, 197.
- Ibid., 197
- Regarding literary structure, Wright observes: “The six verses of 10:14-19 are carefully structured as a pair of matching triplets: verses 14,15,16 and verses 17,18, 19. In each of the two passages there is an opening, hymn-like exaltation of Yahweh with resounding superlatives (vv.14,17).” Wright, 145-146