Before listeners are able to absorb the profundity of the preceding comments, Moses reminds Israel of God’s boundless grandeur. Essential to Moses’ argument is the truth that God loves Israel and that God wants Israel to reciprocate and imitate that love. The fact, Moses recalls, is that “the LORD your God” owns the farthest heavens, all of the earth, and everything that is in the earth (Deut 10:14). Wright notices that “this verse, with wonderful rhythmic cadence, affirms the universal exultation and cosmic ownership of Yahweh.”
Even with God’s possessive inexhaustability, however, Moses states the remarkable fact that God chose to place his affection on Israel. McConville notes that “verses 14-15 bring together two theological statements that seem at first glance to be at odds, namely Yahweh’s universal rule, and his election of one nation, Israel.” But this is precisely Moses’ point! The LORD owns everything… YET he chose to love the descendants of those listening. The contrastive power of the Hebrew raq should not be overlooked. Of everything in the entirety of Creation, God chose the relatively insignificant nation of Israel. In the simple word, raq, of Deuteronomy 10:14, Christians today should recognize the cohesion with the Greek word, δε, in passages like Romans 6:23. Both Testaments would agree that it is because of the LORD’s loving grace that he sets his affection upon a relatively undeserving people.
But in the face of God’s grace, Israel must be careful not to become proud and unfaithful. “Election, for Israel,” Wright notes, “was not so much a privilege as an awesome responsibility.” Israel wasn’t chosen because they were a great nation. In an attempt to remind the people of their humble position, Moses teaches that Israel was chosen despite God’s greatness! Arthur F. Glasser comments that God existed before Israel and he could do so again! It was according to “no merit or quality” that God chose Israel. Therefore, Moses contends, Israel should respond in love to God. To argue his case, a barrage of metaphors is lobbed at the listeners in an attempt to dislodge any sense of self-importance that might be setting in. And so we hear the seemingly awkward call to “circumcise” hearts and to loosen “stiff”-necks.
Circumcision for Israel was to be an outward sign of an inner commitment to the LORD. In Genesis 17:9-14, we learn that the LORD made a covenant of relationship and promised blessing with Abraham that would be confirmed through his “seed”. Circumcision was to be the humanly responsive, visible mark of that covenant. McConville believes Deuteronomy 10:15-16 recalls that defining initiative of relationship but now expands the concept by applying circumcision to the heart. Heard literally, the Israelites were to “cut away the foreskin of your heart.” Similarly, their necks were not to be “stiff” but pliable to the Lord. With these vivid analogies in mind, near the end of Deuteronomy, Moses recalls this passage by prophesying that when the people respond in obedience to the Lord, he will then perform the circumcision of their hearts so that they would be free to love him. Understood in context, Israel was to surrender to God so that he could rid them of anything that thickened or blocked their hearts from openly receiving his love and that kept their heads from turning in reciprocal response to him. In other words, Moses said to Israel, “God is in charge of everything and yet he chose to love you. Therefore, don’t be so foolish as to let your hearts or your posture before God to be stubborn.” Above all, love must be the motivating force for any and every inner emotion and every outer act by the people Israel.
prior posts: reciprocal and imitative love .:series:.
1 Literally an emphasized superlative, “the heaven and the heaven of heavens”. See Wright, 146 and Tigay, 107
2 Wright, 146. He also suggests consulting 1 Kgs 8:27; Pss 24;1; 47:7-9; 68:38; Jer 10:10-13.
3 McConville, 198
4 “The effect of hen in conjunction with the following raq (‘yet’, 15) is a concession: ‘although… yet’.” Ibid., 200.
5 “Israel finds a double-barreled call to repentance aimed at their metaphorical hearts and necks.” Wright, 147:
6 Glasser, Arthur F. Announcing the Kingdom: The Story of God’s Mission in the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003, 57.
7 Ibid., 58.
8 Genesis 17:9-27; 21:4
9 McConville, 200. The Prophets recall this metaphor in Jeremiah 4:1-4; 9:26 and Ezekiel 44:7-9.
10 Deut 30:6
11 See Tigay, 107-108.
12 Earl S. Kalland writes: “Because of this gratuitous position they had in relation to the true God, the Israelites were urged to circumcise their hearts and cease being stiff-necked (v.16). The circumcision of the heart connotes being open, responsive, and obedient to the Lord.” Kalland, Earl S., “Deuteronomy” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 3, gen editor Frank E. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992, 86
13 See Alexander, 429.