(2) And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; (3) That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. (4) If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee:
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Israel's apostasy and the resulting furious uprooting in Deuteronomy 29, forms the context of Deuteronomy 30:2-4. Here, however, by referring to “you and your descendants” in verse 2, Moses expands his audience to include the people standing before him as well as those of a future generation.
Deuteronomy 30:3 lists three actions God will take upon Israel's repentance, only the last of which involves any regathering:
1. He reverses, that is, backs out or turns around, the people's captivity.
2. He “turns” (that is, returns) to His people.
3. Once back with them, He (re)gathers them.
The Hebrew text uses the verb shûb twice in verse 3, the translators rendering it “reverse” the first time and “turn” the second. It means “to turn back,” “to return,” or “to go back.” Its first use appears at Genesis 3:19, where God tells Adam he will return into the dust from which he came.
The point is this: To God, gathering is a purposeful and overt reversal of the current situation. Upon seeing Israel's changed (or changing) attitude—her repentance—God reciprocates by altering His own course, backing out the scattering He imposed earlier. Additionally, God's is not a timid response to Israel's repentance: As He says in verse 4: “If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there he will fetch you” (Revised Standard Version [RSV]). He will go where He needs to go to gather them.
For emphasis, Moses uses two verbs at the end of verse 4: “gather” and “fetch.” “Gather” is qâbas, the most frequently used verb for “gather” in the Old Testament. Of its 127 occurrences, not surprisingly, almost half (60) appear in the Major and Minor Prophets. Qâbas' first use is in Genesis 41:35, where Joseph recommends to Pharaoh that he “gather all the food” during the seven years of plenty against those years of famine to follow. God sees gathering as a carefully planned action, diligently, systemically, and methodically executed with sustained discipline. In this case, the gathering is implemented by Joseph, a type of Christ.
The second verb, “fetch,” is quite interesting. It is lâqah,which means “to take,” “fetch,” “lead,” “conduct,” or “carry off.” When combined with the concept of scattering, it carries the notion of assuming active leadership of the returnees. The Hebrew lâqah and English “fetch” share much the same meaning. When a dog fetches a stick, he actively runs after it, seeks it out, and then carries it back posthaste. Likewise, in the first use of lâqah (Genesis 2:15), God “took” the newly created Adam and put him into the Garden of Eden, as if He led him there. Importantly, this first use carries the notion of leading a person to the best of lands, in this case, the Garden of Eden.
The Complete Jewish Bible conveys this notion of active pursuit, saying that God will “go there and get” the people of Israel, restoring them to the Land of Promise. The Message carries the same idea: God will “come back and pick up the pieces from all the places where you were scattered.” Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, will not delegate the work of regathering, nor will He gather from a distance. Rather, He will go to the nations and lead the remnant back, assertively participating in the gathering process. This “hands-on” aspect of involvement is reminiscent of God's ongoing and never-failing leadership of the Children of Israel in the wilderness by cloud and pillar (see Exodus 13:20-22).
— Charles Whitaker
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