(22) So that the generation to come of your children that shall rise up after you, and the stranger that shall come from a far land, shall say, when they see the plagues of that land, and the sicknesses which the LORD hath laid upon it; (23) And that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom, and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, which the LORD overthrew in his anger, and in his wrath: (24) Even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger? (25) Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them forth out of the land of Egypt: (26) For they went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given unto them: (27) And the anger of the LORD was kindled against this land, to bring upon it all the curses that are written in this book: (28) And the LORD rooted them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land, as it is this day.
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The last phrase of verse 28, “as is clear today” (New English Translation [NET]) is an important time marker. The GNT renders it, “where they are today.” The New Living Translation [NLT] has it, “where they still live today.” Translator Robert Alter puts it, “as on this day.”
In the light of that phrase, consider that the people to whom Moses spoke were not then scattered, not uprooted. Their land was not one of “brimstone, salt, and burning debris.” Nor does that description fit the lands to which the Assyrians exiled the ancient House of Israel, for the areas south of the Caspian Sea are reasonably well-watered. Further, the terminology of the passage cannot describe the lands to which Israel migrated, lands that are among the most favored on earth: the productive lands of Northern Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
By using this short phrase, Moses indicates that he speaks of a “generation to come” (verse 22), one in the distant future, even beyond Israel's circumstances today. He is seeing into the time of Jacob's Trouble, when Israel's land, ravaged by war, would become environmentally degraded in the extreme. Only then, in this period of extreme distress, will the lands Israel occupies come to resemble ancient Sodom, destroyed by God long ago (Genesis 19).
Those of the “generation” of which Moses speaks, whether Israelite or Gentile, understand that the vast desolation they witness is the result of Israel's idolatry, in violation of the covenant (verses 25-26). Moses describes a time beyond our present circumstances when God will have “uprooted” apostate Israel from the lands to which He scattered her centuries before, the lands to which ancient Israel migrated. In short, Moses sees a land that has “vomited out its inhabitants” (Leviticus 18:25).
The verb “uprooted” (verse 28) evokes the striking image of pulling up plants from their roots. It virtually always appears in contexts of God's wrathful action against a sinning people, as in Ezekiel's lamentation for the princes of Israel, recorded in Ezekiel 19:10-14:
Your mother was like a vine in a vineyard planted by the water, fruitful and full of branches by reason of abundant water. Its strong stems became rulers' scepters; it towered aloft among the thick boughs; it was seen in its height with the mass of its branches. But the vine was plucked up in fury, cast down to the ground; the east wind dried up its fruit; they were stripped off and withered. As for its strong stem, fire consumed it. Now it is planted in the wilderness, in a dry and thirsty land. And fire has gone out from the stem of its shoots, has consumed its fruit, so that there remains in it no strong stem, no scepter for ruling. (English Standard Version [ESV])
In verse 12, God angrily plucks up the vine whose stems have grown into “rulers' scepters,” towering above others. The image of the highly productive, well-watered vine—perhaps “influential” might fit as well—transplanted into a “dry and thirsty land” (verse 13), is reminiscent of the Sodom-like land Moses mentions in Deuteronomy 29:23.
It is clear, then, that Deuteronomy 29 describes God's future scattering, His uprooting of Israelites from their burned-out land during the time of Jacob's Trouble.
— Charles Whitaker