The Standard Interpretation
The NASB translates Deuteronomy 30:11-14 as follows:
“For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.
Clearly the NASB translators felt that Moses was speaking of the listeners' present internalization of the commandment.
The Argument for a Future-orientation
I am beginning to question whether this is correct, though. I am wondering if this could actually be forward-pointing, for several reasons:
- The context leading up to this statement is future-oriented;
"So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you" -v.1
"then the Lord your God will restore you from captivity" -v.3
"Then the Lord your God will prosper you" -v.9 . . . "if you obey" -v.10 . . . "For this commandment which I command you today is not [will not be-?] too difficult for you" -v.11
- Verse 6 describes this future state as a time when God will perform a heart-change in them, which would seem to be necessary before the commandment could actually be "in" them;
Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live. -v.6
“For this commandment which I command you today is not [will not be-?] too difficult for you, nor is it [will it be-?] out of reach. . . . But the word is [will be-?] very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it. -vv. 11, 14
- We know from other revelation (both OT and NT) that at that particular time their hearts were not circumcised, and (especially if you take the counsel of the NT as authoritative,) the commandment was too difficult for them under the Old Covenant, as they did not have the indwelling of the Spirit of God. For example, Deuteronomy 29:4, which is near the beginning of the same pericope, says the following:
Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.
- Romans 10:5-8, which I consider equally canonical and authoritative, may be taking Moses' words as pertaining to the New Covenant (not the Old/ Mosaic Covenant.)
Is a Future-orientation Possible?
What is preventing me from feeling any sort of confidence in this possibility is my uncertainty about the Hebrew here. Does the Hebrew1 grammar & syntax allow for a future-oriented interpretation of the text? (e.g. "the word will be . . . in your heart" instead of "the word is in your heart")
If this is an equally valid rendition, why wouldn't the Christian translators of the NASB have gone that route in their interpretation?
1) Feel free to assume the Leningrad Codex has preserved the original wording, so as to avoid the complexities of trying to reconstruct the autograph from scratch in your answer.