God’s Heart to Circumcise Israel’s Heart: Divine Eschatological Heart Surgery and its Present Re

The tip of Moses’ spear or ‘staff’ remains the final eight chapters of the Pentateuch where he clarifies the book’s final hope in the person and work of the one who will bring God’s people to the land where Moses could not lead them: the land where God dwells. This paper argues that the Pentateuch reveals the depth of human depravity in Deu 29 so that it may also offer a singular hope beyond Moses and his laws but found within Moses’ own book, especially in Deu 30. By drawing out compositional and structural features of Deu 29–30, it argues for an authorial strategy within this pericope that reverberates with the rest of Deu 27–34 and the Pentateuch as a whole. Hope is not found in the laws of Moses but in the one promised to Abraham.

This paper examines the depiction of God’s heart and Israel’s heart as the central paradigm for the reader’s own journey with God in this life and his unavoidable approach to God for either life or death in the end. Deu 29–30 establishes a partial theological anthropology that moves the reader, like Israel, from despair to hope, from exile to return within God and His promises. The author proclaims God’s desire to change Israel’s heart and the reader’s heart permanently in a surprising eschatological heart surgery (Deu 30:6) with repercussions from the future into the present.

In Deu 29–30, more precisely, the author draws out the implications of God’s words on the sinful human heart “in the end of the days” to teach that 1) God’s people must have a changed heart to live near God and stay near God (Deu 29) and that 2) God’s future saving actions will provide such a new heart (Deu 30). Deu 29 highlights the depth of man’s sinful heart that will lead Israel to an exile that mirrors Adam’s exile. In so doing, Israel’s dilemma reflects the reader’s and counsels him to direct his own story “inside and within” Israel’s story with God. Their exile brings God’s word, the Torah, to the nations, even the reader, so that they and he may share in Israel’s hope: the future circumcision of the heart in the great return to God of Deu 30. This eschatological hope within the Pentateuch manifests itself in the present, especially the reader’s present reality: “the word is near you (Deu 30:14).” Moses’ book commands the reader to respond to His future hope now, even today. The paper will answer and develop recent research on Deu 29–30 and reinforce how Deu 29–30’s paradigm of heart problem and heart change will clarify how one might best read the rest of Deu 27–34, the Pentateuch as a whole, and the reader’s own life.

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