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).
Scattering and Gathering: Images of History and Prophecy (Part One)
A supernatural circumcision by God has to take place—a circumcision made without hands. This implies a cooperative effort: God does His part, and we do our part. He makes possible the circumcision—for which we are responsible—by circumcising us supernaturally, so that we can yield to Him, put aside human nature, and make the choices to do the right thing.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Seven)
God's regathering of national Israel to the Land of Promise is a major theme of Scripture. (For examples, see; Isaiah 27:12; Jeremiah 16:14-15; Jeremiah 23:7-8; Jeremiah 50:4-5, 19-20; Ezekiel 36:33; Amos 9:11-15; compare Romans 11:11-36.)
Considering only the Pentateuch, Deuteronomy 30:1-10 by far contains the fullest revelation of God's commitment to regather scattered Israel to the Promised Land. (Deuteronomy 4:30-31 also touches on the topic.) Remarkable in this passage is the repetition of the Hebrew verb shuv, which means "to return," "to restore," "to reverse," or "to revoke." It means "to go back.” Its first use is in Genesis 3:19, where God speaks of Adam's retu?rning to the dust of the ground.
In this passage, sometimes God does the returning, and other times Israel does it. This interplay between actors—God and Israel—reveals a basic principle underlying the relationship between God and His people, the principle of reciprocity. To be dynamic and growing, a relationship with God requires action on the part of God and man. The various uses of shuv in Deuteronomy 30:1-10 illustrate this reciprocity, an interplay of actions and reactions.
Verse 1: Collectively, the peoples of Israel will “call [shuv] to mind” not only the blessings they have enjoyed as a result of obeying God but also the curses they suffer when they disobey Him. They will come to recognize the cause-and-effect relationship between obedience and blessings and between rebellion and curses. In this verse, shuv carries the idea of bringing to mind, or remembering.
Importantly, however, other scriptures show that it is God, not humans, who initiates the process of repentance. In II Timothy 2:25, the apostle Paul points out that God grants repentance; it is a gift from God. In John 14:26, Jesus teaches us that a function of God's Holy Spirit is to “teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” Christ will kickstart the whole regathering process by bringing Deuteronomy 28, which specifically relates blessings to obedience and curses to disobedience, to the mind of His scattered people.
Verse 2: The people “return [shuv] to the LORD.” This is clearly something the people do in response to God's initiating repentance. The idea is that distressed Israel will turn to God, that is, repent, as the people reflect on the blessings they once enjoyed and on the curses they are now experiencing.
Verse 3: As a result of Israel's repentance, God will “bring you back [shuv] from captivity,” the captivity they have suffered during the time of Jacob's Trouble (Jeremiah 30:7; Matthew 24:21). God here uses shuv in a general sense, meaning to “restore your fortunes” (Christian Standard Bible) or “reverse your exile” (Complete Jewish Bible).
Verse 3: God is more specific in the next clause of verse 3. He does not “restore” by returning Israel to the lands of her exile. Rather, He will “return” for the purpose of gathering His people. The Living Bible has it, “He . . . will come [shuv] and gather you. . . .” Upon His return to earth (Zechariah 14:4), Christ will personally turn His hand to the task of regathering His people Israel to the Promised Land.
Verse 8: Israel “will again [shuv] obey” God. The translators of the Common English Bible lay stress on Israel's repentance by translating shuv as “change”: “You will change and obey.” Frankly, shuv may have double meaning in verse 8, referring 1) to Israel's repentance, a change of mind and action, and 2) Israel's physical returning to the Promised Land. The folk will follow Christ as He leads them to the land, just as He led their ancestors so many centuries earlier, carrying them on metaphorical eagles' wings (Exodus 19:4) out of Egypt at the time of the Exodus.
Verse 9: God, pleased at Israel's new spirit of obedience, “will again [shuv] rejoice” over His people. He will return to a state of joy. Compare Isaiah 62:5; 65:19; Jeremiah 32:41; and Zephaniah 3:17.
Verse 10: As a sort of postscript, God reiterates what He said in verse 2, that Israel's repentance, her “turn[ing] to the LORD,” must be absolutely sincere, “with all your heart and with all your soul.” Such singleness of mind and purpose must be the bedrock of any relationship with God. Compare Deuteronomy 4:29; 6:5; and Matthew 22:37.
Deuteronomy 30:1-10 may be the most concentrated exposition in the Scriptures of the reciprocity God expects in His relationship with His people. There, transaction after transaction illustrates the action-reaction interplay between God and His people.
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Deuteronomy 30:4: