The Secret Things Belong to the LORD
“The secret things belong to the LORD” in Deu 29:29 has been interpreted to mean that whatever secrets God has it is not up to us to know, but whatever we see is what has been revealed to us. Although, it is true, this is not what this verse is saying.
The secret things belong to the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law. (KJV Deu 29:29)
After all, we are told to search out a matter concealed from us:
It is the glory of Elohim to hide a matter, and the glory of the kings to search out a matter. (Pro 25:2)
In order to understand the phrase” The secret things belong to the LORD” in Deu 29:29, let us first examine the Hebrew text. We read literally:
הנסתרת The secret ליהוה for Yehovah אלהינו our Elohim
והנגלת and those revealed לנו for us ולבנינו and for our children עד עולם forever
לעשׂות that we do את כל all דברי the words התורה the Torah הזאת׃ of this
The first word we will examine is the Hebrew word סָתַר satar. It means to hide (by covering), literally or figuratively as it is used in both verses but also elsewhere: Pro 25: and Deu 29:29. Thus, we see that סָתַר satar does not mean something beyond discovering, but a matter that can be searched and studied.
The other word in question is גָּלָה galah which means to uncover, remove, but also to uncover (nakedness) especially in a disgraceful sense, as seen in Gen_9:21, Lev_20:11, Lev_18:6-19, Lev_20:18-19, Rth_3:4, Isa_47:2, 2Sa_6:20. It can also mean to disclose, discover, to make known, show, reveal, as seen in Isa_22:14, Isa_40:5, Isa_56:1, Dan_10:1. By implication גָּלָה galah means to exile (Isa_5:13, Lam_1:3, Eze_39:22-23). From this word another Hebrew word comes and that is galut, which means captivity, because it was a common practice to strip the clothes of those taken into exile and removed them from their homeland, as the aggressor strips the land of its people.
So, what can possibly this verse means? By examining the immediate context of the passage of Deu 29:16-29, and especially verses 24 through 28, we understand that the issue is the sin of Israel for forsaking the Covenant with YHVH. And what will follow as a result of this is the burning displeasure and wrath of Elohim for being stubbornly persistent in her wrongdoing.
And all nations shall say, ‘Why has Yehovah done so to this land? What does the heat of this great displeasure mean?’ And it shall be said, ‘Because they have forsaken the covenant of Yehovah Elohim of their fathers, which He made with them when He brought them out of the land of Egypt. And they went and served other gods and bowed themselves to them, gods that they did not know and that He had not given to them, therefore the displeasure of Yehovah burned against this land, to bring on it every curse that is written in this book. And Yehovah uprooted them from their land in displeasure, and in wrath, and in great rage, and cast them into another land, as it is today.’ (Deu 29:24-28)
Now, this is what Rashi says in his commentary of Deu 29:29. It is worth reminding that he is famous in Judaism with his literal reading of the Torah. He says:
The hidden things belong to the Lord, our God: Now, you might object [to God, saying]: “But what can we do? You punish the entire community because of the sinful thoughts of an individual, as Scripture says, ‘Perhaps there is among you a man…’ (verse 17 above), [Deu_29:18 in the Christian Bibles], and after this, Scripture continues, ‘Seeing the plagues of that land [and the diseases with which the Lord struck it]’ (verse 21) [Deu_29:22 in the Christian Bibles] [which seems to indicate that for the sinful thought of even one individual, the whole land would be struck down with plagues and diseases]. But surely no man can know the secret thoughts of his fellow [that we could somehow prevent this collective punishment!” In answer to this, God says:] “I will not punish you for the hidden things!” [I.e.,] because “[The hidden things] belong to the Lord, our God,” and He will exact punishment upon that particular individual [who sins in secret]. However, “the revealed things apply to us and to our children” [that is, we are responsible for detecting the sins committed openly in our community, and] to eradicate any evil among us. And if we do not execute judgment upon these [open transgressions, over which we do have control,], then the whole community will be punished [because they would be remiss in their responsibility].
What Rashi is saying is this: if a member of a community has sinned and no one knows about this sin, the community will not be hold accountable for this particular sin. The Lord will not punish all people for the hidden sin(s) of one, because this hidden matter belongs to Him and the judgment therein. However, if the community knows but has done nothing to prevent it or to remove it from its midst, then Elohim will hold the community as a whole and its leaders in particular accountable, because that was their responsibility to handle, meaning the whole community will be punished.
As this is true for any sin, it is true also for the sin that deserves an exile from the land, namely worshiping other gods, as it is clearly stated in “And they went and served other gods and bowed themselves to them, gods that they did not know.” This sin was not hidden from the nation; this sin belonged to the entire nation, therefore the entire nation was held accountable.
With all this being said, we may make a better translation of the verse, as seen below:
The hidden [sins] belong to Yehovah our Elohim, but what [sin] is revealed belongs to us and to our children forever, to do all the Words of this Torah.
Now, is there more to it than that? Yes, say the sages, since one may ask the question, What are “the hidden things” and what are “the revealed things?” with which we come to the second level of understanding of this, we may say, prophecy.
Throughout history Jewry has eagerly awaited the ultimate redemption through the Messiah which is known among the Jews as the final redemption (geula). The sages (in Sanhedrin 98a) have identified two times for his coming. One is “be’itah” — the preordained time by Elohim at the beginning of creation, and the second is “achishenah” — a hastened revelation before the destined time:
R. Alexandri said: R. Joshua b. Levi pointed out a contradiction. it is written, in its time [will the Messiah come], whilst it is also written, I [the Lord] will hasten it! — if they are worthy, I will hasten it: if not, [he will come] at the due time. R. Alexandri said: R. Joshua opposed two verses: it is written, And behold, one like the son of man came with the clouds of heaven whilst [elsewhere] it is written, [behold, thy king cometh unto thee… ] lowly, and riding upon an ass! — if they are meritorious, [he will come] with the clouds of heaven; if not, lowly and riding upon an ass. King Shapur [I] said to Samuel, ‘Ye maintain that the Messiah will come upon an ass: I will rather send him a white horse of mine.’
What the sages are saying is this: if the Jews are deserving, Elohim will hasten the Messiah’s arrival. If they are not, the final redemption will come “in its due time.” For more on this topic of the coming of the Messiah the reader may want to read chapters by clicking on Redemption Plan of YHVH and Two Scenarios of the War of Gog of the present author’s study Reckoning of Time.
Of course, the designated time of the coming of the Messiah is hidden and only known to the Creator, whether it will be in the preordained time or in the due time. (For more on this topic of whether we can know the Messiah’s coming, refer to What Time Is It Now On the Creator’s Clock?) However, we do know that repentance can turn everything. If Israel sincerely repent and turn to Him with circumcised hearts, then all Israel will immediately be redeemed, as scripture says — “Today, if you will hearken to His voice” (Psa_95:7).
In the previous verse 28, Mosheh tells the people that “And Yehovah uprooted them from their land in displeasure, and in wrath, and in great rage, and cast them into another land, as it is today.”
But, Mosheh also assures them that this situation will not go on forever. Yehovah by His indefinite mercy and for the sake of their fathers will send the Messiah and take them out of the galut — exile — regardless if they deserve it or not.
When this will take place is נִּסְתָּרֹ֔ת hanistarot, the hidden thing, and is known only to Yehovah. However,“and what is revealed to us and to our children forever” means that “if we carry out all the words of this Torah,” the redemption will take place speedily.
May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.