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Word Study: Perish (Deuteronomy 30:15-20)


The passage I chose for this assignment is Deuteronomy 30:15-20 with a study of the word “perish” found in verse 17. This passage reads in the NASB as follows:

“See, I have set before you today•• life and•• prosperity, and•• death and•• adversity; in that I command you today to love •the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. “But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship •other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing •the Jordan to enter and possess it. “I call•• heaven and•• earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you •life and •death, the blessing and the curse. So choose•• life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving •the Lord your God, by obeying •His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, •Isaac, and •Jacob, to give •them.”

Within this passage we see a cause and effect and the contrast of two ways of life set up within this passage. We see that loving and obeying God lead to life and blessings while a life spent disobeying God and apart from Him leads to a life cut short. God gives us the choice between life and death just as He has done to the Israelites here. When looking at this passage we see that “perish” is a consequence for not living a life according to the will of God. I see this word, perish as a warning and as we read what it means it is a bold warning that would make the reader prefer a life with God.

Select Only the Most Important Word(s) for Study

While there are other verbs that would have been worth studying such as “live”, “choose”, and “walk in” I found the word “perish” as one worthy to study for this assignment.

Determine the Hebrew Word from Which the English Word Was Derived

Perish is derived from the Hebrew word, 'āḇaḏ (אָבַד).[1]

Determine the Hebrew Verb Stem

The Hebrew verb stem for this term is (אָבַד).[2]

List All the English Words Used for that Hebrew Root

English words used for this Hebrew root include perish, get lost, go astray, and destroy[3] as well as die.[4] At first read through of this verse amongst its chapter I assumed perish to mean die and that the consequences of choosing to defy God were solely death both physically and spiritually. The most fitting of this verb’s definition would appear to be “destroy” or when plugging it into this Bible verse it would mean “surely you would be destroyed”. This makes sense because God promises that His enemies and the enemies of His servants will face condemnation and be no more.

Note Any Changes in Meaning if the Verb Changes Stem

From looking at the lemma within Logos it appears that there is no change in changes if the verb changes stem.

Consider How the Contextual Settings Influenced Each of the English Word Choices

When reading the book of Deuteronomy and even just this passage alone the reader can identify that this context has to do with judgement. The theme is that disobedience brings judgement, hence the perishing that is occurring within this passage.[5] Earlier I noted how this passage is set up in a compare and contrast format or cause and effect reaction, with this context the reader knows that they will perish or be destroyed if they stray away from God. While the Hebrew root can mean to go astray it is evident that the verb here is used as consequence for someone going astray from God. When trying to find this term in my Bible Dictionary I only found the word “perishable” which is used to explain the human body.[6] When we think of perish this way we think of New Testament theology concerning life after death. We know that as believers who accept salvation and continue to walk with God we have the reward of eternal life, but if we do not accept the gift of salvation we are, to boldly state going to be destroyed along with all of God’s enemies. The opposite of walking with God in victory is to be destroyed along with the evil of this world. This does seem extreme, but I would think that the author wanted us to grasp this for our own good, or rather, the good of the Israelites as they were to walk into the promised land.


Upon evaluating this verb in its context, it can be determined that perish means to be destroyed within this verse rather than simply die. While perish does very much so mean to die, it appears within this passage that God will destroy his enemies. This is something that is promised to us throughout scripture, Isaiah 54 for example states God as His servants’ vindicator. Those who oppose God will face judgement instead of blessing. Within this compare and contrast of this passage it is stated that those who follow God and love Him will be blessed and those who oppose Him and disobey Him will be destroyed.

[1] “Deuteronomy 30 :: New American Standard Bible 1995 (NASB95),” Blue Letter Bible, accessed August 16, 2023, [2] IBID [3] “Perish,” Logos, accessed August 16, 2023, [4] “Perish,” Logos, accessed August 16, 2023, [5] David S Dockery, Concise Bible Commentary (Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Publishing Group, 2016), 218. P. 71 [6] Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, Tn: Holman Reference, 2003), 1247.



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