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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Deuteronomy 28

Introduction

CHAP. XXVIII.

The blessings for obedience: the curses for disobedience.

Before Christ 1451.

Verse 1

Ver. 1. If thou shalt hearken diligently It is observable, that the prophesies of Moses abound most in the latter part of his writings. As he drew nearer his end, it pleased God to open to him larger prospects of things. As he was about to take leave of the people, he was enabled to disclose to them more particulars of their future state and condition: and so striking is the present chapter more especially, that we may see the greater part of it accomplished in the world at this present time. Moses here proposes at large to the people the blessings for obedience, and the curses for disobedience. Indeed, he had already foretold, at several times, and upon several occasions, that they should be happy or miserable in the world, as they were obedient or disobedient to the law that he had given them; and could there be any stronger evidence of the divine original of the Mosaic law? For, has not the interposition of Providence been wonderfully remarkable in their good or bad fortune? And is not the truth of the prediction fully attested by the whole series of their history, from their first settlement in Canaan to this very day? But he goes into greater length, and is more particular, in recounting the curses than the blessings, as if he had a prescience of the people's disobedience. I know that some critics make a division of these prophesies; they imagine, that one part relates to the former captivity of the Jews, and to the calamities which they suffered under the Chaldeans; and that the other part relates to the latter captivity of the Jews, and to the calamities which they suffered under the Romans: but there is no need of any such distinction; there is no reason to think that any such was intended by the author. Several prophesies of one part, as well as of the other, have been fulfilled at both periods; but they have all more exactly been fulfilled during the latter period; and there cannot be a more lively picture than they exhibit of the state of the Jews at present, as will appear in the sequel. See Bishop Newton on the Prophesies.

His commandments, which I command thee Moses gave to the Israelites no laws but such as were commanded by God himself; whose commandments they are called, though enjoined by Moses as God's vicegerent. See ch. Deuteronomy 11:1.

Verse 2

Ver. 2. All these blessings shall—overtake thee "They shall be thy portion without thy pursuit of them, by the care and good providence of God;" Matthew 6:33. We may just observe, respecting these blessings and curses, that they refer to temporal good or evil.

Verse 7

Ver. 7. The Lord shall cause thine enemies—to be smitten before thy face "Upon any invasion from foreign enemies, be their numbers and valour ever so great, God himself will undertake your cause; and so order it, that you shall always come off at last with entire victory:" for, fleeing seven ways imports a total overthrow, which made every man shift for himself, and run straggling hither and thither, without any order or leader, as soldiers do when they are entirely routed.

Verse 10

Ver. 10. And all people—shall see that thou art called by the name of the Lord i.e. Shall be convinced that you are, after a peculiar manner, the Lord's people; for to be called by God's name, and to be His, are all one. Jer 25:29. 1 Chronicles 13:6. Acts 15:17. So, when Jacob says, that his name should be named on the two sons of Joseph, the meaning is, that they should be accounted his, as Reuben and Simeon were. Genesis 48:16. See Joseph Mede, disc. 1: p. 7.

Verse 12

Ver. 12. The Lord shall open unto thee his good treasure The heaven, or clouds, are here called God's good treasure, Those collections of water, which are there treasured up to serve the purposes of watering and fructifying the earth, are called God's good treasure, because rain is so beneficial to the earth; and it eminently speaks the Divine benignity, to shower down those blessings in such quantities as he thinks proper for the sustenance of man and beast.

Verse 13

Ver. 13. The Lord shall make thee the head, and not the tail, A proverbial method of speaking, which the following words explain: "You shall rule over other nations, but other nations shall not rule over you." Such was the happy lot of the people of Israel under the reigns of David and Solomon. To shew them that their prosperity depended upon their obedience, it is added in the next verse, thou shalt not go aside, &c.

REFLECTIONS.—God delights in the prosperity of his people, and to bless them he rejoiceth; whilst vengeance is his strange work. Happy for them, if, sensible of his goodness, they are enabled to walk so as not to provoke his displeasure.

1. God propounds to them the condition on which all their happiness depended; and that was, serious attention to his revealed will, faithful and persevering obedience to his commands, and, particularly, careful watchfulness not to turn aside after idols. As long as we are found waiting upon God in his ways, so long we may be assured he will meet and bless us.
2. The blessings promised are most engaging, great, and glorious, spiritual and temporal; and, no doubt, look farther, even to eternal blessedness: [1.] outward prosperity and affluence are promised them. (1.) In dignity, they should excel all nations. Wealth, like a river, should flow in upon them; so that the nations around should borrow of them, and be in subjection to them. Victory should constantly attend their standards; their enemies in fear bow down and lick the dust before them, and be forced to own God's distinguishing regard for them. Note; They, who have God for their friend, will surely at last have their enemies at their feet. (2.) God's blessing is promised on them in all places, and in all undertakings. In the city, peace, plenty, and riches in their traffic, should abound. In the field, their labour should be crowned with success beyond their most sanguine wishes, and their barns and vats overflow with corn and wine. In their journey, their persons should be protected, and their undertakings prosperous, under the constant care of a Covenant-God. Note; They who have an eye to God in all they take in hand, and keep him in their mind in all their travels, will find his blessings still preventing and following them. (3.) Uncommon fruitfulness is assured them. Their families should increase as a flock, and there should be no want of a portion and provision for them. Their sheep and oxen should multiply exceedingly; their fields stand thick with corn, watered from heaven with peculiar care; and, when gathered in, still God's blessing should be upon their stores, preserving them from damage and accidents, and giving them the most comfortable enjoyment of their possessions. Thus every earthly bliss, health, wealth, honour, children; in short, all that heart could wish, is promised as their portion. Note; Those who have an interest in God's love, may be assured that they shall want no manner of thing that is good. If the Gospel directs us rather to spiritual and eternal, than temporal blessings; yet it assures us that these shall, in a measure, be added to those who seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. [2.] Spiritual mercies are promised them. They, who are faithful to that measure of grace which they receive, shall grow in grace. (1.) God engages to establish them in holiness, to keep them a people separate for himself, and to bless them with his ordinances for their increasing sanctification. Note; Holiness is God's work in us: we are called to obey his godly motions; and when we do so, he is pleased to reward what he has wrought, by strengthening, establishing, and settling us. (2.) Their religious character should engage the reverence and respect of the nations around them. The evident regard of God to them would be confessed by their enemies; and therein a clear acknowledgment be made of their superior happiness and felicity, arising from his favour and love. Spiritual happiness is the best of portions; and they who have the Lord for their God possess a joy, which, though the stranger intermeddles not with, he will be forced to own is the only real felicity under the sun.

Verses 15-20

Ver. 15-20. But—if thou wilt not hearken To these promises of prosperity if they obeyed the laws, the most dreadful menaces of adversity are opposed in case they disobeyed them; a general disappointment, misery, and calamity, reaching to all ranks of people, and affecting all affairs, public and private: scarcity, want, and untimely death, affecting private families; and a defeat of all public enterprises and counsels making the whole nation miserable. By the word cursing, in the 20th verse, is meant, in general, a blasting of all their designs: the LXX render it, famine and want. The second word, vexation, signifies disquiet and perplexity of mind; and the third, rebuke, relates to such chastisements as should give them a severe check or rebuke for their sins. See Psalms 39:11.

Verse 21

Ver. 21. The Lord shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee That is, infect thee in an incurable manner. It is not without design that Moses makes use of the word cleave: experience has fully proved, that the corpuscles of the pestilence cleave very closely to wool, linen, skins, hair, feathers; and that by the import of these merchandises, this dreadful malady is easily transmitted from one place to another. See Scheuchzer's Physique Sacree on the place. The author of the book, intitled, Schebeth Jehuda, says, that, after having been almost wholly exterminated by war, those of the Jews who fled for refuge into Spain, in the time of Alphonso, were, in great part, consumed by the pestilence; which some regarded as a completion of this prophesy. We may refer, however, to various other times when the Jews were thus afflicted by God; especially the last siege of Jerusalem. See 2 Samuel 24:15.Jeremiah 14:12; Jeremiah 14:12.Ezekiel 5:12; Ezekiel 5:12.Amos 4:10; Amos 4:10; Amos 4:13.

Verse 22

Ver. 22. With the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew Le Clerc thinks, that the first five expressions in this verse denote certain inflammatory diseases, which some have thought to be attendant on the pestilence. See Scheuchzer, as above. The two latter expressions, blasting and mildew, relate to the destruction of their corn, and the fruits of the earth, consequent upon the corruption of the air. The first word is translated here by the LXX, blasting winds; and elsewhere, blighting by fire, or lightning. What we render mildew, Dr. Waterland, following Le Clerc, translates the jaundice, because it is derived from a word signifying saffron-coloured. But that etymology agrees likewise with mildew, which changes the natural verdure of things into a yellowish hue.

Verse 23

Ver. 23. The heaven—shall be brass, and the earth—iron A proverbial mode of speech, importing a grievous and general famine: that the heavens should yield no more rain than if they were brass, and the earth no more fruit than if it were iron. Maimonides observes, that the ancient Zabii taught the people to worship the planets, because the fruitfulness of the earth, health, and other blessings, depended upon their will and pleasure. In opposition to which, Moses teaches the Israelites, that the way to enjoy all these blessings was, to worship the Lord of heaven and earth, the only giver of rain and fruitful seasons.

Verse 24

Ver. 24. The Lord shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust Houbigant renders this, the Lord shall give to thy land, instead of rain, dust and sand, which shall fall from heaven upon thee, &c. That is, by reason of the long drought, dust, blown up into the air by the wind, shall fall down in showers, instead of rain. The terrible consequence, of this phenomenon are thus related by an author who has travelled to the east: "These dry showers most grievously annoy all they fall upon, filling their eyes, ears, nostrils, and are enough to deprive them of their sight." See Thevenot, part 1: book 2 chap. 80.

Verse 25

Ver. 25. And shalt be removed, &c.— See the note on ver. 64.

Verse 26

Ver. 26. Thy carcase shall be meat unto all fowls of the air "Your conquerors shall not only transplant you into distant countries, but shall make such terrible slaughter of you, that the carcases of vast numbers shall be exposed in the streets, and lie, like those of beasts, without burial." Nothing was accounted a greater calamity among the ancients, than to have their bodies lie exposed to be devoured by birds and beasts: this is what Jeremiah calls being buried with the burial of an ass, ch. Deu 22:19 and the Psalmist bewails it as one of the sorest judgments which had befallen his nation; Psalms 79:2-3. How far this terrible threatening was fulfilled in the Babylonish captivity, will appear on consulting the pathetic descriptions of that calamity in the book of Lamentations; where it is often declared, that those judgments inflicted upon them were in consequence of their breach of God's covenant. See Lamentations 1:14; Lamentations 1:18; Lamentations 2:17; Lamentations 2:21; Lamentations 4:6; Lamentations 4:13, &c. and Matthew 24:0.

38 which has reference to the like calamity in their destruction by the Romans.

Verse 27

Ver. 27. The Lord will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, &c.— שׁחין shechin, rendered the botch, signifies an inflammatory swelling, a burning boil, a morbid tumour attended with a sense of heat. In Job 2:7 one of the versions of the Hexapla renders it the elephantiasis, a kind of leprosy. It is most probably the same malady mentioned Exodus 9:9. See Parkhurst on the word. Thevenot, in his Description of the Diseases of Egypt, mentions, among others, a kind of inflammation breaking out in pustules or botches, over all the skin, about the time of the Nile's beginning to overflow. By the emerods are meant those painful swellings in the hemorrhoidal vessels, which sometimes turn into ulcers. The word is nowhere found in Scripture, except here and 1 Samuel 5:6 : The superstitious vulgar of Egypt were made to believe, that these ulcers, &c. were inflicted by the goddess Isis, and their other idols. See Persius, sat. v. l. 186. and Juv. sat. xiii. l. 92.

Verse 28

Ver. 28. With madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart These calamities at home will in time throw you into distraction, stupidity, and infatuation: quite astonish and confound your undertakings, and put you upon methods opposite to common sense, whereby you shall run into the very jaws of general destruction, groping at noon-day; ver. 29. i.e. your minds will be so darkened, that, in the plainest things, you shall mistake the means of your own preservation. See Elsner's Observat. sac. tom. i. p. 449. This phrensy and infatuation of the Jews were never more discernible than in their transactions in the time of Trajan. See Basnage's History of the Jews, b. vii. c. 11. and compare Jeremiah 25:16-18. Zephaniah 1:17. Lamentations 4:14.Jeremiah 4:9; Jeremiah 4:9. Ezekiel 4:17.

Verses 29-31

Ver. 29-31. Thou shalt be only oppressed and spoiled evermore, &c.— See ver. 33. How often has this threatening been verified! What frequent seizures have been made of their effects in almost all countries! How often have they been fined and fleeced by almost all governments! Instances are innumerable: we will only cite an historian of our own, who says, that "Henry III. always polled the Jews at every low ebb of his fortunes. One Abraham, who was found delinquent, was forced to pay seven hundred marks for his redemption. Aaron, another Jew, protested, that the king had taken from him at times thirty thousand marks of silver, besides two hundred marks of gold, which he had presented to the queen; and in like manner he used many others of the Jews." See Daniel in Kennet, vol. 1: p. 179. And when they were banished in the reign of Edward I. their estates were confiscated, and immense sums thereby accrued to the crown. See Bishop Newton, and Basnage, as before.

Verse 32

Ver. 32. Thy sons and thy daughters shall be given unto another people, &c.— In several countries, Spain and Portugal particularly, the children of the Jews have been taken from them by order of the government, to be educated in the popish religion. The fourth council of Toledo ordered, that all their children should be taken from them, for fear they should partake of their errors; and that they should be shut up in monasteries to be instructed in the Christian truths. And when they were banished from Portugal, as Mariana observes, book 26: chap. 6. "The king ordered all their children under fourteen years of age to be taken from them and baptized; a practice," adds the historian, "not at all justifiable, because none ought to be forced to become Christians, nor ought children to be taken from their parents." Bishop Newton. It is added, thine eyes shall fail with longing for them; i.e. thine expectation of seeing their return shall fail, and be turned into despair. See Psalms 69:3; Psa 119:82 and Jackson on the Creed, book 1: chap. 27.

Verse 33

Ver. 33. The fruit of thy land and all thy labours, &c.— This was remarkably verified when Salmaneser came and dispossessed the ten tribes; and when Nebuchadnezzar carried the other two tribes away, and placed other people in their room. To this may be added, the destruction of their republic by the Romans under Titus; since which time their land has been eaten up by the Turks, a nation whom indeed they knew not.

Verse 34

Ver. 34. So that thou shalt be mad, for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see Into what madness, fury, and desperation, have they been pushed by the cruel usage, extortions, and oppressions which they have undergone! We will adduce only two familiar instances, one from ancient, and one from modern history. After the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, some of the Jews took refuge in the castle of Masada; where being closely besieged by the Romans, they, at the persuasion of Eleazar their leader, first murdered their wives and children; then ten men were chosen by lot to slay the rest; this being done, one of the ten was chosen in like manner to kill the other nine; which having executed, he set fire to the place, and then stabbed himself. There were nine hundred and sixty who perished in this miserable manner, and only two women and five boys escaped, by hiding themselves in the aqueducts under ground. See Josephus, de Bell. Jud. lib. 6: cap. 8, 9. Edit. Hudson. In the reign of Richard I. when the people were in arms to make a general massacre of them, fifteen hundred of them seized on the city of York to defend themselves; but being besieged, they offered to capitulate, and ransom their lives with money. The offer being refused, one of them cried in despair, that it was better to die courageously for the law, than to fall into the hands of the Christians. Every one immediately took his knife, and stabbed his wife and children; after which, retiring into the king's palace, they set it on fire, and thus consumed themselves, with the building and furniture. This fact is related by Basnage, in his history of the Jews, book 7: chap. 10: sect. 20 who cites Matthew Paris and Polydore Virgil. Bishop Newton.

Verse 35

Ver. 35. The Lord shall smite thee in the knees, and in the legs, with a sore botch With a grievous breaking-out, which began in the lower parts, and so spread from the soles of the feet to the crown of the head. This is mentioned also by Thevenot, as one of the diseases of Egypt.

Verses 36-37

Ver. 36, 37. The Lord shall bring thee, and thy king, &c.— This was partly fulfilled when Jehoiachim was carried captive to Babylon, 2Ki 24:15 and afterwards, Zedekiah, Deuteronomy 25:7. Jeremiah 39:7; Jeremiah 52:11. For the Assyrians were a people, though not quite unknown to the Jews in Moses's time, yet with whom they had but little intercourse: but it was more especially accomplished in their last dispersion by the Romans. See on ver. 33. It is added, and there shalt thou serve other gods, wood and stone; either sottishly following the example of the country to which they were carried, Jer 44:17-18 or compelled thereto by their cruel tyrants, Daniel 3:6. Bishop Newton observes upon this passage, that it is too common for the Jews, in popish countries, to comply with the idolatrous worship of the church of Rome, and bow down to stocks and stones, rather than their effects should be seized and confiscated. "The Spanish and Portugal inquisitions," says Basnage, "reduce them to the dilemma of being either hypocrites, or burnt. The number of these dissemblers is very considerable; and it ought not to be concluded that there are no Jews in Spain or Portugal, because they are not known: they are so much the more dangerous, as not only being very numerous, but confounded with the ecclesiasticks, and entering into all ecclesiastical dignities."—"The most surprising thing is, that this religion of theirs spreads from generation to generation, and still subsists in the persons of dissemblers in a remote posterity. 'In vain,' as Limborch observes, 'the great lords of Spain make alliances, change their names, and take ancient escutcheons; they are still known to be of Jewish race, and Jews themselves. The convents of monks and nuns are full of them. Most of the canons, inquisitors, and bishops, proceed from this nation.' Collat. cum Jud. p. 102. Orobio, who relates the fact, knew these dissemblers; he was one of them, and bent the knee before the sacrament himself: and he brings proofs of his assertion, in maintaining that there are in the synagogue of Amsterdam brothers and sisters and near relations to good families of Spain and Portugal, and even franciscan monks, dominicans, and jesuits, who come to do penance, and make amends for the crimes they have committed in dissembling." Hist. of the Jews, book 7: chap. 33: sect. 14 and chap. 21: sect. 26. In consequence of these misfortunes, the sacred writer adds, that they should become an astonishment, a proverb, &c. And do we not hear and see this prophesy fulfilled almost every day? Are not the avarice, usury, and hard-heartedness of a Jew, grown proverbial? And are not their persons generally odious among all sorts of people? Mahometans, Heathens, and Christians, however they may disagree in other points, yet generally agree in vilifying, abusing, and persecuting the Jews. In most places where they are tolerated, they are obliged to live in a separate manner by themselves, (as they used to do here, in the Old Jewry,) and to wear some badge of distinction. Their very countenances commonly distinguish them from the rest of mankind, and they are in all respects treated as if they were of another species. See Bishop Newton, and 1 Kings 9:7-8. Jeremiah 18:16; Jeremiah 19:8. Lamentations 2:15-16.

Verses 38-42

Ver. 38-42. Thou shalt carry much seed out into the field, &c.— The plagues wherewith the nation is threatened in these verses, fell upon it successively. A great famine laid waste the country in the time of Elisha; the locusts made havoc of it; and the olive-trees yielded no fruit. 2 Kings 8:1.Joel 1:10; Joel 1:10; Joel 1:20. A famine afterwards broke out in the time of Jeremiah, ch. Deuteronomy 14:1, &c. which is that whereof Moses seems to speak in this place. The invasions of the enemy were frequent; 2 Kings 13:20-24. 2 Chronicles 28:5. Jer 12:12 and, to complete the misery of the Jews, their children were taken from them repeatedly; 2 Kings 5:2; 2 Kings 14:26. This circumstance, however, never happened to them so often, as since their crucifying the Lord of glory. Dr. Jackson conjectures very probably, that the kings of Spain sent great numbers of them to their American colonies, and that the blood of the Jews is there blended, in several places, with that of the Spaniards. Manasseh Ben-Israel, in his book, intitled Israel's Hope, says, that in the new world are found some remains of the ten tribes; but he gives no light as to the manner in which they were transplanted thither.

Verse 43

Ver. 43. The stranger that is within thee, &c.— "Not only the pagan nations which live near them, but those strangers who live among them, shall rise upon their ruin, and grow great by their distress. What a threatening, for a nation so haughty as the Jews! What a desolation for them to become the vassals and slaves of those Gentiles whom they so much despise!"

REFLECTIONS.—They who will not be constrained by God's love, must perish under his displeasure. We have here a curse threatened, extensive and terrible enough to make the ears tingle of every one who hears it.

1. The cause of it is assigned: their contemptuous disregard of God, their wilful disobedience to his will, and especially their impious forsaking of him to follow idols. If we cast off God, no wonder he rejects us. In his judgments he will appear just: none suffer under his curse but those who rebel against his commands.
2. The curse itself is here denounced; vast, comprehensive, and inevitable. Wherever the sinner goes, closer than his shadow it pursues him. The fenced cities, or rural scene, afford no protection, can give no relief. Whatever he has, the curse is upon it: the very ground groans under it in barrenness; his possessions are forfeited by sin, and embittered to him; the poison of wrath mingles with every enjoyment; every work of his hand is unsuccessful; vexation and disappointment torment him without ceasing, and there is no prospect of their end. Woe, woe, woe to the sinful soul, against whom God comes forth thus armed with indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish. But lest general denunciations should not have the wished-for effect, he descends to particulars; each like a poisonous dart armed with a mortal sting, and every sinner set up as the mark on whom God would in particular empty his quiver. Disease shall seize upon their bodies, not as the rod of correction, but as the stroke of judgment. Loathsome ulcers (suitable punishment for the loathsomeness of sin) shall cover them from head to foot, and make them an abhorrence to others, and a burden to themselves.—Agonizing pain from the burning sores shall torture them, and no cure or palliative be found; and after days of anguish, the pining consumption, or raging fever, or mortal pestilence, shall finish in torment a life of misery. Famine shall aggravate their pain and sickness; the heavens shall drop down no dew, and the incrusted earth be incapable of vegetation: and if a leaf or blade of grass appear, God's terrible army, the locusts, shall be at hand to devour it: so that the seed sown shall not be reaped; whilst the worm shall mar their vineyards, and the fruit of the olive fail, shook down by stormy blasts, or withered by incessant drought. To add to their plagues, the sword of the enemy shall overtake them, irresistible in fury, merciless in vengeance; and so abhorred should they be, that no man passing by would bury their carcases, nor so much as frighten away the birds which preyed upon them. Infatuated withal, their counsels should be foolish, and madness of heart make them a terror to themselves; whilst every refuge they fled to, should fail them, and their allies distress them as much as their enemies. Their enjoyments shall now vanish as a dream; the wife they have espoused be violated; their substance consumed by the oppressor; their houses plundered; their cattle driven away for a spoil, and serving to feast their enemies, whilst themselves are famished with hunger. From free-born sons of Israel, who kept the nations at their feet, they should drag the galling chain of captivity heavily along; should behold their sons and daughters plucked from their embraces, doomed to servile labours, or devoted to more servile lusts. Idolatry, which had been their sin, should now become their punishment; and racks and fires compel them to serve those gods in a strange land, after whom they went a whoring in their own. The few that remained in Canaan, far from experiencing a happier estate, should there be insulted and tyrannized over by their lordly masters, and groan in vain under loads of taxes and debt, without pity, or hope of release from their oppressors; contemptible in every eye, the very heathens would take up a taunting proverb against them; whilst, overwhelmed with their miseries, they should stand silent in terror and astonishment at their own plagues, the end of which should be dark unfathomable despair, and the dreadful effect thereof raging and incurable madness.
Who can review this curse without trembling? Yet these things, to the sinner, are but the beginnings of sorrow. Hence learn, (1.) What a fearful thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God. (2.) That when we see spreading diseases, we should deprecate the wrath that is gone forth. (3.) That blindness of heart is among God's heaviest curses. (4.) That they who sell themselves to work iniquity, shall find their iniquity turned into their plague, and the idols they serve become their torment. (5.) That the most dreadful of all estates is despair. (6.) That this is often the cause of madness. (7.) That all these evils may trace their origin to departure from the living God.

Verses 45-48

Ver. 45-48. Moreover, all these curses shall come upon thee "These instances of divine vengeance will fall upon you, one after another; ever keeping pace with, and bearing proportion to, your obstinacy and disobedience; till at last, the miseries you undergo, in your own and in foreign countries, will render your nation the most lasting and dreadful example of divine vengeance and just indignation upon a people, uneasy under the gentle yoke, the laws and protection of God himself; ungrateful amidst the most plentiful blessings of his providence; and therefore justly condemned to bear a yoke of iron; (ver. 48.) i.e. to endure the most cruel thraldom, and rigorous oppression." See Jeremiah 27:11-12. 2 Chronicles 12:8.

Verse 49

Ver. 49. The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far—swift as the eagle—whose tongue thou shalt not understand "The Chaldeans might be said to come from far, in comparison with the Moabites, Philistines, and other neighbours, who used to infest Judea. Much the same description is given of the Chaldeans by Jer 5:15 who, in like manner, compares them to eagles. Lamentations 4:19. But this description cannot be applied to any nation with such propriety, as to the Romans. They were truly brought from far, from the end of the earth: Vespasian and Adrian, the two great conquerors and destroyers of the Jews, both came from commanding here in Britain. The Romans too, for the rapidity of their conquests, might very well be compared to eagles: and perhaps not without an allusion to the standard of the Roman armies, which was an eagle; and their language was more unknown to the Jews than the Chaldee." See Bishop Newton, as above.

Verse 50

Ver. 50. A nation of fierce countenance, which shall not regard, &c.— Such were the Chaldeans. The sacred historian, 2Ch 36:17 expressly declares, that, for the wickedness of the Jews, God brought upon them the king of the Chaldees, who slew their young men—and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age; but gave them all into his hand. Such also were the Romans; for when Vespasian entered Gedara, as Josephus informs us, "he slew all, man by man, the Romans shewing mercy to no age, out of hatred to the nation, and from a remembrance of their former injuries." The like slaughter was made at Gamala; "for, (the same historian observes) nobody escaped, except two women, and they by concealing themselves from the rage of the Romans, who did not so much as spare young children; but every one at that time snatching up many, cast them down from the citadel." Bell. Jud. lib. 3: cap. 7 sect. 1 lib. 4: cap. 1 sect. 10. Bishop Newton.

Verse 52

Ver. 52. And he shall besiege thee in all thy gates For the literal completion of this prophesy, see 2 Kings 18:9; 2 Kings 10:13. Nebuchadnezzar and his captains took and spoiled Jerusalem, burnt the city and temple, and brake down the walls round about. 2 Kings 25:10. In like manner the Romans, as Josephus remarks, demolished several fortified places before they besieged and destroyed Jerusalem. The Jews may very well be said to have trusted in their high and fenced walls; for they seldom ventured a battle in the open field. They confided in the strength and situation of Jerusalem, as the Jebusites, the former inhabitants of the place, had done before. 2Sa 5:6-7 insomuch that in Jer 21:13 they are represented saying, Who shall come down against us? or who shall enter into our habitation? Jerusalem, indeed, was a very strong place, wonderfully fortified both by nature and art, according to the accounts given both by Tacitus and Josephus; and yet it was many times taken; namely, by Shishak king of Egypt, by Nebuchadnezzar, by Antiochus, by Pompey, by Sosius, and Herod, before its final destruction by Titus, Tacit. lib. 5: & Joseph. Bell. Jud. lib. 5: cap. 4, 5 lib. 6: cap. ult.—Bishop Newton.

Verses 53-56

Ver. 53-56. In the straitness wherewith thine enemies shall distress thee In the sieges before mentioned, they were to suffer much especially from famine. Accordingly we find, that when the king of Syria came against Samaria, there was a great famine there; and behold they besieged it, until an ass's head was sold for fourscore pieces of silver, &c. 2 Kings 6:25.

When Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem, the famine prevailed in the city, and there was no bread for the people of the land. 2 Kings 25:3. And in the last siege of Jerusalem by the Romans, there was a most terrible famine in the city. Josephus's account of it is so melancholy, that we cannot read it without shuddering: "Women snatched the food out of the very mouths of their husbands, and sons from their fathers; and what is most miserable, mothers from their infants."—"In every house, if there appeared any semblance of food, a battle ensued, and the dearest friends and relations fought with each other, snatching away the miserable provisions of life." See Bell. Jud. lib. 5: cap. 10 sect. 3 lib. 6. cap. 3 sect. 3. Nay, it was not only foretold, that they should be extremely distressed through want of common food, but even that both men and women should eat their own children. Moses had foretold the same thing before, Leviticus 26:29. It was fulfilled about six hundred years after, among the Israelites, during the siege of Samaria by the king of Syria, when two women agreed, the one to give up her son one day, and the other to deliver up her son on the morrow; and one of them was eaten accordingly. 2 Kings 6:28-29. It was fulfilled again about nine hundred years after the time of Moses, among the Jews, in the siege of Jerusalem, before the Babylonish captivity; Bar 2:1, &c. comp. with Lamentations 4:10. And it was again fulfilled above fifteen hundred years after the time of Moses, in the last siege of Jerusalem by Titus. In Josephus, we read particularly of a noble-woman's killing and eating her own sucking child. Moses saith, the tender and delicate woman among you, who would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness and tenderness; a description, than which nothing can be more natural and lively, of a woman, who, according to the historian, "was illustrious for her family and riches." Moses saith, she shall eat her children, for want of all things: and Josephus, "she had been plundered of all substance and provisions, by the tyrants and soldiers." Moses saith she shall eat them—secretly: and Josephus, "when she had boiled and eaten half, she covered up the rest, and kept it for another time." Bell. Jud. lib. 6: cap. 3 sect. 4. So many different times, and at such distant periods, hath this prophesy been fulfilled. One would have thought that such distress and horror had almost transcended imagination; much less that any person could certainly have foreseen and foretold it. Bishop Newton.

Verse 57

Ver. 57. And towards her young one, &c.— For a critical discussion of this passage, we refer to Houbigant's note on the place, and to his Prolegomena, p. 35. He renders it, and she shall boil that which cometh, &c. even her infants, whom she shall spare that she may eat them secretly for want, &c.

Verse 59

Ver. 59. The Lord will make thy plagues wonderful—great plagues, and of long continuance Have not their plagues continued now these seventeen hundred years? Their former captivities were very short in comparison. Ezekiel and Daniel prophesied in the land of the Chaldeans: but now they have no true prophet to foretel an end of their calamities; they have only false Messiahs to delude them, and to aggravate their misfortunes. In their former captivities, they had the comfort of being conveyed to the same place; they dwelt together in the land of Goshen; they were carried together into Babylon: but now they are dispersed all over the face of the earth. What nation hath suffered so much, and yet endured so long? What nation hath subsisted as a distinct people in their own country, so long as these have done in their dispersion into all countries? And what a standing miracle is hereby exhibited to the view and observation of the whole world! Bishop Newton.

Verse 62

Ver. 62. Ye shall be left few in number, whereas ye were as the stars, &c.— To mention no other of the calamities and slaughters which they have undergone, there was in the last siege of Jerusalem by Titus, an infinite multitude, who, according to Josephus, perished by famine: he computes that, during the whole siege, the number of those who were destroyed by that, and by the war, amounted to 1,100,000; the people being assembled from all parts to celebrate the passover. The same author hath given us an account of 1,240,490 destroyed in Jerusalem and other parts of Judea, besides 99,200 made prisoners. See Bell. Jud. lib. 6: cap. 3 sect. 3 and cap. 9 sect. 3. Basnage's Hist. of the Jews, b. 1 Chronicles 8:0 sect. 19 and the conclusion of Usher's Annals. Indeed, there is not a nation upon earth that hath been exposed to so many massacres and persecutions. Their history abounds with them. If God had not given them a promise of a numerous posterity, the whole race would at many a time have been extirpated. Bishop Newton.

Verse 63

Ver. 63. And ye shall be plucked from off the land whither thou goest to possess it They were, indeed, plucked from off their own land, when the ten tribes were carried into captivity by the king of Assyria, and other nations were planted in their stead; when the two other tribes were carried away captive to Babylon; and when the Romans took away their place and nation; besides other captivities and transportations of the people. Afterwards, when the Emperor Adrian had subdued the rebellious Jews, he published an edict, forbidding them, upon pain of death, to set foot in Jerusalem, or even to approach the country round about it. See Justin Mar. Revelation 1:0: p. 71. & Euseb. Eccles. Hist. lib. 4: cap. 6. Tertullian and Jerome say, that they were prohibited from entering Judea: and ever since, their country has been in the possession of foreign lords and masters; few of the Jews dwelling in it, and those only of a low, servile condition. See Tertul. Apol. cap. 21: and Hieron. in Isai. cap. 6: and in Dan. cap. 9. Benjamin of Tudela in Spain, a celebrated Jew of the twelfth century, travelled into all parts to visit those of his own nation, and to learn an exact account of their affairs: and he, in his Itinerary, has reported, that Jerusalem was almost entirely abandoned by the Jews. He found there not above two hundred persons, who were for the most part dyers of wool, and who every year purchased the monopoly of that trade. They lived all together under David's tower, and made there a very inconsiderable figure. If Jerusalem had so few Jews in it, the rest of the Holy Land was still more depopulated. He found two of them in one city, twenty in another, most of whom were dyers. In other places there were more persons; but in Upper Galilee, where the nation was in the greatest repute after the ruin of Jerusalem, he found hardly any Jews at all. A very accurate and faithful traveller of our own nation, who was himself also in the Holy Land, says, that "it is for the most part now inhabited by Moors and Arabians; those possessing the vallies, and these the mountains. Turks there be few; but many Greeks, with other Christians of all sects and nations; such as impute to the place an adherent holiness. Here be also some Jews, yet inherit they no part of the land, but in their own country do live as aliens." Sandys's Travels, b. 3: p. 146. Bishop Newton. It may be proper here to observe, that from the phrase, the Lord will rejoice over you to destroy you, and from expressions of the like kind, we must not conclude that a benevolent Deity rejoices in the misery and destruction of his creatures, absolutely considered: the contrary is evident from other declarations of Scripture, as well as from reason. Ezekiel 23:32.Lamentations 3:33; Lamentations 3:33. 1 Timothy 2:4. But, when the milder methods of Providence are not effectual to produce the reformation and happiness of the world; then it suits with the benevolence even of the divine administration to inflict punishments upon those who are otherwise irreclaimable; and in the exercise of that just severity, God, humanly speaking, may be said to rejoice; not on account of the severity itself, but because it is the most expedient and necessary means to bring about the purposes of his wisdom and goodness. See Jeremiah 9:24.Job 36:8; Job 36:8; Job 36:33. On the same account God's judgments are represented as matter of joy to saints and angels. Revelation 18:20. Psalms 58:10. Jeremiah 51:48.

Verse 64

Ver. 64. And the Lord shall scatter thee among all people They were not only to be plucked from their own land, but also to be dispersed into all nations. Nehemiah, ch. Deuteronomy 1:8-9, confesseth that these words were fulfilled in the Babylonish captivity; but they have more amply been fulfilled since the great dispersion of the Jews by the Romans. Indeed, what people have been scattered so far and wide as they? And where is the nation that is a stranger to them, or to which they are strangers? They swarm in many parts of the East; they are spread through most countries of Europe and Africa; and there are several families of them in the West Indies: they circulate through all parts, and are, as one may say, the brokers of the whole world. Bishop Newton.

Verse 65

Ver. 65. Among these nations shalt thou find no ease Shalt thou find no plenty, neither shalt thou have where to rest the sole of thy foot. Schult. 306. They have been so far from finding rest, that they have been banished from city to city, from country to country. In many places they have been banished and recalled, and banished again. We will only just mention their great banishments in former times, and from countries well known. In the latter end of the thirteenth century, they were banished from England by Edward I. and not permitted to return and settle again till Cromwell's time. In the fourteenth century, they were banished France (for the seventh time, says Mezeray) by Charles VI. and ever since they have been only tolerated: they have not enjoyed entire liberty, except at Mentz, where they have a synagogue. In the fifteenth century, they were banished from Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella; and, according to Mariana, (Hist. Spain, book 26: chap. 1 and 6.) there were 170,000 families, or, as some say, 800,000 persons, who left the kingdom. See Mezeray Abrege Chron. and Basnage, book 7: chap. 18, 19. Most of them paid dearly to John 2:0 for a refuge in Portugal; but within a few years they were expelled from that place also by his successor Emanuel; and in our time, within these few years, they were banished from Prague by the queen of Bohemia. Bishop Newton. It is added, that, in this state of banishment, the Lord should give them a trembling heart, &c. i.e. they should live in perpetual dread of their lives, in continual fears and vexations. Some, by a trembling heart, understand the terrors of an evil conscience; and by failing of the eyes, the constant disappointment of the hopes wherewith they were fed by false Messiahs. But, failing of the eyes, in the most natural acceptation, signifies that wan, livid, and fearful cast of the eyes, which is usually the concomitant of an anxious and dejected mind, and which is very discernible to every attentive observer of the Jews. Thy life shall hang in doubt before thee, continues Moses; i.e. "it shall be so much at the pleasure of the enemies among whom you are, that it shall hang, as it were, on a slender thread, which is in danger every moment of being broken." The Latins use the same metaphor, Omnia sunt hominum tenui pendentia filo, all men hang upon a slender thread; which is meant of human life in general, as frail and uncertain: but the expression before us denotes the perplexity of that mind which is constantly haunted with the fear of death. Districtus ensis cui super impia cervice pendet. See Osorius de Rebus Emmanuelis, lib. 4: who, speaking of a terrible massacre of the Jews at Lisbon in 1506, says, that "the condition of both parents and children was so deplorable, and such an horrible dread depressed and overwhelmed them, that the living could scarcely be distinguished from the dead."

Verse 68

Ver. 68. The Lord shall bring thee into Egypt again with ships;—and there ye shall be sold unto your enemies—and no man shall buy you They were to be carried into Egypt, and sold for slaves at a very low price. They had come out of Egypt triumphant; but now they should return thither as slaves. They had walked through the sea, as on dry land, at their coming out; but now they should be carried thither in ships. They might be carried thither in the ships of the Tyrian or Sidonian merchants, or by the Romans, who had a fleet in the Mediterranean; and this was a much safer way of conveying so many prisoners, than sending them by land. It appears from Josephus, that in the reigns of the two first Ptolemies, many of the Jews were slaves in Egypt: and when Jerusalem was taken by Titus, of the captives who were above seventeen years of age, he sent many bound to the works in Egypt: those under seventeen years were sold; but so little care was taken of them, that twelve thousand perished for want. See Antiq. l. xii. c. 1, 2. Bell. Jud. l. vi. c. 9. sect. 2. We learn from St. Jerome, in Zach. vol. iii. c. 11. p. 1774. that "after their last overthrow by Adrian, many thousands of them were sold; and that those who could not be sold were transported for AEgypt, and perished by shipwreck or famine, or were massacred by the inhabitants." See Bishop Newton on the Prophecies. Hegesippus, giving an account of what happened after the destruction of Jerusalem, says, "there were many captives offered for sale, but few buyers, because the Romans disdained to take the Jews for slaves; and there were not Jews remaining to redeem their countrymen." By the way whereof I spake unto thee, &c. may be rendered, perhaps more properly, to the way, or place, whereof I said, ye shall see it no more again; referring to what is said, ch. Deuteronomy 17:16. The phrase, Ye shall be sold unto your enemies, and no man shall buy you, evidently and plainly means, ye shall be offered for sale, &c.; and none but the most captious reader could understand it in any other sense. Dr. Waterland, from Blackwall, p. 100 reads, ye shall be set to sale. Houbigant renders it, ibi prostabitis inimicis vestris ad emptionem; and so the Syriac and Arabic. Bishop Newton well observes, in the conclusion of his view of this chapter, "Here are instances of prophecies delivered above three thousand years ago, and yet, as we see, fulfilling in the world at this very time. What stronger proofs can we desire of the divine legation of Moses? How these instances may affect others, I know not; but, for myself, I must acknowledge, they not only convince, but amaze and astonish me beyond expression. They are truly, as Moses foretold they would be, a sign and a wonder for ever."

It is impossible, in the brief compass of notes like our's, to do justice to this striking and important subject; and, perhaps, there is no method by which the reader may obtain a proper view of it, like that of a careful perusal of the History of the Jews, by Josephus and Basnage; comparing which with these and the subsequent prophecies in Scripture, he will have a full conviction of the immediate interposition of God, and of that strong demonstration of the truth of revelation which arises from the circumstances of this wonderful people.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 28". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/deuteronomy-28.html. 1801-1803.