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BLESSINGS PROMISED TO OBEDIENCE, Deuteronomy 28:1-14.
1, 2. If thou shalt hearken If the nation will be obedient to Jehovah their God he will exalt them above the nations of the earth. Moses lays down the condition on which these blessings will be bestowed, at the beginning, in the middle, and at the close of the address. The blessings in poetical imagery so common among the Eastern nations are personified, and represented as following after and overtaking the nation.
3-6. Blessed shall thou be The manifold blessings in all the relations of life are expressed by six beatitudes. Israel will be blessed in the city and in the country; will be blessed with children, with productive fields, with countless flocks and herds; will be blessed in baskets in which the fruits are kept and in which provisions were carried; blessed in the kneading-trough in which the daily food was prepared; blessed will the nation be in all its relations.
Thy basket and thy store The word rendered basket is the common basket or bag that is used in the East for carrying such articles as might be needed for personal use. Comp. John 13:29. Store should be translated kneading-trough. The Hebrew word here used is the same as we have in Exodus 8:3; Exodus 12:34, where it is correctly translated. Comp. Psalms 121:8.
7-14. The Lord shall cause thine enemies… to be smitten In these verses the speaker describes the effect of the blessings upon the nation in all the various circumstances in which it may be placed.
Come out against thee one way, and flee… seven ways That is, thy enemies will come against thee in solid, compact array, but will be discomfited and routed, so that they will flee in every direction.
The head, and not the tail An expression implying excellence and superiority. Comp. Isaiah 9:15.
CURSES THREATENED FOR DISOBEDIENCE, Deuteronomy 28:15-68.
15. All these curses Here begins a startling enumeration of curses which will fall upon the people if they fail to keep the commandments of Jehovah.
16-19. Cursed… in the city… field… basket… store… fruit of body… land… kine… sheep… comest in… goest out The curses here enumerated stand in contrast with the blessings in 3-6.
20. Vexation Consternation is a more exact rendering of the Hebrew. In 1 Samuel 5:11, and Deuteronomy 7:23, it is translated destruction.
Rebuke The Hebrew word here used is found only in this place. It evidently has a stronger meaning than rebuke condemnation would be better implying God’s curse upon all their undertakings.
22. Smite thee… with the sword The Hebrew word here translated sword, with different pointing, would be rendered heat, or drought; and so some of the versions have it.
23. Thy heaven… brass There are, at certain seasons, places in the land where the traveller to-day appreciates the full significance of this curse.
25. To be smitten before thine enemies In contrast with the blessing in the seventh verse.
Thou shalt go out one way… and flee seven How graphic the description of an army marching to battle in confident expectation of victory, and then beaten disastrously, fleeing in every direction!
Shalt be removed “Tossed about like a ball from one nation to another.” Wordsworth.
26. Meat unto all fowls of the air The corpses of the slain in battle would be food for birds and beasts. The ancients looked with dread upon the idea of the body lying unburied. Comp. Jeremiah 7:33; also 1 Kings 14:11.
27. The botch of Egypt Probably the disease called elephantiasis. Comp. Exodus 9:9, where the Hebrew word is translated boil. This section (27-34) announces some further disasters that will follow upon disobedience. Physical and mental calamities will come desolation of the home and destruction of property.
28. Madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart Overwhelmed with their calamities, the people will go on blindly in their course of disobedience.
29. Grope at noonday In the clear light of God’s requirements they will be blind. Comp. John 12:35.
30. Betroth a wife Though all the preparations for domestic life may be made, disobedience will bring dire dis-appointment. The wife, the home, the vineyard, shall be another’s.
32. No might in thine hand This expression is more literally rendered, thy hand is not to God. Thy hand is not strong enough to deliver thee.
35. Smite thee in the knees The threatened calamities are here presented in another view. The Lord will smite the people with leprosy. This disease excludes the one afflicted with it from the congregation of Israel. We are then to understand that the nation, for its sins, will be excluded from fellowship of Jehovah. Leprosy is used as a type of sin. The nation will become as a leper. Comp. Isaiah 1:5-6. In the days of the prophet the whole nation had become as a body with a mass of wounds and bruises and putrefying sores.
36. The Lord shall bring thee, and thy king Comp. 2 Kings 17:6, where it is recorded that Israel was carried away into Assyria, and 2 Chronicles 32:11, where the account of the capture and captivity of Manasseh are given.
38-40. Gather… little in The curse is extended to all labour of the field and the vineyard.
43. The stranger… shall get up above thee The nation would become feebler and feebler, utterly impoverished, while their enemies would rise higher and higher above them.
45. All these curses shall come upon thee The language of the fifteenth verse is here in part repeated like a sad refrain.
Another representation of the dreadful calamities resulting from disobedience is set forth in the following verses.
49. The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far The Assyrians, the Babylonians, and the Romans were God’s ministers to fulfil this prophecy. The language seems most applicable to the Roman power. Compare this denunciation with the history of the siege and destruction of Jerusalem as given by Josephus in his Jewish War.
53. Eat the fruit of thine own body The terrible straits to which the nation will be reduced are here described with graphic distinctness, as if an historian rather than a prophet held the pen. With greater minuteness is the horrible distress portrayed in the verses that follow. The man accustomed to luxurious living, the woman so delicate that the sole of her foot had not touched the ground, in the extremity of famine caused by the siege will forget all natural affection. See 2 Kings 6:28; also Josephus, Jewish War, book 7, chap. 2.
58. If thou wilt not observe to do, etc. Calamity upon calamity, judgment upon judgment. The full measure of the divine indignation will be poured out upon the people. They will be dispossessed of their inheritance and dispersed among the nations.
In this book This may be understood as referring to all the recorded commandments.
60. All the diseases of Egypt Comp. Deuteronomy 7:15; also Exodus 9:1-10; Exodus 12:29; and Exodus 7:10.
64. The Lord shall scatter thee Comp. Deuteronomy 4:27; also Leviticus 26:33; Nehemiah 1:8; Jeremiah 16:13; also Josephus’s Jewish War, Deuteronomy 6:9 ; Deuteronomy 6:2.
66. And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee The Hebrew reads, Thy life is hanging before thee. It will ever be in present and pressing danger.
67. In the morning thou shalt say, etc. In constant dread of what day or night may bring forth. Comp. Job 7:4. Luther says, “I have never seen a passage which describes more clearly the misery of a guilty conscience in words and thoughts so fitting and appropriate. For this is just the way in which a man is affected who knows that God is offended.
68. And the Lord shall bring thee into Egypt again This is represented as the crowning calamity. The exodus from Egypt was the beginning of the nation’s life; this threatened return is a symbol of its death.
With ships Their departure from Egypt had been by a highway that Jehovah opened for them. They marched through the Red Sea. They are to be sent back helpless slaves. Ewald ( History of Israel, vol. iv, p. 221, note, English translation) says: “How could it be possible for the composer of Deuteronomy xxviii to conclude a long enumeration of the most various evils with the conveyance of the people back to Egypt in ships? So completely unique an idea could only have been suggested by experience.” But in the Records of the Past, vol. vi, p. 31, is a translation of an Egyptian document of the time of Rameses III., in which the king says: “I made thee galleys, transports, ships of war, with soldiers equipped with their arms on the Great Sea. I gave them captains of the bowmen, and captains of the galleys, provided with numerous crews without number, to bring the things of the land of Taha, and the hinder parts of the earth, to thy great treasuries.”
There ye shall be sold After the capture of Jerusalem, Titus sent many thousands of captive Jews to Egypt to be sold as slaves. JOSEPHUS’S Jewish War, Deuteronomy 11:9 ; Deuteronomy 11:2.
And no man shall buy you The number would be so great that they would be comparatively worthless.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 28". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25