The curses correspond in form and number Deuteronomy 28:15-19 to the blessings Deuteronomy 28:3-6, and the special modes in which these threats should be executed are described in five groups of denunciations Deuteronomy 28:20-26
First series of judgments. The curse of God should rest on all they did, and should issue in manifold forms of disease, in famine, and in defeat in war.
“Blasting” denotes (compare Genesis 41:23) the result of the scorching east wind; “mildew” that of an untimely blight falling on the green ear, withering it and marring its produce.
When the heat is very great the atmosphere in Palestine is often filled with dust and sand; the wind is a burning sirocco, and the air comparable to the glowing heat at the mouth of a furnace.
Shalt be removed - See the margin. The threat differs from that in Leviticus 26:33, which refers to a dispersion of the people among the pagan. Here it is meant that they should be tossed to and fro at the will of others, driven from one country to another without any certain settlement.
Second series of judgments on the body, mind, and outward circumstances of the sinners.
The “botch” (rather “boil;” see Exodus 9:9), the “emerods” or tumors 1 Samuel 5:6, 1 Samuel 5:9, the “scab” and “itch” represent the various forms of the loathsome skin diseases which are common in Syria and Egypt.
Mental maladies shah be added to those sore bodily plagues, and should Deuteronomy 28:29-34 reduce the sufferers to powerlessness before their enemies and oppressors.
See the marginal references for the fulfillment of these judgments.
Third series of judgments, affecting every kind of labor and enterprise until it had accomplished the total ruin of the nation, and its subjection to its enemies.
Worms - i. e. the vine-weevil. Naturalists prescribed elaborate precautions against its ravages.
Cast - Some prefer “shall be spoiled” or “plundered.”
Deuteronomy 28:43, Deuteronomy 28:44
Fourth series of judgments, descriptive of the calamities and horrors which should ensue when Israel should be subjugated by its foreign foes.
The description (compare the marginal references) applies undoubtedly to the Chaldeans, and in a degree to other nations also whom God raised up as ministers of vengeance upon apostate Israel (e. g. the Medes). But it only needs to read this part of the denunciation, and to compare it with the narrative of Josephus, to see that its full and exact accomplishment took place in the wars of Vespasian and Titus against the Jews, as indeed the Jews themselves generally admit.
The eagle - The Roman ensign; compare Matthew 24:28; and consult throughout this passage the marginal references.
Evil - i. e. grudging; compare Deuteronomy 15:9.
Young one - The “afterbirth” (see the margin). The Hebrew text in fact suggests an extremity of horror which the King James Version fails to exhibit. Compare 2 Kings 6:29.
Fifth series of judgments. The uprooting of Israel from the promised land, and its dispersion among other nations. Examine the marginal references.
In this book - i. e. in the book of the Law, or the Pentateuch in so far as it contains commands of God to Israel. Deuteronomy is included, but not exclusively intended. So Deuteronomy 28:61; compare Deuteronomy 27:3 and note, Deuteronomy 31:9.
Thy life shall hang in doubt before thee - i. e. shall be hanging as it were on a thread, and that before thine own eyes. The fathers regard this passage as suggesting in a secondary or mystical sense Christ hanging on the cross, as the life of the Jews who would not believe in Him.
This is the climax. As the Exodus from Egypt was as it were the birth of the nation into its covenant relationship with God, so the return to the house of bondage is in like manner the death of it. The mode of conveyance, “in ships,” is added to heighten the contrast. They crossed the sea from Egypt with a high hand. the waves being parted before them. They should go back again cooped up in slaveships.
There ye shall be sold - Rather, “there shall ye offer yourselves, or be offered for sale.” This denunciation was literally fulfilled on more than one occasion: most signally when many thousand Jews were sold into slavery and sent into Egypt by Titus; but also under Hadrian, when numbers were sold at Rachel‘s grave Genesis 35:19.
No man shall buy you - i. e. no one shall venture even to employ you as slaves, regarding you as accursed of God, and to be shunned in everything.
After the public rehearsal of the law, Moses completed the work of writing all the laws, the statutes, and the judgments which God had given him, and all the regulations concerning the sacrificial system. The book containing these was placed in charge of the proper officers, and was for safe keeping deposited in the side of the ark. Still the great leader was filled with fear that the people would depart from God. In a most sublime and thrilling address he set before them the blessings that would be theirs on condition of obedience, and the curses that would follow upon transgression: PP 466.1
“If thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all His commandments which I command thee this day,” “blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field,” in “the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle.... Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store. Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out. The Lord shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face.... The Lord shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto.” PP 466.2
“But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee,” “and thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword, among all nations whither the Lord shall lead thee.” “And the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone. And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the Lord shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind: and thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life: in the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were even! and at even thou shalt say, Would God it were morning! for the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see.” PP 466.3Read in context »
“Take heed to yourselves,” the Lord had admonished His people, “that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them; and then the Lord's wrath be kindled against you, and He shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the Lord giveth you.” Deuteronomy 11:10-17. PK 136.1
“If thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes,” the Israelites had been warned, “thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron. The Lord shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed.” Deuteronomy 28:15, 23, 24. PK 136.2
These were among the wise counsels of Jehovah to ancient Israel. “Lay up these My words in your heart and in your soul,” He had commanded His chosen people, “and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” Deuteronomy 11:18, 19. Plain were these commands, yet as the centuries passed, and generation after generation lost sight of the provision made for their spiritual welfare, the ruinous influences of apostasy threatened to sweep aside every barrier of divine grace. PK 136.3Read in context »