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.
Herod's sin was ever before him. He was constantly seeking to find relief from the accusings of a guilty conscience. His confidence in John was unshaken. As he recalled his life of self-denial, his solemn, earnest appeals, his sound judgment in counsel, and then remembered how he had come to his death, Herod could find no rest. Engaged in the affairs of the state, receiving honors from men, he bore a smiling face and dignified mien, while he concealed an anxious heart, ever oppressed with the fear that a curse was upon him. DA 223.1
Herod had been deeply impressed by the words of John, that nothing can be hidden from God. He was convinced that God was present in every place, that He had witnessed the revelry of the banqueting room, that He had heard the command to behead John, and had seen the exultation of Herodias, and the insult she offered to the severed head of her reprover. And many things that Herod had heard from the lips of the prophet now spoke to his conscience more distinctly than had the preaching in the wilderness. DA 223.2
When Herod heard of the works of Christ, he was exceedingly troubled. He thought that God had raised John from the dead, and sent him forth with still greater power to condemn sin. He was in constant fear that John would avenge his death by passing condemnation upon him and his house. Herod was reaping that which God had declared to be the result of a course of sin,—“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.” Deuteronomy 28:65-67. The sinner's own thoughts are his accusers; and there can be no torture keener than the stings of a guilty conscience, which give him no rest day nor night. DA 223.3
To many minds a deep mystery surrounds the fate of John the Baptist. They question why he should have been left to languish and die in prison. The mystery of this dark providence our human vision cannot penetrate; but it can never shake our confidence in God when we remember that John was but a sharer in the sufferings of Christ. All who follow Christ will wear the crown of sacrifice. They will surely be misunderstood by selfish men, and will be made a mark for the fierce assaults of Satan. It is this principle of self-sacrifice that his kingdom is established to destroy, and he will war against it wherever manifested. DA 223.4Read in context »
The blood of Christ and of the disciples, whom they had put to death, was upon them, and they were visited with terrible judgments. The curse of God followed them, and they were a byword and a derision to the heathen and to so-called Christians. They were degraded, shunned, and detested, as if the brand of Cain were upon them. Yet I saw that God had marvelously preserved this people and scattered them over the world that they might be looked upon as specially visited by the curse of God. I saw that God had forsaken the Jews as a nation; but that individuals among them will yet be converted and be enabled to tear the veil from their hearts and see that the prophecy concerning them has been fulfilled; they will receive Jesus as the Saviour of the world and see the great sin of their nation in rejecting and crucifying Him. EW 213.1Read in context »
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 »
The result that would follow an entrance into covenant relation with surrounding nations was plainly foretold. “The Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other,” Moses had declared; “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.” Deuteronomy 28:64-67. “But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God,” the promise had been, “thou shalt find Him, if thou seek Him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.” Deuteronomy 4:29. PK 569.1
Zerubbabel and his associates were familiar with these and many like scriptures; and in the recent captivity they had evidence after evidence of their fulfillment. And now, having repented of the evils that had brought upon them and their fathers the judgments foretold so plainly through Moses; having turned with all the heart to God, and renewed their covenant relationship with Him, they had been permitted to return to Judea, that they might restore that which had been destroyed. Should they, at the very beginning of their undertaking, enter into a covenant with idolaters? PK 569.2Read in context »
Moses had written in a book all the laws and judgments given him of God, and had faithfully recorded all his instructions given them by the way, and all the miracles which he had performed for them, and all the murmurings of the children of Israel. Moses had also recorded his being overcome in consequence of their murmurings. 4aSG 53.1
All the people were assembled before him, and he read the events of their past history out of the book which he had written. He read, also, the promises of God to them if they would be obedient, and the curses which would come upon them if they were disobedient. 4aSG 53.2
He related to the people his great sorrow because of his fault at Meribah. “And I besought the Lord at that time, saying, O Lord God, thou hast begun to shew thy servant thy greatness, and thy mighty hand; for what God is there in Heaven or in earth, that can do according to thy works, and according to thy might? I pray thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon. But the Lord was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me. And the Lord said unto me, Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter. Get thee up into the top of Pisgah, and lift up thine eyes westward, and northward, and southward, and eastward, and behold it with thine eyes; for thou shalt not go over this Jordan. But charge Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him; for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which thou shalt see. Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers giveth you. Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” 4aSG 53.3
Moses told them that for their rebellion the Lord had several times purposed to destroy them. But he had interceded for them so earnestly that God had graciously spared them. He reminded them of the miracles which the Lord did unto Pharaoh and all the land of Egypt. He said to them, “But your eyes have seen all the great acts of the Lord which he did. Therefore shall ye keep all the commandments which I command you this day, that ye may be strong, and go in and possess the land, whither ye go to possess it.” 4aSG 53.4Read in context »