De 28:1-68. The Blessings
1. if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice
of the Lord thy God—In this chapter the blessings and curses
are enumerated at length, and in various minute details, so that on the
first entrance of the Israelites into the land of promise, their whole
destiny was laid before them, as it was to result from their obedience
or the contrary.
2. all these blessings shall come on
thee—Their national obedience was to be rewarded by
extraordinary and universal prosperity.
7. flee before thee seven ways—that is,
in various directions, as always happens in a rout.
10. called by the name of the Lord—That
they are really and actually His people (De 14:1; 26:18).
11. the Lord shall make thee plenteous in
goods—Beside the natural capabilities of Canaan, its
extraordinary fruitfulness was traceable to the special blessing of
12. The Lord shall open unto thee his good
treasure—The seasonable supply of the early and latter rain
was one of the principal means by which their land was so uncommonly
thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou
shalt not borrow—that is, thou shalt be in such affluent
circumstances, as to be capable, out of thy superfluous wealth, to give
aid to thy poorer neighbors.
13, 14. the head, and not the tail—an
Oriental form of expression, indicating the possession of independent
power and great dignity and acknowledged excellence (Isa 9:14;
15-20. But … if thou wilt not hearken unto
the voice of the Lord—Curses that were to follow them in the
event of disobedience are now enumerated, and they are almost exact
counterparts of the blessings which were described in the preceding
context as the reward of a faithful adherence to the covenant.
21. pestilence—some fatal epidemic.
There is no reason, however, to think that the plague, which is the
great modern scourge of the East, is referred to.
22. a consumption—a wasting disorder;
but the modern tuberculosis is almost unknown in Asia.
fever … inflammation … extreme
burning—Fever is rendered "burning ague" (Le 26:16), and the others mentioned along with it
evidently point to those febrile affections which are of malignant
character and great frequency in the East.
the sword—rather, "dryness"—the
effect on the human body of such violent disorders.
blasting, and with mildew—two
atmospheric influences fatal to grain.
23. heaven … brass … earth …
iron—strong Oriental figures used to describe the effects of
long-continued drought. This want of regular and seasonable rain is
allowed by the most intelligent observers to be one great cause of the
present sterility of Palestine.
24. the rain of thy land powder and
dust—an allusion probably to the dreadful effects of
tornadoes in the East, which, raising the sands in immense twisted
pillars, drive them along with the fury of a tempest. These shifting
sands are most destructive to cultivated lands; and in consequence of
their encroachments, many once fertile regions of the East are now
27. the botch of Egypt—a troublesome
eruption, marked by red pimples, to which, at the rising of the Nile,
the Egyptians are subject.
emerods—fistulæ or piles.
itch—the disease commonly known by
that name; but it is far more malignant in the East than is ever
witnessed in our part of the world.
28. madness, and blindness, and astonishment of
heart—They would be bewildered and paralyzed with terror at
the extent of their calamities.
29-33. thou shalt grope at noonday—a
general description of the painful uncertainty in which they would
live. During the Middle Ages the Jews were driven from society into
hiding-places which they were afraid to leave, not knowing from what
quarter they might be assailed and their children dragged into
captivity, from which no friend could rescue, and no money ransom
35. the Lord shall smite thee in the knees, and in
the legs—This is an exact description of elephantiasis, a
horrible disease, something like leprosy, which attacks particularly
the lower extremities.
36. The Lord shall bring thee, and thy king,
&c.—This shows how widespread would be the national calamity;
and at the same time how hopeless, when he who should have been their
defender shared the captive fate of his subjects.
there shalt thou serve other gods, wood and
stone—The Hebrew exiles, with some honorable exceptions, were
seduced or compelled into idolatry in the Assyrian and Babylonish
captivities (Jer 44:17-19). Thus, the sin to which they had too
often betrayed a perverse fondness, a deep-rooted propensity, became
their punishment and their misery.
37. And thou shalt become an astonishment, a
proverb, and a byword, among all nations whither the Lord shall lead
thee, &c.—The annals of almost every nation, for eighteen
hundred years, afford abundant proofs that this has been, as it still
is, the case—the very name of Jew being a universally recognized
term for extreme degradation and wretchedness.
49. The Lord shall bring a nation against thee
from far—the invasion of the Romans—"they came from
far." The soldiers of the invading army were taken from France, Spain,
and Britain—then considered "the end of the earth." Julius
Severus, the commander, afterwards Vespasian and Hadrian, left Britain
for the scene of contest. Moreover, the ensign on the standards of the
Roman army was "an eagle"; and the dialects spoken by the soldiers of
the different nations that composed that army were altogether
unintelligible to the Jews.
50. A nation of fierce countenance—a
just description of the Romans, who were not only bold and unyielding,
but ruthless and implacable.
51. he shall eat the fruit of thy cattle,
&c.—According to the Jewish historian, every district of the
country through which they passed was strewn with the wrecks of their
52. he shall besiege thee … until thy high
and fenced walls come down—All the fortified places to which
the people betook themselves for safety were burnt or demolished, and
the walls of Jerusalem itself razed to the ground.
53-57. And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own
body—(See 2Ki 6:29; La 4:10). Such were the dreadful extremities to
which the inhabitants during the siege were reduced that many women
sustained a wretched existence by eating the flesh of their own
children. Parental affection was extinguished, and the nearest
relatives were jealously, avoided, lest they should discover and demand
a share of the revolting viands.
62. ye shall be left few in number—There
has been, ever since the destruction of Jerusalem, only an
inconsiderable remnant of Jews existing in that land—aliens in
the land of their fathers; and of all classes of the inhabitants they
are the most degraded and miserable beings, dependent for their support
on contributions from other lands.
63. ye shall be plucked from off the
land—Hadrian issued a proclamation, forbidding any Jews to
reside in Judea, or even to approach its confines.
64. the Lord shall scatter thee among all
people—There is, perhaps, not a country in the world where
Jews are not to be found. Who that looks on this condition of the
Hebrews is not filled with awe, when he considers the fulfilment of
68. The Lord shall bring thee into Egypt again
with ships—The accomplishment of this prediction took place
under Titus, when, according to Josephus, multitudes of Jews were transported in
ships to the land of the Nile, and sold as slaves. "Here, then, are
instances of prophecies delivered above three thousand years ago; and
yet, as we see, being fulfilled in the world at this very time; and
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 (De 28:45, 46) they would be, 'a sign and a
wonder for ever'" [Bishop Newton].