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Blessings for Obedience


If you will only obey the L ord your God, by diligently observing all his commandments that I am commanding you today, the L ord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth; 2all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the L ord your God:

3 Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field.

4 Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb, the fruit of your ground, and the fruit of your livestock, both the increase of your cattle and the issue of your flock.

5 Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.

6 Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.

7 The L ord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you; they shall come out against you one way, and flee before you seven ways. 8The L ord will command the blessing upon you in your barns, and in all that you undertake; he will bless you in the land that the L ord your God is giving you. 9The L ord will establish you as his holy people, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the L ord your God and walk in his ways. 10All the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the L ord, and they shall be afraid of you. 11The L ord will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb, in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your ground in the land that the L ord swore to your ancestors to give you. 12The L ord will open for you his rich storehouse, the heavens, to give the rain of your land in its season and to bless all your undertakings. You will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow. 13The L ord will make you the head, and not the tail; you shall be only at the top, and not at the bottom—if you obey the commandments of the L ord your God, which I am commanding you today, by diligently observing them, 14and if you do not turn aside from any of the words that I am commanding you today, either to the right or to the left, following other gods to serve them.

Warnings against Disobedience

15 But if you will not obey the L ord your God by diligently observing all his commandments and decrees, which I am commanding you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you:

16 Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field.

17 Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.

18 Cursed shall be the fruit of your womb, the fruit of your ground, the increase of your cattle and the issue of your flock.

19 Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out.

20 The L ord will send upon you disaster, panic, and frustration in everything you attempt to do, until you are destroyed and perish quickly, on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken me. 21The L ord will make the pestilence cling to you until it has consumed you off the land that you are entering to possess. 22The L ord will afflict you with consumption, fever, inflammation, with fiery heat and drought, and with blight and mildew; they shall pursue you until you perish. 23The sky over your head shall be bronze, and the earth under you iron. 24The L ord will change the rain of your land into powder, and only dust shall come down upon you from the sky until you are destroyed.

25 The L ord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies; you shall go out against them one way and flee before them seven ways. You shall become an object of horror to all the kingdoms of the earth. 26Your corpses shall be food for every bird of the air and animal of the earth, and there shall be no one to frighten them away. 27The L ord will afflict you with the boils of Egypt, with ulcers, scurvy, and itch, of which you cannot be healed. 28The L ord will afflict you with madness, blindness, and confusion of mind; 29you shall grope about at noon as blind people grope in darkness, but you shall be unable to find your way; and you shall be continually abused and robbed, without anyone to help. 30You shall become engaged to a woman, but another man shall lie with her. You shall build a house, but not live in it. You shall plant a vineyard, but not enjoy its fruit. 31Your ox shall be butchered before your eyes, but you shall not eat of it. Your donkey shall be stolen in front of you, and shall not be restored to you. Your sheep shall be given to your enemies, without anyone to help you. 32Your sons and daughters shall be given to another people, while you look on; you will strain your eyes looking for them all day but be powerless to do anything. 33A people whom you do not know shall eat up the fruit of your ground and of all your labors; you shall be continually abused and crushed, 34and driven mad by the sight that your eyes shall see. 35The L ord will strike you on the knees and on the legs with grievous boils of which you cannot be healed, from the sole of your foot to the crown of your head. 36The L ord will bring you, and the king whom you set over you, to a nation that neither you nor your ancestors have known, where you shall serve other gods, of wood and stone. 37You shall become an object of horror, a proverb, and a byword among all the peoples where the L ord will lead you.

38 You shall carry much seed into the field but shall gather little in, for the locust shall consume it. 39You shall plant vineyards and dress them, but you shall neither drink the wine nor gather the grapes, for the worm shall eat them. 40You shall have olive trees throughout all your territory, but you shall not anoint yourself with the oil, for your olives shall drop off. 41You shall have sons and daughters, but they shall not remain yours, for they shall go into captivity. 42All your trees and the fruit of your ground the cicada shall take over. 43Aliens residing among you shall ascend above you higher and higher, while you shall descend lower and lower. 44They shall lend to you but you shall not lend to them; they shall be the head and you shall be the tail.

45 All these curses shall come upon you, pursuing and overtaking you until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the L ord your God, by observing the commandments and the decrees that he commanded you. 46They shall be among you and your descendants as a sign and a portent forever.

47 Because you did not serve the L ord your God joyfully and with gladness of heart for the abundance of everything, 48therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the L ord will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness and lack of everything. He will put an iron yoke on your neck until he has destroyed you. 49The L ord will bring a nation from far away, from the end of the earth, to swoop down on you like an eagle, a nation whose language you do not understand, 50a grim-faced nation showing no respect to the old or favor to the young. 51It shall consume the fruit of your livestock and the fruit of your ground until you are destroyed, leaving you neither grain, wine, and oil, nor the increase of your cattle and the issue of your flock, until it has made you perish. 52It shall besiege you in all your towns until your high and fortified walls, in which you trusted, come down throughout your land; it shall besiege you in all your towns throughout the land that the L ord your God has given you. 53In the desperate straits to which the enemy siege reduces you, you will eat the fruit of your womb, the flesh of your own sons and daughters whom the L ord your God has given you. 54Even the most refined and gentle of men among you will begrudge food to his own brother, to the wife whom he embraces, and to the last of his remaining children, 55giving to none of them any of the flesh of his children whom he is eating, because nothing else remains to him, in the desperate straits to which the enemy siege will reduce you in all your towns. 56She who is the most refined and gentle among you, so gentle and refined that she does not venture to set the sole of her foot on the ground, will begrudge food to the husband whom she embraces, to her own son, and to her own daughter, 57begrudging even the afterbirth that comes out from between her thighs, and the children that she bears, because she is eating them in secret for lack of anything else, in the desperate straits to which the enemy siege will reduce you in your towns.

58 If you do not diligently observe all the words of this law that are written in this book, fearing this glorious and awesome name, the L ord your God, 59then the L ord will overwhelm both you and your offspring with severe and lasting afflictions and grievous and lasting maladies. 60He will bring back upon you all the diseases of Egypt, of which you were in dread, and they shall cling to you. 61Every other malady and affliction, even though not recorded in the book of this law, the L ord will inflict on you until you are destroyed. 62Although once you were as numerous as the stars in heaven, you shall be left few in number, because you did not obey the L ord your God. 63And just as the L ord took delight in making you prosperous and numerous, so the L ord will take delight in bringing you to ruin and destruction; you shall be plucked off the land that you are entering to possess. 64The L ord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other; and there you shall serve other gods, of wood and stone, which neither you nor your ancestors have known. 65Among those nations you shall find no ease, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the L ord will give you a trembling heart, failing eyes, and a languishing spirit. 66Your life shall hang in doubt before you; night and day you shall be in dread, with no assurance of your life. 67In the morning you shall say, “If only it were evening!” and at evening you shall say, “If only it were morning!”—because of the dread that your heart shall feel and the sights that your eyes shall see. 68The L ord will bring you back in ships to Egypt, by a route that I promised you would never see again; and there you shall offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but there will be no buyer.

1. And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken. He teaches the same thing as before in different words; but the diversity of expression, as well as the repetition, tends to its confirmation. First, God says that He would deal with them so bountifully that they should excel all other nations; for this is the meaning of the words, that they should be illustrious above all the rest of the world on account of the special blessings of God. He afterwards enumerates the blessings which shall never depart from them, if they persevere in the service of God; and here it must be observed that they are reminded, not only in how many ways God is bountiful towards His servants, but also to how many necessities they are exposed, which require His direct and constant aid; for if we are blessed in the city and in the field, we can no more move a foot than stand still, except by His blessing. Such also is the tendency of the whole list, that a scarcity of all things impends over us at every moment, unless God should continually succor us by remedies sent down from heaven, and that every good thing can only come from that one source.

9. The Lord shall establish thee a holy people unto himself. This refers indeed to earthly blessings, as if Moses said, that by them would be manifested God’s love towards His chosen people; still it rises higher, so that the Israelites, led on by degrees, should learn to embrace God alone, and to trust in Him according to the covenant which He had made with Abraham, “I am thy exceeding great reward.” (Genesis 15:1.) For the children of Abraham were set apart and chosen to be a holy people, not only in order that, being well fed, and with a full belly, they should aspire to nothing but earthly things, but that they might be confidently assured that they would be blessed in death as well as life. Although their adoption was gratuitous, still, inasmuch as they were called unto purity, it is not without reason that God promises that what He had spoken should be sure, if by keeping the Law the Israelites themselves should continue in the covenant; as much as to say, that their sanctification 215215     “Leur election.” — Fr. should be firm and perpetual if they walked in the commandments of the Law. When He adds that it should be manifest “to 216216     “And all the people of the earth shall see that those are called by the name of the Lord.” — A.V. “And all peoples of the earth shall see that the name of Jehovah is called upon thee,” i.e., “thou art called by his name.” — Ainsworth. all people of the earth that the name of God was called upon them,” it is equivalent to saying, that it should be known that they were under God’s defense and patronage, and that thus they should always be safe and secure in His protection.

12. The Lord shall open to thee his good treasure. He again repeats, that the goodness of God shines forth in many ways in the life of men, since He not only supplies the bread that they eat, but that the rain which descends from heaven waters the earth; and that thus He produces whatever is required for food from His plenteous store-house or treasure. Let us learn, therefore, both above and beneath, as well in the temperature of the atmosphere, in the quickening heat of the sun, in the rain, and in other means, as in the fertility of the earth, to contemplate the manifold riches which God brings forth from His treasures. And when He declares that He will bless the work of our hands, hence, too, let us learn that we can attain nothing by our industry and hardest labors, except in so far as God vouchsafes us good success; and that all our efforts without His secret blessing are mere useless fatigue. For the figure which Paul uses in reference to the spiritual culture of the Church, is taken from nature itself:

“Neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase.” (1 Corinthians 3:7.)

God would not, indeed, have 217217     “Que nous demeurions assis, et lesjambes croissees comme des faineans;” that we should remain seated, with our legs crossed, like do-nothings. — Fr. us lie idle, and therefore He requires the labor of our hands, but He would have the fruit of our labors attributed to Himself.

After having spoken of the whole Law, and forbidden that they should turn aside to the right or the left, He adverts to the principal point, i.e., that they should not revolt to strange gods. Wherefore, the sum comes to this, that, in order that God may continue to shew us the favor which He has begun towards us, we ought on our sides to be altogether submissive to His rule. This indeed He demands of us by His word, and enables us to perform it by the power of His Spirit; not, it is true, fully to do our duty, but to strive to reach the goal; and, whereas we are far from attaining perfection, His indulgence supplies what is wanting in us.

Here, however, a difficult question arises, — If all prosperity proceeds from the peculiar blessing which God vouchsafes to His servants, whence is it that many of His despisers have children, easy and happy circumstances, abundance of the fruits of fire earth, enjoyment and luxury, honors and power? I answer, that the happy condition of life, which He assigns to His servants, does not prevent Him from diffusing His bounty promiscuously over the whole human race. He is truly called in Psalm 36:6, the preserver of “man and beast.” It is said elsewhere, 218218     See margin A.V., “Merciful, or bountiful in all his works.” that His mercy is extended over all His creatures, (Psalm 145:17;) and justly does Christ exalt His unbounded goodness, in that “He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good.” (Matthew 5:45.) But equally true is the exclamation of the Prophet;

“Oh, how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up
for them that fear thee!” (Psalm 31:19.)

For since all without exception enjoy all the supports of life, God’s goodness, which thus contends with the wickedness of men, shines forth universally even towards the ungodly, so that He does not cease to cherish and preserve those whom He has created, although they be unworthy. He therefore does good to the ungodly, because He is their Creator; besides, in order to keep the minds of believers in suspense in expectation of the final judgment, He now suffers many things to be confusedly mixed together, and hides His judgment in the darkness of night, as it were, or at least under clouds; whilst He also so tempers His patience towards the reprobate, as that, in this confusion of which I have spoken, some signs of His anger and favor are manifested. Thus, although the government of the world is not yet reduced to a perfect rule, still God shews by it that He is both the avenger of sins and the rewarder of righteousness, and some sparks are seen through the darkness; whilst the faithful, although they do not attain to the full enjoyment of the blessing promised them, nevertheless taste of it as far as is expedient. But to the ungodly, although they abound with all sorts of good things, not a single drop of God’s goodness is dispensed; for unless a sense of God’s paternal favor is awakened by His blessing, the blessing itself ceases to exist; nay, the more they gorge themselves, they attain to a deadly fatness; and God purposely lifts them up, that He may cast them down more heavily from their high estate. In a word, they are fed, as the Prophet says, 219219     No reference is here given in the original. The allusion might be to Jeremiah 12:3, or 51:40. “unto the day of slaughter.”

It must be concluded, therefore, that the blessings which God here promises to His servants are seasoned by Him with spiritual salt, lest they should be tasteless; whilst the reprobate, who are destitute of a sense of His grace, are also deprived altogether of all His blessings. There still, however, remains a difficulty, because the felicity here spoken of does not always, nor equally fall to the lot of God’s servants; nay, even under the Law they were sharply tried by many troubles and adversities. I answer, that since none, not even the most holy, was ever a perfect keeper of the Law, since none was ever free from all transgression, it is no cause of surprise that they only partially enjoyed the promised blessings; inasmuch as they were not fit recipients (capaces) of their fullness; and, if it sometimes happens that they are chastised more severely than the ungodly, neither in this is there any absurdity, since God usually begins His judgment at His own house. (Isaiah 10:12; 1 Peter 4:17.) Still, even in this confusion we see what the Prophet teaches, that the righteous are never forsaken, (Psalm 37:25,) and that they are like green and fruitful olive-trees in the courts of the Lord, (Psalm 52:8,) whilst the ungodly, although for a season they may be exalted like cedars of Lebanon, yet are plucked up in a moment by the roots, so that no trace of them remains.

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