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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Deuteronomy 28

 

 

Verses 1-68

FROM MOUNT GERIZIM -- BLESSINGS

(vs.1-14)

Though Chapter 28 does not say that these blessings were pronounced from Mount Gerizim, yet Chapter 27:12 indicates this. But the blessings were prefaced; by the conditions of verse 1. They would be effective only if Israel diligently obeyed the voice of the Lord, observing carefully all His commandments. If so, God would set them high above all nations, and all the blessings that follow would come upon them (v.2).

They would be blessed in the city and in the country (v.3). If they were obedient the place they lived would not make any difference in their blessing.

They would also find blessing in regard to their children and the produce of their crops, in the increase of their herds, of their cattle and of their flocks (v.4). This natural increase is typical of spiritual increase that believers receive then they practice a spirit of devoted obedience to the Lord. There will be lasting results from their labors.

These blessings would be in their basket and in their kneading bowl (v.5). This is more in connection with women's work. It is not that they would be provided with everything apart from working, but rather that their would be blessed. How much happier it is to work and find blessing in it than to be handed everything without working!

God's blessing too would be consistent, whether in their coming in or going out (v.6). We may surely apply this to the blessing of private life or assembly life, that is, coming in to enjoy the privileges of fellowship with the saints of God, or going out with the gospel of God's grace to evangelize those in the world.

With God's blessing on them they would have no difficulty in defeating their enemies. Though the enemies would come with a united front, appearing to be too formidable for Israel, yet God would scatter them to retreat seven different ways, in confusion (v.7). Though Satan puts on a show of unity in his opposition to the truth, the fact that he is a master of intrigues and lies renders him helpless to achieve real unity, for falsehood is confusion, and a simple stand for truth will throw these evil attempts back into the confusion men think they can overcome.

In obedience to God Israel could count upon His blessing in their storehouses, the lay up of produce for future use, and in everything that might occupy their attention (v.8). In a spiritual way this will be true for obedient Christians too.

If they obeyed, the Lord would, on the basis of their obedience, establish them in a practical way as a holy people for Himself (v.9. The position He had given them was one of holiness, and He promised that their practical character would be the same if they were obedient. This would have a real effect on other nations in recognizing God's interest in this special people, and these nations would stand in awe of Israel (v.10).

They would be blessed by the Lord with plenty, whether in children, in livestock and in crops (v.11). "The Lord will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hands" (v.12). They would lend to many nations, but would never need to borrow.

In such a case Israel would be the head of the nations, and not the tail (v.13). Sadly, through rebellion against God Israel became the tail for centuries, not even having possession of their land, and they are still far from the place of being head of the nations. But when they are turned back to receive the Lord Jesus, their true Messiah, there will be such a change that they will again be the head of all nations for the entire thousand years of millennial blessing.

Israel's fall, however, was not through any lack of encouragement on God's part. The whole book of Deuteronomy is full of admonitions, warnings and encouragements, and verse 4 should have spurred them to diligently serve the Lord and never turn to idols and self-will.

CURSES FOR DISOBEDIENCE

(vs.15-68)

This section dealing with curses occupies a far larger place than that speaking of blessings. Likely the reason is that God knew perfectly well that Israel would soon depart from Him in callous disobedience, so that they would have no opportunity to experience the blessings promised on condition of obedience, but every opportunity to experience the many curses that were really their own choice.

If Israel would not obey God's commandments and statutes, they would be cursed wherever they went, in the cities, in the country (v.16), in their house provisions (v.17), through their children, the produce of their land and in the offspring of their livestock (v.18). Whether coming in or going out (v.19), that is changing from one to the other would not alleviate the misery. The Lord would send on them cursing, confusion and rebuke in whatever they occupied themselves with (v.20), not relieving this before they died early. Plagues would afflict them until they were consumed, by death or by scattering them from the land (v.20)

Because of Israel's disobedience, it would be the Lord Himself who would inflict on them consumption, fever, inflammation, severe burning fever, the scourge of an enemy's sword, scorching and mildew (v.22). This was not merely punishment, but God's way of seeking to drive them back to Him. Yet it would continue until they perished, for God knew the stubbornness of their hearts. If they would only confess their guilt and turn from it, certainly God would forgive and restore them, but Israel's history thus far has been one of rebellion.

For this reason the heavens would be bronze and the earth iron (v.23). This would match their attitude. They could expect no loving answer from heaven in their praying for material blessings or relief, for the heavens would be as impervious as their own heart. The earth would be like iron, not soft enough to produce anything, because their hearts were also hard.

The rains of their land would be exchanged for powder and dust (v.24). this is not only negative (a lack of rain), but as positive curse, to cause great distress. The Lord too would deliver them to humiliating defeat before their enemies (v.25). They would "go out one way," that is, in apparent unity, but would "flee seven ways," in total defeat and disarray. All nations also would consider Israel a troublesome people to all the earth.

The nation would be further humiliated by many dead being left without burial, birds and animals feeding on their dead bodies with no one there to frighten them away (v.26). Also the Lord Himself would inflict on them boils, tumors, scabs and itching which they would find no way of relieving (v.27), and added to this mental derangement, blindness and confusion of heart (v.28). Even in broad daylight they would grope, trying to find their way: they would be taken advantage of by oppression and robbery, with no one to intercede for them (v.29).

One might be engaged to marry a woman and another man commit fornication with her (v.30). Things like this happen all around us today. But if an engaged man and woman are walking with the Lord this would not happen. How important to put the Lord first in marriage. If both husband and wife do this, the Lord will preserve them. But when disobedient to God, an Israelite might build a house and never live in it, or he might plant a vineyard and never enjoy its fruits. Their livestock might be slaughtered before their eyes, but not for their benefit, or livestock might be stolen violently and never restored (v.31).

Their sons and daughters would be taken captive and given as slaves to people of another nation, leaving the parents in depressed anxiety and hopeless weakness to do anything about it (v.32). As one instance, as to the little girl who was taken from her home as a slave for the wife of Naaman the Syrian (2 Kings 5:2), how would her parents feel about this? In the heart of the little girl herself, however, the grace of God beautifully triumphed to lift her above the trauma of her separation from her country and her relatives, so that she was genuinely concerned for the health of the man who had taken her captive (v.3). This is a lovely illustration of the fact that no matter how devastating may be the results of disobedience to God, the grace of God can overcome this where there is an honest turning to Him.

A foreign nation, before unknown to Israel, would come from a distance to overrun their land, oppressing and crushing the people and eating what they had produced for themselves (v.33). Thus Israel would be driven to insanity through witnessing things that were unbearable (v.34). No strength would be left in their knees or legs because of sore boils that resisted healing, and the whole body would be dreadfully affected (v.35).

But not only would they suffer in their land, for the Lord would see that they and a king they had desired would be taken captive to the country of foreigners, where the only worship they would know would be idolatrous (v.36). In those circumstances they would find no rest, but would rather become the object of the contempt and ridicule of all the nations (v.37). How sadly true has this proven in all Israel's history since the captivity by the Assyrians and by the Babylonians took place centuries ago, and has been repeated in the scattering of Judah from their land following the crucifixion of their Messiah. Many nations still today engage in the ridicule and persecution of the Jews.

Israel would plant much seed and get little return (v.38), for locusts would consume their crops. Worms would eat up the fruit of their vineyards (v.39). They would have no return from their olive trees (v.40). This can be applied to believers spiritually today. Whatever planting we do, whatever energy we have in declaring the Word of God to others, it will bear little fruit if we ourselves are guilty of disobedience to God. How important that our spoken testimony be accompanied by a testimony of faithfulness in our practical life!

Because of Israel's disobedience to God, their sons and daughters would go into captivity (v.41). This has been spiritually true in many Christian households. Though the children have heard the gospel of God's grace, if the parents are disobedient, it is very likely that the children will be taken captive by a legal type of Christianity that puts them in bondage to human laws.

Locusts would consume the trees and all the produce of the land (v.42). Israel has often suffered from such infestations. This is a direct infliction of God which ought to have driven Israel back to Him in repentance. Aliens would get the ascendancy over Israel. They would have to borrow from aliens instead of the opposite way around (v.44), thus the foreigner would be the head and Israel the tail, a reversal of what would be true if Israel were obedient (vs.12-13).

Because of disobedience all these curses would come on Israel until they were destroyed (v.45). Has Israel been destroyed? Yes! God says in Hosea 13:9, "0 Israel, you are destroyed, but your help is in Me." Destruction does not mean annihilation. Rather, to destroy is to render unfit for the purpose for which something was first made, just as a dish, smashed to pieces, is destroyed though not annihilated. So Israel's destruction is not permanent, as Romans 9:1-33; Romans 10:1-21; Romans 11:1-36 assure us, for God knows how to restore in His matchless grace.

These curses would be a sign and a wonder on Israel and their descendants (v.46). This sign is a witness to God's faithfulness and truth in dealing with His own failing people. This would make men wonder at the great sovereignty and righteousness of God, who would not spare sin in His own chosen people. All of this would be true because of their not serving the Lord with joy and gladness of heart when they had every reason to do so (v.47).

In refusing to serve God they would become servants to their enemies, and in this would suffer hunger and thirst and nakedness. Instead of the yoke of law (which was hard enough) being put on their necks, they would have a yoke of iron, that is, being in bondage to cruel enemies (v.48).

The Lord would send a foreign nation against them that would show no respect for old age and no compassion toward children (vs.49-50). This likely refers to the attack of the Assyrians (2 Kings 17:5-6), which devastated the ten tribes, and later to the attack of the Babylonians, when Judah was brought under bondage (2 Kings 24:1-3).

These enemies would devastate the land of all its produce, leaving nothing for Israel (v.52). They would besiege the cities, no matter how well fortified, causing the starving occupants to go so far as to eat their own children (v.53). See 2 Kings 6:28-29 and Jeremiah 19:8-9. We may well wonder why such things would not drive people's hearts back to the Lord, but in verse 54 we read that even the most refined of people would become hostile toward their wives and their children. Such would be the desperation occasioned by hunger that there would be no consideration left for even the closest loved ones (v.55).

The graphic details of all this, and how both men and women would be affected, are most painful to read. Verses 56 and 57 speaks of even the tender and delicate woman, who would eat her new born infant and her placenta, in secret, hiding this from her husband. The reason is again pressed in verse 58, "if you do not carefully observe all the words of these laws that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and awesome name, THE LORD YOUR GOD."

Great and prolonged plagues and prolonged sicknesses would be inflicted on them, similar to the plagues and diseases that Egypt suffered before the Exodus, causing death and destruction so that they would be left few in number (v.62) in contrast to the multiplied millions which once they enjoyed.

Just as the Lord at one time had blessed and multiplied the nation, so He would curse and diminish them (v.63) and scatter the people among all nations, where they would serve idols (v.64). We know this has taken place, for Jews have been scattered over all the world and the recognition of their God has become vague and in many cases extinct.

Yet among these nations they would find no relief, no rest, but fear and trembling, failing eyes and anguish of soul (v.65), with apprehension day and night that they might love their lives (v.66). In the morning they would wish it were evening and in the evening would wish it were morning, because of a constantly traumatic existence (v.67).

The Lord would take them back to Egypt in ships (v.68). This may not be literal, but symbolical, for Egypt is a type of the world. Once God had rescued them from this worldly domination, but they would return to it. Becoming slaves again, they would be offered for sale, but being reduced to such an unhealthy state as to be not worth buying.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 28:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/deuteronomy-28.html. 1897-1910.

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