Deuteronomy 28:13
And the LORD shall make you the head, and not the tail; and you shall be above only, and you shall not be beneath; if that you listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day, to observe and to do them:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Deuteronomy 28:13. The head — The chief of all people in power, or at least in dignity and privileges; so that even they that are not under thy authority shall reverence thy greatness and excellence. So it was in David’s and Solomon’s time, and so it should have been oftener and much more, if they had performed the conditions.28:1-14 This chapter is a very large exposition of two words, the blessing and the curse. They are real things and have real effects. The blessings are here put before the curses. God is slow to anger, but swift to show mercy. It is his delight to bless. It is better that we should be drawn to what is good by a child-like hope of God's favour, than that we be frightened to it by a slavish fear of his wrath. The blessing is promised, upon condition that they diligently hearken to the voice of God. Let them keep up religion, the form and power of it, in their families and nation, then the providence of God would prosper all their outward concerns.The oath with which God vouchsafed to confirm His promises to the patriarchs (compare Genesis 22:16; Hebrews 6:13-14) contained by implication these gifts of holiness and eminence to Israel (compare the marginal references). 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; 19:15). The head; the chief of all people in power, or at least in dignity and privileges; so that even they that are not under thine authority shall reverence thy greatness and excellency. So it was in David’s and Solomon’s time, and so it should have been much oftener and much more, if they had performed the conditions here required. For the phrase, see Isaiah 9:14,15 19:15. And the Lord shall make thee the head, and not the tail,.... Give them dominion over others, and not make them subject to them; the head signifies rulers and governors, and the tail the common people that are subjects; or the one such that are honourable and in high esteem, and the other such that are mean and base; see Isaiah 9:14; the Targum of Jonathan is,"the Word of the Lord shall make thee, &c."

and thou shalt be above only, and thou shall not be beneath; which explains what is meant by head and tail, being uppermost and lowermost, as the head is the upper part, and the tail the lower part of a creature; the one is more honourable, the other vile: the sense is, that they should be superior to other people in honour and dignity, and not below them, or vassals to them:

if that thou hearken to the commandments of the Lord thy God, which I command thee this day to observe and to do them; which is the condition on which all this happiness depended.

And the LORD shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the LORD thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them:
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
13. the head, and not the tail] Isaiah 9:14; Isaiah 19:15.

only] Heb. raḳ; see on Deuteronomy 10:15. Here = nothing but.

if thou shalt] Rather (as in Deuteronomy 28:9), for thou wilt, or in case thou shalt.

to observe and to do] See on Deuteronomy 4:6, Deuteronomy 5:32.Verse 13. - They should be manifestly superior to other nations, heading them and being above them, their leader and not their subject or follower (cf. Isaiah 9:13). Note the contrast in vers. 43, 44. Deuteronomy 28:7-14 describe the influence and effect of the blessing upon all the circumstances and situations in which the nation might be placed: in Deuteronomy 28:7-10, with reference (a) to the attitude of Israel towards its enemies (Deuteronomy 28:7); (b) to its trade and handicraft (Deuteronomy 28:8); (c) to its attitude towards all the nations of the earth (Deuteronomy 28:9, Deuteronomy 28:10). The optative forms, יתּן and יצו (in Deuteronomy 28:7 and Deuteronomy 28:8), are worthy of notice. They show that Moses not only proclaimed the blessing to the people, but desired it for them, because he knew that Israel would not always or perfectly fulfil the condition upon which it was to be bestowed. "May the Lord be pleased to give thine enemies...smitten before thee," i.e., give them up to thee as smitten (לפני נתן, to give up before a person, to deliver up to him: cf. Deuteronomy 1:8), so that they shall come out against thee by one way, and flee from thee by seven ways, i.e., in wild dispersion (cf. Leviticus 26:7-8).
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