Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
For the purpose of impressing upon the hearts of all the people in the most emphatic manner both the blessing which Israel was to proclaim upon Gerizim, and the curse which it was to proclaim upon Ebal, Moses now unfolds the blessing of fidelity to the law and the curse of transgression in a longer address, in which he once more resumes, sums up, and expands still further the promises and threats of the law in Exodus 23:20-33, and Leviticus 26.
And it shall come to pass, 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, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth:The Blessing. - Deuteronomy 28:1. If Israel would hearken to the voice of the Lord its God, the Lord would make it the highest of all the nations of the earth. This thought, with which the discourse on the law in Deuteronomy 26:19 terminated, forms the theme, and in a certain sense the heading, of the following description of the blessing, through which the Lord, according to the more distinct declaration in Deuteronomy 28:2, would glorify His people above all the nations of the earth. The indispensable condition for obtaining this blessing, was obedience to the word of the Lord, or keeping His commandments. To impress this condition sine qua non thoroughly upon the people, Moses not only repeats it at the commencement (Deuteronomy 28:2), and in the middle (Deuteronomy 28:9), but also at the close (Deuteronomy 28:13, Deuteronomy 28:14), in both a positive and a negative form. In Deuteronomy 28:2, "the way in which Israel was to be exalted is pointed out" (Schultz); and thus the theme is more precisely indicated, and the elaboration of it is introduced. "All these blessings (those mentioned singly in what follows) will come upon thee and reach thee." The blessings are represented as actual powers, which follow the footsteps of the nation, and overtake it. In Deuteronomy 28:3-6, the fulness of the blessing of God in all the relations of life is depicted in a sixfold repetition of the word "blessed." Israel will be blessed in the town and in the field, the two spheres in which its life moves (Deuteronomy 28:3); blessed will be the fruit of the body, of the earth, and of the cattle, i.e., in all its productions (Deuteronomy 28:4; for each one, see Deuteronomy 7:13-14); blessed will be the basket (Deuteronomy 26:2) in which the fruits are kept, and the kneading - trough (Exodus 12:34) in which the daily bread is prepared (Deuteronomy 28:5); blessed will the nation be in all its undertakings ("coming in and going out;" vid., Numbers 27:17).
And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God.
Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field.
Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep.
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: they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways.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).
The LORD shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto; and he shall bless thee in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee."May the Lord command the blessing with thee (put it at thy disposal) in thy barns (granaries, store-rooms) and in all thy business" ("to set the hand;" see Deuteronomy 12:7).
The LORD shall establish thee an holy people unto himself, as he hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the LORD thy God, and walk in his ways."The Lord will exalt thee for a holy nation to Himself,...so that all the nations of the earth shall see that the name of Jehovah is named upon thee, and shall fear before thee." The Lord had called Israel as a holy nation, when He concluded the covenant with it (Exodus 19:5-6). This promise, to which the words "as He hath sworn unto thee" point back, and which is called an oath, because it was founded upon the promises given to the patriarchs on oath (Genesis 22:16), and was given implicite in them, the Lord would fulfil to His people, and cause the holiness and glory of Israel to be so clearly manifested, that all nations should perceive or see "that the name of the Lord is named upon Israel." The name of the Lord is the revelation of His glorious nature. It is named upon Israel, when Israel is transformed into the glory of the divine nature (cf. Isaiah 63:19; Jeremiah 14:9). It was only in feeble commencements that this blessing was fulfilled upon Israel under the Old Testament; and it is not till the restoration of Israel, which is to take place in the future according to Romans 11:25., that its complete fulfilment will be attained. In Deuteronomy 28:11 and Deuteronomy 28:12, Moses returns to the earthly blessing, for the purpose of unfolding this still further. "Superabundance will the Lord give thee for good (i.e., for happiness and prosperity; vid., Deuteronomy 30:9), in fruit of thy body," etc. (cf. Deuteronomy 28:4). He would open His good treasure-house, the heaven, to give rain to the land in its season (cf. Deuteronomy 11:14; Leviticus 26:4-5), and bless the work of the hands, i.e., the cultivation of the soil, so that Israel would be able to lend to many, according to the prospect already set before it in Deuteronomy 15:6.
And all people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the LORD; and they shall be afraid of thee.
And the LORD shall make thee plenteous in goods, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy ground, in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers to give thee.
The LORD shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow.
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:By such blessings He would "make Israel the head, and not the tail," - a figure taken from life (vid., Isaiah 9:13), the meaning of which is obvious, and is given literally in the next sentence, "thou wilt be above only, and not beneath," i.e., thou wilt rise more and more, and increase in wealth, power, and dignity. With this the discourse returns to its commencement; and the promise of blessing closes with another emphatic repetition of the condition on which the fulfilment depended (Deuteronomy 28:13 and Deuteronomy 28:14. On Deuteronomy 28:14, see Deuteronomy 5:29; Deuteronomy 11:28).
And thou shalt not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.
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 overtake thee:The Curse, in case Israel should not hearken to the voice of its God, to keep His commandments. After the announcement that all these (the following) curses would come upon the disobedient nation (Deuteronomy 28:15), the curse is proclaimed in all its extent, as covering all the relations of life, in a sixfold repetition of the word "cursed" (Deuteronomy 28:16-19, as above in Deuteronomy 28:3-6); and the fulfilment of this threat in plagues and diseases, drought and famine, war, devastation of the land, and captivity of the people, is so depicted, that the infliction of these punishments stands out to view in ever increasing extent and fearfulness. We are not to record this, however, as a gradual heightening of the judgments of God, in proportion to the increasing rebellion of Israel, as in Leviticus 26:14., although it is obvious that the punishments threatened did not fall upon the nation all at once.
Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field.Deuteronomy 28:16-19 correspond precisely to Deuteronomy 28:3-6, so as to set forth the curse as the counterpart of the blessing, except that the basket and kneading-trough are mentioned before the fruit of the body.
Cursed shall be thy basket and thy store.
Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy land, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep.
Cursed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and cursed shalt thou be when thou goest out.
The LORD shall send upon thee cursing, vexation, and rebuke, in all that thou settest thine hand unto for to do, until thou be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly; because of the wickedness of thy doings, whereby thou hast forsaken me.The first view, in which the bursting of the threatened curse upon the disobedient people is proclaimed in all its forms. First of all, quite generally in Deuteronomy 28:20. "The Lord will send the curse against thee, consternation and threatening in every undertaking of thy hand which thou carriest out (see Deuteronomy 12:7), till thou be destroyed, till thou perish quickly, because of the wickedness of thy doings, because thou hast forsaken Me." The three words, מארה, מהוּמה, and מגערת, are synonymous, and are connected together to strengthen the thought. מארה, curse or malediction; המּהוּמה, the consternation produced by the curse of God, namely, the confusion with which God smites His foes (see at Deuteronomy 7:23); המּגערה is the threatening word of the divine wrath. - Then Deuteronomy 28:21. in detail. "The Lord will make the pestilence fasten upon (cleave to) thee, till He hath destroyed thee out of the land...to smite thee with giddiness and fever (cf. Leviticus 26:16), inflammation, burning, and sword, blasting of corn, and mildew (of the seed);" seven diseases therefore (seven as the stamp of the words of God), whilst pestilence in particular is mentioned first, as the most terrible enemy of life. דּלּקת, from דּלק to burn, and חרחר, from חרר to glow, signify inflammatory diseases, burning fevers; the distinction between these and קדּחת cannot be determined. Instead of חרב, the sword as the instrument of death, used to designate slaughter and death, the Vulgate, Arabic, and Samaritan have adopted the reading חרב, aestus, heat (Genesis 31:40), or drought, according to which there would be four evils mentioned by which human life is attacked, and three which are injurious to the corn. But as the lxx, Jon., Syr., and others read חרב, this alteration is very questionable, especially as the reading can be fully defended in this connection; and one objection to the alteration is, that drought is threatened for the first time in Deuteronomy 28:23, Deuteronomy 28:24. שׁדּפון, from שׁדף to singe or blacken, and ירקון, from ירק to be yellowish, refer to two diseases which attack the corn: the former to the withering or burning of the ears, caused by the east wind (Genesis 41:23); the other to the effect produced by a warm wind in Arabia, by which the green ears are turned yellow, so that they bear no grains of corn.
The LORD shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until he have consumed thee from off the land, whither thou goest to possess it.
The LORD shall smite thee with a consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning, and with the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew; and they shall pursue thee until thou perish.
And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron.To this should be added terrible drought, without a drop of rain from heaven (cf. Leviticus 26:19). Instead of rain, dust and ashes should fall from heaven. נתן construed with a double accusative: to make the rain of the land into dust and ashes, to give it in the form of dust and ashes. When the heat is very great, the air in Palestine is often full of dust and sand, the wind assuming the form of a burning sirocco, so that the air resembles the glowing heat at the mouth of a furnace (Robinson, ii.504).
The LORD shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed.
The LORD shall cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies: thou shalt go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them: and shalt be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth.Defeat in battle, the very opposite of the blessing promised in Deuteronomy 28:7. Israel should become לזעוה, "a moving to and fro," i.e., so to speak, "a ball for all the kingdoms of the earth to play with" (Schultz). זעוה, here and at Ezekiel 23:46, is not a transposed and later form of זועה, which has a different meaning in Isaiah 28:19, but the original uncontracted form, which was afterwards condensed into זועה; for this, and not זועה, is the way in which the Chethib should be read in Jeremiah 15:4; Jeremiah 24:9; Jeremiah 29:18; Jeremiah 34:17, and 2 Chronicles 29:8, where this threat is repeated (vid., Ewald, 53, b.). The corpses of those who were slain by the foe should serve as food for the birds of prey and wild beasts - the greatest ignominy that could fall upon the dead, and therefore frequently held out as a threat against the ungodly (Jeremiah 7:33; Jeremiah 16:4; 1 Kings 14:11, etc.).
And thy carcase shall be meat unto all fowls of the air, and unto the beasts of the earth, and no man shall fray them away.
The LORD will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerods, and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou canst not be healed.The second view depicts still further the visitation of God both by diseases of body and soul, and also by plunder and oppression on the part of their enemies. - In Deuteronomy 28:27 four incurable diseases of the body are threatened: the ulcer of Egypt (see at Exodus 9:9), i.e., the form of leprosy peculiar to Egypt, elephantiasis (Aegypti peculiare malum: Plin. xxvi. c. 1, s. 5), which differed from lepra tuberosa, however, or tubercular leprosy (Deuteronomy 28:35; cf. Job 2:7), in degree only, and not in its essential characteristics (see Tobler, mediz. Topogr. v. Jerus. p. 51). עפלים, from עפל, a swelling, rising, signifies a tumour, and according to the Rabbins a disease of the anus: in men, tumor in posticis partibus; in women, durius quoddam οἴδημα in utero. It was with this disease that the Philistines were smitten (1 Samuel 5:1-12). גּרב (see Leviticus 21:20) and חרס, from חרס, to scrape or scratch, also a kind of itch, of which there are several forms in Syria and Egypt.
The LORD shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart:In addition to this, there would come idiocy, blindness, and confusion of mind, - three psychical maladies; for although עוּרון signifies primarily bodily blindness, the position of the word between idiocy and confusion of heart, i.e., of the understanding, points to mental blindness here.
And thou shalt grope at noonday, as the blind gropeth in darkness, and thou shalt not prosper in thy ways: and thou shalt be only oppressed and spoiled evermore, and no man shall save thee.Deuteronomy 28:29 leads to the same conclusion, where it is stated that Israel would grope in the bright noon-day, like a blind man in the dark, and not make his ways prosper, i.e., not hit upon the right road which led to the goal and to salvation, would have no good fortune or success in its undertakings (cf. Psalm 37:7). Being thus smitten in body and soul, it would be only (אך as in Deuteronomy 16:15), i.e., utterly, oppressed and spoiled evermore. These words introduce the picture of the other calamity, viz., the plundering of the nation and the land by enemies (Deuteronomy 28:30-33). Wife, house, vineyard, ox, ass, and sheep would be taken away by the foe; sons and daughters would be carried away into captivity before the eyes of the people, who would see it and pine after the children, i.e., with sorrow and longing after them; "and thy hand shall not be to thee towards God," i.e., all power and help will fail thee. (On this proverbial expression, see Genesis 31:29; and on חלּל, in Genesis 31:30, see at Deuteronomy 20:6.) - In Deuteronomy 28:33, Deuteronomy 28:34, this threat is summed up in the following manner: the fruit of the field and all their productions would be devoured by a strange nation, and Israel would be only oppressed and crushed to pieces all its days, and become mad on account of what its eyes would be compelled to see.
Thou shalt betroth a wife, and another man shall lie with her: thou shalt build an house, and thou shalt not dwell therein: thou shalt plant a vineyard, and shalt not gather the grapes thereof.
Thine ox shall be slain before thine eyes, and thou shalt not eat thereof: thine ass shall be violently taken away from before thy face, and shall not be restored to thee: thy sheep shall be given unto thine enemies, and thou shalt have none to rescue them.
Thy sons and thy daughters shall be given unto another people, and thine eyes shall look, and fail with longing for them all the day long: and there shall be no might in thine hand.
The fruit of thy land, and all thy labours, shall a nation which thou knowest not eat up; and thou shalt be only oppressed and crushed alway:
So that thou shalt be mad for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see.
The LORD shall smite thee in the knees, and in the legs, with a sore botch that cannot be healed, from the sole of thy foot unto the top of thy head.The third view. - With the words, "the Lord will smite thee," Moses resumes in Deuteronomy 28:35 the threat of Deuteronomy 28:27, to set forth the calamities already threatened under a new aspect, namely, as signs of the rejection of Israel from covenant fellowship with the Lord.
The Lord would smite the people with grievous abscesses in the knees and thighs, that should be incurable, even from the sole of the foot to the crown of the head. רע שׁחין ר is the so-called joint-leprosy, a form of the lepra tuberosa (vid., Pruner, p. 167). From the clause, however, "from the sole of thy foot unto the top of thy head," it is evident that the threat is not to be restricted to this species of leprosy, since "the upper parts of the body often remain in a perfectly normal state in cases of leprosy in the joints; and after the diseased parts have fallen off, the patients recover their previous health to a certain degree" (Pruner). Moses mentions this as being a disease of such a nature, that it would render it utterly impossible for those who were afflicted with it either to stand or walk, and then heightens the threat by adding the words, "from the sole of the foot to the top of the head." Leprosy excluded from fellowship with the Lord, and deprived the nation of the character of a nation of God.
The LORD shall bring thee, and thy king which thou shalt set over thee, unto a nation which neither thou nor thy fathers have known; and there shalt thou serve other gods, wood and stone.The loss of their spiritual character would be followed by the dissolution of the covenant fellowship. This thought connects Deuteronomy 28:36 with Deuteronomy 28:35, and not the thought that Israel being afflicted with leprosy would be obliged to go into captivity, and in this state would become an object of abhorrence to the heathen (Schultz). The Lord would bring the nation and its king to a foreign nation that it did not know, and thrust them into bondage, so that it would be obliged to serve other gods - wood and stone (vid., Deuteronomy 4:28), - and would become an object of disgust, a proverb, and a byword to all nations whither God should drive it (vid., 1 Kings 9:7; Jeremiah 24:9).
And thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword, among all nations whither the LORD shall lead thee.
Thou shalt carry much seed out into the field, and shalt gather but little in; for the locust shall consume it.Even in their own land the curse would fall upon every kind of labour and enterprise. Much seed would give little to reap, because the locust would devour the seed; the planting and dressing of the vineyard would furnish no wine to drink, because the worm would devour the vine. תּולעת is probably the ἴψ or ἴξ of the Greeks, the convolvulus of the Romans, our vine-weevil.
Thou shalt plant vineyards, and dress them, but shalt neither drink of the wine, nor gather the grapes; for the worms shall eat them.
Thou shalt have olive trees throughout all thy coasts, but thou shalt not anoint thyself with the oil; for thine olive shall cast his fruit.They would have many olive-trees in the land, but not anoint themselves with oil, because the olive-tree would be rooted out or plundered (ישּׁל, Niphal of שׁלל, as in Deuteronomy 19:5, not the Kal of נשׁל, which cannot be shown to have the intransitive meaning elabi).
Thou shalt beget sons and daughters, but thou shalt not enjoy them; for they shall go into captivity.Sons and daughters would they beget, but not keep, because they would have to go into captivity.
All thy trees and fruit of thy land shall the locust consume.All the trees and fruits of the land would the buzzer take possession of. צלצל, from צלל to buzz, a rhetorical epithet applied to locusts, not the grasshopper, which does not injure the fruits of the tree or ground sufficiently for the term ירשׁ, "to take possession of," to be applicable to it.
The stranger that is within thee shall get up above thee very high; and thou shalt come down very low.Israel would be utterly impoverished, and would sink lower and lower, whilst the stranger in the midst of it would, on the contrary, get above it very high; not indeed "because he had no possession, but was dependent upon resources of other kinds" (Schultz), but rather because he would be exempted with all his possessions from the curse of God, just as the Israelites had been exempted from the plagues which came upon the Egyptians (Exodus 9:6-7, Exodus 9:26).
He shall lend to thee, and thou shalt not lend to him: he shall be the head, and thou shalt be the tail.The opposite of Deuteronomy 28:12 and Deuteronomy 28:13 would come to pass. - In Deuteronomy 28:46 the address returns to its commencement in Deuteronomy 28:15, with the terrible threat, "These curses shall be upon thee for a sign and for a wonder, and upon thy seed for ever," for the purpose of making a pause, if not of bringing the whole to a close. The curses were for a sign and wonder (מופת, that which excites astonishment and terror), inasmuch as their magnitude and terrible character manifested most clearly the supernatural interposition of God (vid., Deuteronomy 29:23). "For ever" applies to the generation smitten by the curse, which would remain for ever rejected, though without involving the perpetual rejection of the whole nation, or the impossibility of the conversion and restoration of a remnant, or of a holy seed (Isaiah 10:22; Isaiah 6:13; Romans 9:27; Romans 11:5).
Moreover all these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue thee, and overtake thee, till thou be destroyed; because thou hearkenedst not unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which he commanded thee:
And they shall be upon thee for a sign and for a wonder, and upon thy seed for ever.
Because thou servedst not the LORD thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things;The fourth view. - Although in what precedes every side of the national life has been brought under the curse, yet love to his people, and the desire to preserve them from the curse, by holding up before them the dreadful severity of the wrath of God, impel the faithful servant of the Lord to go still further, and depict more minutely still the dreadful horrors consequent upon Israel being given up to the power of the heathen, and first of all in Deuteronomy 28:47-57 the horrible calamities which would burst upon Israel on the conquest of the land and its fortresses by its foes.
Because it had not served the Lord its God with joy and gladness of heart, "for the abundance of all," i.e., for the abundance of all the blessings bestowed upon it by its God, it would serve its enemies in hunger, and thirst, and nakedness, and want of everything, and wear an iron yoke, i.e., be obliged to perform the hardest tributary service till it was destroyed (השׁמיד for השׁמיד, as in Deuteronomy 7:24).
Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the LORD shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee.
The LORD shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand;The Lord would bring against it from afar a barbarous, hardhearted nation, which knew not pity. "From afar" is still further strengthened by the addition of the words, "from the end of the earth." The greater the distance off, the more terrible does the foe appear. He flies thence like an eagle, which plunges with violence upon its prey, and carries it off with its claws; and Israel does not understand its language, so as to be able to soften its barbarity, or come to any terms. A people "firm, hard of face," i.e., upon whom nothing makes an impression (vid., Isaiah 50:7), - a description of the audacity and shamelessness of its appearance (Daniel 8:23; cf. Proverbs 7:13; Proverbs 21:29), which spares neither old men nor boys. This description no doubt applies to the Chaldeans, who are described as flying eagles in Habakkuk 1:6., Jeremiah 48:40; Jeremiah 49:22; Ezekiel 17:3, Ezekiel 17:7, as in the verses before us; but it applies to other enemies of Israel beside these, namely to the great imperial powers generally, the Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Romans, whom the Lord raised up as the executors of His curse upon His rebellious people. Isaiah therefore depicts the Assyrians in a similar manner, namely, as a people with an unintelligible language (Deuteronomy 5:26; Deuteronomy 28:11; Deuteronomy 33:19), and describes the cruelty of the Medes in Deuteronomy 13:17-18, with an unmistakeable allusion to Deuteronomy 28:50 of the present threat.
A nation of fierce countenance, which shall not regard the person of the old, nor shew favour to the young:
And he shall eat the fruit of thy cattle, and the fruit of thy land, until thou be destroyed: which also shall not leave thee either corn, wine, or oil, or the increase of thy kine, or flocks of thy sheep, until he have destroyed thee.This foe would consume all the fruit of the cattle and the land, i.e., everything which the nation had acquired through agriculture and the breeding of stock, without leaving it anything, until it was utterly destroyed (see Deuteronomy 7:13), and would oppress, i.e., besiege it in all its gates (towns, vid., Deuteronomy 12:12), till the lofty and strong walls upon which they relied should fall (ירד as in Deuteronomy 20:20).
And he shall besiege thee in all thy gates, until thy high and fenced walls come down, wherein thou trustedst, throughout all thy land: and he shall besiege thee in all thy gates throughout all thy land, which the LORD thy God hath given thee.
And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body, the flesh of thy sons and of thy daughters, which the LORD thy God hath given thee, in the siege, and in the straitness, wherewith thine enemies shall distress thee:It would so distress Israel, that in their distress and siege they would be driven to eat the fruit of their body, and the flesh of their own children (with regard to the fulfilment of this, see the remarks on Leviticus 26:29). - This horrible distress is depicted still more fully in Deuteronomy 28:54-57, where the words, "in the siege and in the straitness," etc. (Deuteronomy 28:53), are repeated as a refrain, with their appalling sound, in Deuteronomy 28:55 and Deuteronomy 28:57.
So that the man that is tender among you, and very delicate, his eye shall be evil toward his brother, and toward the wife of his bosom, and toward the remnant of his children which he shall leave:The effeminate and luxurious man would look with ill-favour upon his brother, the wife of his bosom, and his remaining children, "to give" (so that he would not give) to one of them of the flesh of his children which he was consuming, because there was nothing left to him in the siege. "His eye shall be evil," i.e., look with envy or ill-favour (cf. Deuteronomy 15:9). השׁאיר מבּלי, on account of there not being anything left for himself. כּל with בּלי signifies literally "all not," i.e., nothing at all. השׁאיר, an infinitive, as in Deuteronomy 3:3 (see at Deuteronomy 28:48).
So that he will not give to any of them of the flesh of his children whom he shall eat: because he hath nothing left him in the siege, and in the straitness, wherewith thine enemies shall distress thee in all thy gates.
The tender and delicate woman among you, which would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness and tenderness, her eye shall be evil toward the husband of her bosom, and toward her son, and toward her daughter,The delicate and luxurious woman, who had not attempted to put her feet to the ground (had always been carried therefore either upon a litter or an ass: cf. Judges 5:10, and Arvieux, Sitten der Beduinen Ar. p. 143), from tenderness and delicacy - her eye would look with envy upon the husband of her bosom and her children, and that (vav expl.) because of (for) her after-birth, which cometh out from between her feet, and because of her children which she bears (sc., during the siege); "for she will eat them secretly in the want of everything," that is to say, first of all attempt to appease her hunger with the after-birth, and then, when there was no more left, with her own children. To such an awful height would the famine rise!
And toward her young one that cometh out from between her feet, and toward her children which she shall bear: for she shall eat them for want of all things secretly in the siege and straitness, wherewith thine enemy shall distress thee in thy gates.
If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, THE LORD THY GOD;The fifth and last view. - And yet these horrible calamities would not be the end of the distress. The full measure of the divine curse would be poured out upon Israel, when its disobedience had become hardened into disregard of the glorious and fearful name of the Lord its God. To point this out, Moses describes the resistance of the people in Deuteronomy 28:58; not, as in Deuteronomy 28:15 and Deuteronomy 28:45, as not hearkening to the voice of the Lord to keep all His commandments, which he (Moses) had commanded this day, or which Jehovah had commanded (Deuteronomy 28:45), but as "not observing to do all the words which are written in this book, to fear the glorified and fearful name," (viz.) Jehovah its God. "This book" is not Deuteronomy, even if we should assume that Moses had not first of all delivered the discourses in this book to the people and then written them down, but had first of all written them down and then read them to the people (see at Deuteronomy 31:9), but the book of the law, i.e., the Pentateuch, so far as it was already written. This is evident from Deuteronomy 28:60, Deuteronomy 28:61, according to which the grievous diseases of Egypt were written in this book of the law, which points to the book of Exodus, where grievous diseases occur among the Egyptian plagues. In fact, Moses could not have thought of merely laying the people under the obligation to keep the laws of the book of Deuteronomy, since this book does not contain all the essential laws of the covenant, and was never intended to form an independent book of the law. The infinitive clause, "to fear," etc., serves to explain the previous clause, "to do," etc., whether we regard the two clauses as co-ordinate, or the second as subordinate to the first. Doing all the commandments of the law must show and prove itself in fearing the revealed name of the Lord. Where this fear is wanting, the outward observance of the commandments can only be a pharisaic work-righteousness, which is equivalent to a transgress of the law. But the object of this fear was not to be a God, according to human ideas of the nature and working of God; it was to be "this glorified and fearful name," i.e., Jehovah the absolute God, as He glories Himself and shows Himself to be fearful in His doings upon earth. "The name," as in Leviticus 24:11. נכבּד in a reflective sense, as in Exodus 14:4, Exodus 14:17-18; Leviticus 10:3.
Then the LORD will make thy plagues wonderful, and the plagues of thy seed, even great plagues, and of long continuance, and sore sicknesses, and of long continuance.If Israel should not do this, the Lord would make its strokes and the strokes of its seed wonderful, i.e., would visit the people and their descendants with extraordinary strokes, with great and lasting strokes, and with evil and lasting diseases (Deuteronomy 28:60), and would bring all the pestilences of Egypt upon it. השׁיב, to turn back, inasmuch as Israel was set free from them by the deliverance out of Egypt. מדוה is construed with the plural as a collective noun.
Moreover he will bring upon thee all the diseases of Egypt, which thou wast afraid of; and they shall cleave unto thee.
Also every sickness, and every plague, which is not written in the book of this law, them will the LORD bring upon thee, until thou be destroyed.Also every disease and every stroke that was not written in this book of the law, - not only those that were written in the book of the law, but those also that did not stand therein. The diseases of Egypt that were written in the book of the law include the murrain of cattle, the boils and blains, and the death of the first-born (Exodus 9:1-10; Exodus 12:29); and the strokes (מכּה) the rest of the plagues, viz., the frogs, gnats, dog-flies, hail, locusts, and darkness (Exodus 8-10). יעלּם, an uncommon and harder form of יעלם (Judges 16:3; cf. Ewald, 138, a.).
And ye shall be left few in number, whereas ye were as the stars of heaven for multitude; because thou wouldest not obey the voice of the LORD thy God.Israel would be almost annihilated thereby. "Ye will be left in few people (a small number; cf. Deuteronomy 26:5), whereas ye were as numerous as the stars of heaven."
And it shall come to pass, that as the LORD rejoiced over you to do you good, and to multiply you; so the LORD will rejoice over you to destroy you, and to bring you to nought; and ye shall be plucked from off the land whither thou goest to possess it.Yea, the Lord would find His pleasure in the destruction and annihilation of Israel, as He had previously rejoiced in blessing and multiplying it. With this bold anthropomorphic expression Moses seeks to remove from the nation the last prop of false confidence in the mercy of God. Greatly as the sin of man troubles God, and little as the pleasure may be which He has in the death of the wicked, yet the holiness of His love demands the punishment and destruction of those who despise the riches of His goodness and long-suffering; so that He displays His glory in the judgment and destruction of the wicked no less than in blessing and prospering the righteous.
Those who had not succumbed to the plagues and strokes of God, would be torn from the land of their inheritance, and scattered among all nations to the end of the earth, and there be compelled to serve other gods, which are wood and stone, which have no life and no sensation, and therefore can hear no prayer, and cannot deliver out of any distress (cf. Deuteronomy 4:27.).
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:When banished thus among all nations, Israel would find no ease or rest, not even rest for the sole of its foot, i.e., no place where it could quietly set its foot, and remain and have peace in its heart. To this extreme distress of homeless banishment there would be added "a trembling heart, failing of the eyes (the light of life), and despair of soul" (vid., Leviticus 26:36.).
And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life:"Thy life will be hung up before thee," i.e., will be like some valued object, hanging by a thin thread before thine eyes, which any moment might tear down (Knobel), that is to say, will be ever hanging in the greatest danger. "Thou wilt not believe in thy life," i.e., thou wilt despair of its preservation (cf. Job. Deu 24:22).
(Note: "I have never seen a passage which describes more clearly the misery of a guilty conscience, in words and thoughts so fitting and appropriate. For this is just the way in which a man is affected, who knows that God is offended, i.e., who is harassed with the consciousness of sin"' (Luther).)
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.In the morning they would wish it were evening, and in the evening would wish it were morning, from perpetual dread of what each day or night would bring.
And the LORD shall bring thee into Egypt again with ships, by the way whereof I spake unto thee, Thou shalt see it no more again: and there ye shall be sold unto your enemies for bondmen and bondwomen, and no man shall buy you.Last of all, Moses mentions the worst, namely, their being taken back to Egypt into ignominious slavery. "If the exodus was the birth of the nation of God as such, return would be its death" (Schultz). "In ships:" i.e., in a way which would cut off every possibility of escape. The clause, "by the way whereof I spake unto thee, thou shalt see it no more again," is not a more precise explanation of the expression "in ships," for it was not in ships that Israel came out of Egypt, but by land, through the desert; on the contrary, it simply serves to strengthen the announcement, "The Lord shall bring thee into Egypt again," namely, in the sense that God would cause them to take a road which they would never have been again if they had continued in faithful dependence upon the Lord. This was the way to Egypt, in reality such a return to this land as Israel ought never to have experienced, namely, a return to slavery. "There shall ye be sold to your enemies as servants and maids, and there shall be no buyer," i.e., no one will buy you as slaves. This clause, which indicates the utmost contempt, is quite sufficient to overthrow the opinion of Ewald, Riehm, and others, already referred to at pp. 928, 929, namely, that this verse refers to Psammetichus, who procured some Israelitish infantry from Manasseh. Egypt is simply mentioned as a land where Israel had lived in ignominious bondage. "As a fulfilment of a certain kind, we might no doubt adduce the fact that Titus sent 17,000 adult Jews to Egypt to perform hard labour there, and had those who were under 17 years of age publicly sold (Josephus, de bell. Jud. vi. 9, 2), and also that under Hadrian Jews without number were sold at Rachel's grave (Jerome, ad Jeremiah 31). But the word of God is not so contracted, that it can be limited to one single fact. The curses were fulfilled in the time of the Romans in Egypt (vid., Philo in Flacc., and leg. ad Caium), but they were also fulfilled in a horrible manner during the middle ages (vid., Depping, die Juden im Mittelalter); and they are still in course of fulfilment, even though they are frequently less sensibly felt" (Schultz).