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:
Verse 1. - The blessing. The condition sine qua non of all enjoyment of the Divine bounty was obedience on the part of the people to the word and Law of Jehovah their God. This rendered, the blessing would come on them rich and full, and abide with them (cf. vers. 2, 9, 13, 14).
And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God.
Verse 2. - The blessings about to be specified are represented as personified, as actual agencies coming upon their objects and following them along their path.
Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field.
Verses 3-7. - The fullness of the blessing in all the relations of life, external and internal, is presented in six particulars, each introduced by the word "blessed." Israel should be blessed in the house and in the field, in the fruit of the body, in the productions of the soil and the increase of herd and flock, in the store and in the use of what nature provided, - in all their undertakings, whether in peace or in war, at home or abroad. Basket and thy store; rather, basket and kneading-trough (see Exodus 8:3; Exodus 12:34); "the basket" representing the store in which the fruits of the earth were laid up, the "kneading-trough" the use of these for the supply of daily needs (ver. 6; cf. Numbers 27:17; Psalm 121:8).
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.
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.
Verse 8. - The effect of the blessing should be seen, not only in the supremacy of Israel over all opposition, but in the abundance of their possessions, in the success of their undertakings, and in the respect in which they should be held by all nations. Storehouses. The Hebrew word (אֲסָמִים), which occurs only here and in Proverbs 3:10, is properly thus rendered. It comes from a root which signifies to lay up.
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.
Verse 9. - The Lord would establish them to be a people holy unto himself, in whose Blessed condition all would see that they were indeed his people, favored by him.
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.
Verse 10. - Thou art called by the name of the Lord; rather, the Name of Jehovah called upon thee. The Name of God is God himself as revealed; and this Name is called or named upon men when they are adopted by him, made wholly his, and transformed into his likeness. This blessing Israel enjoyed as a nation - "Theirs was the adoption and the glory" (Romans 9:4) - but it was theirs only in symbol and in shadow (Hebrews 10:1); the reality belongs only to the spiritual Israel, and this came to men in all its fullness when he who is "the image of the invisible God" appeared and set up his tent among men, full of grace and truth (John 1:12, 14).
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.
Verse 11. - The Lord shall make thee plenteous in goods; literally, shall make thee to abound for good; i.e. shall not only give thee abundance, but cause it to redound to thy felicity.
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.
Verse 12. - His good treasure; equivalent to his treasure-house, i.e. heaven, whence blessing should be poured out upon them (cf. Deuteronomy 11:14; Leviticus 26:4, 5). He would so fructify their ground, and so bless their toil in cultivating it, that they should become rich, and be able to lend to other nations, and not need to 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:
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.
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.
Verse 14. - (Cf. Deuteronomy 5:29; Deuteronomy 11:28.) Moses ends as he began, by reminding them that the condition of enjoying the blessing was obedience to the Divine Law, and steadfast adherence to the course in which they were called to walk.
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:
Verses 15-68. - The curse. In case of disobedience and apostasy, not only would the blessing be withheld, but a curse would descend, blighting, destructive, and ruinous. As the blessing was set forth in six announcements (vers. 3-6), the curse is proclaimed in form and number corresponding (vers. 16-19). The curse thus appears as the exact counterpart of the blessing. The different forms in which the threatened curse should break forth are then detailed in five groups.
Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field.
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.
Verses 20-26. - First group. The curse should come upon them in various forms of evil, filling them with terror and dismay, and threatening them with utter ruin (cf. Malachi 2:2). Verse 20. - Vexation; rather, consternation; the deadly confusion with which God confounds his enemies. The same word is used in Deuteronomy 7:23; 1 Samuel 14:20. Rebuke; rather, threatening.
The LORD shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until he have consumed thee from off the land, whither thou goest to possess it.
Verses 21, 22. - The afflictive visitations here named are such as destroy life; but the distinctive character of each it is not easy exactly to define. The pestilence is probably a generic term for any fatal epidemic. In the LXX. it is usually represented by the general word Odoacer, death. Consumption; literally, wasting; the designation of any species of tabes or marasmus. Fever (דַּלֶּקֶת, from דָּלַק, to be parched, to glow); inflammation (חַחְתֻר, from חָרַר, to burn); burning fever (קַדַּחַת, from קָדַח, to kindle): different species of pyrexia, the distinction between which has not been determined. The sword. Instead of חֶרֶב, sword, the Vulgate, Arabic, and Samaritan adopt the reading חֹרֶב, heat, drought (Genesis 31:40); but all the other versions support the reading of the received text, and there is no reason why it should be departed from, more especially as drought is threatened in the verse that follows. Blasting and with mildew; diseases that attack the grain (Amos 4:9); the former (שִׁדָּפון, from שָׁדַּפ, to scorch, to blast) a withering or scorching of the ears caused by the east wind (Genesis 41:23); the latter (יֵרָקון, from יָרַק, to be yellowish) the effect produced by a hot wind, which turns the ears yellow, so that they are rendered unproductive.
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.
Verses 23, 24. - Terrible drought is here threatened; no rain should fall (cf. Leviticus 26:19); but instead thereof dust, both light as powder and heavy as sand, should fall upon them. The allusion is probably to those clouds of dust and sand which often fill the air in Palestine, when the heat is intense and there has been no rain for a season; the wind then becomes a vehement sirocco, and the air is filled with sand and dust, and is like the glowing heat at the mouth of a furnace (Robinson, 'Bib. Res.,' 2:123; Thomson, 'Land and the Book,' 2:311).
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.
Verses 25, 26. - Utter defeat in battle (the opposite of the blessing promised, ver. 7) and dispersion among the nations are threatened, with the utmost indignity to those who were slain, in their bodies being left unburied to be devoured by birds of prey and wild beasts (cf. 1 Kings 14:11; Psalm 79:2; Jeremiah 7:33; Jeremiah 16:4, etc.). Shalt be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth; literally, shalt be a tossing to and fro to all the kingdoms, etc.; "a ball for all the kingdoms to play with" (Schultz; cf. 2 Chronicles 29:8; Jeremiah 15:4; Jeremiah 24:9; Jeremiah 29:18, 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.
Verses 27-34. - Second group. The Lord should afflict them with various loathsome diseases, vex them with humiliating and mortifying calamities, and give them over to be plundered and oppressed by their enemies. Verse 27. - Botch of Egypt; the form of leprosy peculiar to Egypt (Exodus 9:9, etc.), elephantiasis, "AEgypti peculiare malum" (Pliny, 'Nat. Hist.,' 26:1-5). Emerods; tumors, probably piles (cf. 1 Samuel 5.). Scab; probably some kind of malignant scurvy. Itch; of this there are various kinds common in Egypt and Syria.
The LORD shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart:
Verses 28, 29. - Besides bodily ailments, mental diseases should come upon them - insanity, incapacity, confusion of mind, so that even at midday they should grope as a blind man gropes, i.e. under the most favorable circumstances they should be unable to find the right path, to hit on the right and safe course. It is of mental blindness that the word is here used (cf. Isaiah 42:19; Lamentations 4:14; Zephaniah 1:17; Romans 11:25; 2 Corinthians 4:4). Thou shalt grope (cf. Isaiah 59:10). Thus afflicted in body and mind, their state should be one only of oppression and calamity, with no hope of deliverance.
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.
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.
Verses 30-34. - The spoliation of them should be utter. All most dear and precious to them should be the prey of their enemies. Wife, house, vineyard, herd, and flock should be ruthlessly taken from them; sons and daughters should be carried into captivity, and their eyes should look for them in rain, with constant and wasting longing (cf. Jeremiah 8:20; Amos 5:11; Micah 6:15; Zephaniah 1:13; 2 Chronicles 29:9; Nehemiah 11:36; Jeremiah 5:15). Verse 30. - And shalt not gather the grapes thereof; margin, "Hebrew, profane." This is the literal rendering of the verb; the meaning is that given in the text. A vineyard was, for the first three years after it was planted, held sacred (Leviticus 19:23); after that, its consecration ceased, and the fruit might be gathered for common use (cf. Deuteronomy 20:6), and it was said to be profaned.
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.
Verse 32. - And there shall be no might in thine hand. Keil proposes to render here, "Thy hand shall not be to thee towards God;" and others, "Thy hand shall not be to thee for God," i.e. instead of God. But אֵל here is not "the Mighty One, God; but simply" might, strength, power," as in Genesis 31:29; Proverbs 3:27; Micah 2:1. Literally rendered, the words are, And not for might is thy hand, the meaning of which is well expressed in the Authorized Version.
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.
Verses 35-46. - Third group. Moses reverts to the calamities already threatened (ver. 27), for the purpose of leading on the thought that, as such diseases separated the sufferer from the society of his fellows, so Israel should be separated from God and brought under the dominion of strangers as a punishment for rebellion and apostasy. Verse 35. - A sore botch; an incurable leprosy, affecting not merely the joints and extremities, but the whole body. Such an affliction would exclude a man from all fellowship and from all covenant privileges of the nation. So Israel, rendered unclean by their sin, should be cut off from covenant union with 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.
Verses 36, 37. - As a consequence, God would bring them under subjection to a foreign power, and they should be made to serve other gods, wood and stone (Deuteronomy 4:28), and would become an object of horror, a proverb, and a byword among the nations (cf. 1 Kings 9:7; Jeremiah 24:9). Yen. 38. - Even in their own land the curse would overtake them and rest upon them in all their interests and relations.
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.
Thou shalt plant vineyards, and dress them, but shalt neither drink of the wine, nor gather the grapes; for the worms shall eat them.
Verse 39. - Worms; probably the vine weevil, the convolvulus or involvulus of the Latin writers (Pliny, 'Nat. Hist.,' 17:47; Care, ' De Re Rust.,' c. 95; Plaut., 'Cistell.,' 4:2), the ἴξ er ἴψ of the Greeks (Bochart, 'Hieroz.,' pt. it. bk. 4. e. 27).
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.
Verse 40. - Thine olive shall cast his fruit. Some would render here "shall be plundered or rooted out," taking the verb יִשַּׁל as the Niph. of שָׁלַל; but the majority regard it as part of the verb נָשַׁל, and render "shall drop off," or as in the Authorized Version. There is some doubt, however, whether the verb נָשַׁל can be used intransitively.
Thou shalt beget sons and daughters, but thou shalt not enjoy them; for they shall go into captivity.
All thy trees and fruit of thy land shall the locust consume.
Verse 42. - Consume; literally, take possession of. The name given here to the ravaging insect is not the same as in ver. 38; but there can be no doubt it is the locust that is intended.
The stranger that is within thee shall get up above thee very high; and thou shalt come down very low.
Verses 43, 44. - (Cf. vers. 12, 13.)
He shall lend to thee, and thou shalt not lend to him: he shall be the head, and thou shalt be the tail.
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.
Verse 46. - These curses would be for a sign and for a wonder, exciting astonishment and dismay in the beholder, and showing that it was indeed the hand of God that was upon the rebellious nation. Forever. This, though it may imply the final and utter rejection of Israel as a nation, does not preclude the hope of restoration of a part of Israel as individuals, or as a remnant remaining in or returning to faith and obedience (cf. Isaiah 10:22; Isaiah 6:13; Romans 9:27; Romans 11:5).
Because thou servedst not the LORD thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things;
Verses 47-57. - Fourth group. In order still more to impress on the minds of the people the evil and danger of rebellion and apostasy, Moses enlarges on the calamities that would ensue on their being given up to the power of the heathen. Because they would not serve Jehovah their God, they should be delivered to be servants to their enemies.
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;
Verses 49, 50. - The description here given of the enemy to whom Israel was to be subjected, applies more or less closely to all the nations whom God raised up from time to time, to invade Israel and chastise the people for their rebellion - the Chaldeans (cf. Jeremiah 48:40; Jeremiah 49:22; Ezekiel 17:5-7; Habakkuk 1:6, etc.), the Assyrians (cf. Isaiah 5:26; Isaiah 38:11; 23:19), the Medes (Isaiah 13:17, 18); but there are features in the description which apply especially to the Romans; and the horrors delineated in the latter part of the section (vers. 52-57) carry one's thoughts immediately to the terrible scenes which transpired during the wars of Vespasian and Titus with the Jews as narrated by Josephus ('De Bell. Jud.,' 6; see Milman, ' Hist. of the Jews,' bk. 16.). Verse 49. - As the eagle flieth. The eagle was the common ensign of the legion in the Roman army; and by the Latin writers aquila (eagle) is sometimes used for a legion (Caes., 'Hisp.,' 30; cf. Matthew 24:28).
A nation of fierce countenance, which shall not regard the person of the old, nor shew favour to the young:
Verse 50. - A nation of fierce countenance; literally, firm or hard of face; i.e. obdurate and determined (cf. Proverbs 21:29; Daniel 8:23).
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.
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:
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:
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,
Verse 56. - So intense should be the hunger, that the delicate and sensitive woman, brought up in luxury, and who would not set her foot on the ground lest she should be fatigued by the exertion or offended by coming in contact with the base soil, but when she went abroad must be carried in a litter or borne by a camel or an ass, - even she should break through all restraints of delicacy and affection, and would secretly devour the very infant she had borne during the siege.
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.
Verse 57. - Her young one; literally, her after-birth. The Hebrew suggests an extreme of horror beyond what the Authorized Version indicates.
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;
Verses 58-68. - Fifth group. Even these fearful calamities would not be the consummation of their punishment. If they should be obstinate in their rebellion; if they would not observe to do all that the Law delivered by Moses enjoined on them if they ceased to reverence and obey Jehovah, their God; - then should come upon them the curse in full measure, and long-continued chastisement should show how grievous had been their sin. Verse 58. - This book. Not the Book of Deuteronomy, which was not then written, but the Book of the Law, the Torah, delivered by Moses to Israel from God; and of which he had been, in his addresses to the people, recapitulating some of the principal points (cf. vers. 60, 6l). That thou mayest fear, etc. It was not mere outward observance of the Law, not the mere "doing" of what was enjoined that was required, but the doing of it heartily and sincerely in the fear of the Lord, in the fear of him who had revealed himself to them by the glorious and awful Name, Jehovah, their God (cf. Leviticus 24:11).
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.
Moreover he will bring upon thee all the diseases of Egypt, which thou wast afraid of; and they shall cleave unto thee.
Verses 60, 61. - The diseases of Egypt are the plagues sent on Pharaoh and his people, as recorded in Exodus 7. - 11. Besides these, other plagues, not recorded in the Book of the Law, should come on rebellious Israel, so that they should be almost utterly destroyed.
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.
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.
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.
Verse 63. - (Cf. Deuteronomy 30:9; Jeremiah 32:41.) He, whose joy it had been to do them good, should rejoice over their destruction (cf. Proverbs 1:26).
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.
Verse 64. - Those of them that survived the plagues that should come upon them, and the horrors of the siege, should be scattered amongst all nations to the ends of the earth, and there subjugated to the utmost indignities and sufferings.
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:
And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life:
Verse 66. - Thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; literally, Thy life shall be hung up before thee; i.e. shall be like an object suspended by a thread which hangs dangling before the view, ready to fall or to be cut down at any moment. Comp. -
"Omnia sunt hominum tenui pendentia filo
Et subito casu quae valuere ruunt."
(Ovid, 'Epp. ex Ponto,' 4:3, 35.)
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.
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.
Verse 68. - Worst of all, they should be again reduced to bondage, carried back to Egypt, put up for sale as slaves, and be so utterly despicable that no one would purchase them. Bring thee into Egypt again. "If the Exodus was the birth of the nation of God as such, the return would be its death" (Schultz; cf. Hosea 8:13; Hosea 9:3). With ships. They came out of Egypt by land, as free men; they should be carried back imprisoned and cooped up in slave-ships. By the way whereof I spake unto thee, Thou shalt see it no mere again. This does not refer to their being carried to Egypt in ships as different from the way by which they had come out from it, but simply to the fact that they should be carried back thither, contrary to what was expected when they so triumphantly came forth from it. There ye shall be sold; literally, shall sell yourselves; i.e. give yourselves up to be sold as slaves. Egypt may be here, as Hengstenberg suggests, "the type of future oppressors;" but there seems no reason why the passage should not be taken literally. It is a fact that, after the capture of Jerusalem by Titus, the Jews were in large numbers carried into Egypt, and there subjected to most ignominious bondage; and in the time of Hadrian, multitudes of Jews were sold into slavery (Josephus, 'De Bell. Jud.,' 6:09, 2; cf. Philo, 'Flacc.' and 'Leg. ad Caium.').