But it shall come to pass, if you will not listen to the voice of the LORD your God…
1. Look, first, at the intensity of the sufferings which it denounces upon the Jewish race. The prophet seems to labour under the weight of the theme, and strives to give it adequate expression, as though it were beyond his power. There is scarcely anything that could go to heighten human anguish bodily and mental that is not thrown into the frightful conglomeration, to make up such an assemblage of miseries as was hardly ever elsewhere known or imagined. Dante's pictures are terrific, but they are dispersed and distributed into portions, and every man has his own torment, from which other sufferers are exempt. But Moses concentrates his, and pours them all in one terrible mixture on the same devoted head. War, pestilence, and famine in their extremest terrors combine to swell the bitter grief, until they rise to those intolerable anguishes in which the bonds of society are dissolved, human sympathies are quenched, natural affection obliterated, and society transformed into a herd of ravening wolves, preying on one another without conscience and without pity. And this horrid state of things is to be without respite, affording no moment of relief; so that men are driven to madness, and rave with the frantic incoherence of despair. And now, if we turn to the page of history, we find the correspondence exact to a wonderful degree. No more revolting picture of human misery, and of the demoralisation and unhumanising effect of extreme distress is anywhere to be found in the annals of the world than that which is exhibited in the last days of Jerusalem as the accounts of it have come down to us. What in the prophecy might have seemed antecedently impossible, the faithful record of history has shown to be possible, because actual.
2. Look next at their dispersion, almost as wonderful as their miseries. This, too, Moses explicitly foretells (vers. 64, 65). Alone of peoples that inhabit the earth, foreigners everywhere, having no country that they call their own, and dwelling in all countries as a distinct element in their society, nay, always a society that adheres to general society only by a kind of parasitical life, sucking strength from its substance without assimilating to its character, it is a sort of mistletoe that drapes the branches of trees, and lives upon their sap, but sends no roots into the earth to draw from the soil a life of its own.
3. And now, finally, look at his preservation. I mean his preservation as a Jew. His physiognomy everywhere tells the tale of his lineage. And yet never was a people so unfavourably situated for the preservation of its identity. They did not go out in colonies to any considerable extent. Units they have been, floating like waifs and strays upon the great ocean of human society. Yet wherever he strays, there is the Jew, unabsorbed, unamalgamated, unmistakably a Jew. National bounds hedge in nations, and with some admixtures preserve substantially national marks and qualities. But this is a nation that has no such protection, without a country, without a home. Yet it remains a nation; and there is not another nation in all the limits of civilisation today that can boast so pure a blood, so unmixed and genuine a pedigree.
1. A lesson of danger. If the Israelites were punished beyond other men, it was because they had been favoured beyond other men. Privilege and responsibility are correspondent and parallel. The sins of Christians are far worse than the like sins of heathens, more criminal, more dangerous (Romans 11:20, 21).
2. A lesson of duty. None can look upon the ancient people of God in their fallen condition, it might seem, without sensibility and compassion. God has made their fall an occasion of benefit to the Gentile world. "We have obtained mercy through their unbelief." The fall broke through the wall that threatened to confine Christianity within the narrow precincts of Jewish pride and prejudice, and gave it to "have free course and be glorified." Surely, however, it becomes us not to look coldly or scornfully on the disfranchised heir.
(R. A. Hallam, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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:
WEB: But it shall come to pass, if you will not listen to the voice of Yahweh your God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command you this day, that all these curses shall come on you, and overtake you.