THE PENTATEUCH PART V: DEUTERONOMY
Lesson 13: Chapters 27-28
The Sanctions of the Covenant Treaty
How often we fail to recognize the many blessings that You shower down upon us and the little miracles of Your love that escape our attention each day. Thank you, Father, for both Your generous blessings and for Your Fatherly judgments that are meant to call us back to righteousness and away from sin. Give us the wisdom to recognize that Your divine judgments are as much evidence of Your love for us as those blessings which we so greedily long to receive. Please send Your Spirit to guide us in our lesson, Lord, as we pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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Moses went and
told the people all Yahweh's words and all the laws, and all the people
answered with one voice, 'All the words Yahweh has spoken we will carry out!'
Yahweh your God
commands you today to observe these laws and customs; you must keep and observe
them with all your heart and with all your soul.
Moses concluded the giving of his instructions in the Deuteronomic Code in chapter 26. The ethical stipulations of the covenant treaty in the Deuteronomic Code present a series of laws in Moses' second homily that address civil and religious laws that the people must observe when they live in the Promised Land (chapters 12-16). In chapter 27, Moses begins the fourth part of Israel's renewed covenant treaty with Yahweh. This section addresses the sanctions Yahweh will impose against Israel for covenant failures and the blessings for covenant obedience.
Covenant Treaty Format of Deuteronomy
|1. Preamble||Deuteronomy 1:1-5|
|2. Historical Prologue||Deuteronomy 1:6-4:43|
|3. Ethical Stipulations||Deuteronomy 4:44-26:19 (Deuteronomic Code = chapters 12-26)|
|4. Sanctions||Deuteronomy 27:1-28:68|
|5. Succession Arrangements||Deuteronomy 29:1-34:12|
|Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2011 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.|
Since Yahweh is both the Great King and Israel's God, it is Yahweh who is responsible for judging both the covenant successes and failures of His vassal, Israel (Dt 29:24/25-28/29). The covenant treaty renewal ceremony on the Plains of Moab that is taking place in Deuteronomy will be repeated in another covenant renewal ceremony after Joshua has successfully led the Israelites into the land of Canaan. The covenant renewal ceremony in Canaan will take place near Shechem, the place where Yahweh first appeared to Abraham and where he built his first altar to Yahweh in the Promised Land: Abram passed through the country as far as the holy place at Shechem, the Oak of Moreh. The Canaanites were in the country at the time. Yahweh appeared to Abram and said, 'I shall give this country to your progeny.' And there, Abram built an altar to Yahweh who had appeared to him. (Gen 12:6-7).
Chapter 27: The Covenant Renewal Ceremony in the Promised Land
Today, look, I am
offering you a blessing and a curse: a blessing, if you obey the commandments
of Yahweh your God which I enjoin on you today; a curse, if you disobey the
commandments of Yahweh your God and leave the way which today I have marked out
for you, by following other gods hitherto unknown to you.
If he is accursed
who does the work of the Lord negligently, what does he deserve who does not
follow the law at all?
St. Basil the Great, Concerning Baptism, 5
Moses' homilies addressing covenant renewal on the Plains of Moab have two focus points:
When those future events take place, it will be necessary for the Israelites to again renew their commitment to the Sinai Covenant in the land God has given them. The conclusion of the second homily addresses the instructions for the covenant renewal ceremony in the Promised Land and the list of the blessings for covenant obedience and the curses/judgments for covenant disobedience after the Israelites agree to live in obedience to the Sinai Covenant in the Promised Land. Blessings for covenant obedience were promised before the Sinai covenant ratification ceremony in Exodus 23:20-33 and blessings and curses/judgments were listed after the ratification ceremony in Leviticus 26:1-46.
The Display of the Law and the Covenant Renewal Ceremony
1 'Moses and the elders of Israel gave the people this command: 'Keep all the commandments which I am laying down for you today. 2 After you have crossed the Jordan into the country which Yahweh your God is giving you, you must set up tall stones, coat them with line 3 and on them write all the words of this Law [torah = instruction], when you have crossed and entered the country [land] which Yahweh your God is giving you, a country flowing with milk and honey, as Yahweh, God of your ancestors, has promised you. 4 When you have crossed the Jordan, you must erect these stones on Mount Ebal, as I command you today, and coat them with line. 5 There, for Yahweh your God, you must build an altar of stones, on which no iron has been used. 6 You must build the altar of Yahweh your God of rough stones, and on this altar you will present burnt offerings to Yahweh your God, 7 and immolate communion sacrifices and eat them there, rejoicing in the presence of Yahweh your God. On these stones you must write all the words of this Law [torah]; cut them carefully.' [..] = literal translation (The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, pages 529-30).
Notice that the word torah, meaning "instruction," is used twice in this passage. The descriptive phrase, land of milk and honey is found numerous times in the Pentateuch (Ex 3:8, 17; 13:5; 33:3; Lev 20:24; Num 13:27; 14:8; 16:13, 14; Dt 6:3; 11:9; 26:9, 15; 27:3; 31:20). Most of the time the phrase is used to describe the promised abundance of the land of Canaan, but in Numbers 16:13 the disgruntled Israelites use the term to describe Egypt and in verse 14 to accuse God of not leading them into a land of "milk and honey."
This isn't the first time Moses has spoken of Israel's obligation to have a covenant renewal ceremony when they take possession of the Promised Land. Just prior to the beginning of the Deuteronomic Code in 11:26-32, Moses gave instructions for the ceremony. Now, at the conclusion of the Deuteronomic Code, he repeats the command giving additional details for the ceremony of covenant renewal when they take possession of the land of Canaan.
Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim are near the ancient town of Shechem where the Oak of Moreh was located.(1)
Question: What is the historical and theological
significance of having the covenant renewal ceremony near Shechem instead of on
the banks of the Jordan River when the Israelites first cross into Canaan? See Gen 12:1-7. Give three reasons.
Question: Read the instructions in Deuteronomy 11:26-32 and in 27:1-8. What new details does Moses include?
Answer: The people must erect several tall upright stones coated with lime upon which they are to inscribe the Torah (instruction). They must also build an altar of undressed stones (no iron tool can be used to form the stones) upon which they will offer whole burnt offerings and communion offerings to be eaten by the people in a sacred meal.
The covenant renewal ceremony in the Promised Land is less like the covenant renewal ceremony on the Plains of Moab and more like the covenant ratification at Mt. Sinai.
Question: What about the commands for the covenant
renewal ceremony at Shechem in Deuteronomy 11:26-32 and 27:1-8 are similar to
the instructions for the covenant ratification ceremony at Mt. Sinai in Exodus 20:24-25 and 24:3-11?
Question: Does the eating of a sacred meal to seal
the covenant renewal remind you of any covenant renewal ceremony in which you
regularly take part?
Answer: The Eucharist is a New Covenant renewal ceremony in which the participants who eat the sacred meal declare their allegiance to Jesus Christ and their obligation to live in obedience to the New Covenant.
Question: How were the standing stones to be prepared?
Answer: They were to be whitewashed with lime to make the writing of the Law clearly visible.
The directions for building the altar at the covenant renewal ceremony is like the instruction for building an altar that was given in Exodus 20:24-26 prior to the covenant ratification ceremony at Sinai. Later, when Moses ascended Mt. Sinai to receive instructions of building the sacred furniture of the Sanctuary, he is told to build a bronze cover for Yahweh's sacred altar that will encase the stone and earth underneath and is later instructed that only on the Sanctuary altar can sacrifices and offerings be made to Yahweh (Lev 17:1-12). When Solomon's Temple was built the rule about iron tools was extended to the entire edifice with no iron implements used within the Temple complex (1 Kng 6:7), and when Judas Maccabeus rebuilt the altar in the Jerusalem Temple after it had been desecrated by the Greeks, he also used uncut stones for the under part of the altar beneath the bronze firebox. This was the same technique used on the altar in the Jerusalem Temple that Herod the Great rebuilt (1 Mac 4:27; Josephus, The Jewish Wars, 5.225).
The altar to be built on Mt. Ebal, like the altar for the covenant ratification ceremony at Mt. Sinai, was probably a separate altar from the bronze sacrificial altar for the Sanctuary. Since this was to be a one time ceremony never to be repeated at this site, it is possible an exception was made and this was a special altar and not the bronze sacrificial altar of the Sanctuary. Yahweh's Sanctuary was established nearby at Shechem near the site of the first altar Abraham built for Yahweh (Josh 24:25-26).
The instructions that were to be carved on the upright stones were probably the laws of the Deuteronomic Code. Joshua obeyed Moses' instructions and had a covenant renewal ceremony just as Moses described (Josh 8:30-35).
The Twelve Covenant Curses
9 Moses and the Levitical priests then said to all Israel: 'Be silent, Israel, and listen. Today you have become a people for Yahweh your God. 10 You must listen to the voice of Yahweh your God and observe the commandments and laws which I am laying down for you today.' 11 That day Moses gave the people this order: 12 'When you have crossed the Jordan, the following will stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people: Simeon and Levi, Judah and Issachar, Joseph and Benjamin. 13 And the following will stand on Mount Ebal for the curse: Reuben, Gad and Asher, Zebulun, Dan and Naphtali. 14 The Levites will then speak, proclaiming loudly to all the Israelites: (emphasis added)
Moses does not address the people alone in this part of his discourse. He brings the Levitical priests (chief priests) to stand with him because he will not be accompanying the Israelites into the Promised Land and the leaders of the Church will be responsible for carrying out the command for the covenant renewal ceremony. Notice that Moses again repeated the word "today," (verses 1, 4, 9 and 10) emphasizing that the responsibility for living out the covenant obligations rests with the present generation.
Question: With the chief priests descended from Aaron
and the Levities who have the responsibility for carrying the Ark of the
Covenant standing in the valley between the two mountains, how will be twelve
tribes be assembled?
Notice that for the first time since the tribe of Levi was given up by the Israelites and dedicated in service to God (Num 8) that the tribe of Levi is numbered among the other tribes, and the tribe of Joseph is not divided into the two half tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.(2) Those tribes on Mt. Gerizim are the tribes who are descendants of Jacob and Leah (Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar) and Jacob and Rachel (Joseph and Benjamin. Those tribes on Mt. Ebal are descendants of Jacob and Leah (Reuben and Zebulun) Jacob and Zilpah (Gad and Asher), and Jacob and Bilhah (Dan and Naphtali).
Also notice the repeated acclamation "Amen" given by the people. Each "Amen" refers back to the words that have immediately preceded the acclamation and indicates the people's communal and individual assent and agreement to the proclamation. If in the future they fail to keep the covenant obligation, the curse will fall upon them because in the "amen" they indicated their complete understanding and agreement as well as acknowledging God's sovereignty over them in demanding their obedience. The Jewish Talmud (Shabbat 119b) relates that the Hebrew the word "Amen" is an acrostic formed from the first letter of three Hebrew words: El Melech Ne'eman ("God is a trustworthy King"). The word "Amen" appears for the first time in the Book of Numbers (5:22), and in the Book of Revelation, Jesus is called "The Amen," (Rev 3:14) identifying Jesus as "The Trustworthy King" to whom the New Covenant people of God owe their allegiance!(3)
Curse #1: 15 "Accursed be anyone who makes a carved or cast idol, a thing detestable to Yahweh, a workman's artifact, and sets it up in secret." And the people are all to respond by saying, Amen.
This curse repeats the covenant prohibition in the Decalogue and elsewhere (Ex 20:4, 23; Dt 4:15-20; 5:8; Lev 19:4) and is applied to communal as well as private worship, whether a depiction of a false god of an image of Yahweh. It is a command that is central to the covenant in worshiping Yahweh and no other god and that Yahweh cannot be depicted by any image made by human hands since Yahweh's image is man himself (Gen 1:27).
Curse #2: 16 "Accursed be anyone who treats father or mother dishonorably." And the people must all say, Amen.
Curse #3: 17 "Accursed be anyone who displaces a neighbor's boundary mark," And the people must all say, Amen.
This curse affirms the previous covenant prohibition (Dt 19:14).
Curse #4: 18 "Accursed be anyone who leads the blind astray on the road." And the people must all say, Amen.
The next two laws address the abuse of disadvantaged or disabled members of society. The prohibition in verse 18 may be literal as well as metaphorical, including any attempt to mistreat or cheat the blind (also see Lev 19:14).
Curse #5: 19 "Accursed be anyone who violates the rights of the foreigner, the orphan and the widow." And the people must all say, Amen.
Laws commanding the ethical treatment of foreigners, widows and orphans have been repeated many times in the Law (i.e. 24:17).
The next four curses are directed against various kinds of sexual abuses which are listed in the Holiness Code in Leviticus chapter 18. The sexual act is a holy blessing meant for the union between a man and his wife who act in cooperation with God to bring forth life. Any abuse of this gift is a grievous sin.
Curse #6: 20 "Accursed be anyone who has sexual intercourse with his father's wife and withdraws the skirt of his father's cloak from her." And the people must all say, Amen.
The expression "to uncover his father's cloak" or "to cover a woman with the cloak" describes metaphorically the taking of a woman in the intimacy of marriage. Here, the withdrawing or uncovering of the father's cloak is a euphemistic expression describing the invasion of the privacy of the sexual relationship between the father and his wife by the son (also see Lev 18:7-8 and Dt 23:1).
Curse #7: 21 "Accursed be anyone who has sexual intercourse with any kind of animal." And the people must all say, Amen.
This curse is for the crime of bestiality. Like several of the other curses, this is a crime that could occur in private and escape the discovery of the elders. Nevertheless, the crime does not escape God's attention (also see Ex 22:18 and Lev 18:23).
Curse #8: 22 "Accursed be anyone who has sexual intercourse with his sister, the daughter of his father or of his mother." And the people must all say, Amen.
Curse #9: 23 "Accursed be anyone who has sexual intercourse with his mother-in-law." And the people must all say, Amen.
Curse #10: 24"Accursed be anyone who secretly strikes down his neighbor." And the people must all say, Amen.
Curse #11: 25 "Accursed be anyone who accepts a bribe to take an innocent life." And the people must all say, Amen.
Curse #12: 26 "Accursed be anyone who does not make the words of this Law [torah] effective by putting them into practice." And the people must all say, Amen.'
The twelfth curse is a summary of all the other curses and is applied to the covenant member who fails to take positive action in obedience to the demands of the Law.
Question: How will St. Paul refer to the twelfth
cruse in Galatians 3:10-14? Also see Dt 21:23 .
Answer: St. Paul writes that the extent of the law is so all embracing and so impossible to keep perfectly that man cannot claim justification before God on the basis of "works of the law." The all-encompassing nature of the Old Covenant Law and its condemnation turns us to Christ for deliverance. He "redeemed us from the curse of the law," having become a curse for us in allowing Himself to be "hung on a tree" (see Dt 21:23). We cannot be justified through obedience to the Law but we can be justified through our faith in Christ Jesus.
Chapter 28: Blessings for Covenant Obedience and Judgments for Covenant Failures
Perhaps you have
heard of the prophecy of Christ's death. You ask to learn [from Moses] what is
set forth concerning the cross. Not even this is passed over. It is displayed
by the holy men with great plainness. For first Moses predicts it, and that
even with a loud voice, when he says, "You shall see your Life hanging before
your eyes and shall not believe.
St. Athanasius on Deuteronomy 28:66; On the Incarnation 35
The Covenant Blessings
1 'But if you faithfully obey the voice of Yahweh your God, by keeping and observing [doing] all his commandments, which I am laying down for you today, 2 Yahweh your God will raise you higher than every other nation in the world, and all these blessings will befall and overtake you, for having obeyed the voice of Yahweh your God.
3 You will be blessed in the town and blessed in the countryside; 4 blessed, the offspring of your body, the yield of your soil, the yield of your livestock, the young of your cattle and the increase of your flocks; 5 blessed, your basket and your kneading trough. 6 You will be blessed in coming home, and blessed in going out. 7 The enemies who attack you, Yahweh will defeat before your eyes; they will advance on you from one direction and flee from you in seven. 8 Yahweh will command blessedness to be with you, on your barns and on all your undertakings, and he will bless you in the country [land] given to you by Yahweh your God. 9 From you Yahweh will make a people consecrated to himself, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of Yahweh your God and follow his ways. 10 The peoples of the world, seeing that you bear Yahweh's name, will all be afraid of you. 11 Yahweh will make you abound in possessions; in the offspring of your body, in the yield of your cattle and in the yield of your soil, in the country [land] which he swore to your ancestors that he would give you. 12 For you Yahweh will open his treasury of rain, the heavens, to give your country [land] its rain at the right time, and to bless all your labors. You will make many nations your subjects, yet you will be subject to none. 13 Yahweh will put you at the head, not at the tail; you will always be on top and never underneath, if you listen to the commandments of Yahweh your God, which I am laying down for your today, and then keep them and put them into practice, 14 not deviating to right or to left from any of the words which I am laying down for you today, by following other gods and serving them.' [..] = literal translation (The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, pages 532-33; emphasis added).
The words "Yahweh your God" have been repeated frequently throughout Moses' homilies, but notice the frequency of the use of this phrase throughout chapters 27-29. Yahweh isn't just the God of the Israelites' ancestors; Yahweh is their God. Also notice that this section begins and ends with the reminder that these commandments are being given to the people "today" (verses 1, 13 and 14). This section frames the blessings within the context of three conditional statements in the beginning, the middle and the end: if you faithfully obey ... if you keep the commandments ... and if you listen to the commandments of Yahweh your God which I am laying down for you today and then keep them and put them into practice, not deviating to right or to left ... (verses 1, 9, and 13). The next section of the covenant judgments/curses also begins with a conditional statement: But if you do not obey the voice of Yahweh your God, and do not keep and observe all his commandments and laws ... (Dt 28:15).
The promised blessing of rain for the crops described in the imagery in verse 12 is reminiscent of Psalm 104:3 and 13 where the passage describes God as personally watering the mountains from his heavenly abode. The passage ends in verse 14 with another admonition to be obedient, never deviating from the path marked out.
Question: What do all the promised blessings have in
common and what is missing?
Answer: All the promised blessings are temporal; they are not eternal.
Question: What else do you notice that is associated
with Israel receiving the promised temporal blessings? See 26:17-18; 27:10, 26;
28:1-2, 9, 13-14.
Answer: The blessings are conditional upon Israel's obedience to Yahweh's commands as stipulated in the covenant document.
Question: When did Jesus teach the New Covenant
blessings? How were those blessings different from the Old Covenant
blessings? See Mt 5:1-12 and Lk 6:20-23.
Answer: Jesus taught the New Covenant blessings in the Beatitudes atop the Mt. of Beatitudes and also in His sermon when He came down from the summit and taught crowds of people. Jesus' promised blessings were both spiritual and eternal.
Prophecy of Divine Judgment for Covenant Failures
15 'But if you do not obey the voice of Yahweh your God, and do not keep and observe all his commandments and laws which I am laying down for you today then all these curses will befall and overtake you. 16 You will be accursed in the town and accursed in the countryside; 17 accursed, your basket and your kneading trough; 18 accursed, the offspring of your body, the yield of your soil, the young of your cattle and the increase of your flock. 19 You will be accursed in coming home, and accursed in going out.
The judgments in verses 15-19 are in contrast to the blessings promised in verses 3-6. It is uncertain if this section is to be included in the covenant renewal ceremony near Shechem or if this discourse concerning divine judgment for covenant failures is only addressed to the Israelites on the Plains of Moab. Notice in both the blessings and the judgments that the conditional statements in verses 1 and 15 are followed by promises of good things (for the blessings) and sufferings (for the curses).
20 'Yahweh will send a curse on you, a spell, an imprecation on all your labors until you have been destroyed and quickly perish, because of your perverse behavior, for having deserted me. 21 Yahweh will fasten the plague on you, until it has exterminated your from the country [land] which you are about to enter and make your own. 22 Yahweh will strike you down with consumption, fever, inflammation, burning fever, drought, wind-blast, mildew, and these will pursue you to your ruin. 23 The heavens above will be brass, the earth beneath you iron. 24 Your country's [land's] rain Yahweh will turn into dust and sand; it will fall on your from the heavens until you perish. 25 Yahweh will have you defeated by your enemies; you will advance on them from one direction and flee from them in seven; and you will be a terrifying object-lesson to all the kingdoms of the world. 26 Your carcass will be carrion for all wild birds and all wild animals, with on one to scare them away. [..] = literal translation (The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, page 534).
Neglecting the Law or direct disobedience to the Law would result in afflictions and calamities which will finally result in death (verse 24). While health is a promised covenant blessing, pestilence and epidemics will afflict a disobedient and unrepentant people (verses 21-22). Not only will the people be afflicted; the land will also suffer. The rains promised as covenant blessings will cease, no rain clouds will produce a hot, scorching sky and the ground will become as hard as iron and unable to support plant life. The once fertile land will be come a desert (verses 23-24). The curse judgments in the last verses 23-24 are the converse of the promised blessings contained in verses 7 and 10. Man who was created to receive the blessings of fertility and mastery over the earth (Gen 1:28) will become infertile, the land will also become infertile and the earth will have mastery over the unfaithful Israelites who will be pursued by enemies, die and return to the dust of the earth.
Verse 25 is in contrast to verse 7-the blessing is that Israel's enemies will flee in seven directions (the number seven symbolizing completeness), but the curse is that Israel's defeat will be complete as they flee from their enemies in seven directions. Verse 26 is reminiscent of the donkey carcass in the film "The Passion of the Christ"-the unclean body of an unclean animal that was symbolic of the condition of Judas' soul and dead body and the bird that attacked the bad thief crucified next to Jesus. Verses 25-26 describe defeat in battle and the ultimate curse-death. The conditions will be so devastating that there is no one left to provide a proper burial for all the bodies of the dead.
Diseases and the Consequences of Defeat
27 'Yahweh will strike you down with Egyptian ulcers, with swellings in the groin, with scurvy and the itch, for which you will find no cure. 28 Yahweh will strike you down with madness, blindness, distraction of mind, 29 until you grope your way at noon like a blind man groping in the dark, and your steps will lead you nowhere. 30 You will never be anything but exploited and plundered, with no one to save you. 31 Get engaged to a woman, another man will have her; build a house, you will not live in it; plant a vineyard, you will not gather its first-fruits. 31 Your ox will be slaughtered before your eyes and you will eat none of it; your donkey will be carried off in front of you and not be returned to you; your sheep will be given to your enemies, and no one will come to your help. 32 Your sons and daughters will be handed over to another people, and every day you will wear your eyes out watching for them, while your hands are powerless. 33 A nation hitherto unknown to you will eat the yield of your soil and of all your hard work. You will never be anything but exploited and crushed. 34 You will be driven mad by the sights you will see. 35 Yahweh will strike you down with foul ulcers on knee and leg, for which you will find no cure-from the sole of your foot to the top of your head.
The specific identification of the four diseases listed is uncertain. Egyptian ulcers or boils may be the disease with which God afflicted the Egyptians in the sixth plague (Ex 9:9). The description in verse 28 of madness, blindness and mental derangement could be referring to the symptoms of advanced syphilis. In verse 30, the afflicted will become easy prey for robbers and will be at the mercy of those who enemies live outside the Law.
Question: What is the significance of the sufferings
described in verse 31? See Dt 20:5-7.
Answer: The three conditions listed in verse 30 are all the exemptions from military service in time of war that are listed in Deuteronomy 20:5-7.
Verses 31-34 describe sufferings that would come after defeat by a foreign power. Verse 35 mentions another disease that affects the skin. It is reminiscent of the disease that Job suffered from in Job 2:7. It is possible that this as yet unknown foreign power may be the Greeks (they knew of the Assyrians and the Babylonians). Alexander the Great conquered Asia Minor, the Levant and Egypt in the 2nd century BC. His Greek generals divided Alexander's empire after his death (332 BC). Judah was passed back and forth between the Greek kingdom of Egypt and the Greek kingdom of Syria. The Seleucid Greeks of Syria were particularly harsh overlords, even attempting to completely erase the Old Covenant faith in favor of Greek culture and the worship of the Greek gods (200 – 142 BC). Led by the Maccabees, the Judeans revolted against their Seleucid rulers and were finally able to establish a brief period of independence from 141 – 63 BC.
Exile, Failed Harvests and the Decline in National Status
36 Yahweh will send away both you and the king whom you have appointed to rule you to a nation unknown either to your or to your ancestors, and there you will serve other gods, made of wood and stone. 37 And you will be the astonishment, the byword, the laughing-stock of all the peoples where Yahweh is taking you. 38 You will cast seed in plenty on the fields but harvest little, since the locust will devour it. 39 You will plant and till your vineyards but not drink the wine or gather the grapes, since the grub will eat them up. 40 You will grow olive trees throughout your territory [land] but not anoint yourself with the oil, since your olive trees will be cut down. 41 You will father sons and daughters but they will not belong to you, since they will go into captivity. 42 All your trees and the whole yield of your soil will be the prey of insects. 43 The foreigners living with you will rise higher and higher at your expense, while you yourself sink lower and lower. 44 You will be subject to them, not they to you; they will be the ones at the head, and you the one at the tail. 45 All these curses will befall you, pursue you and overtake you until you have been destroyed, for not having obeyed the voice of Yahweh your God by keeping his commandments and laws which he has laid down for you. 46 They will be a sign and a wonder over you and your descendants for ever.
The prophecy in verses 36-37 is that as a nation no longer under God's divine protection, the Israelites will be defeated in war and the people and their king will be exiled into a foreign land. The older Israelites listening to Moses' dire prediction could remember servitude in Egypt as children and their sons and daughters had heard the stories of the tribes' suffering under foreign domination. As Yahweh's faithful vassals the Israelites are promised His protection from enemies in the Promised Land, but if they fail in their obedience to their covenant obligations, God will withdraw His protection and they will become the prey of neighboring states.
Deuteronomy 28:43-44 The foreigners living with you will rise higher and higher at your expense, while you yourself sink lower and lower. 44 You will be subject to them, not they to you; they will be the ones at the head, and you the one at the tail.
These judgments are the reversal of the blessings in verse 13.
Question: When were these judgments of defeat and
exile fulfilled historically? See 2 Kng 17:1-23; 2 Chr 36:11-21; Jer 34:1-3;
Answer: The Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel and exiled the people eastward into Assyrian lands from which they did not return but where they were absorbed into the Gentile nations. The Southern Kingdom of Judah suffered the same fate at the hands of the Babylonians.
The destruction and exile of the ten Northern Kingdom took place in 722 BC and the destruction of the Southern Kingdom of Judah and the exile of the two remaining tribes took place in 587/6 BC. The exiles of Judah were allowed to return in 539 BC. In 63 BC the Roman Empire made Judah a province of the Roman Empire, renaming the territory Judea. Rome exploited the resources of Judea, and began the deforestation of the entire region. There was a third fulfillment of the judgment, as prophesied by Jesus, when the Judeans revolted against Rome in 66 AD. The Roman army conquered Jerusalem and burned the Temple in 70 AD. Any of the Jewish towns that had resisted the Romans were burned and their inhabitants were sold into slavery and exiled into other Roman provinces.
The prophet Jeremiah recounted these same judgments, writing that the unfaithful covenant people would become an object of horror to all the neighboring nations (Jer 24:8-10).
Prophecies of War, Siege and the resulting Horrors
47 'For not having joyfully and with happy heart served Yahweh your God, despite the abundance of everything, 48 you will have to serve the enemy whom Yahweh will send against you, in hunger, thirst, lack of clothing and total privation. He will put an iron yoke on your neck, until he has destroyed you. 49 Against you Yahweh will raise a distant nation from the ends of the earth like an eagle taking wing: a nation whose language you do not understand, 50 a nation grim of face, with neither respect for the old, nor pity for the young. 51 He will eat the yield of your cattle and the yield of your soil until you have been destroyed; he will leave you neither wheat, nor wine, nor oil, nor the young of your cattle, nor increase of your flock until he has made an end of you. 52 He will besiege you inside all your towns until your loftiest and most strongly fortified walls collapse, on which, throughout your country [land], you have relied. He will besiege you inside all the towns throughout your country, given you by Yahweh your God. 53 During the siege and in the distress to which your enemy will reduce you, you will eat the offspring of you own body, the flesh of the sons and daughters given you by Yahweh your God. 54 The gentlest and tenderest of your men will scowl at his brother, and at the wife whom he embraces, and at his remaining children, 55 not willing to give any of them any of his own children's flesh, which he is eating; because of the siege and the distress to which your enemy will reduce you in all your towns, he will have nothing left. 56 The most refined and fastidious of your women, so refined, so fastidious that she has never ventured to set the sole of her foot to the ground, will scowl at the husband whom she embraces, and at her son and daughter, and at the after-birth when it leaves her womb, and at the child to which she has given birth-57 she will hide away and eat them, so complete will be the starvation resulting from the siege and the distress to which your enemy will reduce you in all your towns.
Question: What is the contrast between verses 47-48?
Answer: Verses 47-48 reveal the contrast between obediently serving Yahweh, their Great King, with a happy heart and with every need fulfilled in the Promised Land as opposed the judgment of disloyalty to Yahweh resulting in invasion by foreign powers and serving earthly kings who will abuse the people.
Deuteronomy 28:49-50 Against you Yahweh will raise a distant nation from the ends of the earth like an eagle taking wing: a nation whose language you do not understand, a nation grim of face, with neither respect for the old, nor pity for the young. This verse may be a prophecy of the rise of the Roman Empire and the Roman oppression of Judea. The eagle was Rome's imperial symbol. The city of Rome was not founded until c. 753 BC, therefore, at this point in Israel's history (c. the late 14th/early 13th century BC) the Israelites had never heard of the Romans nor had they been exposed to Latin. In 63 BC, the Romans made Judea a Roman province.(4)
Verses 52-57 describe the horrors of a prolonged siege and the resulting cannibalizing of the town's own children. It is a terrible event that is described by Josephus during the Roman siege of Jerusalem in the spring and summer of 70 AD: There was a certain woman that dwelt beyond Jordan, her name was Mary ... She was eminent for her family and her wealth, and had fled away to Jerusalem with the rest of the multitude, and was with them besieged therein at this time ... and it was now impossible for her to find anymore food, while the famine pierced through her very bowels and marrow, when also her passion was fired to a degree beyond the famine itself ... She then attempted a most unnatural thing; and snatching up her son, who was a child sucking at her breast, she said, "O, thou miserable infant! For whom shall I preserve thee in this war, this famine, and this sedition? As to the war with the Romans, if they preserve our lives, we must be slaves! This famine also will destroy us, even before that slavery comes upon us: --yet are these seditious rogues more terrible than both the other. Come on; be thou my food ..." As soon as she had said this she slew her son, and then roasted him, and ate the one half of him, and kept the other half by her concealed (Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, 6.3.4 [201-208]).
The Curses of Egypt and the Revoking of the Promises to the Patriarchs
58 'If you do not keep and observe all the words of this Law [torah], which are written in this book, in the fear of this glorious and awe-inspiring name: Yahweh your God, 59 Yahweh will strike you down with monstrous plagues, you and your descendants: with plagues grievous and lasting, diseases pernicious and enduring. 60 He will afflict you with all the maladies of Egypt which you used to dread, and they will fasten on you. 61 What is more, Yahweh will afflict you with all the plagues and all the diseases not mentioned in the book of this Law [torah], until you have been destroyed. 62 There will only be a small group of you left, you who were once as numerous as the stars of heaven. [..] = literal translation (The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, page 536-37).
The mention of the book of the Torah (verses 58 and 61) is either a reference to the Deuteronomic Code or to Moses' entire instruction which is being recorded and will become the Book of Deuteronomy
Question: What did Yahweh promise the Israelites if
they remained faithful and obedient in Deuteronomy 7:12-15? What is the
significance of this passage compared to Deuteronomy 7:12-15?
Also see Gen 15:5; 22:17; 26:4; Ex 32:13.
Answer: He promised them that He would be true to the covenant oath He made to their ancestors and that He would bless them, increasing their numbers, giving them all their material needs, protecting them from illness and that He would not afflict on them the evil plagues of Egypt. In this passage, Yahweh is revoking those promised blessings and protections, including the promise to the Patriarchs to make their descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven.
62 There will only be a small group of you left, you who were once as numerous as the stars of heaven. God always preserves a "faithful remnant" to carry on His plan of salvation. The first "faithful remnant" was the eight souls saved during the Great Flood judgment. There will also be a "faithful remnant" preserved in the return from the Babylonian exile, and the "faithful remnant" of the Old Covenant people of God will become the founders of Jesus' Kingdom of Heaven on earth, the Catholic (universal) Church of the New Covenant people of God.
The Conclusion of the Judgment Curses
63 'For not having obeyed the voice of Yahweh your God, just as Yahweh used to delight in making you happy and in making your numbers grow, so will he take delight in ruining you and destroying you. You will be torn from the country [land] which you are about to enter and make your own. 64 Yahweh will scatter you throughout every people, from one end of the earth to the other; there you will serve other gods made of wood and stone, hitherto unknown either to you or to your ancestors. 65 Among these nations there will be no repose for you, no rest for the sole of your foot; there Yahweh will give you a quaking heart, weary eyes, halting breath. 66 Your life ahead of you will hang in doubt; you will be afraid day and night, uncertain of your life. 67 In the morning you will say, "How I wish it were evening!" and in the evening you will say, "How I wish it were morning!", such terror will grip your heart and such sights you will see! 68 Yahweh will send you back to Egypt, either by ship or by road which I promised you would never see again. And there you will want to offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as serving men and women, but no one will buy you.'
The last sections of the judgment-curses are not told as a "could happen" but as a "when it does happen." The judgment curses in verses 33-68 were fulfilled when the Romans viciously put down the Jewish Revolt of 66 AD. The resulting invasion, sieges of towns, complete annihilation of the opposing Jewish forces, and the selling of the Jewish survivors into slavery and exile through the Roman Empire was literally the end of the world for the Jews. It was the beginning of what the Jews call the Great Diaspora.
|Prophecies in Deuteronomy 28:33-68||Prophecies Fulfilled by the Romans|
|49 Against you Yahweh will raise a distant nation from the ends of the earth like an eagle taking wing: a nation whose language you do not understand, a nation grim of face, with neither respect for the old, nor pity for the young.||In 66-62 BC, Roman general Pompey began his campaign in the east, conquering Pontus, Bithynia and the Greek Seleucid kingdom of Syria. In 63 he besieged and conquered Jerusalem, beginning Rome domination of Judah, which became the Roman province of Judea. The imperial eagle was the symbol of Rome. An eagle statue was place above the Temple entrance by Herod the Great (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 17.6.2-3).|
|51 He will eat the yield of your cattle and the yield of your soil until you have been destroyed; he will leave you neither wheat, nor wine, nor oil, nor the young of your cattle, nor increase of your flock until he has made an end of you.||As with their other provinces, the Romans stripped Judea of its resources to feed its empire.|
|52 He will besiege you inside all your towns until your loftiest and most strongly fortified walls collapse, on which, throughout your country [land], you have relied. He will besiege you inside all the towns throughout your country [land], given you by Yahweh your God.||In 66 AD, the Jews revolted against Rome. In 67AD, four Roman legions descended upon Judea, besieging and destroying any town that resisted, beginning in the Galilee.|
|53 During the siege and in the distress to which your enemy will reduce you, you will eat the offspring of you own body, the flesh of the sons and daughters given you by Yahweh your God.||Josephus wrote an account of the Jews eating their children during the Roman siege (The Wars of the Jews, 6.3.4 [201-208]).|
|You will be torn from the country [land] which you are about to enter and make your own. 64 Yahweh will scatter you throughout every people, from one end of the earth to the other; there you will serve other gods made of wood and stone, hitherto unknown either to you or to your ancestors. 65 Among these nations there will be no repose for you, no rest for the sole of your foot ...||
Almost a million Jews were sold into slavery throughout
the Roman Empire. Josephus: ... and because the very soldiers grew weary of
killing them, and because they hoped to get some money by sparing them ... and
sold the rest of the multitude, with their wives and children, and every one
of them at a very low price, and that because such as were sold were very
many ... the number of those sold was immense (The Wars of the Jews, 6.8.2)
Now the number of those that were carried captive during this whole war was collected to be ninety-seven thousand; as was the number of those that perished during the whole siege eleven hundred thousand (The Wars of the Jews, 6.9.3).
|Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2011 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.|
End of the Second Homily
28:69/29:1 These are the words of the covenant which Yahweh ordered Moses to make with the Israelites in Moab, in addition to the covenant which he had made with them at Horeb.
This concludes Moses' second homily and the Sanctions section of the Covenant Treaty. The last verse does not suggest that this is a treaty in addition to the Sinai Covenant. There is still only one covenant treaty between God and Israel-a covenant treaty that is a renewal resource for every generation. This verse only instructs that the additional instruction given by Moses in his homilies on the Plains of Moab are in addition to and are just as binding as the Law spoken by God through Moses at Mt. Sinai.
Questions for group discussion:
Question: Compare the covenant judgments of war and exile in Deuteronomy 28:47-68 with Jesus' prophecies of the destruction of Judea and the Temple in Matthew 23:33-24:25, prophecies that were fulfilled by the Romans in 70 AD.
Question: In Jesus' description of the Last Judgment in Matthew 25:31-46, are the blessings and judgments temporal or eternal? Now that you know what is required of you to receive the gift of eternal salvation, you cannot claim that you did not understand the love of God and love of your brother that God requires of you (see Mt 19:16-26; Mt 22:35-40). How does this understanding change your life?
1. The covenant renewal site was west of the Jordan River near Shechem and about 40 miles north of Jerusalem. An important east-west trade route passed between the two mountains (Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy, page 328).
2. Beginning with the census in the Book of Numbers, the Levites are not numbered with the other tribes. The division of the tribe of Joseph into the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh continue the numbering of twelve tribes (see Num 1-2; 13:1-15).
3. Also see The Jewish Book of Why, vol. I, page 152.
4. The Romans are first mentioned in 1 Mac 8 when Judas Maccabeus allied himself with Rome. The traditional date for the founding of the city of Rome is 753 BC. After having conquered the Italian Peninsula, in the second century BC the Romans began their world conquests: in 148 BC Macedonia became a Roman province; Carthage and Corinth were destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC; in 67 BC the Romans conquered Crete and in 66-62 BC the Romans gobbled up Asia Minor, including the states of Syria, and Judea. In 30 BC Egypt became a Roman province and Rome's ally, Herod the Idumean, was made King of the Jews in 37 BC. After Herod's death, Roman governors ruled Judea until the Jewish revolt in 66 AD.
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2011 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.
CCC 1716; 1725-28