Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy 28

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Deuteronomy 28

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Blessings and Curses Revisited 

In this lengthy chapter (which parallels Leviticus 26), God describes in great detail what would happen to the nation of Israel if they obeyed His words, and what would happen if they disobeyed Him. Verses 2-14 point out the specific blessings for obedience. They would include food in abundance (verses 3-6, 8), safety from enemies (verse 7), healthy children and abundant livestock and produce (verses 11-12). These blessings would also enable Israel to give to many other nations, without having to borrow from them (verse 12). All in all, Israel would become a "holy" people (verse 9), "the head and not the tail" (verse 13).

On the other hand, disobedience would bring about severe punishment. And that is just what happened. We know from history that ancient Israel and Judah later suffered some of the specific curses listed, including military attacks, when the Assyrians and the Babylonians besieged and conquered Samaria and Jerusalem and enslaved the two nations. But we know, too, that an even greater period of devastating punishment is still ahead of us. The Great Tribulation of the end time will be worse than any calamity or holocaust of the past (see Matthew 24:21; Jeremiah 30:7; Daniel 12:1; Deuteronomy 31:29). It will afflict modern Judah, i.e., the Jewish people, and the modern descendants of ancient Israel, especially the United States (Manasseh) and Great Britain along with other Commonwealth nations, such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand (Ephraim). (See our free booklet The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy.) God will use for this punishment the dreadful curses spelled out in Deuteronomy 28 as well as military attacks and enslavement at the hands of a new global superpower, the resurrected Roman Empire, called "Babylon" in the book of Revelation.

In particular, there will be famine due to food shortages and destruction through locusts, worms and other natural disasters, unhealthy livestock, and droughts (verses 17-18, 23-24, 38-40, 42). The people of the land will become incurably sick, both physically and mentally (verses 21-22, 27-28, 34-35, 59-62). They will be conquered by a foreign power and become slaves-some of them will be brought as captives of war to distant lands, including Egypt, never to see their country again (verses 32-33, 36, 41, 49 ff., 68; compare Isaiah 11:11). During the siege of their cities, some will even resort to cannibalism (Deuteronomy 28:52-57). This actually occurred during the siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 as it did at other times (compare 2 Kings 6:24-30), and it will occur again-only this time, it will be much more severe and widespread. Finally, the peoples of Israel and Judah will be scattered "among all peoples.... and there you shall serve other gods.... And among those nations you will find no rest.... You shall fear day and night, and have no assurance of life" (verses 64-66).

God will bring such terrible punishment on modern Israel and Judah to teach them a much-needed lesson. Of those to whom much is given, much is required - and punishment is worse for those who fail to do right when they ought to know better (compare Luke 12:47-48). Israel and Judah, blessed with divine aid and unparalleled wide access to Scripture, should have been "holy" nations-an example to the rest of the world. But they will end up actually sinking lower than the gentiles in their rebellion against God (see 2 Chronicles 33:9). That is why God will use the "worst of the Gentiles" to punish them (Ezekiel 7:24). But some, while in captivity, will come to their senses and repent, and God will accept them, free them and bring them back to the land which their fathers possessed, to prosper there (Deuteronomy 30:1-5, 9), while placing "all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you" (verse 7).