Bible Commentary: Leviticus 26

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Leviticus 26

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Blessings and Curses 

God had made promises of national greatness to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph that were unconditional - He committed Himself to bestow them on their descendants to remain true to His Word. However, God had not as yet bound Himself to any time frame in this regard except that the national greatness had to occur in this age in order for the Israelites to possess the "gate of their enemies" (see Genesis 22:17). Since Israel was not even a nation until the time of Moses in the mid-15th century B.C., this allowed a nearly 3,500-year window until this end time for the birthright blessings of national greatness to be poured out. So would God bestow the blessings at the beginning of that window--that is, to the newly formed nation of Israel here heading toward the Promised Land? It appears that He would have--if Israel had met the condition of continued obedience as outlined in this chapter, Leviticus 26, and its parallel passage, Deuteronomy 28. (Again, the blessings themselves were unconditional, but God was free to attach conditions as to the time in which He would give them.)

Right up front in Leviticus 26, God stresses prohibitions against idolatry and Sabbath breaking, the very sins for which Israel would be punished by national captivity under the Assyrians more than 700 years later (compare Ezekiel 20:18-24). Then the Eternal lays forth the conditions that had to be met in order for them to begin receiving the birthright blessings right away: "If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them, then I will give you..." (verse 3). Perfect weather and soil conditions would yield one bumper crop after another. They would have so much that they would have to get rid of their vast surplus to make room for the next incredible harvest (verses 4-5). Their country would not be overrun by deadly snakes, swarms of locusts or disease-bearing tse-tse flies, which plague the African continent. Savage lions and tigers would not ravage small villages, terrifying and devouring their inhabitants, as happens in some areas of Africa and India today. And the Israelites would dwell in continuous peace at home, with no fear of invasion by enemy armies (verse 6). Blessed in natural resources and with power to repel all military aggression (verses 7-8), they would soon constitute the most powerful and prestigious nation in the world. This was the birthright that Israel had been promised!

Disobedience, however, would bring a different result--for a time, at least. The Israelites would be victims of sickness and disease, drought, crop failures, famine and pestilence. They would be invaded, defeated, plundered and, as they had been in Egypt, enslaved. Sadly, these exact kinds of curses came on them time after time during the period of the judges. Yet they failed to learn their lesson. The period of the divided monarchy saw Israel wallowing ever more in the worship of Baal and other false gods. And finally, the rest of the curses of Leviticus 26 befell them, including national captivity and a 2,520-year delay in receiving the birthright blessings (see "Birthright Blessings Delayed for 2,520 Years" ).

At last, God did bestow the birthright of national greatness on the modern descendants of Israel as He had promised--and the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, other British--descended areas and, to a lesser extent, the other northwest European nations have been tremendously blessed as a result (for details, download the free booklet The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy). But the timing is still in His hands. He is not required to continue the blessings indefinitely in this age. Indeed, many prophecies make it clear that the curses of Leviticus 26 are again going to befall the modern-day descendants of Israel--in a worse way than ever before. "Indeed all the nations will wonder, 'Why has the Lord done thus to this land? What caused this great display of anger?' They will conclude, 'It is because they abandoned the covenant of the Lord, the God of their ancestors'" (Deuteronomy 29:24-25, New Revised Standard Version).

Some conclude that because God divorced ancient Israel and because the Sinai marriage covenant ended with the death of Christ, God no longer deals with His physical people based on the principles of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. Yet, while the Husband/wife relationship based on the Sinai covenant has ended between God and physical Israel, the God/people relationship, based on much earlier promises to Abraham as well as other covenants God made with Israel besides the Old Covenant marriage, has certainly not ended.

Indeed, when Leviticus 26 was given, the Old Covenant marriage was already in existence-making the blessings and curses distinct from it. This becomes even clearer when we consider that immediately following virtually the same terms in Deuteronomy 28, we are told, "These are the words of the covenant which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant which He made with them in Horeb" (29:1). The principles delineated in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, then, are still in force.

We should also consider that many of God's laws are self-enforcing, meaning that breaking them brings about punishing consequences: "Your own wickedness will correct you, and your backslidings will reprove you" (Jeremiah 2:19). For example, earlier in Leviticus we read of God's instructions about which animal flesh is suitable for human consumption. Eating those animals God designates as "unclean" and unfit for eating can bring about any number of diseases and other health problems on those who disregard His instructions (you can read what several medical doctors and nutritionists say in our free booklet What Does the Bible Teach About Clean and Unclean Meats?).

Similarly, flaunting God's laws regarding marriage and sexual relationships can lead to crippling and deadly epidemics such as AIDS and other sexually transmissible diseases along with other consequences like fatherless homes and resulting increases in poverty, crime, child abuse and substance abuse. Furthermore, we can't ignore the fact that a drop in moral standards weakens the very fabric of any society and, if not reversed, makes a people or nation a tempting target for military attack and conquest-as has happened repeatedly throughout history. Whenever we're tempted to think God's laws don't apply to us or are no longer in force, we should consider their benefit and the possible unforeseen consequences of violating them. This is certainly part of the warning inherent in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28.