Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. 28 Enforcement of Blessings and Curses
With no title this discourse is clearly a continuation of ch. 26, but whether through Deuteronomy 27:9 f. or not is uncertain.
The contents are the blessings and curses which shall follow respectively on Israel’s observance and neglect of the Law; already announced in Deuteronomy 11:26-28, Deuteronomy 27:12 f. Parallel conclusions are found to the Codes of E and H; Exodus 23:20-33, Leviticus 26:3-45.
Driver justly remarks that ch. 28 shows ‘no appreciable literary dependence’ on the former of these; and ‘though the thought in Leviticus 24 is in several instances parallel to that in Deuteronomy 28, and here and there one of the two chapters even appears to contain a verbal reminiscence of the other (cp. Deuteronomy 28:22-23; Deuteronomy 28:53; Deuteronomy 28:65 b with Leviticus 26:16; Leviticus 26:19; Leviticus 26:29; Leviticus 26:16 respectively), the treatment in the two cases is different, and the phraseology, in so far as it is characteristic, is almost entirely distinct, Leviticus 26 representing affinities with Ezekiel, Deuteronomy 28 with Jeremiah; in fact the two chapters represent two independent elaborations of the same theme.’
It is not easy to account for the structure of ch. 28. The Blessings in Deuteronomy 28:1-14 find their antitheses within the first section on the Curses, Deuteronomy 27:15-26, but these are elaborated to a far greater degree than the Blessings, and are further developed in two additional sections, Deuteronomy 28:47-57 and Deuteronomy 28:58-68, cleanly separate in form from what precedes them and from each other. For the grounds of this analysis and for signs within some of the sections of smaller expansions see the notes below.
Most striking is the way in which the Discourse after predicting Israel’s ultimate exile swings back to describe calamities to the people while still on their own land. The captivity in Deuteronomy 28:32 is only partial, and Israel itself is still at home lamenting it. But after the exile of the nation and the king is foretold in Deuteronomy 28:36 f, Deuteronomy 28:38 ff. return to the aggravation of the evil conditions inflicted on the people in its own land till it be destroyed (among them once more, Deuteronomy 28:41 as in Deuteronomy 28:32, the captivity of its sons and daughters). Deuteronomy 28:47-57 are a gruesome description of the siege of Israel’s cities by a foreign invader; but Deuteronomy 28:58-62 repeat the curses of plague, already threatened, which shall continue till thou be destroyed. Then with a change to the Pl. address comes another prediction of banishment (Deuteronomy 28:63) and, with a return to the Sg., a poignant description of sufferings in exile (Deuteronomy 28:64-67), rising at last to the climax (the most terrible thing D could threaten) of a return to Egypt, the house of bondmen, where however Israelites shall now not be worth purchase as slaves (Deuteronomy 28:68).
That there are some Later intrusions or displacements can hardly be denied; e.g. Deuteronomy 28:35 and Deuteronomy 28:41. That the curses are far more elaborated than the blessings, and that, if within Deuteronomy 28:15-46, Deuteronomy 28:26-26 be removed, the parallel with the blessings in Deuteronomy 28:1-14 becomes much closer, might be reasonably held as proofs of later expansions which also include Deuteronomy 28:48-68. But this must remain more or less uncertain in view of the discursive style of D which so often returns on itself, as well as in view of the predominance of threat over promise in pre-exilic prophecy.
The curses which affect the land and the people while in possession of it can hardly be so late as the Exile. But also, in the opinion of the present writer, there is not in the threats of invasion, nor even in those of exile, anything that conflicts with a pre-exilic date. These threats have all sufficient foundation in previous experiences of Israel. And it may be fairly argued that had Deuteronomy 28:58-68 been written after the Exile it could hardly have contained the threat of the flight of the people by ships to Egypt to sell themselves there. Nor is there in the Discourse any such promise of restoration to the exiled people, being penitent, as is found in Deuteronomy 4:20-40 and is taken there as a proof of an exilic date. In D’s own absolute manner the exile of Israel is regarded as final. The whole Discourse therefore may well be pre-exilic.
The style throughout is that of D, though as we should expect from the subject, there are terms and phrases not used elsewhere by D nor indeed in the O.T.
Finally, it is clear from 2 Kings 22:13 and Jeremiah 11:3 that some such terrible curses were appended to the Book of the Law discovered in the Temple in 621; which as we have seen was at least the Code of D.
Therefore certainly in part, and possibly in whole, this Discourse belongs to D. Cp. Kuenen, Hex. § 7, 21 (2), ‘not to any appreciable extent interpolated.’ On the other side Staerk and Steuernagel find the ch. a compilation from many sources, some of them late; and so to a smaller extent Bertholet.
The designations of Israel’s God are interesting: 27 times Jehovah only and almost always when some action (mostly of judgement) is attributed to Him; 13 times the deuteron. Jehovah thy God and this almost always in connection with the people’s duty to His Law and Service or with His gift of the land to them. The distinction is on the whole logical.
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:1. For the connection see on Deuteronomy 27:9 f. Parallels in Deuteronomy 11:13, Deuteronomy 15:5.
set thee on high] See on Deuteronomy 26:19.
1–14. The Blessings
Parallels in Deuteronomy 7:12-24, Deuteronomy 11:13-15; Deuteronomy 11:22-25. On the assurance of material blessings as the consequence of obedience to the commandments of God see the word of Jesus, Matthew 6:33.
And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God.2. overtake] This vb. is used of the avenger, Deuteronomy 19:6. A man’s goodness as well as his sin is sure to find him out, even when he does not expect this: see Matthew 25:37.
Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field.3–6. Six forms of blessing, each introd. by the pass. part, of the vb. to bless. They cover Israel’s life: in town and field, in their offspring, crops and cattle, annual harvests and daily bread, all their movement out and in. The structure of the first two and last three is uniform: with 3 accents. The longer third, Deuteronomy 28:4, has been expanded; fruit of thy cattle does not appear in LXX nor in the parallel Deuteronomy 28:18, and is probably a gloss from Deuteronomy 28:11.
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.4. Cp. Deuteronomy 7:13, and notes there on increase and young.
Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store.5. basket] See on Deuteronomy 26:2.
kneading-bowl] See Dri. on Exodus 8:3. Cp. mill, Deuteronomy 24:6.
Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out.6. Cp. Deuteronomy 31:2, Joshua 14:11, 1 Kings 3:7, Psalm 121:8.
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.7. smitten before thee] See Deuteronomy 1:42.
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.8. shall command] Heb. has the jussive, command; it is uncertain which we should read; upon thee, lit. with thee.
barns] Only here and Proverbs 3:10. Cp. above, Deuteronomy 15:10.
and he shall bless thee] LXX (except some cursives) omits.
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.9. holy] See Deuteronomy 7:6, and note on Holiness, p. 108. Here (as the context shows) the meaning is not ethical, but = set apart for Himself, therefore inviolate; cp. Jeremiah 2:3.
if thou shalt keep] Rather, for (ex hypothese) thou wilt be keeping. Cp. Dri.; Marti.: in case thou shalt. So there is no need to omit the clause with Steuern. and Staerk.
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.10. thou art called by the name of the Lord] Lit. the name of Jehovah is called over thee, as that of thine owner. Other instances of the figure in 2 Samuel 12:28, Amos 9:12, Jeremiah 7:10 f., Deuteronomy 14:9, Deuteronomy 15:16, etc., Isaiah 13:19.
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.11. make thee plenteous for good] Lit. make thee to have an excess, or surplus, of prosperity—through the fruit of thy body, etc.
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.12. his good treasury the heaven] As in R.V. marg. Cp. Genesis 1:7; Genesis 7:11; Genesis 8:2; Job 38:22 (treasuries of snow and hail); Jeremiah 10:13; Book of Enoch, 60:11–22. On the rain see Deuteronomy 11:11; Deuteronomy 11:17; on the work of thine hand, i.e. in the field, see Deuteronomy 14:29.
and thou shalt lend, etc.] See on Deuteronomy 15:6.
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:13. the head, and not the tail] Isaiah 9:14; Isaiah 19:15.
only] Heb. raḳ; see on Deuteronomy 10:15. Here = nothing but.
if thou shalt] Rather (as in Deuteronomy 28:9), for thou wilt, or in case thou shalt.
to observe and to do] See on Deuteronomy 4:6, Deuteronomy 5:32.
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.14. turn aside, etc.] Deuteronomy 5:32. For you read thee. Sam., Gk., Syr. go after other gods] Deuteronomy 6:14, Deuteronomy 8:19, Deuteronomy 13:2 (3).
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:15–20. For the terminology see notes on Deuteronomy 28:1-7.
20a forms with 25 a clear antithesis to Deuteronomy 28:7, but is more elaborate than the latter. For cursing cp. Malachi 2:2; Malachi 3:9; for discomfiture see on Deuteronomy 7:23; rebuke is found only here. On for to do (lit. which thou shalt do) see Deuteronomy 14:29; until thou be destroyed, cp. Deuteronomy 28:24; Deuteronomy 28:45; Deuteronomy 28:51; Deuteronomy 28:61, Deuteronomy 7:23.
20b (from and until thou perish) is taken by some as an expansion. On perish quickly see Deuteronomy 4:16, Deuteronomy 11:17; for evil of thy doings cp. Hosea 9:15, Isaiah 1:16, Jeremiah 4:4 + Jeremiah 4:17 times. Forsaken me, yet Moses is the speaker, cp. Deuteronomy 7:4.
15–46. The Curses
The opening Deuteronomy 28:15-20, correspond to the blessings in Deuteronomy 28:1-7, except that there are no antitheses to Deuteronomy 28:1 b and Deuteronomy 28:2 b, and that the curse on basket and kneading-bowl precedes that on fruit of thy body, etc. Then the Discourse leaves the limits it had observed in the remainder of the blessings, Deuteronomy 28:8-14, and while here and there it gives the exact contrast of these blessings (cp. Deuteronomy 28:23 f. with Deuteronomy 28:12 a, Deuteronomy 28:25 with Deuteronomy 28:7 b, Deuteronomy 28:37 and Deuteronomy 28:46 with Deuteronomy 28:10, Deuteronomy 28:43 f. with Deuteronomy 28:12 b, Deuteronomy 28:13 a), the rest is a detailed antithesis to the summary blessing in 11; and diseases, calamities to man and beast, failures of seed and harvest, losses of children and property, and even exile, are set forth in detail.
The opinion that Deuteronomy 28:26-37 and Deuteronomy 28:41 are later additions is plausible, not because they contain predictions of exile but because they elaborate the rest; and this rest, Deuteronomy 28:21-25 (or 26), Deuteronomy 28:38-40 and Deuteronomy 28:42-46, more nearly corresponds to Deuteronomy 28:8-14. In view of the repeating style of D it is impossible to say whether some even of those vv. are original or expansions; there are no sufficient grounds for the detailed analysis by Steuernagel.
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.
The LORD shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until he have consumed thee from off the land, whither thou goest to possess it.21. pestilence] Heb. deber, a general word (originally = death); in J, Exodus 5:3; Exodus 9:15, Hosea 13:14, Amos 4:10. See Baldensperger, PEFQ, 1906, 97 ff. LXX here θάνατος.
whither thou goest in to possess it] The usual phrase in the Sg. passages; see on Deuteronomy 6:1. For the corresponding Pl. phrase see Deuteronomy 4:26.
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.22. Seven Plagues, four on men, and three on their crops. On the former see Leviticus 26:16, and consult A. Macalister, art. ‘Medicine’ in Hastings’ D.B.
consumption] Heb. shaḥepheth; from the meaning of the corr. Ar. saḥaf, ‘to affect with consumption of the lungs,’ this is usually conceived as phthisis, but Macalister, from the connection here, thinks more likely a wasting fever of the Mediterranean or Malta type. LXX ἀπορία.
fever] Heb. ḳaddaḥath, lit. kindling, LXX πυρετὸς; cp. Luke 4:38, John 4:52. ‘May be malarial fever’ (Macalister).
inflammation] Heb. dalléḳeth, lit. burning, LXX ῥῖγος. ‘Possibly … some form of ague,’ but ‘perhaps indeed typhoid’ (Macalister).
fiery heat] Heb. ḥarḥur, lit. burning or parchedness, LXX ἐρεθισμός, ‘irritation’; ‘such as erysipelas, only this is not very common in Palestine. It might be one of the exanthemata’ (Macalister).
the sword] Heb. ḥereb, LXX A F, etc., φόνος, LXX B, etc., omit. But with Sam., Vulg. and R.V. marg. we may read ḥoreb, dryness; either (as in the similarly emended text of Zechariah 11:17, cp. Job 30:30) a withering of the body, or, in harmony with the following, drought of the earth.
blasting] Heb. shiddaphôn, mostly the effect of the Sirocco (see Jerusalem, i. pp. 12, 20 f.). Hence the LXX ἀνεμοφθορία.
mildew] Heb. yeraḳôn, wanness, lividness; LXX ὤχρα.
And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron.23. Cp. Leviticus 26:19 : heaven as iron, earth as brass.
The LORD shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed.24. The Sirocco (Sherḳiyeh), as the present writer has more than once encountered it in Judaea, brings up a fog of dust as dense and fine as a sea-mist, but very destructive. Until thou be destroyed, see Deuteronomy 28:20.
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.25. See on Deuteronomy 28:7; Deuteronomy 28:20 a.
tossed to and fro] Rather, for a trembling or a horror (Heb. leza‘avah). So the v. does not necessarily imply exile. Cp. Jeremiah 15:4; Jeremiah 24:9; Jeremiah 29:18; Jeremiah 34:17.
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.26. Jeremiah 7:33; cp. Jeremiah 16:4, Jeremiah 19:7, Jeremiah 34:20.
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.27. the boil of Egypt] Cp. P, Exodus 9:9 with Driver’s note. One of the skin-diseases common in Egypt. Boil, Heb. sheḥîn; Eg. sḥn, ‘an abscess.’ Some think of small-pox, others of elephantiasis. But it may be the bubonic plague; see next note.
emerods] LXX ἕλκος Αἰγ. εἰς τὴν ἕδραν. Rather, as R.V. marg., tumours; Heb. ‘ophalim, swellings. Probably the buboes of the bubonic plague (so Macalister). On this see HGHL, 157 ff.
scurvy] Heb. garab (Ar. garab = mange), Leviticus 21:20; Leviticus 22:22; LXX ψώρα ἀγρία, Vulg. scabies. ‘Favus’ (Macalister).
itch] Heb. ḥeres, Leviticus 21:20, LXX κνήφη, Vulg. prurigo.
The LORD shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart:28. Cp. Zechariah 12:4; astonishment, better, dismay.
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.29. The mental weakness and even infatuation which possess nations and individuals physically debilitated lead to their oppression by stronger peoples; the details of which are illustrated in the next Deuteronomy 28:30-34.
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.30. Cp. Deuteronomy 20:5-7. The Heb. text employs a more violent term.
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.32. Judah suffered from a large deportation of her people by Sennacherib in 701. On any of the conflicting estimates of the deportations under Nebuchadrezzar, there must have remained in the land a majority of the people, lamenting, as this v. describes, the exile of the rest. See Jerusalem, ii. 266 ff.
hand] Many MSS read hands; cp. Nehemiah 5:5.
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:33. thou knowest not] So of the land of the invading nation, Jeremiah 14:18; Jeremiah 15:14; Jeremiah 17:4; Jeremiah 22:28.
So that thou shalt be mad for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see.34. Cp. Deuteronomy 28:28; mad, rather driven mad.
35 breaks the connection between Deuteronomy 28:34; Deuteronomy 28:36, and is more in place after 27, q.v. on boil. Here sore boil on knees and legs points to the ‘joint-leprosy,’ a species of elephantiasis; cp. Job 2:7 f., Deuteronomy 7:3-6, Deuteronomy 17:7, Deuteronomy 19:17; Deuteronomy 19:20, Deuteronomy 30:17.
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.
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.36. The Lord bring thee] The Heb. vb. is a jussive.
thy king] The first Jewish king to be deported seems to have been Jehoiakin in 597 b.c., 2 Kings 24:8 ff. But cp. 2 Chronicles 33:10-13 on Manasseh; and for the probable fact underlying this statement see Jerusalem, ii. 184.
there shalt thou serve other gods] See Deuteronomy 28:64, and Deuteronomy 4:28.
And thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword, among all nations whither the LORD shall lead thee.37. a proverb] Rather, a taunt.
byword] Only here, Jeremiah 24:9, 1 Kings 9:7, 2 Chronicles 7:20; lit. the object of biting remarks.
shall lead thee away] So in Deuteronomy 4:27.
Thou shalt carry much seed out into the field, and shalt gather but little in; for the locust shall consume it.38. Here the Discourse returns to Israel’s misfortunes on their own land, and the connection seems to be with Deuteronomy 28:15-24 (or 25), to which Deuteronomy 28:38-44 are more or less parallel.
38–40. Consumption of corn by locusts and of grapes by worms, and casting of olives. For these products see on Deuteronomy 7:13. Locust, Heb. ’arbeh, properly locust-swarm. Worm, Heb. tola‘ath; the grub which ruins vines, Gk. ἴψ or ἶξ (Strabo, xiii. i. 64), Lat. convolvulus (Pliny, H.N. xvii. 47), is the wine-weevil (Knobel). On cast see on Deuteronomy 7:1.
41 breaks the connection between Deuteronomy 28:40; Deuteronomy 28:42, and is out of place; cp. Deuteronomy 28:32.
Thou shalt plant vineyards, and dress them, but shalt neither drink of the wine, nor gather the grapes; for the worms shall eat them.
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.
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.42. locust] Heb. ṣelaṣal, from the rustling of its wings.
The stranger that is within thee shall get up above thee very high; and thou shalt come down very low.43, 44. The antithesis to 12b, 13a (q.v.).
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:45, 46. Return to the keynote of the section (cp. Deuteronomy 28:15), and obvious conclusion to the curses which may originally have closed here.
for a sign and for a wonder] See on Deuteronomy 4:34.
And they shall be upon thee for a sign and for a wonder, and upon thy seed for ever.
Because thou servedst not the LORD thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things;47. This should be a new sentence opening a new paragraph.
Because thou hast not served the Lord thy God] or worshipped.
with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart] Characteristic of the temper of D; 12. 7, 12, 18, Deuteronomy 16:11; Deuteronomy 16:14 f. (be altogether joyful), Deuteronomy 26:11; cp. Isaiah 65:13 f.
by reason of the abundance, etc.] Cp. Deuteronomy 6:10-12, Deuteronomy 8:11-18.
47–57. A Further Development of the Curses
Invasion by a far-off, unknown nation, who shall ruthlessly devastate the land and besiege Israel’s cities; with the horrors of his siege. All this is not threatened conditionally on the possible disobedience of the people, but predicted absolutely because of their actual failure to serve God.
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.48. a yoke of iron] Jeremiah 28:14.
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;49. from far, etc.] Isaiah 5:26 of Assyrians, Jeremiah 5:15 of Babylonians (though perhaps originally of Scythians).
as the vulture swoopeth] See on Deuteronomy 14:12 f.; cp. Hosea 8:1 of Assyrians; Habakkuk 1:8, Jeremiah 48:40; Jeremiah 49:22 of Babylonians.
whose tongue thou shalt not understand] Lit. hear; Jeremiah 5:15 of Babylonians, cp. Isaiah 28:11 of Assyrians (and Deuteronomy 33:9).
A nation of fierce countenance, which shall not regard the person of the old, nor shew favour to the young:50. fierce countenance] Lit. strong, hard or inflexible. So Daniel 8:23 of Antiochus Epiphanes. Cp. Ezekiel 2:4; Ezekiel 3:7. On regard the person see on Deuteronomy 1:17.
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.51. See Deuteronomy 28:4; Deuteronomy 28:18; Deuteronomy 28:20; Deuteronomy 28:24. All but a few LXX codd. omit until thou be destroyed.
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.52. in all thy gates] Deuteronomy 12:17; come down, Deuteronomy 20:20; wherein thou trustedst, so Jeremiah 5:17.
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:53. And thou shalt eat, etc.] Cp. Leviticus 26:29, Ezekiel 5:10, and for instances of this horror 2 Kings 6:28 f., Lamentations 2:20; Lamentations 4:10.
in the siege and in the straitness] A Refrain as in Deuteronomy 28:55; Deuteronomy 28:57. Similarly Jeremiah 19:9, along with the eating of children as here.
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:54. The man that is the most tender among you, and the very most delicate] or dainty. The same adjs. in Isaiah 47:1.
his eye shall be evil] See on Deuteronomy 15:9.
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,56. The most tender and most delicate woman among you] Almost as in Deuteronomy 28:54.
which would not adventure] Rather, who had never ventured or tried (for the vb. see on Deuteronomy 4:34), having been accustomed to be carried.
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.57. young one] Rather as in R.V. marg. The objects in this v. are under the same predicate as those in Deuteronomy 28:56 but with a difference. To those she shall grudge a share of her awful food; these she shall devour.
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;58. observe to do] See on Deuteronomy 28:1.
all the words of this law] Heb. of this Tôrah, see on Deuteronomy 1:5, Deuteronomy 31:9. In Deuteronomy 17:19, Deuteronomy 29:29 (28), Deuteronomy 31:12, Deuteronomy 32:46, with the same, or a similar, formula preceding; also in Deuteronomy 27:3; Deuteronomy 27:8; Deuteronomy 27:26.
that are written in this book] Cp. Deuteronomy 28:61, Deuteronomy 17:18, Deuteronomy 29:20 f., Deuteronomy 29:27 (Deuteronomy 29:19 f., Deuteronomy 29:26), Deuteronomy 30:10. The Law, therefore, was already written down. As pointed out in the note on Deuteronomy 17:18, such a statement may well have belonged to the original D, discovered in the Temple in 621; but it is not compatible with the other representation, hitherto prevalent, that the exhortations and laws were spoken by Moses, nor with the statement in Deuteronomy 31:9, that he wrote the law when this discourse was finished. As Driver says, this v. ‘betrays the fact that Deuteronomy was from the first a written book.’
fear this glorious and fearful name] Cp. Nehemiah 9:5, Psalm 72:19, 1 Chronicles 29:13, Isaiah 63:12. In J, Exodus 33:18 God’s glory is parallel to His Name. For fear this name see Micah 6:9 (on one reading), Malachi 4:2, Isaiah 59:19, Psalm 61:5 (6). Cp. Leviticus 24:11. This list (containing as it does Micah 6:9) is not sufficient to prove, as Berth, suggests, a late date for our passage.
58–68. Still Further Development of the Curses
After a fresh statement of the condition on which they will be inflicted, viz. Israel’s disobedience to the law (Deuteronomy 28:58), diseases are again threatened with the sore diminution of the people (Deuteronomy 28:59-62); and their banishment is predicted and utter despair (Deuteronomy 28:63-67). God shall bring them again to Egypt, where when they seek to sell themselves no man shall buy them (Deuteronomy 28:68).—In the substance of this section there is nothing incompatible with a pre-exilic date or with the ideas and principles of D. But some of the phraseology may possibly be post-exilic.
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.59. plagues] As in Deuteronomy 28:61, Deuteronomy 29:22 (21), Leviticus 26:21. In Deuteronomy 25:3 the word is used of stripes. In Deuteronomy 26:8 another word is used for plague.
wonderful] Extraordinary or exceptional.
of long continuance] Lit. faithful, sure, assured, usually in a moral sense; but in 1 Samuel 25:28 of an assured house or dynasty; and in Isaiah 33:6, Jeremiah 15:18 (of unfailing waters). Cp. below Deuteronomy 28:66.
Moreover he will bring upon thee all the diseases of Egypt, which thou wast afraid of; and they shall cleave unto thee.60. diseases of Egypt] As in Deuteronomy 7:15; cp. above Deuteronomy 28:27. On cleave cp. Deuteronomy 28:21.
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.61. every sickness, etc.] Cp. Jeremiah 6:7.
the book of this law] Heb. this Tôrah (see Deuteronomy 1:5, Deuteronomy 31:9) Elsewhere (Deuteronomy 29:21 (20), Deuteronomy 30:10, Deuteronomy 31:26, Joshua 1:8) this book of the law.
until thou be destroyed] Deuteronomy 28:20; Deuteronomy 28:24; Deuteronomy 28:45; Deuteronomy 28:51.
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.62, 63. The only vv. in this ch. (except Deuteronomy 28:68 b) in which the Pl. address occurs. The text, including the change to Sg. in the final clauses of both vv., is on the whole confirmed by LXX. Sam., some LXX codd. and Luc. give Deuteronomy 28:62 b in Pl. The change to Pl. is explicable logically in Deuteronomy 28:62, where the number of the people is being dealt with; but this reason does not account for the Pl. in Deuteronomy 28:63. The Sg., whither thou goest in to possess it, is characteristic of the Sg passages, and therefore is not due to the attraction of the Sg. in the next v.
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.63. rejoiced over you, etc.] Cp. Deuteronomy 8:16, Deuteronomy 30:9. Rejoice or exult, found only in exilic or post-exilic passages.
to multiply you] See on Deuteronomy 1:10, Deuteronomy 7:13.
rejoice … to destroy you] This rhetorical figure is characteristic of the deuteronomic style. Contrast Hosea 11:8 f.
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.64. Cp. Deuteronomy 4:27 f., in the Pl. address. From the one end, etc., Deuteronomy 13:7 (8). On other gods, etc., Deuteronomy 13:6 (7); wood and stone, Deuteronomy 4:28.
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:65. shalt thou find no ease] The vb. is found only in Jeremiah 31:2; Jeremiah 47:6; Jeremiah 50:34, Isaiah 52:4; its substantive in Isaiah 28:12.
no rest, etc.] Genesis 8:9.
a quaking heart] The vb. occurs in Deuteronomy 2:25.
failing of eyes] With disappointment of hope: cp. Deuteronomy 28:32 and Lamentations 2:11; Lamentations 4:17.
pining of soul] Faintness of longing or of life; Heb. nephesh means either.
And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life:66. and thy life shall be hanging before thee] Shall be in suspense, as on a thread. As indicated later in the v., thou shalt have no assurance of thy life. The vb is the same as that whose part. is rendered of long continuance in Deuteronomy 28:59. Cp. Job 24:22, R.V. marg.
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.67. Cp. Job 7:4 and above Deuteronomy 28:34.
There were two sides to Israel’s life in exile. Jeremiah (Jeremiah 29:4 ff.) advised the exiles in Babylon to settle down quietly into their new conditions and prosper as they could. This many of them did so thoroughly that it was difficult, if not impossible, to move them to return to Judaea. But a passage like Psalms 137 gives the other side, which this section of D predicts in such terrible detail. On the whole, it seems that the section was written previous to the Babylonian Exile. There is nothing in it hostile to a pre-exilic date.
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.68. into Egypt] A startling climax but one very natural to D, which has dwelt so frequently on the evils endured by Israel in the house of bondmen (see on Deuteronomy 6:12, and cp. Deuteronomy 17:16). Even Hosea (Hosea 8:13) had predicted a return to Egypt as a punishment for Israel’s sins. Therefore here again there is no datum incompatible with a pre-exilic authorship. Vatke (Einl. 385) sees in this v. proof of a date subsequent to the defeat of Josiah by Egypt at Megiddo.
69. Editorial Note
This v. along with the next definitely divides the addresses which precede and follow it. To which does it belong? These may refer to either.
By some (Knob., Kuen., Westph., Dri., Moore, Robinson) it is taken as the subscription to the preceding discourse and original to D, on the grounds that words of the covenant = terms of the covenant, and is more applicable to the laws, Deuteronomy 28:12-26 (with the attached blessings and curses in 28) than to the general exhortations of Deuteronomy 28:29 f. By others (Ew., Dillm., Addis, Steuern., Berth., Oxf. Hex., Cullen) the v. is taken as the superscription to the following discourse on these grounds, that there are no subscriptions elsewhere in Deut., that the language is not D’s, that D does not use covenant of the law-giving in Moab, but that the idea of this as a covenant prevails in 29 (Deuteronomy 28:9; Deuteronomy 28:12; Deuteronomy 28:14).
Neither opinion is wholly right; for probably the v. belonged originally neither to what precedes nor to what follows it. Steuern.’s interpretation of words of the covenant as words spoken at the close or settlement of this—‘the sermon on the conclusion of the covenant’—is in itself forced and is contradicted by Deuteronomy 29:9, which says that Israel are to keep and to do the words of the covenant, vbs. applied elsewhere to the laws given in Moab, the statutes and judgements. Therefore Deuteronomy 29:1 clearly refers to the contents of D’s law-book, 12–26. But it cannot be original to this. For it has children of Israel (as has the editorial Deuteronomy 4:44 ff. q.v.) instead of D’s all Israel; and its word for besides is one which appears only in later Heb. writings, save for the doubtful exception of Deuteronomy 4:35 (which possibly is also late). Moreover the following discourse has already a superscription.