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Bible: What Does Deuteronomy 27-28 Teach Us About "Blessings and Curses"?
The Ten Words
Set Up Ten Words at Ebal
Moses and the elders encourage the faithful to obey the commandments (v. 1), inscribe the Ten Words on large, whitewashed stones, and set them up on Mount Ebal once they have crossed the Jordan (vv. 1-4).
[Again, Moses continually reiterates certain catch phrases: “to the land which the LORD your God is giving you,” “that you may enter the land which the LORD your God is giving you, a land flowing with milk and honey,” “when you cross over the Jordan,” “which I command you today/this day.”]
On an altar of uncut stones—God wants no work of man involved—Israel must sacrifice burnt offerings, eat peace offerings there, and celebrate the blessing of the LORD (vv. 5-7).
Again, Moses stresses that they “write very plainly . . . all the words of this law” (v. 8), and teams with the priests and Levites to remind them of their status as “the people of the LORD your God” and of their obligation to obey His voice and observe His commandments (vv. 9-10).
[Note the structure of these first ten verses:
Moses and elders speak about obedience to Law (v. 1)
Set up whitewashed stones (v. 2)
Write all the words of this law (v. 3)
Set up whitewashed stones (v. 4)
Build altar of uncut stones (vv. 5-6a)
Sacrifice on the altar and rejoice there (vv. 6b-7)
Write all the words of this law (v. 8)
Moses and priests speak about obedience to Law (vv. 9-10)]
Moses separates the twelve tribes in half, and commands six of them to stand on Mount Gerizim to bless (vv. 11-12), and six on Mount Ebal to curse (v. 13).
The Levites then shout out a long series of curses within the hearing of both halves (v. 14). After each curse, the people answer “Amen!” (vv. 15-26).
The following list delineates the activities or attitudes for which God will curse Israel:
(1) Image making (v. 15)
(2) Disrespect for parents (v. 16)
(3) Stealing (removing neighbor’s landmark/boundary) [v. 17]
(4) Lack of compassion/love for disabled (v. 18)
(5) Injustice perpetrated on the defenseless (v. 19)
(6) Incest/Adultery (vv. 20, 22-23)
(7) Sexual perversion (v. 21)
(8) Lack of love/ covetousness (v. 24)
(9) Taking bribes to murder (v. 25)
(10) Unwillingness to confirm all the words of the Law (v. 26)
Verse one indicates the conditional nature of Yahweh’s blessings under the Mosaic covenant: if Israel obeys the commandments, He will set them “high above all nations of the earth” (v. 1).
After remarking about God’s blessing upon obedience, Moses lists the spheres of life in which Israel would receive His goodness (vv. 2-14):
(1) Place of dwelling (v. 3);
(2) Offspring, crops, and food preparation (vv. 4-5; cf. v. 11-12);
(3) Travel (v. 6);
(4) Military endeavors (v. 7);
(5) Storage (v. 8);
(6) Establishment as a people set apart to God (v. 9);
(7) International relations (v. 10, 13-14).
The Mosaic Covenant
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Captivity and Suffering
Mountain of Cursing
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On the other hand, the list of curses for disobedience is far longer.
Again, after writing a preface about how God’s curses relate to wrong actions (v. 15), Moses pens results opposite to those he referred to earlier in the different areas of Israelite life (cf. vv. 3ff):
(1) Wherever they are, city or country, God will bring a curse upon them (v. 16).
(2) They will have little production anywhere (v. 18), and suffer harm as they go about daily affairs (v. 19).
(3) God will curse their every endeavor until Israel perishes from the Land (v. 20).
(4) He will send plagues (v. 21), and various diseases and afflictions will pursue them (v. 22).
(5) Experiencing no rainfall will turn the Land into a dust bowl (vv. 23-24).
(6) They will suffer military defeat, and the nations will label them as troublemakers (v. 25).
(7) Predators and carrion birds will consume them as they die in the desert (v. 26).
(8) The LORD will strike them with numerous physical, emotional, and mental ailments (vv. 27-28).
(9) Enemies will oppress and steal from them all the time, and no one will deliver them (v. 29).
(10) Every good possession—wives, houses, vineyards (v. 30), animals (v. 31), children (v. 32), produce (v. 33)—enemies will take away from them until they go insane (v. 34).
(11) They will endure Job-like sores (v. 35).
(12) Israel and their king will suffer exile;
(13) Their enemies will force them to worship idols;
(14) Their foes will ridicule them mercilessly (vv. 36-37).
(15) Various insects will consume their crops, and
(16) Their children will become slaves (vv. 38-42).
(17) Israel will become slaves to aliens and grow poor (vv. 43-44).
Catching his breath, Moses repeats the warning against disobedience (v. 45), and tells how these curses will point out the infamy of Israel to other nations (v. 46).
(18) Enemies will dominate Israel and make him subservient and destitute, because the latter did not serve God joyfully and thankfully (vv. 47-48).
(19) A people from a far land, described as swift conquerors speaking a foreign language (v. 49) and as hard-bitten, cruel invaders who abuse and kill the innocent (v. 50), will consume all of Israel’s plenty, besiege Israel’s fortified cities, and cause God’s people to resort to cannibalism and other hostilities consistent with starvation (vv. 51-57).
Moses figuratively takes another step back before issuing his final series of curses (v. 58).
(20) God will afflict His people with “extraordinary plagues” and sicknesses (v. 59), various Egyptian diseases (v. 60), and all other unwritten maladies (v. 61) until only a remnant remains (v. 62).
(21) Moses actually says that God will rejoice over Israel to destroy him and bring him to nothing (v. 63)!
(22) God will disseminate His people worldwide where they will worship other gods (v. 64) and find no rest for their souls (v. 65).
(23) Fear of life will daily assault them, and make their existence miserable (vv. 66-67).
(24) No one will want to buy them as slaves, even in the forbidden land of Egypt (v. 68).
© 2013 glynch1