Dualism is common among Christians. It occurs when we attribute painful events to the devil as if God is not sovereign over all that occurs in our lives and the world. Scripture, on the other hand teaches that nothing happens apart from the sovereign power and will of God. If something terrible takes place, God had the power to prevent it and though we may not understand why He allowed it, “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him” (Ps. 115:3; Rom 8:28 “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose”). God often causes us to experience blessings and peace, but he also at times bring afflictions our way. Generally, but not always, He does this so that we will look to Him and His Word to draw us near to him. He is a jealous God and demands our love and obedience that we might have life and have it abundantly. Two paths, two choices lie before us every day. One that leads to life and the other that leads to death. God wants us to choose life Deut 30:15 “See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the LORD your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it.
Deut. 28 compliments Lev. 26. Both contain the benedictions of the covenant and the maledictions. Lev. 26 was composed by Moses in the context of the covenant given at Mt. Sinai while Deut. 28 articulates them to the next generation including additional insights. These blessings and curses apply to all God’s people for fidelity or rebellion to the New Covenant. We have the same opportunity to be blessed or cursed in the Kingdom of God which is available to us now as we abide in the King and His Spirit.
Deuteronomy 28:1-2 Israel were camped in the plains of Moab near the Jordan river, across from Jericho. Before they entered, Moses preached a series of messages to the people. These messages were compiled into the book of Deuteronomy. Moses has almost accomplished completed his calling and ministry to Israel. All this had been done to call this new generation to renew their covenant with God. They corporately needed to rededicate and recommit their lives to God, before entering the promised land. Israel was given the ability to freely choose to obey the Lord or not. If they fully obeyed, they would be blessed and lifted above all the nations. If they chose to disobey then all the cursing beginning in verse 15 would come upon them.
Deuteronomy 28:3-6. These verses describe the blessings in a series of merisms (all-inclusive contrasts). Israel will experience blessings everywhere: in the city and in the country; with their children, their crops, and their livestock. They will even be blessed in their kitchens. The blessings of God, however, are conditional. Promise after promise is given to the believer, but he has to stay focused on the Lord who promises them. If a person is not obeying God, he’s not focused on the Giver of the blessings. But if a person is obeying God, he’s focused on the God who is faithful to His promises and he will experience blessings. Walking through the day, he honors God by staying focused on Him and His blessings. God blesses him, because it is honor, worship, and obedience that God wants from His children. Our Heavenly Father knows what is best for us, just as most of our parents wanted what was best for us. God, who is the model of parenthood is perfect in His will for us. This is why God created us, to bring Him glory. God blesses the man that honors Him. Mat. 7:21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.”
Deuteronomy 28:7 If Israel was obedient to the covenant, they were assured that they would not fear their enemies. When they go into battle against an enemy nation, their opponents would flee in seven different directions and be routed. No matter who how strong or numerous, the enemy will be defeated. This applies to our relationship with the Lord today as we are told that our enemies are not worldly or fleshly but are spiritual. On our journey to the promised land of heaven, enemy after enemy confronts us. These consist of people who attack us, accidents we are involved in, immorality, temptations, theft, loss of loved ones, loss of work, difficult trials, disease and pandemics, financial difficulties, doubt, and unbelief. The enemies that come against us are innumerable. God’s promise to us is based on our trust and obedience and keeping His commands revealed in His Word. Israel’s history is an example to us if we obey and abide in Him, He will bless and protect us. 1 Cor. 10:1-6 For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 and all ate the same spiritual food; 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. 6 Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved.
Deuteronomy 28:8-10. The blessings of God included material prosperity (barns) as well as success in everything the nation attempted. Israel would begin to realize their calling and why He placed his people in the land. The Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 12:1-3), given 600 years earlier, included God’s promise to bless all the nations through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Israel’s obedience would affirm them as his holy people, and so become a blessing to the world. Obedience would exalt the name of the LORD. If Israel obeyed God, his neighbors would see their holy lives as a people set apart to God. They would be a testimony of holiness to those who were immoral and lawless. It is holiness that cause God’s people to grow spiritually. Spiritual growth is a direct result of holy living which is revealed by the fruit of God’s Spirit in the life of one set apart totally to the Lord (Gal. 5:13-25). Even those who would not be brought to faith would fear Israel and respect their position as God’s first-born sons (Ex. 4:22-23; Prov. 16:7) “When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.”
Deuteronomy 28:11-12 In early civilization, prosperity depended on water. This was the foundation of Egypt’s wealth and prosperity, the Nile and its provision for irrigation and navigation. Israel on the other hand had to depend on the Lord’s blessings for water from the heavens above. Without rain, nothing could survive including men, livestock, and crops. But with an abundance of rain, particularly at the right time, there would be an abundance of crops providing food for the people and the livestock. The LORD promised to open the heavens and pour out abundant rain that would nourish the Promised Land. This would lead to their prosperity blessing their economy and making them the envy of the nations. They would have so much as a nation that two things would happen economically: they would lend to many nations and have no need to be in debt to anyone. In the same way God promises to meet all our needs. Like Israel there is only one condition: we must obey God (Mat. 6:33; Phil. 4:19) “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Messiah Yeshua.”
Deuteronomy 28:13 Obedience brings also the blessing of being exalted. The people of God would rise as the leaders that they are called to be or as Moses phrases it “head, not the tail.” They would always have the upper hand, and never be in servitude to other nations. God’s people would be exalted, a prince among the nations of the world. Yeshua is the model of what Israel was to be. Obedience is the condition essential to being exalted by God (Mat. 23:12 “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted” Luke 19:17 “And he said to him, ‘Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities.’).
Deuteronomy 28:14 The blessings of God conclude with the charge to Israel that they must not turn from any of the commandments. They must obey God by refusing to follow false gods and false worship (Ro. 1:18–23; Gal. 5:19–21).
The consequences for disobedience are now listed. If Israel rebels, God will discipline the nation severely. This is a warning to us as well. The way God has chosen to deal with us is by giving us His Words. God wants fellowship with us and communicates the same way we communicate with one another, with words. God’s has spoken to us through His written Word, the Scriptures. He wants us to know how to experience life in full. How to have fellowship and communion with the Living God and how to live in the world He has created. As the Sovereign Creator and Ruler of the universe He has every right to expect us to follow His Word and keep His commands and decrees. To disobey God demonstrates our contempt of His authority and love. His commands were given for our welfare and for the well-being of others. For this reason, disobedience will be judged and cursed by God.
We need to remember that God is calling Israel to renew their covenant with Him through His servant Moses. The importance of these curses cannot be overestimated, this is the final warning that Moses will ever give to Israel. He will soon die and go home to be with the LORD. The future of the Israel depends on their obedience to God. Listing the curses of judgment is a warning to God’s chosen people. They can be classified in three areas:
- The first set are curses due for disobedience by refusing to listen to God (vv. 15–46).
2. The second set of curses was for failing to serve God (vv. 47–57).
3. The third set of curses was for failing to fear “the name of the Lord your God” (vv. 58–68).
Deuteronomy 28:15-16 the first set of curses is for disobedience and refusing to listen to God. Judgment will fall on those who rebel against God. Scripture says the curses will “come upon you and overtake you … because you did not obey the Lord your God.”
Deuteronomy 28:17-18 There will be the curse of inadequate food. The promise of God to provide the daily needs of life will no longer be true. God will turn from His people and remove His presence, guidance, and care. There will be the curse on production or fruitfulness. Disobedience will cause livestock and crops to be fruitless. A curse will be on production. Disobedience will separate God’s people from Him (John 15:5-7) If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
Deuteronomy 28:19-20 There will be a curse on daily activities. In your home you will be cursed, when you go out of your home you will be cursed. These verses parallel the first four blessings of v 1–6. There will be confusion, panic and frustration in every activity undertaken until you are destroyed and ruined. All from disobedience and forsaking the LORD in and over your life.
Deuteronomy 28:21-24 There will be the curse of deadly diseases like covid or plagues like that in Egypt or those described in Revelation. Disobedience will cause diseases such as consumption which is Tuberculosis, high fever and inflammation which could refer to gout, diabetes, arthritis, IBS and more. There will be a curse on crops, plant life and vegetation. Scorching heat and drought, blight, and mildew which will destroy Israel’s crops. There will be no rain causing the sky to appear as bronze ground to be as hard as iron. God will change the rain into dust storms like what America experienced in the “dust bowl” days during the great depression of the 1930’s.
Deuteronomy 28:25-26 Instead of experiencing victory in battle they would be defeated by their enemies. Instead of being a blessing to the nations, Israel would become a nation of terror. The bodies of their dead from battle would become carrion for vultures. There would be so few people left that there would no one to frighten the birds of prey away. They will be in panic and be routed in battle fleeing in seven different directions. The number seven signifies a complete and total defeat. God would remove His presence and protection from her midst.
Deuteronomy 28:27-28 There will be the curse of physical afflictions. This will cause horrible afflictions such as boils, tumors, and festering sores. In addition, emotional instability including madness, blindness, confusion, and panic. The physical afflictions in many cases make a person unclean and cause them to be separated from the Lord in worship as well as in the community. These afflictions will cause people to be unable to function normally.
Deuteronomy 28:29-32 The curse will cause people to be like the blind groping in the dark, unable to find their way. This condition describes lost people today, they don’t know the way that leads to life and blessing. They will be plundered by the nations and no nation will come to their aid. Still Moses goes on describing even worse horrors. Wives raped, houses destroyed, and vineyards not harvested. Livestock would be forcibly taken by invading armies. sons and daughters enslaved. Parents hopelessly looking for the return of their children.
Deuteronomy 28:33-37 Israel will experience punishing oppression and incurable physical sicknesses in every part of their bodies. Their rebellion from the Lord will drive them and their king (in whom they wrongly place their trust) into a foreign nation. This prophetic warning was fulfilled numerous times, when the Northern tribes were taken by the Assyrians and later when the Babylonians brought Judah to Babylon. In those nations they will worshiped gods of wood and stone and experience the scorn and ridicule from the people that they will be forced to live among.
Deuteronomy 28:38-42 Israel will experience the curse of futility in their sowing and reaping and suffer great loss due to locusts. Worms would destroy their vineyards as well as their olive trees. Even their children would go into captivity. All of creation would be raised up by the Lord to come against Israel. As these plagues are sent by the Lord to call Israel to repentance from their rebellion to His covenant and their worship of false gods.
Deuteronomy 28:43-46. The Lord would demonstrate through these afflictions that they were directed at His covenant people. The alien who lived among them would prosper because of their faith and obedience to the God of Israel. As they increased in prosperity, God’s people would fall further and further behind. Those who would seek the Lord through His Word would recognize this, repent and turn back to the Lord. Those who continued in their rebellion would be under His judgment from one generation to the next.
Deuteronomy 28:47-48. The wrong choices of Israel would cause God to force them to serve their enemies. Those enemies, unlike the Lord, would not bless and prosper them but make their lives miserable. In the place of a pleasant life serving the living God, Israel would experience hunger, thirst, and poverty through God’s hand of discipline.
Deuteronomy 28:49-52. The coup de grâce would be when God would bring them to a foreign nation with a language and customs repugnant to them. They would take the best of their crops and livestock. They would devour their fields and vineyards, until the land was destroyed. When Israel rebelled against them, they would lay siege to her cities until their fortified walls collapsed. This is exactly what happened to Israel when the Assyrians took Israel into captivity in 722 BC and once again in 586 BC when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem. It happened again in 70 AD when the Temple was destroyed and still again in 132 BC when Jerusalem rebelled against Rome and were scattered to all the nations of the world.
Deuteronomy 28:53-57. The worst effect of Israel’s spiritual rebellion would not be the attack by foreign enemies but the betrayal by one another. As a result of the sieges raised up by the Lord mothers would eat their children who were miscarried and even their sons and daughters who die from famine. Some would be so self-consumed that they will refuse to share this food with other members of their household. Men and women of wealth, and noble status will resort to the eating of their own children as well.
Deuteronomy 28:58-59 The only way this judgment could be avoided would be if they would turn in repentance and once again revere his glorious and awesome name, and by carefully obeying all the words of the law that was given through Moses.
Deuteronomy 28:60-62 God would undo the blessing of their deliverance from Egypt. The diseases of that nation which included enslavement and every kind of sickness and the plagues that God inflicted on them would come upon them which diminish their population.
Deuteronomy 28:63-64 Just as God punished the Canaanites for their evil and idolatry so too would he punish His chosen people. This should serve as a warning to us that if God did to His first-born sons so He will do to us who in Messiah are declared to be sons of God through our faith. They too would worship gods of wood and stone in faraway places. The phrase in v 63, “delight over you to make you perish and destroy you”, does not mean that God found delight in the pain and destruction he would inflict, but that he continued to delight in Israel even as he administered this discipline. The same is true for us as Heb. 12:5-11 instructs us.
Deuteronomy 28:65-68. The exile and discipline of his rebellious children would be a miserable experience. Israel would find no rest, but instead anxiety and a despairing heart. They would live in dread every day yet longing for the next day. They even be sent back to Egypt and attempt to sell themselves as slaves. But because of their shattered lives and bodies no one will buy them.