In the letter to the congregation in Rome, Sha’ul says [Romans 6:19-23] that “sin’s payment [the wages of sin] is death, but God’s gracious gift is eternal life in Messiah Yeshua our Lord.”[1] When Adonai spoke to Adam and Eve He did not say that “When you eat of the fruit I’m going to kill you!” Rather He stated that “For when you eat from it, you most assuredly will die!” (Gen. 2:17) After touching on honouring Adonai with our Firstfruits and Tithes, this week’s Parashat reaffirms the covenant from Sinai and covers the consequences of Beni Yisrael keeping or breaking the stipulations of that covenant.

[Deut. 28]

Deuteronomy is a reiteration of the covenant that was made with Beni Yisrael in Horeb as we are reminded of in vs 69. What we read is the conclusion of the covenantal language. Moses has reiterated to this new generation, all the stipulations of the covenant. In (Deut. 26:16-19) he reminds them that they freely/willingly accepted this covenant and that Adonai has responded by affirming them as His treasured people.

The Blessings (Promises for Obedience)

The blessings are to “overtake us” as though we are walking toward Adonai, sowing righteous seed and the Blessing come from behind and envelop us. There are “six forms of blessing, covering Israel’s life in town and field, in offspring, crops, cattle, harvest, and daily bread.”[2] “No covenantal blessings occur in … ancient Near East treaty documents”[3] except for here where we see that Adonai starts out with blessings. Unlike the previous chapter that mentions specific sins or actions that Adonai will judge, in this chapter the only requirement is that the nation has “absolute and total loyalty and obedience to” Adonai. There really is only one time in history where this almost occurred. That was under the rule of David and Solomon, but even at that time it was only partially fulfilled. We are once again longing for another “Son of David” to bring about the ultimate fulfilment of these blessings.

The Curses (Promises for Disobedience)

Unlike the blessings, there are many other ancient covenantal treaties that have curses that mention the following items: bread making utensils, drought, defeat, plague, illness, blindness, spoliation, slavery, exile, locusts, ruin of city and cannibalism.[4] However, “nothing, except the real horrors of Jewish history, can approach tremendous maledictions which warned Israel against the violation of the Law.”[5] There are 4 times as many curses as there are blessings, and these are written in three different waves where the holy passion of Adonai rises and falls.

The first wave is (vs. 15 – 44), and here we see that all the good things that were promised in vs. 1 – 13, are removed but with extreme specificity.

The Promise Blessing Verse Cursing Verse
“Will come upon you and overtake you” 1-2 15
“In the city and In the field” 3 16
“Fruit of womb, produce of soil, offspring of livestock” 4,11 18
“Basket and kneading bowl” 5 17
“When you come in and go out” 6 19
“come against 1 way and flee 7 ways” 7 (enemies) 25 (you will)
“every undertaking of your hand” 8 20
“all peoples stand in awe of you” 9-10 (for good) 36-37 (for evil)
“rain” 12a 23-24
“lend to many, but will not borrow” 12b 44a
“head and not tail” 13 44b

One of the curses from the previous chapter is a punishment for “misleading the blind” and here we see (vs 28, 29) that blindness is part of the curse along with madness because of what they would see (vs. 28, 34). I want to pause here and say that all of these curses have happed, many times.

The second wave of curses, is from (vs. 45 – 57), and here we see Adonai promising a foreign nation bringing a siege that produces a famine so bad that the people resort to cannibalism. We see this coming true in Samaria, the capital of the Israel (2 Kings 6:26-29) and we know that Jeremiah spoke of it happening in Jerusalem, the capital of Judah (Jer. 19:9). Daniel, who lived after many of these things had happened, says,

“‘Therefore the curse and sworn judgment written in the Torah of Moses the servant of God has been poured out upon us, for we have sinned against Him. So He has confirmed His words that he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled over us by bringing on us a great calamity. Under the whole heaven nothing like this has ever been done to Jerusalem! As it is written in the Torah of Moses, all this calamity came on us, yet we have not sought the favor of Adonai Eloheinu by turning away from our iniquities and paying attention to Your truth. So Adonai was intent on bringing the calamity upon us, for Adonai Eloheinu is righteous in all His deeds that He has done—while we have not paid attention to His voice.” (Daniel 9:11b-14)

Adonai then reaches a climax in the third section (vs. 58-68) and declares the ultimate judgement of expulsion from the land of promise. He declares that when we do not fear the glorious and awesome Name, ADONAI Elohim that concerning the promise made to Abraham, “You will be left few in number, instead of being like the stars of the sky in number—because you did not listen to the voice of Adonai your God.” We have watched this happen three times, first with the Assyrians (733,722 BCE), then the Babylonians (597, 586 BCE) and then with the Romans (70, 135 CE). And where the first diaspora only lasted for 70 years, this second lasted for about 1747 years (from 135 CE to 1882 CE). These verses, (particularly vs. 64-67) truly describe the years that the Jewish people have been in the diaspora.

After going through all of these passages, I feel that we need to make several points. Firstly, we see that Adonai is faithful to keep His word, both for blessing and punishment. We know that God’s character does not change (Mal. 3:6) and He is the same “yesterday, today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). Therefore we can trust Him to keep His word today.

Next we see Yeshua saying, “Woe to the world because of snares! For snares must come, but woe to that man through whom the snare comes! (Matt. 18:7) The judgements that came upon Beni Yisrael were determined by Adonai, but the nations went too far. Adonai cries out, “I am exceedingly zealous for Jerusalem and for Zion and I am infuriated with the haughty nations. I was a little angry with them, but they furthered their own calamity.” (Zech. 1:14b-15) And again in Isaiah 47:6 Adonai pronounces judgement on Babylon for taking Adonai’s anger too far and showing no mercy in the judgement.

So in summary, the Bad News is that all of us have sinned (Rom. 3:23) and the payment of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). This is just as true when Moses wrote it as it is today. BUT the Good News is that, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Messiah died for the ungodly.  For rarely will anyone die for a righteous man—though perhaps for a good man someone might even dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Messiah died for us.” (Rom. 5:6-8) And the gracious gift of God is everlasting life because of Messiah Yeshua our Lord. For “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” —that is, the word of faith that we are proclaiming: For if you confess with your mouth that Yeshua is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart it is believed for righteousness, and with the mouth it is confessed for salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever trusts in Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all—richly generous to all who call on Him. For ‘everyone who calls upon the name of Adonai shall be saved.’” (Rom. 10:9-13)

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from the Tree Of Life Version (TLV), 2014.

[2] Hertz, J.H., The Pentateuch and Haftorahs, 2nd Ed., Soncino Press, London, 1978, Pg. 865.

[3] Grianti, M. A., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Rev. Ed., Vol 2, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 2008.         Pg. 722.

[4] Grianti, Pg. 729.

[5] Hertz, Pg. 867.