This chapter can closely resemble a horror story. Why would God punish His chosen people so harshly? The curses that are depicted in Deuteronomy, give great detail to all the nightmares the ancient people feared. I am going to analyze each curse and see if there is a more literal meaning behind them.
Deuteronomy 28:15-19 is reversing the blessings that will be given to the Hebrew people in the beginning of the chapter.
“However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you:
You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country.
Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed.
The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.
You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out.” —Deuteronomy 28:15-19
We have already seen in the earlier chapters that God is not very merciful, yet. So, why is he so quick to anger? According to David Guzik, http://www.enduringword.com/commentaries/0528.htm, he says this is just an introduction to the curses. He then states:
“If you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God: The covenant’s aspect of the choice was a sword with two edges. Obedience would carry great blessing, but disobedience would carry terrible curses.
All these curses will come upon you and overtake you: Like the blessings for an obedient Israel, the curses for a disobedient Israel would be inevitable.”
It shows that there is no way to avoid God’s curses, so the Hebrew people should know better by now. According to Merdith G Kline,http://www.meredithkline.com/klines-works/articles-and-essays/deuteronomy-wycliffe-bible-commentary/ ,
“Verse 15 corresponds to verses 1,2, and 16-19 are the counterpart to 3-6. The vengeance of the covenant (cf. Lev 26:25) would overtake the oath-violating people even within the asylum of their inherited paradise land. Without holiness no man can abide where God reveals his glorious presence, and there is no respect of persons with him.”
This explains why it was so important to obey God’s laws to the Hebrew people. They assumed that God brought them this far, and if they did not obey his laws and regulations horrible tribulations would fall upon them. Since these verses were an introductory, that is why the line up with the promises of the beginning of chapter 28.
However, 20-68 is a whole different type of threat. This is where the horror story mold derives from. The worse fears of the Hebrew’s are brought to life. Since there are so many curses that would happen to the Hebrew people if they disobeyed, I am only going to cover the ones that are the most intense and the most unusual.
“The Lord will cause you to be defeated by your enemies. You will attack your enemies from one direction, but you will scatter from them in seven! You will be an object of horror to all the kingdoms of the earth. Your corpses will be food for all the scavenging birds and wild animals, and no one will be there to chase them away.”– Deuteronomy 28:25-26
According to http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/view.cgi?bk=4&ch=28&vs=15-68 , they state that:
“First series of judgments. The curse of God should rest on all they did, and should issue in manifold forms of disease, in famine, and in defeat in war.”
These are all things that God has protected them from, so why would he allow these things to happen, even if they disobeyed? If the Hebrew people thought God wanted them to succeed and live happily, why would he let the unclean birds scavenge their bodies and watch as their name is violated? It could be that God is tired of the disrespect, or it could be that it is a writing tactic. Perhaps the writer of this book wanted to make the curses very detailed and painful to get the point of obedience across. According to an article by a man named Phil, http://philleng.blogspot.com/2010/03/curses-for-disobedience.html ,
“But actions have consequences. Obedience has consequences. Disobedience has consequences. It does not matter if we believe it or not. Actions still have consequences… “
This could back up my point on how the writer wanted the readers to realize that everything had a consequence, even if it is flesh eating birds.
“The Lord will strike you with the boils of Egypt, and with tumors and scabs and itch, of which you cannot be healed. The Lord will strike you with madness and blindness and confusion of mind, and you shall grope at noonday, as the blind grope in darkness, and you shall not prosper in your ways. And you shall be only oppressed and robbed continually, and there shall be no one to help you. “— Deutoronomy 28 27-29
At this point, God is getting comfortable in his threats. The ending of this passages almost lines up with the ending of the previous passage. God is wanting his people to rely on him and to know that if he is not there to help them, no one else will be. According to http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/view.cgi?bk=4&ch=28&vs=15-68:
“Second series of judgments on the body, mind, and outward circumstances of the sinners.”
Perhaps there is another creative writing strategy hidden in this passage as well. “And you shall be oppressed and robbed continually,” this could actually mean robbed of life. If you disobey, all the curses will be upon you, but you will also be robbed and oppressed of all the great joys and pleasures in life. Also, according to http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/view.cgi?bk=4&ch=28&vs=15-68 , the blindness that is stated, is more than likely a mental blindness. So is it possible that these things would not actually happen, but they are just threats to what would happen to them in their religion? The sicknesses of Egypt, could also be a metaphor for the weight of how the Egyptian’s had to live and endure to survive, not a literal sickness.
Verses 30-34 seem to be threats to make sure the Hebrews obey. Even in today’s society, no man, or woman, wants to see someone else enjoying their things they worked hard for and loved.
“You will be pledged to be married to a woman, but another will take her and rape her. You will build a house, but you will not live in it. You will plant a vineyard, but you will not even begin to enjoy its fruit. 31 Your ox will be slaughtered before your eyes, but you will eat none of it. Your donkey will be forcibly taken from you and will not be returned. Your sheep will be given to your enemies, and no one will rescue them. 32 Your sons and daughters will be given to another nation, and you will wear out your eyes watching for them day after day, powerless to lift a hand. 33 A people that you do not know will eat what your land and labor produce, and you will have nothing but cruel oppression all your days. 34 The sights you see will drive you mad. ” —Deuteronomy 28: 30-34
“The renewed terms of the covenant include the promise of great blessings in return for obedience to Yahweh’s commandments, and sanctions involving cruel curses, the ultimate of which is destruction of the nation and exile from the Land, in response to defiant disobedience.”
The verses listed above is probably the most cruel verses. To some people, having just one of the things in 30-34 taken away would be torturous, but having them all taking away, they would probably enjoy the flesh eating birds; they would have nothing else to live for.
58-63, God is bestowing the worse plague he has very made happen; the death of the first born. It is slightly possible, since the Hebrews lived through that time in Egypt, their culture is still scared of that happening to them.
So, these are just a few of the curses at a glance. These seemed to be the biggest and most detrimental ones to me. This could have been God’s way to see who was worthy to live in the Promise land, or a creative writing tactic to scare the people in obeying the laws of the ancient times. Regardless of the reasoning, with laws like that, only an Egyptian would disobey Yahweh.