The curses correspond in form and number Deuteronomy 28:15-19 to the blessings Deuteronomy 28:3-6, and the special modes in which these threats should be executed are described in five groups of denunciations Deut. 28:20-68.
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.
Vexation - Rather, confusion: the word in the original is used Deuteronomy 7:23; I Samuel 14:20 for the panic and disorder with which the curse of God smites His foes.
"Blasting" denotes (compare Genesis 41:23) the result of the scorching east wind; "mildew" that of an untimely blight falling on the green ear, withering it and marring its produce.
When the heat is very great the atmosphere in Palestine is often filled with dust and sand; the wind is a burning sirocco, and the air comparable to the glowing heat at the mouth of a furnace.
Shalt be removed - See the margin. The threat differs from that in Leviticus 26:33, which refers to a dispersion of the people among the pagan. Here it is meant that they should be tossed to and fro at the will of others, driven from one country to another without any certain settlement.
Second series of judgments on the body, mind, and outward circumstances of the sinners.
The "botch" (rather "boil;" see Exodus 9:9), the "emerods" or tumors I Samuel 5:6, I Samuel 5:9, the "scab" and "itch" represent the various forms of the loathsome skin diseases which are common in Syria and Egypt.
Mental maladies shah be added to those sore bodily plagues, and should Deuteronomy 28:29-34 reduce the sufferers to powerlessness before their enemies and oppressors.
Blindness - Most probably mental blindness; compare Lamentations 4:14; Zephaniah 1:17; II Corinthians 3:14 ff.
See the marginal references for the fulfillment of these judgments.
Third series of judgments, affecting every kind of labor and enterprise until it had accomplished the total ruin of the nation, and its subjection to its enemies.
Worms - i. e. the vine-weevil. Naturalists prescribed elaborate precautions against its ravages.
Cast ... - Some prefer "shall be spoiled" or "plundered."
Deuteronomy 28:43, Deuteronomy 28:44
Contrast Deuteronomy 28:12 and Deuteronomy 28:13.
Forever - Yet "the remnant" Romans 9:27; Romans 11:5 would by faith and obedience become a holy seed.
Fourth series of judgments, descriptive of the calamities and horrors which should ensue when Israel should be subjugated by its foreign foes.
The description (compare the marginal references) applies undoubtedly to the Chaldeans, and in a degree to other nations also whom God raised up as ministers of vengeance upon apostate Israel (e. g. the Medes). But it only needs to read this part of the denunciation, and to compare it with the narrative of Josephus, to see that its full and exact accomplishment took place in the wars of Vespasian and Titus against the Jews, as indeed the Jews themselves generally admit.
The eagle - The Roman ensign; compare Matthew 24:28; and consult throughout this passage the marginal references.
Evil - i. e. grudging; compare Deuteronomy 15:9.
Young one - The "afterbirth" (see the margin). The Hebrew text in fact suggests an extremity of horror which the King James Version fails to exhibit. Compare II Kings 6:29.
Fifth series of judgments. The uprooting of Israel from the promised land, and its dispersion among other nations. Examine the marginal references.
In this book - i. e. in the book of the Law, or the Pentateuch in so far as it contains commands of God to Israel. Deuteronomy is included, but not exclusively intended. So Deuteronomy 28:61; compare Deuteronomy 27:3 and note, Deuteronomy 31:9.
Thy life shall hang in doubt before thee - i. e. shall be hanging as it were on a thread, and that before thine own eyes. The fathers regard this passage as suggesting in a secondary or mystical sense Christ hanging on the cross, as the life of the Jews who would not believe in Him.
This is the climax. As the Exodus from Egypt was as it were the birth of the nation into its covenant relationship with God, so the return to the house of bondage is in like manner the death of it. The mode of conveyance, "in ships," is added to heighten the contrast. They crossed the sea from Egypt with a high hand. the waves being parted before them. They should go back again cooped up in slaveships.
There ye shall be sold - Rather, "there shall ye offer yourselves, or be offered for sale." This denunciation was literally fulfilled on more than one occasion: most signally when many thousand Jews were sold into slavery and sent into Egypt by Titus; but also under Hadrian, when numbers were sold at Rachel' s grave Genesis 35:19.
No man shall buy you - i. e. no one shall venture even to employ you as slaves, regarding you as accursed of God, and to be shunned in everything.
Other Barnes' Notes entries containing Deuteronomy 28:58:
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