COVENANT BLESSINGS ATTACH TO THE PEOPLE OF GOD CONDITIONED ON OBEDIENCE
Peter Craigie: The blessings are stated first (28:1–14) and then are followed by a much larger section dealing with the curses (28:15–68). In both parts of ch. 28, the actual blessings and curses which were pronounced formally in the ceremony are stated very succinctly; the blessings are stated in vv. 3–6 and find their direct opposites in the curses contained in vv. 16–19. . .
The international theme emerges clearly in the sermon that follows and it is given two emphases, (a) There is an emphasis on the internal blessing of God on his people, indicating the health and prosperity of the nation per se. (b) There is also an emphasis on the strength and vitality of Israel vis-a-vis other nations. The converse of both these emphases appears in the following section dealing with curses; Israel not only would experience disaster within her communal life as a result of disobedience, but would be openly humiliated among other nations.
Daniel Block: Deuteronomy 28 divides structurally into two uneven panels, consisting respectively of blessings awaiting the Israelites if they are faithful to their covenant Lord (vv. 1–14), and curses if they persist in rebellion against him (vv. 15–68). The space devoted to the curses reflects the chapter’s paraenetic purpose. Like the imprecations in 27:15–26, these curses seek to motivate fidelity and deter Israelites from violating the terms of the covenant. Moses’ aim is pastoral: to impress on the minds of his audience the seriousness of disobedience. By assenting to the specified consequences in the ratification ritual, for good or ill, the Israelites seal their own fate.
Michael Grisanti: Moses here articulates the blessings Yahweh promises that the children of Israel will experience if they faithfully obey his commandments and do not worship any other gods. Because of the covenantal relationship between Israel and the Lord, he expects certain kinds of conduct from his chosen people and promises to bless them abundantly before the entire world for their obedience. Two emphatic verbal constructions highlight the nature of this obedience.
– First, the combination of two verbs from the same root (šmʿ, “to hear/obey”; GK 9048) carries the idea of full or total obedience.
– Second, the juxtaposition of the verbs “keep” and “do” demonstrates that Yahweh demands diligent or careful obedience of his covenantal nation.
The phrase “all his commands” refers, as it does throughout the book, to the totality of
Yahweh’s covenantal expectations for his chosen nation. The contents of this “covenantal treaty document” are nonnegotiable.
Gerald Gerbrandt: To speak of the blessings as conditional upon obedience must be distinguished from speaking of the blessings as a reward for obedience. . . The land and its blessings thus always remain an undeserved gift. They must never be treated as if deserved or obtained through my power and the might of my own hand (8:17). The relationship between obedience and blessing thus is only one way: obedience makes continuing blessing possible, but blessing remains a gift and never becomes the deserved reward for obedience. The relationship between obedience and blessing thus is very different from the relationship between disobedience and curse (C. Wright 1996: 280).
I. (:1-2) CONDITION FOR BLESSING = OBEDIENCE
A. (:1a) Condition Introduced
“Now it shall be, if you will diligently obey the LORD your God,
being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today,”
Michael Grisanti: Verses 1–2 contain two conditional statements, presented chiastically (condition [v.1a], result [v.1b], result [v.2a], condition [v.2b]). Verse 1 affirms that total and wholehearted obedience will occasion the nation of Israel’s international prominence.
B. (:1b-2a) Promise
1. (:1b) Elevation above the Nations
“the LORD your God will set you high
above all the nations of the earth.”
Eugene Merrill: The blessing of being exalted above all other nations had already been articulated; in fact, it is the very last promise of the stipulation section of the book (26:19) and is in line with the elective purposes of God, who chose Israel out “from among” all nations to be his special possession (7:6; 14:2; cf. Exod 19:6). Ultimately, however, the promise must find fulfillment in an eschatological setting in which Israel (or Zion) would enjoy unrivaled preeminence among the nations as the object of God’s gracious favor (cf. Num 24:7; Ps 89:28; Isa 2:2).
2. (:2a) Enjoyment of Blessings
“And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you,”
C. (:2b) Condition Repeated
“if you will obey the LORD your God.”
II. (:3-6) COMPREHENSIVE SPHERES OF BLESSINGS
MacArthur: These beatitudes summarize the various spheres where the blessing of God would extend to Israel’s life. God’s favor is also intended to permeate all their endeavors as emphasized further in the expanded summary in 28:7, 14, on the condition of Obedience (vv. 1, 2, 9, 13, 14). They will know victory, prosperity, purity, respect, abundance, and dominance – comprehensive blessings.
A. (:3) Where You Live
“Blessed shall you be in the city,
and blessed shall you be in the country.”
Michael Grisanti: In every location (totality of space) Yahweh promises to pour out his blessings on Israel (v.3).
B. (:4) What You Produce
“Blessed shall be the offspring of your body”
“and the produce of your ground”
“and the offspring of your beasts,
the increase of your herd
and the young of your flock.”
C. (:5) What You Eat
“Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.”
Duane Christensen: The “kneading trough” was a wide shallow bowl employed for the preparation of dough with which to make bread. The blessing here refers to provision of daily food for the family.
Earl Kalland: Among a desert-dwelling people, food products were scarce (notwithstanding the manna) and hunger and thirst common. An abundance of foodstuffs was a notable blessing indeed!
D. (:6) Where You Go – Daily Activities
“Blessed shall you be when you come in,
and blessed shall you be when you go out.”
Earl Kalland: a common descriptive phrase of going out to one’s daily tasks and returning home after the day’s work is done, whatever that activity entails. Coming in from labor and going out to work have the same meaning.
III. (:7-13a) CHARACTERIZATION AND EXPOSITION OF BLESSINGS
Michael Grisanti: Moses describes the way in which the Lord will bless his vassals by giving them military victories, material abundance, an impressive reputation, and international prominence if they will only obey his commandments.
Notice the chiastic structure:
A Foreign Relations: Yahweh will provide total security (28:7);
B Domestic Affairs: Yahweh will provide prosperity in barns and land (28:8);
C Covenantal Relationship: Yahweh will establish Israel as his holy people (28:9–10);
B´ Domestic Affairs: Yahweh will provide prosperity in barns and land (28:11–12);
A´ Foreign Relations: Yahweh will provide total security (28:13–14).
Gerald Gerbrandt: The second set of blessings has a different style. Here God is the active subject of the verbs, with the proper name of God occurring nine times in verses 7–12. In these verses the more general blessings of the opening set are translated into particular promises for Israel (Nelson 2002: 329).
A. (:7) Victory over Enemies
“The LORD will cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you;
they shall come out against you one way and shall flee before you seven ways.”
Peter Craigie: Any enemies of Israel, whose attack would threaten their peaceful and blessed existence, would be defeated; God would grant his people victory. Here the security granted by God against external threats is stated to emphasize the reality of God’s blessing within the community. It was a promise in which the Israelites could trust, for already they had experienced the victory God had provided against the military might of Egypt. On God’s provision of victory, see further 7:17–26.
B. (:8) Prosperity in the Land
“The LORD will command the blessing upon you in your barns
and in all that you put your hand to,
and He will bless you in the land which the LORD your God gives you.”
C. (:9-10) Holiness as the People of God
“The LORD will establish you as a holy people to Himself, as He swore to you, if you will keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and walk in His ways. 10 So all the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the LORD; and they shall be afraid of you.”
Michael Grisanti: In order for the chosen nation to bring Yahweh great glory and so to accomplish their God-given function, they must live in heartfelt conformity to his covenantal expectations (keep his commands and walk in his ways; 28:9b). Their obedience does not help them earn this place of international impact; rather, their conformity to Yahweh’s demands makes them able to have a powerful impact on the surrounding nations. It is only as they wholeheartedly conform their lives to God’s requirements that they will provide the vivid demonstration of Yahweh’s awe-inspiring character that will have a powerful impact on the world. Covenantal obedience does not merit God-glorifying prominence but enables it to happen.
Eugene Merrill: The reason for fear is therefore most apparent: That nation called by Almighty God to be his own son falls under his protection and can freely call upon his omnipotent resources. To mistreat God’s people is to invite divine intervention and retribution.
Daniel Block: Verses 9–10 represent the theological heart of this paragraph and the climax of all the blessings in verses 1–14. Echoing 26:18–19, Moses articulates Yahweh’s ideal for his people and their privileges as his covenant partner (cf. Ex. 19:5–6). Whereas 26:19 had spoken of Yahweh setting Israel high above all the nations, here Moses envisions him establishing Israel as his holy people. That this involves the fulfillment of an earlier commitment is highlighted by the verb “to establish” and the addition of “as he promised you on oath.” The notion of Israel as Yahweh’s holy people is familiar from 7:6; 14:2, 21. However, in keeping with Exodus 19:5–6, the fulfillment of Yahweh’s covenantal promises will be contingent on their living according to his revealed will, here referred to as “keeping” his commands and “walking in his ways.” These are shorthand expressions for all that Yahweh requires of Israel (cf. 10:12–13).
D. (:11) Productivity in Every Arena
“And the LORD will make you abound in prosperity,
in the offspring of your body
and in the offspring of your beast
and in the produce of your ground,
in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers to give you.”
E. (:12) Abundance of Provision by Virtue of God’s Providential Blessing
“The LORD will open for you His good storehouse, the heavens,
to give rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hand;
and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow.”
Peter Craigie: One of the roles of God in the Promised Land would be the provision of fertility; fertility depended primarily on the rains. Without the rains, the crops could not grow, and without the crops and the other produce of the field, neither man nor his domestic animals could survive. Thus in v. 12, there is a very rich expression of the blessing of God, for in providing the rains, God was providing what would be the mainspring of life in Israel’s land. The language of the verse is poetic and the imagery may serve a particular religious purpose. The heavens are described as God’s storehouse; whenever he opened that storehouse, the rains would come down to fertilize the land. The imagery at this point is reminiscent of Ps. 104:3, 13 where God is described as watering the mountains from his lofty abode. But both Hebrew passages find a parallel in the Canaanite myth of Baal, as it is known from the Ugaritic texts. According to the myth, when a house was built for Baal, a window or skylight was set in the roof of the house, so that through this opening Baal could release the rains over the earth. The myth points to a primary function of Baal in the religion of the Canaanites; as a provider of rain, he was a fertility god. When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, they would be faced with the temptations of the fertility cult of Baal, which had served the previous residents in the land. Such temptations were to be resisted, for though the Lord was not a fertility God in the restricted sense, yet fertility was within his power, for he was the creator and sustainer of the world. It may be that the language of v. 12 (and also of Ps. 104) deliberately echoes the Canaanite myth in order to emphasize that the Lord, and not Baal, would provide the needed rains.
F. (:13a) Dominance on the World Scene
“And the LORD shall make you the head and not the tail,
and you only shall be above, and you shall not be underneath,”
Peter Craigie: Israel would be a prince among nations, rich in produce and harvest, strong against her enemies, glorious in the presence of God in her midst—always provided that the commandments of God were obeyed (v. 13b).
Eugene Merrill: Obedience to the Lord would guarantee that his people would be “the head [r ], not the tail [z n b].” Isaiah used the same metaphor to describe the ordinary people as opposed to the leaders (Isa 9:14 [Heb. 9:13]), that is, those who bring up the rear. In the future, particularly in eschatological days, the Lord would so promote Israel that it would lead the procession of nations as their head (cf. Jer 31:7).
IV. (:13b-14) CONDITION FOR BLESSING = OBEDIENCE
A. (:13b) Stated Positively
“if you will listen to the commandments of the LORD your God,
which I charge you today,
to observe them carefully,”
B. (:14) Stated Negatively
“and do not turn aside from any of the words which I command you today,
to the right or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.”