For the purpose of impressing upon the hearts of all the people in the most emphatic manner both the blessing which Israel was to proclaim upon Gerizim, and the curse which it was to proclaim upon Ebal, Moses now unfolds the blessing of fidelity to the law and the curse of transgression in a longer address, in which he once more resumes, sums up, and expands still further the promises and threats of the law in Exo 23:20-33, and Lev 26.
The Blessing. - Deu 28:1. If Israel would hearken to the voice of the Lord its God, the Lord would make it the highest of all the nations of the earth. This thought, with which the discourse on the law in Deu 26:19 terminated, forms the theme, and in a certain sense the heading, of the following description of the blessing, through which the Lord, according to the more distinct declaration in Deu 28:2, would glorify His people above all the nations of the earth. The indispensable condition for obtaining this blessing, was obedience to the word of the Lord, or keeping His commandments. To impress this condition sine qua non thoroughly upon the people, Moses not only repeats it at the commencement (Deu 28:2), and in the middle (Deu 28:9), but also at the close (Deu 28:13, Deu 28:14), in both a positive and a negative form. In Deu 28:2, “the way in which Israel was to be exalted is pointed out” (Schultz); and thus the theme is more precisely indicated, and the elaboration of it is introduced. “All these blessings (those mentioned singly in what follows) will come upon thee and reach thee.” The blessings are represented as actual powers, which follow the footsteps of the nation, and overtake it. In Deu 28:3-6, the fulness of the blessing of God in all the relations of life is depicted in a sixfold repetition of the word “blessed.” Israel will be blessed in the town and in the field, the two spheres in which its life moves (Deu 28:3); blessed will be the fruit of the body, of the earth, and of the cattle, i.e., in all its productions (Deu 28:4; for each one, see Deu 7:13-14); blessed will be the basket (Deu 26:2) in which the fruits are kept, and the kneading - trough (Exo 12:34) in which the daily bread is prepared (Deu 28:5); blessed will the nation be in all its undertakings (“coming in and going out;” vid., Num 27:17).
Deu 28:7-14 describe the influence and effect of the blessing upon all the circumstances and situations in which the nation might be placed: in Deu 28:7-10, with reference (a) to the attitude of Israel towards its enemies (Deu 28:7); (b) to its trade and handicraft (Deu 28:8); (c) to its attitude towards all the nations of the earth (Deu 28:9, Deu 28:10). The optative forms, יִתֵּן and יְצַו (in Deu 28:7 and Deu 28:8), are worthy of notice. They show that Moses not only proclaimed the blessing to the people, but desired it for them, because he knew that Israel would not always or perfectly fulfil the condition upon which it was to be bestowed. “May the Lord be pleased to give thine enemies...smitten before thee,” i.e., give them up to thee as smitten (לִפְנֵי נָתַן, to give up before a person, to deliver up to him: cf. Deu 1:8), so that they shall come out against thee by one way, and flee from thee by seven ways, i.e., in wild dispersion (cf. Lev 26:7-8).
“May the Lord command the blessing with thee (put it at thy disposal) in thy barns (granaries, store-rooms) and in all thy business” (“to set the hand;” see Deu 12:7).
“The Lord will exalt thee for a holy nation to Himself,...so that all the nations of the earth shall see that the name of Jehovah is named upon thee, and shall fear before thee.” The Lord had called Israel as a holy nation, when He concluded the covenant with it (Exo 19:5-6). This promise, to which the words “as He hath sworn unto thee” point back, and which is called an oath, because it was founded upon the promises given to the patriarchs on oath (Gen 22:16), and was given implicite in them, the Lord would fulfil to His people, and cause the holiness and glory of Israel to be so clearly manifested, that all nations should perceive or see “that the name of the Lord is named upon Israel.” The name of the Lord is the revelation of His glorious nature. It is named upon Israel, when Israel is transformed into the glory of the divine nature (cf. Isa 63:19; Jer 14:9). It was only in feeble commencements that this blessing was fulfilled upon Israel under the Old Testament; and it is not till the restoration of Israel, which is to take place in the future according to Rom 11:25., that its complete fulfilment will be attained. In Deu 28:11 and Deu 28:12, Moses returns to the earthly blessing, for the purpose of unfolding this still further. “Superabundance will the Lord give thee for good (i.e., for happiness and prosperity; vid., Deu 30:9), in fruit of thy body,” etc. (cf. Deu 28:4). He would open His good treasure-house, the heaven, to give rain to the land in its season (cf. Deu 11:14; Lev 26:4-5), and bless the work of the hands, i.e., the cultivation of the soil, so that Israel would be able to lend to many, according to the prospect already set before it in Deu 15:6.
By such blessings He would “make Israel the head, and not the tail,” - a figure taken from life (vid., Isa 9:13), the meaning of which is obvious, and is given literally in the next sentence, “thou wilt be above only, and not beneath,” i.e., thou wilt rise more and more, and increase in wealth, power, and dignity. With this the discourse returns to its commencement; and the promise of blessing closes with another emphatic repetition of the condition on which the fulfilment depended (Deu 28:13 and Deu 28:14. On Deu 28:14, see Deu 5:29; Deu 11:28).