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Deuteronomy 28:5 . Blessed shall be thy basket. The LXX read, thy barns and thy store.
Deuteronomy 28:24 . The Lord shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust. Our oriental travellers say in succession, that when hurricanes happen in the sandy deserts, they carry the fine sands high in the air, and rain on cities and villages the dust, which penetrates every corner of the houses where the air has access. They often bury camels and asses in the deserts, and form ridges and hills which prove a great obstruction to husbandry. The tracts and roads, after those tempests and gales, are completely lost, and men travel as they can between the ridges, their eyes and ears sustaining great pain from the dust which has penetrated into those more tender senses of the body. The western shore of the Nile was once the most fertile part of Egypt; the sands having since marched in clouds, have buried all the beautiful towns and districts, and turned the fruitful field into a desert.
Deuteronomy 28:27 . The botch of Egypt, often referred to: Deuteronomy 7:15.
Deuteronomy 28:49 . A nation against thee from afar. The Romans, to punish them as rebels, “whose language thou canst not understand:” this made the calamity greater. Hezekiah’s ministers understood the Assyrian tongue, which was a sister language of the Hebrew; but the Latin was difficult to learn. The Romans realized all the horrors of these predictions against a people denationalized and devoted. See on Daniel 9:24; Daniel 9:27. As swift as the eagle flieth. The Chaldean armies are frequently represented as flying swift as the eagle, which is the prince of birds. One measured by Bruce in Abyssinia, of the golden eagle species, from wing to wing, eight feet four inches, and from the back to the tip of the tail, four feet seven inches. The eagle renews his plumage in the spring, as most birds of prey, to which allusion is made in Psalms 103:5. He lives to a great age, and is often found with a bald head.
Deuteronomy 28:64 . The Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other. Voltaire, the far-famed infidel of Ferney, in Swisserland, contributed to make Frederick the Great, king of Prussia, an unbeliever. Dr. Steinkoff, minister of the Lutheran church in London, stated one evening in conversation, that Frederick has been heard to say, “After all, I think there must be some truth in the prophecies respecting the Jews; they are so often repeated, and so very strikingly fulfilled in the dispersion of that people.” So complete is this dispersion, “from one end of the earth even to the other,” that there is scarcely a port or city without jews. In India, in China, and in central Asia, their condition is most deplorable; they are poor and distressed even to a proverb. Christian nations are now their best friends and protectors. Tertullian, Augustine, Lactantius, and others of the ancient fathers, lay a strong emphasis on the sufferings of the jews, as consequent on their sin of crucifying “the Lord of glory.”
Deuteronomy 28:66 . Thou shalt fear day and night. The fathers apply this to the fears which fell on the jews after the crucifixion, when “great fear fell on every soul.” Acts 2:43. In the dark ages, christians as well as heathens, treated the jews with great cruelty.
Deuteronomy 28:68 . Ships. Navigation, in the times of Moses, was well understood.
The covenant made at Sinai forty years before is here repeated to the new generation, and with such enlargements as were calculated most deeply to impress the nation. It is in fact the identical covenant made with Abraham, approaching the crisis of splendour and prosperity. Genesis 12:0. The promise of the Messiah was superadded, in whom all the families of the earth were to be blessed with the fulness of spiritual benefits which should overflow in his kingdom. The temporal blessings, ever to be viewed as shadows and figures of the spiritual, comprehend every good which can contribute to personal, domestic and national prosperity. And these were not vain panegyrics and pompous presumption to allure a wandering nation to a fixed habitation; they were all realized in the reign of David, and of Solomon his son. David had nine hundred thousand men able to bear arms, which must have included a population of six millions, all well nourished in a small tract of country; and Solomon made gold and silver plentiful as iron and brass in Jerusalem. This should encourage every christian to look for the same blessings, temporal and spiritual, to descend on his soul and on his family, while walking in the Lord’s way.
After this recital of the blessings of the Hebrew covenant, it was most equitable and meet that the curses, in case of apostasy, should follow. These are painted with horrors of the deepest shade, as the rudest blast of winter, slowly approaching and stripping the earth of all the verdure and beauty of summer; as blasts, covering Israel with desolation, and no more succeeded with reviving spring. They approach as ministers of justice, pursuing guilt for a long time with paternal corrections: but when the sad crisis arrived, that no mercies could soften, no judgment sanctify the obdurate, they inflict the fullest strokes of vengeance by excision of an apostate nation for seventy years. And when the astonished heathens enquired the cause of those singular calamities, they were told it was because they had forsaken the covenant of the Lord. Yea, Daniel himself, weeping in captivity, owns the equity of the punishment, and hallows the memory of Moses: chap. 9. Thus the Hebrews were made instructive to the heathen, and instructive to future ages.
From the nature of those blessings and curses we learn that the prosperity and adversity of families and nations are immediately connected with their piety or profaneness. All objections brought to the contrary, from the prosperity of the wicked, are derived from flattering periods in their history. It may safely be averred, that the main series of ancient and modern history, whether written by believers or unbelievers, will evince, on viewing the rise, splendour, and fall of families and states, that the doctrine of Moses is consonant to providence. Angels also, viewing the judgments of God on a fuller scale, cease not to cry, Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of Hosts.
After historically tracing the chastisements apostate Israel should sustain from the Assyrians, the soul of our venerable prophet, elevated with the terrors of vision, and having for a moment the veil of futurity uplifted, launched forth beyond the line of patriarchal prophecy, and saw what heaven had not dared to entrust to any mortal, nor even to him till the approach of death. He saw the Messiah and his gospel rejected; he saw the whole Hebrew nation as a putrid carcase in God’s esteem; he saw the wide-spread eagle ensigns of the Romans waving in the air, and gathering on the guilty as around their lawful prey. He saw more: he saw all the horrors of the siege of Jerusalem the famine, the pestilence, the slaughter, the destruction of the city, and consequent captivity of the people!
Josephus is more copious, but not more correct than Moses, who wrote sixteen hundred years before. Nay, the prophet saw more than the historian lived to see. He saw the subsequent sieges by Adrian throughout all the land, occasioned by new revolts: Deuteronomy 28:52. He saw the famine, pestilence and sword, exhaust all their treasures of vengeance on this guilty people, for the murder of the Son of God, and the rejection of mercy. He saw the few in number, scattered among all nations, from one end of the earth even to the other; and there compelled sometimes to serve the heathen gods, and sometimes the papal christian gods, as once they were openly obliged to do both in Spain and Portugal. Thus to whatever nation they fled, they had no rest for the soles of their feet, but had a trembling heart; and even till the period of the reformation, their life hung in doubt. Christians, here is instruction for you. Turn your eyes towards this covenant nation, a nation cast away till the times of the gentiles are fulfilled. Where can you visit a nation, where can you enter a port destitute of Hebrew exiles? Wherever they wander, they are God’s witnesses, attesting the truth of prophecy, and the consequences of rejecting the gospel. They are not dispersed, as in Babylon, for corrupting their covenant with idols: quite the contrary: but a little before their ruin, the mere sight of a Roman eagle on the walls of Jerusalem occasioned an insurrection of the people. They are rejected for rejecting Christ. Therefore I again say, christians fix your eye on those instructive men; and beware lest you also be destroyed for making light of the gospel. Tremble, licentious age, tremble, lest the glory should depart from you, and rest on them. Tremble, lest when the joy of receiving them back should be as life from the dead, you, in return, should be exposed to all the vengeance they have sustained.
The very striking accomplishment of this extraordinary prophecy, is not only an incontrovertible proof of the truth of revelation; not only irresistible in reclaiming a candid infidel; but it is extremely consolatory to all weak and tempted believers. I do aver that whenever I have been exposed to the injections of Satan concerning the truth of any one doctrine of revelation; for ministers are men; the study of this and other prophecies has always sustained me; and removed the transient doubt with more than a sunbeam of celestial day. Hence I earnestly recommend this study, accompanied with prayer, above all means to weak and troubled minds. It will not only confirm them in the faith, but greatly increase their piety and reverence for God. A young christian, well instructed in this sublimest branch of revelation, clothes himself with a coat of mail, which bids defiance to the sneers and shafts of infidelity, and repels his foes with the word of God, which is sharper than any two-edged sword. They sink for want of ground; but he stands firm, being supported by the Eternal Rock.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 28". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27