Moses’ Blessings & Curses in Deuteronomy
Moses lived about 3500 years ago and he wrote the first five books of the Bible. We call them the Pentateuch or the Torah. His fifth book, Deuteronomy, contains his last proclamations made just before he died. These were his Blessings to the people of Israel – the Jews, but also his Curses. Moses wrote that these Blessings and Curses would shape history. All peoples, not just by the Jews, should pay attention to them. So he wrote this for you and me to think about. The complete Blessings and Curses are here. I summarize the main points below.
The Blessings of Moses
Moses began by describing the blessings that the Israelites would receive if they obeyed The Law. He gave the law in the earlier books and they included the Ten Commandments. The blessings were from God and would be so great that all other nations would recognize His blessing. The outcome of these blessings would be that:
Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will fear you.Deuteronomy 28:10
… and the Curses
However, if the Israelites failed to obey the Commands then they would receive Curses that would match and mirror the Blessings. The other nations would see these Curses so that:
You will become a thing of horror, a byword and an object of ridicule among all the peoples where the LORD will drive you.Deuteronomy 28:37
And the Curses would extend through history.
They will be a sign and a wonder to you and your descendants forever.Deuteronomy 28:46
But God warned that the worst part of the Curses would come from other nations.
The LORD will bring a nation against you from far away, from the ends of the earth, like an eagle swooping down, a nation whose language you will not understand, a fierce-looking nation without respect for the old or pity for the young. They will devour the young of your livestock and the crops of your land until you are destroyed … until you are ruined. They will lay siege to all the cities throughout your land until the high fortified walls in which you trust fall down. They will besiege all the cities throughout the land.Deuteronomy 28:49-52
It would go from bad to worse.
You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess. Then the LORD will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. … Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the LORD will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart.Deuteronomy 28:63-65
God established these Blessings and Curses by a covenant (an agreement) between Him and the Israelites:
You are standing here in order to enter into a covenant with the Lord your God, a covenant the Lord is making with you this day and sealing with an oath, 13 to confirm you this day as his people, that he may be your God as he promised you and as he swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 14 I am making this covenant, with its oath, not only with you 15 who are standing here with us today in the presence of the Lord our God but also with those who are not here today.Deuteronomy 29:12-15
In other words this covenant would be binding on the children, or future generations. In fact God directed this covenant at future generations – both Israelite and foreigner.
Your children who follow you in later generations and foreigners who come from distant lands will see the calamities that have fallen on the land and the diseases with which the Lord has afflicted it. The whole land will be a burning waste of salt and sulfur—nothing planted, nothing sprouting, no vegetation growing on it. It will be like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboyim, which the Lord overthrew in fierce anger. All the nations will ask: “Why has the Lord done this to this land? Why this fierce, burning anger?”Deuteronomy 29:22-24
And the answer will be:
And the answer will be: “It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt. 26 They went off and worshiped other gods and bowed down to them, gods they did not know, gods he had not given them. 27 Therefore the Lord’s anger burned against this land, so that he brought on it all the curses written in this book. 28 In furious anger and in great wrath the Lord uprooted them from their land and thrust them into another land, as it is now.”Deuteronomy 29:25-28
Did The Blessings and Curses happen?
Nothing neutral about them. The Blessings were delightful, but the Curses were utterly severe. However, the most important question we can ask is: ‘Did they happen?’ The answer is not hard to find. Much of the Old Testament is the record of the history of the Israelites and from that we can see what happens in their history. Also we have records outside the Old Testament, from Jewish historians like Josephus, Graeco-Roman historians like Tacitus and we have found many archeological monuments. All of these sources agree and paint a consistent picture of the Israelite or Jewish history. Review the summary of this history, given through the building of a timeline here. Read it and assess for yourself if the Curses of Moses came to pass.
The Conclusion to Moses’ Blessings and Curses
But this Farewell Speech of Moses did not end with the Curses. It continued. Here is how Moses final conclusion.
When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the LORD your God disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the LORD your God will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestorsDeuteronomy 30:1-5
After Moses, successive writers in the Old Testament continued with this promise that he first stated. There would be a restoration after the Curses. These later writers made bold, troubling and detailed predictions. Together they make an astounding set of predictions that are happening today.