Blessings and Curses… Eden Again (Deuteronomy 27-29)

A popular theme arises as Moses comes into the final chapters of the Pentateuch (Genesis – Deuteronomy). There has been a heavy stream of retelling the Law and following out of a genuine love for Yahweh. Israel is reminded they were chosen and loved by the LORD before they knew Him. They had been delivered from oppression and slavery, and made His treasured possession. They were given signs and wonders so Israel would become a people who trusted Yahweh for what was good and walk in His ways.

The second generation are as Adam and Eve before the Fall (10:39). Now Moses stresses the importance of obeying God when they come into the Promised Land. Many attempts have been made to help them remember – parents continually reminding their children, writing it on their homes, literally binding them on their arms and foreheads with leather straps (6:6-9); special observances (16:1-17); their future kings having a written copy to lead the people (17:18-20); setting up stones with plaster with God’s laws on them (27:1-4).

bible-archeology-altar-of-joshua-amphitheater-between-mt-gerizim-ebal
Israel reading the blessings from Mt. Gerizim and the curses from Mt. Ebal

But I want to focus on the blessings and curses associated with the instructions of Yahweh. When we get to chapters 27-30, the author hints at the outcome of the 2nd generation. There was a ceremony that was to take place when the people came into the land (27:11-13). On Mount Gerizim, half the tribes were to recite the blessings of obedience in a loud voice. On Mount Ebal, the other tribes were to recite the curses. Fascinating to say the least. But that isn’t why we are here. The author doesn’t write out the blessings – only the curses. Why? It seems to stress that Israel will fail to be obedient to God’s covenant and therefore will not enjoy its blessings.

However, chapter 28 begins with written blessings of those who faithfully obey the Word of Yahweh. And we find the language of the Garden of Eden.

Verse 3-4, 8: Blessed shall you be in the field… the fruit of the groundthe land that the LORD your God is giving you. Genesis 1:29-30, And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.” (emphasis mine)

Verse 4: Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb. Genesis 1:28 says God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply…” (emphasis mine)

Verse 4: Blessed shall you be the fruit of your cattle… herds… flock. Genesis 1:30, And to every beast of the earth and every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life… (emphasis mine)

Verse 12: Bless all the work of your hands. Genesis 2:15, The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. (emphasis mine)

After the author dedicates the first 14 verses to the blessings of obedience, he then gives 54 verses to the curses. It dominates the chapter. Once again, we are given a clue that things will not go so well with the 2nd generation. Yahweh becomes even more detailed in 31:16-18, 27. They will not enjoy the blessings of Eden, that is, the Promised Land. Israel, like Adam and Eve, will fail and experience curses similar the Fall – affliction and exile from God’s good land (Gen. 3:16-24).

Is there any hope?

Seriously?

  • Resetting creation (the Flood) didn’t do it (Gen. 6-9).
  • The chosen family of Abraham hadn’t done it (Gen. 12).
  • Even after being delivered from slavery and bondage – made a special nation of God – given a covenant and promise – even witnessing the mighty wonders and signs of Yahweh – the 1st generation failed.

Now the 2nd generation has an opportunity to fulfill God’s mission to the nations and be blessed. They watched their faithless parents die in the wilderness. They know the stories and are loved by Yahweh. Yet, we find out they will fail too.

Thank God for chapter 29!

Just as in Eden (Gen. 3:16), we discover a future promise in the midst of the curses.

Deuteronomy 29:1, These are the words of the covenant that the LORD commanded Moses to make with the people of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant that he had made with them at Horeb. (emphasis mine)

The word besides (בד ל מן) literally means “from to alone.” Moses is not talking about a renewal of the covenant, but in addition to the one made at Sinai (Horeb). It introduces the theme of a future new covenant. One that will be brought by the Messiah when He crushes the head of the snake (Gen. 3:16) by His death on the cross (Lk. 22:20)! Look at your marginal notes in your New Testament. It’s writers quote Deuteronomy 29-34 as foretelling the coming of Jesus! In fact, the New Testament quotes the book of Deuteronomy more than any other in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Jesus resisted the temptation of the snake using passages from Deuteronomy (Matt. 4:1-11) and it was His second most quoted “Old Testament” book (10x – Psalms 11x). This is where Paul taught righteousness is by faith (Rom. 10:6-8, 19; Deut. 30:12-14) and circumcision of the heart was the means for true obedience (Rom. 2:29; Deut. 30:6). Paul tells believers not to seek revenge (Rom. 12:19; Deut. 32:35). And get this, that we should expect Gentiles (non-Jews) to be added to the people of God (Rom. 15:10; Deut. 32:43). You get the idea. My next blog will be dedicated to the future blessing found in Deuteronomy 30.

What’s the point?

This is not a book about the past. It speaks forward to us and the One who finally came. It is a message of hope! Don’t skim through its pages, really absorb its message for us.

**All Scripture quotations comes from the English Standard Version

**Blog resources: The Pentateuch as Narrative by John H. Sailhamer

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