“Moreover all these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue thee, and overtake thee, till thou be destroyed; because thou hearkenedst not unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which he commanded thee: And they shall be upon thee for a sign and for a wonder, and upon thy seed for ever.” (Deuteronomy 28:45-46)
The law was specifically designed to give people the best possible life here on earth. Failure to observe the laws about cleanliness would needlessly expose them to diseases. Ignoring the laws about other people’s property would cause conflicts and resentment, destroying unity. Eventually the consequences would begin to be noticed. By taking action the problems could be resolved.
Many smokers develop smokers cough. If at that point they choose to stop smoking their body will usually heal itself in a short time. If they decide they would rather live with the cough than stop smoking, the problems will grow steadily worse. Eventually, they may contract emphysema or lung cancer. I am amazed by the number of people who have to have oxygen yet continue to smoke. The disease will get worse and eventually kill them, but it is their choice.
Like the smoker’s cough, the curses were a warning that they needed to change what they were doing. Refusal to do so would eventually result in God’s intervention, much like the emphysema or lung cancer. Still refusing to change would eventually result in the death of the nation.
“Because thou servedst not the LORD thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things; Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the LORD shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee.” (Deuteronomy 28:47-48)
If Israel turned away from God’s law it would be because, like the smoker, they considered something they got from disobedience more valuable than the rewards of obedience. Like the smoker who has been forced to drag around the oxygen bottle, they would be forced to serve their enemies because they didn’t appreciate their freedom in serving God.
“The LORD shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand; A nation of fierce countenance, which shall not regard the person of the old, nor show favour to the young: And he shall eat the fruit of thy cattle, and the fruit of thy land, until thou be destroyed: which also shall not leave thee either corn, wine, or oil, or the increase of thy kine, or flocks of thy sheep, until he have destroyed thee. And he shall besiege thee in all thy gates, until thy high and fenced walls come down, wherein thou trustedst, throughout all thy land: and he shall besiege thee in all thy gates throughout all thy land, which the LORD thy God hath given thee.” (Deuteronomy 28:49-52)
While initially, they would be ruled by small local groups that would be influenced by their power and size, eventually disobedience would lead to their being noticed and conquered by a nation strong enough to ignore their culture and power. They will only concern themselves with what they can take away immediately, with no interest in what ultimately happens to Israel.
“And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body, the flesh of thy sons and of thy daughters, which the LORD thy God hath given thee, in the siege, and in the straitness, wherewith thine enemies shall distress thee: So that the man that is tender among you, and very delicate, his eye shall be evil toward his brother, and toward the wife of his bosom, and toward the remnant of his children which he shall leave: So that he will not give to any of them of the flesh of his children whom he shall eat: because he hath nothing left him in the siege, and in the straitness, wherewith thine enemies shall distress thee in all thy gates.
The tender and delicate woman among you, which would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness and tenderness, her eye shall be evil toward the husband of her bosom, and toward her son, and toward her daughter, And toward her young one that cometh out from between her feet, and toward her children which she shall bear: for she shall eat them for want of all things secretly in the siege and straitness, wherewith thine enemy shall distress thee in thy gates.” (Deuteronomy 28:53-57)
Disobedience will lead to oppression so bad they eventually are forced into cannibalism to survive, fighting with their relatives over whose children will be eaten and who will be allowed to eat them. Even the sophisticated woman who would never step on bare ground for fear of getting her shoe dirty will fight to eat a piece of her own children. II Kings 6:24-30 describes this curse being fulfilled in Ahab’s son’s day.
“If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, THE LORD THY GOD; Then the LORD will make thy plagues wonderful, and the plagues of thy seed, even great plagues, and of long continuance, and sore sicknesses, and of long continuance. Moreover he will bring upon thee all the diseases of Egypt, which thou wast afraid of; and they shall cleave unto thee. Also every sickness, and every plague, which is not written in the book of this law, them will the LORD bring upon thee, until thou be destroyed. And ye shall be left few in number, whereas ye were as the stars of heaven for multitude; because thou wouldest not obey the voice of the LORD thy God. And it shall come to pass, that as the LORD rejoiced over you to do you good, and to multiply you; so the LORD will rejoice over you to destroy you, and to bring you to nought; and ye shall be plucked from off the land whither thou goest to possess it.
And the LORD shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone. And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the LORD shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind: And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life: In the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were even! and at even thou shalt say, Would God it were morning! for the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see.
And the LORD shall bring thee into Egypt again with ships, by the way whereof I spake unto thee, Thou shalt see it no more again: and there ye shall be sold unto your enemies for bondmen and bondwomen, and no man shall buy you.” (Deuteronomy 28:58-68)
A couple of times I worked on construction projects where the owner or general contractor refused to pay on time. The contractors who had not been paid filed leins against the property and removed equipment they had installed to prevent the owner from selling it and leaving them with nothing.
In effect, God promises to do the same thing to Israel if they refuse to keep their contract with him. He would take away their land, allow them to have all the diseases other groups have, experience the starvation and oppression, and eventually even be carried back as slaves to Egypt. For seventy years, they were enslaved in Babylon, as described in II Chronicles, Daniel, and Esther. Allowed to rebuild Israel, the obeyed God for about five hundred years, but turned away at the time of Christ. For almost nineteen hundred years, from 60 AD. until 1948, there was no nation of Israel.
Because of his promise to Abraham, God is giving them another chance to fulfill their contract.