Temple Beth-El Torah Study March 26, 2016 Deuteronomy 28:1-3

Deuteronomy 28:1-3

Verse 1

וְהָיָ֗ה אִם־שָׁמ֤וֹעַ תִּשְׁמַע֙ בְּקוֹל֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ לִשְׁמֹ֤ר לַעֲשׂוֹת֙ אֶת־כָּל־מִצְוֺתָ֔יו אֲשֶׁ֛ר אָנֹכִ֥י מְצַוְּךָ֖ הַיּ֑וֹם וּנְתָ֨נְךָ֜ יְהוָ֤ה אֱלֹהֶ֙יךָ֙ עֶלְי֔וֹן עַ֖ל כָּל־גּוֹיֵ֥י הָאָֽרֶץ׃

Verse 2

וּבָ֧אוּ עָלֶ֛יךָ כָּל־הַבְּרָכ֥וֹת הָאֵ֖לֶּה וְהִשִּׂיגֻ֑ךָ כִּ֣י תִשְׁמַ֔ע בְּק֖וֹל יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶֽיךָ׃

Verse 3

בָּר֥וּךְ אַתָּ֖ה בָּעִ֑יר וּבָר֥וּךְ אַתָּ֖ה בַּשָּׂדֶֽה׃

JPS Now, if you obey the Lord your God, to observe faithfully all His commandments which I enjoin upon you this day, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. All these blessings shall come upon you and take effect, if you will but heed the word of the Lord your God:

Blessed shall you be in the city and blessed shall you be in the country.

Alter "And it shall be, if you truly heed the voice of the Lord your God to keep to do all His commands that I charge you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings will come upon you and overtake you when you heed the voice of the Lord your God.

Blessed you will be in the town and blessed you will be in the field.

Fox Now it shall be: if you hearken, yes, hearken, to the voice of YHWH your God, taking-care to observe all his commandments that I command you today, then YHWH your God will make you the most-high above all the nations of the earth. Then there will come upon you all these blessings, and overtake you, since you have hearkened to the voice of YHWH your God: Blessed be you, in the town, blessed be you, in the (open) fields;
Friedman "And it will be, if you'll listen to the voice of YHWH, your God, to be watchful to do all His commandments that I command you today, that YHWH, your God, will you high above the nations of the earth. And all these blessings will come on you and catch up with you when you'll listen to the voice of YHWH, your God:

You'll be blessed in the city, and you'll be blessed in the field.


The Consequences of Odedience and Disobedience (vv.1-68)

This chapter is a detailed exposition of the consequences of Israel’s obeying or disobeying the terms of the covenant that Moses has rehearsed in chapters 5-26. The chapter has two main parts; one describes the good fortune that will come upon Israel if it obeys God’s laws (vv. 1-14), and the other tells of the disasters that will ensue if it disobeys (vv. 15-68). The second part consists of three subsections describing various groups of disasters (vv. 15-44, 45-57, and 58-68).

For obedience God promises abundant crops and food, human and animal fertility, wealth, surplus, economic preeminence, and military success. Disobedience is threatened with the reverse: drought, diseases, crop failure, economic collapse and dependency, defeat in war, conquest, oppression, famine, cannibalism, and exile. Promises and threats such as these are a very well-known genre in the Bible and elsewhere in ancient Near Eastern literature.


Six concise blessings (vv. 3-6) and six promises expanding upon them (vv. 7-13a) are framed by an introductory and concluding statement reiterating that Israel’s good fortune is contingent on faithful obedience to God’s commandments (vv. 1-2, 13b-14). The relationship between the blessings and promises is explained in Excursus 26.

Verses 3-6. Six blessings, focusing on fertility and prosperity. They are arranged in three pairs, as are the curses in verses 16-19. The first and last pairs consist of opposites which together express totality, indicating that the blessings will cover every place and activity. The middle pair specifies, in list form, the abundance of fertility and food. The blessings are concise, rhythmic, and worded in a uniform pattern, with all but the third consisting of three Hebrew words. Their style is suitable for oral recitation. The six blessings and six curses correspond to the six tribes that bless and the six that curse in 27:11-13, and may have been intended for recitation at the ceremony prescribed there (see Comment to 27:11-13).

Friedman, 28:2, 15.

blessings...curses. The curses are four times the length of the blessings. Like the blessings and curses list in Leviticus 26 (where the curses are three times longer than the blessings), this list may convey that threats of punishment were thought to be more effective than promises of reward. Or it may convey the opposite: that threats are less effective, and therefore more are required. The remarkable thing is that, following all these blessings and curses, Moses speaks beautifully for two chapters about why the people should keep the covenant for itself. The blessings and curses are there out of a realistic recognition of human psychology: rewards and punishments are effective tools of instruction from childhood and up. But the aim is higher: that humans should come to see that what is being put in their hands is "life" and "good" and "love" (Deut. 30:15-16).

Verse 1

set you high above all the nations of the earth. The parallel statements of divine favor to the Israelite people in Exodus stress the act of election itself and the grant of the promised land but not this idea of supremacy --verses 7 and 12 make clear that this means military and economic supremacy--over all other nations. The immediate political background for this conditional pronouncement is a period in which powerful nations to the east periodically threatened Israel's national existence. (Alter)

Verses 1 and 2. The proem emphasizes the conditionality of the elected status of Israel. The repetition of the conditional nature of the fulfillment, If you obey the Lord your God (vv. 1 and 2), places a frame around the central idea of divine election of Israel. Set you high above all the nations of the earth (see also v. 13): The metaphor, which is also used to denote the elected status of the Davidic dynasty (Ps. 89:28), here denotes the divine election of the nation. The same affirmation of Israel's election appears at 26:19, where it is not conditional; instead, it fulfills God's past promises. Here, in contrast, the nation's elected status is presented as a future promise that is conditional upon obedience. The marked change may well reflect the revision of earlier expectations in light of the catastrophe of exile. (Jewish Study Bible)

this day Following the digression in chapter 27, which looked ahead to the arrival in the promised land, Moses here turns his attention back to the present moment in the land of Moab. Briefly, he recapitulates the conditions and promises of 26:16-19 regarding the covenant now being made in Moab, and then spells out the consequences that will ensue if Israel is loyal or disloyal to it. (JPS)

the LORD your Gad will set you high above all the nations The promise of 26:19 is conditional; Israel is not promised automatic special treatment but must earn it. To make this clear, the condition is repeated in verse 2. (JPS)

Verse 2

overtake you. The verb is a little surprising because it is the word used for catching up with someone who is fleeing. The idea is that an unimaginable profusion of bounties will come down on the Israelite in ways he could scarcely expect, but the usage is also obviously dictated by the need to create a precise verbal parallelism with verse 15, "all these curses will come upon you and overtake you." (Alter)

Sforno on Deuteronomy 28:2:1-2

ובאו עליך כל הברכות האלה והשיגוך. They will catch up with you although you did not even make an effort to “catch up” with them.

כי תשמע בקול ה' אלוקיך, all of this will occur when you make the pursuit of Torah your principal endeavour, relegating secular activities to something subordinate. In recognition of this approved lifestyle of yours, the blessings G’d bestows on you can obviously not be described as something that you were actively pursuing. The blessings mentioned by Moses here were the ones that were in evidence during the period of the first Temple during the part of that period when the Jewish people did observe the commandments of the Torah.

All these blessing: In this chapter the words “blessing” and “curse” do not refer to promises and threats but to the benign and destructive forces that blessings and curses call for. (JPS)

shall come upon you and take effect The second verb is literally “overtake.” Throughout the chapter the blessings and curses—that is, the benign and destructive forces—are almost personified by the verbs used of them: they “come,” “pursue,” and “overtake” (vv. 2,15,22,45), and God “commands” (translated “ordain”) and “lets [them] loose” (vv. 8,20; cf. 32:24). See also 29:19, where sanctions (’alah, another term for “curse”) “crouch” upon the sinner (the translation reads “come down”). This manner of speaking probably originated in personification of these forces as agents that God holds back or releases in accordance with Israel’s behavior. Such personification is also found in Exodus 12:23, where the agent of the tenth plague is called “the Destroyer,” and in the book of Psalms, where destructive and protective forces are both pictured as “messengers” (mal’akhim, usually rendered “angels”). However, actual personification is absent in Deuteronomy, which avoids any suggestion of independent supernatural powers in addition to God. Instead, the blessings and curses are merely reified and treated as impersonal forces under God’s absolute control, and the verbs express the idea that at God’s command the blessings will come to Israel with no struggle on its part and the curses will ensue despite any effort on its part.(JPS)

Verse 3

Daat Zkenim on Deuteronomy 28:3:1-2

ברך אתה בעיר, “You will be blessed in the town;” you will be blessed for performing the commandments that are performed in an urban area, such as building a sukkah, attaching a mezzuzah to the doorposts of your houses, or a fence around the roof of your house.

וברוך אתה בשדה, “and you will be blessed in the field;” this applies to the farmers who observe the manifold laws pertaining to growing crops and leaving some of the harvest for the poor or the priests and Levites. An alternate interpretation of these statements: “the city” referred to is Jerusalem, the holy city, and the expression: “blessed are you in the field,” refers to Zion, of which the prophet Jeremiah 26,18, said: ציון שדה תחרש , Zion will be plowed as a field.” [I fail to understand this interpretation, seeing that the line quoted from Jeremiah is not only not a blessing, but a curse, followed by the prediction of the fall of Jerusalem. Ed.]

Blessed Prosperous. Comment to 2:7, which states: "blessed you in all your undertakings. That is, He made you prosperous in every way; compare 30:9: 'The Lord your God will grant you abounding prosperity in all your undertakings, in the issue of your womb, the offspring of your cattle, and the produce of your soil.' 'Blessing' often refers to prosperity, as in Genesis 24:35, 'The Lord has greatly blessed my master, and he has become rich: He has given him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, make and female slaves, camels and asses.'" (JPS)

in the city. . . in the country These opposites express the totality of places, meaning that wherever you live and work, your undertakings will prosper. The elaboration of this verse in verses 12-13 focuses on the city and country, respectively, as the loci of trade and farming. (JPS)