Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
A comparison of this chapter with Exo 23:20-23 and Lev. 26 will show how Moses here resumes and amplifies the promises and threats already set forth in the earlier records of the Law. The language rises in this chapter to the sublimest strains, especially in the latter part of it; and the prophecies respecting the dispersion and degradation of the Jewish nation in its later days are among the most remarkable in scripture. They are plain, precise, and circumstantial; and the fulfillment of them has been literal, complete, and undeniable.
The Blessing. The six repetitions of the word "blessed" introduce the particular forms which the blessing would take in the various relations of life.
The "basket" or bag was a customary means in the East for carrying about whatever might be needed for personal uses (compare Deu 26:2; Joh 13:29).
The "store" is rather the kneading-trough Exo 8:3; Exo 12:34. The blessings here promised relate, it will be observed, to private and personal life: in Deu 28:7 those which are of a more public and national character are brought forward.
The oath with which God vouchsafed to confirm His promises to the patriarchs (compare Gen 22:16; Heb 6:13-14) contained by implication these gifts of holiness and eminence to Israel (compare the marginal references).
The curses correspond in form and number Deu 28:15-19 to the blessings Deu 28:3-6, and the special modes in which these threats should be executed are described in five groups of denunciations Deut. 28:20-68.
First series of judgments. The curse of God should rest on all they did, and should issue in manifold forms of disease, in famine, and in defeat in war.
Vexation - Rather, confusion: the word in the original is used Deu 7:23; Sa1 14:20 for the panic and disorder with which the curse of God smites His foes.
"Blasting" denotes (compare Gen 41:23) the result of the scorching east wind; "mildew" that of an untimely blight falling on the green ear, withering it and marring its produce.
When the heat is very great the atmosphere in Palestine is often filled with dust and sand; the wind is a burning sirocco, and the air comparable to the glowing heat at the mouth of a furnace.
Shalt be removed - See the margin. The threat differs from that in Lev 26:33, which refers to a dispersion of the people among the pagan. Here it is meant that they should be tossed to and fro at the will of others, driven from one country to another without any certain settlement.
Second series of judgments on the body, mind, and outward circumstances of the sinners.
The "botch" (rather "boil;" see Exo 9:9), the "emerods" or tumors Sa1 5:6, Sa1 5:9, the "scab" and "itch" represent the various forms of the loathsome skin diseases which are common in Syria and Egypt.
Mental maladies shah be added to those sore bodily plagues, and should Deu 28:29-34 reduce the sufferers to powerlessness before their enemies and oppressors.
Blindness - Most probably mental blindness; compare Lam 4:14; Zep 1:17; Co2 3:14 ff.
See the marginal references for the fulfillment of these judgments.
Third series of judgments, affecting every kind of labor and enterprise until it had accomplished the total ruin of the nation, and its subjection to its enemies.
Worms - i. e. the vine-weevil. Naturalists prescribed elaborate precautions against its ravages.
Cast ... - Some prefer "shall be spoiled" or "plundered."
Deu 28:43, Deu 28:44
Contrast Deu 28:12 and Deu 28:13.
Forever - Yet "the remnant" Rom 9:27; Rom 11:5 would by faith and obedience become a holy seed.
Fourth series of judgments, descriptive of the calamities and horrors which should ensue when Israel should be subjugated by its foreign foes.
The description (compare the marginal references) applies undoubtedly to the Chaldeans, and in a degree to other nations also whom God raised up as ministers of vengeance upon apostate Israel (e. g. the Medes). But it only needs to read this part of the denunciation, and to compare it with the narrative of Josephus, to see that its full and exact accomplishment took place in the wars of Vespasian and Titus against the Jews, as indeed the Jews themselves generally admit.
The eagle - The Roman ensign; compare Mat 24:28; and consult throughout this passage the marginal references.
Evil - i. e. grudging; compare Deu 15:9.
Young one - The "afterbirth" (see the margin). The Hebrew text in fact suggests an extremity of horror which the King James Version fails to exhibit. Compare Kg2 6:29.
Fifth series of judgments. The uprooting of Israel from the promised land, and its dispersion among other nations. Examine the marginal references.
In this book - i. e. in the book of the Law, or the Pentateuch in so far as it contains commands of God to Israel. Deuteronomy is included, but not exclusively intended. So Deu 28:61; compare Deu 27:3 and note, Deu 31:9.
Thy life shall hang in doubt before thee - i. e. shall be hanging as it were on a thread, and that before thine own eyes. The fathers regard this passage as suggesting in a secondary or mystical sense Christ hanging on the cross, as the life of the Jews who would not believe in Him.
This is the climax. As the Exodus from Egypt was as it were the birth of the nation into its covenant relationship with God, so the return to the house of bondage is in like manner the death of it. The mode of conveyance, "in ships," is added to heighten the contrast. They crossed the sea from Egypt with a high hand. the waves being parted before them. They should go back again cooped up in slaveships.
There ye shall be sold - Rather, "there shall ye offer yourselves, or be offered for sale." This denunciation was literally fulfilled on more than one occasion: most signally when many thousand Jews were sold into slavery and sent into Egypt by Titus; but also under Hadrian, when numbers were sold at Rachel's grave Gen 35:19.
No man shall buy you - i. e. no one shall venture even to employ you as slaves, regarding you as accursed of God, and to be shunned in everything.