Read This Week’s Passage: Deuteronomy 28:1–24, 47–51
Once again, the covenant structure gives the purpose for Deuteronomy 28 and the covenant curses. Taken out of context, the curses seem antithetical to God’s grace and character of mercy. But, throughout this week, we will consider multiple reasons that the curses are actually at the center of His grace and love!
First of all, people living in the ancient near East (those lands surrounding and including Israel), would expect curses in a covenant or treaty. For instance, in Assyrian and Hittite treaties, the curses are often much worse than here in Deuteronomy. While these sound harsh to us today, it was simply a way of encouraging loyalty in relationship at that time.
In addition, unlike most other ancient treaties, the one that God created starts with the blessings before the curses in Deuteronomy 28. God does not want to bring the curses on the people, because He wants to bless them. This is the whole message and theme of Deuteronomy. However, the people had a choice between the two ways. God desired them to be happy and joyful and blessed, but the people often chose the way of the curses because of their stubbornness and rebellion.
Yet, even the curses are redemptive. God did not bring all of them at once but over time, seeking to bring the people back to Him through a reminder of the covenant and their commitment to Him. When we go through tough times, this also often turns us back to God. The prophets also used this strategy to inspire the people to return to God, warning them about the worsening curses to come if they did not repent of their evil ways.