The covenant curses were ideally intended to come on the enemies of God and His people. Indeed, this is what happens when the people are faithful to God and trust in His salvation. And the final punishments on the enemies of God at the end of time in Revelation originate from the covenant curses. Conversely, the blessings were meant to draw people to God. As others witnessed how healthy, happy, and prosperous God’s people were, they would also desire to join Israel and worship Yahweh. This did happen in many cases, including the Egyptians and Canaanites who became part of Israel.
The covenant curses are all about the heart. When the people make the choice to turn after other gods, their hearts are lifted up and God cannot bless them in their rebellious state, so the curses come as a result. Verse 47 states directly that “because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and gladness of heart,” the curses will come. The heart is the source of following God as well as of rebellion against God. Most of the curses were also not fatal, indicating that God desired a change of heart more than punishment.
The curses were actually a reverse of the blessings, rather than being random capricious punishments. This highlights that the people had a choice between one or the other. In addition, most of the curses were natural disasters or other nations that God allowed to come against the people, and not so much direct punishments from God. Although God takes responsibility for most things in Scripture, this has more to do with Him being the Creator and Ruler of the universe. God is not deterministic, but He gives to each one what they choose. He desires to bless everyone, while Satan desires to destroy everyone. So, when God removes His blessings, Satan gladly steps in to bring natural disasters and evil people to destroy God’s people, and then blames God for it. Job is another excellent example of this, even though he was innocent. It is likely some of the Israelites were innocent too, even though the curses came on the nation as they turned away from God as a whole. There are innocent casualties in war, even in the great controversy, but this does not mean that those few true followers of God will receive the second death. In the end, God will bring vengeance and make everything right.