Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Earth. Similar denunciations are made, Leviticus xxvi. (Menochius)
Ver. 2. All these blessings, &c. In the Old Testament, God promised temporal blessings to the keepers of his law, heaven not being opened as yet; and that gross and sensual people being more moved with present and sensible things. But in the New Testament, the goods that are promised us are spiritual and eternal: and temporal evils are turned into blessings.
Ver. 3. Field. Wherever thou art, all thy undertakings shall prosper. (Calmet)
Ver. 4. Womb. This was most fully verified in the birth of the Messias, as the Holy Ghost insinuated, by causing St. Elizabeth to address these words to the mother of Jesus Christ, Luke i. 42. (Calmet)
Ver. 5. Barns. Hebrew tene, is translated (chap. xxvi. 2,) basket, in which bread was kept, and served up at table. Loaves were placed thus in baskets, near the altar of holocausts. — Stores. What thou hast laid up for thy provisions in corn, fruit, &c. (Calmet)
Ver. 6. Out, in all thy actions and affairs, (Menochius) at home and abroad; in peace and war.
Ver. 7. Down. Hebrew, “dead.” Septuagint, “bruised to pieces,” ver. 25. (Calmet) — Seven. This denotes the confusion and hurry with which the enemy shall endeavour to escape. (Menochius)
Ver. 10. Upon thee; so that thou art called God’s people (Calmet) with truth. (Menochius) — He has taken thee under his protection, and defended them [thee?] against every attack. (Haydock)
Ver. 12. Lend. To do this with usury, is far from being a blessing; but to be able to assist those who are in distress, is a happiness; particularly for that nation which as yet does not know the merit of evangelical poverty. (Calmet)
Ver. 13. Tail, as he had promised, ver. 1. (Menochius) — You shall have dominion over others. (Calmet) — So Isaias (ix. 14,) says, the Lord shall destroy the head, (the magistrate) and the tail, or (ver. 15,) the lying prophet. (Haydock)
Ver. 15. All these curses, &c. Thus God dealt with the transgressors of his law in the Old Testament: but now he often suffers sinners to prosper in this world, rewarding them for some little good they have done, and reserving their punishment for the other world.
Ver. 20. Rebuke, or “curse.” Septuagint, the pestilence, (Calmet) or destruction, (analósin.) (Haydock)
Ver. 22. Cold. The word occurs no where else. The Chaldean, Syriac, &c., have the reverse, “heat.” — Blasting. In the original, either the mildew destroying the corn, (Haydock) or the jaundice, which attacks the human body, may be meant. (Calmet)
Ver. 23. Of brass, and yield no rain. (Menochius) — Pindar says, (Pyth. x.) “The heaven of brass they never can ascend.” See Leviticus xxvi. 19.
Ver. 24. Consumed. Protestants, “The Lord shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, till thou be destroyed.” (Haydock) — The dust coming instead of rain, shall render the land more barren. (Calmet) — In those dreary regions, where clouds of sand and dust overwhelm the poor traveller, the Israelites would have a good idea what inconveniences would attend such a state of the atmosphere, if it were only for a short continuance. But when it was intended for destruction, how could they possibly support life!
Ver. 25. Scattered, as they are at present. The real import of the Hebrew is doubtful. Some agree with the Vulgate and Septuagint; (Haydock) others translate, Thou shalt be trembling, an object of astonishment and horror. Others, All who see thee shall quake; they shall insult over thee, wagging their head. (Calmet)
Ver. 26. Away. No threat could be more terrible to the Jews. They did not refuse burial to those who had been hung on the gibbet, chap. xxi. 23. Even the high priest, if he should find a corpse in the field, was obliged to bury it; though he was not allowed, on other occasions, to attend the funeral of his relations. God threatens the impious king (Calmet) Joachim, that he shall be buried with the burial of an ass, Jeremias xxii. 19. (Haydock) — The ancient Christians allowed the sacred vessels to be sold, in order to bury the dead. “For we shall not suffer the figure and the work of God to be exposed a prey to the wild beasts and birds.” (Lactant. 6.)
Ver. 27. Egypt. See chap. vi. 15, and xxviii. 60., Exodus ix. 9, and xv. 25., or with such diseases as those with which he afflicted Egypt. (Calmet) — Out. Hebrew, “with the emerods, scab, and itch,” 1 Kings v. 6, 12.
Ver. 28. Madness, folly, or phrensy; with such Saul was attacked, and David feigned himself (1 Kings xxi. 13,) to be in a similar condition at the court of Achis.
Ver. 29. Ways. Is not this visibly the present condition of the Jews, amid the blaze of the gospel light, the miracles and divine conduct of the Son of God! They shut their eyes, and will not acknowledge him for the Messias. (Calmet)
Ver. 30. Her. Job makes use of the same imprecation, Job xxxi. 10. Let my wife be the harlot of another. But he immediately subjoins, For this is a heinous crime, &c., which may be applied, both to him who seeks to commit an impure action, (ver. 9,) and to those who attempt to punish it by a similar abomination. No person is allowed to wish that a sin may be committed. The Hebrew and Septuagint very properly render all these imprecations in the future tense. “Thou shalt marry (or betroth) a wife, and another man shall,” which, no doubt, would be an intolerable provocation. (Haydock)
Ver. 31. Slain, (immoletur,) for a feast, and not for a sacrifice. (Menochius)
Ver. 32. Hand. Hebrew also, “thy hand shall not be lifted up towards God.” Targum of Jerusalem says, Thou shalt possess nothing, wherewith thou mayest render God propitious. (Calmet) — Thou shalt not be able to rescue, (Menochius) or to assist thy distressed children.
Ver. 33. A people. The Gentiles, whom the Jews so much despised, and whom the Scripture styles, not a nation, have supplanted the Israelites, and entered into the inheritance, which they had lost by their prevarications, Romans x. 19. (Haydock)
Ver. 34. Astonished. Hebrew, “go mad,” become stupified at such a scene of misfortunes.
Ver. 36. Thy king. Nabuchodonosor thus led Joachin and Sedecias, with almost all their people, captives to Babylon, 4 Kings xxiv., and xxv. 7. — Stone. The ten tribes mixed with other nations, (Calmet) and for the most part followed their idolatrous worship. Only some few returned with the tribes of Juda, Benjamin, and Levi, and became more careful than before not to irritate God by that hateful sin. (Haydock)
Ver. 37. Lost. Hebrew, “an object of desolation, a fable and a mockery.” Septuagint, “thou shalt be a riddle, a parable, and an example,” to employ the thoughts and tongues of all nations, who will not be able to comprehend the greatness of thy distress. (Calmet)
Ver. 38. All: so that the little which thou mayst gather will not be worth mentioning. (Haydock) — Hebrew also may signify, “Thy field shall produce a great deal, and give thee abundant expectations, but the locusts shall consume it,” to mortify thee the more.
Ver. 42. Blast. This is a different word from that mentioned, ver. 22. Tselatsal may here probably denote a grasshopper, which delights in the shade, and has a shrill note. In hot countries it does great hurt to trees, &c. (Calmet)
Ver. 43. Lower. Hebrew repeats this word, to signify the utmost abjection. (Haydock) — The Fathers gather hence the glorious superiority to which the Christian Church is raised. (Origen, Rom. ii.) (Theodoret, q. 34.)
Ver. 46. For ever. The nations which were employed by God to scourge the Jews, recognized that they were the instruments of his indignation. We are accustomed to consider many evils as the necessary appendages of human nature; but the surprising misfortunes, with which God visited his people, subjecting them to the Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans, could not be taken in this light. (Calmet)
Ver. 47. Things: as in gratitude thou oughtest to have done. On the contrary, the more the Jews were cherished by God, the more insolent they became, chap. xxxii. 15.
Ver. 49. Swiftly. The Chaldeans are designated in the same manner, Jeremias v. 5., and Ezechiel xvii. 3, 12. The Romans also carried an eagle, as their chief standard, and the rapidity of their conquests astonished all the world.
Ver. 50. Insolent. Hebrew, “of a fierce countenance.” It is well known how the Babylonians treated the princes of the Jews. (Calmet)
Ver. 51. Until thou be destroyed. This was not expressed in the Septuagint.
Ver. 53. Womb; a cruelty which the Jews were guilty of in the sieges of Samaria and of Jerusalem. See Baruch ii. 2, 13., Lamentations ii. 20., and iv., and 4 Kings vi. 28., and Josephus, Jewish Wars vii. 8. (Calmet)
Ver. 54. Delicate, (luxuriosus,) abandoned to his pleasures. Josephus (Jewish Wars vi. 11,) seems to have had this passage in view, when he informs us, that parents and children snatched from each other’s mouths the wretched food, with which they endeavoured to support themselves. (Calmet)
Ver. 56. Envy. Hebrew, “her eye shall be evil towards the husband of her bosom,” &c. (Haydock)
Ver. 57. And the filth, &c. They will eat the child just born, through extreme hunger, Lamentations ii. 20. The Chaldean, Septuagint, &c., agree with the Vulgate, which conveys an idea of the most horrible distress. (Calmet) — Indeed it is so horrible and disgusting, that we find no vestiges in history of the completion of the prophecy, taken in this sense. Some, therefore, explain the original: “And her feast, or dressed meat, (shall be) between her feet, even of her own children, which she shall bring forth.” (Bate, p. 71.; Parkhurst on itsoth.) Others believe that the Hebrew is corrupted by the insertion of b before another b, in children; and by the transposition or addition of i in the first word; so that to translate, with the generality of interpreters, “She shall grudge ever bit, or her eye shall be evil towards her husband, and towards her son, and towards her daughter, and towards her afterbirth….and towards her sons which she shall have brought forth,” seems absurd enough. For if the woman’s eye be evil towards her son, and towards her afterbirth, (which, however, is incapable of depriving her of food) what need of repeating, and towards her sons? Yet the present construction requires this translation; though it is obvious that the woman must have been actuated in a different manner, with respect to these different things, as all allow that she was afraid lest those who were grown up, how dear soever to her, might deprive her of her abominable food, while her eye was evil towards her afterbirth, (or secundines, if the word ssolithe can have this meaning) because she was designing to eat it privately. The Septuagint translate Korion, “the skin,” or Chorion, “a little girl,” (Houbigant) unless (Haydock) the former word may rather have this signification. Hill. — The Arabic deviates a little from the Hebrew, “She will deny her husband, her son, and her daughter, her secundines, which fall from her.” If, therefore, the two corrections proposed by Houbigant, and approved by Kennicott, (who produces for one of them (ubnie) the authority of the oldest Hebrew manuscript in England) be admitted, all will be clear and conformable to the event. “56. Her eye shall be evil towards….her son, and towards her daughter. 57. And she shall boil, (ubossilthe, instead of ubossolithe) that which cometh out from between her feet, even her children, (ubnie, not ubobnie) which she shall bear; for she shall eat them, for want of all things, secretly.” This prophetical and terrible denunciation was realized in the siege of Samaria, when two women agreed to eat their own children, one of whom was actually boiled, and the very word here in dispute is used, 4 Kings vi. 29. (Kennicott) — And in the last siege of Jerusalem, we read (Josephus, [Antiquities?] vii. 8,) of a mother killing her own child, to satisfy the cravings of hunger and rage against the rioters who had repeatedly plundered her house. Her name was Mary. She also boiled her suckling infant, and actually devoured a part of it. (Haydock)
Ver. 59. Increase. Hebrew, distinguish, or render thy plagues wonderful. (Calmet) — Perpetual. Hebrew, “lasting.” (Haydock) See ver. 27.
Ver. 65. Fearful, dejected, distrustful. The Jews are under continual alarms. (Calmet)
Ver. 66. Thy life, being in danger from all sides. The Fathers explain this verse of the behaviour of the Jews towards their Messias, who was crucified before their eyes; and still they will not believe in him, though he is their life, (chap. xxx. 20,) the way, the truth, and the life, John xiv. 6., and i. 4. (St. Leo; St. Augustine, contra Faustus xvi. 22, &c.) (Haydock)
Ver. 68. With ships, so that thou wilt have no means of escaping by flight. (Menochius) — The Romans had a fleet in the Mediterranean, with which thy would probably convey the captives into Egypt. Josephus (Antiquities xii. 2, &c., and Jewish Wars vii. 16,) informs us, that many of the Jews had been conveyed into that country after Jerusalem had been ruined by the Chaldeans; (Calmet) and after it was at last destroyed by the Romans, some of “those who were above 17 years of age, were sent thither in chains to work at the public works;” others were reserved to grace the victor’s triumph, or “to be destroyed by the sword, or by wild beasts in the theatres, while those who were under 17, were sold. During the time that Fronto was making the selection, 12,000 were starved to death, either by the cruelty of their keepers, or because they refused food; the multitudes causing it to be very scarce. In the course of the war 97,000 were taken prisoners, and in the siege 1,100,000 perished. For then the whole nation was shut up in prison, as it were by fate, and the city was besieged when full of inhabitants,” at the feast of the Passover; “so that the number of those whom the Romans slew publicly, or took prisoners, was greater than ever was destroyed,” at once, “by the fury of man, or by the wrath of God.” (Ibid.[Josephus, Jewish Wars?] chap. xvii.) Pompey had carried away many captives into Egypt about 120 years before. Pharao Sesac took and pillaged the city, under Roboam, 2 Paralipomenon xii. 2. — That. Hebrew, “by the way concerning which I spoke to thee (that is, by returning back, through this wilderness, as thou formerly desiredst,) thou shalt see it no more.” — Set to sale, (vendêris,) literally, “shall be sold.” After the Jews had been sold, their new masters could not find any to take them off their hands. (Haydock) — Buy you. Protestants, “there ye shall be sold….and no man shall buy you.” Can a man be sold without being bought? Whereas if the verb hithmaccartem was rendered, and ye shall offer yourselves for sale, the sense would be proper, and expressive of the most bitter sufferings.” (Kennicott) — Hegesippus (v. 47,) says, “there were many to be sold, but few purchasers; because the Romans disdained receiving the Jews as slaves, nor were there any Jews left to redeem their countrymen.”
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Many blessings are promised to the observers of God’s commandments: and curses threatened to transgressors.
1 Now *if thou wilt hear the voice of the Lord thy God, to do and keep all his commandments, which I command thee this day, the Lord thy God will make thee higher than all the nations that are on the earth.
2 And all these blessings shall come upon thee, and overtake thee: yet so if thou hear his precepts.
3 Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed in the field.
4 Blessed shall be the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the droves of thy herds, and the folds of thy sheep.
5 Blessed shall be thy barns, and blessed thy stores.
6 Blessed shalt thou be coming in and going out.
7 The Lord shall cause thy enemies, that rise up against thee, to fall down before thy face: one way shall they come out against thee, and seven ways shall they flee before thee.
8 The Lord will send forth a blessing upon thy storehouses, and upon all the works of thy hands: and will bless thee in the land that thou shalt receive.
9 The Lord will raise thee up to be a holy people to himself, as he swore to thee: if thou keep the commandments of the Lord thy God, and walk in his ways.
10 And all the people of the earth shall see that the name of the Lord is invocated upon thee, and they shall fear thee.
11 The Lord will make thee abound with all goods, with the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy cattle, with the fruit of thy land, which the Lord swore to thy fathers that he would give thee.
12 The Lord will open his excellent treasure, the heaven, that it may give rain in due season: and he will bless all the works of thy hands. And thou shalt lend to many nations, and shalt not borrow of any one.
13 And the Lord shall make thee the head, and not the tail: and thou shalt be always above, and not beneath: yet so if thou wilt hear the commandments of the Lord thy God, which I command thee this day, and keep and do them,
14 And turn not away from them, neither to the right hand, nor to the left, nor follow strange gods, nor worship them.
15 *But if thou wilt not hear the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep, and to do all his commandments and ceremonies, which I command thee this day, all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee.
16 Cursed shalt thou be in the city, cursed in the field.
17 Cursed shall be thy barn, and cursed thy stores.
18 Cursed shall be the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy ground, the herds of thy oxen, and the flocks of thy sheep.
19 Cursed shalt thou be coming in, and cursed going out.
20 The Lord shall send upon thee famine and hunger, and a rebuke upon all the works which thou shalt do: until he consume and destroy thee quickly, for thy most wicked inventions, by which thou hast forsaken me.
21 May the Lord set the pestilence upon thee, until he consume thee out of the land, which thou shalt go in to possess.
22 May the Lord afflict thee with miserable want, with the fever and with cold, with burning and with heat, and with corrupted air and with blasting, and pursue thee till thou perish.
23 Be the heaven, that is over thee, of brass: and the ground, thou treadest on, of iron.
24 The Lord give thee dust for rain upon thy land, and let ashes come down from heaven upon thee, till thou be consumed.
25 The Lord make thee to fall down before thy enemies; one way mayst thou go out against them, and flee seven ways, and be scattered throughout all the kingdoms of the earth:
26 And be thy carcass meat for all the fowls of the air, and the beasts of the earth, and be there none to drive them away.
27 The Lord strike thee with the ulcer of Egypt, and the part of thy body by which the dung is cast out, with the scab and with the itch: so that thou canst not be healed.
28 The Lord strike thee with madness, and blindness, and fury of mind,
29 And mayst thou grope at mid-day as the blind is wont to grope in the dark, and not make straight thy ways. And mayst thou at all times suffer wrong, and be oppressed with violence, and mayst thou have no one to deliver thee.
30 Mayst thou take a wife, and another sleep with her. Mayst thou build a house, and not dwell therein. Mayst thou plant a vineyard, and not gather the vintage thereof.
31 May thy ox be slain before thee, and thou not eat thereof. May thy ass be taken away in thy sight, and not restored to thee. May thy sheep be given to thy enemies, and may there be none to help thee.
32 May thy sons and thy daughters be given to another people, thy eyes looking on, and languishing at the sight of them all the day, and may there be no strength in thy hand.
33 May a people which thou knowest not, eat the fruits of thy land, and all thy labours: and mayst thou always suffer oppression, and be crushed at all times,
34 And be astonished at the terror of those things, which thy eyes shall see.
35 May the Lord strike thee with a very sore ulcer in the knees and in the legs, and be thou incurable from the sole of the foot to the top of thy head.
36 The Lord shall bring thee, and thy king, whom thou shalt have appointed over thee, into a nation, which thou and thy fathers know not: and there thou shalt serve strange gods, wood, and stone.
37 And thou shalt be lost, as a proverb and a bye-word to all people, among whom the Lord shall bring thee in.
38 *Thou shalt cast much seed into the ground, and gather little: because the locusts shall consume all.
39 Thou shalt plant a vineyard, and dig it, and shalt not drink the wine, nor gather any thing thereof: because it shall be wasted with worms.
40 Thou shalt have olive-trees in all thy borders, and shalt not be anointed with the oil: for the olives shall fall off, and perish.
41 Thou shalt beget sons and daughters, and shalt not enjoy them: because they shall be led into captivity.
42 The blast shall consume all the trees and the fruits of thy ground.
43 The stranger that liveth with thee in the land, shall rise up over thee, and shall be higher: and thou shalt go down, and be lower.
44 He shall lend to thee, and thou shalt not lend to him. He shall be as the head, and thou shalt be the tail.
45 And all these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue and overtake thee, till thou perish: because thou heardst not the voice of the Lord thy God, and didst not keep his commandments and ceremonies, which he commanded thee.
46 And they shall be as signs and wonders on thee, and on thy seed for ever.
47 Because thou didst not serve the Lord thy God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things:
48 Thou shalt serve thy enemy, whom the Lord will send upon thee, in hunger, and thirst, and nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put an iron yoke upon thy neck, till he consume thee.
49 The Lord will bring upon thee a nation from afar, and from the uttermost ends of the earth, like an eagle that flieth swiftly: whose tongue thou canst not understand:
50 A most insolent nation, that will shew no regard to the ancients, nor have pity on the infant,
51 And will devour the fruit of thy cattle, and the fruits of thy land: until thou be destroyed, and will leave thee no wheat, nor wine, nor oil, nor herds of oxen, nor flocks of sheep: until he destroy thee,
52 And consume thee in all thy cities, and thy strong and high walls be brought down, wherein thou trustedst in all thy land. Thou shalt be besieged within thy gates in all thy land, which the Lord thy God will give thee:
53 *And thou shalt eat the fruit of thy womb, and the flesh of thy sons, and of thy daughters, which the Lord thy God shall give thee, in the distress and extremity wherewith thy enemy shall oppress thee.
54 The man that is nice among you, and very delicate, shall envy his own brother, and his wife, that lieth in his bosom,
55 So that he will not give them of the flesh of his children, which he shall eat: because he hath nothing else in the siege and the want, wherewith thy enemies shall distress thee within all thy gates.
56 The tender and delicate woman that could not go upon the ground, nor set down her foot for over-much niceness, and tenderness, will envy her husband who lieth in her bosom, the flesh of her son, and of her daughter,
57 And the filth of the after-births, that come forth from between her thighs, and the children that are born the same hour. For they shall eat them secretly, for the want of all things, in the siege and distress wherewith thy enemy shall oppress thee within thy gates.
58 If thou wilt not keep, and fulfil all the words of this law, that are written in this volume, and fear his glorious and terrible name: that is, The Lord thy God:
59 The Lord shall increase thy plagues, and the plagues of thy seed, plagues great and lasting, infirmities grievous and perpetual.
60 And he shall bring back on thee all the afflictions of Egypt, which thou wast afraid of, and they shall stick fast to thee.
61 Moreover the Lord will bring upon thee all the diseases, and plagues, that are not written in the volume of this law, till he consume thee:
62 And you shall remain few in number, who before were as the stars of heaven for multitude, because thou heardst not the voice of the Lord thy God.
63 And as the Lord rejoiced upon you before, doing good to you, and multiplying you: so he shall rejoice, destroying and bringing you to nought, so that you shall be taken away from the land which thou shalt go in to possess.
64 The Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the farthest parts of the earth to the ends thereof: and there thou shalt serve strange gods, which both thou art ignorant of, and thy fathers, wood and stone.
65 Neither shalt thou be quiet, even in those nations, nor shall there be any rest for the sole of thy foot. For the Lord will give thee a fearful heart, and languishing eyes, and a soul consumed with pensiveness:
66 And thy life shall be as it were hanging before thee. Thou shalt fear night and day, neither shalt thou trust thy life.
67 In the morning thou shalt say: Who will grant me evening? and at evening: Who will grant me morning? for the fearfulness of thy heart, wherewith thou shalt be terrified, and for those things, which thou shalt see with thy eyes.
68 The Lord shall bring thee again with ships into Egypt, by the way whereof he said to thee, that thou shouldst see it no more. There shalt thou be set to sale to thy enemies for bond-men and bond-women, and no man shall buy you.
1: Year of the World 2553.
15: Leviticus xxvi. 14.; Lamentations ii. 17.; Baruch i. 20.; Malachias ii. 2.
38: Micheas vi. 15.; Aggeus i. 6.
53: Lamentations iv. 10.; Baruch ii. 2. and 3.