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After giving us the blessings for obedience, Moses then devotes the rest of his tenth speech to the curses for disobedience. These begin with Deuteronomy 28:15,
15 But it shall come about, if you will not obey the Lord your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you. 16 Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the country.
This is the opposite of the blessing in verse 3.
17 Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.
This is the opposite of the blessing in verse 5.
18 Cursed shall be the offspring of your body and the produce of your ground, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock.
This is the opposite of the blessing in verse 4.
19 Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out.
This is the opposite of the blessing in verse 6.
20 The Lord will send upon you curses, confusion, and rebuke, in all you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and until you perish quickly, on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken Me.
This roughly correlates with verse 8, where the obedient would be blessed “in all that you put your hand to do.” After this, Moses launches into a very extensive description of the curses for disobedience.
21 The Lord will make the pestilence cling to you until He has consumed you from the land, where you are entering to possess it. 22 The Lord will smite you with consumption and with fever and with inflammation and with fiery heat and with the sword and with blight and with mildew, and they shall pursue you until you perish.
This appears to correlate with verse 7, where the Lord was to “cause your enemies… to be defeated before you,” as long as the people were obedient. Disobedience would bring our enemies against us. In connecting verse 7 with verses 21 and 22, we see that disease, sickness, blight and mildew are among the enemies that God will raise up to curse the nation that is disobedient. The “sword” is only one such enemy.
Seven Forms of Pestilence
It should also be noted that if enemies attack the obedient, “they shall come out against you one way and shall flee before you seven ways.” Conversely, if the nation is disobedient, these enemies will come in seven ways and flee only “one way,” that is, occasionally. Hence, Moses specifies seven of these pestilences in verse 22:
4. fiery heat
Solomon mentioned this in his official prayer when the temple was being dedicated. We read in 2 Chronicles 6:28-30,
28 If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence, if there is blight or mildew, if there is locust or grasshopper, if their enemies besiege them in the land of their cities, whatever plague or whatever sickness there is, 29 whatever prayer or supplication is made by any man or by all Thy people Israel, each knowing his own affliction and his own pain, and spreading his hands toward this house, 30 then hear Thou from heaven Thy dwelling place, and forgive, and render to each according to all his ways, whose heart Thou knowest, for Thou alone dost know the hearts of the sons of men.
It is plain that Solomon, like Moses, considered sickness, blight, mildew, to be enemies in the same category as those who might invade or besiege them. Solomon clearly understood that God was in full control of these “natural” events and also had full control of Israel’s enemies and their motives.
Famine in the Land
Moses also mentioned “famine” in verse 28, which is a consequence of having no rain to water the crops. Moses says in Deuteronomy 28:23, 24,
23 And the heaven which is over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you, iron. 24 The Lord will make the rain of your land powder and dust; from heaven it shall come down on you until you are destroyed.
Moses recognized that God controls the rain and thereby the national economy. Drought, then, was attributed to God’s purpose, whether as judgment for sin or to motivate people to some other course of action. Likewise, Solomon mentioned this in his prayer when the temple was dedicated. 2 Chronicles 6:26, 27 says,
26 When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against Thee, and they pray toward this place and confess Thy name, and turn from their sin when Thou dost afflict them; 27 then hear Thou in heaven and forgive the sin of Thy people Israel, indeed, teach them the good way in which they should walk. And send rain on Thy land, which Thou hast given to Thy people for an inheritance.
The Scriptures mention thirteen famines:
1. Genesis 12:10 (Abraham goes to Egypt)
2. Genesis 26:1 (Isaac goes to Gerar)
3. Genesis 41:54 (According to Pharaoh’s dream)
4. Ruth 1:1 (Ruth’s family goes to Moab)
5. 2 Samuel 21:1 (In the time of David)
6. 1 Kings 18:2 (In the time of Elijah)
7. 2 Kings 4:38 (In the time of Elisha)
8. 2 Kings 7:4 (In the siege of Samaria)
9. 2 Kings 25:3 (In the siege of Jerusalem)
10. Nehemiah 5:3 (The mortgage problem)
11. Jeremiah 14:1-3 (In Judah)
12. Luke 15:14 (In the parable of the Prodigal Son)
13. Acts 11:28 (Prophesied by Agabus)
The number thirteen means disobedience or rebellion. The fact that there were thirteen famines shows that famine is the result of divine judgment for disobedience and rebellion. See my book, The Biblical Meaning of Numbers.
The fifth famine (2 Samuel 21:1), which occurred during the time of David, lasted three years. When David inquired of the Lord about it, God revealed that it was on account of the sin of King Saul many years earlier. Keep in mind that this famine occurred toward the end of David’s life. Saul had died perhaps more than 30 years earlier.
God told David, “It is for Saul and his bloody house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.” The Gibeonites were the people of Gibeon, a Canaanite city that made peace with Joshua during Israel’s invasion of Canaan (Joshua 9:15). The house of Saul found some excuse to persecute the Gibeonites, perhaps justifying their actions on the grounds that the Gibeonites had tricked Joshua.
But God disagreed with Saul, for the Gibeonites were fulfilling the curse upon Canaan, which made Canaan the servant of Shem and the Lord God of Shem (Genesis 9:26). It would be difficult for Canaan to fulfill this prophetic curse if all the Canaanites were dead. Hence, God is the one who “tricked” Joshua into fulfilling Noah’s curse. Saul, in his rebellious zeal for God, thought he was doing God a service by killing Gibeonites.
The judgment of God was a three-year famine, which did not occur during Saul’s reign but many years later in the time of David. The fault was laid at the doorstep of Saul, but David had to deal with it and restore the lawful order. He asked the Gibeonites what he could do, and they demanded the death of seven of Saul’s descendants. (This implies that Saul had killed seven of the Gibeonites.) Yet Scripture is careful to note that the family of Jonathan was spared (2 Samuel 21:7), on account of his love for David.
David complied with their request and delivered the seven to the Gibeonites, who hanged them on the first day of barley harvest, that is, the day of the wave-sheaf offering (2 Samuel 21:9). The wave-sheaf offering prophesied of Christ’s resurrection and also commemorated Israel’s deliverance at the Red Sea, where they were baptized from death to life under the cloud and in the sea (1 Corinthians 10:1, 2).
This is a prophetic story of the Church, for King Saul—crowned on Pentecost, or the day of wheat harvest in 1 Samuel 12:17—was a type of the Church under Pentecost. The seven descendants of Saul are The Seven Churches of Revelation 2 and 3. It suggests that the Church under Pentecost will not inherit the First Resurrection (Revelation 20:4-6) that is prophesied by the first harvest—the barley harvest.
In other words, the Church in general will have to wait for the general resurrection of the dead, which is said to occur a thousand years later (Revelation 20:7, 12). For a fuller study of this, see my book, The Purpose of Resurrection.
The Famine of Hearing the Word
There is a fourteenth famine mentioned in Amos 8:11, which says,
11 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “When I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the Lord.”
This is not an ordinary famine for literal food, but a more serious lack of hearing and understanding the word of God. I believe that the world has been in this famine for many years already. There is a serious lack of understanding of the word of God. Many great truths seem to be locked. Men read the Scriptures like the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:30, 31, but are unable to make sense of it. Amos 8:12 says,
12 And people will stagger from sea to sea, and from the North even to the east; they will go to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.
The famine is not caused by their lack of seeking. Many people seek the word of the Lord and are willing to travel thousands of miles to get it. There is a deeper problem. Our forefathers have been killing Gibeonites, and God has brought this famine to judge us.
Our forefathers understood America to be like the New Canaan. They believed God brought them here to establish the Kingdom of God. This was seen as a direct parallel to Joshua leading Israel into the Promised Land. Unfortunately, many did not fully grasp the difference between the Old and New Covenants, and so they often saw Joshua’s war of conquest as the model for them to follow.
They should have understood that the New Covenant had given them the Sword of the Spirit by which to conquer not only America but ultimately the whole world. As a result of this shortcoming, many of the Native Americans were treated as Canaanites, and many carnally-minded men felt justified in engaging in a war of genocide.
Is it a coincidence that in the mid-1800’s the rise of Dispensationalism occurred, which has brought about a famine of hearing the word? This viewpoint brought in the modern idea of the Rapture, instead of understanding the Feast of Tabernacles. It brought in Christian Zionism, where the Old Jerusalem has replaced the New Jerusalem as the “mother” of the Kingdom. It brought in the idea of a single Antichrist, which replaced John’s view of many antichrists. It brought in the idea of a future “Great Tribulation,” which ran contrary to the Laws of Tribulation that Scripture sets forth.
All of these things are far too extensive for our study here, but each of the main topics are covered in my book, Daniel’s Seventy Weeks.
In my view, Dispensationalism, which is now standard Evangelical and Pentecostal eschatology, has been God’s way of causing the end-time famine of hearing the word of the Lord. It has also prevented the Church from seeing the cause of this problem—or even seeing its connection to the famine caused by the house of Saul.
But the final outpouring of the Holy Spirit is near, in which this famine will end. Men will repent when the Spirit convicts them (John 16:8) and leads them into all truth (John 16:13).