Chapter 26

Leviticus Chapter 26

Blessings for Obedience and Curses for Disobedience

    • Don’t make idols or carved or sculpted stones or pillars to worship because I am the Lord your God. Keep My Sabbaths and respect My sanctuary.”

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Early in Israel’s history, stones were set on end as memorials to various events (Genesis 28:18; Exodus 24:4). However, pillars and sculptured stones were associated with pagan worship (2 Kings 3:2; 10:26,27), especially when the carved image of a god rested on them. Some sculpture was clearly allowed (e.g. 1 Kings 7:25); the focus here is on objects that might be worshiped and thereby become idolatrous.”

    • If you obey My commands I will give you rain at the appropriate times so that the land will produce crops and the trees will produce fruit. Your harvest times will be so long that they’ll overlap and you’ll have plenty of food to eat (even a large surplus) and you’ll be secure in your land. I’ll give you peace throughout your land so that you can sleep without any reason to fear either dangerous animals or enemies. In fact, your enemies will run from you and you’ll defeat them with your swords. 5 of you will chase 500 and 100 will chase 10,000! I will look favorably on you and you will be fruitful and your population will grow. I’ll fulfill My covenant with you, live among you, and I won’t reject you. You will be My people and I will be your God. I am the Lord your God who brought you out of slavery in Egypt so that you can live in freedom.”

      • Guzik writes, “As a literary form, this chapter is similar to ancient treaties between a king and his people; this is God the King, making a covenant with His people, Israel.” NLT Illustrated Study Bible gives a more in depth explanation, “These blessings and curses resemble a key element of ancient Near Eastern suzerain-vassal treaties. In such treaties, the suzerain king promised to defend the vassal king and his state, while the vassal took an oath of loyalty to his lord. Blessings and curses followed, with the curses generally being more lengthy. Such treaties would call upon the gods as witnesses and enforcers. In God’s covenant with Israel, however, the Lord was one of the parties to the treaty (Israel being the other); since the Lord could swear by no one greater, he swore by himself (see Genesis 22:16; Hebrews 6:13).”

      • Regarding the supernatural odds given for battle above Guzik notes, “This clearly speaks of a Divine blessing. These remarkable promises clearly have a supernatural element…The principle behind that particular blessing is remarkable; the ratio of five to one hundred is one routing twenty; but the ratio of one hundred to ten thousand is one routing one hundred…Gideon’s 300 defeated 135,000 Midianites; Jonathan and his armor bearer alone defeated a Philistine army.”

      • On the subject of the covenant and blessings the NLT Illustrated Study Bible adds, “Israel’s blessings were conditioned on the people’s obedience to the terms revealed by God, to whom they had sworn obedience. The covenant itself, however, was irrevocable (Leviticus 26:44-45; Romans 11:29); Israel could not cancel it. The people had only two choices: obedience, which brought blessing, or rebellion, which brought curse. The fulfillment is seen in the ‘rest’ spoken of in Hebrews (Hebrews 3:11-4:11). The Promised Land should have brought a state of security and prosperity, a state of ‘rest’ to the Israelites. Israel succeeded in entering the Promised Land, but their rebellion kept them from seeing the covenant fulfilled.”

    • However, if you don’t obey My commands, and you reject My rules, and you break My covenant then I will do the following to you:

      • I will bring terrible things upon you- wasting diseases and burning fevers that will cause your eyes to fail and your life to slip away. Sowing your fields will be pointless because your enemies will eat your harvest. I will no longer be with you, so your enemies will defeat you. Those who you hate will rule over you and you will be on the run even though no one is chasing you. If these things don’t cause you to obey Me, I will punish you seven times over for your sins. I’ll break your prideful spirit by making the skies withhold rain and the ground as hard as bronze. Your work will be pointless because your land won’t yield produce. If you still refuse to obey Me and are hostile toward Me, I will inflict plagues seven times over for your sins. I’ll send wild animals that will kill your children, livestock, and reduce your population until your roads are empty. If, after all these things, you still refuse to learn your lesson and are hostile toward Me, I will be hostile toward you and strike you with calamity seven times over for your sin. I will send armies to carry out the curses of the covenant against you. When you take refuge in your towns, I will inflict a plague upon you and you will fall into your enemies hands. I will destroy your food supply so that 10 women will only need 1 oven to bake the bread that they have for their families. You’ll ration your food according to how much you weigh and no one will get enough to eat. If, in spite of all this, you still remain hostile toward Me and disobey, I will unleash My full anger upon you punishing you seven times over for your sins. You will eat your own sons and daughters. I’ll destroy your idols and pagan places of worship and leave your dead bodies piled on top of them. I will hate you. I won’t accept any of your offerings that otherwise would have been pleasing to Me. I will personally devastate your land to the point that your enemies will be shocked by what they see. I’ll scatter your people among all the nations and My sword will be against you. Your land will be in desolate and in ruins. Finally, while you are in exile, your land will enjoy its Sabbath rest that you neglected to give it every seven years as I commanded. Those of you who escape to survive among other nations, I will demoralize you and you will live in such fear that the sound of a stray breeze will send you running. You will be defenseless against your enemies and you’ll die in foreign lands. Those of you who are able to survive in foreign nations will waste away because of their sins and the sins of their ancestors.”

        • Guzik writes, “These verses describe a progression of rebellion. God brought these curses slowly to a disobedient Israel, desiring repentance; but if Israel would not repent, the curses intensified…Significantly, God does not say He will forsake Israel, only that they will be cursed.”

        • For individuals doubting the credibility of the Bible, this curse coupled with Israel’s well documented history, should be enough to give pause. Guzik adds, “Sadly, these curses became the tragic story of Israel’s history – defeat, deprivation, exile, desolation, and disease all too often have marked Israel’s past… Even the horrific cannibalism described in Leviticus 26:29 was fulfilled in 2 Kings 6:26-29; Josephus also describes cannibalism in Jerusalem when under siege by the Romans; a woman killed and ate her own baby son (Wars, 6.3.4).”

    • But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors, how they were unfaithful and hostile toward me; how I returned their hostility and dispersed them into their enemies’ lands; and if they will humble their stubborn hearts and pay the penalty for their sins- then I will remember My covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and I’ll remember the land. The land they abandoned will make up for its missed Sabbaths (the Sabbath years commanded to be observed every 7 years) while they are paying the penalty for their sins and their rejection of My commands. In spite of all this, I will not completely reject them or break My covenant with them by totally wiping them out because I am the Lord their God. For their sake, I’ll remember the covenant that I made with their ancestors whom I rescued from Egypt while all other nations looked on. I am the Lord.” These are the commands, decrees, regulations, and instructions that the Lord gave to the Israelites through Moses on Mount Sinai.

      • Guzik writes, “This displays the greatness of God’s mercy. Despite how cursed Israel might be, God would always remember, receive, and bless a repentant Israel.”

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Israel’s liberation from Egypt and settlement in Canaan were based on God’s promises to their ancestors, not on the Israelites’ own virtues (Deuteronomy 9:4-5).” It should also be noted that the covenant God refers to in this passage as belonging to the fathers of Israel is not the Mosaic Covenant given at Sinai, but the Abrahamic Covenant given to Abraham, then to Isaac, then to Jacob and his descendants which preceded the Mosaic Covenant. (Genesis 15:18; Genesis 17:19; and Exodus 2:24)

        It must be mentioned that the “blessing/cursing” aspect of the Mosaic Covenant is not a shared trait of the New Covenant as described in the New Testament. Guzik adds an entire section in his commentary devoted to this blessing and cursing as it pertains to a New Covenant perspective which is so vital that I have chosen to include it in its entirety:

1. Are we under the same covenant of blessing and cursing? To some, Galatians 6:7 demonstrates this: Do not be deceived, God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. But in context, Paul is not promoting some law of spiritual “karma” that ensures we will get good when we do good, or always get bad when we do bad (such an absolute law would damn us all); instead he speaks simply about the management of our resources (see Galatians 6:6-10).

a. What Paul is simply saying is this: We may fool ourselves by expecting much when we sow little, but we cannot fool God, and the results of our poor sowing will be evident.

2. Galatians 3:13-14 makes it clear: Jesus received this curse upon Himself as He hung on the cross, fulfilling the Deuteronomy 21:23 promise of a curse to all who are not only executed but have their bodies publicly exposed to shame.

a. In the Jewish mind, such exposure was a fate worse than death itself; the humiliation brought upon the executed and their family was clear evidence of the curse.

3. Jesus bore the curse that we (even Gentiles) might bear the blessings of Abraham (the blessing of righteousness and life by faith) – but these blessings only come to those in Christ Jesus.

a. So, we are blessed not because of obedience, but because we are in Christ Jesus; and there is no more curse for us from God, because all the curse was borne by Jesus.

b. This does not deny the chastening hand of God; but the correction of a loving parent is good and desirable, though not pleasant at the time (Hebrews 12:7-11).

c. Nor does it deny the cause-and-effect nature of sin in our world; sin often carries with its own curse, which in some ways is distinct from God’s direct curse upon us.

4. These blessings and curses may be necessary motivation for the carnal man, but it is not the ground God wants us live on – believing Jesus didn’t bear all the curses we deserved, and believing we can be blessed in any other way than in Christ Jesus.