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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 1–14
Verses 1–14

The blessings are here put before the curses, to intimate, 1. That God is slow to anger, but swift to show mercy: he has said it, and sworn, that he would much rather we would obey and live than sin and die. It is his delight to bless. 2. That though both the promises and the threatenings are designed to bring and hold us to our duty, yet it is better that we be allured to that which is good by a filial hope of God’s favour than that we be frightened to it by a servile fear of his wrath. That obedience pleases best which comes from a principle of delight in God’s goodness. Now,

I. We have here the conditions upon which the blessing is promised. 1. It is upon condition that they diligently hearken to the voice of God (Deut. 28:1, 2), that they hear God speaking to them by his word, and use their utmost endeavours to acquaint themselves with his will, Deut. 28:13. 2. Upon condition that they observe and do all his commandments (and in order to obedience there is need of observation) and that they keep the commandments of God (Deut. 28:9) and walk in his ways. Not only do them for once, but keep them for ever; not only set out in his ways, but walk in them to the end. 3. Upon condition that they should not go aside either to the right hand or to the left, either to superstition on the one hand, or profaneness on the other; and particularly that they should not go after other gods (Deut. 28:14), which was the sin that of all others they were most prone to, and God would be most displeased with. Let them take care to keep up religion, both the form and power of it, in their families and nation, and God would not fail to bless them.

II. The particulars of this blessing.

1. It is promised that the providence of God should prosper them in all their outward concerns. These blessings are said to overtake them, Deut. 28:2. Good people sometimes, under the sense of their unworthiness, are ready to fly from the blessing and to conclude that it belongs not to them,; but the blessing shall find them out and follow them notwithstanding. Thus in the great day the blessing will overtake the righteous that say, Lord, when saw we thee hungry and fed thee? Matt. 25:37. Observe,

(1.) Several things are enumerated in which God by his providence would bless them:—[1.] They should be safe and easy; a blessing should rest upon their persons wherever they were, in the city, or in the field, Deut. 28:3. Whether their habitation was in town or country, whether they were husbandmen or tradesmen, whether their business called them into the city or into the field, they should be preserved from the dangers and have the comforts of their condition. This blessing should attend them in their journeys, going out and coming in, Deut. 28:6. Their persons should be protected, and the affair they went about should succeed well. Observe here, What a necessary and constant dependence we have upon God both for the continuance and comfort of this life. We need him at every turn, in all the various movements of life; we cannot be safe if he withdraw his protection, nor easy if he suspend his favour; but, if he bless us, go where we will it is well with us. [2.] Their families should be built up in a numerous issue: blessed shall be the fruit of thy body (Deut. 28:4), and in that the Lord shall make thee plenteous (Deut. 28:11), in pursuance of the promise made to Abraham, that his seed should be as the stars of heaven for multitude, and that God would be a God to them, than which a greater blessing, and more comprehensive, could not be entailed upon the fruit of their body. See Isa. 61:9. [3.] They should be rich, and have an abundance of all the good things of this life, which are promised them, not merely that they might have the pleasure of enjoying them, but (as bishop Patrick observes out of one of the Jewish writers) that they might have wherewithal to honour God, and might be helped and encouraged to serve him cheerfully and to proceed and persevere in their obedience to him. A blessing is promised, First, On all they had without doors, corn and cattle in the field (Deut. 28:4, 11), their cows and sheep particularly, which would be blessed for the owners’ sakes, and made blessings to them. In order to this, it is promised that God would give them rain in due season, which is called his good treasure (Deut. 28:12), because with this river of God the earth is enriched, Ps. 65:9. Our constant supplies we must see coming from God’s good treasure, and own our obligations to him for them; if he withhold his rain, the fruits both of the ground and of the cattle soon perish. Secondly, On all they had within doors, the basket and the store (Deut. 28:5), the store-houses or barns, Deut. 28:8. When it is brought home, God will bless it, and not blow upon it as sometimes he does, Hag. 1:6, 9. We depend upon God and his blessing, not only for our yearly corn out of the field, but for our daily bread out of our basket and store, and therefore are taught to pray for it every day. [4.] They should have success in all their employments, which would be a constant satisfaction to them: “The Lord shall command the blessing (and it is he only that can command it) upon thee, not only in all thou hast, but in all thou doest, all that thou settest thy hand to,” Deut. 28:8. This intimated that even when they were rich they must not be idle, but must find some good employment or other to set their hand to, and God would own their industry, and bless the work of their hand (Deut. 28:12); for that which makes rich, and keeps so, is the blessing of the Lord upon the hand of the diligent, Prov. 10:4, 22. [5.] They should have honour among their neighbours (Deut. 28:1): The Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations. He made them so, by taking them into covenant with himself, Deut. 26:19. And he would make them more and more so by their outward prosperity, if they would not by sin disparage themselves. Two things should help to make them great among the nations:—First, Their wealth (Deut. 28:12): “Thou shalt lend to many nations upon interest” (which they were allowed to take form the neighbouring nations), “but thou shalt not have occasion to borrow.” This would give them great influence with all about them; for the borrower is servant to the lender. It may be meant of trade and commerce, that they should export abundantly more than they should import, which would keep the balance on their side. Secondly, Their power (Deut. 28:13): “The Lord shall make thee the head, to give law to all about thee, to exact tribute, and to arbitrate all controversies.” Every sheaf should bow to theirs, which would make them so considerable that all the people of the earth would be afraid of them (Deut. 28:10), that is, would reverence their true grandeur, and dread making them their enemies. The flourishing of religion among them, and the blessing of God upon them, would make them formidable to all their neighbours, terrible as an army with banners. [6.] They should be victorious over their enemies, and prosper in all their wars. If any were so daring as to rise up against them to oppress them, or encroach upon them, it should be at their peril, they should certainly fall before them, Deut. 28:7. The forces of the enemy, though entirely drawn up to come against them one way, should be entirely routed, and flee before them seven ways, each making the best of his way.

(2.) From the whole we learn (though it were well if men would believe it) that religion and piety are the best friends to outward prosperity. Though temporal blessings do not take up so much room in the promises of the New Testament as they do in those of the Old, yet it is enough that our Lord Jesus has given us his word (and surely we may take his word) that if we seek first the kingdom of God, and the righteousness thereof, all other things shall be added to us, as far as Infinite Wisdom sees good; and who can desire them further? Matt. 6:33.

2. It is likewise promised that the grace of God should establish them a holy people, Deut. 28:9. Having taken them into covenant with himself, he would keep them in covenant; and, provided they used the means of stedfastness, he would give them the grace of stedfastness, that they should not depart from him. Note, Those that are sincere in holiness God will establish in holiness; and he is of power to do it, Rom. 16:25. He that is holy shall be holy still; and those whom God establishes in holiness he thereby establishes a people to himself, for a long as we keep close to God he will never forsake us. This establishment of their religion would be the establishment of their reputation (Deut. 28:10): All the people of the earth shall see, and own, that thou art called by the name of the Lord, that is, “that thou art a most excellent and glorious people, under the particular care and countenance of the great God. They shall be made to know that a people called by the name Jehovah are without doubt the happiest people under the sun, even their enemies themselves being judges.” The favourites of Heaven are truly great, and, first or last, it will be made to appear that they are so, if not in this world, yet at that day when those who confess Christ now shall be confessed by him before men and angels, as those whom he delights to honour.