Messianic Education Trust
    Nitzavim  
(Deut 29:9(10) - 30:20)

D'varim/Deuteronomy 30:7   And Adonai your G-d will place all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you


The feminine plural noun comes from the root , which is thought to be a denominative from the name , properly meaning "to invoke G-d" but with the more usual meanings 'to swear' or 'to curse'. therefore means "imprecations", "curses" or "cursings", although it can sometimes be 'oaths', especially the oaths associated with a covenant (Davidson). Curses and blessings are seen as opposites, in Israel's case the two opposite results that flow from their covenant relationship with G-d: blessing when they obey the terms of the covenant and curses - or at least absence of blessing - when they disobey them. It is a matter of history, described in the Bible and confirmed by archaeology, that Israel did not keep the covenant faithfully, G-d duly carried out the disciplinary measures of the covenant: Israel was ejected from their land and sent into exile among the nations. The nations, however, instead of simply executing G-d's judgement, rejoiced at Israel's downfall and gloated over the people, persecuting and oppressing them and ridiculing their G-d. This is why, the Who Is ...

Sforno: Rabbi Ovadiah Sforno (1470-1550 CE), Italian rabbi, philosopher and physician; born in Cesena, he went to Rome to study medicine; left in 1525 and after some years of travel, settled in Bologna where he founded a yeshiva which he conducted until his death
Sforno comments, this verse is present: when Israel repents and returns to G-d, and is restored to their land, He will place the curses that were upon Israel "upon them that rise up against you and those who harbour hatred for you in their heart" and he goes on to quote the verse where G-d says, "For I will destroy completely all the nations where I have scattered you" (Jeremiah 30:11, NASB).

Who Is ...

Hirsch: Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888 CE), German rabbi, author and educator; staunch opponent of the Reform movement in Germany and one of the fathers of Orthodox Judaism
Hirsch connects the phrase "place all the curses" with "you shall place the blessing on Mt. Gerizim and the curse on Mt. Ebal" (D'varim 11:29) in order to demonstrate that "the same oath will apply to the nations with their love and their hate." It is not just that the nations will be punished for exulting in Israel's punishment and showing hatred towards them; they will also be rewarded for blessing Israel and showing them love. This is exactly what G-d promised Abraham: "And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse" (Genesis 12:3, NASB); the degree of blessing or curse that the nations experience is directly related to the way that they behave towards Israel. This has been shown many times throughout history, on a grand scale, and in folk-lore on an individual basis. Many maintain that, for example, Britain lost the British Empire after World War II because they failed to follow through on their promise given in the Balfour Declaration (November 2, 1917):

"His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country".

Who is Israel and to whom does the promise given to Abraham apply? Firstly, it clearly refers to the Jewish people, the physical descendants of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Rav Sha'ul writes of the "Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers" (Romans 9:4-5, NASB), echoing G-d's repeated promises made through Moshe and the prophets that His covenant with Israel is an everlasting covenant. Secondly, it must also apply to the spiritual descendants of Abraham, those who have relationship with G-d by faith through Yeshua the Messiah; Rav Sha'ul again: "Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that G-d would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, 'All the nations shall be blessed in you'" (Galatians 3:7-8, NASB). The good news, then, is that all those who are in covenant with G-d are under His protection and included in this promise. Those who bless G-d's people will themselves be blessed; those who curse - be that physically or verbally - G-d's people will come under curse and judgement. Where does that leave believers in Messiah who hold anti-Semitic views, teach replacement theology or participate in physical, financial or verbal abuse of the Jewish people? G-d told Israel that, "he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye." (Zechariah 2:8, NASB) and even if G-d's hand of judgement does not appear to fall upon them, there must at least be a significant reduction of the blessing that would otherwise have flowed. Gentile Christian abuse of other Christians is covered by Yeshua's own instructions: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another." (John 13:34, NASB); those who persecute, ridicule or speak badly of other believers - even over doctrine - are not showing them the level of sacrificial love that Yeshua showed to us all.

How, then, are we to bless Israel? Does this mean simply buying Israeli products when they are available in our supermarket, or is there a wider application here? Clearly, it must include praying for the Jewish people, as the Psalmist says: "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: 'May they prosper who love you. May peace be within your walls, And prosperity within your palaces'" (Psalm 122:6-7, NASB). This is a basic foundation; it is only as we regularly pray for Israel that we see the Jewish people as G-d sees them and begin to sense His heart of love for and towards His ancient people. But we must pray aright - not just for Jews to become Christians, for that would be a betrayal of generations of faithful Jews who have held on to G-d's covenant promises against a tide of anti-Semitic rhetoric that would rob them of their heritage and deny G-d's basic consistency and character - no, we must pray that Jewish people will discover Yeshua the Jewish Messiah and remain Jewish as G-d's remnant by faith in this generation, a witness to our brothers and sisters within the Jewish people in Israel and around the world. But this is not enough; we should engage in thoughtful and constructive advocacy at all levels: in person, media and government. This is not a blanket endorsement of the state of Israel, a modern state with a largely secular government and constitution that has undeniably made some bad decisions and on some occasions acted inappropriately, but it is a prayerful engagement to combat anti-Semitic remarks, propaganda and activities. We cannot necessarily expect to change peoples' hearts but by consistent pressure - every time they open their mouths and say something negative - we can at least teach them to keep their mouths shut. Write to your MP or elected representative to either encourage or challenge them whenever they speak about Israel; don't beat them up with the Bible or you will be dismissed as a religious crank, but gently let them know that your vote is at least partly dependent on their attitude to Israel and the Jewish people. Challenge anti-Jewish articles and bias in the media; speak out against unfair criticism among the people in your work and social circles.

Lastly, become involved with and financially support ministries working among the Jewish people, both in Israel and in the Diaspora. Make sure that they have a "restoration" rather than "conversion" vision, to build a Jewish people group for Yeshua rather than simply enlarging the church by picking off Jewish stragglers; then encourage them in their work: consider volunteering, either at home or in Israel, try to visit Israel and share in worship and prayer with people there on the ground. See the larger picture of humanitarian assistance, outreach and support to Jewish people world-wide and do what you can to bless what G-d is doing among our people in these days.

Further Study: Jeremiah 3:17; Daniel 9:16-19; 1 John 3:14-16

Application: What can you do to bless Israel? Why not ask G-d what He wants you to do, from where you are and with the resources He has already given you, to further the work of His kingdom among our ancient people?

© Jonathan Allen, 2008

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