Renewing the Covenant
Israel renews the covenant by publishing the law on stones. These stones were to be set up on Mount Ebal. After publishing the law they were to have a covenant renewal ceremony with a formal oath of loyalty, “This day you have become a people for the LORD your God. “You shall therefore obey the LORD your God, and do His commandments and His statutes which I command you today.” Also in the renewal of the covenant was the proclamation of the curses. (Verses 11-26) Though they are stated as curses they may actually be commandments. They are related to idolatry, (Verse 15) disrespect for parents, (Verse 16) dishonesty concerning property, (Verse 17), the abuse of a blind man, (Verse 18) perverting justice, (verse 19) sexual aberrations including incest, probably involving multiple marriages and a wife other than the child’s blood mother, (verse 20) bestiality, (Verse 21) intercourse with one’s sister, regardless of the mother, (Verse 22) intercourse with one’s mother-in-law, (Verse 23) the murder of a neighbor, (Verse 24) bribery, (Verse 25) and failure to confirm the law by doing it. (Verse 26) (Exodus 20)
Curses and Blessing
Nearly all treaty and covenant text from the ancient Near East contained curses and blessings. The curses were leveled against those who violated the terms of the agreement, while blessings were promised to the faithful. This was particularly true of suzerain-vassal covenants like Deuteronomy.
Deuteronomy presented to the assembly of Israel what God expected of the nation. The covenant required the nation of Israel to obey the Lord, and the Israelites had pledged themselves to obey. (Exodus 19:8) The curses and blessings section spells out how God would reward their obedience and judge their disobedience. The curses receive more emphasis than the blessings, perhaps because people naturally pay more attention to promises than warnings. Promised blessings in the future can easily be understood as providing well-being. However, judgment is more abstract and needs detailed, graphic description. God emphasizes the curses to drive home the consequences of wrongdoing. These warnings were very much in line with Jesus’ warnings about things to come. (Matthew 24:1 – Matthew 35:46)
Israel’s subsequent history bears witness to God’s promise of both the blessings and the curses. When Israel was faithful to the covenant of God, He blessed the people. When they rebelled, He brought judgment upon them. Israel’s whole history is summarized in 2 Kings 17:7-20 when the Israelites broke the first two commandments , they proceeded to violate the whole covenant. Their rebellion brought upon them the curses of chapter 28.