THE WORLD TODAY SERIES #31

The Blessing and the Curse (continued)

This first dispersion was but a foretaste of what would follow. Thirty-eight years after the crucifixion of Jesus, Titus’ troops laid siege to Jerusalem and destroyed the temple so thoroughly that Jesus’ prophetic pronouncement that not one stone would be left upon another was fulfilled to the letter. Four years later the Romans under Flavius Silva battered their way into the Masada fortress to end their siege there. Virtually every person alive at the time committed suicide rather than submit to Roman atrocities.

The earlier siege against Jerusalem was documented by the Jewish historian Josephus, who recounted the horror of the starvation there:

“Need drove the starving to gnaw at anything. Refuse which even animals would reject was collected and turned into food. In the end they were eating belts and shoes, and the leather stripped off their shields. Tufts of withered grass were devoured, and sold in little bundles for four drachmas. . .

“[Mary] was well off, and of good family, and had fled to Jerusalem with her relatives, where she became involved with the siege. Most of the property she had packed up and brought with her from Peraea had been plundered by the tyrants, and the rest of her treasure, together with such foods as she had been able to procure, was being carried by their henchmen in their daily raids. In her bitter resentment the poor woman cursed and abused these extortioners, and this incensed them against her. However, no one put her to death either from exasperation or pity. She grew weary of trying to find food for her kinfolk. In any case, it was by now impossible to get any, wherever you tried. Famine gnawed at her vitals, and the fire of rage was ever fiercer than famine. So, driven by fury and want, she committed a crime against nature. Seizing her child, an infant at the breast, she cried, ‘My poor baby, why should I keep you alive in this world of war and famine? Even if we live till the Romans come, they will make slaves of us; and anyway, hunger will get us before slavery does; and the rebels are crueler than both. Come, be food for me, and an avenging fury to the rebels, and a tale of cold horror to the world to complete the monstrous agony of the Jews.’

“With these words she killed her son, roasted the body, swallowed half of it, and stored the rest in a safe place. But the rebels were on her at once, smelling roasted meat, and threatening to kill her instantly if she did not produce it. She assured them that she had saved them a share, and revealed the remains of her child. Seized with horror and stupefaction, they stood paralyzed at the sight.”

Deuteronomy 28 continues:

“The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand; a nation of fierce countenance, who shall not regard the person of the old, nor show favor to the young. And he shall eat the fruit of thy cattle, and the fruit of thy land, until thou be destroyed; who also shall not leave thee either grain, wine, or oil, or the increase of thy kine, or flocks of thy sheep, until he have destroyed thee. And he shall besiege thee in all thy gates, until thy high and fortified walls come down, wherein thou trustedst, throughout all thy land; and he shall besiege thee in all thy gates throughout all thy land, which the Lord thy God hath given thee. And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body, the flesh of thy sons and of thy daughters whom the Lord thy God hath given thee, in the siege, and in the straitness, wherewith thine enemies shall distress thee; so that the man who is tender among you, and very delicate, his eye shall be evil toward his brother, and toward the wife of his bosom, and toward the remnant of his children whom he shall leave; so that he will not give to any of them of the flesh of his children, whom he shall eat, because he hath nothing left him in the siege, and in the
straitness, wherewith thine enemies shall distress thee in all thy gates. The tender and delicate woman among you, who would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness and tenderness, her eye shall be evil toward the husband of her bosom, and toward her son, and toward her daughter, and toward her young one who cometh out from between her feet, and toward her children whom she shall bear; for she shall eat them for want of all things secretly in the siege and straitness, wherewith thine enemy shall distress thee in thy gates. If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, THE LORD THY GOD, then the Lord will make thy plagues wonderful, and the plagues of thy seed, even great plagues, and of long continuance, and severe sicknesses, and of long continuance. Moreover, he will bring upon thee all the diseases of Egypt, which thou wast afraid of, and they shall cling unto thee. Also every sickness, and every plague, which is not written in the book of this law, them will the Lord bring upon thee, until thou be destroyed. And ye shall be left few in number, whereas ye were as the stars of heaven for multitude; because thou wouldest not obey the voice of the Lord thy God. And it shall come to pass, that as the Lord rejoiced over you to do you good, and to multiply you, so the Lord will rejoice over you to destroy you, and to bring you to nought; and ye shall be plucked from off the land to which thou goest to possess it. And the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone. And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest; but the Lord shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind. And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have no assurance of thy life: in the morning thous shalt say, Would God it were evening! And at evening thou shalt say, Would God it were morning! For the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see. And the Lord thall bring thee into Egypt again with ships, by the way whereof I spoke unto thee, Thou shalt see it no more again; and there ye shall be sold unto your enemies for bondmen and bondwomen, and no man shall buy you.”

Whether this passage refers to the rapine of the medieval Crusaders, the multitude of pogroms against the Jews as strangers in strange lands, the several ejections from the lands of bigoted and unforgiving hosts, the savagery of Hitler’s regime and those of Russia through the Czars to communism, or all of the above, Moses’ prophecy of God’s has come to pass in horrifying detail. They have indeed been smitten and cursed virtually continuously throughout all the lands to which they had been scattered for over two millennia since the Babylonian captivity.

God knew in advance how the Israelites would turn away from Him and would suffer the inevitable consequences. But He also gave them the promise that Moses spoke to them as recorded in Deuteronomy 30, that He would forgive them of all their transgressions and in love and mercy bring them back into their homeland.

“And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, to which the Lord thy God hath driven thee, and shalt return unto the Lord thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations where the Lord thy God hath scattered thee. If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from there will the Lord thy God gather thee, and from there will he fetch thee. And the Lord thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. And the Lord God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. And the lord thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies, and on them who hate thee, who persecuted thee. And thou shalt return and obey the voice of the lord, and do all his commandments which I command thee this day. And the Lord thy God will make thee plenteous in every work of thine hand, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy land, for good; for the Lord will again rejoice over thee for good, as he rejoiced over thy fathers. If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou turn unto the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul.”

This encouraging picture is in the midst of fulfillment.

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