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Deuteronomy: The Second Law - Speech 8

A commentary on the eighth speech of Moses in Deuteronomy 27-28. The book of Deuteronomy is a series of 12 speeches that Moses gave just before his death at the end of Israel's wilderness journey.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Chapter 7

Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Disease

In Deut. 28:27-29 Moses warns of yet another curse of the law that was to come upon a disobedient nation.

27 The Lord will smite you with the boils of Egypt and with tumors and with the scab and with the itch, from which you cannot be healed. 28 The Lord will smite you with madness and with blindness and with bewilderment of heart; 29 and you shall grope at noon, as a blind man gropes in darkness, and you shall not prosper in your ways; but you shall only be oppressed and robbed continually, with none to save you.

This curse has to do with ill health, physical, mental, and spiritual. The first condition listed is “boils” (Heb., shechiyn). Gesenius Lexicon defines it as elephantiasis:

“used of a kind of black leprosy endemic in Egypt, called by physicians elephantiasis, from the skin being covered with black scales and the feet swelling up.”

This is the same word used of the plague of “boils” that came upon the people of Egypt in the sixth plague. Most translators were unfamiliar with this medical term, so they translated it “boils.” But because the term appears in the writings of ancient secular writers, as Gesenius Lexicon tells us, it has been properly identified as elephantiasis, which is described as follows:

“Elephantiasis (el-e-fan-TY-a-sis) is the result of a tropical worm infection called filariasis (fil-a-RY-a-sis). When infected mosquitoes transmit the parasitic worm Wuchereria bancrofti to people, the worm blocks the lymphatic system. The blockage causes swelling in the legs or other parts of the body, making these body parts appear large and puffy, or elephant-like.”

We also learn from the same article that…

“the swelling of elephantiasis usually does not occur until a person has been bitten by the disease-carrying mosquitoes many times and has had years of exposure to infected mosquitoes.”

So it is of interest that when the sixth plague struck Egypt, God had already been sending infected mosquitos to Egypt for a long time with these parasitic worms. The miracle was not in the disease itself, but in the fact that it struck all the Egyptians at the same time immediately after Moses threw some “ashes” (KJV) or “soot” (NASB) into the air (Exodus 9:8). Also, it did not affect the Israelites.

The curse for disobedience, however, was that the Israelites would experience this disease, or perhaps similar mosquito-borne diseases in general. Most notable in America is the West Nile Virus, which was first identified in Uganda in 1937 and was first seen in New York City in 1999. The name itself links it to the Nile River in Egypt.

The curse also calls for “tumors” (Heb., ophel, “hill, mound, tumor”), which is not a specific disease but is a symptom of many kinds of ill health. Also listed is the “scab” (Heb., garav, “itch, scab”) and “the itch” (Heb., kheres, “from scratching; heat; also the sun”). These conditions appear to be irritants rather than fatal diseases. They make life uncomfortable, and so they spiritually signify things in life that are irritating even in other areas of life. Moses’ says that these irritants will remain unresolved, because they are diseases “from which you cannot be healed” apart from repentance.

Madness and Bewilderment

In verse 28 Moses turns to mental conditions such as “madness” and “bewilderment of heart.” The Hebrew word for “madness” is shiggayon, which has to do with any “impetuous excitement” or fanaticism. Jer. 29:26 applies this word to false prophets as well, where Shemaiah was told,

26 The Lord has made you priest instead of Jehoiada the priest, to be the overseer in the house of the Lord over every madman who prophesies, to put him in the stocks and in the iron collar.

It appears, then, that the curse of the law upon a disobedient nation would bring not only mental illness but also false prophets.

The NASB phrase, “bewilderment of heart,” comes from the Hebrew word timmahown, which means to be astonished, astounded, or left wondering what to do or say. There is an element of uncertainty and even fear in this state. In other words, the curse of the law means that a disobedient nation will not know what to do or where to turn. They will not know the answer to their problem.

We see this depicted also in Zech. 12:4,

4 “In that day,” declares the Lord, “I will strike every horse with bewilderment [timmahown] and his rider with madness [shiggayon]. But I will watch over the house of Judah, while I strike every horse of the peoples with blindness [ivvaron].

The prophet’s use of all three terms that Moses uses makes this an obvious fulfillment of the curse of the law. In fact, this passage, along with Deut. 28:28, are the only places where all three of these terms ar used together. Zechariah applies it to the horse and rider, which often had military connotations in those days. In other words, the horses would not know what to do, and the riders would be struck with madness.

Confusion of the Two Jerusalems

It may also apply to the mad prophets and the confused people who listen to their skewed views of eschatology. In fact, Zechariah is probably the best illustration of this, for he is perhaps the most confusing prophet of them all. He prophesies of Judah and Jerusalem without distinguishing between the two Jerusalems or between the true and false House of Judah. Most are confused because they do not even know that the Hebrew word for Jerusalem is a dual, Ierushalayim, meaning literally, “two Jerusalems.”

The Hebrew language has both plurals and duals. A masculine word in Hebrew normally is made plural by adding “im” to the end of the word. A dual adds “ayim” to the ending and means precisely two objects.

In the case of Ierushalayim, the Old Testament prophets never distinguish the two or try to explain the use of the dual. Only in the New Testament do we find that there are indeed two Jerusalems, one heavenly and the other earthly (Gal. 4:25, 26). As a general rule, when the prophets speak of “Jerusalem” in a negative sense, they prophesy about the earthly Jerusalem. When they speak in glowing terms about Jerusalem being restored in the latter days, they are referring to the heavenly (or “new”) Jerusalem.

Most of the prophets speak of one or the other in each section of prophecy, but Zechariah moves almost seamlessly from one to the other without warning. This makes Zechariah one of the most difficult prophets to understand, because his prophecies require the most discernment on the part of the reader. Those who do not know about the two Jerusalems will never be able to interpret Zechariah properly.

In Zech. 12:2 the word of the Lord to the prophet says,

2 Behold, I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that causes reeling to all the peoples around; and when the siege is against Jerusalem, it will also be against Judah.

He describes a siege against Jerusalem, which most teachers assume is the old Jerusalem. But this is a siege in which God defends Jerusalem (Zech. 12:8). This is totally different from the siege in Isaiah 29:2, 3, where God is said to be on the side of those who lay siege to Jerusalem. In fact, God is the one laying siege to Jerusalem.

The fact is, there are two Jerusalems, and each will be under siege in its own way. The New Jerusalem is currently under siege by the Babylonian system that has controlled the nations of the world for many years. Hence, we see persecution of Christians and the removal of Christ from public life, government, courts, and the educational system.

But there is also another siege—this time of the Old Jerusalem—in which that city is destroyed on account of the prophecy in Isaiah 29:5, 6 and again in Jer. 19:11.

Zechariah prophesies bewilderment upon the horses and blindness upon the riders. Many of the prophets today are blind riders, because they are blind to the concept of the two Jerusalems. Therefore, they do not discern what Zechariah is prophesying, because they misapply it, thinking that God will save the old Jerusalem.

They are blind to Paul’s prophecy in Gal. 4:25-30, where Paul tells us that the Old Covenant is Hagar and corresponds to the earthly Jerusalem. Hagar and her fleshly sons cannot inherit the Kingdom, for they are not chosen. In the end, they must be “cast out” (Gal. 4:30), along with the earthly Jerusalem, so that “Isaac,” the son of the heavenly Jerusalem, may inherit all things.

Not understanding this prophecy is one of the main sources of bewilderment among the “horses” that the fanatical or mad prophets ride.

This condition is due to the fact that we are under the curse of the law for disobedience, and we are therefore experiencing what Moses prophesied in the law.


Deut. 28:29 says we will grope around at noon as if it were midnight. Because the blind are vulnerable to being robbed, so also will these people “be oppressed and robbed continually.” Blindness is the source of this economic calamity. Because the church was blind, the Babylonians were able to establish a secret government known as “Mystery Babylon.” Its main function was to rob the people continually and oppress them economically through the Federal Reserve Bank without them even knowing who was robbing them.

Isaiah has much to say about this blindness. God always takes credit for blinding their eyes, and for this reason He is also the source of healing. In one sense, the people were blinded as a natural consequence of divine judgment on account of their continual violation of the law. But on a deeper level, God blinds the eyes of His people for merciful reasons.

The original prophetic pattern of blindness is found in Gen. 27:1, where Isaac was blind. Isaac was the son that Abraham dedicated to God on the altar in Gen. 22:9. That made him God’s servant, who later became the blind servant. The theme of God’s blind servant forms a large part of Isaiah’s prophecy, especially Isaiah 42:18-20.

Because of Isaac’s blindness, Jacob was able to trick his father into giving him the Birthright. This brought about a judicial situation where Jacob would have to return the Birthright to Esau at some point in history in order to give Esau justice and also to allow the plan of God to proceed in a lawful manner. This is what occurred in 1948, as I explained in my book, The Struggle for the Birthright. The representatives of Jacob, the British, were in control of Palestine since 1917, but in 1948 they were forced to give the land to the Jewish Zionists, who were the modern representatives of Esau-Edom.

This is not well understood because most Christians are unaware that the Esau’s descendants were absorbed into Jewry in 126-125 BC. The first-century historian, Josephus, gives a full account of this history, concluding with the statement about Edom, or Idumea, “they were hereafter no other than Jews” (Antiquities of the Jews, XIII, ix, 1). Thus, the prophecies given to Edom were also transferred into Jewry and must find their fulfillment there, along with other prophecies.

The British, on the other hand, are descended from elements of the House of Israel. Even the term, Brit-ish, is a compound Hebrew word meaning “Covenant Man.” Their flag is called Union Jack, and Jack is a shortened version of Jacob. Hence, “Jacob” gave the land back to the inheritors of Esau-Edom in 1948, and the Zionists called their new nation Israel. Israel is the Birthright name, indicating that the Birthright was returned to Esau’s heirs in 1948 in order to allow the full purpose of God to proceed in a lawful manner.

None of this could have happened apart from the blindness that God had placed upon the British and upon all of God’s people in general—with the exception of the remnant, as Paul explains in Rom. 11:5-7.

God did this in order to give Esau the justice that was due to him on account of Jacob’s unlawful manner of obtaining the birthright in Genesis 27. Secondly, God blinded the eyes of His servants in order to reduce their liability for their actions. Thirdly, God blinded the eyes of His servants in order to set them free, according to the law in Exodus 21:26. These are all themes that I have explained in greater detail in more than one book. The best ones to study are The Struggle for the Birthright and Who is a Jew?

The point to remember in this current study is that the curse of the law demanded that God impose blindness upon the disobedient Israelites. This is indeed a curse, but it is also a blessing in that it reduces liability for their actions. More importantly, however, the prophets show that this blindness is part of the divine plan, allowing God to give justice to Esau without the world being aware of what is happening.

In other words, prophecy is being fulfilled, but not as most people think. The bewilderment factor plays a greater role in this than the bewildered realize, and the prophets are mad as they prophesy things that they do not understand. In the end, however, all will become clear, and then men will marvel that God was sovereign enough to fulfill His word without the help of flesh.