I received the following question:
Deuteronomy 28 speaks of Israel’s restoration and it also paints a very ugly picture of Israel in the diaspora. Since God is dealing in grace, their punishment will continue to operate until God brings them back to their land and bless them. Some have stated that this is not very gracious on God’s part today. How will you respond to this point of ungraciousness?
I do not see anything in Deuteronomy 28 that I think speaks of Israel’s restoration.
The part about an “ugly picture of Israel in the diaspora” you refer to is probably at the end of the chapter, in verses 64-68:
64. “Then the LORD will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods, which neither you nor your fathers have known—wood and stone. 65. And among those nations you shall find no rest, nor shall the sole of your foot have a resting place; but there the LORD will give you a trembling heart, failing eyes, and anguish of soul. 66. Your life shall hang in doubt before you; you shall fear day and night, and have no assurance of life. 67. In the morning you shall say, ‘Oh, that it were evening!’ And at evening you shall say, ‘Oh, that it were morning!’ because of the fear which terrifies your heart, and because of the sight which your eyes see.
68. “And the LORD will take you back to Egypt in ships, by the way of which I said to you, ‘You shall never see it again.’ And there you shall be offered for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you.”
It is true that the punishment of Israel continues until they are they are gathered back to their land. However, what does this mean? Does it mean that God is currently, actively punishing Israel today? I would reject such an idea completely! No, God is dealing graciously with Israel, just as He is dealing with all other nations today. It is not active punishment that continues today, but the effects of the punishment that God brought upon them in the past.
In other words, in punishment for their sins, God scattered the people of Israel out of their land and into the other nations and countries. He never recalled them from those countries, and so the majority of them remain thus scattered. Therefore, the effects of the punishment that God brought upon them continue until today. However, the actual act of God punishing them has ceased. He is not punishing Israel for their sins today, any more than He is punishing any other nation for their sins. God is dealing graciously with all nations today, and Israel is certainly included in that gracious work.
The conditions described in Deuteronomy 28:64-68 describe Israel in the Assyrian and Babylonian captivity. God brought these awful circumstances upon them in punishment for their terrible sin, the same sin that led Him to scatter them to these countries in the first place. However, after this punishment was over, God was gracious and allowed those who wished to to return to their land. At this point, the punishment of the scattering was over, though its effects continued in that God did not actively work to bring them all back to the land. To return or not to return was up to them. Moreover, God did not restore the Davidic throne over Israel, nor did He ever establish them again as the nation they had been before the captivity. The effects of that punishment continue and are felt even until today, although so much time has passed since that punishment took place that many other things have affected the current state of Israel as well.
I would respond to the claim of ungraciousness based on Deuteronomy 28 by saying that God is not bringing such conditions upon Israel today. If some Jews have experienced conditions like this, such as in Germany under Hitler, then that was man’s doing, not God’s. God is not bringing the punishment of Deuteronomy 28 on Israel today. Instead, He is dealing with them in grace, as He always does.
Thanks for the great question. Keep studying the Word!