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The passages from Deuteronomy 28 are especially hard to read. While Israel often experienced great hardship and judgment as they fell away from God, many of the passages in this chapter seem to be symbolically referring to something even greater. Here is a sample (I deliberately stopped at verse 52):

Deuteronomy 28:49-52: “The LORD will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as the eagle swoops down, a nation whose language you shall not understand, a nation of fierce countenance who will have no respect for the old, nor show favor to the young. Moreover, it shall eat the offspring of your herd and the produce of your ground until you are destroyed, who also leaves you no grain, new wine, or oil, nor the increase of your herd or the young of your flock until they have caused you to perish. It shall besiege you in all your towns until your high and fortified walls in which you trusted come down throughout your land, and it shall besiege you in all your towns throughout your land which the LORD your God has given you."

Is it possible these passages were also looking forward to the Siege of Jerusalem, with all its raging barbarity?:

Matthew 24:21: "For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will."

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  • Exegetically, it refers to the Babylonian captivity, detailed in Second Kings, and a few of the prophetic books.
    – Lucian
    Jun 6 at 6:20
  • @Lucian I agree. But could the terrible carnage in the greatest tribulation the world had ever known -- and would ever know -- not also reach fulfillment in the passages (esp. vss. 53+) where final devastation would occur?
    – Xeno
    Jun 6 at 19:47
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Deut 28 contains a dual set of covenant promises:

  • V1-14 - Blessings for obedience
  • V15-68 - Curses for disobedience

The curses for disobedience were fulfilled MANY times in Israel's history such as:

  • Judges 3:7, 8 - ... Then the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and He sold them into the hand of Cushan-rishathaim king of Aram-naharaim
  • Judges 3:12 - Once again the Israelites did evil in the sight of the LORD. So He gave Eglon king of Moab power over Israel
  • Judges 4:2 - the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan ...
  • Judges 6:1 - Again the Israelites did evil in the sight of the LORD; so He delivered them into the hand of Midian
  • Judges 10:7 - the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and He sold them into the hands of the Philistines and Ammonites
  • Judges 13:1 - Again the Israelites did evil in the sight of the LORD, so He delivered them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years
  • 2 Chron 12 - Rehoboam rebels against God and Shishak attackes from Egypt
  • 2 Kings 6:24, 25 - Some time later, Ben-hadad king of Aram assembled his entire army and marched up to besiege Samaria. So there was a great famine in Samaria. [This incident is particularly significant because the Samarians resorted to cannibalism (2 Kings 6:26-29) in fulfillment of Deut 28:53.]
  • 2 Kings 17 - Assyrians came and destroyed Samaria
  • 2 Chron 36 - Babylon destroys Jerusalem
  • AD70 - Jerusalem destroyed by the Romans

Thus, there have been many, many instances where the curses of Deut 28:15-68, in their various forms, were fulfilled because of the disobedience of the Israelites.

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Deuteronomy 28:49

The LORD will bring a nation against you from far away, from the ends of the earth, like an eagle swooping down, a nation whose language you will not understand

Jeremiah prophesied the siege of Jerusalem 588 BC in 5:15

Behold, I am bringing a distant nation against you, O house of Israel," declares the LORD. "It is an established nation, an ancient nation, a nation whose language you do not know and whose speech you do not understand.

Jeremiah 6:22

This is what the LORD says: "Behold, an army is coming from the land of the north; a great nation is stirred up from the ends of the earth.

Deuteronomy 28:50 English Standard Version

a hard-faced nation who shall not respect the old or show mercy to the young.

Isaiah prophecied the fall of Babylon in 47:6

I was angry with My people; I profaned My heritage, and I placed them under your control. You showed them no mercy; even on the elderly you laid a most heavy yoke.

  1. Moses mentioned a nation from the ends of the earth. Jeremiah affirmed it with respect to the siege of Jerusalem 588 BC.

  2. Moses mentioned a language that the Jews would not understand. Jeremiah affirmed it with respect to the siege of Jerusalem 588 BC.

  3. Moses mentioned the invaders would have no mercy on the elderly. Isaiah affirmed it with respect to the siege of Jerusalem 588 BC.

Both Isaiah and Jeremiah recognized that Deuteronomy 28:49-50 was being fulfilled in the siege of Jerusalem 588 BC.

Could Deuteronomy 28:15-68 be symbolically referencing the Siege of Jerusalem (AD 70)?

The OP is not asking much here. The siege of Jerusalem 588 BC foreshadowed and could symbolically reference the one in AD 70.

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  • I didn't ask too much because, unfortunately, I didn't want my question closed. I still don't have those rules firmly in mind. I'd like to have asked if Deu. 28:15+ had its ultimate fulfillment in the Siege (AD 70). In other words, that the text is ultimately referring to the culmination of centuries of judgment in Israel's final destruction, once and for all.
    – Xeno
    Jun 6 at 16:50
  • If that's your intended question, I think Dottard's answer applies.
    – Tony Chan
    Jun 6 at 16:56
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I agree with much that has been said, especially:

  • The Deuteronomy prophecy has clear fulfillment in the Babylonian destruction; as noted by Tony, this is particularly evident in Jeremiah 5:15
  • Blessings and cursings as promised in Deut. 28 have come many times, as noted by Dottard

Multiple Fulfillment

The Bible contains many prophecies that have a dual (or more) fulfillment. Victor Ludlow (my favorite Isaiah scholar!) points out that Isaiah is particularly noteworthy for this phenomenon (See Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet pp. 2-3, 53-54)

The most widely recognized (by Christians) example of multiple fulfillment is the first and second comings of the Messiah.

I have no difficulty then believing that the prophecy in Deuteronomy saw fulfillment in the Babylonian destruction AND at other times.

Evidences that point to Rome in Deut. 28

The Temple

The destructions of Jerusalem by Babylon and by Rome have something uniquely notorious in common: of all the conquests and reconquests of the Holy Land, these were the only two events in which a Jewish temple was destroyed. This makes them particularly sore fulfillments of the Deuteronomy prophecy.

Given the number of times the temple is called the Lord's house, I cannot help but notice an allusion in verse 30:

thou shalt build an house, and thou shalt not dwell therein

--

The Eagle in verse 49

The eagle is a very prominent symbol of Roman power.

--

People eating their own children

This most gruesome detail is given a great deal of emphasis in Deut. 28:

And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body, the flesh of thy sons and of thy daughters, which the Lord thy God hath given thee, in the siege, and in the straitness, wherewith thine enemies shall distress thee: (verse 53, see also verses 54-57)

This may have happened during the Babylonian destruction, but we have firsthand evidence that it did happen during the Roman siege. This siege, which culminated in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 is historically notorious for (among other things) the report by Josephus of a mother who killed her own child and ate him (Josephus, Wars, 6.201).

Conclusion

The Old Testament itself shows fulfillment of this prophecy by the Babylonian destruction.

In response to the OP's question, yes, I also believe the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans was a stark demonstration of the devastation prophesied in Deuteronomy 28.

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  • All very good points. +1.
    – Xeno
    Jun 6 at 19:38

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