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What is the meaning and the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 28:68? Is it truth that this is related to black slaves to America?

Deut 28:68 - The LORD will return you to Egypt in ships by a route that I said you should never see again. There you will sell yourselves to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you.”

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    Commented May 6 at 21:26

3 Answers 3

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68 The Lord will send you back in ships to Egypt, by a route which I told you that you would never see again; and there you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but there will be no buyer.

This prophecy was given to the Israelites as a warning about what would happen "If you are not careful to observe all the words of this law which is written in this book." (v 58) It is not related to slavery in America for the following reasons:

  • The Israelites were a different group than the various black tribes that were brought to the Americas as slaves.

  • Those enslaved in the Americas had not made a covenant with the Lord, and were thus not punished for violating the words of the Law.

  • They did not go to Egypt, but went from Africa to the Americas.

  • The Lord did not send them.

  • They did not offer themselves as slaves but were enslaved by force.

  • Their enslavers found buyers for them.

Thus, at every point, the prophecy does not fit with the situation of black slavery in America. The prophecy may refer to those Jews who fled to Egypt during the Babylonian exile. (Jer. 42-44) Their plight was indeed attributed the their disobeying the Book of the Law. The problem with this interpretation is that Jeremiah warned them not to go, so it does not seem that the Lord sent them.

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  • Some of the Jews could have arrived in Egypt in the holds of the merchants of Tyre, who were selling them on to other places (Joel ch3 v6). It could be said that the Lord had "sent" them by allowing them to be captured. Commented May 6 at 19:52
  • Hmmm.... I think you mean Joel 4, but thanks. If "sent" is understood in this way, then I suppose God could have sent them to Egypt in Jeremiah's time as well. Jeremiah himself ended up there, though not by choice. Commented May 6 at 21:49
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    No, we're just in different Bible translations. I'm in the RSV, you must be in one like the New Jerusalem (I've just checked) which divides my second chapter. Commented May 6 at 21:59
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The chapter of Deut 28 is divided into two parts:

  • Deut 28:1-14 - Blessings for Obedience to the covenant
  • Deut 28:15-68 - Curses for Disobedience to the covenant

The specific curse pronounced upon the Israelites in Deut 28:68 is one of the many, many curses that would occur IF Israel became unfaithful to God. It is specific to Israel and those of the covenant (as defined in Ex 19-23).

As best I can determine, it has nothing to do with slavery in the USA, largely because no divine covenant-breaking was involved.

Indeed, Israel was unfaithful and many of the curses listed in Deut 28 came to pass, including,

  • many being taken captive by a foreign nation, Babylon
  • the remnant going back to Egypt as recorded in Jer 42, 43.
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Context:

  • In Deuteronomy 28, God outlines blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience to His commandments. These blessings and curses are directed toward the Israelites.
  • Deuteronomy 28:68 falls within the section of curses, where God warns of severe consequences if the Israelites turn away from Him.

Interpretation:

  • The verse states: “And the Lord shall bring thee into Egypt again with ships, by the way whereof I spake 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.”
  • The literal interpretation suggests that the Israelites would be taken back to Egypt (the place of their former slavery) via ships. In Egypt, they would be sold as slaves, but no one would redeem or buy them.

Historical Fulfillment:

Historically this may have played out differently. This prophecy has been associated with various events: See this past question.

  • Babylonian Exile: After the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonians, many Israelites were exiled to Babylon. While not literally Egypt, this exile perhaps represented a kind or reversal of the Exodus journey. (Jeremiah 52:28-30)
  • Roman Conquest: During the Roman conquest of Jerusalem in 70 CE, Jewish captives were sent to work in mines or as slaves. Some were even transported to Egypt. This makes more sense with the prophecy of returning “with ships.” (Josephus’ “The Jewish War”)

Josephus wrote

Because the soldiers were now growing weary of bloodshed, and survivors appeared constantly, Caesar orders to kill only those who offered armed resistance and to take alive all the rest. (415) The troops, in addition to those covered by their orders, slaughtered the aged and infirm; people to their prime who might be useful they herded into the Temple area and shut up in the Court of the Women (lcl. (416) Caesar appointed one of his freedmen as their guard, his friend Fronto, to decide the fate appropriate to each. (417) All those who had taken part in sedition and brigandage (they informed against other) he executed. He picked out the tallest and handsomest of the lot and reserved them for the Triumph (418). Of the rest, those who were over seventeen he put in chains and sent to hard labor in Egypt while greet numbers were presented by Titus to the provinces to perish in the theaters by sword or by wild beasts; those under seventeen were sold. (Josephus, “The Jewish Wars”; Book vi 9:2.)

  • Diaspora: Over centuries, Jews faced dispersion (diaspora) and persecution. Some were enslaved, and Egypt became symbolic of oppression. (Wikipedia)
  • Transatlantic Slave Trade: Some [1] interpret this verse as foreshadowing the transatlantic slave trade, where African slaves were forcibly transported to the Americas (including the United States) on ships. The parallel that is drawn is that, just as the Israelites were taken to Egypt in ships, black slaves were taken to America in a similar manner.

You can’t simply take this one verse, impose your belief into it and then say, see this applies to one specific people and that proves the point. If this one verse is going to be taken as evidence then ALL the blessings and curses must be taken and applied to that people. Therefore it would also need to be demonstrated that ALL the other curses and the blessings could be applied to black people as well and NOT to anyone else, through colour or any other determinate means such as a specific nation. [2]

Under proper and full scrutiny and analyses the verse does not support the claim that the original Jews were black. [3]

Theological Significance:

Beyond the historical context, this serves as a stark warning about the consequences of disobedience and the severity of God’s judgment.

We see the importance of obedience to God’s commandments and the enduring nature of His covenant. We see the need for faithfulness and the consequences of straying from God’s path.

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