This extended passage contains the blessing which the people are promised for fulfilling God’s covenant, as well as the curse they will receive for violating it. Moses instructs the people, upon crossing the Jordan, to line up six tribes on Mount Gerizim, and six on Mount Ebal. The blessing are to be recited facing Mount Gerizim, and the curses facing Mount Ebal. After each, the people are to say Amen.
The Levites are to proclaim the blessings and the curses. First, they identify which violators will be cursed. These include the idolatrous, the dishonest and the incestuous. Then, the brief but bountiful blessing is recited, which includes fertility of both land and man, success in income, victory in war, and rain in its season.
The curses are more abundant and exceedingly frightening. Violation of the covenant will be met with the undoing of all blessings mentioned, and a host of other terrifying occurrences. These include madness and plague, the loss of property and family, slavery and suffering. The curses are in fact so detailed and so frightening, that it is traditional to recite them in an undertone when they are read in the synagogue each year.
Virtual Classroom Discussion
Why do you think the curses are so much more detailed than the blessings?