Worldwide dispersion of the Jews Prophesied
28:63 This section, through verse 68, gives the prophecy of the dispersion of the Jewish people, the climax of which took place in AD 70, with the destruction of Jerusalem and the great temple by the Romans. This brought about the final scattering of Israel worldwide. The Jews have wandered throughout the nations until most recently. Many started returning to the Holy Land, the Promised Land, around the 1880s. This flow increased in the 1920s following the Balfour Declaration in which the British government promised to carve out a homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine. The establishment of the nation of Israel in 1947 brought about the near-complete restoration of the Jews from around the world.
The Lord will delight over you. When a son walks in the right way, it is the father’s joy to help him and to show him kindness. If the son falls on evil ways, the father’s joy must find some means—evil painful ones—to bring him back to the right path. In like manner, God “rejoices” to bring upon sinful Israel the trials and sufferings of exile, in order thereby to purify and elevate him, and thus restore him to His favor.
28:64 The Lord will scatter you. In 2 Kings 24 it is reported that Jehoiachin was carried away to Babylon with 10,000 of his subjects.
Shall serve other gods. Being taken to a pagan land would mean ultimate absorption into the religion, as well as into the life, of heathenism. This happened to many of the Jews who went into the Seventy-year Babylonian captivity, but not to all. A remnant survived to return (50,000 total) over a one-hundred year period to re-establish in Judah the city of Jerusalem and rebuild a temple. But many, many ended up being scattered around the globe!
28:65 Among those nations. Israel is to have no rest—never-ceasing anxiety, life in perpetual jeopardy, an unendurable present, and a future of undefined terrors.
Failing of eyes. Usually taken to mean the gradual extinction of all hope; or, the eyes refuse their function of seeing, because they view only horror.
Despair of soul. A mind tortured and restless.
28:66 Your life shall hang in doubt before you. Like an object suspended by a tender thread and held in front of one’s eyes—about to fall down and break at any moment; but in the next comment, even worse!
No assurance of your life. “You shall expect every moment to be your last.” (Driver) Better, “You shall not believe in your life,” i.e. “You cannot believe that these things are happening that are happening to you, that they are real; deluding yourself with the vain hope that it is all an evil dream.” (Steinthal)
28:67 In the morning you shall say … Even as he that suffers acute pain yearns for the hours to pass. This verse graphically depicts the agonized uncertainty, protracted by day and by night. These things listed above were the continual experiences of the Jewish people scattered among the Gentiles the last two thousand years! The pogroms and holocausts that fell upon the Jewish communities were horrible events!
28:68 And the Lord shall bring you back to Egypt in ships. The Jews were to never go back to Egypt for commercial purposes (see 17:16), but they would return in slavery. This would happen in AD 70 when the temple was destroyed. Josephus reports that the prophecy of this verse (28:68) was fulfilled before his very eyes when 97,000 young Jewish men and women were chained together and taken to work the salt mines in Egypt as slaves. At the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, both Titus and Hadrian consigned multitudes of Jews into slavery with Egypt receiving a large proportion of them.
Under Moses, 600,000 Jews came out of Egypt in 1445 BC on foot. They became a disciplined force in the desert, but now it is predicted they would be carried back cooped up in slave ships. The Romans had a fleet in the Mediterranean, and this was an easier and safer way of transporting prisoners than by land across the sands.
Shall offer yourselves for sale. You will in vain seek and yearn to be bought as man-servants and maid servants. (Rashi)
But there will be no buyer. Josephus records that when at the destruction of the temple, the Roman troops grew weary of slaughter, and 97,000 of the younger prisoners were spared. Those over seventeen years were sent to the mines, or the arenas to fight as gladiators or against wild animals; those under seventeen were sold as slaves; but the market was so glutted that, though offered at nominal prices, none would buy them! Those who remained un-purchased were sent into confinement, where they perished by hundreds and thousands from hunger.
Of course, those who were taken, which was almost all the Jews of the city of Jerusalem, “will never see it (the land) again!”