If you do not obey the voice of Yahweh your God, and do not keep and observe all his commandments and laws which I am laying down for you today then all these curses will befall and overtake you. ‘You will be accursed in the town and accursed in the countryside; accursed, your basket and your kneading trough; accursed, the offspring of your body, the yield of your soil, the young of your cattle and the increase of your flock. You will be accursed in coming home, and accursed in going out.
‘Yahweh will send a curse on you, a spell, an imprecation on all your labours until you have been destroyed and quickly perish, because of your perverse behaviour, for having deserted me. Yahweh will fasten the plague on you, until it has exterminated you from the country which you are about to enter and make your own. Yahweh will strike you down with consumption, fever, inflammation, burning fever, drought, wind-blast, mildew, and these will pursue you to your ruin. The heavens above you will be brass, the earth beneath you iron. Your country’s rain Yahweh will turn into dust and sand; it will fall on you from the heavens until you perish.
Yahweh will have you defeated by your enemies; you will advance on them from one direction and flee from them in seven; and you will be a terrifying object-lesson to all the kingdoms of the world. Your carcase will be carrion for all wild birds and all wild animals, with no one to scare them away. ‘Yahweh will strike you down with Egyptian ulcers, with swellings in the groin, with scurvy and the itch, for which you will find no cure.
Yahweh will strike you down with madness, blindness, distraction of mind, until you grope your way at noon like a blind man groping in the dark, and your steps will lead you nowhere. ‘You will never be anything but exploited and plundered, with no one to save you. Get engaged to a woman, another man will have her; build a house, you will not live in it; plant a vineyard, you will not gather its first-fruits. Your ox will be slaughtered before your eyes and you will eat none of it; your donkey will be carried off in front of you and not be returned to you; your sheep will be given to your enemies, and no one will come to your help. Your sons and daughters will be handed over to another people, and every day you will wear your eyes out watching for them, while your hands are powerless. A nation hitherto unknown to you will eat the yield of your soil and of all your hard work. You will never be anything but exploited and crushed.
You will be driven mad by the sights you will see. Yahweh will strike you down with foul ulcers on knee and leg, for which you will find no cure — from the sole of your foot to the top of your head. ‘Yahweh will send away both you and the king whom you have appointed to rule you to a nation unknown either to you or to your ancestors, and there you will serve other gods, made of wood and stone. And you will be the astonishment, the byword, the laughing-stock of all the peoples where Yahweh is taking you.
‘You will cast seed in plenty on the fields but harvest little, since the locust will devour it. You will plant and till your vineyards but not drink the wine or gather the grapes, since the grub will eat them up. You will grow olive trees throughout your territory but not anoint yourself with the oil, since your olive trees will be cut down. You will father sons and daughters but they will not belong to you, since they will go into captivity. All your trees and the whole yield of your soil will be the prey of insects. ‘The foreigners living with you will rise higher and higher at your expense, while you yourself sink lower and lower. You will be subject to them, not they to you; they will be the ones at the head, and you the one at the tail.
‘All these curses will befall you, pursue you and overtake you until you have been destroyed, for not having obeyed the voice of Yahweh your God by keeping his commandments and laws which he has laid down for you. (Deut. 28:15-45)