32 And I will bring the land into desolation: and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it.

33 And I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste.

34 Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate, and ye be in your enemies' land; even then shall the land rest, and enjoy her sabbaths.

35 As long as it lieth desolate it shall rest; because it did not rest in your sabbaths, when ye dwelt upon it.(Leviticus 26:32-35)

When I read Leviticus 26:34-35, it seems like this is speaking on the Babylonians invading the land and leaving it desolate hence fulfilling verse 34-35 and according to 2 Chronicles 36:20-21 and Jeremiah 25:9, it seems like this is the desolation spoken of.

The problem I am having is that it seems like Leviticus 26:32-35 is speaking on the entire allotted land of Israel being desolate but in the time of the Babylonians, it was only the land of Judea(territory of Judah and Benjamin as far as I know) that was actually left desolate.Samaria had the heathens who the Assyrians put in the land when they took Northern Kingdom(2 Kings 17) and the other cities belonging to the ten tribes seem to have been inhabited as well in this time My question that I have is the prophecy in Leviticus 26:32-35 speaking on the whole land being desolate or just the land of Judah?

1 Answer 1


The Bal Haturim writes that indeed, it is the whole land:

והשמותי אני את הארץ. פי' כל ארץ ישראל

I will make the whole land desolate. This is a reference to the entire Eretz Yisrael

I wouldn't necessarily pin these passages on a particular event. It is a general principle, and this comes out in the commentaries on this verse which I will bring: that explain that the fulfilment is that generally when Benei Yisrael are in the land, it is a land flowing with milk and honey; fertile, arable etc. When they are ejected from the land for their sins, the land becomes basically a big desert (see Kedushat Levi).

Indeed this is the case. It is legend that when the Jews returned to Israel in the last century or so, they reclaimed the desert and made it fertile again, and the result is this flush of green that is notable from space (see below), in comparison to the surrounding area (I heard this directly from Astronaut Jeff Hoffman as a child). Before the Jews came back and brought their blessing, as well as hard work in draining the swamps, it was indeed not unlike the rest of the surrounding area of Jordan etc, not green, but quite desolate, a very tough place to live. Not so nowadays, of course; it is very prosperous BH!

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Note that many of the commentaries on this verse are based on the tradition (recorded in Sifra Bechukotai 6:5) that this verse is not number 9 to the 8 punishments from the preceding verses (see Siftei Chachamim), but a mercy from Hashem.

Or Hachaim Hakodesh explains that we know this from the word אני, "I", in 32. This word is redundant, and is intended to indicate to the reader that Hashem is invoking His mercy, and he brings the Midrash and explains that Hashem makes the land become desolate to deny the satisfaction to the conquerors.

Rabbeinu Bachaya further elaborates that it is to encourage the Jewish people. The people who move in to Eretz Yisrael will not civilise it, or wall their cities, and not have strength, thus encouraging the exiled to Jews that the land is still waiting for their return.

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