The beginning of this chapter is about as up-with-my-people as a God can get. He promises to give Israel the best life any nation could imagine—perfect weather for its crops, victory over its enemies, scads of gifted adorable children and free cable, including all of the premium channels.
However, if Israel doesn't obey all the laws in Leviticus, the nation turns into the Near Eastern version of The Walking Dead. Everything's there except a small band of plucky survivors: desolate roads, brutal violence, epidemic disease, and people who are so desperate for food they will even eat the flesh of their children.
Still, it's not all bad. The good life returns if the people of Israel confess their wrongdoing—along with their fathers' wrongdoing, because even God blames all your problems on your parents.
The stated basis for God's giving Israel life or death is the eternal covenant between them.
The Arc of the Covenant
The language here is typical of a vassal treaty between a nation and a more powerful sovereign. That's sort of like the legal relationship between Native American tribes and the United States, except God plans to honor the terms.
The language of ancient vassal treaties was quite different from treaties today. For one thing, the legalese back then was pretty emo.
Blessings and curses are part of the standard routine. If the treaty works, the heavens will sing, flowers will bloom, and your breath will always be minty fresh. But if one side doesn't do what it is supposed to do, the covenant calls for their crops to fail, their teeth to fall out, and their children to major in Sumerian poetry instead of something practical.
God isn't exactly subtle about the blessings and curses in this chapter being part of covenant. Good things happen when the covenant is honored. Bad things happen when the covenant is broken, with the problem getting progressively worse the longer Israel refuses to obey.
God throws in a little gibe about how breaking the contract is the sign of an "uncircumcised heart." Oooh, burn.
This really stings, since circumcision a few inches lower is the sign of Israel's acceptance of the contract with God—more painful than a handshake but harder to deny that it took place.
Finally, God reminds Israel that he honors his agreements. Over. And over. Again.
He helped Israel get out of Egypt.
He made a covenant with Jacob.
He made a covenant with Abraham.
He remembers his covenants.
He does what he says.
Not like some people he knows.
Okay, God, we get it. Yeesh.
Waiting for the After-Credits Scene
After this dramatic announcement of promises and threats, the last verse of the chapter once again sounds like the final end of the book.