Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Deuteronomy 27

Verses 1-26


Ceremonies to be observed on reaching Canaan

This chapter has probably been misplaced, as it seems to break the connexion between Deuteronomy 26 and Deuteronomy 28. It ordains four ceremonies to be observed after the people have entered Canaan: the Law to be written on stones on Mt. Ebal: an altar to be erected there: the covenant ratified on Ebal and Gerizim: and twelve curses pronounced by the Levites.

1. Elders] Elsewhere the elders are addressed along with the people. Here they are associated with Moses in exhorting the people to obedience.

2, 3. The plaster was intended to make a smooth surface, on which the inscription may have been painted in accordance with the Egyptian custom. Or the writing may have been impressed on the clay when it was soft and the clay afterwards dried or baked in the sun, like the tablets and cylinders of Babylonia. On the fulfilment of the injunction given here see Joshua 8:30-35 and on Deuteronomy 11:29, Deuteronomy 11:30.

5. Cp. Exodus 20:24-25 and notes there.

9, 10. The Levites are addressed here because it was their duty to pronounce the blessings and the curses, to which the people responded with 'Amen.'

11-13. On Ebal and Gerizim see Deuteronomy 11:29, Deuteronomy 11:30. It need not be supposed that six tribes spoke the blessings from the top of Gerizim and the other six the curses from the top of Ebal. According to the Jewish writers the priests and Levites stood in the valley between the two heights and spoke both the blessings and the curses from there (see Deuteronomy 27:14), and all the people answered with a loud Amen. The valley between the hills is not more than 60 rods wide at the eastern end, and all travellers in Palestine remark upon the wonderful distance at which sounds are audible, on account of the unusual clearness of the air. Our Lord frequently spoke to large multitudes in the open air.

12. To bless] The words of the blessings are not given but may be inferred from the nature of the curses: cp. Deuteronomy 11:26-32.

15. Cursed be the man] There is no verb in the Hebrew, and it might be more correct to say 'cursed is the man.' The words are a declaration of fact rather than an imprecation. The seeming harshness of many expressions in the Psalms e.g. may be exprained in this way. The speaker does not always utter his own wish, but declares the inevitable result in God's righteous government of a certain line of conduct. In a secret place] cp. Deuteronomy 13:7. It is seldom that sin is bold enough to show its head, at least in its beginning. But 'the eyes of the Lord are in every place beholding the evil and the good.'

18. To take advantage of a neighbour's ignorance or credulity is sin: cp. Leviticus 19:14.

26. Cp. Galatians 3:26. As no mere man is able perfectly to keep the whole law, St. Paul argues that part at least of the purpose of the Mosaic Law was to teach men to despair of obtaining righteousness 'by the works of the law,' and to drive them, as it were, to seek a righteousness imputed by God on condition of faith: see Romans 3:19-31; Romans 4:9-25; Galatians 3:19-24.

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Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 27". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/deuteronomy-27.html. 1909.