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Deuteronomy 27:2 . Great stones, thought to be twelve in each pillar; they wrote the curses on the one pillar, and the blessings on the other.
Deuteronomy 27:3 . Thou shalt write upon them all the words of this law. Not the six hundred precepts, which may be gathered from the short turns and phrases of Moses, but the blessings and the curses. The first altar was built of twelve stones, the day that the Israelites crossed the Jordan; but the two great pillars were not built till fifteen years had elapsed, as the work required much time and labour. All the altars were built of rough stones, to avoid the polluting figures of the heathen. This custom of writing on pillars was common to all ancient nations. Job 19:22. The Egyptians had their pillars filled with hieroglyphics; the Goths have filled Sweden with ancient stones. I have a fac simile of a large one which the Scandinavian society cannot fully decipher, there being often but a single letter for an ancient name. The Romans also had their tablets.
Deuteronomy 27:12-13 . Gerizim and Ebal. Gerizim is a fruitful hill near the ancient Shechem. Genesis 34:0. Opposite it is Ebal, a barren rocky hill. The valley between is not more than two hundred and twenty yards, in which was placed the ark surrounded by the priests: and from hill to hill the shouts of the levites could be distinctly heard. It is remarkable that the tribes descended from the free women, Rachael and Leah, were placed on the side of mount Gerizim, to pronounce the blessings on the obedient; and the tribes descended from the bond women, Zilpah and Bilhah, stood on mount Ebal, to thunder out the curses on the disobedient.
Deuteronomy 27:15 . Amen. The Hebrew doctors define this by truth, joined with the prayer, so be it. But a, ay, or aye, is a primitive word, as well Gothic, Greek, and Oriental, as Hebrew, equivalent to ever, or perpetuity; hence the English phrase, forever and ay; that is, forever and ever. In this view, Amen designates what is certain, firm and established; it is the same as verily. See Isaiah 65:16.
The first national act of the Israelites on crossing the Jordan was to imitate the patriarchs in raising an altar, and renewing their covenant with God, whenever they arrived at a new situation. Carnal policy might suggest, that it was more proper to prepare for war, and wait to perform the duties of religion, when victory should be decided in their favour. But Moses well knew that no design could long prosper without the covenant presence and blessing of God. All good men should make God the beginning, the middle, and the end of all their actions.
The solemnities attendant on repeating the blessings and curses of the covenant were very instructive. The blessings were the wish and the object of every heart; as to the curses the whole people said, Amen, when they were pronounced; on violating the laws to which they had openly subscribed, they must submit to the punishment with silence, and give glory to God. It is good for nations to avow their religion publicly, and rest their faith on its promises and threatenings.
How grateful should we be that Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. How grateful that we are not in the bondage of Sinai, but are the children of mount Zion, and called to the glorious liberty of the gospel. May God preserve us, that we fall no more into condemnation.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 27". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19