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the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 27

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary


Third Discourse, chapters 27-30.

In this discourse there is a renewal of the covenant between Jehovah and his people. Moses herein also directs the building of a monument on which the law is to be inscribed, and the building of an altar. He then announces the formal manner in which the blessings and the curses were to be proclaimed respectively upon Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal. Comp. Joshua 8:30-33.

Verse 1

1. Moses with the elders… commanded The elders were the representatives of the whole nation in its character as a body politic. Moses is now near the close of his administration of the affairs of the people. He, therefore, intimately associates with himself the representatives of the nation. It would be their province to see that these commands were carried out.

Verse 2

2. The day when ye shall pass over Jordan Day is used here, as elsewhere, to denote the time when. After you have passed over Jordan, thou shalt set thee up great stones, etc. Some have inferred that the law was first engraved upon the stones and then the stones covered with some kind of cement.

Plaster them The Hebrew word which our version renders plaster is so seldom met with that its meaning is not plain. In a dry climate, with little or no frost, the cement will remain intact for a long time. That on the so-called Pools of Solomon, which bear marks of great age, is in admirable preservation, as though only a few years old.

Verse 3

3. Thou shalt write upon them Before the cement put upon the stones became dry the words could be inscribed; or, on the smooth surface after it had become hard they could be traced, as we find in some ancient tombs.

All the words of this law How large a portion of the requirements was to be written is uncertain. Some think only the Decalogue; others, that the blessings and the cursings were to be inscribed. Some of the rabbins held that the substance of the entire law, including its six hundred and thirteen enactments, was to be written on the stones. The object of setting up this stone was probably not so much for the purpose of handing down the law to the coming generations as it was to have a monument in the centre of the land which would be a public acknowledgment of the law of Jehovah on the part of the nation. It is useless to speculate as to the special words of the law that were to be written on this monument. It may have been the entire code. “The Behistun inscription in its triple form is twice as long as this entire code carved in bold characters in the solid rock.” Presbyterian Review, January, 1882, p. 113. For a description of this celebrated inscription see Encyclopaedia Britannica, ninth edition, under “Behistun.” Compare GREEN’S Moses and the Prophets.

Verse 4

4. In Mount Ebal The Samaritan Pentateuch reads Gerizim. This reading is adopted by Kennicott, Semler, Colenso, and others. The probability is that the original reading, Ebal, was changed by the Samaritans to make the place of their temple, which was on Gerizim, more sacred.

Verse 5

5. And there shalt thou build an altar The altar was to be built upon Ebal, the mountain from which the curses were to be proclaimed.

Thou shalt not lift up any iron tool upon them Comp. Exodus 20:25.

As at the conclusion of the covenant on Sinai (see Exodus 24:11) burnt offerings and peace offerings were presented to Jehovah, so on the establishment of the people in the land they are solemnly to ratify anew their covenant with their God.

Verse 8

8. Write… this law very plainly The requirement to write the words of the law upon the stones is repeated and emphasized.

Verses 9-10

9, 10. The words of the aged lawgiver, so soon to be taken from the people he had led and loved so many years, are peculiarly impressive.

Take heed, and hearken This invocation calls for the closest attention to what is to follow.

Verses 12-13

12, 13. To bless… to curse With the erection of the stones on which the law was written the people, in their collective capacity as a nation, were to ratify the solemn covenant. The six tribes that were to stand on Gerizim and respond Amen to the blessings were descendants of the sons of Jacob’s wives, Rachel and Leah. But Reuben, the firstborn of Leah, and Zebulun, her youngest son, were represented, together with the four sons of the handmaids of Rachel and Leah, on Ebal, where the solemn Amen to the curses was to be uttered. Comp. Joshua 8:33.

Verses 14-26

14-26. The Levites shall speak These twelve curses were to be pronounced against transgressors of the law. The first is against those who make graven or molten images. Comp. Exodus 20:4. The second is against those who are lacking in respect to parents. Comp. Exodus 21:17 and Leviticus 19:3. The third is against those who remove boundaries. Comp. Deuteronomy 19:14. The fourth, against those who lead the blind astray. Comp. Leviticus 19:14. The fifth, against those who wrong the stranger, the orphan, or the widow. Comp. Deuteronomy 24:17. The sixth, against unchastity in respect to the wife of the father. Leviticus 18:8. The seventh is against unnatural crime. Comp. Leviticus 18:8. The eighth, against unchastity in the case of incest with a sister. Comp. Leviticus 18:9. The ninth is also against unchastity. In this case with the mother-in-law or other near relative. Comp. Leviticus 18:17. The tenth is against the secret murder of a neighbour. Comp. Deuteronomy 19:11. The eleventh, against the one who takes a bribe to judicially condemn the innocent. Comp. Exodus 23:7-8. Finally, the twelfth is to be pronounced against him who does not keep the law. This condemns every act of transgression.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 27". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/deuteronomy-27.html. 1874-1909.
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