And Moses with the elders of Israel commanded the people, saying, Keep all the commandments which I command you this day.Deuteronomy 27:1. Moses with the elders — Having in discourses at several times repeated the principal parts of the laws, and made several necessary additions to them, Moses called the council together, and summoned the body of the people to attend them at the tabernacle; where, after an earnest exhortation to observe what he had already said, and was now about to prescribe to them, he directs them, the first opportunity they had after their arrival in the land of promise, to renew their covenant with God in a solemn manner. In order to this they were to write or engrave the chief heads of their law, especially of the moral law, upon large square stones, smoothly plastered over for that purpose, to be audibly read to the whole assembly with the circumstances hereafter appointed. This day — This expression signifies not the space of one day, but refers to the whole time of their abode in the plains of Moab.
And it shall be on the day when ye shall pass over Jordan unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, that thou shalt set thee up great stones, and plaister them with plaister:Deuteronomy 27:2-3. On the day — Here it is evident the word day does not signify precisely the very same day they passed over, but some indefinite time after, namely, as soon as they were come to mount Ebal, (Deuteronomy 27:4,) after the taking of Jericho and Ai. See Joshua 8:30. All the words of this law — Some have thought that he means the whole book of Deuteronomy. But they must have been immense stones to have contained this. It is more probable that only the ten commandments are intended, or perhaps, as Josephus’s opinion is, only the cursings which here follow, the last whereof seems to respect the whole law of Moses. Mount Ebal — The mount of cursing. Here the law was written, to signify that a curse was due to the violaters of it, and that no man could expect justification from it, all having violated it in one kind and degree or other. Here the sacrifices were to be offered, to show that there is no way to be delivered from this curse but by the blood of Christ, which all these sacrifices did typify, and by Christ’s being made a curse for us.
And thou shalt write upon them all the words of this law, when thou art passed over, that thou mayest go in unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, a land that floweth with milk and honey; as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee.
Therefore it shall be when ye be gone over Jordan, that ye shall set up these stones, which I command you this day, in mount Ebal, and thou shalt plaister them with plaister.
And there shalt thou build an altar unto the LORD thy God, an altar of stones: thou shalt not lift up any iron tool upon them.
Thou shalt build the altar of the LORD thy God of whole stones: and thou shalt offer burnt offerings thereon unto the LORD thy God:Deuteronomy 27:6. Whole stones — Rough, not hewn, nor polished, whereby all manner of imagery was avoided. Shalt offer burnt-offerings thereon — In order to ratify their covenant with God, as they did at Horeb. By the law written on the stones God spake to them; by the altar and sacrifices upon it they spake to God, and thus was communion kept up between them and God.
And thou shalt offer peace offerings, and shalt eat there, and rejoice before the LORD thy God.
And thou shalt write upon the stones all the words of this law very plainly.
And Moses and the priests the Levites spake unto all Israel, saying, Take heed, and hearken, O Israel; this day thou art become the people of the LORD thy God.Deuteronomy 27:9. The priests spake unto all Israel — They assisted Moses in pressing the people to attend duly to the meaning and design of this solemnity. Thou art become the people of the Lord — By thy solemn renewing of thy covenant with him.
Thou shalt therefore obey the voice of the LORD thy God, and do his commandments and his statutes, which I command thee this day.
And Moses charged the people the same day, saying,
These shall stand upon mount Gerizim to bless the people, when ye are come over Jordan; Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Joseph, and Benjamin:Deuteronomy 27:12. Upon mount Gerizim — The original words may be rendered beside or near to mount Gerizim. There were in Canaan two mountains that lay near together, with a valley between, the one called Gerizim, the other Ebal. On the sides of these which faced each other, all the tribes were to be drawn up, six on a side, so that in the valley they came near each other, so near that the priests standing between them might be heard by them that were next them on both sides. Then one of the priests, or perhaps more, at some distance from each other, pronounced with a loud voice one of the curses following. And all the people who stood on the foot and side of mount Ebal (those further off taking the signal from those who were nearer) said, Amen! Then the contrary blessing was pronounced, “Blessed is he that doth so or so:” to which all who stood on the foot and side of mount Gerizim said, Amen! Simeon, Levi, &c. — All these were the children of the free-women, Leah and Rachel, to show both the dignity of the blessings above the curses, and that the blessings belong only to those who are evangelically free, as this is expounded and applied, Galatians 4:22, even to those that receive the Spirit of adoption and liberty. Joseph is here put for both his sons and tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim, which are reckoned as one tribe, because Levi is here numbered; but when Levi is omitted, as it is where the division of the land is made, there Manasseh and Ephraim pass for two tribes.
And these shall stand upon mount Ebal to curse; Reuben, Gad, and Asher, and Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali.Deuteronomy 27:13. To curse — Of the former tribes, it is said, they stood to bless the people: of these, that they stood to curse. Perhaps the different way of speaking intimates, that Israel in general were a happy people, and should ever be so, if they were obedient. And to that blessing, they on mount Gerizim said, Amen! But the curses come in only as exceptions to the general rule: “Israel is a blessed people: but if there be any even among them that do such and such things, they have no part or lot in this matter, but are under a curse.” This shows how ready God is to bestow the blessing: if any fall under the curse, they bring it on their own heads. Four of these are children of the bond-women, to show that the curse belongs to those of servile and disingenuous spirits. With these are joined Reuben, who by his shameful sin fell from his dignity, and Zebulun, the youngest of Leah’s children, that the numbers might be equal.
And the Levites shall speak, and say unto all the men of Israel with a loud voice,Deuteronomy 27:14. The Levites — Some of the Levites, namely, the priests, who bare the ark, as it is expressed Joshua 8:33, for the body of the Levites stood upon mount Gerizim, Deuteronomy 27:12. But these stood in the valley between Gerizim and Ebal, looking toward the one or the other mountain as they pronounced either the blessings or the curses.
Cursed be the man that maketh any graven or molten image, an abomination unto the LORD, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and putteth it in a secret place. And all the people shall answer and say, Amen.Deuteronomy 27:15. Cursed — The curses are expressed, but not the blessings. For as many as were under the law, were under the curse. But it was an honour reserved for Christ to bless us; to do that which the law could not do. So in his sermon on the mount, the true mount Gerizim, we have blessings only. The man that maketh any graven image — Under this particular he understands all the gross violations of the first table, as under the following branches he comprehends all other sins against the second table. Amen — It is easy to understand the meaning of amen to the blessings. But how could they say it to the curses? It was both a profession of their faith in the truth of these curses, and an acknowledgment of the equity of them. So that when they said amen, they did, in effect, say, not only, it is certain it shall be so, but, it is just it should be so.
Cursed be he that setteth light by his father or his mother. And all the people shall say, Amen.Deuteronomy 27:16. That setteth light — Or despiseth in his heart; or reproacheth or curseth secretly: for if the fact were notorious, it was punished with death.
Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour's landmark. And all the people shall say, Amen.
Cursed be he that maketh the blind to wander out of the way. And all the people shall say, Amen.Deuteronomy 27:18. Out of the way — That misleadeth simple souls, giving them pernicious counsel, either for this life, or for the next.
Cursed be he that perverteth the judgment of the stranger, fatherless, and widow. And all the people shall say, Amen.
Cursed be he that lieth with his father's wife; because he uncovereth his father's skirt. And all the people shall say, Amen.
Cursed be he that lieth with any manner of beast. And all the people shall say, Amen.
Cursed be he that lieth with his sister, the daughter of his father, or the daughter of his mother. And all the people shall say, Amen.
Cursed be he that lieth with his mother in law. And all the people shall say, Amen.
Cursed be he that smiteth his neighbour secretly. And all the people shall say, Amen.Deuteronomy 27:24. Smiteth — That is, killeth. This includes murder under the colour of the law, which is of all others the greatest affront to God. Cursed therefore is he that any way contributes to accuse, or convict, or condemn an innocent person.
Cursed be he that taketh reward to slay an innocent person. And all the people shall say, Amen.
Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen.Deuteronomy 27:26. Confirmeth not — Or, performeth not. To this we must all say, Amen! Owning ourselves to be under the curse, and that we must have perished for ever, if Christ had not redeemed us from the curse of the law, by being made a curse for us.