Deuteronomy 27:12
These shall stand on mount Gerizim to bless the people, when you are come over Jordan; Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Joseph, and Benjamin:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
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.27:11-26 The six tribes appointed for blessing, were all children of the free women, for to such the promise belongs, Ga 4:31. Levi is here among the rest. Ministers should apply to themselves the blessing and curse they preach to others, and by faith set their own Amen to it. And they must not only allure people to their duty with the promises of a blessing, but awe them with the threatenings of a curse, by declaring that a curse would be upon those who do such things. To each of the curses the people were to say, Amen. It professed their faith, that these, and the like curses, were real declarations of the wrath of God against the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, not one jot of which shall fall to the ground. It was acknowledging the equity of these curses. Those who do such things deserve to fall, and lie under the curse. Lest those who were guilty of other sins, not here mentioned, should think themselves safe from the curse, the last reaches all. Not only those who do the evil which the law forbids, but those also who omit the good which the law requires. Without the atoning blood of Christ, sinners can neither have communion with a holy God, nor do any thing acceptable to him; his righteous law condemns every one who, at any time, or in any thing, transgresses it. Under its awful curse we remain as transgressors, until the redemption of Christ is applied to our hearts. Wherever the grace of God brings salvation, it teaches the believer to deny ungodliness and wordly lusts, to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, consenting to, and delighting in the words of God's law, after the inward man. In this holy walk, true peace and solid joy are to be found.The tribes appointed to stand on Gerizim to bless the people all sprang from the two wives of Jacob, Leah and Rachel. All the four tribes which sprang from the handmaids Zilpah and Bilhah are located on Ebal. But in order, as it would seem, to effect an equal division, two tribes are added to the latter from the descendants of the wives, that of Reuben, probably because he forfeited his primogeniture Genesis 49:4; and of Zebulun, apparently because he was the youngest son of Leah.

The transaction presents itself as a solemn renewal of the covenant made by God with Abraham and Isaac, but more especially with Jacob and his family. Accordingly the genealogical basis of the "twelve patriarchs" (compare Acts 7:12; Revelation 7:4 ff), the sons of Jacob, is here assumed. The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh are merged in the name of Joseph, their father; and Levi regains on this occasion his place collaterally with the others. "The Levites" of Deuteronomy 27:14 are no doubt "the priests the Levites" (compare Joshua 8:33), in whom the ministerial character attaching to the tribe was more particularly manifested. It is noteworthy that the group of tribes which stood on Gerizim far exceeded the other in numbers and in importance, thus perhaps indicating that even by the Law the blessing should at length prevail.

De 27:11-13. The Tribes Divided on Gerizim and Ebal.

11-13. These shall stand upon mount Gerizim to bless the people … these shall stand upon mount Ebal to curse—Those long, rocky ridges lay in the province of Samaria, and the peaks referred to were near Shechem (Nablous), rising in steep precipices to the height of about eight hundred feet and separated by a green, well-watered valley of about five hundred yards wide. The people of Israel were here divided into two parts. On mount Gerizim (now Jebel-et-Tur) were stationed the descendants of Rachel and Leah, the two principal wives of Jacob, and to them was assigned the most pleasant and honorable office of pronouncing the benedictions; while on the twin hill of Ebal (now Imad-el-Deen) were placed the posterity of the two secondary wives, Zilpah and Bilhah, with those of Reuben, who had lost the primogeniture, and Zebulun, Leah's youngest son; to them was committed the necessary but painful duty of pronouncing the maledictions (see on [165]Jud 9:7). The ceremony might have taken place on the lower spurs of the mountains, where they approach more closely to each other; and the course observed was as follows: Amid the silent expectations of the solemn assembly, the priests standing round the ark in the valley below, said aloud, looking to Gerizim, "Blessed is the man that maketh not any graven image," when the people ranged on that hill responded in full simultaneous shouts of "Amen"; then turning round to Ebal, they cried, "Cursed is the man that maketh any graven image"; to which those that covered the ridge answered, "Amen." The same course at every pause was followed with all the blessings and curses (see on [166]Jos 8:33, 34). These curses attendant on disobedience to the divine will, which had been revealed as a law from heaven, be it observed, are given in the form of a declaration, not a wish, as the words should be rendered, "Cursed is he," and not, "Cursed be he."

Object. In Joshua 8:33, they stood over against Mount Gerizim.

Answ.

1. Both are true; they who stood upon the one mount, stood over against the other.

2. These words may be rendered beside or near to (as the Hebrew al oft signifies) Mount Gerizim, which might be over against it. To bless the people; whence it appears that the blessings also were pronounced as well as the curses, though they be not here mentioned. See Joshua 8:33.

Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Joseph, and Benjamin 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 as are evangelically such, as this is expounded and applied, Galatians 4:22, &c., 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 here 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. These shall stand upon Mount Gerizim to bless the people,

widen ye are come over Jordan,.... Which was a mountain in Samaria opposite to Mount Ebal, a valley of a furlong broad lay between them (y); and, according to Hillerus (z), had its name from being broken off from that, they being, as it should seem, originally one mountain, and now two tops of the same; so Burchard; but others think it signifies the mountain of the mowers or cutters down (a); that is, of grass or corn, being a very fruitful one; and Benjamin of Tudela says (b), that in his time, on Mount Gerizim were fountains and orchards; and being such a fertile mountain, it was very proper to bless upon. Mr. Maundrel (c), a late traveller in those parts, says,"though neither of the mountains have much to boast of as to their pleasantness, yet as one passes between them, Gerizim seems to discover a somewhat more verdant fruitful aspect than Ebal; the reason of which may be, because fronting towards the north it is sheltered from the heat of the sun by its own shade; whereas Ebal looking southward, and receiving the sun that comes directly upon it, must by consequence be rendered more scorched and unfruitful.''Josephus (d) says, that Gerizim was on the right hand, and Ebal on the left; which may serve to strengthen the observation of Ainsworth, in allusion hereunto, that in the last judgment those on the right hand will be pronounced blessed, and those on the left hand cursed:

Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Joseph, and Benjamin: these appointed for blessing were children of the mistress, or free woman, as Aben Ezra and many others have observed; the four first were the sons of Leah, and the two last the sons of Rachel, and therefore employed in the most honourable and desirable service: and who so proper to pronounce or receive the blessing as the children of the free woman, of Jerusalem above, which is free, the mother of us all that are born again, and are made free by the Son of God, and are free indeed, and are entitled to all the blessings of grace and glory?

(y) Vid. Maundrel's Journey from Aleppo, &c. p. 59, 62. (z) Onomastic. Sacr. p. 168. (a) Reland. Dissert. de Monte Gerizim. p. 128. (b) Itinerar. p. 40. (c) Journey from Aleppo, &c. p. 61. Edit. 7. (d) Antiqu. l. 4. c. 8. sect. 44.

These shall stand upon mount Gerizim to bless the people, when ye are come over Jordan; Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and {f} Joseph, and Benjamin:

(f) Meaning, Ephraim and Manasseh.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
In the further expansion of this command, Moses first of all fixes the place where the stones were to be set up, namely, upon Mount Ebal (see at Deuteronomy 11:29), - not upon Gerizim, according to the reading of the Samaritan Pentateuch; for since the discussion of the question by Verschuir (dissertt. phil. exeg. diss. 3) and Gesenius (de Pent. Samar. p. 61), it may be regarded as an established fact, that this reading is an arbitrary alteration. The following clause, "thou shalt plaister," etc., is a repetition in the earliest form of historical writing among the Hebrews. To this there are appended in Deuteronomy 27:5-7 the new and further instructions, that an altar was to be built upon Ebal, and burnt-offerings and slain-offerings to be sacrificed upon it. The notion that this altar was to be built of the stones with the law written upon them, or even with a portion of them, needs no refutation, as it has not the slightest support in the words of the text. For according to these the altar was to be built of unhewn stones (therefore not of the stones covered with cement), in obedience to the law in Exodus 20:22 (see the exposition of this passage, where the reason for this is discussed). The spot selected for the setting up of the stones with the law written upon it, as well as for the altar and the offering of sacrifice, was Ebal, the mountain upon which the curses were to be proclaimed; not Gerizim, which was appointed for the publication of the blessings, for the very same reason for which only the curses to be proclaimed are given in Deuteronomy 27:14. and not the blessings, - not, as Schultz supposes, because the law in connection with the curse speaks more forcibly to sinful man than in connection with the blessing, or because the curse, which manifests itself on every hand in human life, sounds more credible than the promise; but, as the Berleburger Bible expresses it, "to show how the law and economy of the Old Testament would denounce the curse which rests upon the whole human race because of sin, to awaken a desire for the Messiah, who was to take away the curse and bring the true blessing instead." For however remote the allusion to the Messiah may be here, the truth is unquestionably pointed out in these instructions, that the law primarily and chiefly brings a curse upon man because of the sinfulness of his nature, as Moses himself announces to the people in Deuteronomy 31:16-17. And for this very reason the book of the law was to be laid by the side of the ark of the covenant as a "testimony against Israel" (Deuteronomy 31:26). But the altar was built for the offering of sacrifices, to mould and consecrate the setting up of the law upon the stones into a renewal of the covenant. In the burnt-offerings Israel gave itself up to the Lord with all its life and labour, and in the sacrificial meal it entered into the enjoyment of the blessings of divine grace, to taste of the blessedness of vital communion with its God. By connecting the sacrificial ceremony with the setting up of the law, Israel gave a practical testimony to the fact that its life and blessedness were founded upon its observance of the law. The sacrifices and the sacrificial meal have the same signification here as at the conclusion of the covenant at Sinai (Exodus 24:11). - In Deuteronomy 27:8 the writing of the law upon the stones is commanded once more, and the further injunction is added, "very plainly." - The writing of the law is mentioned last, as being the most important, and not because it was to take place after the sacrificial ceremony. The different instructions are arranged according to their character, and not in chronological order.
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