And Moses and the priests the Levites spoke to all Israel, saying, Take heed, and listen, O Israel; this day you are become the people of the LORD your God.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Moses and the priests.—As in Deuteronomy 27:1, “Moses and the elders.”
Take heed.—A word used nowhere else in the Old Testament.
This day thou art become the people.—“Every day His commandments shall be before thine eyes, as though thou hadst that day entered into covenant with Him.” It would seem that the passage of Jordan, which is the thing in view here, pledged Israel more completely to God’s Law than even the covenant at Sinai did. He had gone farther with them, and given them a more distinct position. It became more necessary than ever that they should remember whose they were.
(12,13) These shall stand upon mount Gerizim to bless . . . and these . . . upon mount Ebal to curse.—The expressions “to bless” and “to curse” are misleading. It is not meant that six tribes were to bless, and six to curse their brethren. The phrase will be best understood by noticing the manner in which the ceremony was performed, according to Jewish tradition. According to the treatise Sotah, six, tribes went up to the top of Gerizim, and six ascended mount Ebal, and the priests and the Levites and the ark remained below, between the hills. The Levites turned their faces towards Mount Gerizim, and began with the blessing, “Blessed is the man,” &c., and both sides answered “Amen.” They then turned their faces towards Mount Ebal, and began the curse, saying, “Cursed is the man,” &c. The “Amen” again resounded; and the process was repeated until the last curse was reached. The question whether all the blessings preceded all the cursings is discussed; but the opinion preferred is, that each blessing had its corresponding curse, and were pronounced alternately.
If this account be correct, and it seems both intelligible and probable, we see that the tribes were divided equally to “receive” the blessing and the curse, implying that all were equally liable to either, according as they should obey or transgress. If the one side had answered amen to the blessings, and the other to the curses, the tribes would literally have blessed and cursed the people. But the rule is explicit that all the people shall say “Amen;” and therefore we seem to gather this meaning from the Hebrew: These shall stand on Mount Gerizim for the blessing of the people, i.e., to receive the blessing on behalf of the whole, and these on Mount Ebal for the curse (i.e., to receive it on behalf of the rest). It is noticeable that “the law” which inflicts the curse, and the altar which represents in its sacrifices Him who bare the curse, are both on the same hill, Ebal. If the tribes redeemed are on the hill of blessing, the tribes that receive the curse are on the same hill with the Redeemer.
(12,13) Simeon, and Levi . . . and Naphtali.—Strictly speaking, there would be seven tribes on Gerizim to receive the blessing, and six on Ebal for the curse; because, tribally, Joseph must include Ephraim and Manasseh. The general position is that of the audience in an amphitheatre, the speakers being in the centre beneath, and the people on either side above. The more honourable tribes of Judah, Joseph, Benjamin, and Levi are posted on the southern hill, Gerizim. The tribes on Ebal are the four sons of the handmaids Bilhah and Zilpah, with Leah’s youngest son Zebulun; and the disinherited firstborn, Reuben, is placed at their head. These last tribes, upon the whole, may be said to have occupied the outer circle of Israel’s territory, to the east and to the north. The tribes on Gerizim are the more central tribes.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.
The erection of the altar, the offering thereon burnt-offerings and peace-offerings Deuteronomy 27:6-7, the publication of the Law in writing, form altogether a solemn renewal of the covenant on the entrance of the people into the promised land, and recall the ceremonies observed on the original grant of the covenant at Sinai (compare Exodus 24:5). And Ebal (the mount of "barrenness "),the mount of cursing, was the fitting spot on which to celebrate them. For the curses were the penalties under which the children of Israel bound themselves to keep the Law. Suitably also was the same place selected as that in which were to be set up both the monumental stones containing the Law, and the altar at which the covenant was to be renewed. We must note too the fact that Deuteronomy 27:15 ff set out verbatim the curses only, the blessings being omitted. The law because of man's sinfulness brings on him first and chiefly a curse: compare Deuteronomy 31:16-17; Galatians 3:10.
saying, take heed, and hearken, O Israel; to what was about to be said unto them, as well as to what had: been said:
this day thou art become the people of the Lord thy God; they were his people before; he had chosen them to be his special people above all others; he had redeemed them out of Egypt; he had led them through the wilderness, and provided for them and protected them there, and had given them laws and statutes to observe to walk in; all which showed them to be his peculiar people: but now in a very formal and solemn manner they were avouched and declared by him to be his people, and they had solemnly avouched and declared that he was their God and King; and every day, according to Jarchi, was to be considered as this day, as if it was the day of entering into covenant with him.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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)9. the priests the Levites] See on Deuteronomy 18:1, and cp. Deuteronomy 10:8 f. The association of the Levites with Moses in the enforcement of the Law is striking; and as only one speaker is implied by the next v. (which I command thee) the words have been regarded as the addition of the editor who combined 9, 10 with 14–26 (Dillm., Steuern., Berth., Marti.). This reasoning is not conclusive.
all Israel] See on Deuteronomy 1:1, Deuteronomy 5:1; and contr. Deuteronomy 4:44-46.
Keep silence] The Heb. vb. only here; in Ar. the root, sakata = to be quiet or mute.
hearken, O Israel] Deuteronomy 5:1.
this day thou art become the people, etc.] Cp. Deuteronomy 26:18.
9, 10. Further Enforcement of the Law
These vv. with their sequel in Deuteronomy 28:1 repeat the substance and, with variations, the phraseology of Deuteronomy 16:6-19. They have been taken as the link between these passages, and as original to D (see above small print of note to chs. 27–30). They are by no means a necessary link (Oxf. Hex. which because of the introduction of the Levites suggests that the vv. are the continuation of Deuteronomy 31:29). Rather, as the notes below show, they are parallel to Deuteronomy 26:16-19, and may therefore have originally belonged to the supplement to a different edition of the Code from that to which Deuteronomy 26:16-19 was attached.Verses 9, 10. - When Israel renewed the covenant with the Lord, by solemnly setting up the Law in Canaan, it became thereby the nation of God, and bound itself at the same time to hearken to the voice of the Lord, and keep his commandments, as it had already done (cf. Deuteronomy 26:17, 18; Micah 4:5). Verse 9. - Take heed; literally, Be silent; LXX., σιώπα, with silent attention listen (cf. Zechariah 2:13). Deuteronomy 27:15-26 (as Josephus, Ant. iv. 8, 44, Masius, Clericus, and others maintain), nor only Deuteronomy (J. Gerhard, A. Osiander, Vater, etc.), since this contained no independent "second law," but the whole of the Mosaic law; not, indeed, the entire Pentateuch, with its historical narratives, its geographical, ethnographical, and other notices, but simply the legal part of it - the commandments, statutes, and rights of the Thorah. But whether all the 613 commandments contained in the Pentateuch, according to the Jewish reckoning (vid., Bertheau, die 7 Gruppen Mos. Ges. p. 12), or only the quintessence of them, with the omission of the numerous repetitions of different commands, cannot be decided, and is of no importance to the matter in hand. The object aimed at would be attained by writing the essential kernel of the whole law; though the possibility of all the commandments being written, of course without the reasons and exhortations connected with them, cannot be denied, since it is not stated how many stones were set up, but simply that large stones were to be taken, which would therefore contain a great deal. In the clause, "that thou mayest come into the land which Jehovah thy God giveth thee," etc., the coming involves the permanent possession of the land. Not only the treading or conquest of Canaan, but the maintenance of the conquered land as a permanent hereditary possession, was promised to Israel; but it would only permanently rejoice in the fulfilment of this promise, if it set up the law of its God in the land, and observed it.
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