James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
And Moses with the elders of Israel commanded the people, saying, Keep all the commandments which I command you this day.Deuteronomy 27:1-28:68
PROPHECY OF ISRAEL’S FUTURE
As we approach the conclusion of this book we come to its most important part from a prophetic point of view indeed the present lesson contains (chap. 28) a foreview of Israel’s history to the end of the present age, in some respects unparalleled in the Bible, although touched upon in Leviticus (Deut. 26:26), as we saw.
STONES FOR THE LAW AND STONE FOR AN ALTAR (Deuteronomy 27:1-8)
What should they do when they crossed the Jordan (Deuteronomy 27:2)? How should they cover these stones to obtain writing surface or to render them more conspicuous? What was to be written on them (Deuteronomy 27:3)? (It is a question whether the decalogue is here meant or the blessings and cursings that follow.) Where were they to be set up (Deuteronomy 27:4)? Rocks and stones are seen in the Far East today with inscriptions in paint or plaster thousands of years old. Besides these stones for the law, what others are commanded, and for what purpose (Deuteronomy 27:5)? Were these to be hewn or unhewn? The probability is that this pile was to be a pedestal for the other stones containing the law, as well as a place for sacrifice. What religious ceremonies were to be observed there (Deuteronomy 27:6-7)? The burnt offerings were part of the worship for sinful men, while the peace offerings were connected with the festivities of a reconciled people. Hence we have here, the law which condemned and the typical expiation the two great principles of revealed religion.
MOUNT GERIZIM AND MOUNT EBAL (Deuteronomy 27:11-26)
These ridges lay in Samaria, the peaks being near Shechem, rising to about 800 feet and separated by a valley about 500 yards wide.
On Mount Gerizim (now Jebel-et-Tur) were the descendants of Rachel and Leah, the two principal wives of Jacob, and to them was assigned the office of pronouncing the benedictions; while on the twin hill of Ebal (now Imad- el-Deen) were the posterity of the two secondary wives, Zilpah and Bilhah, with those of Reuben, who had lost the primogeniture, and Zebulun, son of Leah; to them was committed the duty of pronouncing the maledictions (see Jdg 9:7). Amid the silent expectations of the assembly, the priests, standing round the ark in the valley, said aloud, looking to Gerizim, “Blessed is the man that maketh not any graven image,” when the people ranged on that hill responded, “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 Joshua 8:33-34).These curses 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.’
THE GREAT PROPHECY (Deuteronomy 28)
This chapter seems a continuation of the former, the blessings and cursings being enumerated more at length. Here the whole destiny of Israel is laid out before them as the result of their obedience or disobedience.
What comprehensive blessing is promised in Deuteronomy 28:17 Observe that the lesser blessings following go to make up this great one. These include every kind of material prosperity (Deuteronomy 28:2-6); the confusion of their national enemies (Deuteronomy 28:7); and the independent power of Israel (Deuteronomy 28:12-13). Moreover, all this shall tend to the glory of Jehovah before the nations (Deuteronomy 28:9-10).
The curses are the counterpart of the blessings (Deuteronomy 28:15-19). “Sword,” Deuteronomy 28:22, is in some ancient versions “drought”; which agrees better with the figurative expressions of the two following verses.
The history of the Jews for the past 2,500 years has been a minute fulfillment of this prophecy, but it may be said to be divided into three periods, marked off by the Babylonian and Roman captivities and their present scattered and distressed condition.
1. The Babylonian captivity comes into view at Deuteronomy 28:36, say, to the close of Deuteronomy 28:48.
2. The Roman captivity begins at Deuteronomy 28:49 continuing to Deuteronomy 28:64. The Romans “came from afar”; their ensign was an “eagle”; their “tongue” was not understood; they were of a “fierce countenance,” i.e., bold, implacable; they left neither “corn, wine nor oil,” but strewed devastation everywhere. They successfully besieged the fortified cities, even Jerusalem being razed to the ground. So terrific was the suffering from famine (Deuteronomy 28:35-37) that parental affection was extinguished and delicate and refined women ate the flesh of their own children. For the details we are indebted to Josephus.
3. The present scattered and distressed condition of Israel is depicted, beginning at verse 64, for an account of whose fulfillment it is only necessary to keep one’s eye on the daily press. Well, therefore, may we ask, “What stronger proof can we desire of the divine legislation of Moses?”
1. What is the sweep of the great prophecy in this lesson?
2. Describe Mounts Gerizim and Ebal.
3. What three things are included in the blessings?
4. Into what three periods is the fulfillment of the curses divided?
5. Who is a distinguished uninspired historian of the Jews?