Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
The Instructions for the Stone Monument as a Pause to the Second Discourse
1AND Moses with the elders of Israel commanded the people, saying, Keep all the commandments [the whole commandment] which I command you this day. 2And 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 plaster them with plaster: 3And thou shalt write upon them all the words of this law, when thou art passed over [in thy passing 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. 4Therefore 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 plaster them with plaster. 5And there shalt thou build an altar unto the Lord thy God, an altar of stones: thou shalt not lift up [swing over it] any iron tool upon them. 6Thou shalt build the altar of the Lord thy God of whole [complete] stones: and thou shalt offer [cause to ascend] burnt offerings [whole offerings] thereon unto the Lord thy God: And thou shalt offer peace-offerings 7[salvation offerings], and shalt eat there, and rejoice before the Lord thy God. 8And thou shalt write upon the stones all the words of this law, very plainly.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Deut 27:1. And the elders—because they had it to perform (1:1). The whole commandment is the following command for the erection, plastering, and inscribing, etc., in all its compass. Its keeping is symbolical for the keeping of all the commands generally. (KNOBEL, SCHULTZ, KEIL, of the whole law.) Comp. Introd. §2. The time limit in Deut 27:2 places at once the entrance upon Canaan, to which all refers here, as the day for the fulfilment of the command, as it corresponds to the day of the command (כַּיּוֹם ,הַיּוֹם). The closer restriction follows in Deut 27:4. Plaster—either with gypsum or lime-wash generally—to fit them for the inscription, Deut 27:3; for the cementing of the stones with mortar—was either evidently included in the command for their erection, or perhaps was unnecessary from their great size. The writing follows upon the plastering, and thus is to be inserted upon the plastered stones, and not to be cut in the stones, and then whitewashed or covered. For the Egyptian usage comp. HENGSTENBERG, Auth. I. p. 464 sq. They carved or painted upon the smooth surface. The inscription was not for posterity, but as a testimony to their cotemporaries. All the words of this law—Introd. §2. The obedience to the law so declared and attested justified the conquest of Canaan to their cotemporaries. Deut 27:4. A resumption of Deut 27:2 for the purpose of defining the locality, that the command there, should be restricted to the midst of the land. Ebal, for which the Samaritan Pentateuch designedly substitutes Gerizim, on account of Deut 27:12–13 (11:29). The Samaritan temple stood upon Gerizim. Comp. HENGSTENBERG, Authen. I. 37. Ebal, which was at least a hundred feet higher than Gerizim (ROBINSON, Researches, Vol. III., and Later Researches, pp. 131, 132), and was better fitted both for the stones and the altar, Deut 27:5. Comp. upon Ex. 20:22; Josh. 8:30 sqq. (Introd. § 4). That the altar was not to be built of the stones already mentioned is the more clear since the stones of the altar are in Deut 27:6whole stones (25:15)—thus stones untouched by human hands (1 Thess. 5:23). As the altar for the sacrifices, so it gives a more solemn stamp and completion to the symbolical transaction, Deut 27:2–4. Burnt offerings (Lev. 1:3 sq.) as those ascending wholly to God in the high places, designated and expressed the entire concession of the offerer to the Lord. The peace-offerings (Shelamim) express the enjoyment of salvation the more distinctly, since here also the portion in this sacrifice belonging to the offerer for the joyful meal is expressly noticed. Comp. the similar transaction, Ex. 24, in the first law-giving, as also here in the repetition, Deut. 5 sq. As Deut 27:4 resumes Deut 27:2, for the purpose of the local determination, so now Deut 27:8 resumes again Deut 27:3, for a closer description how the words should be written. Comp. upon 1:5, HENGSTENB. Auth. I. p. 482 sq. (9:21). In good, distinct characters, so that every one may see and understand.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. “In the first place, the necessity that the people should appropriate the law to itself is thus expressed. Its writing stands over against the writing of God, Deut 27:2; the writing of Jehovah has thus penetrated the mind of Israel. But, on the other hand, this rigid stone writing, these hard letters, show that the law, even after the preceding appropriation, remains still an external law, standing over against the people. But the sacrifices bring the act of inscribing inwardly to the consciousness—make it a real appropriation.” BAUMGARTEN.
2. The paternal city of Hesiod honored his memory by engraving his great poem in full upon lead tables (PAUSANIAS 9, 31). Comp. the descriptive pillars of Darius at the Hellespont (Herod, iv. 87). Στήλη was a post or pillar erected by the state, inscribed with laws, ordinances, decrees of the council or of the people. There were also metal pillars inscribed with laws. Hence παραβῆναι τὰς στήλας is a kind of proverbial expression in POLYBIUS for the transgression of the laws.
3. “That the law should be set up upon Mount Ebal, from whence the curse should be proclaimed, has essentially the same ground, as the fact that Moses gives only the formula for the curse, Deut 27:15 sq., as the fire upon Sinai, as the prominent position of the threatenings in the law. The law speaks more impressively to sinful man in connection with the curse. Fear must be first awakened. The curse manifests itself throughout in human life—most unquestionably in death. To see the blessing belongs often to other eyes than those of the natural man. It was, moreover, not concealed from Moses that the curse, for the most part, should come through the law, 31:16 sq. As the curse is connected more clearly with the law, so the blessing first with him whom God should send (Acts 3:26).” SCHULTZ. According to BAUMGARTEN, “the curse appears to be wiped away through the sacrifice; for in the sacrifice Israel judged itself that it should not be condemned by God (1 Cor. 9). Hence the eating with joy of the peace-offerings, the completing, finished offerings, and that before the face of Jehovah.” KEIL (as the BERL. BIB.); in order to show how the law and economy of the Old Testament would denounce the curse lying upon the whole human race for sin, in order to awaken the desire for the Messiah, who should take away the curse and bring in the true blessing.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Deut 27:1. CALVIN: “This command tends to the same end as the commands with respect to the door-posts and the fringes of the garments. The stones should be a monument in the land, from which the people should learn that they dwelt there purely to honor God. As the individual dwellings, so the whole land should be holy to God, as a sanctuary of heavenly truth.” Deut 27:3. PISCATOR: “God holds His law as the unchangeable rule of wisdom and righteousness, and will have it so held.” The stones should speak, if Israel were silent. TUB. BIB.: “The O. T. upon the stones, the new upon the tables of the heart, Jer. 31; 2 Cor. 3:3.” [The stones so inscribed were a testimony on the part of the people: 1) that they took possession of the land by virtue of the law; 2) that they held it only as obedient to the law; 3) that these stones should witness against their unfaithfulness.—A. G.] Deut 27:5. LANGE: “In this simple, unartistic form, God is well pleased, for the sake of the Messiah, who presents Himself in the form of a servant, altar, priest, and sacrifice.” PISCATOR. “In the service of God we should not do any thing out of mere human good intentions, but abide in the simplicity which God has prescribed.” Deut 27:7. J. GERHARD (just prior to his death): “Such joy is the foretaste of that eternal joy which we shall share in the other world through the death of Christ.”
Transition to the Last Third Discourse
9And Moses and the priests the Levites spake unto all Israel, saying, Take heed [keep silence] and hearken, O Israel, this day thou art become the people of the Lord thy God. 10Thou shalt therefore obey [hearken to] the voice of the Lord thy God, and do his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day. 11And Moses charged [commanded] the people the same day, saying, 12These 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: 13And these shall stand upon [in] mount Ebal to curse [SCHROEDER, as the margin: for a cursing]; Reuben, Gad, and Asher, and Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali. 14And the Levites shall speak [answer] and say unto all the men of Israel with a loud [high] 15voice, 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 [setteth it up] 16 it in a secret place: and all the people shall answer and say, Amen. Cursed be he that setteth light by [despises] his father or his mother: and all the people shall 17say, Amen. Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour’s land-mark: and all the 18people shall say, Amen. Cursed be he that maketh the blind to wander out of the 19way: and all the people shall say, Amen. Cursed be he that perverteth the judgment [right] of the stranger, fatherless, and widow: and all the people shall say, 20Amen. Cursed be he that lieth with his father’s wife; because he uncovereth his 21father’s skirt: and all the people shall say, Amen. Cursed be he that lieth with 22any 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 23the people shall say, Amen. Cursed be he that lieth with his mother-in law: and 24all the people shall say, Amen. Cursed be he that smiteth his neighbour secretly: 25and all the people shall say, Amen. Cursed be he that taketh reward to slay [slay a soul, innocent blood] an innocent person: and all the people shall say, Amen. 26Cursed be he that confirmeth not [setteth not up] all the words of this law to do them: and all the people shall say, Amen.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Deut 27:9. And the priests, etc. (Introd. § 4)—because they were generally the teachers of the law, and were specially to declare the blessing and the curse respectively (10:8; 21:5; Num. 6:23 sq.; 5:19 sq.). As 26:16 and 27:6 sq. allude to the covenant relation, so we have here the actual transition to it. The repetition of the law, of that which took place at Sinai, through which Israel became a people, and indeed this peculiar people which they were. Comp. 5:1 sq.; chap. 29. Deut 27:10. Comp. 26:17. With respect to Jehovah, it must hearken to His law (4:12, 30, 36), practically obey it (4:1 sq.), and especially carry out the following commands which Moses enjoined, Deut 27:11, through which the erection of the stones for the law, and the setting up of the altar, as also the sacrificing in Canaan, appear not so much in their significance, as in their immediate application to Israel, through which it solemnly adjudges to itself the consequences, the blessings, or the curses, according to its character. Deut 27:12. Comp. upon 11:26 sq., 29 (27:4). The blessings were previously intimated, and are to be regarded as blessings corresponding to the curses which are above delivered. The six tribes for blessing are those which sprang from Leah and Rachel (with the exception of Reuben and Zebulon). Gen. 29:30. Joseph appears as embracing Ephraim and Manasseh, as in Gen. 49:22 sq. Comp. Deut. 33:13 sq. The six tribes for the cursing, Deut 27:13, are those descending from the handmaid of Leah and then those from the handmaid of Rachel (Gen. 30.), the first preceded by Reuben (the fallen first-born), and last by Zebulon, Leah’s youngest son. Since with respect to both, the curse as the blessing, it is said only they shall stand, and accordingly the distance between comes into view, we may certainly think of a representation of the tribes, perhaps their elders, who descend from the two mountains. Through their position they represent only, do not utter, the blessing and the curse. (SEPP, Pilgerbuch II. p. 27, remarks that at all times, day and night mountains, light and shadow lands, have been distinguished. The northern half of the Meru is the Himalaya (i.e., winter); the southern the Kailasa (i.e., the summer), mountains; Horeb the hoary (frosty) stands over against Sinai, the burning; so also Ebal over against Gerizim. The Arabians call Saturn Hobal, the destroyer, and worship him under the image of the black stone in the Kaaba. Then Ebal would be called after Baal Chronos—(the god of the dead.) Deut 27:14. וְעָנוּ. Comp. upon 21:7; 25:9. The Levites—according to Deut 27:9, and also from the fact that the tribe has its place upon Gerizim, Deut 27:12—are the levitical priests, to whom the like position and duties are entirely fitting. Comp. Josh. 8:83 (Introd. § 4). They answer (what perhaps is yet questionable), inasmuch as in the blessings they turned to Gerizim, and in the curses to Ebal, and say to all the men of Israel, and indeed with a loud voice, as God Himself, 5:19, and as the law was to be written very plainly upon the stones (27:8). KNOBEL incorrectly refers the loud voice to the people. All the people in the following verses include the more widely distant, congregated masses of Israel. Deut 27:15. Only curses here. Comp. Doct. and Eth. 3 and 4. The number twelve is in accordance with the twelve-tribed people. As the whole ceremony and the special form of the curses are practical, so also the inward peculiar nature of the examples selected. Gross transgressions incur the penalty, but the more secret and refined meet with the curse, “in order to show that God will in any case visit such sinners, and to instil into the hypocrite a terror of his works of darkness” (V. GERLACH). אָרַר (kindred with חָרַם)—to sever, reject, curse; one rejected by God and men;—the separation, i.e., to death. The first instance is the secret transgression of the second commandment, whose significance for the thought of the decalogue is again made prominent in this exemplification. Comp. upon 5:8; 4:16 and 9:12. Neither graven nor molten. Comp. further 17:1; 4:28; 13:7. אָמֵן—firm, faithful, certain; i.e., so be it, and so will we heartily keep it (Num. 5:22; Neh. 5:13; 8:6; 1 Cor. 14:16). Do the plurals וְעָנוּ and וְאָמְרוּ, not occurring in the other verses, embrace the six, and six tribes? Or do they correspond merely to the Levites? Deut 27:16. Next to the character of God comes that of the parents. Upon מקלה comp. 25:3. The disposition may represent itself in words or deeds, or in the general deportment (v. 16; 21:18 sq.; Ex. 21:17, 15; Lev. 20:9). Upon Deut 27:17 comp. 19:14. Deut 27:18. Not: viatorem, qui similis cæco, or ignarum in itinere, or spiritually, 2 Tim. 3:13, but as Lev. 19:14. Eye diseases are still as prevalent in Egypt as other types of diseases among us. As one, therefore, readily comprehends the eye-salve—e.g., Rev. 3:18—so also the conception of a helpless neighbor, as of one blind. Upon Deut 27:19 comp. 24:17. Upon Deut 27:20, 23:1. Upon Deut 27:21–23, Lev. 18:20; Ex. 22:19. Upon Deut 27:24 comp. 19:11; 21:1 sq.; Ex. 21:13, 14; Num. 35:20 sq. To the private he now adds Deut 27:25, the judicial murder embracing both the judge and witnesses. Comp. 16:19; 19:10, 13. Deut 27:26. Most comprehensive: to set up, as for others so for himself, as the rule of his life. Non tanturn, ut sciat et rata habeat, sed ut etiam faciat.. J. H. MICHAELIS (Rom. 3:31). Comp. Matt. 5:19; James 2:10; Gal. 3:10; John 8:31.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. Comp. upon the previous section 3.
2. Israel must by its own words take upon itself the results or consequences of the law (Luke 19:22; Matt. 12:37).
3. Although the exhibition of the curse upon Ebal is at the same time, through the altar, a representation of its being overcome or taken away, still it must ever remind Israel of its weakness and of the possibility of its fall. Thus “Reuben, who, through his fall, forfeited his birth-right, stands at the head of the curse-speaking tribes” (BAUMGARTEN).
4. “It is the office of the law pre-eminently to proclaim the condemnation” (V. GERLACH).
5. “Every conscious transgression of the law brings the sinner under the curse of God, from which He alone can deliver us, who was made a curse for us” (V. GERLACH).
6. “The first and last of the curses have the most comprehensive import—that relates to the outbreaking of the original sin, this embraces all transgressions of the law” (BAUMGARTEN).
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Deut 27:9. “Silence and hearing, the key to the word of God, to its understanding, and to an experience of the same.” Deut 27:12 sq. PISCATOR: “The children of the free are for the blessing, as are believers, who are the free children of the promise and heirs of blessing.” STARKE: “A type of the last judgment. Either under the blessing or under the curse., Even Levi also.” Deut 27:14. PISCATOR: “The faithful watcher for souls stands in the midst between the pious and the wicked.” RICHTER: “Some think that the blessings are not further mentioned here, because Christ should first utter these, Matt. 5.” BERL. BIB.: “They might also observe how our Saviour at another time with the blessings has also announced the curse, as He uttered the woes upon the rich, the full, etc.” [Deut 27:26. “WORDSWORTH: “Not the hearers of the law are justified, but the doers (Rom. 2:13).” Vain are the hopes of men founded upon their obedience to the law. The Amen is a condemnation upon ourselves, and shuts us up to Christ, who alone has set up, established the words of this law to do them, and in whom therefore there is blessing instead of the curse.—A.G.]
And Moses with the elders of Israel commanded the people, saying, Keep all the commandments which I command you this day.