|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
27:1-10 As soon as they were come into Canaan, they must set up a monument, on which they must write the words of this law. They must set up an altar. The word and prayer must go together. Though they might not, of their own heads, set up any altar besides that at the tabernacle; yet, by the appointment of God, they might, upon special occasion. This altar must be made of unhewn stones, such as they found upon the field. Christ, our Altar, is a stone cut out of the mountain without hands, refused by the builders, as having no form or comeliness, but accepted of God the Father, and made the Head of the corner. In the Old Testament the words of the law are written, with the curse annexed; which would overcome us with horror, if we had not, in the New Testament, an altar erected close by, which gives consolation. Blessed be God, the printed copies of the Scriptures among us, do away the necessity of such methods as were presented to Israel. The end of the gospel ministry is, and the end of preachers ought to be, to make the word of God as plain as possible. Yet, unless the Spirit of God prosper such labours with Divine power, we shall not, even by these means, be made wise unto salvation: for this blessing we should therefore daily and earnestly pray.
Verses 5-7. - Besides the monumental stones, an altar of whole stones, on which no tool had passed (cf. Exodus 20:22) was to be erected, and burnt offerings and peace offerings were to be presented as at the establishment of the covenant at Sinai, followed by the statutory festive entertainment (cf. Exodus 24:5).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And there shall thou build an altar to the Lord thy God,.... On the same mountain, though not of the same stones. Jarchi's note is,"after that (the setting up of the plastered stones) thou shalt bring from thence (from Jordan) others, and build of them an altar on Mount Ebal;''but Josephus (t) places this altar not on Mount Ebal, but between that and Gerizim. This altar, he says, was ordered to be built towards the rising sun, not far from the city of Shechem, between two mountains, Gerizim and Ebal; but the text is express, that it was to be built where the stones were set up, which was on Mount Ebal, and there it was built, Joshua 8:30; an altar of stones; of whole stones, as in Deuteronomy 27:6, not broken, nor hewed, but rough as they were when taken out of the quarry:
thou shalt not lift up any iron tool upon them; to hew them, and make them smooth; See Gill on Exodus 20:25;
(t) Ut supra. (Antiqu. l. 4. c. 8. sect. 44.)
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
5-10. there shalt thou build an altar … of whole stones—The stones were to be in their natural state, as if a chisel would communicate pollution to them. The stony pile was to be so large as to contain all the conditions of the covenant, so elevated as to be visible to the whole congregation of Israel; and the religious ceremonial performed on the occasion was to consist: first, of the elementary worship needed for sinful men; and secondly, of the peace offerings, or lively, social feasts, that were suited to the happy people whose God was the Lord. There were thus, the law which condemned, and the typical expiation—the two great principles of revealed religion.
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