|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.
Verse 8. - The injunction to write the Law on the stones is repeated, with the addition that it was to be done very plainly (LXX., σαφῶς σφόδρα: Vulgate, plane et lucide), which shows that the main purpose of setting up the stones was that the Law might be easily known by the people (cf. Habakkuk 2:2). The stones and the altar were fittingly placed on Ebal, the mount of cursing. For the setting up of the stones on which the Law was inscribed, and the building beside them of the altar, was the symbolical renewal of the covenant of God with Israel, and the establishment in Canaan of that dispensation which was "the ministration of condemnation and of death" (2 Corinthians 3:7, 9), and of that Law which, though in itself "holy, just, and good," can only, because of man's perversity and sinfulness, bring on those who are under it a curse (Galatians 3:10).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And thou shall write upon the stones all the words of this law,.... Not upon the stones of the altar, but upon the first stones brought to Mount Ebal, and set up there before, and on which the words were inscribed before the altar was erected; though according to the Misnah (u) the altar was built of these stones, and on that the law written; for it is said,"they shall bring the stones (#De 27:2,4) and build the altar, and plaster it with plaster, and write upon it all the words of the law:''with which Josephus agrees, who says (w),"that when Moses was about to die, he ordered the blessings and the curses to be written on the altar, on both sides of it:''could this be made clearly to appear, it would be easy to observe the accomplishment of it in Christ, who was made under the law, became subject to it, had it written on his heart, obeyed the precepts and bore the penalty of it, and had all the curses of it laid on him, and thereby redeemed his people from them. However, be it on which it may that the words of the law were written, they were written
very plainly; so that they might be easily read; in seventy languages, according to the Jewish writers; which they say was done, that whoever would learn the law might learn it, and so the Gentiles had no excuse (x); for it is a prevailing notion with them, that there were so many nations and languages. The law being written on stones denotes the duration of it, which continued not only during the times of the Old Testament dispensation, and to the times of John, and had its fulfilment in Christ, but still continues; for though Christ has redeemed his people from the curse and condemnation of it, yet it is in his hands as a rule of direction to them as to their walk and conversation: nor is it made void by any doctrine of the Gospel, and nothing more strongly enforces obedience to it than the Gospel. The moral law is immutable, invariable, and eternal in its nature, and in the matter of it. This may also point at the hardness of men's hearts, their non-subjection to the law, and disobedience of it; and these stones being covered with plaster may be an emblem of formalists and hypocrites, who are like whited walls and sepulchres, Matthew 23:27, have a form of the law in their heads, but not in their hearts; are Jews outwardly, but not inwardly, Romans 2:28; externally righteous before men, as if they were strict observers of the law, but internally very wicked; and have hard, blind, and impenitent hearts, under the cover of the law, and a profession of strict regard to it; and this being done on the same mount where the curses were pronounced, shows that they were on account of the breach of this law.
(u) Sotah, c. 7. sect. 5. (w) Ut supra. (Antiqu. l. 4. c. 8. sect. 44.) (x) Sotah, ib. & Bartenora in ib. Targum Jon. & Jerus. & Jarchi in loc.
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