And Moses charged the people the same day, saying,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Joshua 8:32-35. The solemnity was apparently designed only for the single occasion on which it actually took place.
11-13. These shall stand upon mount Gerizim to bless the people … these shall stand upon mount Ebal to curse—Those long, rocky ridges lay in the province of Samaria, and the peaks referred to were near Shechem (Nablous), rising in steep precipices to the height of about eight hundred feet and separated by a green, well-watered valley of about five hundred yards wide. The people of Israel were here divided into two parts. On mount Gerizim (now Jebel-et-Tur) were stationed the descendants of Rachel and Leah, the two principal wives of Jacob, and to them was assigned the most pleasant and honorable office of pronouncing the benedictions; while on the twin hill of Ebal (now Imad-el-Deen) were placed the posterity of the two secondary wives, Zilpah and Bilhah, with those of Reuben, who had lost the primogeniture, and Zebulun, Leah's youngest son; to them was committed the necessary but painful duty of pronouncing the maledictions (see on Jud 9:7). The ceremony might have taken place on the lower spurs of the mountains, where they approach more closely to each other; and the course observed was as follows: Amid the silent expectations of the solemn assembly, the priests standing round the ark in the valley below, said aloud, looking to Gerizim, "Blessed is the man that maketh not any graven image," when the people ranged on that hill responded in full simultaneous shouts of "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 on Jos 8:33, 34). These curses attendant on disobedience to the divine will, which had been revealed as a law from heaven, be it observed, 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."And Moses charged the people the same day, saying,
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Ch. Deuteronomy 11:29 (q.v.) commands that the blessing for obedience be set on Mt Gerizim, the curse for disobedience on Mt ‘Ebal. Set (lit. give) implies some solemn rite, and this is now defined. Six tribes shall stand on Gerizim to bless, and six on ‘Ebal for the curse. The former are all sons of Leah or Rachel, Jacob’s wives, the latter the sons of their maids, Gad, Asher, Dan and Naphtali, with Reuben, Leah’s eldest son, who lost his birthright, and Zebulun, her youngest. Again the former, appointed to the southern mount, are all (with the doubtful exception of Issachar) tribes established S. of Esdraelon; while those appointed to the northern mountain are the four tribes settled N. of Esdraelon, with the two from E. Palestine, Reuben and Gad.
On the whole, the genealogical explanation of the division (Dillm., Dri., Berth.) is more plausible than the geographical (Steuern.). The position of Levi, on a level with the other tribes, points to a source earlier than D, and as E emphasises the sanctity of Shechem, the fragment has been assigned to E (Berth., Marti). Note also the phrase, Moses charged the people, not elsewhere in D, while E most frequently uses the term the people to designate Israel (e.g. Exodus 3:12; Exodus 3:21; Exodus 4:21; Exodus 5:4; Exodus 11:2 f, Exodus 12:36, Exodus 13:17 f., Exodus 15:24, Exodus 17:1 b, Exodus 17:2; Exodus 17:4-6, Exodus 19:10; Exodus 19:14-17, Exodus 24:3; Numbers 11:1 f.).Verses 11-14. - Having set up the Law and renewed the covenant in Canaan, Israel was to proclaim upon the land the blessing and the curse of the Law, as already commanded (see Deuteronomy 11:29). For this purpose six tribes were to station themselves on Mount Gerizim, and six on Mount Ebal, the former to pronounce the blessing, the latter the curse. (On the situation of these two mountains, see at ch. Deuteronomy 11:29.) The six tribes by whom the blessing was to be pronounced were Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin, all descended from the two wives of Jacob - Leah and Rachel. The tribes by whom the curse was to be uttered were those descended from Zilpah, Leah's maid, viz. Gad and Asher; those descended from Bilhah, Rachel's maid, viz. Dan and Naphtali; with Zebulun and Reuben, both descended from Leah. As, in order to obtain a division of the tribes into two equal portions, two of the sons of Leah must be assigned to the second half, Zebulun and Reuben were chosen, probably because the former was the youngest of Leah's sons, and the latter had by his sin forfeited his birthright (Genesis 49:4). Deuteronomy 11:29), - not upon Gerizim, according to the reading of the Samaritan Pentateuch; for since the discussion of the question by Verschuir (dissertt. phil. exeg. diss. 3) and Gesenius (de Pent. Samar. p. 61), it may be regarded as an established fact, that this reading is an arbitrary alteration. The following clause, "thou shalt plaister," etc., is a repetition in the earliest form of historical writing among the Hebrews. To this there are appended in Deuteronomy 27:5-7 the new and further instructions, that an altar was to be built upon Ebal, and burnt-offerings and slain-offerings to be sacrificed upon it. The notion that this altar was to be built of the stones with the law written upon them, or even with a portion of them, needs no refutation, as it has not the slightest support in the words of the text. For according to these the altar was to be built of unhewn stones (therefore not of the stones covered with cement), in obedience to the law in Exodus 20:22 (see the exposition of this passage, where the reason for this is discussed). The spot selected for the setting up of the stones with the law written upon it, as well as for the altar and the offering of sacrifice, was Ebal, the mountain upon which the curses were to be proclaimed; not Gerizim, which was appointed for the publication of the blessings, for the very same reason for which only the curses to be proclaimed are given in Deuteronomy 27:14. and not the blessings, - not, as Schultz supposes, because the law in connection with the curse speaks more forcibly to sinful man than in connection with the blessing, or because the curse, which manifests itself on every hand in human life, sounds more credible than the promise; but, as the Berleburger Bible expresses it, "to show how the law and economy of the Old Testament would denounce the curse which rests upon the whole human race because of sin, to awaken a desire for the Messiah, who was to take away the curse and bring the true blessing instead." For however remote the allusion to the Messiah may be here, the truth is unquestionably pointed out in these instructions, that the law primarily and chiefly brings a curse upon man because of the sinfulness of his nature, as Moses himself announces to the people in Deuteronomy 31:16-17. And for this very reason the book of the law was to be laid by the side of the ark of the covenant as a "testimony against Israel" (Deuteronomy 31:26). But the altar was built for the offering of sacrifices, to mould and consecrate the setting up of the law upon the stones into a renewal of the covenant. In the burnt-offerings Israel gave itself up to the Lord with all its life and labour, and in the sacrificial meal it entered into the enjoyment of the blessings of divine grace, to taste of the blessedness of vital communion with its God. By connecting the sacrificial ceremony with the setting up of the law, Israel gave a practical testimony to the fact that its life and blessedness were founded upon its observance of the law. The sacrifices and the sacrificial meal have the same signification here as at the conclusion of the covenant at Sinai (Exodus 24:11). - In Deuteronomy 27:8 the writing of the law upon the stones is commanded once more, and the further injunction is added, "very plainly." - The writing of the law is mentioned last, as being the most important, and not because it was to take place after the sacrificial ceremony. The different instructions are arranged according to their character, and not in chronological order.
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