Deuteronomy 27:13
And these shall stand upon mount Ebal to curse; Reuben, Gad, and Asher, and Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali.
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Deuteronomy 27:13. To curse — Of the former tribes, it is said, they stood to bless the people: of these, that they stood to curse. Perhaps the different way of speaking intimates, that Israel in general were a happy people, and should ever be so, if they were obedient. And to that blessing, they on mount Gerizim said, Amen! But the curses come in only as exceptions to the general rule: “Israel is a blessed people: but if there be any even among them that do such and such things, they have no part or lot in this matter, but are under a curse.” This shows how ready God is to bestow the blessing: if any fall under the curse, they bring it on their own heads. Four of these are children of the bond-women, to show that the curse belongs to those of servile and disingenuous spirits. With these are joined Reuben, who by his shameful sin fell from his dignity, and Zebulun, the youngest of Leah’s children, that the numbers might be equal.

27:11-26 The six tribes appointed for blessing, were all children of the free women, for to such the promise belongs, Ga 4:31. Levi is here among the rest. Ministers should apply to themselves the blessing and curse they preach to others, and by faith set their own Amen to it. And they must not only allure people to their duty with the promises of a blessing, but awe them with the threatenings of a curse, by declaring that a curse would be upon those who do such things. To each of the curses the people were to say, Amen. It professed their faith, that these, and the like curses, were real declarations of the wrath of God against the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, not one jot of which shall fall to the ground. It was acknowledging the equity of these curses. Those who do such things deserve to fall, and lie under the curse. Lest those who were guilty of other sins, not here mentioned, should think themselves safe from the curse, the last reaches all. Not only those who do the evil which the law forbids, but those also who omit the good which the law requires. Without the atoning blood of Christ, sinners can neither have communion with a holy God, nor do any thing acceptable to him; his righteous law condemns every one who, at any time, or in any thing, transgresses it. Under its awful curse we remain as transgressors, until the redemption of Christ is applied to our hearts. Wherever the grace of God brings salvation, it teaches the believer to deny ungodliness and wordly lusts, to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, consenting to, and delighting in the words of God's law, after the inward man. In this holy walk, true peace and solid joy are to be found.The tribes appointed to stand on Gerizim to bless the people all sprang from the two wives of Jacob, Leah and Rachel. All the four tribes which sprang from the handmaids Zilpah and Bilhah are located on Ebal. But in order, as it would seem, to effect an equal division, two tribes are added to the latter from the descendants of the wives, that of Reuben, probably because he forfeited his primogeniture Genesis 49:4; and of Zebulun, apparently because he was the youngest son of Leah.

The transaction presents itself as a solemn renewal of the covenant made by God with Abraham and Isaac, but more especially with Jacob and his family. Accordingly the genealogical basis of the "twelve patriarchs" (compare Acts 7:12; Revelation 7:4 ff), the sons of Jacob, is here assumed. The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh are merged in the name of Joseph, their father; and Levi regains on this occasion his place collaterally with the others. "The Levites" of Deuteronomy 27:14 are no doubt "the priests the Levites" (compare Joshua 8:33), in whom the ministerial character attaching to the tribe was more particularly manifested. It is noteworthy that the group of tribes which stood on Gerizim far exceeded the other in numbers and in importance, thus perhaps indicating that even by the Law the blessing should at length prevail.

De 27:11-13. The Tribes Divided on Gerizim and Ebal.

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 [165]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 [166]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."

To curse; he saith to bless the people, Deu 27:12, but here only to curse, not expressing whom, either because he was loth to mention the people as objects of the curse; or because he presumed and hoped that though some particular persons might deserve the curse, yet the generality of the people would keep out of the reach of it; or to intimate, that though the blessing was peculiar to the people of Israel, yet the curse was indefinite and common to all nations, as may appear from the particular sins here numbered, which are such as made the Gentiles guilty and abominable to God, as is elsewhere affirmed. See Leviticus 18:28.

Gad and Asher, Dan and Naphtali, are the children of the bond-women, to show that the curse belongs to those of servile and disingenuous spirits and carriages to God. With these are joined

Reuben, who by his shameful sin fell from his dignity, Genesis 49:4, and

Zebulun, as the youngest of Leah’s children, who was necessary to be joined with those, that the numbers might be equal.

And these shall stand upon Mount Ebal curse,.... Which was dry and rocky, barren and fruitful, and like the earth, that bears briers and thorns, is rejected and nigh unto cursing, and so a proper place to curse, and a fit emblem of those to be cursed; see Hebrews 6:8,

Reuben, Gad, and Asher, and Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali; four of these appointed for cursing were the children of the handmaids, Gad, Asher, Dan, and Naphtali; and since two were wanting, as Aben Ezra observes, and the sons of Leah were many, the oldest and the youngest were taken; Reuben, who had defiled his father's bed, and exposed himself to the curse of the law, and Zebulun, the last and youngest of Leah's sons; see Galatians 3:10.

And these shall stand upon mount Ebal to {g} curse; Reuben, Gad, and Asher, and Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali.

(g) Signifying, that if they would not obey God out of love, they would be made to obey out of fear.

Verse 13. - These shall stand upon mount Ebal to curse; literally, These shall stand upon the curse on Mount Ebal; i.e. it shall belong to them to utter the curse. Deuteronomy 27:13With the solemn erection of the stones with the law written upon them, Israel was to transfer to the land the blessing and curse of the law, as was already commanded in Deuteronomy 11:29; that is to say, according to the more minute explanation of the command which is given here, the people themselves were solemnly to give expression to the blessing and the curse: to the former upon Mount Gerizim, and to the latter upon Ebal. On the situation of these mountains, see at Deuteronomy 11:29. To this end six tribes were to station themselves upon the top or side of Gerizim, and six upon the top or side of Ebal. The blessing was to be uttered by the tribes of Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin, who sprang from the two wives of Jacob; and the curse by Reuben, with the two sons of Leah's maid Zilpah, and by Zebulun, with Dan and Naphtali, the sons of Rachel's maid Bilhah. It was natural that the utterance of the blessing should be assigned to the tribes which sprang from Jacob's proper wives, since the sons of the wives occupied a higher position than the sons of the maids - just as the blessing had pre-eminence over the curse. But in order to secure the division into two sixes, it was necessary that two of the eight sons of the wives should be associated with those who pronounced the curses. The choice fell upon Reuben, because he had forfeited his right of primogeniture by his incest (Genesis 49:4), and upon Zebulun, as the youngest son of Leah. "They shall stand there upon the curse:" i.e., to pronounce the curse.
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