And the Levites shall speak, and say to all the men of Israel with a loud voice,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Deuteronomy 27:14. The Levites — Some of the Levites, namely, the priests, who bare the ark, as it is expressed Joshua 8:33, for the body of the Levites stood upon mount Gerizim, Deuteronomy 27:12. But these stood in the valley between Gerizim and Ebal, looking toward the one or the other mountain as they pronounced either the blessings or the curses.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.
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."The Levites, i.e. some of the Levites, to wit, the priests,
which bare the ark, as it is expressed, Joshua 8:33, for the body of the Levites stood upon Mount Gerizim, Deu 27:12; but these stood in the valley between Gerizim and Ebal, looking towards the one or the other mountain as they pronounced either the blessings or the curses, as may be gathered from Joshua 8:33.
With a loud voice; so as they might be heard by a great number of the people, by whom the rest were informed and directed by some signal when they should answer. Deuteronomy 27:12; but the priests of that tribe who were placed in the valley, between the two mountains, and pronounced both the blessings and the curses in the hearing of all the tribes of Israel, to which they were to answer Amen; and that they might plainly hear, they expressed their words
with a loud voice, clearly and distinctly, as follow.And the Levites shall speak, and say unto all the men of Israel with a loud voice,
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)14. answer] As in Deuteronomy 21:7, solemnly pronounce.
with a loud voice] Lit. a high voice, not elsewhere in the O.T. Cp. Deuteronomy 5:19, a great voice.
14–26. Appointment of the Levites to Curse
According to 11–13 both a blessing and a curse were to be pronounced, here we have only curses, twelve in number. There Levi was one of six tribes appointed to bless; here the Levites, in religious distinction from all the other tribes, are to pronounce the curses. Further, the 12 curses are not confined to sins dealt with in the Code of D; the objects of only 7 are forbidden in D, of 6 in E, Exodus 20:2-23, of 1 in J, Exodus 34, and of as many as Deuteronomy 27:9 in H, Leviticus 17-26. The inferences are reasonable that this passage is not from the same hand as the preceding (i.e. not from E) and not from D.
The inclusion of so many sins forbidden only in H does not necessarily imply that the list of curses is exilic (Berth.). It may be from a source independent of all those documents, some national or local liturgy; and Meyer—Luther (Die Israeliten, 552) suggest that it was in use at the sanctuary of Shechem. Nor is the hand which introduced it here that of D, but of a late editor, for note the simple term Levites instead of D’s the priests the Levites and the phrase unto all the men of Israel, found elsewhere only in Joshua 10:24 in a passage with many editorial elements. D’s phrase is all Israel (see, above Deuteronomy 27:9).Verse 14. - The Levites - standing probably in some convenient spot midway between the two mountains (cf. Joshua 8:33) - were to pronounce with a loud voice the blessing and the curse, so that all might hear; and the people were to give their assent, and take to themselves, as it were, the blessing or the curse as uttered, by a solemn Amen. By the Levites here are intended, not the sons of Levi generally, but that portion of them which belonged to the priesthood, and bare the ark of the covenant (cf. Joshua 8:33). 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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