Cursed be he that perverts the judgment of the stranger, fatherless, and widow. And all the people shall say, Amen.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Numbers 5:22, and in our own Commination Office, which is modelled after this ordinance of Moses.
Twelve curses against transgressions of the covenant. The first eleven are directed against special sins which are selected by way of example, the last comprehensively sums up in general terms and condemns all and every offence against God's Law. Compare the marginal references.
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."
fatherless, and widow,.... Who have none to assist them, and take their part, and therefore judges may be tempted to do an unjust thing; but God is the patron of them, and takes notice of every injury done them, and is the avenger of all such:Cursed be he that perverteth the judgment of the stranger, fatherless, and widow. And all the people shall say, Amen.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)19. See on Deuteronomy 24:17; E, Exodus 22:21-24; Exodus 23:9; H, Leviticus 19:33 f.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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