Cursed be he that takes reward to slay an innocent person. 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."Cursed be he that taketh reward to slay an innocent person. And all the people shall say, Amen.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)25. Cp. Deuteronomy 16:19, and E, Exodus 23:8, both against all bribes; Ezekiel 22:1-2, bribes to shed blood.Deuteronomy 27:15-26 there follow twelve curses, answering to the number of the tribes of Israel. The first is directed against those who make graven or molten images of Jehovah, and set them up in secret, that is to say, against secret breaches of the second commandment (Exodus 20:4); the second against contempt of, or want of reverence towards, parents (Exodus 21:17); the third against those who remove boundaries (Deuteronomy 19:14); the fourth against the man who leads the blind astray (Leviticus 19:14); the fifth against those who pervert the right of orphans and widows (Deuteronomy 24:17); the sixth against incest with a mother (Deuteronomy 23:1; Deuteronomy 18:8); the seventh against unnatural vices (Leviticus 18:23); the eighth and ninth against incest with a sister or a mother-in-law (Leviticus 18:9 and Leviticus 18:17); the tenth against secret murder (Exodus 20:13; Numbers 35:16.); the eleventh against judicial murder ("he that taketh reward to slay a soul, namely, innocent blood:" Exodus 23:7-8); the twelfth against the man who does not set up the words of this law to do them, who does not make the laws the model and standard of his life and conduct. From this last curse, which applied to every breach of the law, it evidently follows, that the different sins and transgressions already mentioned were only selected by way of example, and for the most part were such as could easily be concealed from the judicial authorities. At the same time, "the office of the law is shown in this last utterance, the summing up of all the rest, to have been pre-eminently to proclaim condemnation. Every conscious act of transgression subjects the sinner to the curse of God, from which none but He who has become a curse for us can possibly deliver us" (Galatians 3:10, Galatians 3:13. O. v. Gerlach). - On the reason why the blessings are not given, see the remarks on Deuteronomy 27:4. As the curses against particular transgressions of the law simply mention some peculiarly grievous sins by way of example, it would be easy to single out corresponding blessings from the general contents of the law: e.g., "Blessed be he who faithfully follows the Lord his God, or loves Him with the heart, who honours his father and his mother," etc.; and lastly, all the blessings of the law could be summed up in the words, "Blessed be he who setteth up the words of this law, to do them."
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