Deuteronomy 27:5
And there shall you build an altar to the LORD your God, an altar of stones: you shall not lift up any iron tool on them.
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(5) An altar of stones.—Rashi propounds the theory that these stones were taken from Jordan. But there is nothing to countenance this theory in the words of the text.

27:1-10 As soon as they were come into Canaan, they must set up a monument, on which they must write the words of this law. They must set up an altar. The word and prayer must go together. Though they might not, of their own heads, set up any altar besides that at the tabernacle; yet, by the appointment of God, they might, upon special occasion. This altar must be made of unhewn stones, such as they found upon the field. Christ, our Altar, is a stone cut out of the mountain without hands, refused by the builders, as having no form or comeliness, but accepted of God the Father, and made the Head of the corner. In the Old Testament the words of the law are written, with the curse annexed; which would overcome us with horror, if we had not, in the New Testament, an altar erected close by, which gives consolation. Blessed be God, the printed copies of the Scriptures among us, do away the necessity of such methods as were presented to Israel. The end of the gospel ministry is, and the end of preachers ought to be, to make the word of God as plain as possible. Yet, unless the Spirit of God prosper such labours with Divine power, we shall not, even by these means, be made wise unto salvation: for this blessing we should therefore daily and earnestly pray.In mount Ebal - Compare the marginal references. The Samaritan Pentateuch and Version read here Gerizim instead of Ebal; but the original text was probably, as nearly all modern authorities hold, altered in order to lend a show of scriptural sanction to the Samaritan temple on Mount Gerizim.

The erection of the altar, the offering thereon burnt-offerings and peace-offerings Deuteronomy 27:6-7, the publication of the Law in writing, form altogether a solemn renewal of the covenant on the entrance of the people into the promised land, and recall the ceremonies observed on the original grant of the covenant at Sinai (compare Exodus 24:5). And Ebal (the mount of "barrenness "),the mount of cursing, was the fitting spot on which to celebrate them. For the curses were the penalties under which the children of Israel bound themselves to keep the Law. Suitably also was the same place selected as that in which were to be set up both the monumental stones containing the Law, and the altar at which the covenant was to be renewed. We must note too the fact that Deuteronomy 27:15 ff set out verbatim the curses only, the blessings being omitted. The law because of man's sinfulness brings on him first and chiefly a curse: compare Deuteronomy 31:16-17; Galatians 3:10.

5-10. there shalt thou build an altar … of whole stones—The stones were to be in their natural state, as if a chisel would communicate pollution to them. The stony pile was to be so large as to contain all the conditions of the covenant, so elevated as to be visible to the whole congregation of Israel; and the religious ceremonial performed on the occasion was to consist: first, of the elementary worship needed for sinful men; and secondly, of the peace offerings, or lively, social feasts, that were suited to the happy people whose God was the Lord. There were thus, the law which condemned, and the typical expiation—the two great principles of revealed religion. No text from Poole on this verse. And there shall thou build an altar to the Lord thy God,.... On the same mountain, though not of the same stones. Jarchi's note is,"after that (the setting up of the plastered stones) thou shalt bring from thence (from Jordan) others, and build of them an altar on Mount Ebal;''but Josephus (t) places this altar not on Mount Ebal, but between that and Gerizim. This altar, he says, was ordered to be built towards the rising sun, not far from the city of Shechem, between two mountains, Gerizim and Ebal; but the text is express, that it was to be built where the stones were set up, which was on Mount Ebal, and there it was built, Joshua 8:30; an altar of stones; of whole stones, as in Deuteronomy 27:6, not broken, nor hewed, but rough as they were when taken out of the quarry:

thou shalt not lift up any iron tool upon them; to hew them, and make them smooth; See Gill on Exodus 20:25;

(t) Ut supra. (Antiqu. l. 4. c. 8. sect. 44.)

And there shalt thou build an altar unto the LORD thy God, an altar of stones: thou shalt not lift up any {c} iron tool upon them.

(c) The altar should not be curiously wrought, because it would continue but for a time: for God would have only one altar in Judah.

5. no iron] Exodus 20:25, tool (ḥéreb), which would have polluted the altar. The later D’s substitution of iron is striking. See on Deuteronomy 8:9.

5–7. Cp. E, Exodus 20:24 f. with Driver’s notes.Verses 5-7. - Besides the monumental stones, an altar of whole stones, on which no tool had passed (cf. Exodus 20:22) was to be erected, and burnt offerings and peace offerings were to be presented as at the establishment of the covenant at Sinai, followed by the statutory festive entertainment (cf. Exodus 24:5). At the same time, Jehovah had caused the people to be told that they were His treasured people of possession, as He had said in Exodus 19:5-6; and that if they kept all His commandments, He would set them highest above all nations whom He had created, "for praise, and for a name, and for glory," i.e., make them an object of praise, and renown, and glorification of God, the Lord and Creator of Israel, among all nations (vid., Jeremiah 33:9 and Jeremiah 13:11; Jeremiah 3:19-20). "And that it should become a holy people unto the Lord," as He had already said in Exodus 19:6. The sanctification of Israel was the design and end of its divine election, and would be accomplished in the glory to which the people of God were to be exalted (see the commentary on Exodus 19:5-6). The Hiphil האמיר, which is only found here, has no other meaning than this, "to cause a person to say," or "give him occasion to say;" and this is perfectly appropriate here, whereas the other meaning suggested, "to exalt," has no tenable support either in the paraphrastic rendering of these verses in the ancient versions, or in the Hithpael in Psalm 94:4, and moreover is altogether unsuitable in Deuteronomy 26:17.
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