Deuteronomy 27:8
And you shall write on the stones all the words of this law very plainly.
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(8) Thou shalt write upon the stones all the words of this lawi.e., the ten commandments. All else in the Law of Moses is but an application of the Decalogue to a particular people under particular circumstances. (See Notes on Joshua 3, Joshua 8:32, for more upon the relation of the ten commandments to the conquest of Canaan.)

Very plainly.—See on Deuteronomy 1:5. Rashi says, “In seventy (.e., in all) languages.” There is also an idea in the Talmud that when spoken from Sinai, the Law was spoken (or heard) in all languages at the same time. It is a strange refraction of the truth indicated at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was given. Men spake in every tongue the wonderful works of God. The foundation of Jerusalem has effects exactly opposite to the foundation of Babylon (Genesis 11).

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. So as to be easily read by all. And thou shall write upon the stones all the words of this law,.... Not upon the stones of the altar, but upon the first stones brought to Mount Ebal, and set up there before, and on which the words were inscribed before the altar was erected; though according to the Misnah (u) the altar was built of these stones, and on that the law written; for it is said,"they shall bring the stones (#De 27:2,4) and build the altar, and plaster it with plaster, and write upon it all the words of the law:''with which Josephus agrees, who says (w),"that when Moses was about to die, he ordered the blessings and the curses to be written on the altar, on both sides of it:''could this be made clearly to appear, it would be easy to observe the accomplishment of it in Christ, who was made under the law, became subject to it, had it written on his heart, obeyed the precepts and bore the penalty of it, and had all the curses of it laid on him, and thereby redeemed his people from them. However, be it on which it may that the words of the law were written, they were written

very plainly; so that they might be easily read; in seventy languages, according to the Jewish writers; which they say was done, that whoever would learn the law might learn it, and so the Gentiles had no excuse (x); for it is a prevailing notion with them, that there were so many nations and languages. The law being written on stones denotes the duration of it, which continued not only during the times of the Old Testament dispensation, and to the times of John, and had its fulfilment in Christ, but still continues; for though Christ has redeemed his people from the curse and condemnation of it, yet it is in his hands as a rule of direction to them as to their walk and conversation: nor is it made void by any doctrine of the Gospel, and nothing more strongly enforces obedience to it than the Gospel. The moral law is immutable, invariable, and eternal in its nature, and in the matter of it. This may also point at the hardness of men's hearts, their non-subjection to the law, and disobedience of it; and these stones being covered with plaster may be an emblem of formalists and hypocrites, who are like whited walls and sepulchres, Matthew 23:27, have a form of the law in their heads, but not in their hearts; are Jews outwardly, but not inwardly, Romans 2:28; externally righteous before men, as if they were strict observers of the law, but internally very wicked; and have hard, blind, and impenitent hearts, under the cover of the law, and a profession of strict regard to it; and this being done on the same mount where the curses were pronounced, shows that they were on account of the breach of this law.

(u) Sotah, c. 7. sect. 5. (w) Ut supra. (Antiqu. l. 4. c. 8. sect. 44.) (x) Sotah, ib. & Bartenora in ib. Targum Jon. & Jerus. & Jarchi in loc.

And thou shalt write upon the stones all the words of this law {d} very plainly.

(d) That everyone may well read it, and understand it.

8. the stones] Not the stones of the altar (6 f.), with which Joshua 8:30 f. has confused them.

this law] Heb. Torah as in Deuteronomy 27:3.

very plainly] Expressed in Heb. by two infinitives used adverbially. On that one of them which is rendered plainly, ba’er, see on Deuteronomy 1:5. The other, meaning thoroughly or exceedingly, occurs in Deuteronomy 9:21.Verse 8. - The injunction to write the Law on the stones is repeated, with the addition that it was to be done very plainly (LXX., σαφῶς σφόδρα: Vulgate, plane et lucide), which shows that the main purpose of setting up the stones was that the Law might be easily known by the people (cf. Habakkuk 2:2). The stones and the altar were fittingly placed on Ebal, the mount of cursing. For the setting up of the stones on which the Law was inscribed, and the building beside them of the altar, was the symbolical renewal of the covenant of God with Israel, and the establishment in Canaan of that dispensation which was "the ministration of condemnation and of death" (2 Corinthians 3:7, 9), and of that Law which, though in itself "holy, just, and good," can only, because of man's perversity and sinfulness, bring on those who are under it a curse (Galatians 3:10). The command in Deuteronomy 27:1 to keep the whole law (שׁמר, inf. abs. for the imperative, as in Exodus 13:3, etc.), with which the instructions that follow are introduced, indicates at the very outset the purpose for which the law written upon stones was to be set up in Canaan, namely, as a public testimony that the Israelites who were entering into Canaan possessed in the law their rule and source of life. The command itself is given by Moses, together with the elders, because the latter had to see to the execution of it after Moses' death; on the other hand, the priests are mentioned along with Moses in Deuteronomy 27:9, because it was their special duty to superintend the fulfilment of the commands of God.

Deuteronomy 27:1-3

Deuteronomy 27:2 and Deuteronomy 27:3 contain the general instructions; Deuteronomy 27:4-8, more minute details. In the appointment of the time, "on the day when ye shall pass over Jordan into the land," etc., the word "day" must not be pressed, but is to be understood in a broader sense, as signifying the time when Israel should have entered the land and taken possession of it. The stones to be set up were to be covered with lime, or gypsum (whether sid signifies lime or gypsum cannot be determined), and all the words of the law were to be written upon them. The writing, therefore, was not to be cut into the stones and then covered with lime (as J. D. Mich., Ros.), but to be inscribed upon the plaistered stones, as was the custom in Egypt, where the walls of buildings, and even monumental stones, which they were about to paint with figures and hieroglyphics, were first of all covered with a coating of lime or gypsum, and then the figures painted upon this (see the testimonies of Minutoli, Heeren, Prokesch in Hengstenberg's Dissertations, i. 433, and Egypt and the Books of Moses, p. 90). The object of this writing was not to hand down the law in this manner to posterity without alteration, but, as has already been stated, simply to set forth a public acknowledgement of the law on the part of the people, first of all for the sake of the generation which took possession of the land, and for posterity, only so far as this act was recorded in the book of Joshua and thus transmitted to future generations.

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