Deuteronomy 27


Moses commands the people to write the law upon stones, when

they shall come to the promised land, 1-3.

And to set up these stones on Mount Ebal, 4;

and to build an altar of unhewn stones, and to offer on it

burnt-offerings and peace-offerings, 5-7.

The words to be written plainly, and the people to be exhorted

to obedience, 8-10.

The six tribes which should stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the

people, 11, 12.

Those who are to stand upon Mount Ebal to curse the

transgressors, 13.

The different transgressors against whom the curses are to be

denounced, 14-26.


Verse 2. Thou shalt set thee up great stones] How many is not

specified, possibly twelve, and possibly only a sufficient number

to make a surface large enough to write the blessings and the

curses on.

Plaster them with plaster] Perhaps the original

vesadta otham bassid should be translated, Thou shalt cement them

with cement, because this was intended to be a durable monument.

In similar cases it was customary to set up a single stone, or a

heap, rudely put together, where no cement or mortar appears to

have been used; and because this was common, it was necessary to

give particular directions when the usual method was not to be

followed. Some suppose that the writing was to be in relievo, and

that the spaces between the letters were filled up by the mortar

or cement. This is quite a possible case, as the Eastern

inscriptions are frequently done in this way. There is now before

me a large slab of basaltes, two feet long by sixteen inches wide,

on which there is an inscription in Persian, Arabic, and Tamul; in

the two former the letters are all raised, the surface of the

stone being dug out, but the Tamul is indented. A kind of reddish

paint had been smeared over the letters to make them more

apparent. Two Arabic marbles in the University of Oxford have the

inscriptions in relievo, like those on the slab of basalt in my

possession. In the opinion of some even this case may cast light

upon the subject in question.

Verse 3. All the words of this law] After all that has been

said by ingenious critics concerning the law ordered to be written

on these stones, some supposing the whole Mosaic law to be

intended, others, only the decalogue, I am fully of opinion that

the ( torah) law or ordinance in question simply means the

blessings and curses mentioned in this and in the following

chapter; and indeed these contained a very good epitome of the

whole law in all its promises and threatenings, in reference to

the whole of its grand moral design. See at the end of this

chapter. See Clarke on De 27:26.

Verse 4. Set up these stones-in Mount Ebal] So the present

Hebrew text, but the Samaritan has Mount Gerizim. Dr. Kennicott

has largely defended the reading of the Samaritan in his second

dissertation on the present state of the Hebrew text, and Dr.

Parry has defended the Hebrew against the Samaritan in his Case

between Gerizim and Ebal fairly stated. So has J. H. Verschuir,

in his Dissert. Critica. Many still think Dr. Kennicott's

arguments unanswerable, and have no doubt that the Jews have here

corrupted the text through their enmity to the Samaritans. On all

hands it is allowed that Gerizim abounds with springs, gardens,

and orchards, and that it is covered with a beautiful verdure,

while Ebal is as naked and as barren as a rock. On this very

account the former was highly proper for the ceremony of blessing,

and the latter for the ceremony of cursing.

Verse 12. These shall stand upon Mount Gerizim to bless the

people] Instead of upon Mount, &c., we may translate by, as the

particle al is sometimes used; for we do not find that the

tribes did stand on either mount, for in Jos 8:33, when this

direction was reduced to practice, we find the people did not

stand on the mountains, but over against them on the plain. See

the observations at the end of this chapter. See Clarke on De 27:26.

Verse 15. Cursed be the man, &c.] Other laws, previously made,

had prohibited all these things; and penal sanctions were

necessarily understood; but here God more openly declares that he

who breaks them is cursed-falls under the wrath and indignation of

his Maker and Judge. See Clarke on Ex 20:4.

Verse 16. Setteth light by his father or his mother.]

See Clarke on Ex 20:12.

Verse 17. Removeth his neighbour's landmark.]

See Clarke on De 19:14, and on "Ex 20:17". And for all

the rest of these curses, see the notes on Ex 20:1-26, and the

observations at the end of it. See Clarke on Ex 20:26.

Verse 18. The blind to wander out of the way.] A sin against

the sixth commandment. See Clarke on Ex 20:13.

Verse 26. That confirmeth not all the words of this law] The

word col, ALL, is not found in any printed copy of the

Hebrew text; but the Samaritan preserves it, and so do six MSS.

in the collections of Kennicott and De Rossi, besides several

copies of the Chaldee Targum. The Septuagint also, and St. Paul

in his quotation of this place, Ga 3:10. St. Jerome says that

the Jews suppressed the word, that it might not appear that they

were bound to fulfil ALL the precepts in the law of Moses.

1. Dr. KENNICOTT, who contends that it was the Decalogue that was

written on the stones mentioned in this chapter, says, "If we

examine these twelve curses, they will appear to contain a strong

enforcement of the ten commands; and it is highly probable that

the curses were here proclaimed principally to secure obedience to

the commandments, as will be made more clear by the following


The first, second, third, and fourth Commandments

-Verse 15. Cursed be the man that maketh any graven or molten

image, an abomination to the Lord, &c.

The fifth Commandment

-Verse 16. Cursed be he that setteth light by his father or his


The sixth Commandment

-Verse 25. Cursed be he that taketh reward to slay an innocent


-Verse 24. Cursed be he that smiteth his neighbour secretly.

-Verse 18. Cursed be he that maketh the blind to wander out of

the way.

The seventh Commandment

-Verse 20. Cursed be he that lieth with his father's wife.

-Verse 21. Cursed be he that lieth with any beast.

-Verse 22. Cursed be he that lieth with his sister.

-Verse 23. Cursed be he that lieth with his mother-in-law.

The eighth Commandment

-Verse 17. Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour's landmark.

The ninth Commandment

-Verse 19. Cursed be he that perverteth the judgment of the

stranger, fatherless, and widow.

The tenth Commandment

-Verse 26. Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of

this law to do them."

Many will think this arrangement fanciful; and the analogy far

from being natural.

2. In pronouncing these blessings and curses, the Talmud says,

six tribes went up towards the top of Mount Gerizim, and six

towards the top of Mount Ebal; and the priests and the Levites,

and the ark stood beneath in the midst. The priests encompassed

the ark, and the Levites stood around about the priests; and all

Israel on this side and on that; see Jos 8:33. Then they turned

their faces towards Mount Gerizim and pronounced the blessings,

Blessed be the man, &c., and those on each side answered AMEN!

then they turned their faces towards Mount Ebal, and pronounced

the curse, Cursed be the man, &c., and those on each side answered

AMEN! till they had finished the blessings and the curses; and

afterwards they brought stones and built an altar. Some suppose

that the Levites were divided into two grand bodies, part standing

at or on Mount Gerizim, and part on Mount Ebal, and that with each

division were some of the priests. The whole Dr. Parry supposes

to have been arranged in the following manner:-


� � � � WEST � � � �

� � � � ARK � � � �

� � � � � � � �

� � � PRIESTS � B � PRIESTS � � �

� � G � LevitesC ALTAR lLevites � � �

� S � E � Simeon � u e � Reuben � E � N �

� O � R � Levi � r s � Gad � B � O �

� U � I � Judah � s s � Asher � A � R �

� T � Z � Issachar � e i � Zebulun � L � T �

� H � I � Joseph � s n � Dan � � H �

� � M � Benjamin � g � Naphtali � � �

� � � Strangers � � Strangers� � �

� � � � � � � �

� � � � � � � �

� � � � EAST � � � �


3. It is worthy of remark that Moses assigns to the children of

Rachel and Leah, the two mothers of the family, the office of

blessing the people, as being the most honourable; and these he

places on Mount Gerizim. On the contrary, he assigns the office

of cursing the people to the sons of Zilpah and Bilhah, as being

the least honourable office; but with these he joins Zebulun, the

youngest of Leah's sons, and Reuben, the eldest. As there must be

six tribes on each mountain, it was necessary that while six of

the sons of Rachel and Leah, the legitimate wives, should be

employed in blessing, two tribes descending from the same mothers

should be joined to the other four who proceeded from the

handmaids in order to make up the number six. The question is,

which two of the more honourable tribes should be joined to the

four least honourable, in order to complete the number six?

Zebulun is chosen, because being the sixth and youngest of all

Leah's sons, he was the least honourable of those who proceeded

from the free woman; and Reuben is chosen, who, though the eldest

of Jacob's sons, and entitled to the birthright, had lost it by

his transgression. And hence he, in his posterity, was degraded,

and was obliged to pronounce the curse, Cursed is he that lieth

with his father's wife. See Ge 49:3, 4, and Ge 35:22, and

the notes on both places.

4. It is strange how long the disgrace consequent on some

flagrant transaction of a parent may cleave to his posterity! See

this exemplified in the posterity of Reuben. Hence, with great

propriety we may pray, Remember not, Lord, our offences, nor the

offences of our forefathers; neither take thou vengeance of our

sins."-Litany. For the offences of our forefathers may be so

remembered against their posterity, that God, in the course of his

providence, may still keep up a controversy in secular matters

with the descendants (though even pious) of unholy ancestors; for

as all men are seminally included in the parents, they come into

the world depraved with their depravity, and in some sort liable

to their curses, though not so far as to affect their eternal

interests without the addition of their own personal offences.

Thus God may be said to visit the sins of the fathers upon the

children, even unto the third and fourth generation; as he may

have a controversy with the land for the evil which has been done

in it, and for which no proper atonement has been made. Why is it

that at this moment Spain is suffering the most afflictive and

cruel desolations? What has she done to merit all this? Is she

more wicked than all the European nations because she suffers such

things? Here is the mystery: Nations, as such, can only be

punished in this world. Look at the torrents of innocent blood

shed by their ancestors in South America 300 years ago; and see

now and adore the awful hand of retributive justice! (December,

1811.) We often see persons tried and afflicted, for whose

distresses we can give no legitimate reason. We find others who,

though they rise early, sit up late, work hard, eat the bread of

carefulness, and have a full knowledge of their business, yet

never get on in life. Who can account for this? Shall we say

that some injustice in their ancestors has brought down the

displeasure of God upon the earthly possessions that descended in

that line, so that the goods ill gotten shall never be permitted

to multiply? I knew an honest man, dead many years since, who by

great diligence, punctuality, and integrity in his business, had

acquired considerable property. Some time before his death,

having by will divided his substance among his sons and his

daughters, he expressed himself thus: "Children, you need not

fear the curse of God on this property; every penny of it was

honestly earned." Many years have since elapsed, and the blessing

of God has been in the basket and in the store of all his

children. Parents! leave nothing behind you that you cannot say

before your God, with a clear conscience, "This has been honestly

earned." If all bequests of a contrary description were to be

deducted from last wills and testaments, the quantum of descending

property would be, in many cases, small indeed.

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