Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
2. it shall be on the day when ye shall pass over Jordan--"Day" is
often put for "time"; and it was not till some days after the passage
that the following instructions were acted upon.
thou shalt set thee up great stones, and plaister them with
plaister--These stones were to be taken in their natural state,
unhewn, and unpolished--the occasion on which they were used not
admitting of long or elaborate preparation; and they were to be daubed
over with paint or whitewash, to render them more conspicuous. Stones
and even rocks are seen in Egypt and the peninsula of Sinai, containing
inscriptions made three thousand years ago, in paint or plaister. By
some similar method those stones may have been inscribed, and it is
most probable that Moses learned the art from the Egyptians.
3. thou shalt write upon them all the words of this law--It might be,
as some think, the Decalogue; but a greater probability is that it was
"the blessings and curses," which comprised in fact an epitome of the
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.
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
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."