- A command to write all the law upon stones, verse 1-8.
- A charge to Israel, to obey God, verse 9-10.
- To pronounce a blessing on mount Gerizzim, and a curse on mount Ebal, verse 11-13.
- To the Levites, to pronounce the whole curse, verse 14-26.
On that day - About that time, for it was not done 'till some days after their passing over.
This law - The law properly so called, that is, the sum and substance of the precepts or laws of Moses, especially such as were moral, particularly the decalogue. Write it, that thou mayest go in - As the condition of thy entering into the land. For since Canaan is given only by promise, it must be held by obedience.
Mount Ebal - The mount of cursing. Here the law is written, to signify that a curse was due to the violators of it, and that no man could expect justification from the works of the law, by the sentence whereof all men are justly accused, as being all guilty of the transgression of it in one kind and degree or other. Here the sacrifices are to be offered, to shew that there is no way to be delivered from this curse, but by the blood of Christ, which all these sacrifices did typify, and by Christ's being made a curse for us.
Whole stones - Rough, not hewed or polished. By the law written on the stones, God spake to them: by the altar and sacrifices upon it, they spake to God: and thus was communion kept up between them and God.
The people of the Lord - By thy solemn renewing of thy covenant with him.
Upon mount Gerizzim - These words may be rendered beside or near to mount Gerizzim. There were in Canaan two mountains that lay near together, with a valley between, one called Gerizzim, the other Ebal. On the sides of these which faced each other, all the tribes were to be drawn up, six on a side, so that in the valley they came near each other, so near that the priests standing between them, might be heard by them that were next them on both sides. Then one of the priests, or perhaps more, at some distance from each other, pronounced with a loud voice, one of the curses following. And all the people who stood on the foot and side of mount Ebal, (those farther off taking the signal from those who were nearer) said Amen! Then the contrary blessing was pronounced, "Blessed is he that doth so or so:" To which all who stood on the foot and side of mount Gerizzim, said, Amen! Simeon - All these were the children of the free-women, Leah and Rachel, to shew both the dignity of the blessings above the curses, and that the blessings belong only to those who are evangelically such, as this is expounded and applied, Galatians 4:22, even to those that receive the Spirit of adoption and liberty. Joseph is here put for both his sons and tribes Manasseh and Ephraim, which are reckoned as one tribe, because Levi is here numbered; but when Levi is omitted, as it is where the division of the land is made, there Manasseh and Ephraim pass for two tribes.
To curse - Of the former tribes, 'tis said, they stood to bless the people: of these, that they stood to curse. Perhaps the different way of speaking intimates, That Israel in general were an happy people, and should ever be so, if they were obedient. And to that blessing, they on mount Gerizzim said, Amen! But the curses come in, only as exceptions to the general rule: "Israel is a blessed people: but if there be any even among them, that do such and such things, they have no part or lot in this matter, but are under a curse." This shews how ready God is to bestow the blessing: if any fall under the curse, they bring it on their own head. Four of these are children of the bond-woman, to shew that the curse belongs to those of servile and disingenuous spirits. With these are joined Reuben, who by his shameful sin fell from his dignity, and Zebulun, the youngest of Leah's children, that the numbers might be equal.
The Levites - Some of the Levites, namely, the priests, who bare the ark, as it is expressed Joshua 8:33, for the body of the Levites stood upon mount Gerizzim, Deuteronomy 27:12. But these stood in the valley between Gerizzim and Ebal, looking towards the one or the other mountain as they pronounced either the blessings or the curses.
Cursed - The curses are expressed, but not the blessings. For as many as were under the law, were under the curse. But it was an honour reserved for Christ to bless us; to do that which the law could not do. So in his sermon on the mount, the true mount Gerizzim, we have blessings only. The man - Under this particular he understands all the gross violations of the first table, as under the following branches he comprehends all other sins against the second table. Amen - 'Tis easy to understand the meaning of Amen to the blessings. But how could they say it to the curses? It was both a profession of their faith in the truth of it, and an acknowledgment of the equity of these curses. So that when they said Amen, they did in effect Say, not only, it is certain it shall be so, but it is just it should be so.
Light - Or, despiseth in his heart: or reproacheth or curseth, secretly: for if the fact was notorious, it was punished with death.
Out of the way - That misleadeth simple souls, giving them pernicious counsel, either for this life, or for the next.
Smiteth - That is, killeth. This includes murder under colour of law, which is of all others the greatest affront to God. Cursed therefore is he that any ways contributes to accuse, or convict, or condemn an innocent person.
Confirmeth not - Or, performeth not. To this we must all say, Amen! Owning ourselves to be under the curse, and that we must have perished for ever, if Christ had not redeemed us from the curse of the law, by being made a curse for us.