Deuteronomy Chapter 27  PDF  MSWord

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Go to Bible: Deuteronomy 27
Deu 27:1

“Moses and the elders.” The phrase “Moses and the elders” is unusual because Moses usually speaks to the people by himself in Deuteronomy, but now he teams up with the elders to tell the people to keep the commandments. The shift is subtle but important. Moses will die before Israel crosses the Jordan, and it will then be the responsibility of the elders to ensure that the people keep God’s commandments, and this is especially true as Israel scatters and lives in different cities in the Promised Land. As we see from history, the elders did not do a good job at that and shortly after Joshua died the people turned to the idols of the land.

Deu 27:2

“on the day.” The phrase “on the day” is quite literal but is idiomatic for “when” or “at the time.” It does not literally mean on that day, but within a reasonable time.

Deu 27:3

“when you have crossed over.” That is, crossed over the Jordan River. At this time, Israel was camped in the plains of Jordan, east of the Jordan River and east of Jericho.

Deu 27:4(top)
Deu 27:5

“you are not to wield an iron tool on them.” The altar was to be built according to God’s direction for altars (see commentary on Exodus 20:25).

Deu 27:6

“burnt offerings.” The sacrifice of the burnt offering is spoken of in Leviticus 1 among other places.

Deu 27:7

“you are to eat them there.” When people offered peace offerings or sin offerings, they got to eat a large portion of the meat of the sacrifice. The people generally did not eat much meat because there was no way to keep any leftovers without them spoiling, so even though offering a sacrifice was usually due to sin or a feeling of separation from God, it was also a time of rejoicing and having a wonderful meal. Also, since no one could eat that much meat alone, it was common for family and friends to be there. For example, when Elkanah went yearly to offer a sacrifice to Yahweh, his extended family went with him and he gave portions of meat to everyone (1 Sam. 1:3-4). God commanded that the meat from the sacrifice had to be eaten that day or the next, but any meant still left on the third day had to be burned (Lev. 19:6).

Deu 27:8

“write very clearly.” Hebrew has a lot of letters that if not written carefully can be confused, so writing very clearly was important if people and future generations were to be able to understand what was written.

Deu 27:9

“the Levitical priests.” The Masoretic Hebrew text reads, “the priests the Levites.” Every priest was also a Levite. [For more on the Levitical priests, see commentary on 2 Chron. 30:27].

“This day.” Israel had just renewed their covenant with God (see commentary on Deut. 26:17). Israel had wandered for 40 years in the desert wilderness and the generation that came out of Egypt had died off after 40 years of complaining and disobedience. Now this next generation of people renewed the covenant with God and so God declared them to be His people, and it was with that elevated status that they would cross the Jordan River under Joshua’s leadership within the next month or so.

Deu 27:10(top)
Deu 27:11(top)
Deu 27:12

“these tribes are to stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people.” Half of the twelve tribes of Israel were to stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people, and half the tribes were to stand on Mount Ebal and speak the curses of Law. The priests and the ark of the covenant, which held the tablets with the Ten Commandments of the Law that Israel had sworn to obey, were in the valley in the middle. The meaning is clear enough: people either obeyed the Law and were blessed, or they disobeyed the Law and were cursed. There is no middle ground or fence to sit on. A person was either obedient to God or disobedient.

Deu 27:13(top)
Deu 27:14(top)
Deu 27:15

“a carved image or a cast image.” That is, an idol carved from wood or stone or an idol cast from metal.

“and sets it up in secret.” If a person made an idol in public, his sin is already covered under the Ten Commandment and his punishment is covered in the Law. So this law in Deuteronomy 27:15 goes further. If a person makes an idol in secret, the Bible is saying that it is still a sin in God’s eyes and the person will be cursed.

This should be a stern warning to the people today who have an idol, which can be an object in their house or which they wear on their body, a statue, “lucky object,” amulet that wards off an evil eye, or any kind of thing to which they ascribe the power to help or bless them and which receives special attention due to that fact. An idol does not have to be a statue of a known god or goddess to be an idol. In God’s eyes an idol is anything that is somehow paid homage to by receiving special attention and ascribed spiritual power. Those objects steal the honor and power that should be ascribed to God alone, and besides that they can attract demons into one’s life because the demons crave the honor being given to the object. God says the person with a secret idol will be cursed, and believers should take that very seriously and do what 1 John 5:21 says: “guard yourselves from idols.”

Deu 27:16

“dishonors.” The Hebrew word translated “dishonors” can also mean “shows contempt for,” or “insults.” All those meanings would be wrapped up in that word. This is the opposite of the fifth of the Ten Commandments: “honor your father and mother.”

Deu 27:17

“Cursed is the one who moves his neighbor’s boundary marker.” The fact that the command not to move someone’s boundary marker is stated twice in Deuteronomy (Deut. 19:14; 27:17) shows that it was a temptation to do but also that it was a very serious sin in God’s eyes. Stealing someone’s land is a crime and serious sin. Also see commentary on Deut 19:14.

Deu 27:18

“Cursed is anyone who leads a blind person astray on the road.” Although this command is very specific, we must remember that it is part of the “Torah,” the “Instruction,” and therefore has both specific application and wider application. In this context, the wider application is that handicapped people are not to be mistreated “for fun” or for profit. For example, a person can steal from the purse of a blind man and not worry about being identified in court or chased down the road, but just because there is no specific law about stealing from the blind does not mean that it is not a serious sin in God’s eyes (there is, of course, a command in the Law about not stealing).

Deu 27:19

“Cursed is anyone who denies the justice due to the foreigner, fatherless, or widow.” This command is similar to the one in Deuteronomy 24:17, but comes with a curse. This verse highlights the justice of God and the concern that people should have about how they will fare on Judgment Day, when each person is judged by God because it was often the case that the disadvantaged did not do well when they tried to bring wealthy and powerful people to court and get justice. The courts were often biased, and besides that, powerful people could cause trouble in many ways. The disadvantaged often found it easier and/or safer to try to live with the problem rather than to take it to court, and that may be the reality in human courts. However, on Judgment Day, when people stand before God, people will get what they deserve, so it is wise for a person to obey God now so that they will be blessed by Him later (see commentary on Ps. 62:10 and 2 Cor. 5:10).

Deu 27:20

“Cursed is anyone who lies with his father’s wife.” Deuteronomy 27:20-23 are four verses that deal with sexual sin, and the sins mentioned would normally be done in secret. So often these sins would not be discovered by people, but if they are left unconfessed and unatoned for, they will be revealed and have consequences on Judgment Day (see commentary on Ps. 62:12 and 2 Cor. 5:10). An important point to make in this context is that God designed the family, a father and mother with children, grandchildren, parents and grandparents, to be the center and stability of human society, and acts that tear the family unit apart are abhorrent to Him. This is not just a section of rules to make people “be good,” it covers situations that disrupt God’s design and purpose for the human family.

Deu 27:21

“Cursed is anyone who lies with any kind of animal.” This is also covered in Leviticus 18:23.

Deu 27:22

“Cursed is anyone who lies with his sister, the daughter of his father, or the daughter of his mother.” This is also covered in Leviticus 18:6.

Deu 27:23

“Cursed is anyone who lies with his mother-in-law.” This is also stated in Leviticus 18:17.

Deu 27:24

“Cursed is anyone who strikes down his neighbor in secret.” Up until quite recent times it could be relatively easy to kill someone and not get caught. But the murderer should not think that he or she would get away with it. God sees everything, and the person is cursed by God, which in the end is considerably worse than being caught by man.

Deu 27:25

“Cursed is anyone who takes a bribe to kill an innocent person.” Murder, or purposely putting someone’s life in danger such that they are killed is a serious crime and is punishable by death. People have the right to live in a safe society, and murders make it unsafe, so God says to put them to death. There is a lot about murder and the punishment for it in the Bible.

[For information on murder, manslaughter, and the death penalty for murder, see commentary on Exod. 21:12. Verses that speak about murder and manslaughter include Exod. 20:13; 21:12, 28-30; Deut. 5:17; and Num. 35:9-34].

Deu 27:26

“Cursed is anyone who does not uphold the words of this law by doing them.” Deuteronomy 27:26 is quoted in Galatians 3:10. It is a summary verse that includes all the other verses about keeping the Law and pronounces a curse upon the people who do not keep the Law, which is everyone. Paul quotes Deuteronomy 27:26 in Galatians 3:10, and quotes Leviticus 18:5 in Galatians 3:12, to show that no one can be righteous in God’s sight by keeping the law, a point Paul makes in Galatians 3:11. No one can be righteous in God’s sight by keeping the Law because no person with a sin nature—and all humans since Adam and Eve have a sin nature except Jesus—can keep the Law. So everyone is cursed, and the wages of sin is death, so everyone is destined to die unless God has some remedy for it, which thankfully He does. God sent His Son Jesus to be a curse for us (Gal 3:13) and to die in our place for our sins (Rom. 5:6-11, 18-19). So anyone who accepts Christ dying in their place by confessing Jesus as Lord and believing that God raised him from the dead will be saved and live forever (Rom. 10:9-10).

Here in Deuteronomy 27:26, the Hebrew word translated “uphold” could also be translated “fulfill” or “confirm.”


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