Deuteronomy 27 Bible Commentary

John Darby’s Synopsis

(Read all of Deuteronomy 27)
The law written on the altar: blessings or curses following obedience or disobedience

Now comes the sanction—that is to say, that which gives vigour to His law—in the consequences (blessings and curses) which were to correspond with obedience or disobedience. This is brought out in chapter 27 and two following chapters.

Chapter 27 is by itself, however, and is of rather wide scope in the understanding of the word of God. If individual piety expressed itself in the manner we have seen in the preceding chapter, the public relations of the people with God were based on the threats of the law. When the people should have gone over Jordan to take possession of the land of promise (an idea which constantly presents itself), having set up great stones and plastered them with plaster, they were to write the law upon them. This law contained the conditions on which the land was to be enjoyed.

Mounts Ebal and Gerizim

The people were to divide themselves into two companies of tribes, part being placed upon Mount Gerizim to bless, the other upon Ebal to curse. Upon the latter was an altar to be erected to Jehovah, not for sin-offerings, but for burnt-offerings and peace-offerings: a worship pre-supposing a righteous people in communion with Jehovah, but placed under the curse if they should break the law. The announcement of the curses follows, ending with that curse which would rest on every one, not continuing in all the things which were written in the book of the law to do them. But the blessings of Gerizim are entirely omitted.

It is needless to insist upon the importance of this blank. The apostle seizes on it as the place of all under the law. "As many as are of the works of the law [1] are under the curse," says the apostle: "for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law." There is no possibility of escape. No one, except the Lord Jesus, has accomplished it; and He, if one may so speak, did not raise an altar for burnt-offering, an altar of worship for a righteous man who had fulfilled the law—for Himself alone; but He offered Himself for us on that mountain of cursing as an offering for sin, and has thus silenced for ever all those threats and curses. The blessing of Gerizim, consequently, is not sufficient either. Heaven, and, moreover, for Him, the Father's throne, are the only worthy answer and reward for what He has accomplished by suffering for our sins. But this is the righteousness of God, giving to Christ, and so consequently to us, what He was fully entitled to in having glorified God, and to us what He has obtained for us.

The principles of chapters 26 and 27

The connection between the principles of chapter 26 and those of chapter 27 is deeply interesting: the fulfilment of the promise in the enjoyment of the land, the basis of thanksgivings and of the worship which has its source in redemption; afterwards the altar, the service to be rendered to God, a service linked to His law, the violation of which, in a single point, brought the curse. This was the condition of their enjoyment of it.

It is in that point of view, the only one which went to the root of the question, that the apostle looks at it. It is on the ground of this covenant of Deuteronomy that the people became the people of Jehovah on their entering the land (compare vers. 2, 10, and chap. 29: 1).

[1] This expression does not contemplate the conduct, but the principle on which we stand before God. Those who are of faith are linked with faithful Abraham; those that are of the works of the law are under the curse, for the law saith, "Cursed," etc.