Deuteronomy 27:1-3 Although Moses will be dying shortly, the law of God will remain. God’s commands, which includes benedictions and maledictions need to be taught to future generations. Chapters 12-26 itemize the obligations of the covenant. Moses gathered the elders to instruct them to convey and instruct the statues and judgments of the covenant to the people. This was to be done when they crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land. They were to display on giant stones (like Stonehenge in England) the 10 commandments. They were to coat the stones with plaster and paint the commands on the white background. All the commands are summarized in the 10 and form the overview of all the commands of the covenant God made with Israel. This was God’s way of calling Israel to be reminded that God had kept His promise to bring then into the Promised Land.
Deuteronomy 27:4-6 The memorial stones were to be prepared after the people crossed the Jordan and entered the promised land. They were to be set up on Mt. Ebal which overlooked Shechem. Shechem was one of the first places where God appeared to Abraham and gave him the assurance of the promised land (Ge. 12:6–7). Then Israel was called to dedicate this covenant memorial by building an altar of stones and offering sacrifices to God. No tools were to be used to shape the stones of the altar, doing so would defile the altar and sacrifices. The Lord wanted Israel to understand that the only approach to him was with gifts that he provided: “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). We too are called to covenant with God to follow, obey and keep His commandments. We are to write His commands on our hearts (Deut 6:5-6).
Deuteronomy 27:7-8 Once there was compliance to setting up the stones and altar, Israel could then enjoy the blessings that flow from worshipping God (He is your praise and He is your God, who has done these great and awesome things for you which your eyes have seen. Deut 10:21) The blood of the animals provided atonement and the flesh provided a meal before and with the Lord. They were to eat the offerings, rejoicing in the presence of the LORD.
Deuteronomy 27:9-10 Israel here is warned about the consequences for unfaithfulness to the covenant. Moses gathered the priests to lead a ceremony before the Lord confirming the terms of the covenant they had accepted (Deut. 26:16-17). This ceremony established them as the people of the Lord. This was not a unilateral covenant but involved two parties, God, and Israel. Israel needed to know God’s part, He made them His people and set them apart to be a holy nation and witnesses to the world. They had made the commitment to follow God and accepted them as His people, His treasured possession. Israel’s part was to keep the covenant, obey the Lord, and follow His commandments. It would be their love for God that would be the motivation to obey and keep His commands. “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19). (Deut 10:12) “Now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Christians are similarly called, for as Israel was called and chosen by God’s grace so too are they. As Israel was charged to be obedient to God’s commands so too are Christians. John 15:10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
Deuteronomy 27:11-13 The people were to be divided into two groups. The first group would stand on Mount Gerizim and bless the people. It would consist of Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph and Benjamin. The listing is noteworthy in that it consists of seven tribes enumerated under six headings, since Joseph consisted of two tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh. This was apparently necessary because it was important that Levi be included in this process. The priestly tribe might serve as mediators of Yahweh’s worship system, but it was important that everyone realize that they were subject to the terms of the covenant just as their countrymen were.
The second group, consisting of Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan and Naphtali, were to stand on Mount Ebal and express the curses of the covenant. In effect, the covenant ceremony would become a sort of antiphonal expression of the consequences of obedience (blessings) or disobedience (the curses).
Deuteronomy 27:14-15. The people listened as the Levites repeated the benedictions and maledictions, and then they were to add their amen after each one was recited. The first curse addressed the making and possessing an image or an idol. The foolishness of this is seen in that it is the work of man’s hands using materials that God had created. These sins were breaking the first and second commandments of Ex. 20:3-6.
Deuteronomy 27:16 The next curse addressed the one who dishonored his father or mother. The Hebrew dishonor means “to make light of” or disrespect. We see this sin targeted when Yeshua rebuked the traditions of the Pharisees: “You say that if a man says to his father or mother: “Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban” (that is, a gift devoted to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. Thus, you nullify the word of God by your tradition” (Mark 7:11-13).
Deuteronomy 27:17-19 Other violations cited here is the moving of a neighbor’s boundary stone. This is a form of theft. The Lord owned all of Israel’s Land and had assigned it when the tribes were allotted their portions. Those who led the blind astray, such as the blind, alien, fatherless or the widow incurred the curse of God. Though others may not be aware of such sin, the God who sees our hearts will enforce the terms of the covenant.
Deuteronomy 27:20-23 Still another area of secret sin is in sexual misconduct. The first deals with someone who engages in sexual relations with his father’s wife. This likely describes a stepmother, or a widowed stepmother. This was considered incest and was an act of rebellion against The Lord and because it dishonored a father’s marriage bed. This was the sin of Reuben with Rachel’s handmaid Bilhah who became a “wife” to Jacob (Gen 35:22; 1 Chron 5:1). Bestiality would also result in being cursed by The Lord as was incest, with a sister, half-sister, or mother-in-law.
Deuteronomy 27:24-25 Murder is still another crime that is usually done in secret. There is no perfect crime among God’s people since The Lord sees everything. Killing in anger was not a prerequisite for this curse it included those who at the behest of another would kill an innocent person.
Deuteronomy 27:26 This chapter ends with a summary curse on all who did not uphold the words of God’s law by doing them. These curses pronounced here are not in any way associated with magic or incantations but the ability of the omnipresent and omniscient God to enforce his covenant with His people. All men will be judged based on God’s general revelation (nature and creation order Rom 1:20) even if they are unaware of the special revelation of God’s Word. Though Moses will soon die the law of the Lord endures forever as does the consequences for breaking them. That is why we have the responsibility to teach them to future generations, ignorance will not be an excuse.