Saturday, December 01, 2007

Deuteronomy 27:9–26

Deuteronomy 27:9–26: Curses From Mount Ebal


This passage continues with the ceremonies the Israelites are following, as they enter the Promised Land. It starts with a proclamation, from Moses to the people:
Then Moses and the priests, who are Levites, said to all Israel, “Be silent, O Israel, and listen! You have now become the people of the LORD your God. Obey the LORD your God and follow his commands and decrees that I give you today.”
This being said, Moses creates two groups of people, representing the twelve tribes of Israel (six tribes in each group). These two groups are to stand on Mount Gerizim, and Mount Ebal, and the Israelites will pass between the two mountains, as they enter the Promised Land. The people on Mount Gerizim—from the tribes of Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph and Benjamin—are to pronounce blessings on the Israelites, as they pass by, and the people on Mount Ebal—from the tribes of Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan and Naphtali—are to pronounce curses. (I think the blessings and curses that they are to proclaim are coming in the next two passages, although I’m not 100% sure. The curses in this passage may be the curses that are being pronounced from Mount Ebal.)

After Moses sets up these two groups, he has the Levites recite a number of curses to the Israelites. The curses are all worded like this: “Cursed is the man who does such and such,” after which the people all say “Amen.” The following people are pronounced cursed:
  • Anyone who creates an idol
  • Anyone who dishonours his father or mother
  • Anyone who moves his neighbour’s boundary stone—meaning that the person tries to enlarge his territory illegally or dishonestly
  • Anyone who “leads the blind astray on the road” (verse 18)—I’m guessing that this is more than just purely literal
  • Anyone who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless, or the widow
  • Any man who sleeps with his father’s wife, for he “dishonors his father’s bed” (verse 20)
  • Anyone who has sex with an animal
  • Any man who sleeps with his sister (whether she be a “full” sister or a half sister)
  • Any man who sleeps with his mother-in-law
  • Anyone who secretly commits murder
  • Anyone who accepts a bribe to kill an innocent person—I’m assuming this is applying to judges, specifically, but there might be other cases where it would apply as well
  • Anyone who does not uphold the words of the law by carrying them out


All of the curses above actually say “cursed is the man,” where I just said “anyone.” I’m assuming that the laws apply equally to men and women.

I find the LORD’s approach to leading the people into the Promised Land very interesting. He reminds the people of His commands, and gives them the carrot and the stick: If you follow the laws, you’ll be blessed, and if you don’t, you’ll be cursed. In the next couple of chapters, He will give them the blessings and cursings that they can expect as a nation, for obedience or disobedience.

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