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season.* A direction of the same purport I understand to be next given in relation to the time, when, having surmounted in two years the embarrassments of a first settlement, he should present himself on the third with his offering of Tithes.t And the people, in conclusion, are briefly assured, that if true to the obligations and engagements, which they had been so honored in being permitted to assume, they would not fail to experience what designs of unequalled favor their Divine Benefactor had conceived for them, when he who was addressing them should have passed away.f
* Deut. xxvi. 1-11.
f xxvi. 12 - 15.
| xxvi. 16- 19.
DEUTERONOMY XXVII. 1.- XXXIV. 12.
MOSES COMMANDS THE ERECTION OF AN ALTAR ON THE WEST SIDE
OF JORDAN, — THE INSCRIPTION THEREUPON OF IMPRECATIONS TO
HE GIVES A
PUBLICLY EVERY SEVENTH YEAR, ACCOMPANIES JoshuA TO RECEIVE A DIVINE COMMUNICATION AT THE TABERNACLE. — THE BOOK CLOSES WITH THE RECORDS OF HIS DIRECTION CONCERNING THE PLACE of DEPOSIT OF THE Law,- OF AN ODE, REPRESENTED TO BE
HIM IN THE PRESENCE OF THE CONGREGATION, — OF His Last BENEDICTION OF THE TRIBES, AND OF HIS DEATH AND BURIAL. - REMARKS ON THE ABSENCE FROM THE LAW OF ANY SANCTION DERIVED FROM A FUTURE Life.
At the end of the eleventh chapter of this book, before entering on the recital of those laws which we have last been considering, Moses had hinted at a solemn ceremony, by which he designed that the people, on first occupying their destined country, should consecrate themselves anew to the service of him, who, at length, had fulfilled his word, in their secure establishment in the home of their fathers. Proceeding now to prescribe that ceremony, he directs, that, first, certain imprecations, which he specifies, upon the perpetrator of particular crimes, having been engraved upon the stones of an altar, to be erected on a mountain in the centre of the country, shall be pronounced aloud by the
Levites, and responded to, in like manner, by the Amen
Such, at least, is my understanding of the narration,
† xxxi. 9 - 13, 24 - 26.
to be intended, to which, however, no reference is made, either in the direction of Moses, or in the account of its fulfilment by his successor.* Lastly, under the guidance of the context, and in a very proper application of the word rendered “law," (a word signifying instruction, injunction, of any kind, which the imprecations may rightly be considered, — not to say that the writing and utterance of them were, strictly speaking, a law of Moses,) some have regarded the curses recorded in the latter part of the twenty-seventh chapter, and the blessings at the beginning of the next, as together composing the law in question.f But this, I think, is still assigning a too great comprehensiveness to the present use of that word. The benedictions, here proposed to be included, correspond to the other curses, by which they are followed, at greater length, in the same chapter, and (if I mistake not) were destined with them to the second use which I have specified above; viz. that of being rehearsed by the twelve tribes, after the first ceremony (that of the reading aloud, by the Levites, of the twelve imprecations engraved on the altar stones) had been concluded. Those first twelve imprecations, brought together in one list, and suited (as one sees at a glance that they are) to such a use, by their concise and pointed statement, so different from the diffuse form of most of what follows, I take to be the law which Moses directed to be inscribed on the altar. I And such, I think we shall see reason to believe, was the view that Joshua entertained of the command, according to the account of his proceeding to execute it, preserved in the book called by his name.
* Josh. viii. 30–35.
+ This view dates as far back as Josephus. See his “ Antiq. Jud.," lib. 4, cap. 8, § 44.
| Deut. xxvii. 1-8. “ And Moses, with the elders of Israel, commanded the people” &c. (1); he had been hitherto addressing the elders (compare p. 165); he now dismisses them with a direction to ac, quaint the people, in their several divisions, with the intended solemnity.
“ Thou shalt set thee up great stones, and plaster them with plaster
The question concerning the selection of the twelve
(2). The commentators have largely debated the question, what could be the use of this plaster for a monumental inscription, designed, as they assume, to be lasting. One will have it, that the letters were raised in black stone, in relief, and that the plaster between was intended to make them more conspicuous; another, that it was used to cover over the inscription, to the end that, when the lime decayed, the inscription should be revealed to a future age. I submit, that all this perplexity grows out of a misconception of the spirit of the arrangement. Had Moses directed, or permitted, an expensive altar to be built, and carved with an inscription suited to last, a great idea of sanctity at least would have attached to it. There would have been danger, that he would be considered as fixing the place of worship for the nation. This he by no means intended to do (compare Deut. xii. 5, 11, 21, &c.); it was a point upon which he always held himself in reserve. Besides, at such a critical period, he would by no means have been willing that the people should pause in their career of conquest, to finish an elaborate work of art. Accordingly, with reference to an occasion which was to arise for an altar and an inscription, he directs, as before on a similar occasion (compare xxvii. 5, 6; Ex. xx. 24, 25; xxiv. 4, 5), that the former shall be constructed in the rudest manner, and the latter cut in a substance which would easily receive an inscription, and which would fall to pieces, as soon as it had served its use. - Verse 2, with the words, "and thou shalt write upon them all the words of this law” (3), are a brief statement of what is directed, more fully, in the passage extending thence to verse 8.- In 3, 4, the punctuation in our version is bad. From “ when” (beginning a period with that word) we should read as follows; “When thou art passed over, that thou mayest go in, (3) ..... then (4) it shall be, when ye be gone over Jordan" &c. " In Mount Ebal” (4); the Samaritan Pentateuch here reads Mount Gerizim. Which is the true lection, has been a question much discussed. Kennicott preferred the Samaritan, urging, for instance, that Gerizim was the mountain, from which blessings were pronounced; that the fact of the Samaritans having built their temple afterwards on Gerizim, when they might have built on Ebal as well, proves their conviction that the former was the site of Moses' altar; and that Jotham (Judges ix.), who uttered his remonstrances to the Shechemites from Gerizim, is to be presumed to have chosen the place where the altar was standing or had stood. All which has been retorted as follows; that the proper place for the altar was that, whence imprecations were to be uttered; that the Samaritans would have been more likely to choose Gerizim for their temple, as being a blessed spot, than Ebal, as being the