Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Ancients,
particularly the priests, ver. 9. (Haydock) --- These exhorted the people to observe diligently, what they had all
heard from the mouth of Moses, chap. v. i. (Calmet)
Ver. 2. Stones.
The Latin translation of the Samaritan copy, defines the number to be two, (Exodus xx. 18,) and shews that the law, which
was to be written upon them, was no other than the decalogue, to which the curses and blessings here recorded have a direct
reference. When no number is specified, the dual is commonly understood. (Haydock) (Leviticus xii. 5, &c.) --- Two large
stones would be sufficient to contain the words of the decalogue, and they would more strikingly represent the two tables
written with the finger of God. They were probably first polished, and the letters raised upon them in relievo, as
the Arabic marbles in the University of Oxford are done. The white plaster being then used to fill up the interstices between
the letters of black marble, the words would appear very plainly. (Kennicott, Dis. 2.) --- Others think that a high
and durable monument was raised both for an altar and for the inscription, though some would allow four others for this purpose.
(Calmet) --- Plaster. The Hebrew does not specify all over; and Houbigant supposes, that the cement was only
used to join the stones together. Neither do the Hebrew or Septuagint intimate that the plaster was laid on for the purpose
of writing more easily.
Ver. 3. That,
&c. Hebrew and Septuagint, "And thou shalt write upon them (stones) all the words of," &c. (Haydock) --- This law,
the decalogue, (Masius in Josue viii. 32,) or all the laws of Moses, leaving out the historical parts of his work, or the
20th and three following chapters of Exodus, or the discourses of Moses in this book, &c. Josue, in effect, wrote upon
stones the Deuteronomy of the law of Moses, which Josephus explains of the curses and blessings inscribed upon the two
sides of the monument, as an abridgment of the whole law. (Calmet) --- The Jordan is not in Hebrew expressly, but in
the Septuagint. After the Israelites had crossed this river, they were thus to make a solemn profession of their adherence
to the law of God, (Haydock) as they did (ver. 12,) after they had taken Hai; though Josephus insinuates, that they deferred
for five years the accomplishment of what is here required. (Tirinus)
Ver. 4. Hebal.
It affords a matter of surprise to Ludolf, that this barren mountain of cursing, (ver. 13,) should be fixed upon by God, for
the erection of his altar and for solemn feasting, instead of Garizim, which is most luxuriant. Reland believes that their
very names designate sterility and fruitfulness. But we must observe that the Samaritan copy, both here and
Exodus xx., specifies that Garizim was to be the place so highly distinguished. Almost all interpreters agree in condemning
the Samaritans of a wilful corruption of their text, on this account. But Kennicott adduces several very plausible arguments
in their defence, and even throws the blame upon the Jews, who are accused of having taken similar liberties with their text,
by St. Jerome, (Galatians iii. 10,) in leaving out the word col, all, which he found in the Samaritan Pentateuch, (ver.
26,) as well as in St. Paul. It is remarkable that the Protestant "version allows the corruption of the present Hebrew copies.
For as it inserts other necessary words elsewhere, so here, says the Doctor, it inserts the word all, noting it with
a different character, as deficient in the present Hebrew." Another plain instance of fraud is acknowledged by many of the
Jews, (Judges xviii. 30,) where, because the grandson of their lawgiver became the first priest of Michas' idol, in the tribe
of Dan, they have inserted an n over or in the name of Moses, to change it into Manasseh. "The letter nun was written,
says Jarchi, in order to change the name for the honour of Moses." (Talmud, fol. 109.) Michaelis adduces the same reason from
Abendana, (Gottingen, comment. 4, 1753) thus acknowledging a wilful corruption made by the Jews, which in the former volume
he had asserted had never yet been clearly proved against them. Kennicott himself had once been of the same persuasion. Josue
xv. 60, eleven cities are omitted, perhaps originally by mistake, though St. Jerome thinks that they may have been left out
by the ancient Jews, because Bethlehem Ephrata is there described as in the tribe of Juda, agreeably to the prophecy of Micheas
v. 2. It seems, therefore, that the Jews were as capable of falsifying the text as the Samaritans. Their hatred against the
latter was also excessive, insomuch that they vented all sorts of imprecations against them, and even decreed, "that no Israelite
eat of any thing that is a Samaritan's, nor that nay Samaritan be proselyted to Israel, nor have nay part in the resurrection."
(R. Tanchum.) (Walton, proleg. 11. 4.) --- Hence we read, (John iv. 9,) the Jews do not communicate with the Samaritans.
See Ecclesiasticus 1. 25.[l. 28.?] Many passages of the New Testament set the character of the latter, however, in a more
favourable light than that of the Jews. They were open to conviction, on the preaching of Christ and of the apostles. See
St. Chrysostom on John iv., and the history of the Samaritan cured of the leprosy, whose behaviour, contrasted with the ingratitude
of the nine Jews, obtained the glorious approbation of the Son of God, who disdained not to describe himself, on another occasion,
under the character of the good Samaritan, Luke x., and xvii. The Samaritans are also acknowledged by the Jews themselves,
to be more zealous for the law of Moses, and more rigid observers of the letter of it, than the people of their own nation.
(Obadias; Hottinger.) --- It is not probable, therefore, that they would designedly interpolate that very law, which alone
they received as of divine authority among the writings of the prophets. Besides, what interest could they have on this occasion
to substitute Garizim? As they had possession of both the mountains in question, if they had known that Hebal had been honoured
with the altar, &c., what hindered them from building their temple upon it? What could be the reason why Joatham chose
Mount Garizim as the place from which he might address the men of Sichem, to bring them to a sense of their duty? unless because
he was convinced not only that Abraham had sacrificed there when he first came into Chanaan, (Genesis xii. 6,) but also that
God had chosen it for the place where his covenant with Israel should be ratified, as soon as the Israelites had taken possession
of the country. But it may be said all the ancient versions agree with the Hebrew. No doubt those which have been taken from
that text agree with it. But the Samaritans have a version in their own dialect, and another in Arabic, both which were in
the possession of Walton, who believes that the former "was made not long after the days of Esdras, while the Samaritans and
the Jews followed the same religion." This, as well as the Arabic, which is extant in this place, both in its own and in the
Samaritan character, all admit the word Garizim; and the Greek version, which some believe was made from the same text soon
after the reign of Alexander the Great, (Hottinger) if it really ever existed, must no doubt have retained the same reading.
These versions claim a higher antiquity than that of the Septuagint. But in reality the versions can prove nothing on either
side, in the present case, as the interpolation is supposed to have taken place before they were made, and soon after the
building of the famous temple of Sanaballat, which Prideaux places about the year 409, B.C. This temple chiefly enkindled
the mortal hatred of the Jews against the Samaritans; and as it was built upon Mount Garizim, they were afraid lest they might
from this text conciliate greater authority to that place, and assert that it was the house of the sanctuary, as they afterwards
did, having priests of the stock of Aaron, who there offered holocausts, when Benjamin visited them above 400 years ago. Their
claim however was unjustifiable, and their priesthood schismatical. Though Moses commanded that an altar should be erected
on one of these mountains, he did not determine that the ark was to remain there for ever, nor does he seem to have decided
where it was to be fixed. God afterwards chose Mount Sion for his habitation, and revealed his will by his prophets. These
the Samaritans ought to have obeyed, as well as the pastors, whom the Almighty had commissioned to determine all difficult
matters, chap. xvii. The text before us decides nothing in their favour. The substitution of Hebal makes nothing against them,
much less does it establish the pretensions of the Jews, who, if they had intended to authorize the building of the temple
at Jerusalem, ought rather, it should seem, to have written Moria or Sion. As they have not done this, perhaps it may be as
well to admit that this variation may have originally happened, by the inadvertency or malice of some transcriber of great
authority, whose copy being followed by others for some time, without any criminal design, might at last supersede the proper
word, particularly when the erroneous reading was become common, and was found to annoy an enemy. Authors of great eminence
are forced, at least, to account for many variations of equal importance in this manner. It seems difficult to lay the blame
of such mistakes upon a whole nation, which can never be prevailed upon to join in the collusion so heartily, but that some
man of more conscience than the rest will expose the imposture. When this variation took place, we may well suppose that the
copies of the law were not very numerous. After a succession of wicked princes had reigned in Judea, they drew down the vengeance
of God upon the whole nation, and almost all were led away captives to Babylon, where they remained seventy years. In this
state of confusion, while impiety overflowed the land, how few would have an opportunity or a will to take an exact copy of
the law! Some have thought that it was almost entirely forgotten in the days of Joas. Others have asserted that Esdras had
to write afresh, as it were by inspiration, all that had been given by the more ancient sacred penmen. These opinions are
not indeed to be admitted, but they shew that many have supposed that the copies of the law were once exceedingly scarce.
Perhaps they were never more so than when the Jews were just returning from captivity, the time when the schismatical temple
of Garizim was erected, and when, we have before observed, this variation is supposed to have taken place. Josephus, though
a bitter enemy of the Samaritans, speaks with hesitation respecting the precise situation of the altar prescribed by Moses.
The ancient Fathers seem to have taken no notice of this controversy, perhaps because it was not yet agitated with so much
heat as it has been since. Our Saviour condemns neither party. If however the Samaritan copy be in this respect interpolated,
as we know the reason of it, the authority of the whole Pentateuch must not on that account be rejected, as Houbigant well
observes. The Jews objected to the Samaritans, that they had inserted the word Sichem: (chap. xi. 30,) "I have said to you,
O Samaritans, ye have falsified your law: for ye say the plain of More which is Sichem. (they add Sichem of their own
accord.) We ourselves indeed confess that the plain of Moreh is Sichem." (Eliezer.) --- Lightfoot, who mentions these words,
(V. ii. p. 505,) expresses great surprise at this Jew's accusing the Samaritans of so slight a matter, and at his not at all
mentioning that far greater subornation as to Mount Garizim. What seems still more wonderful is, that no such accusation is
brought against them in that famous dispute which Josephus ([Antiquities?] xiii. 3,) informs us took place before king Ptolemy,
in which the parties bound themselves by oath to produce their proofs according to the law; and yet the historian mentions
not one text from it, nor does he insinuate that the Samaritans were arraigned on account of any wilful corruption, which
might then have been so easily proved. The king condemned them unheard, if we believe Josephus, though the Samaritans give
quite a different account, and say that Ptolemy decreed the victory to them. (Act. Erud. Lips. 1691.) See Josue viii. 30.
Ver. 5. Stones:
the same as those which composed the monument, (Calmet) or rather different from them, (Menochius) as those were polished,
Ver. 6. Polished.
Hebrew simply, "of whole stones."
Ver. 8. And
clearly. Hebrew, "very plainly;" (Haydock) so that they might be easily read. Some Rabbins say that Josue wrote them in
70 different languages, that all nations might read them. Happy expedient! (Calmet)
Ver. 12. Garizim.
The children of Jacob, by Lia and Rachel, have the more honourable function of blessing, while those of the handmaids, with
Ruben and Zabulon, the first and the last sons of Lia, at their head, on Hebal, have to answer to the various curses which
were to be proclaimed by the priests and Levites, ver. 14. These were stationed with the ark, between the two mountains; and
when they pronounced, for example, "Blessed is he that maketh not a graven or molten thing," &c., those on Garizim answered
Amen; and when they turned towards those on Hebal, and said, Cursed, &c., they replied in like manner. In
the mean time, the body of the Levites might be with the other five tribes on Mount Garizim, though the priests, and those
of greater dignity, might remain beside the ark, to perform this sacred function; as we read in Josue that they were stationed
between the two divisions of the army. (Bonfrere) --- Some think that Levi is placed with the rest only according to the order
of his birth, and that Joseph stands for two tribes. (Vatable) --- Josephus asserts, that the whole army was divided into
two parts, as well as the tribe of Levi, part of which stood on each of the mountains. Then the tribes on Garizim prayed that
God would bless the observers of his law; and those on Hebal answered, Amen; and after they had repeated the same blessings,
those on Garizim made a similar acclamation. In like manner, they repeated the curses one after another. (Calmet) --- But
this would make both the mountains equal in dignity. He places the altar likewise, with the inscription of blessings and curses
on each side of it, in the midst of the valley, or rather nearer to Garizim; as he says it was not far from Sichem,
which was built at the foot of that mountain, on the north side, while Hebal lay still farther to the north of the city, and
being scorched with the sun-beams, was rendered fruitless and unpleasant. (Haydock) --- If Josephus afterwards (Antiquities
v. 1,) say that the altar was on Hebal, we must either acknowledge that his work has been there interpolated, or that
he contradicts himself. Kennicott also takes notice of a strange mistake in the grand edition of St. Ephrem, in the Latin
translation, by Benedict; which, in opposition to the Syriac, has (ver. 13,) "these shall rise to curse on Mount Garizim,"
though Hebal is universally allowed to be the mount of cursing.
Ver. 14. Pronounce.
Hebrew, "answer," as the older Protestant editions, 1540, &c., had it; though "our last translators, 1613, says Kennicott,
in this, as in several other instances, altered for the worse," shall speak. A select company of Levites in the valley,
repeated what had been declared from Hebal.
Ver. 15. Thing.
Protestant, any....image. They insert the word any, and translate image, as they almost constantly
do where idols are meant, to make the ignorant believe, that all images are to be rejected with the utmost abhorrence, as
cursed things. Why then do they not observe the injunction themselves? (Chap. xvi. 22.) (Haydock) --- Secret.
The magistrates had to punish all acts of public idolatry with the utmost severity. But God will not suffer those to escape
who do such things even in the most private manner. --- Amen, truly; (Calmet) so be it.
Ver. 16. Honoureth
not. Hebrew, "curseth." Septuagint, "despiseth." See Leviticus xx. 9. --- "Exodus xxi. 17., Moses proclaimed, He that
curseth his father or (Hebrew and) mother, shall die the death." But here he goes still farther, and denounces
a curse on those who make light of (Hebrew makle, vilipendit) their parents; or, as the Carthusian expresses it not
amiss, on him "who does not honour, by shewing them obedience in due time, or by not relieving their wants as far as possible;
and chiefly, if instead of honouring, he curses and uses opprobrious language towards them." "I have made this remark, says
Amama, (p. 376,) in order to admonish the Germans and the Dutch that this passage has been translated by Luther with too great
carelessness, curseth, as if the same Hebrew word, kalal, were here used as in the text of Exodus. But those
who are not too brazen, will confess that the Hebrew text, and the more accurate versions, require greater reverence to be
shewn to parents. Etiam illi judicabunt qui nondum śre lavantur." This author, in his animadversions upon the Vulgate,
often takes occasion to mention the blunders "of B. Luther," as well as of the Septuagint and other interpreters; for he seems
to be satisfied with no version which has hitherto been published. (Haydock)
Ver. 17. Landmarks,
contrary to the prohibition, chap. xix. 14. The Rabbins say that Cain first adopted such distinctions. The ancient Greeks
placed little pillars at the end of their fields, with the name of the owner engraven upon them. (Pollux, iii. 9.) --- All
Thrace was divided in this manner. (Xenophon, Anab.)
Ver. 18. Blind;
or, according to the Rabbins and Grotius, those who are on a journey, and do not know the road. "Cursed, said Diphilis, is
the man who does not tell the right road." Those who lead the simple astray, are no less blameable, Leviticus xix. 14. (Calmet)
Ver. 23. Mother.
Some copies of the Septuagint have "daughter-in-law;" and some Latin manuscripts add, "Cursed is he who sleepeth with his
neighbour's wife; and all the people shall say, Amen." (Calmet)
Ver. 24. Secretly,
as is commonly the case; though such as committed murder in public, were equally if not more guilty. (Haydock) --- Assassins,
traitors, and those guilty of calumny, &c., are to be abhorred.
Ver. 26. In
the. The Samaritan, Septuagint, and St. Paul (Galatians iii. 10,) read, in all the words, &c., which must probably
be understood of the principal points of the law, specified in the preceding verses. (Calmet) See ver. 4. --- The Jews could
derive no advantage from the omission of the word all, as the general proposition would be equivalent. (Capellus.)
--- Some are of opinion, that the blessings which Moses ordered to be proclaimed, were the reverse of these curses, ver. 12.
But, is that man truly blessed who observes one point of the law, while he perhaps is transgressing the rest? At this rate,
the same man might be blessed and cursed at the same time. (Kennicott) --- They are more probably, therefore, expressed in
the following chapter, where the observance of all the commandments is previously required. The curses are denounced indefinitely,
to imply that those who transgress the law, must stand before an unerring Judge, to receive an adequate punishment in eternity
for their crying sins against the law, which was given on Mount Horeb, chap. xxix. 1. Against such criminals the preceding
curses are levelled. But those recorded in the ensuing chapter, are of a temporary nature, and to be publicly inflicted without
delay upon those who refuse to adhere to the service of the Lord. "God had made such a covenant with the Israelites, says
Houbigant, that he would so long uphold their republic as they should worship the true God." (Haydock) --- The foregoing curses
may thus refer to the ten commandments; ver. 15, denounces vengeance against all who transgress the first table of the law,
which relates to God; ver. 16, sanctions the honour due to parents; ver. 18, 24, and 25, condemn those who injure or kill;
as ver. 20, 21, 22, and 23, do those who are guilty of impurity; ver. 17, curseth those who steal; and ver. 19, those who
bear false witness; ver. 26, is intended as a general sanction of the law, as the two last commandments secure the observance
of it most effectually, by forbidding even the thought or desire of doing evil. See Kennicott, Dis. ii. p. 86. (Haydock)