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Moses and the elders prescribe the rituals to be performed when Israel arrives in the Promised Land.
Moses (joined now by the Levitical Priests) reaffirms God’s covenantal relationship with Israel.
In these verses, Moses continued to describe the covenant renewal ceremony. He arranged the people of Israel into two sets of six tribes in preparation of the recitation of the blessings and curses that follow. These verses should be read together with Joshua 8:30 – 35, where these instructions are fulfilled.
This section contains a list of twelve curses that the Levites were to recite to the Israelites. Upon hearing each curse, the Israelites are to respond by saying ‘Amen.’
The book of Deuteronomy is the fifth and last book of the Torah (“law”). It continues the story of the first 4 books and picks up exactly where the book of Numbers ends (with the people on the plain of Moab). Therefore, as we set the context for the book of Deuteronomy, it is important that we briefly summarize the theme of the previous books to see how the story of God unfolds.
Genesis describes God’s plan to bless the Israelites and the world through one man named Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3). Exodus focuses on God’s loving act by which He rescued the Israelites from Egypt in order to have a covenant relationship with them. Once the children of Israel are redeemed, Leviticus instructs them to live a holy life that reflects the life of their covenant redeemer (cf. Lev. 19). Since the first generation of the Israelites failed to obey God wholeheartedly, the book of Numbers displays a strong contrast between God’s faithfulness and the nation’s failure. That is why the book of Deuteronomy reiterates and expands on the covenant to a new generation of Israelites poised to enter and conquer the Promised Land. The message of the book is centered around two key terms: love and loyalty (Deut. 6:4-5).
Outline of Deuteronomy:
I. Introduction: Moses will explain the law (1:1 – 5)
II. Moses’ First Sermon – a Recounting of the LORD’s Faithfulness (1:6 – 4:43)
III. Introduction to Second Sermon on expositing the Law (4:43 – 49)
IV. Moses’ Second Sermon – an Exposition of the Law Given at Mt. Sinai (5:1 – 26:19)
V. Script for Covenant Renewal Ceremony Once they enter the land (27:1 – 29:1)
VI. Moses’ Third Sermon – a Call to Obedience (29:2 – 30:20)
VII. The Last Acts of Moses (31:1 – 34:12)
Deuteronomy 27 contains instructions regarding the preparations for the covenant renewal ceremony between the Suzerain (Yahweh) and His vassals (Israel). This section extends through Deuteronomy 29:1. In this chapter, Moses (joined by the elders) prescribed the ceremony to be performed when Israel arrives in the Promised Land as well as curses that would occur if the vassals disobeyed specific stipulations of the covenant.
Deuteronomy 27 can be outlined as follows:
• The Ceremony at Shechem (Deuteronomy 27:1 – 13)
o The Command to Assemble at Mount Ebal (Deuteronomy 27:1 – 8)
o The Exhortation to Obey the Covenant (Deuteronomy 27:9 – 10)
o The Preparation for the Covenant Renewal Ceremony (Deuteronomy 27:10 – 13)
• The Curses for Covenant Disobedience (Deuteronomy 27:14 – 26)