Deuteronomy 27 Study Notes


27:1-13 Israel received the covenant on the plains of Moab but had to wait until they arrived in Canaan to formalize it by a mass ceremony of commitment. This would include the building of a monument containing the fundamental principles of the relationship, a covenant meal, and a catalog of curses and blessings.

27:1-4,8 All the words of this law probably comprised the Ten Commandments, which were to be written on the plastered stones on Mount Ebal, i.e., in Shechem.

27:5-7 The burnt offerings provided a means of dealing with sins and trespasses, thus opening the way to fellowship with the Lord. The fellowship offerings were essential to the making and reaffirmation of the covenant relationship (Ex 24:3-8).

27:9-10 The statement that this day you have become the people of the Lord your God does not mean that just now Israel had entered into that relationship for the first time. It represents a renewal of the covenant by which Israel, in a sense, was becoming the people of the Lord all over again.

27:11-13 Referring again to the upcoming covenant renewal conclave at Shechem (v. 4), Moses instructed the people upon their arrival there to divide into two groups by tribes, half on Mount Gerizim and half on Mount Ebal. Like a great antiphonal chorus, the tribes on Mount Gerizim would shout out the blessings and the tribes on Mount Ebal would shout the curses of the covenant commitments in the hearing of the Levites in the valley below (v. 14).


Hebrew pronunciation [shah MAR]
CSB translation keep, watch, guard
Uses in Deuteronomy 73
Uses in the OT 469
Focus passage Deuteronomy 27:1

Shamar means keep (Gn 17:9), maintain, tend, preserve, continue, or guarantee. It is watch, observe (Ezk 43:11), take note, or notice. It denotes stand watch, guard (Gn 3:24), restrain, safeguard, protect, watch over, care for (Ex 22:10), take care of, look after, be in charge of, or be responsible for. People do, obey, carry out (Jos 22:3), fulfill, or perform duties. Shamar means besiege (2Sm 11:16), avoid (Ps 17:4), or preserve (2Sm 22:44). One is devoted to or cherishes (Jnh 2:8). Participles signify watchman, guardian, keeper, spy (Jdg 1:24), or sentry. Passive participles indicates secured (2Sm 23:5) or saved. Passive-reflexive verbs convey make/be sure (Gn 24:6), pay attention (Ex 23:13), calm down, and be careful, on guard, or kept safe (Ps 37:28). With other verbs shamar implies carefully or exactly (Nm 23:12). People spare life, follow instruction, uphold justice, remain faithful, harbor rage, and accept rebuke.

27:14-15 The list of curses began with a word of judgment against anyone who made a carved idol or cast image, a violation of the second commandment (5:8-10). The other curses flowed out of this, though all of them pertained to interpersonal relationships and not directly to a person’s relationship to the Lord.

27:16 The word dishonors is a translation of a Hebrew verb mea-ning “to make light of” (5:16). The person who underestimates the role of parents disrespects the honor and glory of God, whom parents represent.

27:17 The sin of moving a neighbor’s boundary marker was a kind of theft, a violation of the eighth commandment, and it also betrayed a lack of satisfaction with what God had allotted a person in life. See 19:14.

27:18-19 Social justice must be rooted in God’s care for vulnerable people in society. The person who denies justice to such helpless people goes against the nature of the Lord, who inspired law to regulate such matters (24:17) and who, in the person of Christ, identified with those most in need of justice (Php 2:5-11; cp. 2Co 8:9).

27:20-23 Verses 20 and 23 speak of sexual relationships with one’s stepmother and mother-in-law, bracketing the heinous sins of bestiality (v. 21) and incest (v. 22).

27:20 Father’s wife has in mind either one’s stepmother or a second wife of one’s father (22:30; cp. Lv 18:7-8; 20:11). The father’s own shame was at risk when a son had sexual relations with a woman known so intimately by his father.

27:21 Bestiality—sexual intercourse with an animal—is not only reprehensible, but it goes against God’s creation order in which humankind, made in the image of God, is to rule over all other created beings, not to be on the same level with them.

27:22 The sister here is a sibling related through polygamy. A father’s daughter or a mother’s daughter would thus be a sister by one’s stepmother or stepfather.

27:24-25 Secretly means either outside public view or in a manner totally unexpected by the victim.

27:26 The list of curses is summarized by the warning that covenant violation consisted not only of committing certain misdeeds but failing to observe others. The law quoted is the entire book of Deuteronomy and not just this list.