“What Do These Stones Mean?” The Riddle Of Deuteronomy 27 -- By: Daniel I. Block

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 56:1 (Mar 2013)
Article: “What Do These Stones Mean?” The Riddle Of Deuteronomy 27
Author: Daniel I. Block

“What Do These Stones Mean?”
The Riddle Of Deuteronomy 27

Daniel I. Block*

* Daniel Block is Gunther H. Knoedler Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College, 501 College Avenue, Wheaton, IL 60187.

Deuteronomy 27 is a riddle at many levels.1 First, it is a cultic riddle: Why this curious combination of prescribed rituals, and why this ritual inscription of the Torah on plastered stones? Second, it is a theological riddle: What is the significance of this ritual within the theology of Deuteronomy and the First Testament as a whole? Third, it is a literary riddle: What is this chapter doing here within the overall flow of the book? I shall address the last issue first.

I. Deuteronomy 27 In Its Present Literary Context

The chapter consists of three speeches, successively attributed to Moses and the elders of Israel (vv. 1b–8), Moses and the Levitical priests (vv. 9b–10), and Moses alone (vv. 11–26). The threefold reference to Moses by name (vv. 1, 9, 11)2 and the involvement of the elders and the Levitical priests in the addresses contrast with the lengthy first-person discourse of chapters 5–26. In style and content, this chapter is intrusive, interrupting what would otherwise have been a smooth transition from chapter 26 to chapter 28.3 It seems that in the oral delivery and in the transcription of Moses’ second address (31:9) Deuteronomy 28 followed immediately after chapter 26. Indeed, several factors suggest the speeches in chapter 27 fit best after 31:29.4 (1) The elders will be involved later in formal proceedings relating

to the ratification of the covenant (29:9–10 [10–11]).5

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