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This small group Deuteronomy 27 Bible study guide contains commentary, discussion questions, cross-references, and application to encourage life change. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Deuteronomy 27 Bible Study And Questions – The Covenant Was To Be Recorded and Ratified


I. Setting up memorial stones and an altar (1-8)
II. The covenant ratification ritual (9-14)
III. The curses for disobedience (15-26)

I. Setting up memorial stones and an altar (1-8)

Discussion Questions

• What is this passage about?
• What were the people to do when they crossed into the land?
• What were the stones to be used for?
• Why were they to be plastered first?
• Why was it important to write the words of law onto the stones?
• Why was this even more significant in a time when few people had access to the Scriptures?
• What was the altar for?
• What principles can we learn that we can apply to our lives today?


Joshua 4:20-24 – In this passage, Joshua sets up memorial stones commemorating their miraculous crossing of the Jordan.

Deuteronomy 6:9 – You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Proverbs 7:1-3 – My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; keep my commandments and live;
keep my teaching as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.

Psalms 119:11 – I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.

Psalms 19:7-11 – The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Keep the whole commandment that I command you today – Here is the theme of Deuteronomy of repeated again: obedience. God calls His people to obey all of His commands.

2. On the day that you cross the Jordan – They were not to delay and put it off. Obedience is to be quick. Joshua did set up memorial stones to commemorate the crossing of the Jordan (Joshua 4:20-24). He also set up a stone at Shechem, which is the valley between Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim (Joshua 24:26-27). It is not clear which of these is a direct response to Moses’ command. It appears that Joshua set up stones on the very day they crossed the Jordan and also set up stones when they got to Mt. Ebal.

Joshua 11:15 – Just as the Lord had commanded Moses his servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did. He left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded Moses.

3. This altar and the sacrifices on it commemorated their entry into the land – God had promised this land to Abraham over four hundred years before. In the time of Joseph, their ancestors had left the land only seventy strong. And now they were coming back as a full-fledged nation. It was only right to remember God’s leading and His promises and proclaim their devotion to Him.

Application – God is the witness, watching over every important step in our lives. When you achieve one success, do you rush forward to do the next thing? Or do you stop to thank God and express your appreciation for bringing you to that point in your lives? We are all busy. We have many things pressing for our time. It is so easy to push from one thing to the next to the next without pausing. But here we can see how important it is to take a break from the routine aspects of everyday life and just remember the Lord and what He has done. How and when will you do that?

3. Writing Scripture on stones – God frequently reminded His people not to forget His words. He knows that we have very short-term memories. Growing up, one of the most common things my siblings and I said was, “I forgot.” We often “forgot” our parents’ instructions. Sometimes, it was a convenient excuse for not doing something we didn’t really want to do.

God does not want us to forget. He commanded His people to set up visual reminders of His law. The words of the law were to be written on the stones. First, the stones were to be plastered. This made them white so that the writing would stand out and be clear and easy to read. It is likely that they used some of the same methods for inscribing on stones that the Egyptians used.

Those methods were effective. While on a layover at the Cairo airport, I went out to Egypt for a day. There, I saw a plethora of inscriptions on stones dating back thousands of years. Even much of the color was still preserved.

Very few people had access to the Scriptures at that time in history. Only the priests would preserve a few copies. Thus, most people never had the opportunity to read the law in their homes. That made it all the more important to have Scriptures written in public places. Even those who could not read themselves could see it, ask others the meaning, and be reminded of God’s commands.

Application – We have far more access to Scripture and Biblical resources than they did in those days. Therefore, we have no excuse for not studying or forgetting God’s Word. In a busy world, what are some practical ways to help you remember and meditate on the Scriptures.

4. Scripture is written plainly for all to see and understand –

Note that verse 7 says that they should write the words “very plainly.”

Many people have made sensational claims that the Bible has secret codes or enigmas just waiting to be unlocked. They claim that secret messages have been hidden inside the Hebrew text. They view Scripture as a giant crossword puzzle and use complicated “keys” to reveal its mysteries. They use computers to search for specific words at certain intervals (such as every two or one hundred letters) and then, shazam, they find a “secret” word. This method has been claimed to find prophecies regarding many modern events, such as the rise of Adolf Hitler.

Many cults also use mystery and intrigue to arouse people’s curiosity and hook them. Cult leaders sometimes promise that they are able to reveal secrets from Scripture. At other times, they offer strange and mystical interpretations of the text other than their plain meaning.

God never intended for Scripture to work that way. He wrote it plainly for all to read and understand. The purpose of Scripture is to reveal His will, not to conceal His will. Interestingly, these so-called prophecies are only found after the fact. When you have a vast number of letters, you can find almost any message you want if you are searching for it.

We should take comfort in the fact that God delights to reveal Himself to us. He wants us to understand who He is and His plan for us. God is transcendent. He is so different than we are. Yet He has condescended to us and communicates with us in language that we can understand. While He does not tell us everything about His plan (Revelation 10), He does tell us what we need to know. The information is there. It is accessible. Our job is to go and study it.

2 Peter 1:3 – His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.

Application – We are blessed to have far more access to Scripture and resources than at any point in history. How are you taking advantage of this amazing privilege? What is one additional way you can use the resources that are available?

5. The altar – There is some evidence that Joshua’s altar has been found at Mt. Ebal. Evidence includes:

• A large stone structure. The inside has been packed with dirt/ash. A similar type of altar is found in Exodus 27:1-8.
• This altar has ramps, not steps. See Exodus 20:26.
• Two thousand eight hundred sixty-two bones of animals were found. The bones were all of clean animals (not working animals.) The animal bones included sheep, goats, deer, and cattle. These bones were of young animals that would be sacrificed and showed signs of slow burning.
• Two stone hammers were found. Jews were not allowed to use any iron for making altars (Deuteronomy 27:5). The hammers were specially buried, indicating that they had a special purpose in building the altar.
• Another smaller stone structure, which was round, was found. It appears that this was intentionally buried by the builders of the new altar.
• The archaeologist who discovered this site was not a believer. Dr. Adam Zertal believed the Bible after coming to the conclusion that this was Joshua’s altar. He did not even know about Joshua’s altar before his expedition.
• No evidence has been found that this was a settlement or permanent site since pottery from only one era has been found.
• This altar may not be Joshua’s altar. But a lot of signs would indicate that it is quite likely it is!

II. The covenant ratification ritual (9-14)

Discussion Questions

• Why should they keep silent?
• What is the relationship between being quiet and listening?
• How can you become a better listener?
• What was the purpose of this ritual?
• What part did the Levites play?
• What part did the people play?
• Why was this ritual necessary since the people had already heard the law?


Joshua 8:30-35 – In this passage, the people carry out the commands of Moses from Deuteronomy and do the covenant ratification ritual upon entering the land.

Proverbs 2:2 – Making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding

Proverbs 19:20 – Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.

Romans 10:17 – So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Keep silence and hear – Have you ever tried to teach a game or give an instruction to a large crowd of people? It is common for some people in the crowd to be talking. That makes it extremely difficult to convey the instructions in such a way that the group can understand them. Often, over half of the time can be spent telling people to be quiet and listen.

Imagine trying to teach the entire nation without a microphone. That is difficult enough without people talking.

The first step to understanding is to be quiet. You will not be able to take in any instruction from anyone (a pastor, Bible teacher, parent, or police officer) if you won’t be quiet.

In Ecclesiastes 3:1, Solomon says there is a “time for everything.” Certainly, there is a time to listen and there is a time to speak. If we do not train ourselves to be quiet and pay attention when others are talking, we will not be able to benefit from their wisdom. One of the marks of pride is being quick to talk, hasty to share our opinion, and arguing instead of listening.

Application – In what situation or relationship do you need to become a better listener? How can you listen with your heart and not just your ears?

2. The covenant ratification ritual – When they crossed the Jordan, the people were to “sig