1. The hill upon which the curses of the law were to be read; as on the opposite hill GERIZIM the blessings (Deuteronomy 11:29-30; Deuteronomy 27:12-13; Joshua 8:30-35). The valley wherein Shethem or Sichem (now Nablous) lay runs between the two hills. Ebal the mount of the curse, is steeper and more barren; Gerizim, the mount of the blessing, more sloping, and having a ravine opposite the W. of Shechem full of fountains and trees. Gerizim, as the southernmost, was chosen for the blessing, light and life being associated with the S. by the Hebrew. The central position of these mountains adapted them for the scene of the reading. The associations of the locality were another recommendation. Here first in Canaan Abraham rested, and built an altar to Jehovah who appeared unto him (Genesis 12:6-7). Here too Jacob dwelt upon returning from Mesopotamia, and bought a field from the children of Hamer, father of Shethem, and built the altar El-elohe-Israel (Genesis 33:19-20).
On Gerizim the Samaritans in ages long after built their temple in rivalry of that at Jerusalem. The remains of the road to it still exist. There is still a rocky amphitheatrical recess on the side of Ebal, and a corresponding one of the same dimensions on the side of Gerizim; probably formed for the accommodation of the people, when all Israel, their elders, officers, and judges, stood: half of them, the six blessing tribes, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin (sprung from Jacob's proper wives), over against Gerizim; and half, the six cursing tribes (four sprung from Zilpah and Bilhah, and Reuben the incestuous oldest and Zebulun the youngest) over against Ebal: with the ark and the priests and Levites in the center between the two mountains. The priests pronounced after Joshua (Joshua 8:33-34) the blessings and curses, the people responded Amen.
The voices of those standing on Ebal can be distinctly heard by those on Gerizim (such are the acoustic properties of the place, according to Tristram, etc.) and in the intermediate valley, which is about 1,600 ft. broad and runs from Gerizim S.E. to Ebal N.W. The voice of the priests in the middle would only have to traverse half the interval between the hills. The mountains are about 2,500 ft. high. On Ebal the great altar of unhewn stones was erected, plastered with lime and inscribed with the law (Deuteronomy 27:2-8) immediately after entering the Holy Land, when Joshua had the first leisure after destroying Ai. It symbolized their setting up of Jehovah's law as the permanent law of Israel in their land of inheritance; and it was the pledge, in the event of their continued obedience, that Jehovah would conquer all their foes and establish them in security. The distance which Joshua had to march from Ai to Shechem was 30 miles in a straight line.
Translated in Deuteronomy 11:30, "are they not on the other side Jordan, beyond ('achiree) the way (road) of the W." (the sunset), i.e. on the further side of the main route from Syria and Damascus to Jerusalem and Egypt, through the center of Israel. This road skirts Ebal and Gerizim. Moses adds "over against Gilgal" (not the Gilgal near Jericho and the Jordan, first named by Joshua (Joshua 5:9), but the modern Jiljulieh, 12 miles S. of Gerizim and on the brow of lofty hills, a suitable landmark, 2 Kings 2:1-2), "and beside the oaks (not 'plains,' but terebinths) of Moreh." These "terebinths of Moreh" near Shechem were familiar to the people, as marking the spot where Abraham first entered the land (Genesis 12:6). The significance of the cursing and blessing is much increased by its scene being placed at Shechem in the heart of the country, equidistant between N. and S., E. and W., rather than on the outskirts of the country, at the Gilgal near Jericho.
"The Canaanites" are mentioned in Deuteronomy 11:30, as in Genesis 12:6, as then already in the land, which originally was held by a Semitic race, but was afterward taken by the Hamitic Canaanites whose original seat was near the Red Sea, from whence they migrated northwards. The conquest of the heart of the country by Joshua, mount Ephraim, Esdraelon or the Jezreel valley, is not detailed; but the narrative passes from his conquest of the S. and Gilgal to Merom waters in the far N., the Ebal altar building and the blessing and cursing being the only allusion to the central country. The Samaritan Pentateuch reads "Gerizim "for Ebal (Deuteronomy 27:4) as the site of the altar and the plastered and law-inscribed stones; but all the Hebrew authorities are against it, and the site of the cursing is fitly the site of the altar where the penalty of the curse is borne by the typical victim.
Moreover, the cursings alone are specified in the context (Deuteronomy 27:14-26), an ominous presage at the beginning of Israel's disobedience and consequent chastisement. The Samaritans' aim in their reading was to justify their erection of the temple on Gerizim. The curses of Ebal have been literally fulfilled on the literal Israelites. Why should not also the blessings be literally fulfilled to literal Israel? The cross, our glory, was Israel's stumbling-block. Why should the crown, both our and their glory, be our stumbling-block? See Micah 5:7; Zechariah 8:13; Zephaniah 3:20; Romans 11:12; Romans 11:15.
2. EBAL, son of Shobal, son of Seir (Genesis 36:23).
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