Ebal and Gerizim
Joshua 8:32-35
And he wrote there on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he wrote in the presence of the children of Israel.…

The valley between these two is one of the most beautiful in Palestine. Jacob's well lies at its mouth, and all its luxuriant extent is covered with its verdant beauty of gardens, and orchards, and olive groves, rolling in waves of billowy beauty up to the walls of Shechem, whilst the murmur of brooks flowing in all directions fills the air. The width of the valley is about a third of a mile, though the summits of the two mountains, in the lap of which it lies, are two miles apart. It is remarkable that where the two mountains face each other and touch most closely, with a green valley of five hundred yards between, each is hollowed out, and the limestone stratum of each is broken into a succession of ledges, "so as to present the appearance of a series of regular benches." Thus a natural amphitheatre is formed, capable of containing a vast audience of people; and the acoustic properties are so perfect in that dry and rainless air that Canon Tristram speaks of two of his party taking up positions on the opposite mountains, reciting the ten commandments antiphonally, and hearing each other perfectly.

I. THE ALTAR ON EBAL. Ebal was stern and barren in its aspect. There was a congruity, therefore, between its appearance and the part it played in the solemn proceedings of the day. For far up its slopes gathered the dense masses of the six tribes, who, with thunderous amens, twelve times repeated, answered the voices of the band of white-robed Levites, as standing with Joshua, and the elders, and officers, and judges, in the green valley, they solemnly repeated the curses of the law. But that was not the first proceeding in that holy ceremonial. Before the people took up their assigned places on the mountain sides an altar was reared on the lower slopes of Ebal. As we pass into the land of promise we must be watchful that we do not leave behind the devout and loving consideration of that precious blood by which we have been redeemed and which is our life. Our highest and most rapturous experiences can never take the place of this. Constantly we must remind ourselves and others that we are redeemed sinners, and that all our hopes of salvation, our fellowship with God, our motives for service, are derived from what our Saviour did when He bore our sins in His own body on the tree. But because He died there, we need never stand there. Because He counted not His life dear to Himself, those gaunt and forbidding slopes have become the scene of blessed communion with God. We sit and feast with Him, and from peak to peak the joy chases the terrors of the curse, and smiles look out on us from the old rocks, whilst the torrents tinged with the light of the sun flash and sing.

II. THE LAW IN CANAAN. Around the altar strong men reared great stones, and plastered them with a facing of cement, composed of lime and gypsum, on which it was easy to write all the words of the law very plainly (Deuteronomy 27:8). In that dry air, where there is no frost to split and disintegrate, such inscriptions, written on the soft cement with a stencil, or on its polished surface, when dry, with ink or paint, as in the case of the monumental stones of Egypt, would remain for centuries. As the time could not have admitted of the inscription of the whole law, it is probable that the more salient points were alone committed to the custody of those great cromlechs to perpetuate to after generations the conditions of the tenure on which Israel held the lease of Palestine. They were a standing protest against the sins which had blighted those fertile valleys, and an incentive to the obedience on which so much of the future hinged. The case is this: when we yield ourselves entirely to the Spirit of life which is in Christ Jesus, and which passes freely through us, as the blood through artery and vein, He makes us very sensitive to the least commandment or desire of Him whom He has taught us to love; we dread to see the shadow of suffering pass over His face more than to feel the pang of remorse rend our hearts; we find our heaven in His smile of approval, and the "Well done!" that glistens in His eyes when we have done aught to the least of His; we are conscious of the pulse of a love which He has instilled, and which supplies us with the highest code for life — and so insensibly, whilst we yield ourselves to Him, we find ourselves keeping the law after a fashion which was foreign to us when it was a mere outward observance, and we cry with David, "Oh, how I love Thy law, it is my meditation all the day."

III. THE CONVOCATION. It is well worth our while to ponder the list of blessings appended to obedience in that memorable twenty-eighth chapter of Deuteronomy, that we may discover their spiritual counterparts, and, having found them, to claim them. Let us, first, be quite sure that we are right with God; next, that we are on His plan and doing His will; also, thirdly, that we are set upon His glory, altogether irrespective of our own interests; and we shall find ourselves able to claim blessings of which we little dreamt. The Lord will open His good treasury in heaven and make us plenteous for good, and establish us for an holy people unto Himself.

(F. B. Meyer, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And he wrote there upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he wrote in the presence of the children of Israel.

WEB: He wrote there on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he wrote in the presence of the children of Israel.

Ebal and Gerizim
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