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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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a celebrated mountain in the tribe of Ephraim, near Shechem, over against Mount Gerizim. These two mountains are within two hundred paces of each other, and separated by a deep valley, in which stood the town of Shechem. The two mountains are much alike in magnitude and form, being of a semicircular figure, about half a league in length, and, on the sides nearest Shechem, nearly perpendicular. One of them is barren; the other, covered with a beautiful verdure. Moses commanded the Israelites, as soon as they should have passed the river Jordan, to go directly to Shechem, and divide the whole multitude into two bodies, each composed of six tribes; one company to be placed on Ebal, and the other on Gerizim. The six tribes that were on Gerizim were to pronounce blessings on those who should faithfully observe the law of the Lord, and the six others on Mount Ebal were to pronounce curses against those who should violate it, Deuteronomy 11:29 , &c; 27, and 28; Joshua 8:30-31 .

This consecration of the Hebrew commonwealth is thought to have been performed in the following manner: The heads of the first six tribes went up to the top of Mount Gerizim, and the heads of the other six tribes to the top of Mount Ebal. The priests, with the ark, and Joshua at the head of the elders of Israel, took their station in the middle of the valley which lies between the two mountains. The Levites ranged themselves in a circle about the ark; and the elders, with the people, placed themselves at the foot of the mountain, six tribes on a side. When they were thus disposed in order, the priests turned toward Mount Gerizim, on the top of which were the six heads of the six tribes who were at the foot of the same mountain, and pronounced, for example, these words:— "Blessed be the man that maketh not any graven images." The six princes who were upon the top of the mountain, and the six tribes who were below at its foot, answered, "Amen." Afterward, the priests, turning toward Mount Ebal, upon which were the princes of the other six tribes, cried, with a loud voice, "Cursed be the man that maketh any graven image;" and were answered by the princes opposite to them and their tribes, "Amen." The Scripture, at first view, seems to intimate that there were six tribes upon one mountain, and six on the other; but beside that it is by no means probable that the tribes of the Israelites, who were so numerous, should be able to stand on the summits of these two mountains, it would not have been possible for them to have seen the ceremony, nor to have heard the blessings and curses in order to answer them. Moreover, the Hebrew particle, in the original, signifies, near, over against, as well as at the top, Joshua 8:33 . Accordingly, we may say, that neither Joshua, nor the priests or tribes, went up to the top of the mountains, but the heads only, who in their persons might represent all the tribes.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Ebal'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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