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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(always with the prefix הִר גְּרַזַּים, Hai Geasizzimn, Mount of the Gerazites [from גְּרַזַּי, Gerizzi', dwellers in a shorn (i.e., desert) land, from גָּרִז, ga-rac', to cut off; possibly the tribe subdued by David, 1 Samuel 27:8]; Sept. Γαριζίν, Josephus Γαριζείν ) and EBAL were two mountains of Samaria, forming the opposite sides of the valley which contained the ancient town of Shechem, the present Nablu's. From this connection it is best to notice them together. The valley which these mountains enclose is about 200 or 300 paces wide, by above three miles in length; and Mount Ebal rises on the right band and Gerizim on the left hand of the valley (which extends west-northwest) as a person approaches Shechem from Jerusalem (see Ritter, Erdk. 16:641 sq.). These two mountains were the scene of a grand ceremony — perhaps the most grand in the history of nations — duly performed by Joshua as soon as he gained possession. of the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 27; Joshua 8:30-35). See below. These mountains are mentioned by Josephus as being similarly situated on either side of Shechem (Ant. 4:8, 44). He also refers to the temple built upon one of them by the Samaritans after the exile as the seat of their national worship (Ant. 11:7, 2; 8, 2-6), as related in the Apocrypha (2 Maccabees 6:2). See below. In order to justify their traditions in this respect, they have corrupted the reading of their text of the Pentateuch in Deuteronomy 27:4, so as to read "Gerizim" instead of "Ebal." It was from the top of this mountain that Jotham uttered the famous parable of the trees to the Shechemite insurrectionists under Abimelech, gathered in the plain below (Judges 9:7), a position from which he could easily be heard (see Hackett's Illustra. of Script. page 198). The ascent of the hill is so difficult that, were any of the followers of Abimelech could climb it, Jotham would be far away among the defiles of the neighboring mountains. (See JOTHAM).
1. Mount Gerizim has been fully described by several travelers who have ascended it. The latest and most complete account of the objects of interest extant upon it may be found in M. Saulcy's Narrative, chapter 8, where also its history is given in detail. See also Robinson's Bibl. Researches, 3:96 sq.; Olin's Travels, 2:340 sq. Dr. Robinson says: "Mounts Gerizim and Ebal rise in steep, rocky precipices immediately from the valley on each side, apparently some 800 feet in height. The sides of both these mountains as here seen (i.e., from Nablus) were, to our eyes, equally naked and sterile. The side of the northern mountain, Ebal, along the foot, is full of ancient excavated sepulchres. The southern mountain is now called by the inhabitants Jebul et-Ter, though the name Gerizim is known at least to the Samaritans. The modern appellation of Ebal we did not learn." Dr. Olin states that the summit of Gerizim is somewhat higher than that of Ebal. The top of Gerizim affords a commanding view of a considerable region, chiefly occupied with mountains of inferior elevation, but also embracing several fruitful valleys, especially those of Nablus and of wady Sahl, through which lies the road to Jerusalem. A great number of villages are seen all along its north-eastern side, upon high and apparently precipitous spurs of the mountain which push out into the valley from (wady Sahl) the main ridge. Cultivation is carried quite to the top of the mountains, which are adorned with plantations of fruit-trees, while every level spot and a vast number of small fields, supported by terraces, are sown in wheat. A considerable portion of the table-land on the summit of Gerizim itself exhibits marks of recent tillage. Mount Ebal, as viewed from Gerizim; spreads out, like the latter, into a table-land, but is apparently rocky and more broken, and less susceptible of cultivation. Mount Garizim is ascended by two well-worn tracks, one leading from the town of Nabluis at its western extremity, the other from the valley on its northern side, near one of the two spots pointed out as Joseph's tomb. It is on the eastern extremity of the ridge that the holy places of the Samaritans are collected. First, there occurs the small hole in the rocky ground where the lamb is roasted on the evening of the Passover; next, the large stone structure occupying the site of the ancient temple. In one of the towers of this edifice, on the north-east angle, is the tomb of a Mussulman saint, Sheik Ghranem. Under the southern wall of this castle or temple. is a line of rocky slabs, called the "ten stones," in commemoration of the ten (or twelve) stones brought by Joshua, or of the ten tribes of the northern kingdom; they have every appearance of a large rocky platform, divided by twelve distinctly marked natural fissures. Beyond this platform, still further to the east, is a smooth surface of rock, sloping down to a hole on its south side; the scene, according to Samaritan tradition, which some recent travelers have endeavored to vindicate, of Abraham's sacrifice (Moriah, Genesis 24), of his meeting with Melchizedek (Genesis 14; so Theodotus in Eusebius, Praep. Ev. 9:22), and several other sacred events. (See Stanley's Sinai and Palest., page 245.) Mr. Bartlett also ascended Mount Ebal, but he says he "could discover no trace of by-gone generations, though the view, like that from Gerizim, is splendid and extensive" (Footsteps of our Lord, page 186). The remains of the temple on Mount Gerizimr are fully described by Thomson (Land and Book, 2:213 sq.). — Kitto, s.v. (See SHECHEM)
2. The leading historical incidents connected with Mount Gexizim are of a highly interesting character, and some. of them (as above intimated) have been the subjects of controversy.
(1.) High places had a peculiar charm attached to them in those days of external observance. The law was delivered from Sinai: the blessings and curses affixed to the performance or neglect of it were directed to be pronounced upon Gerizim and Ebal. (See Michaelis, De montibus Ebal et Garizim, Argent. 1773; Stiebritz, Vindicice τῶν עיבל contra Kennicottum, Hal. 1767; Zeffel, id. ib. 1766; Vershuir, De lectione Samar. ad. Loc., Franec. 1767.) Six of the tribes — Simeon, Levi (but Joseph being represented by two tribes, Levi's actual place probably was as assigned below), Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin, were to take their stand upon the former to bless; and six, namely, Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali, upon the latter to curse (Deuteronomy 27:12-13). Apparently, the ark halted midway between the two mountains, encompassed by the priests and Levites, thus divided by it into two bands, with Joshua for their corypheeus. He read the blessings and cursings successively (Joshua 8:33-34), to be re-echoed by the Levites on either side of him, and responded to by the tribes in their double array with a loud Amen (Deuteronomy 27:14). Curiously enough, only the formula for the curses is given (Deuteronomy 5:14-26); and it was upon Ebal, and not Gerizim, that the altar of the whole unwrought stone was to be built, and the huge plastered stones, with the words of the law (Joshua 8:32; Josephus, Ant. 4:8, 44, limits them to the blessings and curses just pronounced) written upon them, were to be set up (Deuteronomy 27:4-6) — a significant omen for a people entering joyously upon their new inheritance, and yet the song of Moses abounds with forebodings still more sinister and plain-spoken (Deuteronomy 33:5-6; Deuteronomy 33:15-28). (See JOSHUA).
(2.) The next question is, Has Moses defined the localities of Ebal and Gerizim? Standing on the eastern side of the Jordan, in the land of Moab (Deuteronomy 1:5), he asks: "Are they not on the other side Jordan, by the may where the sun goeth down (i.e., at some distance to the W.), in the land of the Canaanites, which dwell in the champaign over against Gilgal (i.e., whose territory — not these mountains — commenced over against Gilgal; see Patrick on Deuteronomy 11:30), beside the plains of Moreh?" ... These closing words would seem to mark their site with unusual precision; for in Genesis 12:6 "the plain (Sept. ‘oak') of Moreh" is expressly connected with "the place of Sichem or Shechem" (N.T. Sychem or Sychar, which last form is thought to convey a reproach. See Reland, Diss. oa Gerizim, in Ugolini, Thes. page dccxxv; in Josephus the forum is Sicima), and accordingly Judges 9:7, Jotham is made to addres his celebrated parable to the men of Shecheem from "the top of Mount Gerizim." The "hill of Moreh," mentioned in the history of Gideon his father, may have been a mountain overhanging the same plain, but. certainly could not have been farther south (Judges 6:33, and Judges 7:1). Was it therefore prejudice, or neglect of the true import of these passages, that made Eusebius and Epiphanius, both natives of Palestine, concur in placing Ebal and Gerizims near Jericho, the former charging the Samaritans with grave error for affirming them to be near Neapolis? (Reland, Dissert., as above, page dccxx). Of one thing we may be assured, namely, that their scriptural site must have been, in the fourth century, lost to all but the Samaritans, otherwise these two fathers would have spoken very differently b. It is true that they consider the Samaritan hypothesis irreconcilable with Deuteronomy 11:10, which it has already been shown not to be. A more formidable objection would have been that Joshua could not have marched from Ai to Shachem, through a hostile country, to perform the above solemnity, and retraced his steps so soon afterwards to Gilgal, as to have been found there by the Gibeonites (Joshua 9:6; comp. 8:30-35). Yet the distance between Ai and Shechem is not so long (under two days' journey).
Neither can the interval implied in the context of the former passage have been so short as even to warrant the modern supposition that the latter passage has been misplaced. The remaining objection, namely, "the wide interval between the two mountains at Shechem" (Stanley, S. and P. page 238, note), is still more easily disposed of, if we consider the blessings and curses to have been pronounced by the Levaites, standing in the midst of the valley-thus abridging the distance by one half and not by the six tribes on either hill, who only responded. How indeed could 600,000 men and upwards, besides women and children (comp. Numbers 2:32 with Judges 20:2; Judges 20:17), have been accommodated in a smaller space? Besides, in those days of assemblies "sub dio," the sense of hearing must habe been necessarily more acute, as, before the aids of writing and printing, memories were much more retentive. We may conclude, therefore, that there is no room for doubting the scriptural position of Ebal and Gerizim to have been — where they are now placed — in the territory of the tribe of Ephraiam; the latter of them overhanging the city of Shechem or Sicima, as Josephus, following the scriptural narrative, asserts. Even Eusebieus, in another work of his (Prep. Evang. 9:22), quotes some lines from Thaodotus, is which the true position of Ebal and Gerizim is described with great force and accuracy; and St. Jerome, while following Eusebius in the Onomasticon, in his ordinary correspondence does not hesitate to connect Sichem or Neapolis, the well of Jacob, and Mount Gerizim (Ep. 108, c. 13, ed. Migne). Procopius of Gaza does nothing more than follow Eusebius said that clumsily (Reland, Palest. 2:13, page 503); but his more accurate namesake of Caesarea expressaly asserts that Gerizine rose over Neapolis (De AEdif. 5:7) — that Ebal was not a peak of Gerizims (see Quaresm. Elucid. T.S. lib. 7, per. i, c. 8), but a distinct mountain to the north of it, and separated from it by the valley in which Shechem stood, we are not called upon here to prove; nor again, that Ebal was entirely barren, which it can scarcely be called now; while Gerizim was the same proverb for verdure and gushing rills formerly that it is now, at least where it descends towards Nablu's. (See EBAL).
(3.) It is a far more important question whether, as the Samaritans believe, Gerizime was the mountain on which Abraham was directed to offer his son Isaac (Genesis 22:2, and sq.). It has been observed that it is not the mountain, but the district which is there called Moriah (of the same root with Moreh: see Corn. a Lapid. on Genesis 12:6), and that antecedently to the occurrence which took place "upon one of the mountains" in its vicinity — a consideration which of itself would naturally point to the locality, already known to Abraham, as the plain or plains of Moreb, "the land of vision," "the high lamid," and therefore consistently "the land of adoration" or "religious morship," as it is variously explained. That all these interpretationsiare incomparably more applicable to the natural features of Gerizims and its neighborhood than to the hillock (is comparison) upon which Solomon built his Temple, none can for a moment doubt who have seen both. Jerusalem unquestionably stands upon high ground; but owing to the hills "round about" it, cannot be seen on any side from any great distance; nor, for the same reason, could it ever have been a land of vision or extensive views. Even from Mount Olivet which must always have towered over the small eminences at its base to the southwest, the view cannot be named in the same breath with that from Gerizim, which is one of the finest in Palestine, commanding, as it does, from an elevation of nearly 2500 feet (Arrowsmith, Geograph. Dict. of the H.S. page 145), "the Mediterranean Sea on the Nemest, the snowy heights of Hermon on the north, on the east the wall of the transJordeanic mountains, broken by the deep cleft of the Jabbok" (Stanley, S. and P. page 235), and the lovely and tortuous expanse of plain (the Mukhna) stretched as a carpet of many colors beneath its feet. Neither is the appearrance which it would "present to a traveler advancing up the Philistine plain" (ib. page 252) — the direction from which Abraham came to be overlooked. On the other band, it is clear that the "land of Moriah" was only thus designated as containing the notable mountain there referred to; and any of the hills about Jerusalem are sufficiently conspicuous for the purpose. Abraham was undoubtedly at Beersheeba when he received the command (comp. Genesis 31:33; Genesis 22:1-3; Genesis 22:19).
It appears from the narrative that on the third day he reached the place, offered the sacrifice, and returned to the spot where he had left his servants. The distance from Beersheba to Gerizimn is about 70 geographical miles, as the crow flies, which, in such a country, will give 90 of actual travel. Abraham's servants were on foot, carrying wood; Isaac was also on foot, and Abraham rode an ass. It is not, indeed, absolutely necessary, as Mr. Porter thinks (Handbook of S. and P. 1:339), that he should have started from Beersheba (see Genesis 21:34 — "the whole land being before him," Genesis 20:15). But had he set out, even from so southern a spot, "on the morning of the third day, he would arrive in the plain of Sharon, exactly where the massive height of Gerizim is visible afar off" (Stanley, page 248), and from thence with thee mount: always in view, he eaould proceed to the exact "place which God had told him of" in all solemnity — for again, it is not necessary that he should have arrived on the actual spot during the third day. All that is said in the narrative is that, from the time that it hove in sight, he and Isaac parted from the young men, and went on together alone. Still this interpretation is.not the natural and obvious onea, and supposes too protracted a journey for the circumstances. The Samaritans, therefore, through whom the tradition of the site of Gerizim has been preserved, are probably wrong when they point out still — as they have done from time immemorial — Gerizim as the hill upon which Abraham's "faith was made perfect;" a natural result of their desire to magnify their national seat of worship. It is, moreover, strange that a place once called by the "Father of the faithful" Jehovah-jireh, should have been merged by Moses, and ever afterwards, in a general name so different from it in sense and origin as Gerizim. Josephus, in more than one place, asserts that where Abraham offered, there the Temple was afterwards built (Ant. 1:13, 2; 7:13, 9). St. Jerome follows Josephus (Quaest. in Genesis 22:5, ed. Migne), and the Rabbinical traditions respecting Mount Moriah are strongly in the same direction (Cunsus, De Republ. Hebrews 2:12). The Christian tradition, which makes the site of Abraham's sacrifice to have been on Calvary, is merely a monkish transference from the Jewish vicinity. (See MORIAH).
(4.) Another tradition of the Samaritans is still less trustworthy, viz., that Mount Gerizim was the spot where Melchizedek, met Abraham — though there certainly was a Salem or Shalem in that neighborhood (Genesis 33:18; Stanley, S. and P. page 247, and sq.). The first altar erected in the land of Abraham, and the first appearance of Jehovah to him in it, was in the plain of Moreh, near Sichem (Genesis 12:6); but the mountain overhanging that city had not in any case, as yet, been hallowed to him by any decisive occurrence. He can hardly, therefore, be supposed to have deviated from his road so far, which lay through the plain of the Jordan; nor again is it likely that he would have found the king of Sodom so far away from his own territory (Genesis 14:17, and sq.). (See SHAVEH, VALLEY OF). Lastly, the altar which Jacob built was not on Gerizim, as the Samaritans contend, though probably about its base, at the head of the plain between it and Ebal, "in the parcel of a field" which that patriarch purchased from the children of Hamor, and where he spread his tent (Genesis 33:18-20). Here was likewise his well (John 4:6), and the tomb of his son Joseph (Joshua 24:32), both of which are still shown, the former surmounted by the remains of a vaulted chamber, and with the ruins of a church hard by (Robinson, Bibl. Res. 2:283) the latter with "a fruitful vine" trailing over its whitewashed inclosure, and before it two dwarf pillars hollowed out at the top to receive lamps, which are lighted every Friday or Mohammedan Sabbath. There is, however, another Mohammedan monument claiming to be the said tomb (Stanley, S. and P. page 241 note). The tradition (Robinson, 2:283 note) that the twelve patriarchs were buried there likewise (it should have made them eleven without Joseph, or thirteen including his two sons) is probably an erroneous inference from Acts 7:16 (where αὐτός is not to be included in the subject of μετέθησαν; see Hackett, ad loc.). (See MELCHIZEDEK).
(5.) We now enter upon the second phase in the history of Gerizim. According to Josephus, a marriage contracted between Manasseh, brother of Jaddus, the then high-priest, and the daughter of Sanballat the Cuthaean (comp. 2 Kings 17:24), having created a great stir amongst the Jews (who had been strictly forbidden to contract alien marriages; Ezra 9:2;. Nehemiah 13:23) — Sanballat, in order to reconcile his son-in-law to this unpopular affinity, obtained leave from Alexander the Great to build a temple upon Mount Gerizim, and to inaugurate there a priesthood and altar rival to those of Jerusalem (Ant. 11:8, 2-4, and, for the harmonizing of the names and date, Prideaux, Connect. 1:396, and sq., M'Caul's edit.). "Samaria thenceforth," says Prideaux, "became the common refuge and asylum of the refractory Jews" (ibid.; see also Joseph. Ant. 11:8, 7), and for a time, at least, their temple seems to have been called by the name of a Greek deity (Ant. 12:5, 5). Hence one of the first acts of Hyrcanus, when the death of Antiochus Sidetes had set his hands free, was to seize Shechem, and destroy the temple upon Gerizim, after it had stood there 200 years (Ant. 13:9, 1). But the destruction of their temple by no means crushed the rancor of the Samaritans. The road from Galilee to Judmea lay then, as now, through Samaria, skirting the foot of Gerizim (John 4:4). Here was a constant occasion for religious controversy and for outrage. "How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest to drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria?" said the female to our Lord at the well of Jacob- where both parties would always be sure to meet. "Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, and ye say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship?" ... Subsequently we read of the depredations committed on that road upon a party of Galilaeans (Ant. 20:6, 1). The liberal attitude, first of the Savior, and then of his disciples (Acts 8:14), was thrown away upon all those who would not abandon their creed. Gerizim thus continued to be the focus of outbreaks through successive centuries. One, under Pilate, while it led to their severe chastisement, procured the disgrace of that ill-starred magistrate, who had crucified "Jesus, the king of the Jews," with impunity (Ant. 18:4, 1). Another hostile gathering on the same spot caused a slaughter of 10,600 of them under Vespasian. It is remarkable that, in this instance, want of water is said to have made them easy victims; so that the deliciously cold and pure spring on the summit of Gerizim must have failed before so great a multitude (War, 3:7, 32). At length their aggressions were directed against the Christians inhabiting Neapolis — now powerful, and under a bishop — in the reign of Zeno. Terebinthus at once carried the news of this outrage to Byzantium: the Samaritans were forcibly ejected from Gerizim, which was handed over to the Christians, and adorned with a church in honor of the Virgin; to some extent fortified, and even guarded. This not proving sufficient to repel the foe, Justinian built a second wall round the church, which his historian says defied all attacks (Procop. De AEdif. 5:7).
It is probably the ruins of these buildings which meet the eye of the modern traveler (Porter, Handb. of S. and P. 2:339). Previously to this time the Samaritans had been a numerous and important sect — sufficiently so, indeed, to be carefully distinguished from the Jews and Caelicolists in the Theodosian Code. This last outrage led to their comparative disappearance from history. Travellers of the 12th, 14th, and 17th centuries take notice of their existence, but extreme paucity (Early Travellers, by Wright, pages 81, 181, and 432), and their numbers now, as in those days, is said to be below 200 (Robinson, Bib. Res. 2:282, 2d ed.). We are confined by our subject to Gerizimr, and therefore can only touch upon the Samaritans, or their city Neapolis, so far as their history connects directly with that of the mountain. We may observe, however, that as it was undoubtedly this mountain of which our Lord had said, "Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem (i.e., exclusively), worship the Father" (John 4:21) — so likewise it is a singular historical fact, that the Samaritans have continued on this self-same mountain century after century, with the briefest interruptions, to worship according to their ancient custom ever since to the present day. While the Jews — expelled from Jerusalem, and therefore no longer able to offer up bloody sacrifices according to the law of Moses — have been obliged to adapt their ceremonial to the circumstances of their destiny; here the Paschal Lamb has been offered up in all ages of the Christian sera by a small but united nationality (the spot is accurately marked out by Dr. R., Bibl. Res. 2:277). Their copy of the law, probably the work of Manasseh, and known to the fathers of the 2d and 3d centuries (Prideaux, Connection, 1:600; and Robinson, 2:297-301l), was, in the 17th, vindicated from oblivion by Scaliger, Usher, Morinus, and others; and no traveler now visits Palestine without making a sight of it one of his prime objects. Gerizim is likewise still to the Samaritans what Jerusalem is to the Jews, and Mecca to the Mohammedans. Their prostrations are directed towards it, wherever they are; its holiest spot in their estimation being the traditional site of the tabernacle, near that on which they believe Abraham to have offered his son. Both these spots are on the summit; and near them is still to be seen a mound of ashes, similar to the larger and more celebrated one north of Jerusalem; collected, it is said, from the sacrifices of each successive age (Dr. R., Bibl. Res. 2:202 and 299, evidently did not see this on Gerizim). Into their more legendary traditions respecting Gerizim, and the story of their alleged. worship of a dove — due to the Jews, their enemies (Reland, Diss. ap. Ugolin. Thzesaur. 7, pages dccxxix-xxxiii) — it is needless to enter. (See SAMARITANS).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Gerizim'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/g/gerizim.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.