Mount Ebal is situated in the land of Israel. It is about 18 mi. from the nearest passage across the Jordan, and about 30 mi. from Gilgal. It is located on the north, and Mt. Gerizim on the south. The valley between the two mounts is around one third of a mile wide, and extends east and west. The tips of the two mountains are about two mi. apart. Where the two mountains face each other, at the point of their nearest proximity, there is a lush valley of about 500 yd. wide. The limestone layers of each mountain are broken into a series of levels forming a natural stadium on either side.
This mount was first mentioned when the Israelites under the leadership of Moses erected an alter there after crossing of the Jordan (Deut. 27:4, 5). There, Moses read that law to the people, exhorted them to walk in it, and offered sacrifices to God.
And this mountain was mentioned again under the leadership of Joshua where Israel had a very special ceremony: “Now Joshua built an altar to the LORD God of Israel in Mount Ebal” (Joshua 8:30) as Moses commanded. And there, Joshua wrote on the stones a copy of the law of Moses. Then all Israel, with their elders and officers and judges, stood on either side of the ark before the priests, the Levites, who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD… Half of them were in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal (v. 32-33).
Although the Israelites were eager to reach their promised homes and end the conquest of Canaan, their work came to a halt to attend this sacred ceremony. Although all Israel camped at Gilgal, they journeyed to Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim to renew their covenant with God. Thus, they were taught that the way to prosper in the new land is to make God first. Jesus gave this same principle in the NT, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God” (Matt. 6:33).
At this location the speakers were to stand in the center of the valley. The tribes were to gather on the slopes of the two mountains. Six of the tribes that came from Leah and Rachel were to respond to the blessings. The tribes by whom response was to be made to the curses for disobedience, came from Zilpah and Bilhah, together with those of Leah’s youngest son, Zebulun, Reuben, who lost his birthright because of his sin against Jacob his father (Gen. 35:22; 49:4).
The six on Mt. Gerizim were to respond with an Amen after each blessing was recited and the six on Mt. Ebal were to respond as each curse was recited. In that place from which the curses of the law were read against sinners, there was also a hope of God’s forgiveness and grace. All the sacrifices they offered there foreshadowed Christ’s sacrifice on behalf of humanity (Colossians 1:20).
In His service,
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