Friday, August 27, 2004

Joshua 8B: Renewal of the Covenant

This section of Joshua 8 fulfills Deuteronomy 27:2-8, in which the Israelites are commanded to coat stones with plaster and record the law. No plaster is mentioned here. At any rate, Joshua built an altar of uncut stones on Mount Ebal, offered burnt offerings to the Lord, and sacrificed fellowship offerings. This clearly follows the text of Deuteronomy, since it emphasizes the blessings and cursings. If the chronology of the event is as given in the text, this is deep in enemy territory. The Israelites have barely conquered two towns near Jerusalem, and this would have them marching many miles to the north ( Strikingly, the text says that people stood there, both Israelite and alien. Since Israel has just returned to Israel, where have these aliens come from? These are suggestions that the events at Gerizim/Ebal occurred somewhat later.

The text says that half of the assembled company stood in front of Mt. Gerizim and half in front of Mt. Ebal. This is certainly not specified in Deuteronomy. One source says,

"Mount Ebal is the taller of the twins. Its barren slopes are strewn with gray rocks. This desolate mountain represents the curses that, G-d forbid, could befall the Bnai Yisroel if they do not keep the mitzvos of the Torah. Mount Gerizim, on the other side, has beautiful tree covered slopes and represents the blessings that would come to the Jewish People for following in the ways of the Torah....Mount Gerizim is closely associated with a sect called the Cussim (Cutheans), also called Shomronim (Samaritans)." (

A review of "The Lost Temple of Israel" presents some archaeological observations and suggests that the name Ebal came from the name Baal, and that this altar replaced an altar for Baal worship ( ). It has been suggested that the two mountains represent two different cultic traditions.


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