The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 46: The Blessings and the Curses
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After the execution of the sentence upon Achan, Joshua was
commanded to marshal all the men of war and again
advance against Ai. The power of God was with His people, and
they were soon in possession of the city.
Military operations were now suspended, that all Israel might
engage in a solemn religious service. The people were eager to
obtain a settlement in Canaan; as yet they had not homes or
lands for their families, and in order to gain these they must
drive out the Canaanites; but this important work must be
deferred, for a higher duty demanded their first attention.
Before taking possession of their inheritance, they must renew
their covenant of loyalty to God. In the last instructions of
Moses, direction had been twice given for a convocation of the
tribes upon Mounts Ebal and Gerizim, at Shechem, for the
solemn recognition of the law of God. In obedience to these injunctions
the whole people, not only men, but "the women, and the
little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them"
left their camp at Gilgal, and marched through the country of
their enemies, to the vale of Shechem, near the center of the land.
Though surrounded by unconquered foes, they were safe under
the protection of God as long as they were faithful to Him.
Now, as in the days of Jacob, "the terror of God was upon the
cities that were round about them" (Genesis 35:5), and the
Hebrews were unmolested.
The place appointed for this solemn service was one already
sacred from its association with the history of their fathers. It
was here that Abraham raised his first altar to Jehovah in the
land of Canaan. Here both Abraham and Jacob had pitched their
tents. Here the latter bought the field in which the tribes were
to bury the body of Joseph. Here also was the well that Jacob [p. 500] had dug, and the oak under which he had buried the idolatrous
images of his household.
The spot chosen was one of the most beautiful in all Palestine,
and worthy to be the theater where this grand and impressive
scene was to be enacted. The lovely valley, its green fields dotted
with olive groves, watered with brooks from living fountains,
and gemmed with wild flowers, spread out invitingly between
the barren hills. Ebal and Gerizim, upon opposite sides of the
valley, nearly approach each other, their lower spurs seeming to
form a natural pulpit, every word spoken on one being distinctly
audible on the other, while the mountainsides, receding, afford
space for a vast assemblage.
According to the directions given by Moses, a monument of
great stones was erected upon Mount Ebal. Upon these stones,
previously prepared by a covering of plaster, the law was
inscribed—not only the ten precepts spoken from Sinai and
engraved on the tables of stone, but the laws communicated to
Moses, and by him written in a book. Beside this monument
was built an altar of unhewn stone, upon which sacrifices were
offered unto the Lord. The fact that the altar was set up on
Mount Ebal, the mountain upon which the curse was put, was
significant, denoting that because of their transgressions of God's
law, Israel had justly incurred His wrath, and that it would be
at once visited, but for the atonement of Christ, represented by
the altar of sacrifice.
Six of the tribes—all descended from Leah and Rachel—were
stationed upon Mount Gerizim; while those that descended from
the handmaids, together with Reuben and Zebulun, took their
position on Ebal, the priests with the ark occupying the valley
between them. Silence was proclaimed by the sound of the signal
trumpet; and then in the deep stillness, and in the presence
of this vast assembly, Joshua, standing beside the sacred ark,
read the blessings that were to follow obedience to God's law.
All the tribes on Gerizim responded by an Amen. He then read
the curses, and the tribes on Ebal in like manner gave their assent,
thousands upon thousands of voices uniting as the voice of one
man in the solemn response. Following this came the reading
of the law of God, together with the statutes and judgments that
had been delivered to them by Moses.
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