Joshua 8:33: Ceremony at Gerizim and Ebal, Part 1

Verse 33:[1] And all Israel, and their elders, and officers, and their judges, stood on this side the ark and on that side before the priests the Levites, (Deut. 31:9, 25) which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, as well (Deut. 31:12) the stranger, as he that was born among them; half of them over against mount Gerizim, and half of them over against mount Ebal; (Deut. 11:29; 27:12) as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel.

[Now, all the people…were standing] So that they might enlist with God, and give themselves up to Him by a new oath/sacrament of military service, before they be admitted to the sacred war, then to their inheritance, etc. For this entire ceremony was look towar this, that God and Israel might be mutually obligated, Deuteronomy 26:17, etc. And the great majority of those that had covenanted at mount Sinai had already died (Masius).

[Their elders, etc.] The זְקֵנִים, elders with respect to birth, were the Seventy Elders[2] (Grotius, Drusius, Masius). The שֹׁטְרִים are officers (Grotius), or prefects (Drusius), or preceptors (Masius). These were serving the Eldership (Grotius). They were, as it were, their lictors[3] and apparitors[4] (Drusius). The שֹׁפְטִים are those that, having been placed in charge of thousands and hundreds, were judging in minor matters (Grotius, Drusius).

All Israel, that is, the whole congregation, old and young, male and female, as it follows, verse 35. On this side the ark, and on that side, that is, some on one side of it, and some on the other.

[Hard by mount Gerizim (thus the Septuagint), אֶל־מוּל וגו״] Over against mount Gerizim (Munster, Arabic, Pagnine), toward mount (Tigurinus), opposite to mount (Montanus, Junius and Tremellius, Masius, Jonathan, Syriac), to mount (Arabic), hard by mount (Masius, Drusius). For, in the place of אֶל־מוּל, עַל/ upon in Deuteronomy 27[5] (Masius). The sense: a half part of the people occupied that direction where mount Gerizim was; a half, where mount Ebal was: whether both stood on the very slopes of the mountains as if in a theater, or they remained in the valley close together (Masius, Drusius). Question: Where were these mountains? Response: They were near Shechem (thus Masius, Serarius). Thus Josephus, born and raised in those parts; likewise all the Rabbis, and Brochard, who lived there for an entire decade[6] (Serarius, Masius). It is proven, 1. out of Judges 9:7, he stood on mount Gerizim, and said, Hearken, ye men of Shechem (Serarius). Indeed, Mercator says that mount Gerizim was stretched out by a long and continuous ridge from Shechem all the way to Ai. But this is to invent mountains that are indicated by no ancient Geography or History (Serarius). 2. Out of Deuteronomy 11:30, where these words are gathered, over against Gilgal, near Elon Moreh.[7] Now, it is evident from Genesis 12:6 that Elon Moreh was either the city of Shechem itself, or a place close to it. And what could be more appropriate than that the Israelites symbolically took possession of Canaan in the very place that Abram first received notice of the same matter that was going to be in the future, and where he had entered into the covenant of the promised inheritance with God, with an altar erected (Masius)?

Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal were in the tribe of Ephraim, not far from Shechem, as appears both from Scripture, Deuteronomy 11:29, 30; 27:12; Judges 9:7, and from other authors who lived in those parts, as Josephus and the Jewish doctors.

[As Moses had commanded…. And indeed he first blessed the people of Israel, כַּאֲשֶׁ֙ר צִוָּ֜ה מֹשֶׁ֣ה עֶֽבֶד־יְהוָ֗ה לְבָרֵ֛ךְ אֶת־הָעָ֥ם יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל בָּרִאשֹׁנָֽה׃] As Moses had commanded to bless the people at first (Montanus, similarly Malvenda), especially (Septuagint), in the first place (Pagnine, Dutch), or, for the first time. This is added because this law was to be read every seven years[8] (Dutch). [Others refer the בָּרִאשֹׁנָה to he had commanded:] Just as formerly, or previously, Moses had commanded, etc. (Munster, Tigurinus, Junius and Tremellius, Castalio, English). Now, only the language of blessing is used, because blessing alone is urged. But cursing, as a πάρεργον, a thing subordinate, is subservient to the blessing, the impediments of which it was turning away (Masius).

That they should bless, or curse, which is easily understood out of the following verse, and from Deuteronomy 27:13, etc.

[1] Hebrew: וְכָל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֡ל וּזְקֵנָ֡יו וְשֹׁטְרִ֣ים׀ וְשֹׁפְטָ֡יו עֹמְדִ֣ים מִזֶּ֣ה׀ וּמִזֶּ֣ה׀ לָאָר֡וֹן נֶגֶד֩ הַכֹּהֲנִ֙ים הַלְוִיִּ֜ם נֹשְׂאֵ֣י׀ אֲר֣וֹן בְּרִית־יְהוָ֗ה כַּגֵּר֙ כָּֽאֶזְרָ֔ח חֶצְיוֹ֙ אֶל־מ֣וּל הַר־גְּרִזִ֔ים וְהַֽחֶצְי֖וֹ אֶל־מ֣וּל הַר־עֵיבָ֑ל כַּאֲשֶׁ֙ר צִוָּ֜ה מֹשֶׁ֣ה עֶֽבֶד־יְהוָ֗ה לְבָרֵ֛ךְ אֶת־הָעָ֥ם יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל בָּרִאשֹׁנָֽה׃

[2] See Exodus 24:1, 9; Numbers 11:16-30.

[3] Lictors were attendants of civil magistrates.

[4] Apparitors were officers sent to carry out the decisions of the magistrate.

[5] Deuteronomy 27:12a:  “These shall stand upon mount Gerizim (עַל־הַ֣ר גְּרִזִ֔ים) to bless the people, when ye are come over Jordan…”

[6] Brochardus was a thirteenth century Dominican friar.  He lived in the monastery on Mount Sion for ten years.  He wrote a valuable description of those regions (Desciptio Terræ Sanctæ).

[7] Deuteronomy 11:30:  “Are they not on the other side Jordan, by the way where the sun goeth down, in the land of the Canaanites, which dwell in the champaign over against Gilgal, beside the plains of Moreh (מ֚וּל הַגִּלְגָּ֔ל אֵ֖צֶל אֵלוֹנֵ֥י מֹרֶֽה׃)?”

[8] Deuteronomy 31:9-13.

1 thought on “Joshua 8:33: Ceremony at Gerizim and Ebal, Part 1

  1. Matthew Henry: “The blessings and the curses, the sanctions of the law, were publicly read, and the people (we may suppose), according to Moses’s appointment, said Amen to them, Joshua 8:33, 34.

    The auditory was very large. [1.] The greatest prince was not excused. The elders, officers, and judges, are not above the cognizance of the law, but will come under the blessing or the curse, according as they are or are not obedient to it, and therefore they must be present to consent to the covenant and to go before the people therein. [2.] The poorest stranger was not excluded. Here was a general naturalization of them: as well the stranger as he that was born among them was taken into covenant. This was an encouragement to proselytes, and a happy presage of the kindnesses intended for the poor Gentiles in the latter days.

    The tribes were posted, as Moses directed, six towards Gerizim and six towards Ebal. And the ark in the midst of the valley was between them, for it was the ark of the covenant; and in it were shut up the close rolls of that law which was copied out and shown openly upon the stones. The covenant was commanded, and the command covenanted. The priests that attended the ark, or some of the Levites that attended them, after the people had all taken their places, and silence was proclaimed, pronounced distinctly the blessings and the curses, as Moses had drawn them up, to which the tribes said Amen; and yet it is here only said that they should bless the people, for the blessing was that which was first and chiefly intended, and which God designed in giving the law. If they fell under the curse, that was their own fault. And it was really a blessing to the people that they had this matter laid so plainly before them, life and death, good and evil; he had not dealt so with other nations.”

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