De 27-28; a mountain in Ephraim, over against mount Gerizim, from which it is separated by a valley about five hundred yards wide and three miles long, in which stands the town of Shechem. Both mountains are much alike in length, height, and form, and their altitude is stated not to exceed seven hundred and fifty or eight hundred feet from the level of the valley. As you journey from Jerusalem, and turn to pass through the valley west-northwest to Shechem, mount Ebal is on the right hand and mount Gerizim on the left. Some have described the count of cursing as sterile and desolate, and Gerizim as smiling and fertile. But at present there is little difference between their opposing fronts, which are alike, steep and barren. Mount Gerizim, however, is said to have a more fertile background, and to be a little higher than mount Ebal. The base of the latter is full of sepulchral excavations. See GERIZIM, SHECHEM.
stony. (1.) A mountain 3,076 feet above the level of the sea, and 1,200 feet above the level of the valley, on the north side of which stood the city of Shechem (q.v.). On this mountain six of the tribes (De 27:12-13) were appointed to take their stand and respond according to a prescribed form to the imprecations uttered in the valley, where the law was read by the Levites (Le 11:29; 27:34,34). This mountain was also the site of the first great altar erected to Jehovah (De 27:5-8; Jos 8:30-35). After this the name of Ebal does not again occur in Jewish history. (See Gerizim.)
(3.) A descendant of Seir the Horite (Ge 36:23).
1. The hill upon which the curses of the law were to be read; as on the opposite hill GERIZIM the blessings (De 11:29-30; 27:12-13; Jos 8:30-35). The valley wherein Shethem or Sichem (now Nablous) lay runs between the two hills. Ebal the mount of the curse, is steeper and more barren; Gerizim, the mount of the blessing, more sloping, and having a ravine opposite the W. of Shechem full of fountains and trees. Gerizim, as the southernmost, was chosen for the blessing, light and life being associated with the S. by the Hebrew. The central position of these mountains adapted them for the scene of the reading. The associations of the locality were another recommendation. Here first in Canaan Abraham rested, and built an altar to Jehovah who appeared unto him (Ge 12:6-7). Here too Jacob dwelt upon returning from Mesopotamia, and bought a field from the children of Hamer, father of Shethem, and built the altar El-elohe-Israel (Ge 33:19-20).
On Gerizim the Samaritans in ages long after built their temple in rivalry of that at Jerusalem. The remains of the road to it still exist. There is still a rocky amphitheatrical recess on the side of Ebal, and a corresponding one of the same dimensions on the side of Gerizim; probably formed for the accommodation of the people, when all Israel, their elders, officers, and judges, stood: half of them, the six blessing tribes, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin (sprung from Jacob's proper wives), over against Gerizim; and half, the six cursing tribes (four sprung from Zilpah and Bilhah, and Reuben the incestuous oldest and Zebulun the youngest) over against Ebal: with the ark and the priests and Levites in the center between the two mountains. The priests pronounced after Joshua (Jos 8:33-34) the blessings and curses, the people responded Amen.
The voices of those standing on Ebal can be distinctly heard by those on Gerizim (such are the acoustic properties of the place, according to Tristram, etc.) and in the intermediate valley, which is about 1,600 ft. broad and runs from Gerizim S.E. to Ebal N.W. The voice of the priests in the middle would only have to traverse half the interval between the hills. The mountains are about 2,500 ft. high. On Ebal the great altar of unhewn stones was erected, plastered with lime and inscribed with the law (De 27:2-8) immediately after entering the Holy Land, when Joshua had the first leisure after destroying Ai. It symbolized their setting up of Jehovah's law as the permanent law of Israel in their land of inheritance; and it was the pledge, in the event of their continued obedience, that Jehovah would conquer all their foes and establish them in security. The distance which Joshua had to march from Ai to Shechem was 30 miles in a straight line.
Translated in De 11:30, "are they not on the other side Jordan, beyond ('achiree) the way (road) of the W." (the sunset), i.e. on the further side of the main route from Syria and Damascus to Jerusalem and Egypt, through the center of Palestine. This road skirts Ebal and Gerizim. Moses adds "over against Gilgal" (not the Gilgal near Jericho and the Jordan, first named by Joshua (Jos 5:9), but the modern Jiljulieh, 12 miles S. of Gerizim and on the brow of lofty hills, a suitable landmark, 2Ki 2:1-2), "and beside the oaks (not 'plains,' but terebinths) of Moreh." These "terebinths of Moreh" near Shechem were familiar to the people, as marking the spot where Abraham first entered the land (Ge 12:6). The significance of the cursing and blessing is much increased by its scene being placed at Shechem in the heart of the country, equidistant between N. and S., E. and W., rather than on the outskirts of the country, at the Gilgal near Jericho.
The Canaanites are mentioned in De 11:30, as in Ge 12:6, as then already in the land, which originally was held by a Semitic race, but was afterward taken by the Hamitic Canaanites whose original seat was near the Red Sea, from whence they migrated northwards. The conquest of the heart of the country by Joshua, mount Ephraim, Esdraelon or the Jezreel valley, is not detailed; but the narrative passes from his conquest of the S. and Gilgal to Merom waters in the far N., the Ebal altar building and the blessing and cursing being the only allusion to the central country. The Samaritan Pentateuch reads "Gerizim "for Ebal (De 27:4) as the site of the altar and the plastered and law-inscribed stones; but all the Hebrew authorities are against it, and the site of the cursing is fitly the site of the altar where the penalty of the curse is borne by the typical victim.
Moreover, the cursings alone are specified in the context (De 27:14-26), an ominous presage at the beginning of Israel's disobedience and consequent chastisement. The Samaritans' aim in their reading was to justify their erection of the temple on Gerizim. The curses of Ebal have been literally fulfilled on the literal Israelites. Why should not also the blessings be literally fulfilled to literal Israel? The cross, our glory, was Israel's stumbling-block. Why should the crown, both our and their glory, be our stumbling-block? See Mic 5:7; Zec 8:13; Zep 3:20; Ro 11:12,15.
2. EBAL, son of Shobal, son of Seir (Ge 36:23).
(stone, bare mountain).
1. One of the sons of Shobal the son of Seir.
2. Obal the son of Joktan.
comp. Gene 10:28
EBAL, a celebrated mountain in the tribe of Ephraim, near Shechem, over against Mount Gerizim. These two mountains are within two hundred paces of each other, and separated by a deep valley, in which stood the town of Shechem. The two mountains are much alike in magnitude and form, being of a semicircular figure, about half a league in length, and, on the sides nearest Shechem, nearly perpendicular. One of them is barren; the other, covered with a beautiful verdure. Moses commanded the Israelites, as soon as they should have passed the river Jordan, to go directly to Shechem, and divide the whole multitude into two bodies, each composed of six tribes; one company to be placed on Ebal, and the other on Gerizim. The six tribes that were on Gerizim were to pronounce blessings on those who should faithfully observe the law of the Lord, and the six others on Mount Ebal were to pronounce curses against those who should violate it, De 11:29, &c; 27, and 28; Jos 8:30-31.
This consecration of the Hebrew commonwealth is thought to have been performed in the following manner: The heads of the first six tribes went up to the top of Mount Gerizim, and the heads of the other six tribes to the top of Mount Ebal. The priests, with the ark, and Joshua at the head of the elders of Israel, took their station in the middle of the valley which lies between the two mountains. The Levites ranged themselves in a circle about the ark; and the elders, with the people, placed themselves at the foot of the mountain, six tribes on a side. When they were thus disposed in order, the priests turned toward Mount Gerizim, on the top of which were the six heads of the six tribes who were at the foot of the same mountain, and pronounced, for example, these words: