Those of you who have read the previous article about Mount Gerizim will be familiar with many of the Bible verses about Mount Ebal. For instance Deuteronomy 11:29: “When the Lord your God has brought you into the land you are entering to possess, you are to proclaim on Mount Gerizim the blessings, and on Mount Ebal the curses.”
Mount Ebal is the less fertile of the two mountains in the middle of Canaan, now the West Bank territory. It is slightly higher than Mount Gerizim at 3080 feet, which is 60 feet above sea level. Primarily formed of limestone, the slopes contain several caverns that may once have been quarries. Towards the bottom are several tombs but it is not known to whom they belong.
When the Israelites entered the land of Canaan, Moses explained that Mount Ebal was to be used for curses and Gerizim for blessings. This may be on account of the difference in soil qualities. Later, the Israelites were instructed to build an altar upon the mountain: “And when you have crossed the Jordan, set up these stones on Mount Ebal, as I command you today, and coat them with plaster.” (Deuteronomy 27:4) Further instructions told them to make peace offerings on the altar, eat there, and write the words of the law – the Pentateuch - on the stone.
Immediately after the instructions for the altar have been received, the Israelites are told to split into two groups. One group was to go to Mount Gerizim and pronounce blessings, and the other to remain on Mount Ebal and pronounce curses. “And these tribes shall stand on Mount Ebal to pronounce curses: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan and Naphtali.” (Deuteronomy 27:13) There has been no logical explanation agreed upon for the choice of tribes, however, one suggestion is that this was the most equal split in terms of the number of people in each tribe as recorded in the book of Numbers.
The curses pronounced on Mount Ebal were the following:
After the Battle of Ai in the book of Joshua, Joshua renews the covenant at Mount Ebal.
Over time, archaeologists have made many discoveries upon the slopes of Mount Ebal. Known to locals as el Burnat (the Hat), a stone heap resembling an amphitheatre was discovered during the 20thcentury. Pieces of pottery were found among the heap dating from 1220-1000 BC. Further excavations found a walled structure with no windows and doors that was full of stone, ash and burnt animal bones. The archaeologist in charge of the excavation believed the structure to be the remains of Joshua’s altar. Others argue that it could be an Assyrian altar since it does not fit with the Biblical account, which says Joshua’s altar faces Mount Gerizim, whereas these remains are on the opposite side.
A third suggestion for the ruins is a simple farmhouse or guard tower. Nevertheless, if anyone wishes to visit the site, particularly the Israelis, they must liaise with the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) and be escorted by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) to ensure their safety. Plans were proposed to make Mount Ebal a tourist destination but as of yet, nothing has come to fruition.
We are happy for you to use any material found here, however, please acknowledge the source: www.gantshillurc.co.uk
Rev'd Martin Wheadon