The Altar on Ebal

Joshua

The Altar on Ebal

December 6th, 1959 @ 8:15 AM

Joshua 8

And the LORD said unto Joshua, Fear not, neither be thou dismayed: take all the people of war with thee, and arise, go up to Ai: see, I have given into thy hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land: And thou shalt do to Ai and her king as thou didst unto Jericho and her king: only the spoil thereof, and the cattle thereof, shall ye take for a prey unto yourselves: lay thee an ambush for the city behind it. So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up against Ai: and Joshua chose out thirty thousand mighty men of valour, and sent them away by night. And he commanded them, saying, Behold, ye shall lie in wait against the city, even behind the city: go not very far from the city, but be ye all ready: And I, and all the people that are with me, will approach unto the city: and it shall come to pass, when they come out against us, as at the first, that we will flee before them, (For they will come out after us) till we have drawn them from the city; for they will say, They flee before us, as at the first: therefore we will flee before them. Then ye shall rise up from the ambush, and seize upon the city: for the LORD your God will deliver it into your hand. And it shall be, when ye have taken the city, that ye shall set the city on fire: according to the commandment of the LORD shall ye do. See, I have commanded you. Joshua therefore sent them forth: and they went to lie in ambush, and abode between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of Ai: but Joshua lodged that night among the people. And Joshua rose up early in the morning, and numbered the people, and went up, he and the elders of Israel, before the people to Ai. And all the people, even the people of war that were with him, went up, and drew nigh, and came before the city, and pitched on the north side of Ai: now there was a valley between them and Ai. And he took about five thousand men, and set them to lie in ambush between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of the city. And when they had set the people, even all the host that was on the north of the city, and their liers in wait on the west of the city, Joshua went that night into the midst of the valley. And it came to pass, when the king of Ai saw it, that they hasted and rose up early, and the men of the city went out against Israel to battle, he and all his people, at a time appointed, before the plain; but he wist not that there were liers in ambush against him behind the city. And Joshua and all Israel made as if they were beaten before them, and fled by the way of the wilderness. And all the people that were in Ai were called together to pursue after them: and they pursued after Joshua, and were drawn away from the city. And there was not a man left in Ai or Bethel, that went not out after Israel: and they left the city open, and pursued after Israel. And the LORD said unto Joshua, Stretch out the spear that is in thy hand toward Ai; for I will give it into thine hand. And Joshua stretched out the spear that he had in his hand toward the city. And the ambush arose quickly out of their place, and they ran as soon as he had stretched out his hand: and they entered into the city, and took it, and hasted and set the city on fire. And when the men of Ai looked behind them, they saw, and, behold, the smoke of the city ascended up to heaven, and they had no power to flee this way or that way: and the people that fled to the wilderness turned back upon the pursuers. And when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city, and that the smoke of the city ascended, then they turned again, and slew the men of Ai. And the other issued out of the city against them; so they were in the midst of Israel, some on this side, and some on that side: and they smote them, so that they let none of them remain or escape. And the king of Ai they took alive, and brought him to Joshua. And it came to pass, when Israel had made an end of slaying all the inhabitants of Ai in the field, in the wilderness wherein they chased them, and when they were all fallen on the edge of the sword, until they were consumed, that all the Israelites returned unto Ai, and smote it with the edge of the sword. And so it was, that all that fell that day, both of men and women, were twelve thousand, even all the men of Ai. For Joshua drew not his hand back, wherewith he stretched out the spear, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai. Only the cattle and the spoil of that city Israel took for a prey unto themselves, according unto the word of the LORD which he commanded Joshua. And Joshua burnt Ai, and made it an heap for ever, even a desolation unto this day. And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until eventide: and as soon as the sun was down, Joshua commanded that they should take his carcase down from the tree, and cast it at the entering of the gate of the city, and raise thereon a great heap of stones, that remaineth unto this day. Then Joshua built an altar unto the LORD God of Israel in mount Ebal, As Moses the servant of the LORD commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of whole stones, over which no man hath lift up any iron: and they offered thereon burnt offerings unto the LORD, and sacrificed peace offerings. And he wrote there upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he wrote in the presence of the children of Israel. 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, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, as well the stranger, as he that was born among them; half of them over against mount Gerizim, and half of them over against mount Ebal; as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel. And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law. There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them.
Related Topics: Humility, Prayer, Sin, War, Joshua 1959, 1959, Joshua
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THE ALTAR ON EBAL

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Joshua 8

12-06-59    8:15 a.m.

 

 

 

In our following the life of Joshua, we have come to the eighth chapter of his book.  And if you will turn to chapter 8, we will follow the story as it is given to us here in the Word of God.  Last Sunday morning, Joshua was on his face.  His clothes were rent.  He was beseeching the Lord, for His people had turned their backs on their enemies [Joshua 7:6-9].  God’s children, God’s people, were in defeat [Joshua 7:2-5].  So, the Lord said to Joshua, “Get up, get up . . . Israel has sinned . . . they have transgressed, they have dissembled, they have stolen—they have taken of the accursed thing” [Joshua 7:10-11].

And as long as Israel is in dissimulation and transgression, God’s favor cannot rest upon them [Joshua 7:12].  So they confess their sin, they make expiation for it in the Valley of Achor [Joshua 7:24-26].  And now, in the eighth chapter, the Lord of hosts directs the army, and they renew the conquest of the land.  Now the eighth chapter begins like this:

 

 And the Lord said unto Joshua, Fear not, neither be thou dismayed: take all the people of war with thee, and arise, go up to Ai: see, I have given into thy hand the king, his people, his city, and his land

 [Joshua 8:1]

 

Now, I want you to compare what God said to do with what Israel proposed to do in their own wisdom.  In the previous chapter, chapter 7, those who had reconnoitered and brought back the report of their reconnaissance [Joshua 7:2]; in the third verse of the seventh chapter, they returned to Joshua and said, “Just a little place: Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai . . . for they are just few” [Joshua 7:3].  That’s what Israel said.  But when the Lord of hosts took over command of the army, God said, “Take all the people of war with thee, and arise, go up to Ai: see, I have given it into thy hand” [Joshua 8:1].  I wonder what God would teach us in that.

The first impairment and flagrant lesson written large on the face of it is this.  We make a mistake when we underestimate the enemies of Christ.  We underestimate the power of Satan.  We underestimate the power of the world.  We underestimate the power of the kingdoms of darkness.  God says, “Take all the people; take all the men of war [Joshua 8:1].  This powerful enemy is not easily subverted.  He is strong, and he is mighty.” And God says, “Never underestimate the power of the enemies of Christ, never!  Even Michael the archangel, when he was disputing with Satan about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee” [Jude 9].  Even Michael the archangel dared not.  We are never to underestimate the power of the enemy of Christ; take all the people of war.

Here is a second thing to be learned on the very face of this passage.  Let God do the leading and the enabling.  For with all of our ingenuity and with all of our acumen, and with all of our wisdom, and with all of our strength, we are but as match sticks in the presence of the power of the enemies of Christ.  God’s people have no strength except as they rely upon the Lord.  God has to lead us.  God has to save us.  God has to protect us.  God has to keep us.  The war is in His hands, and our eyes must be fixed upon Him [Psalm 108:1-13].  And the second verse: “And thou shalt do to Ai and her king as thou didst unto Jericho and her king: only the spoil thereof, and the cattle thereof, shall ye take for a prey unto yourselves” [Joshua 8:2].

Now, here is another remarkable thing for God’s people to remember.  What about the goods in this world, the stuff in this world, the spoil in this world, all of the possessions in this world?  Are they interdicted to God’s people?  No, for this has in it a very plain lesson for the people of the Lord.  You see, Jericho was interdicted to the people because God was teaching His children that the war of conquest was not just another war for the spoils, like a heathen war, like a pagan war.  One country would declare war against another country in order that they might possess what that country had, and the war was one of greed and avarice.  God was teaching His people that this war of conquest was not for greed or for avarice; that Israel might be enriched in the spoliation of the nations of Canaan.  God was using His people in the conquest of Canaan to rid the land of the iniquity of the Amorites [Deuteronomy 9:4-5].  And Israel was the rod in God’s hand, to scourge, to purge the land [Isaiah 10:5].  So, in the first battle that they fought, it was won in the power of God.  The walls of Jericho fell down by the power and word of the Lord [Joshua 6:2-5, 10-16, 20].  And nothing in the city was to be taken by the people [Joshua 6:18-21, 24].  All of it was to be devoted; it was to be consumed with fire [Joshua 6:24].  They were to be taught that their conquest was not for avaricious and greedy and self-enriching purposes.  Having impressed upon them that lesson, they now come into the conquest of the rest of Canaan.  And the Lord says to them, “Now, the spoil of the city, the cattle, all that is in the city, you may take for yourselves” [Joshua 8:2].

The only time that God interdicts things, possessions, is when they take the place of God in our hearts; when they become idols to us; when we love the thing for the thing itself.  That’s why the rich, young ruler could not come with Jesus into the kingdom of heaven.  He loved the world.  It was in his heart [Mark 10:17-22; Luke 18:18-23].  And you cannot go through that narrow door into heaven holding the world in your heart.  The world is too big, and the gate is too strait, it is too narrow [Matthew 7:13-14].  So the Lord said to the rich, young ruler, “You get rid of your possessions.  You sell everything you have, give it away, and come and follow Me, and you will have treasures in heaven” [Mark 10:21; Luke 18:22].  He refused to do it because he loved the world, and he loved his possessions.  He loved things more than he loved God.  That’s why the Lord said to him, “Get rid of them.  Get rid of them.”

I would suppose had the rich, young ruler agreed to do it, the Lord might have said, “No, now that you evidenced that you do not love them more than you love God, keep them and use them for the glory of the Lord.”  For example, Zaccheus was a rich man.  And Zaccheus stood in the presence of the Lord and said, “Half of everything I make, I give away.  And if I have wronged a man, I restore him fourfold” [Luke 19:8].  Jesus did not tell him to give everything he had away.  Joseph of Arimathea who, with Nicodemus, buried our Lord in Joseph’s new tomb, Joseph of Arimathea was a rich man [John 19:38-42].  Yet, the Lord never said to him, “Give everything you have away.”  It is just that God does not want His children to worship and to bow down before the things of this world.  Whatever you have, use for the glory of God, only don’t love it as such, nor bow down before it as such.  Don’t make a god out of mammon, out of the treasures and possessions of this world.  They are to be used, and that is all.  Whatever we have of money, of land, of property, of riches, of wealth, of houses, whatever it is; it is just to be used.  It is not to be loved in itself, and it is not to be worshipped.  And as long as a man will take what God has given him, whatever possessions come into his hands, as long as a man will take them and use them for good and for God, the Lord is pleased in your possessing them.  So, here at Ai God says, “All the spoil of the city, all of it is yours.  Take it and use it for the glory of the Lord” [Joshua 8:2].

Then you have the story of the capture of Ai [Joshua 8:3-28].  And for the first time under the leadership of God, you see the able generalship; you see the strategy of this man Joshua.  We haven’t time to go into the capture of the city; but he did it astutely; putting an ambush back of the city of Ai, then Joshua himself led an army up to the gates of the city.  And when the tall men of Ai—the Amorites, the seed of the giants—when those tall men came out, Joshua and his army fled before them.  And he drew out of the city all of the men of Ai, every one of them.  And he drew out of the city all of the men of Bethel, every one of them.  And they pursued after Joshua and after Joshua’s army.  And they left the gates of their city open, and the city was absolutely defenseless.  So Joshua, with his army, is feigning, is feigning defeat, running away, leading the men of Ai out.  And after they had gone a few miles, and the city of Ai was left open and defenseless, Joshua mounted a certain hill, held up his spear, which was the sign, and the ambush rose from behind, entered into the city, set it on fire.  And the armies of Ai turned and beheld, and the smoke of their city was rising up to heaven.  Then Joshua and his army, and the ambush back of the city, rushed into the fray against Ai’s army from both sides—from the front and from the back.  And in just no time at all, Ai was a prostrated and a conquered city [Joshua 8:3-28].

That was an ingenious way to do.  And it was nothing but typical of what Joshua did all the rest of the war of the conquest of Canaan.  He never lost a battle, not one.  The only time he was ever defeated was in last Sunday’s lesson, in the seventh [chapter] of Joshua, when the men of Ai caused the army of the Lord to flee because of the transgression of the people [Joshua 7:1-5].  But beyond that, Joshua never lost a battle.  God was with him.  We will never lose one either when we wait upon the Lord, never.

Now, the chapter ends, the eighth chapter ends with the great purpose of why Joshua was turning his army to the middle and to the north of the country of Palestine.  In the thirtieth verse:

 

Then Joshua built an altar unto the Lord God of Israel in Mount Ebal.

As Moses the servant of the Lord commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, an altar of whole stones, over which no man had lifted up any tool, any iron; and they offered thereon burnt offerings unto the Lord, and sacrificed peace offerings.

And he wrote there upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses. . .

And all Israel, and their elders, and officers, and their judges, stood on this side of the altar and on that side before the priests the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, as well as the stranger, as he that was born among them; half of them over against Mount Gerizim, and half of them over against Mount Ebal; as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel.

And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law.

There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant—the Hebrew is “that walked”—among them.

 [Joshua 8:30-35]

 

Now, the thing that Joshua was doing was obeying to the letter the commandment of Moses.  Moses told the people that when they entered Canaan, when they crossed over Jordan, we won’t take the time to read the passage in the eleventh chapter of Deuteronomy [Deuteronomy 11:26-29] and in the twenty-seventh chapter of Deuteronomy [Deuteronomy 27:11-26], in both places this mandate is given: when Israel had crossed over Jordan, they were to go up to Shechem.  And there, between the twin peaks of Ebal and Gerizim, they were to read the law with its blessings and its cursings.

Mt. Ebal was to be the mount of cursing.  The curses were to be read on Mt. Ebal [Deuteronomy 27:11-26].  And Gerizim was to be the mount of blessing [Deuteronomy 28:1-14].  The blessings were to be read on Mt. Gerizim.  So when Joshua entered into the land of conquest, he immediately followed that line of conquest up to Shechem.  He had to capture Jericho [Joshua 6].  He next had to capture Ai and Bethel [Joshua 8:3-28].  Then that road that leads from Jerusalem to Nablus, that road that goes through the center of Palestine, was open to him.   Within, I would say, about three weeks after they crossed Jordan, Joshua had conquered that much of the land, that they were able to go up to the pass at Samaria and there obey this injunction and mandate of Moses [Deuteronomy 11:16-29, 27:11-26].

Now, many of you, I would think, several of you at least, have been there.  Mt. Ebal is on the north, and Mt. Gerizim is on the south.  The top of those twin peaks are about two miles apart.  They are at the head of a beautiful, little valley; it’s the Valley of Shechem.  And at the head of the valley, at the base of the twin peaks of Ebal and Gerizim, is Jacob’s well and the parcel of land that Jacob gave to Joseph [John 4:5; Genesis 48:22].  That was the well whereon Jesus sat when He was wearied from His journey and spoke to the Samaritan woman [John 4:6-7].

Now it is there that all Israel according to the commandment of Moses was to be brought [Deuteronomy 11:26-29, 27:11-26], and this is the service by which they took the land and dedicated it to God.  Joshua built an altar unto the Lord God of Israel in Mt. Ebal [Joshua 8:30].  Now, it says here that the altar was built, according to the Word of God, “of whole stones, over which no man had lifted up any iron” [Joshua 8:31].  According to the twentieth chapter of Exodus, when you make an altar, “If you make Me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it” [Exodus 20:25].  So any altar that was built in Israel was built out of uncut stone, unhewn stone, out of rough stone; just as they picked up the rocks off the ground.  And the altar was built on Mt. Ebal, which was the mount of cursing [Deuteronomy 27:11-26].  And on it, were offered burnt offerings and thanksgiving offerings [Joshua 8:30-31].

The fact that it was built upon Mt. Ebal is a picture of our Lord.  It was not built on Gerizim, it was built on Mt. Ebal [Joshua 8:30].  The altar was built on the mount of cursing.  Therein was a great and true picture of Jesus.  In the third chapter of the Book of Galatians, we are told that, “Christ was made a curse for us, that Christ might redeem us from the curse of the law” [Galatians 3:13].  And that altar on Mt. Ebal is Christ, and the offerings that were made there, that were sacrificed, were Christ.  On the mount of cursing, Christ was made a curse for us, that we might be redeemed from the curse of the law [Galatians 3:13].  So our Lord is in type offered there on the mount of cursing.

And, it was also a place for thanksgiving offerings, peace offerings [Joshua 8:31].  God said here, through Moses, long before they entered the land, “There”—on Mt. Ebal—”thou shalt build an altar unto the Lord thy God [Deuteronomy 27:6]. . . . And thou shalt offer peace offerings, and thou shalt eat there, and rejoice there before the Lord thy God” [Deuteronomy 27:7].  That is an exact picture of what we have in the Lord’s Supper [Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26], which is a communal meal before the Lord.  And it is called the Eucharist.  Eucharist; eucharisteō is the Greek word for “to give thanks” and eucharistia is “the gratitude, the thanksgiving.”  And when we have the Lord’s Supper, we have a prayer of thanksgiving before the Lord’s Supper, because Jesus has taken away the curse of the law from us [Galatians 3:13].  And the offering is one of gratitude and thanksgiving.

Now that is why here, on this Mt. Ebal, there is an altar raised—which represents Christ—on which a burnt sacrifice is made [Joshua 8:30-31]—which is the surrendering of our Lord as an expiation for our sins [1 John 2:2]; all of it offered unto God; and thanksgiving offerings are made there—the Eucharist [Matthew 26:26-28].  Thank You, Lord, for Christ who has given His body for us, and we eat [Matthew 26:26].  And thank You, Lord, for Christ who has given His blood for our sins, and we drink [Matthew 26:27-28].  There, a sacrifice of thanksgiving unto the Lord.

Then briefly, how the day was spent; half of the tribes—and they are listed here in the twenty-seventh chapter of Deuteronomy—half of the tribes went up on the side of the Mt. Ebal, and half of the tribes went up on the side of Gerizim [Deuteronomy 27:12-13].  And the ark of the covenant, with its covering of blue, was placed in the valley between the two mountains [Joshua 8:33].  And from Mt. Ebal was read the curses of the law [Deuteronomy 27:11-26], and from Mt. Gerizim was read the blessings of the law [Deuteronomy 28:1-14].  And you will find the blessings and the cursings in the twenty-seventh chapter and the twenty-eighth chapter of Deuteronomy:

 

Cursed be he that setteth light by his father . . .

Cursed be he that removeth his neighbor’s landmark . . .

Cursed be he that maketh the blind to wander . . .

Cursed be he that lieth in wait . . .

Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field.

Cursed shalt be thy basket in thy store.

Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body . . .

Cursed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and cursed shalt thou be when thou goest out.

The curses, when they disobeyed the law of Moses, they were read from Mount Ebal.

[Deuteronomy 27:16-26] 

 

Then, from Mount Gerizim, were read,

Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field.

Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body.

Blessed thy basket and thy store.

Blessed shall thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shall thou be when thou goest out . . .

[Deuteronomy 28:3-6]

 

—when you obey the law of Moses.  So the two are there, side by side, Mt. Ebal, the cursing; and Mt. Gerizim, the blessing.

I make just this one observation; the law is always with us, always.  The law is written on the sides of the altar [Joshua 8:32], on the stones of the altar, according to this Word of God [Deuteronomy 27:7-8].  And he wrote upon the altar of stones, a copy of the law [Joshua 8:32].  The law is on the altar.  The law is in the ark of the covenant, the tables of stone.  The law is written in our hearts [Jeremiah 31:33, Hebrews 8:10].  The law is written on God’s throne in the heavens.  God runs His universe by His law.  The law is eternal [Matthew 5:18].  It was, it is, it always will be.  Faith does not make the works of the law of none effect.  We never get away from the law in the covenant, in our hearts and consciences, on the throne of God.  Here, written on the stones upon the altar; it is forever.

That is why we must thank God for the altar on Mt. Ebal, the altar on the mount of cursing [Joshua 8:30].  Cursed be the man that disobeys the law [Deuteronomy 11:26-28], and we have disobeyed it.  Cursed be the man that transgresses the least commandment of God, and transgressed the commandments of God [Deuteronomy 27:26].  Cursed be the man that is not perfect in all of his ways to obey and follow the law.  Cursed is the man.  Cursed is the man.  Cursed is the man.  Whenever we break the law of God, we fall under the curse of God.

Then, how could a man ever be blessed of God?  Because of that altar on Mt. Ebal [Joshua 8:30].  There, Christ took the judgment for our sins and the punishment for our sins [2 Corinthians 5:21], and He died for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3].  And it is in the love, and mercy, and blood, and atoning grace of Jesus that we have access to the throne of heaven [Hebrews 4:14-16], the forgiveness of our sins [Colossians 1:14], and the blessing of God upon our lives [John 10:10].  All of these things have those deep and profound meanings, if God would just give us eyes to see them and hearts to understand them.

Thank You, Lord, for the body of Jesus which was broken for me [1 Corinthians 11:24].  And it is a thanksgiving service.  It is a eucharistic service that we eat [Matthew 26:26-28], just like they did on Mt. Ebal.  They ate and gave thanks to God [Deuteronomy 27:7].  Thank You, Lord, for the blood of Jesus, spilt as an expiation to wash the stain out of our souls [Revelation 7:14].  Thank You, Lord.  And we drank together, just like they drank on Mt. Ebal in this sacrifice of thanksgiving.  Lord, if it had not been for You, we would never make it.  We would all be lost.  We would all be damned.  But thank You, Lord, for the sacrifice that turns the curse of the law into a blessing for our souls [2 Corinthians 5:21].

Now while we stand and sing our invitation hymn; somebody this morning to give his heart to the Lord; somebody to put his life with us in the fellowship of the church; on the first note of the first stanza, would you come and stand by me?  While all of us stand and sing the hymn together.

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Ebal and Gerizim

(The Altar on Ebal)

Joshua 8:1-35

12/59

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8:1 “take all the people of war”

cf. 7:3 – the difference between the plan of the people and that of God.

The purpose of God:

(1) To impress upon them the folly of underrating the power of the enemy

(2) To impress upon them their own helplessness, insufficiency apart from the divine enabling.

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8:2 “the spoil for yourselves”

The substance of the world not interdicted to people of God.

Only when for a reason: cf. Jericho – to impress, a holy war.

Achan made it just for spoils.

cf. -Rich young ruler. In his heart

But Zaccheus – Joseph of Arimathea

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8:3-29 The capture of Ai:

Under the directive of Jehovah, Joshua a supreme general, strategist.

The tall men of Ai shouting their exultant battle cries.

So confident, left the city open, defenseless.

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8:30-35 The altar on Ebal, curses, blessing on Ebal and Gerizim.

This is one of the most impressive scenes in all the Bible story. All Israel goes on a pilgrimage of 30 miles to perform a religious duty which had been distinctly, on more than one occasion, commanded by Moses the Great Lawgiver.

cf. Deut. 11:29-32; 27:4, 12, 13 [Deut. 27, 28]

Jericho lay in heaps. Ai destroyed. All through the land rumors ran of the might of Israel’s God. Fear of Israel on all sides. No molestation in this interval.

Joshua lost no time in obeying the injunctions of Moses. Perhaps within three weeks of the passage of the Jordan, the people were assembled in the valley of Shechem, on the north the peak of Ebal, on the south the peak of Gerizim. The valley between the two peaks one of the most beautiful in Palestine. Jacob’s well at the water’s edge, at base of Ebal and Gerizim (where Jesus sat wearied). Thither Joshua led the people that by a solemn religious act he might take possession of the land of God. This the purpose of the line of attack – from Jericho to Ai to Shechem.

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8:30-31 The altar on Ebal

Directions for the building of any altar – Ex. 20:24-26

Specific directions for this particular altar – Deut 27:4-7

On the Mount of Cursing (Gerizim Mount of Blessing)

 

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The altar is Christ. The sacrifices are Christ. A curse for us.

cf. Gal. 3:10-13

The whole burnt offering. Our Lord wholly surrendered, yielded command, held back nothing, no reserves. Emptied Himself.

Peace offerings. Thanksgiving. A participation by priests, people. Fellowship. Communion. Deut 27:7 – “shalt eat . . . rejoice . . “

cf. the “Eucharist” – the Lord’s Supper.

Because Christ died, we shall never have to stand upon the Mount of Cursing. The forbidding slopes have become scenes of blessed communion with God. We feast with Him.

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8:33-35 The reading of the law, blessings & cursings

In the center of the valley the ark rested with its covering of blue and with its attendant group of priests and Levites. Close by stood Joshua and the elders, officers, judges of the people.

Then up the slope of Ebal went Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan and Naphtali (Deut. 27:13)

Then up the slopes of Gerizim went the larger tribes of Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph and Benjamin (Deut. 27:12), as though the voice of blessing must be louder than the voice of cursing.

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Joshua read the law. As he solemnly read, whether the blessing or the cursing, each item was responded to by the thunderous amens from the thousands of voices.

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The law written upon the stones of the altar.

The law written in the heart of the ark of the covenant

The law written upon the heart.

Faith not make the law of God of none effect.

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It is that altar we need, must have.

It is that blood of expiation on the mercy seat. It is Christ.

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