Blessings and the Curses
chapter is based on Joshua 8.]
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.
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.
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.
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
had dug, and the oak under which he had buried the idolatrous
images of his household.
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
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.
received the law directly from the mouth of God at Sinai; and its sacred
precepts, written by His own hand, were
still preserved in the ark. Now it
had been again written where all could read it. All had the privilege of
seeing for themselves the conditions of the covenant under which they were
to hold possession of Canaan. All were to signify their acceptance of the
terms of the covenant and give their assent to the blessings or curses for
its observance or neglect. The law was not only written upon the memorial
stones, but was read by Joshua himself in the hearing of all Israel. It
had not been many weeks since Moses gave the whole book of Deuteronomy in
discourses to the people, yet now Joshua read the law again.
Not alone the
men of Israel, but "all the women and the little ones" listened
to the reading of the law; for it was important that they also should know
and do their duty. God had commanded Israel concerning His statutes:
"Therefore shall ye lay up these My words in your heart and in your
soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as
frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, . . .
that your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the
land which the Lord sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of
heaven upon the earth." Deuteronomy 11:18-21.
year the whole law was to be read in the assembly of all Israel, as Moses
commanded: "At the end of every seven years, in the solemnity of the
year of release, in the feast of tabernacles, when all Israel is come to
appear before the Lord thy God in the place which He shall choose, thou
shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather the people
together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within
thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the Lord
your God, and observe to do all the words of this law: and that their
children, which have not known anything, may hear, and learn to fear the
Lord your God, as long as ye live in the land whither ye go over Jordan to
possess it." Deuteronomy 31:10-13.
Satan is ever
at work endeavoring to pervert what God has spoken, to blind the mind and
darken the understanding, and thus lead men into sin. This is why the Lord
is so explicit, making His requirements so very plain that none need err.
God is constantly seeking to draw men close under His protection, that
Satan may not practice his cruel, deceptive power upon them. He has
condescended to speak to them with His own
voice, to write with His own
hand the living oracles. And these blessed words, all instinct with life
and luminous with truth, are committed to men as a perfect guide. Because
Satan is so ready to catch away the mind and divert the affections from
the Lord's promises and requirements, the greater diligence is needed to
fix them in the mind and impress them upon the heart.
attention should be given by religious teachers to instructing the people
in the facts and lessons of Bible history and the warnings and
requirements of the Lord. These should be presented in simple language,
adapted to the comprehension of children. It should be a part of the work
both of ministers and parents to see that the young are instructed in the
and should interest their children in the varied knowledge found in the
sacred pages. But if they would interest their sons and daughters in the
word of God, they must be interested in it themselves. They must be
familiar with its teachings, and, as God commanded Israel, speak of it,
"when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way,
when thou liest down, and when thou risest up." Deuteronomy 11:19.
Those who desire their children to love and reverence God must talk of His
goodness, His majesty, and His power, as revealed in His word and in the
works of creation.
and every verse of the Bible is a communication from God to men. We should
bind its precepts as signs upon our hands and as frontlets between our
eyes. If studied and obeyed, it would lead God's people, as the Israelites
were led, by the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.