The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 46: The Blessings and the Curses
After 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.
Military 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.
Before taking 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.
The place 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 that Jacob [p. 500] had dug, and the oak under which he had buried the idolatrous
images of his household.
The spot 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 assemblage.
According to 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.
Israel had received the law directly from the mouth of God
at Sinai; and its sacred precepts, written by His own hand, were [p. 503] 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
Every seventh 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
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 [p. 504] 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.
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Greater 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 Scriptures.
Parents can 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.
Every chapter 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.
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"League With the Gibeonites"