Deuteronomy 11:29 “And it shall come about, when the Lord your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, that you shall place the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal.”
About 3,000 feet above sea level, the twin mountains of Gerizim and Ebal definitely caught Moses’ eyes when he looked from Moab to Canaan, the promised land. In Deuteronomy chapter 28, Moses pronounced the blessings for the Israelites who kept the law in verses 7-8 and 11-12, and the curses for the people who disobeyed the law in verses 20-24.
Mount Gerizim was also mentioned in John chapter 4 (please see Jacob’s Well) when the Samaritan woman asked Jesus why Jews worshipped in the Jerusalem temple while Samaritans worshipped on Mount Gerizim. First Jesus confirmed that “salvation is from the Jews” (and that is why we Gentiles are indebted to Jewish people). He further explained that neither temple nor mountain will be sacred, since true worshipers will worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:21-24).
Sitting in a valley between the twin mounts is Shechem (now called Nablus). Currently, it is one of the largest Palestinian cities in the West Bank territory. As of 2021, the population in Nablus is 167,931 per Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. The most population under the control of the Palestinian Authority is Hebron, which has 782,227.
mount gerizim and Mount ebal
In the picture, the left side is Mount Gerizim, and the right side is Mount Ebal. The blessed mountain Mount Gerizim is dotted with springs. You can see that Mount Gerizim has a green pasture with gardens and plantations, while the cursed mountain Mount Ebal is rocky and barren.
Photo was contributed by Dr. Rasmussen.
The round mound of a ruin, ancient Shechem can be seen in this picture. An archaeological site of this ancient Shechem is called Tel Balata.
Shechem in ancient times was not only a religious center (Gen 12:6, 35:4, Judgs 9:37, Josh 24:26) but also an administrative center (1 Kgs 12:25). It is because Shechem was situated in an open area, which was a convenient passage connecting to four directions. But because of its openness, it was difficult to defend. Jeroboam in this sense moved his capital city from Shechem to Tirzah.
In Shechem, Abraham and his descendants would inherit the land (Gen 12:7). Here Jacob purchased the plot of land where Joseph his son would be buried in the future. Here the Tribes of Israel performed the burnt and fellowship offerings upon their entrance into the Promised Land (Joshua 8:30-35). At the end of Joshua’s life, he made a covenant with the nation at Shechem where the Israelites placed a large stone (Joshua 24:26).
The Samaritan Temple on Mount Gerizim was first built around the 5th century BCE (John 4:20). Later during the 3rd century BCE, a large city was constructed, and during the early 2nd century BCE, the temple was extensively built. Eventually the city and the temple were destroyed by a great fire during the end of the 2nd century BCE.
Nowadays, the Samaritans still ascend Mount Gerizim every year during the three pilgrimages: Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot (Exodus 23:14) and at Pesach (Passover) to carry out the Paschal sacrifice there.