Beginning of the End


The Blessings and the Curses

This chapter is based on Joshua 8.

After the execution of the sentence on Achan, Joshua was commanded to gather all the men of war and again advance against Ai. The power of God was with His people, and they quickly captured the city. BOE 248.1

The people were eager to settle in Canaan, but they had no homes or lands yet for their families, and to get these they must drive out the Canaanites. But a higher duty demanded their first attention—they must renew their covenant of loyalty to God. BOE 248.2

Moses’ last instructions had included directions to hold a special service on Mounts Ebal and Gerizim at Shechem, to recognize the law of God. So, in obedience, the men, “the women, the little ones, and the strangers who were living among them” left Gilgal and marched through the country of their enemies to the valley of Shechem, near the center of the land. Although they were surrounded by unconquered enemies, “the terror of God was upon the cities that were all around them” (Genesis 35:5), and the Hebrews were not attacked or threatened. BOE 248.3

Both Abraham and Jacob had pitched their tents in Shechem, and it was here that Jacob had bought the field in which the tribes were to bury the body of Joseph. Here also was the well that Jacob had dug. BOE 248.4

The spot chosen was well fit to be the theater to enact this impressive scene. The lovely valley, its green fields dotted with olive groves, watered with brooks from living fountains, and bordered with wild flowers, spread out invitingly between the barren hills. Ebal and Gerizim, on opposite sides of the valley, almost come together, their lower spurs seeming to form a natural pulpit. Every word spoken on one was distinctly heard on the other. The receding mountainsides, gave enough space for a huge assembly. BOE 248.5

A monument of very large stones was set up on Mount Ebal. On these stones, previously prepared by a covering of plaster, Joshua inscribed the law—not only the ten commandments spoken from Mt. Sinai and engraved on tables of stone, but the law communicated to Moses and written in a book. Beside this monument he built an altar of unfinished stone and offered sacrifices to the Lord on it. Because of their sins against God’s law, Israel justly deserved His wrath, and they would have felt it immediately if not for the atonement of Christ, represented by the altar of sacrifice. BOE 248.6

Six tribes were positioned on Mount Gerizim, the others on Ebal, and the priests with the ark were in the valley between. In the presence of this vast assembly, Joshua read the blessings that follow obedience to God’s law. All the tribes on Gerizim responded, “Amen.” He then read the curses, and the tribes on Ebal gave their agreement in the same way, with thousands upon thousands of voices uniting in the solemn response. The reading of the law of God came after this, together with the statutes and judgments that Moses had delivered. BOE 249.1

At Sinai Israel had received the law from the mouth of God, and its sacred commandments, written by His own hand, were preserved in the ark. Now it had been written again, where all could read for themselves the conditions of the covenant that was to prevail while they possessed Canaan. It had only been a few weeks since Moses gave the whole book of Deuteronomy in speeches to the people, yet Joshua read the law again at this time. BOE 249.2

Not only 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. Moses commanded: “At the end of every seven years, ... when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather the people together, men and women and little ones, and the stranger who is within your gates, that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the Lord your God and carefully observe all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God as long as you live in the land which you cross the Jordan to possess” (Deuteronomy 31:10-13). BOE 249.3