Gerizim

GERIZIM (gĕ-rī'zĭm, gĕr'ĭ-zĭm). A mountain of Samaria, Jebel et-Tôr, 2,849 feet (890 m.) high, SW of Mount Ebal. A main north-south road of Palestine runs through the valley, so that this pass is of strategic military importance. Moses commanded that when the Israelites came into the Promised Land, the blessing for keeping the law should be spoken from Mount Gerizim and the curse for not obeying it from Mount Ebal (Deut.11.29; Deut.27.4-Deut.27.26), six tribes standing on the slopes of each peak (Deut.27.11-Deut.27.14). It is conjectured that Mount Gerizim was selected for the blessing because, from the point of view of one looking eastward, it would be on the right or “fortunate” side.



Looking from the top of Mt. Gerizim down on Shechem (Josh. 24).
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GERIZIM gĕr’ ə zĭm. A mountain in central Samaria, near Shechem and about ten m. SE of the city of Samaria, esp. important as the center of worship for the Samaritans. From nodetitle and nodetitle (about three m. NE) the sacred sites of Shechem and Jacob’s well are visible.

The most important reference to Mt. Gerizim is in John 4:20-23. The woman referred to “this mountain” as the worship center for the Samaritans. She said, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain.” Jesus answered “neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem...but...in spirit and in truth” shall men worship the Father.

The area is sacred to Jews as well as Samaritans. Here, Abraham and Jacob entered the Promised Land (Gen 12:6; 33:18). Jacob built an altar, dug a well, and purchased a burial ground at Shechem. The Israelites used it for a burial ground for the bones of Joseph (Josh 24:32). Both Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal were the sites used when Joshua gathered all the people of Israel to Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal for the ceremony of taking possession of the Promised Land. According to the command of Moses (Deut 11:29; 27:11-14) Gerizim was to be the mount to pronounce the blessing on godliness, while Ebal would be the mount from which would be declared the curse of God upon wickedness. There Joshua read the law of Moses in full to the whole assembly (Josh 8:30-35) gathered before Gerizim and Ebal, but he built an altar only on Mt. Ebal (Josh 8:30).

Joshua called Israel back to Shechem, under the shadow of Gerizim and Ebal, to renew the covenant, which he did in this manner: “he took a great stone, and set it up there under the oak in the sanctuary of the Lord” (Josh 24:26). This site was sacred to the Israelites in the early days of their occupation of the Promised Land. In the movement toward centralization of worship at Jerusalem under David and Solomon, other worship centers were not looked upon with favor. When the division of the kingdom took place, Jeroboam made Shechem the capital of the northern kingdom (1 Kings 12:25), discouraged worship at the Temple in Jerusalem, and substituted calf worship at Bethel and Dan. He thereby instigated a new and separate religion, centering at Shechem and Mt. Gerizim.

After the king of Assyria resettled northern and central Pal. with pagan peoples he sent a priest of Israel back to Samaria to teach them the religion of the Jewish remnant (2 Kings 17:24-34). In this way, the worship of God was preserved, but also perverted.

The story of the origin of the Samaritan cult and temple prob. has apocryphal elements. On the basis of Nehemiah 4 and 13:28 and traditions, Josephus (Jos. Antiq. XI. viii. 2, 4) wrote that the event leading to it was the marriage of Manasseh, a son of a high priest at Jerusalem, to the daughter of Sanballat, a Gentile official at Samaria. Manasseh was ordered to divorce his pagan wife or leave the priesthood but Sanballat promised to build a rival temple for him. Some date this in the time of Alexander the Great, 330 b.c., others a cent. earlier. The temple was prob. destroyed by the Maccabees around 110 b.c. (Jos. Antiq. XIII. ix. 1; War I. 11. 6).

Bibliography

Hastings, HDCG, I, 644, 645; E. G. Kraeling, Rand McNally Bible Atlas (1956), 158, 159.