30. Then Joshua built an altar unto the LORD God of Israel in mount Ebal,
30. Tunc aedificavit Josue altare Jehovae Deo Israel in monte Ebal,
31. As Moses the servant of the LORD commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of whole stones, over which no man has lift up any iron: and they offered thereon burnt offerings unto the LORD, and sacrificed peace offerings.
31. Quemadmodum praeceperat Moses servus Jehovae filiis Israel: sicut scriptum est in libro legis Mosis, altare ex lapidibus integris, super quos non levaverant ferrum: et immolaverunt super illud holocausta Jehovae, et sacrificaverunt hostias prosperitatum.
32. And he wrote there upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he wrote in the presence of the children of Israel.
32. Scripsit quoque ibi in lapidibus repetitam legem Mosis, quam scripsit coram filiis Israel.
33. And all Israel, and their elders, and officers, and their judges, stood on this side the ark and on that side before the priests the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, as well the stranger, as he that was born among them; half of them over against mount Gerizim, and half of them over against mount Ebal; as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel.
33. Universus autem Israel, et seniores ejus, et praefecti, et Judices ejus stabant hinc et inde ad arcam coram sacerdotibus Levitis portantibus arcam foederis Jehovae, tam peregrinus quam indigena: dimidia pars ejus contra montem Garizin, et dimidia pars ejus contra montem Ebal: quemadmodum praeceperat Moses servus Jehovae, ut benediceret populo Israel primum.
34. And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law.
34. Et post haec legit omnia verba legis, benedictionem et maledictionem, secundum id totum quod scriptum est in libro legis.
35. There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them.
35. Non fuit quidquam ex omnibus quae praeceperat Moses quod non legerit Josue coram universo coetu Israel, et mulieribus, et parvulis, et peregrinis versantibus in medio ipsorum.
To begin with the altar, -- it is said, that according to the divine command, it was formed of unhewn stones. For entire stones on which the masons' iron has not been employed, are called rough and unworked.2 This is specially said in Deuteronomy 27, of the altar, of which mention is now made. But the same thing had before been said in general of all others. Some expounders, in searching for the reason, needlessly have recourse to allegory, and allege that the hand and industry of men are forbidden, because the moment we introduce any devices of our own, the worship of God is vitiated. This is indeed truly and wisely said, but it is out of place, as the divine intention simply was to prohibit the perpetuity of altars. For we know, that in order to sacrifice duly, it was enjoined that all should have one common altar, in order both to cherish mutual agreement, and to obviate all sources of corruption from the introduction of an adventitious superstition; in short, in order that religion might remain one and simple, as a variety of altars would soon have led to discord, thereby distracting the people and putting sincere piety to flight.
Then it was not left to the choice of the people to select a place, but God uniformly in the books of Moses claims this for himself. He therefore confines the exercises of piety to that place where he may have put the remembrance of his name. Moreover, as the divine will was not immediately manifested, nor the place designated, that worship might not in the mean time cease, it was permitted to build an altar where the ark should happen to be stationed, but an altar formed only of a rude pile of stones, or of turf, that it might be only temporary.
Let the reader observe that an option was given to the people to make it of rough stones, that its form might not attract veneration, or of earth, which would crumble away of its own accord. In one word, this arrangement tended to give a pre-eminence to the perpetual altar, after God made choice of Mount Zion for its locality. Hence it is said in the Psalm, I was glad because our feet will stand in thy courts, O Jerusalem! (Psalm 122:1, 2) What other translators render
God had promised ample rewards to his servants who should obey the Law. On the other hand, curses were denounced in order to deter transgressors. Each is now forced to subscribe his own condemnation, while an amen is responded to every single sentence. For in this way they not only hear themselves condemned by the mouth of God, but as if they had been heralds sent by him, they denounce the punishment which may await themselves. A similar promulgation was made in the plain of Moab beyond the Jordan, but now they are bound more solemnly, and acknowledge on what condition they are to dwell in the land of Canaan. It added no little weight to the whole, that the children also were admitted as witnesses.
1 The 29th verse concludes the account of the destruction of Ai, and the 30th opens abruptly with the building of an alter on Mount Ebal. The distance between the two places is not less than twenty miles, Ai being only twelve and Ebal thirty miles north from Jerusalem. The journey of so many miles by the whole body of the Israelites, and through a country which, at least up to the victory of Ai, was in undisputed possession of the enemy, must have occupied a considerable time, and have been accomplished with no small labor and difficulty. How comes it that not one word is said in regard to it, and that we are led at once from Ai to Ebal just as if the two places, instead of being widely separated, had been actually contiguous to each other? Were the incidents of the journey so unimportant as not to require the slightest notice? Or is the narrative contained in the Book of Joshua so very succinct that even transactions which might occupy a large place in a more copious work have been purposely excluded from it? If both these questions are answered in the negative, and it would seem that they must be so answered, the only other question is, Has the order of time been observed? In other words, have we not in the interesting account now about to be given of one of the most wonderful national conventions on record, another instance of anticipation of narrative similar to that which we have already seen in the first chapter? Assuming this to be the case, the continuation of the narrative is to be looked for in the ninth chapter, while the account of the transaction on Mounts Ebal and Gerizim is to be regarded in the light of an episode. It is very remarkable that the whole episode is omitted by the Septuagint at this place, and not introduced before giving the account of the league of the Amorites, contained in the beginning of the ninth chapter. -- Ed.
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