ABOUT thirty miles north from Jerusalem, the great road which you have traveled all the way makes a sudden turn to the left, and passes between two mountains,  —Ebal on the north and Gerizim on the south. These two mountains stand on either side of the valley of Shechem, or Nablous. Ebal rises almost in the face of Gerizim, the two mountains being of nearly equal height.

In the valley between nestles the town of Nablous,—the Shechem and Sychar of old, — beautiful with its streams of flowing water and gardens of olives and pomegranates, and fields of wheat and barley. It will be remembered that these mountains were pointed out by Moses, while the children of Israel still stood on the plains of Moab, as the place to which they were to come after conquering the land of Canaan, and pronounce the blessings and curses.

It is a well-known fact that the atmosphere of Syria and Palestine is so peculiarly clear as to make it possible for one to see a long distance; and objects that are really many miles away often appear to be within an hour's ride. So the following statement made by Mr. Prime, a traveler in the Holy Land, may not be improbable, and is certainly interesting.

He says: "As we rode up the narrow pass between the mountains, we looks d behind us; and there, right down the valley, which went sloping away thirty miles to the Jordan, lit in the red rays of the setting-sun, were the mountains of Moab and the summit of Pisgah. It was evident that the very words of the great lawgiver were accompanied by a gesture of his hand pointing to Ebal and Gerizim, at the head of that valley. I could then understand how he came to describe their situation so minutely, and to speak of them so familiarly." Deut. 11:29.

It is interesting to notice how peculiarly fitted these mountains are for the purpose to which they were set apart by Moses. Travelers say that in the front of each mountain, where the valley narrows to the least width, is a recess, making a platform, natural indeed, but capable of holding a hundred thousand persons, as if arranged expressly for the scene of blessing and cursing which there took place. Says Dr. Fish: "Descending along the side of Gerizim, I saw just how the blessings and curses of old took place as described. Skeptics have asked, `How could the voices be heard from one mountain to the other?'—Easily enough. It was not on their tops, but on their sides, that the representatives of six tribes stood on Gerizim to bless, and those of the other six tribes on Ebal to curse, while the two millions of people below responded Amen. Half-way down Gerizim, Ebal seemed in our very faces. To descend and go up to the spot opposite would have been an hour's hard work; but we could talk across from one mountain to the other, and be heard also in the valley below, which is here only about six hundred feet across, while where the village (Nabions) stands, it is fifteen hundred feet."

It has often been said that Ebal, the 'mount of cursing, is entirely  barren, while Gerizim, the mount of blessing, is extremely beautiful and fertile. There is, however, in truth no foundation for this statement. There is some vegetable growth on both, yet they are alike naked, as a rule, until we approach the base, where they are remarkably fertile.

The history of Ebal has nothing of special importance connected with it after the event referred to—the pronouncing of the blessings and curses; but on Gerizim for many years stood the temple of the Samaritans, who worshiped here instead of at Jerusalem. These people were descendants of the heathen colonists sent thither by the king of Assyria to inhabit the country after the captivity of the Israelites. They accepted some points of the Jewish religion, as, for instance, adopting the Pentateuch, or five books of Moses; but as we are told in 2 Kings 17:33, "they feared the Lord, and served their own gods." For this reason, the Jews, after their return from captivity, refused to let the Samaritans have any part with them in rebuilding the temple at Jerusalem. This led not only to the building of a rival temple on Mount Gerizim, but also to a bitterness of feeling between the two nations which never passed away.

A mere handful of these Samaritans, something less than two hundred, are now found at Nablous; and they are still looking for the Messiah to come and establish his throne on Mount Gerizim, and so reign over them. The five books of Moses compose their entire Scriptures. They reject all else as belonging to the hated Jews, and not really inspired. They have in Nablous a synagogue, which is decidedly more famous than elegant. Here is kept the venerable "Samaritan Pentateuch," which they claim is the veritable copy of the five books of Moses, written by the grandson of Aaron. It is written on sheep-skin parchment, and is rolled upon two rods so as to present by unrolling the successive columns to the eye of the reader. Their scant treasury is not a little helped by the money which travelers pay for the privilege of seeing this relic.




E. B. G.