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them. Their errors were of the most pernicious nature; they instilled them into the people under the notion of divine commandments, and the people received them implicitly, because they had the highest veneration for their teachers. The practices which the Pharisees openly avowed, were either mere superstitions, or downright immoralities; yet they recommended them as instances of piety, and the people admired them as such. Their secret practices were of a worse nature still. Covetous, rapacious, sensual and debauched, they were not restrained by the fear of God, or a regard to their duty; but by every means, lawful and unlawful, they endeavoured to gratify their passions. All this notwithstanding, the people believed them to be the holiest of men. With persons of this character, ought Jesus not to have been angry? Persons, who were capable of corrupting the people, and who had actually done it to a great degree? If, therefore, he often made them the subjects of his public discourses; if, in the hearing of all, he loudly condemned their errors and their vices; if he cautioned the people in the most solemn manner to beware of them; if, in speaking to or of them, he used an acrimony of expression, to which on all other occasions he was a stranger, calling them blind guides, hypocrites and fools, we must certainly acknowledge that the persons themselves merited this treatment. The welfare of the people, who were deluded and ruined by the esteem which they had for them, absolutely required it; withal, the baneful influence of their doctrine and example could not be prevented, except by the sharpest correction.
§ 4. The opposition which the Pharisees and Sadducees made to our Lord's designs, their rejecting his pretensions as Messiah, and their putting him publicly to death, notwithstanding they had seen, or were credibly informed of many of his miracles, had heard many of his sermons, and were well qualified to judge of both, cannot be reckoned any just objection against either his character, his doctrine, or his miracles. Had the Pharisees and Sadducees been honest and impartial, Jesus needed not to have wished for more capable or illustrious judges. Their station, their learning, and their office, rendered them conspicuous. But Jesus had condemned the favourite notions which these men inculcated as philosophers; he had found fault with the precepts which they gave out as the will of God; but, above all, he had ripped open the hypocrisy and dissimulation of the one sect, and the impiety and profanity of the other; and by the loud appeals which he made to the common sense of mankind, and by the clear evidence of facts which he produced, he had convinced many. So that the people, hitherto intoxicated, especially with the Pharisees, began to view them in their true colours. From such persons in such circumstances, could Jesus meet with any other
treatment? John xi. 47. Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doth many miracles. 48. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him. -Then from that day forth, they took counsel together to put him to death.
Of the city Sychar, mentioned John iv. 5.
SYCHAR, called in latter times Neapolis, and in modern language Naplosa, was the ancient Sichem or Shechem, where Abraham first stopped upon his coming into Canaan from Haran. Here it was that God first appeared to that ancient patriarch in Canaan, and promised to give the land to his seed. Here also it was, that Abraham first built an altar to the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord, Gen. xii. 7.
From the 6th verse of the chapter just now quoted, it appears that the ancient Sichem was built in the plain of Moreh. For it is there said, that Abraham passed through the land, unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. This appears likewise from Judges ix. 6. where we are told that the men of Shechem made Abimelech king, by the pillar of the plain that was in Shechem, i. e. the plain of Moreh, where Joshua erected the pillar mentioned chap. xxiv. 26. hard by Shechem; see on John iv. 6. §22. By the way, the pillar here spoken of was so near to Gerizim, that Jotham made the people who gathered round it, hear his remonstrance from a summit of the mountain.-In after times, Shechem seems to have changed its situation. For Mr Maundrel, who visited it, tells us, that it now stands in a narrow valley between mount Gerizim on the south, and mount Ebal on the north, at the distance of about a mile from Jacob's well, where the valley formed by the two mountains ends, and the plain of Moreh begins. Nor is it at all improbable that Shechem should thus have changed its situation. For Abimelech we find utterly destroyed the town, Judges ix. 45. And in later times the Samaritans' temple built on mount Gerizim, occasioned the city to extend itself that way.
God's first appearance to Abraham in Canaan having been in the plain of Moreh, and Abraham's altar there being the first he erected in the promised land, were probably the reasons why God ordered the Israelites, on their entrance into Canaan, to build an altar of stone on mount Ebal, (Deut. xxvii. 4.) which is said expressly to stand beside the plain of Moreh, (Deut. ix. 29, 30.) and to write on the stones of that altar a copy of the law, that is, of the ten commandments, which were engraven on the stones in the ark. But the nature of the Jewish religion making it necessary, that the whole nation should have only one altar for sacri
fice, it is evident that this appointment of an altar on mount Ebal, was likewise an appointment for erecting the tabernacle there. If so, Ebal was pitched upon according to God's promise, Deut. xii. 5,-7. as the place where he put his name, and to which all the tribes of Israel should resort for the solemn services of re
ligion. It may be objected, indeed, that the place where the tabernacle was erected by Joshua, is not called Ebal, but Shiloh, (Josh. xviii. 1.); that in latter times, particularly while Samuel judged Israel, the tabernacle and altar were in Gilgal; and that when David transported the ark from Kirjathjearim, he did not carry it to Ebal, but to Sion, where it remained till Solomon placed it in the temple.
To the second of these objections, the answer is easy. The Gilgal where Samuel and Saul so often offered sacrifice, was not the Gilgal nigh to Jericho, where Joshua circumcised the people, but the Gilgal that was nigh to Ebal, the appointed place for sacrifice and worship, as is plain from Deut. xi. 29, 30. where Ebal is said expressly to be beside Gilgal. Probably the foot of the mountain, bounding the plain of Moreh, was called Gilgal. Of this Gilgal there is mention made in the history of Elijah, 2 Kings ii. 1. and of Elisha, 2 Kings iv. 38. It seems to have been the place where these prophets ordinarily resided.
As to the first objection, we can easily imagine Shiloh to have been the particular place or village in mount Ebal, where the tabernacle was set up. On any other supposition, we cannot understand how the tribes whom Joshua assembled at Shechem beside Ebal, a little before his death, could be said to have presented themselves before God, Josh. xxiv. 1. But what puts the matter out of doubt is, in the 26th verse of the chapter last mentioned, we are expressly told, that the great stone which Joshua erected at Shechem, in commemoration of the nation's having renewed the covenant there, was set up under an oak which grew hard by the sanctuary of the Lord. It is plain, therefore, that Shiloh, where Joshua erected the tabernacle, and where it conti nued for many ages, was in the territory of Shechem. Accordingly Shechem and Shiloh are mentioned together, Jer. xli. 5. as places nigh to each other. Both were in mount Ebal; Shiloh probably at the foot of the mountain, where the nation might most conveniently be assembled before the Lord in the plain of Moreh, which was surrounded in a circular manner by the mountains Ebal and Gerizim. Hence that part of the plain which was adjacent to the mountains was called Gilgal, or the Wheel. Hence also the propriety of the expressions in the description of Ebal, Deut. xi. 30. In the land of the Canaanites, which dwell in the champain over against Gilgal.
With respect to the third objection taken from David's placing the ark in Jerusalem, it should be considered, that though Ebal
was pitched upon as the place of sacrifice and worship on the entry of the Israelites into Canaan, God did not thereby bind himself to continue his worship there. He might have many reasons for removing the altar from Shiloh, (see Jer. vii. 12.) and for transferring it to Jerusalem. And that he actually did so, is evident from 1 Chron. xxi. 18. xxii. 1. compared with 2 Chron. iii. 1. Besides, it ought to be considered that David, who made this alteration in the place of worship, was himself a prophet. And therefore he cannot be supposed to have taken so important a step, without an express command from God. In an action of this kind, he certainly walked by divine direction. Accordingly the promise, Deut. xii. 5. is applied to David's action, 2 Kings xxiii. 27.
In the Samaritan copy of the Pentateuch, the altar which God ordered to be erected on Ebal, Deut. xxvii. 4. is appointed to be erected in Gerizim. The Jews therefore affirm, that the Samaritans have corrupted the sacred text here, to aggrandize their temple on Gerizim, set up in opposition to the temple at Jerusalem. And it must be owned, that by this interpolation they gained a pretence for asserting, that Gerizim was pointed out by God himself, as the true place of worship. This, no doubt, was the reason why the woman of Samaria so confidently proposed the question to Jesus concerning the place of worship, in full expectation, that as he was a prophet who knew the will of God, he would decide the point in favour of her nation. On the other hand, the Samaritans upbraided the Jews with vitiating the text. They pretended, that since it could not be denied that an altar was to be erected on one of the hills, it was natural to believe that God chose the one where he put the blessing, rather than the other where he ordained the curse to be pronounced. This argument has appeared so specious to many learned men, that they have fairly given the Samaritans the preference in the dispute. Nevertheless, if it is considered that the altar in question was designed for propitiatory sacrifice, it will appear that mount Ebal, on which the cursings were to be pronounced, was the only proper place for it, the propitiation naturally falling to be made where the curse was incurred. Wherefore, it is probable that the Jewish text is altogether pure here, and that the Samaritans have been guilty of a gross vitiation of the passage.
Mount Ebal being destined by God to be the place of his presence among the Jews, and of the public national worship, was fitly pitched upon, with its neighbouring mountain Gerizim, as the scene for the solemn pronunciation of the blessings and cursings; for these blessings and cursings assented to by all the people, who said Amen to them, were the covenant which the children of Israel entered into with the Lord. Accordingly, they are expressly called the covenant, Deut. xxix. 1. In the order
recorded, Deut. xxvii. 12. the six tribes who pronounced the blessing were to stand upon Gerizim, and the six who pronounced the cursings, on Ebal. But in the execution of the order recorded Josh. viii. 33. we find they stood over against these mountains: the tribes who blessed being separated from the tribes who cursed by the ark and the Levites, who were placed between them. They stood in the plain of Moreh with their faces towards the mountain. If so, the translation of Deut. xxvii. 12. should be corrected; for the Hebrew particle translated upon, signifies also towards, as Exod. ix. 23.
Farther, as the Israelites, upon their coming into Canaan, assembled in the plain of Moreh, to renew the covenant before the altar and tabernacle on mount Ebal; so for the same reason Joshua, a little before his death, gathered all the tribes to Shechem, in the plain of Moreh, over against mount Ebal, and there took them bound anew to serve God. In like manner, the tabernacle and altar on mount Ebal occasioned this captain during his wars with the Canaanites, to keep his camp at Gilgal, in the plain of Moreh, Josh. ix. 6. &c. occasioned the Israelites also to make Gilgal the place of general rendezvous for several ages after, when they had any great national business to transact. For example, the confirmation of Saul in the kingdom, which happened here, 1 Sam. xi. 14.
By the neighbourhood of the tabernacle and altar, and by reason of the national assemblies held in Gilgal, Shechem became the principal city in the possession of the Israelites, till David conquered Jerusalem, and made it the seat both of government and religion. It was the capital of the whole land for many ages. Accordingly we find, that after Gideon's death, his son Abimelech aspired to the sovereign power, by persuading the inhabitants of Shechem to make him king; and when they raised him to that dignity, he is said to have reigned over Israel, that is, over the whole tribes, Judges ix. 22.
In Eli's days, the people took a very extraordinary step. Being unable to bear the oppression of the Philistines, they took arms and carried the ark from Shiloh down to their camp at Ebenezer. But their presumption was severely chastised: they were defeated in a great battle, the ark was taken, and Eli the high priest died of grief. When the ark was sent back by the Philistines, it was placed in the house of Abinadab at Kirjathjearim, where it remained twenty years. In the latter part of Saul's reign, the house of the Lord, that is, the tabernacle with its appurtenances, was at Nob, 1 Sam. xxi. 1. But the slaughter of the priests at Nob, forcing Abiathar to fly to David in Keilah, he carried with him the ephod, by which responses were given. So that David was enabled after this, in all difficult cases, to inquire of the Lord. When David took Jerusalem and Sion, he