Mount Gerizim and the Samaritans

Mount Gerizim (Jabal al Tur in  Arabic, Tur Barakha in Aramic, means The blessed mountain)  is one of the highest peaks in the West Bank,
located  in Ephraim, and  rises to  886m above sea level. Together with Mount Ebal it forms the Vally of Nablus (Shechem). Mount Gerizim (‘ הרגריזים’ -Hargrizim -In one word as it is written in Samaritan texts)   is   the place where God has chosen for his divine presencethe  and is the most sacred place to the Samaritans. The last commandment, of the ten commandments, according to the Samaritan Version of the Torah, commands the people of Israel to  build an Altar on the mount, when they  enter the holy land:

” And when it so happens that LORD God brings you to the land of Caanan, which you are coming to posses, you shall set-up there for you great stones and plaster them with plaster and you write on the stones all words of this law. And it becomes for you that across the Jordan you shall raise these stones, which I command you today, in mountain Grizim. And you build there the altar to the LORD God of you. Altar of
stones. Not you shall wave on them iron. With whole stones you shall build the altar to LORD God of you. And you bring on it ascend offerings to LORD God of you, and you sacrifice peace offerings, and you eat there and you rejoice before the face of the LORD God of you. The mountain this is across the Jordan behind the way of the rising of the sun, in the land of Caanan who is dwelling in the desert before the Galgal, beside Alvin-Mara, before Sechem.” (Exodus 20:18 – According to the Samaritan Pentateuch=SP)”

 The Samaritans adhere in Mount Gerizim, and it is one of their five principles of faith,as it reflected in each prayer:

“And Mount Gerizim all the days of out lives”

  Since 1987 , when the first Intifada flared in the city of Nablus, and led to the burning of several houses of the  Samaritan neighborhood in the city, the Samaritans leaved the neighborhood in the city, and moved permanently to live in thier houses on mount Gerizim. Since then, about half of the Samaritan community live in the modern Samaritan village –  Qiryat Luza ,on the top of Mount . The Samaritan houses of the Samaritan neighborhood in Nablus, were rented to other non- Samaritan families,from the residents of the city. The Synagogue, was closed. In 1995, after a robbery which was carried out in the synagogue, and in which  two ancient Torah scrolls, were taken and  have not yet been found, all the ancient Samaritan scrolls were moved to the Samaritan synagogue, on the top of the mount.

  The second half of the community, who live in Holon, near Tel-aviv, have also thier own homes ,which they visit in Passover, Shavuot and  other events throughout the year.Read more about the Samaritan pilgrimage.

  The Samaritans still  observe the three pilgrimages of the year, according to the commandment of the Torah:  Passover Shavuot and Succot. The pilgrimage, is to the Sacred sites, on the summit of the mount: The Twelve stones of Joshua, The Altar of Issac, The Altar of Adam, The Altar of seth, and the most important spot to the Samaritan community – Givat Olam (  (‘Eternal Hill’ or ‘Hill of the World’.). Read more below about these sites.

Mount Gerizim vs Jerusalem

  The belief of the Samaritans in Mount Gerizim is cardinal tenet, to  The schism between Samaritans and Jews. The  debate between these two communities, around the issue of Mount Gerizim and the chosen place,  reflected in the primary difference,  made by Jews to the holy pentateuch. The Jewish version of the Torah, lacks the tenth commandment above,to build an altar  on Mount Gerizim. From this reason, they changed the counting of the Ten commandments, adding the overture of the commandments with  the words “I am the LORD thy God” (Exodus 20:1) as the first commandment. In another place (Deut 27:6),  in The Jewish version, it is written that an altar should be build to Lord, “on Mount Ebal”, while in the Samaritan pentateuch , It is written “on Mount Gerizim”.This version of the text, also appears in some other Non-Samaritan translation of the Torah as the Vetus Latina, the latin translation to the bible.

  In July 2008,  James Charlesworth, one of the scholars of the Dead Sea Scrolls, publisehd a fragment from cave 4 at  Qumeran,of Deut 27:4-6, which similar to the Samaritan version of the verse, and suggests the text: “On Mount Gerizim” (בהרגריזים), in one word as the Samaritans write it in thier version of the Torah.
((See also :http://blogs.owu.edu/magazine/the-discovery-of-an-unknown-dead-sea-scroll-the-original-text-of-deuteronomy-27.))

  These two mountains are mentioned, on the same verse, in context of the ceremony that the People of Israel should have, as they enter to The Holy land. While Mount Ebal mentioned as the mount from which the cursing will be proclamied, Mount Gerizim is mentioned as the mount of the blessing:

“And Moses charged the people the same day, saying: ‘These shall stand upon mount Gerizim to bless the people, when ye are passed over the Jordan: Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Joseph, and Benjamin;  and these shall stand upon mount Ebal for the curse: Reuben, Gad, and Asher, and Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali.  And the Levites shall speak, and say unto all the men of Israel with a loud voice” (Deut 27:11)

  Another  difference, is a difference concerning to the time of choosing the chosen place by God. While the Samaritan tradition holds, that God chosen his Holy place, during the Creation, The Jewish tradition explains, that  it was  chosen only 440 years after the entrance to the holy land. That’s the reason, they have changed, in the pentateuch, the past tense of the verb ‘choose’  as it is in The Samaritan version,-(‘chosen’)  to the  future tense ‘will choose’, in each instance relates to the chosen place. This change was clearly made,  in order to explain the holiness of Jerusalem, which is from a later period than the Pentateuch,  as  the chosen place rather than Mt. Gerizim.

Our forefathers and Mount Gerizim.

 The prophets, according to the Samaritan Tradition, from Adam to Our lord Moses, had doubtless, a direction toward which they turn themselves in their worship of God.

  What befell our forefather Abraham, after God commanded him to depart from his land and native home, and said  to him “Go to the land which I shall reveal unto thee,and wherein I shall make thee a great people, and bless thee” Abraham  departed, following his God’s commandmet, and came to the land of Canaan, andמציג את 20140623_222834.jpg journeyed in it, till he entered Shechem ( Nablus) , that is to “the meadow of Moreh”, which is known scripturally and traditionally to be identical with Nablus. ( Gen 12).Here, is the place where he pitched his tent. Here, as he remained for a while and settled  down,God appeared to him and conversed with him, and blessed him, and promised to give him , and his seed, that land.

  Our  forefather Jacob arrived safely from his Journey which was accomplished by God’s  providence as is indicated in Genesis 31:13 where God says, ” I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst a pillar and didst vow a vow: arise and go to the land of thy nativity”. While on  the mountain ,as he was on his way, he vowed as follows:

“If god will be with me and will keep me in this way which I go, and will give me bread as food and clothes to put on and if i return in peace to the house of my father;God shall be my Lord , and this tone that o have set shall be the house of God” 

When the lord  favored  him, and gave him blessings and brought him back in peace , and fulfilled his request , and conferred upon him his favors, He imposed it a duty upon him to fulfill his vows. He reminded him of his pillar  and promise , and told him to g to that very plcae wherein he made his vow, there to fulfill Jacob loaded with abundant favors, obediently left his uncle, and came in direction of Shechem (Nablus), for it was the intended place : 

“And Jacob came in peace to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Paddan-aram; and encamped before the city.  And he bought the parcel of ground, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for a hundred pieces of money.  And he erected there an altar, and called it El-elohe-Israel. “(Gen 33:18)

Now, The single return of Jacob to the city of Nablus, is the fulfillment of his prayer which he utteres in the course of his vow, saying, “And if I return safely to the house of my father”. Verily, it was the fulfillment of what he wished . By “the house of his father” it means the altar his grandfather Abraham has built in the plain at Nablus, and it is the very one previously mentioned as “Elon Moreh”. Therefore our lord Jacob pitched his tent in that place.“He pitched his tent before that city”. The city is Nablus. He also bought that plain,to which reference has been made, from the people of that day, and which is called “Halkat us Shadi”.

The thirty-second of the   twenty-fourth chapter of Joshua reading as follows: 

 “And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in the parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for a hundred pieces of money; and they became the inheritance of the children of Joseph. And Eleazar the son of Aaron died; and they buried him in the Hill of Phinehas his son, which was given him in mount Ephraim” 

The Samaritan tradition explains, that the cause of thier forefather Jacob’s buying this parcle of land was its exalted rank, becuase our Lord Abraham erected upon it an altar , and bacuse of its nearness to Mount Gerizim.The burial of our lord Joseph   is in that very place. 

 Our lord moses ,on whom be peace, mentioned in the song that was sung by himself and his people, the children of Israel, in connection with the incident of the sea, and which is found in Exodus 15:17, meaning as follows:

” Thou wilt introduce them,and plant them upon the mountain of thy inheritance, in thy place. O LORD, which Thou hast made for Thee to dwell in, the sanctuary, O Lord, which Thy hands have established. The LORD shall reign for ever and ever.”

This prophecy of our lord Moses confirms the continuation of the Sanctity of hat place.

In the book of Joshua, in chapter 24 verse 25-26, it says:

“So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem.  And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God; and he took a great stone, and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the LORD”

This ‘Hailah’ (In the Hebrew version), the oak, is the one under which our lord Jacob buried the spoils his children took from nablus, when they came up to this mountain, as it is seen in Gen 35:4, “And they gave unto Jacob all the foreign gods which were in thier hands, and the rings which were in thier  ears: and Jacob hide them under the oak which was by Shechem”. Thus it is clear from this and other passages that the sanctuary of God was in Shechem ( Nablus), and that it is the place wherein existed ‘Hailah’, whose fame is great with Samaritans until this day. Even the Muslims who live nearby or in Nablus receive blessings from it, and following the manner of the children of Israel,call it, “The pillar”, deriving this name from the pillar which Joshua set, and whereupon he wrote the covenant which he made with the children of Israel.

Mount Gerizim Is the Mount of Blessing.

The most  prominent sacred spots on the summit of mt. Gerizim are :

  •  The Eternal Hill – A flat bedrock whose name is derived from Deut 33:15, and which according to the Samaritan tradtion, was the location of Joshua’s Tabernacle ( Mishkan). The term ‘Eternal Hil’ can also refer to the whole monut.
  • The Altar of Issac  –  A bedrock  which forces of nature,made him look like a nature altar, where accrofing to Samaritan Tradition, Abraham has bound his son Issac, in order to sacrifice him. (Gen 22:2).
  • The Twelve Stones – According the Samaritan chronicles, Mount Gerizim is the Place, where Joshua erected the stones on which he wrote the law and build an altar (Deut 27:5 SP)
  • The Altar of Adam – The place where, according to the Samaritan tradition, Adam made his first sacrifice.
  • The Altar of Seth – The place where, according to the Samaritan tradition, Seth son of Adam, built his altar.
  • The Altar of Noha– The place where , according to the Samaritan tradition, Noha has.

In the Samaritan tradition, Mt. Gerizim is seen also  as the place, where  other biblical and theological  stories took place, as the resting of Noah’s ark  on the top of the mount (Gen 8:4),  and the exile of Adam and Eve from Garden of Eden, on the seventh day of the creation. ( Gen 3:23).

 Marqeh, the greatest scholar The samaritans ever had, mentions 13 names of Mount Gerizim : 

  1. Mountain of the East (Gen 10:30)
  2. Bethel (Gen 12:8)
  3. one of the Mountains (Gen 22:2)  
  4. The Lord will Provide (Gen 22:14)
  5. House of God (Gen 28:17)
  6. Gate of Heaven (Gen 28:17)
  7. Luzah (Gen 28:19 SP)
  8. a Sanctuary (Exod 15:17)
  9. House of the Lord (Exod 23:19, 34:26)
  10. the Goodly Mount (Deut 3:25)
  11. Mount Gerizim (Deut 11:29)
  12. The Chosen Place (Deut 12:11)
  13. The Everlating Hill (Deut 33:15 SP)

History:

According to Samaritan chronicles , Joshua had built the sanctuary (Mishkan) on the summit of Mount Gerizim. Another try to bulid  a sanctuary  ( hyklh) , as it t brought by Samaritan chronicles, was by the priest Abed-el  who returned from the exile, in  the head of  300,000 people . Abed- El built an altar, and sacrificed sacrifices, but was stopped by an angle ,revealed to him in his dream, and prohibited the continuation of the altar.

Josephus speaks of the building (Ant 11:302-347) and destruction  (Ant 13:255-256) of a samaritan temple on Mount Gerizim. However, Samaritan chronicles and other liturgy, says nothing about a temple, or a destruction of a temple, on Mt.Gerizim.According to  him the religious tension between the Jews and the Samaritans led to the temple on Gerizim being destroyed by either John Hyrcanus in the 2nd century BCE ( or by Simeon the Just according to the Talmud).

 In Jesus’s discussion with the Samaritan woman he revealed his feeling about worship there: Jesus said to her:

“Believe me, woman, The hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you people worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, because salvation originates with the Jews. Nevertheless, the hour is coming, and it is now, when the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth.” (John 4:21-23)

During the Hellenistic period there was a Samaritan city, called Hargerizim, and constructed  (In  one word ) on the central range of the mountain. A temple  dedicated to Zeus Hypsistos was built on the northern end of the range during the Roman  period.The temple overlooking Shechem was connected to it by a staircase. The main road from Shechem to Mt. Gerizim rose along the ridge west of the Temple of Zeus and connected Mt. Gerizim with Samaria’s major traffic arteries. 

 

 

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