Verse 29. "Thou shalt put the blessing upon Mount Gerizim, and the curse upon Mount Ebal." - The etymology of these names may be supposed to cast some light on this institution. µyzrg gerizzim, from zrg garaz, to cut, cut off, cut down; hence µyzrg gerizzim, the cutters down, fellers, and reapers or harvest-men, this mountain being supposed to have its name from its great fertility, or the abundance of the crops it yielded, which is a possible case. Of lby[ ebal or eybal the root is not found in Hebrew; but in Arabic abala signifies rough, rugged, curled, &c.; and abalo, from the same root, signifies white stones, and a mountain in which such stones are found; alabalo, the mount of white stones. See Giggeius and Golius. And as it is supposed that the mountain had this name because of its barrenness, on this metaphorical interpretation the sense of the passage would appear to be the following: God will so superintend the land, and have it continually under the eye of his watchful providence, that no change can happen in it but according to his Divine counsel, so that its fertility shall ever be the consequence of the faithful obedience of its inhabitants, and a proof of the blessing of God upon it; on the contrary, its barrenness shall be a proof that the people have departed from their God, and that his curse has in consequence fallen upon the land.
See the manner of placing these blessings and curses, chap. xxvii. 12, &c. That Gerizim is very fruitful, and that Ebal is very barren, is the united testimony of all who have traveled in those parts. See Ludolf, Reland, Rab, Benjamin, and Mr. Maundrell. Sychem lies in the valley between these two mountains.
THAT the land of Judea was naturally very fertile, can scarcely be supposed by any who considers the accounts given of it by travelers; with the exception of a few districts, the whole land is dry, stony, and barren, and particularly all the southern parts of Judea, and all the environs of Jerusalem, most of which are represented as absolutely incapable of cultivation. How then could it ever support its vast number of inhabitants? By the especial providence of God. While God kept that people under his continual protection, their land was a paradise; they lent to all nations and borrowed from none. What has it been since? A demi-solitude, because that especial blessing no longer descends upon it. No land, says Calmet, was more fertile while under the benediction of God; none more barren when under his curse. Its present state is a proof of the declaration of Moses, chap. xxviii. 23: "The heaven over their head is brass; the earth under their feet, iron." The land itself, in its present state is an ample proof of the authenticity of the Pentateuch. Should facts of this kind be lost sight of by any who read the sacred writings?