Chapter V

 

 

The Bible states that Abraham was asked to offer his only son for sacrifice ‘upon one of the mountains’which was situated ‘into the land of Moriah;’.It has been recorded in the Bible as follows:

and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.[1]

It shows that the place of offering of the lad for sacrifice was some ‘mountain into the land of Moriah’. The word ‘Moriah’ has been mentioned in the whole of the Bible at only two places: (i) Gen. 22:2, i.e.

and get thee into the land of Moriah;

and  (ii) II Chron. 3:1, i.e.

Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem in mount Moriah, where the Lord appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had prepared in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebosite.

Scholars have different opinions as to whether the mention of Moriah at both the places of the Bible indicates one and the same place, or they denote different locations. Harper’s BD has assigned two different places for ‘Moriah’ (p. 654). The Jewish Enc. asserts:

Modern scholars who distinguish between these two places advance different theories as to the meaning of the word ‘Moriah.’[2]

‘Moriah’ has been located at the following places by different scholars of the Bible and religious devotees:

       1)      A mountain near Hebron, as Hastings RevisedDic. of Bible asserts: ‘some scholars have  proposed a location for Moriah on a mountain near Hebron.’.[3]

       2)      Mount Gerizim near ‘modern town of Nablus, 4 km NW of ancient Shechem,’[4]  (Shechem is ‘about 50 km N of Jerusalem and 9 km SE of Samaria’[5]) where ‘Samaritan Temple’ was built.

       3)      Mount Calvary, where Christ was afterwards claimed to have been crucified as the Devotional Family BC Asserts: ‘There is no improbability in the general opinion, that the very spot was mount Calvary[6]where Christ the great anti-type was afterwards crucified.’[7]

       4)      The threshingfloor of Araunah the Jebosite near Jerusalem, which was bought from him by king David, and where subsequently the ‘Temple’ was built by Solomon.

The first three ‘Moriahs’are being discussed in this chapter. The 4th  ‘Moriah’will be discussed in the next chapter.

 

a) On a Mountain near Hebron

As regards the 1st ‘Moriahlocated on a mountain near Hebron, no discussion is required on it, because: (i) No notable scholar of the Bible considers it discussible, noteworthy, or mentionable either. (ii) It is contradictory to the Bible. Abraham had settled either at Hebron itself, or at Mamre[8], which is 4 km N of Hebron[9]. The Bible says that Abraham had started his journey from his residence for ‘Moriah’ early in the morning and after three days’ earnest journey he was ‘afar off’ from his destination. Is it conceivable that even after three days’ earnest journey he could not cover so meager a distance!

 

b) At Mount Calvary Where  Christ  Is Claimed to Have Been Crucified.

As regards the 2nd Moriah, which is allegedly located at Mount Calvary where Christ is claimed to have been crucified, no discussion is required on it too, because: (i) No notable scholar of the Bible considers it discussible, noteworthy, or mentionable either.  (ii) It is also not agreeable with the contents of the Bible. It was either situated somewhere in the modern city of Jerusalem, but outside the walls of the ancient city; or quite close to it[10]. It is not more than twenty miles either from Jerusalem, Beersheba, Hebron or Mamre. It too could not have taken Abraham more than a few hours to reach here. How can it be conceivedthat even after three days’ earnest journey he could not cover so meagre a distance!

 

c) At Mount Gerizim.

As regards the 3rd ‘Moriah, claimed to be situated at Mount Gerizim near the ancient city of Shechem, the Samaritans attached it to the site of the Temple to establish the sanctity and importance of their sanctuary. The Illustrated Bible Dic. records: ‘The Samaritan tradition identifies the site with Mt. Gerizim (as though Moriah = Moreh; cf. Gn.12:6)’.[11]Dummelow’s Com. On Bible has also noted the similar remarks about it.[12]7th Day Adventist Bible Dic.has afforded a fairly detailed account of the theme:

The Samaritans, who consider Mount Gerizim the holy mountain of God, place the sacrifice of Isaac on that mountain, and believe that Moriah was Moreh near Shechem; and that it was the site of the first encampment of Abraham in the land of Canaan, where he built an altar to the true God (Gen 12:6,7). Such an identification, they believe, justifies their separation from Jerusalem, and their right to worship God on Mount Gerizim (see Jn 4:20,21). It is, of course, entirely without support.[13]  

Hastings Revised Single Volume Dic. of the Biblehas also afforded a similar observation:

There is some similarity between the names of Moriah and ‘Moreh,’ the latter located near Shechem (Gn 12:6, Dt 11:30) and Mount Gerizim. And it may have been owing to this that the Samaritans have claimed Gerizim as Abraham’s mountain (cf Jn 4:20). Gn 22:4 has been often cited to suggest that Gerizim, a mountain visible for some distance, must be the Moriah of Abraham, because he ‘lifted up his eyes and saw the place afar off.’[14]

The Samaritans were bitterly against the Southern kingdom of Judah. When the Chronicler attached the name of ‘Moriah’ to Solomon’s Temple to establish the sanctity and importance of the Judean sanctuary, the Samaritans, in response to it, attached the name ‘Moriah’ to their sanctuary at Mount Gerizim or vice versa. S. R. Driver’s observations in J. HastingsDic. of Bible conform to this opinion:

In view of the rivalry which prevailed in later times between the Samaritans and the Jews, the preference of the former for Gerizim does not count for much; and with regard to the other arguments it may be doubted whether, in a narrative which cannot be by an eye-witness or contemporary of the facts recorded, the expressions used are not interpreted with undue strictness.[15]

 The fertile brains of the Samaritans tried to explore the probabilities for their claim. It is a common phenomenon that every idea, howsoever absurd it be, attracts some curious ‘scholars’ and gains their support. By the passage of time even some unprejudiced scholars, unmindful of the ulterior motives of the innovators, consider the queer idea quite objectively and discover some logic in it. In the same way a few scholars do not outright reject the possibility of its carrying some logic; but most of the scholars do not find any difficulty in appreciating its absurdity. The name ‘Moriah’ has never been used for Mount Gerizim in the whole of the Bible. The annals of history and the realm of knowledge are totally void of any ground for this purposeful fabrication of the Samaritans. 

From all the above discussion it would be appreciated that the Samaritans’ claim about the location of Abraham’s offering his only son for sacrifice at Mount Gerizim was forged due to some regional, sectarian, cultic and ethnic rivalries; and is without any real ground. It is to be noted that this Moreh was not a barren wilderness. It is a beautiful and fertile hilly area with thick forests and abundant greenery all around it (the Bible has also associated it with ‘oaks’). Not very far in its W is the great sea (Mediterranean); at some distance in the E is the river Jordan; within the parameters of twenty to twenty five miles to its NNE and SSE are the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. Abraham having lived here for a fairly considerable time, should have definitely been aware of it. It is sheer absurdity if he carries a load of fuel wood to Moreh for some so-called burnt offering. It is rather carrying coal to New Castle. Putting aside all the above discussion, only this single plea rules out every possibility of Abraham’s taking his only son to this place to offer him for sacrifice.

After migrating from his homeland in Mesopotamia, Abraham traveled NW and reached Haran through Paddan-aram (i.e., the plain of Syria). After staying there for some time he again started his journey to SSW. Through Halab, Hamath, Damascus, etc he entered the land of Canaan. Moreh was his first camping station in Canaan where he encamped his family for some time. He then proceeded further to Egypt[16] to explore some suitable base for his missionary activities. Seeing that Egypt was not a fertile field for his mission, he came back to Moreh and stayed there for some time to explore new horizons for his missionary activities. His nephew, Lot, remained with him throughout this missionary exploration. It was here at Moreh that they decided to extend their missionary activities in different lands. Lot chose to work in Edom and Abraham made his base camp for his mission about twenty miles south of (Jeru-) Salem[17][the name of Jerusalem, in those days, was mere ‘Salem’]and settled his family in the area of Mamre, Hebron, and Machpelah. Beersheba, about twenty-five miles SSW of Hebron, was the pasture of his herds and flocks. The family of Abraham had now permanently settled here and had left Moreh for good.

The above information about Moreh has been carefully collected from authentic sources such as atlases, commentaries, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and the proper text of the Bible. Only two brief excerpts are being provided hereunder. W. Smith ’s DB states:

 The oak of Moreh was the first recorded halting-place of Abram after his entrance into the land of Canaan. Gen. 12:6. It was at the ‘place of Shechem,’ ch. 12:6, close to the mountains of Ebal and Gerizim. Deut. 11:30.[18]

Rev. A. H. Gunner and F. F. Bruce explain in The Illustrated BD:

Dt. 11:30 makes reference to the ‘oak of Moreh’ in the district of Gilgal (i.e. the Shechemite Gilgal). It is recorded that Abraham pitched his camp there on arriving in Canaan from Harran, and it was there that God revealed himself to Abraham, promising to give the land of Canaan to his descendants.[19]

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