Tradition identifies the stone shown below, outside of Shechem (present-day Nablus), as the stone Joshua erected at the renewal of the covenant (Joshua 24:25). Physical reminders such as these, along with numerous Biblical references, amply testify to the centrality of masseboth in ancient religious ritual. The word massebah and its variants appear 34 times in the Bible; additional references to synonyms such as “stone” (even) or “pillar” (‘amud) also abound. As might be expected, most of the time the Bible condemns masseboth.

A surprising 13 references, however, are neutral or even positive. Eight occur in the Book of Genesis alone. Remarkably, Isaiah contains one of the most positive references to masseboth.

Here is a sample of citations, categorized by their apparent attitudes toward standing stones.


You shall not make idols for yourselves, or set up for yourselves carved images or massebah, or place figured stones in your land to worship upon, for I the Lord am your God.

Leviticus 26:1

Instead, this is what you shall do to [worshipers of other gods]: you shall tear down their altars, smash their masseboth, cut down their Asherah and consign their images to the fire.

Deuteronomy 7:5

You shall not set up an Asherah—any kind of pole beside the altar of the Lord your God that you may make—or erect massebah, for such the Lord your God detests.

Deuteronomy 16:21–22

[The kingdom of Judah under Rehoboam son of Solomon] did what was displeasing to the Lord, and angered Him more than their fathers had done … They too built for themselves shrines, masseboth and Asherah posts on every high hill and under every leafy tree.

1 Kings 14:22–23

[Jehoram, son of Ahab and Jezebel] did what was displeasing to the Lord, yet not like his father and mother, for he removed the masseboth of Ba‘al that his father had made.

2 Kings 3:2

[My servant King Nebuchadressar of Babylonia] shall smash the masseboth of the Temple of the Sun which is in the land of Egypt, and he shall burn down the temples of the gods of Egypt.

Jeremiah 43:13


Early in the morning, Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a massebah and poured oil on the top of it. He named that site Beth-El [“house of God”] …

Genesis 28:18–19

Laban said to Jacob, “ … Come then, let us make a pact, you and I, that there may be a witness between you and me.” Thereupon Jacob took a stone and set it up as a massebah.

Genesis 31:43–45

God parted from him at the spot where He had spoken to him; and Jacob set up a massebah at the site where He had spoken to him, a massebah of stone, and he offered a libation on it and poured oil upon it.

Genesis 35:13–14

Early in the morning, [Moses] set up an altar at the foot of the mountain, with twelve masseboth for the twelve tribes of Israel.

Exodus 24:4


On that day at Shechem, Joshua made a covenant for the people and he made a fixed rule for them … He took a great stone and set it up at the foot of the oak (elah) in the sacred precinct of the Lord; and Joshua said to all the people, “See, this very stone shall be a witness against us, for it heard all the words that the Lord spoke to us; it shall be a witness against you, lest you break your faith with God.”

Joshua 24:25–27

In that day, there shall be an altar to the Lord inside the land of Egypt and a massebah to the Lord at its border. They shall serve as a symbol and reminder of the Lord of Hosts in the land of Egypt, so that when [the Egyptians] cry out to the Lord against oppressors, He will send them a savior and champion to deliver them.

Isaiah 19:19–20