Page images

valley of the Orontes. Then, ascending by the south, they approached Hebron, and in a valley opening on the city plucked pomegranates, and figs, and the famous cluster of grapes, and from “the valley of the Cluster" returned to the camp and their brethren after an absence of forty days?. As might be expected from all that had gone before, Joshua did not now fail to display proofs of the same courageous faith, which had procured for him the command against Amalek. He and Caleb alone of all the spies did not discourage the hearts of their brethren, but entreated them to go up and possess the land? Their words, however, fell on unheeding ears, and in just retribution for their rebellious faithlessness the fiat went forth that none of that generation should enter the Promised Land 8.

9. We hear nothing of Joshua during the weary years of wandering that now commenced in the Sinaitic peninsula. We know, however, that he must have witnessed the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and the terrible penalty which it entailed4; the death of Miriam, and her burial in her desertgrave at Kadesh5; the one failure of his own trusted leader, when he spake unadvisedly with his lipse; the death of Aaron and his entombment on Mount Hor?; the battles of Jahaz8 and Edrei', and the conquest of Eastern Canaan, and the frustration of the fell designs of Balaam by the righteous zeal of Phinehaso. None of the varied lessons, we may be sure, which these events were designed to teach, would be lost on one like Joshua, and when the hour came for Moses to "go the way of all the earth,” his constant “attendant” had already justified the confidence, with which, acting on the Divine command 11, the great Prophet solemnly and publicly invested him as his successor with definite authority over his brethren,

him his last charge 12

and gave

1 Num. xiii. 22–25.

2 Num. xiv. 6–9. 3 Num. xiv. 22, 23.

4 Num. xvi., xvii. 5 Num. XX. I. 8 Num. xx. 7-14; Deut. xxxii. 51; Ps. cvi. 32, 33.

8 Num. xxi. 23, 24. 7 Num. XX. 23—29. 9 Num. xxi. 33–35.

10 Num. xxv. 1-18. 11 Num. xxvii. 18.

12 Num. xxvii. 22, 23; Deut. xxxi. 14, 23.


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

10. (c) The career of Joshua in Canaan. This parting charge to Joshua brings us to the threshold of the Book, which bears his name, to the day when having reached, according to Josephus, his 85th year?, he assumed the command of the people at Shittim?, and commenced those victorious campaigns, which in seven years laid six nations and thirty-one kings prostrate at his feet.

These campaigns form the subject of the first part of this Book, and need not be detailed here. In the conduct of them Joshua displayed throughout the same high qualities which first won for him the confidence of Moses. He was the soldier, “the first soldier,” it has been said, “consecrated by the sacred history," blameless, fearless, straightforward. He was “strong, and of a good courage.” He was “not afraid nor dismayed 3.” “He turned neither to the right hand nor to the left; but at the head of the hosts of Israel he went right forward from Jordan to Jericho, from Jericho to Ai, from Ai to Gibeon, to Bethhoron, to Merom. He wavered not for a moment, he was here, he was there, he was everywhere, as the emergency called for him 4." The carrying out of the charge he received from God with a remarkable simplicity of unquestioning faith was the key-note of his whole career. While, moreover, he was the brave, undaunted, leader, the terrible exactor of the judgment of Jehovah in reference to a people sunk in idolatry and sensuality, he was ever gentle and merciful towards the sinner. In the presence of Achan the armed warrior is transformed into the loving father, pleading, remonstrating, sympathizing, pronouncing upon the transgressor, not in passion, but with calm dignity, the doom he had brought upon himself, as being under the ban of God.

12. But besides his work of war, there was also his work of peace. When strengthened from on high, "he had passed through those scenes of blood which were appointed for him,” he proceeded to divide the conquered territory amongst the victorious tribes. This he carried out not with the self-seeking 1 Ant. V. I. 29.

Josh. I. 1, 2.
Josh. i. 7, 9, 18.

4 Stanley's Lectures, I. p. 229.

[ocr errors]



of an Oriental despot, but on principles, “which place the conquest of Palestine even in that remote and barbarous age, in favourable contrast with the arbitrary caprice by which the lands of England were granted away to the Norman chiefs." With order and method, with appeals to the sacred lot before the Tabernacle at Shiloh, and in the presence of the Highpriest and the elders of the nation, the conquered territory was distributed. When provision had been made for all the rest, then, not till then, did he claim any provision for himself. Modest and disinterested, he asked only for a small inheritance in the rugged mountains of his native tribe of Ephraim, and there he built the city of Timnath-serah.

13. Hither, when his commissions had been fully enacted, the land divided, the Tabernacle set up at Shiloh, the Cities of Refuge appointed, the priestly and Levitical cities arranged-he retired, and there dwelt in peace for some eighteen years of rest. At length he became aware that he too, like Aaron on Mount Hor, like Moses on the top of Pisgah, must be gathered to his fathers, and go the way of all the earth. Summoning, therefore, the tribes of Israel, with the elders, and judges, and officers, to Shechem, he gave them his. last charge. He reviewed their past history as a family, a tribe, a nation. He recounted all the merciful acts of their invisible King, and then he bound them with his parting words to an everlasting covenant of faithfulness to the God, who had done such great things for them, and set up a stone pillar under the sacred oak of Abraham and Jacob, writing out the words of the covenant in the Book of the law of God(Josh. xxiv. 26).

14. And now all was over. His work of war and his work of peace alike were ended. All that human agency could effect for the well-being of his people had been done.

He bade every man depart after the solemn scene at Shechem to his inheritance, and shortly after these things Joshua, the servant of the Lord, died, being an hundred and ten years old, and they buried

1 Arnold's History of Rome, I. p. 266, quoted in Stanley’s Lectures, I. p. 265.

him in the border of his inheritance in Timnath-serah” (Josh. xxiv. 29, 30),

“ Great in council and great in war,

Foremost captain of his time,
Rich in saving common sense,
And, as the greatest only are,
In his simplicity sublimel.”



1. It is impossible to disconnect the life and character of Joshua from the work, which the Divine Command called upon him to accomplish.

2. This work was undoubtedly of terrible severity. The command of Moses respecting the nations of Canaan required their complete extermination. Thou shalt save nothing that breatheth," said the Lawgiver, and Joshua strictly fulfilled this order. He passed from Jericho to Ai, from Ai to Makkedah, from Makkedah to Libnah, from Libnah to Lachish, from Lachish to Eglon, from Eglon to Hebron, from Hebron to Debir, and “smote them with the edge of the sword, and utterly destroyed all the souls that were therein; he left none remaining?"

3. Such acts, done in obedience to the Divine Command, have often3 been strongly urged as objections against the Old Testament morality, and have been placed “among the many cruel things which Moses did and commanded.” Hence, some of the older Rabbinical writers have endeavoured to soften 1 Tennyson's Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington.

Josh. X. 39.

The adversaries of Judaism and Christianity in the second and third centuries urged them. Comp. Josephus c. Apion. I. 28; Origen c. Celsum, III. 5; S. Cyril cont. Jul. vi.


down the more rugged features of the narrative, by affirming that Joshua sent three letters to the land of the Canaanites before the Israelites invaded it; or rather, that he proposed three things to them by letters; that those who preferred flight, might escape; that those who wished for peace, might enter into covenant; and that such as were for war, might take

up arms1

4. The instructions? however to which this view appeals, prescribe this course of action only in reference to foreign enemies, not Canaanites. “ Thus shalt thou do,” said the Lawgiver, “unto all the cities which are very far off from thee, which are not of the cities of these nations3." The Canaanite cities and their inhabitants are thus expressly exempted from the operation of such merciful alternatives. “Of the cities of these people, which the Lord thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth; but thou shalt utterly destroy them.

5. But as the possession of Canaan is uniformly represented as the free gift of God to the Israelites', so the conquest of Canaan is uniformly represented as an act of righteous judgment against its inhabitants. Their moral degeneracy had reached a point to which no other people presented a parallel. The abominations they practisedo are represented to have been of a kind which might be said to call to heaven for vengeance. The idolatrous rites, to which they were addicted, tended to defile their very consciences, and the pollutions they habitually practised were a disgrace to humanity. Their land is repre

1 See Selden de Jure Nat. I. VI. 13; Dean Graves on the Pentateuch, Part III., Lect. I.

2 Deut. xx. 10-14.
3 Deut. xx. 15.
* Deut. xx. 16, 17. Comp. Num. xxi. 2, 3, 35, xxxiii. 52-54.

Comp. (a) Exod. xxiii. 32, xxxiv. 12 sqq.; (6) Num. xxxiii. 52 sqq.; (c) Deut. vii. 1 sq. The idea that in conquering Canaan the Israelites were but recovering the property of their ancestors is inconsistent wiih the language of Gen. xvii. 8, xxvi. 3, and such transactions as those recorded in Gen. xxiii. 4, xxxiii. 19.

6 Their false religion cannot be regarded as a mere error of judgment. Cruelty the most revolting, and unnatural crimes the most defiling, were inseparably connected with its celebration.


« PreviousContinue »