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sented as unable to endure them any longer, as "vomiting out its inhabitants," and therefore, it is added, “the Lord visited their iniquity upon them?.”
6. This judgment, however, it is to be remembered, was not inflicted upon them summarily, or without warning. God waited patiently for five hundred years, and during this period addressed to them many calls to repentance. So early as the time of Abraham He had warned them of His wrath against sin, and especially the sins to which they were addicted, by the awful destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah'. He had given them the blessing of the presence and example of eminent men, as Melchizedek and Abraham, and He had forborne to punish them for many ages because the cup of their iniquity was not yet fulls, and in order that a season for repentance might still be granted them. But they knew not the day of their visitation", and still persisted in their iniquity.
7. But even when their cup was well-nigh full, the Divine judgment did not descend without giving repeated indications of its approach. The Canaanites heard of the punishments inflicted by the God of Israel upon the inhabitants of Egypt, and of the wonders which He wrought at the passage of the Red Sea5. When again the Israelites stood at the very threshold of the Promised Land, and it might have been supposed that the Sword of Vengeance, which had so long hung in suspense, would have at once descended, it was again held back, and during the wandering in the wilderness, a further space of forty years was granted for repentance and amendmente
1 Lev. xviii. 24, 25, 30; Deut. xii. 30, 31. " It is an eternal necessity,” even Ewald remarks, “that a nation such as the majority of the Canaanites then were, sinking deeper and deeper into a slough of discord and moral perversity, must fall before a people roused to a higher life by the newly awakened energy of unanimous trust in Divine Power.” Ewald's History of Israel, 11. 237, E. T. 3 Gen. xix. 1--24.
3 Gen. xv. 16. 4 Luke xix. 44.
Josh. ii. 10, II. 8 See the argument well stated in Fairbairn's Typology of Scripture, II. Pp. 432—436.
8. Nay, when all had proved in vain, and mercy at length gave place to judgment, the overthrow of the nations on the East of Jordan, of great kings, famous kings, mighty kings?, with their fenced cities, high walls, gates and bars", warned them of the mighty Invisible Power that fought on the side of the strange People, so lately freed from Egyptian bondage. And as though this was not enough, as though no proof should be wanting that the campaign to be waged was not the victory of one nation over another, but God's controversy with degrading idolatry, and unnatural and unbridled licentiousness, the invaders themselves, when they suffered themselves to be enticed into the orgies of Baal-peor, experienced a fearful. punishment for their apostasy. The Promise made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, did not exempt them from the penalty of their misdoings. A plague broke out amongst them, which swept off upwards of twenty-four thousand, while the princes of the tribes at the command of Moses slew the guilty with unsparing vigour, and hanged them up before the Lord.
9. But even at the eleventh hour, when at last the fiat went forth, and instead of cutting off the guilty nations, as He had done in the case of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, by an earthquake, or a famine, or a pestilence, God entrusted the sword of vengeance to Joshua, was ever campaign waged in such an unearthly manner as that now inaugurated by the leader of the armies of Israel?
At the passage of the Jordan, in the capture of Jericho, the Israelites were allowed to do literally nothing but look on and obey the commands of Him Who fought for them. Every impulse of nature attack the city, to try upon its towers and battlements the skill of military science, as then known, was checked and restrained. The power of faith was tried to the uttermost in consenting to play what must have seemed a useless, almost a ridiculous part, in the face of a disciplined host, watching from their ramparts the strange evolutions of warriors, who had lately triumphed over Sihon at Jahaz, and Og in his
1 Ps. cxxxv. 10--12. 8 Num. XXV. 1-15.
Deut. iii. 5, 6.
basaltic Thermopylæ at Edrei, but who were now constrained to submit to an inexplicable edict of complete inactivity.
II. Nor was the same supernatural check upon the ordinary impulses of humanity maintained only during the mysterious preparations for the fall of Jericho. It was enforced as rigidly when the city had been captured. The excesses, which were the rule of the age on the reduction of a conquered city, which stand out in such painful relief in the inscriptions of Assyrian kings, and which have too often disgraced even Christian armies, were absolutely unknown. The city, indeed, was devoted to destruction, and all that were in it, but the conquerors were forbidden under the severest penalties to appropriate to themselves the least benefit from the spoils.
But when Jericho had fallen, observe the strange halt at Gilgal. What was its object? Not to divide the spoil, for everything had been devoted to Jehovah. Not to celebrate a
1 Comp. The Annals of Assur-Nasir-Pal, sometimes called Sardanapalus : 74
while in Commagene 75 I was stationed, they brought me intelligence that the city Suri in
Bit-Khalupe had revolted 77 chariots and army I collected
and the rebellious nobles go who had revolted against me and whose skins I had stripped off, I
made into a trophy : some in the middle of the pile I left to
decay ; some on the top 91 of the pile on stakes I impaled ; some by the side of the pile
I placed in order on stakes; many within view of my land 92 I flayed ; their skins on the walls I arranged. 93 I brought AHIYABABA to Nineveh; I flayed him and fastened his
skin to the wall
113 from Kinabu I withdrew; to Tila I drew near; 115 with onset and attack I besieged the city; many soldiers I captured 117 of some I chopped off the hands and feet ; of others the noses and
ears I cut off; of many soldiers I destroyed the eyes; 118 one pile of bodies while yet alive, and one of heads I reared up on
the heights within their town; their heads in the midst I hoisted;
their boys and their maidens I dishonoured. See Records of the Past, Vol. III. 39–50; Cuneiform Inscriptions of Western Asia, I. 17—27, and comp. it with other passages in the Assyrian records.
triumph, for in the capture the people had been little more than spectators. What, then, was its purport? To renew the rite of circumcision; to celebrate the Passover; to remind the people of. their solemn moral and religious obligations.
13. Again when Ai had been reduced, after a delay and a discomfiture caused by a single act of disobedience, why was the strange march undertaken to Shechem with the priests, and the ark, and a deputation from all the tribes? To build an altar; to offer sacrifices; to set up stones, and plaster them with plaster; to inscribe upon them the words of the law; to proclaim from the slopes of Ebal and Gerizim its blessings upon purity, justice, order, truthfulness between man and man, and its curses upon impurity, injustice, sensuality, and wrongdoing? Was ever an invading army, before or since, made to feel more completely that it was no work of their own in which they were engaged; that they were simply the instruments in the accomplishment of Divine retribution upon a guilty race; that even as regards themselves, their tenure of the land thus conquered must depend upon the preservation of
morality? 14. And was the lesson taught with such scrupulous care taught in vain? Did. Joshua shew himself like other “scourges of God," simply an incarnation of brute force and resistless might? His gentleness towards Achan, his faithfulness towards the Gibeonites, the mode in which he carried out the division of the land, the solemnity of his last charge, prove the exact contrary. He could not have preserved untarnished that simplicity and gentleness, that piety and humility which distinguished him to the end, had he not kept clear before his eyes the unique and unearthly character of the commission entrusted to him, had not every other feeling given place to the conviction that he was simply the instrument in carrying out a sentence not his own upon a long-tried but reprobate people.
15. And what is true of him is in a great measure true also of the Israelites themselves. If in their subsequent history they had shewn themselves brutalized by the scenes through which they now passed, if they had proved afterwards violent,
tyrannical, cruel, unscrupulous, utterly indifferent to human feelings, and addicted to massacre and bloodshed, these results might have been traced to the campaign in which they were now engaged. But this, without doubt, was not the case. We nowhere find any traces of that terrible exultation in the infliction of pain as pain, of that horrible gloating over the miseries and sufferings of conquered peoples which disfigure the records of other nations. They passed through all the stages of their chequered history with the warning repeated in their ears again and again, that they held the land by no other tenure than that which the Canaanites were destroyed for infringing; that if they failed to maintain purity of worship or purity of life they would subject themselves to the same doom, which would be inflicted by penalties as tremendous, and very often as indiscriminating as those which they were commissioned to inflict on the nation they cast out before them.
16. “The Israelites' sword,” says an eminent writer", "in its bloodiest executions, wrought a work of mercy for all the countries of the earth to the very end of the world. They seem of very small importance to us now, those perpetual contests with the Canaanites, and the Midianites, and the Ammonites, and the Philistines, with which the Books of Joshua and Judges and Samuel are almost filled. We may half wonder that God should have interfered in such quarrels, or have changed the course of nature, in order to give one of these nations of Palestine the victory over another. But in these contests, on the fate of one of these nations of Palestine, the happiness of the human race depended. The Israelites fought not for themselves only, but for us. It might follow that they should thus be accounted the enemies of all mankind; it might be that they were tempted by their very distinctness to despise other nations. Still they did God's work; still they preserved unhurt the seed of eternal life, and were the ministers of blessing to all other nations, even though they themselves failed to enjoy it.” “If Israel,” says another writer, “had been subdued by the Canaanites, if the separated seed had been mingled with the heathen,
1 Arnold's Sermons, VI. 35-37.