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therein. And the Lord gave them rest round about, according to A.M. 2560. all that he sware unto their fathers; and there stood not a man of B.C. 1444. all their enemies before them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand. There failed not aught of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass."
As soon as the two tribes and-a-half had crossed the river, they An altar proceeded to erect an altar at the place where the miraculous pas- the two sage of the Israelites had been so recently accomplished, as a tribes and a memorial to future ages of their connection with the inhabitants of the opposite banks and country, and a testimony of their similarity of religion. Too suspicious of their friends, and neglectful of the proper methods of obtaining information, the people assembled in Shiloh, to concert a warlike expedition against the offending tribes, whose altar they had hastily concluded to be an idolatrous construction. But previous to the commencement of hostilities, they despatched an embassy under the direction of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar the priest. Ten princes of distinction accompanied him. The overheated zeal of the multitude appears to have so far infected the individuals of this mission, that they addressed the persons to whom they were sent in a manner sufficiently blunt and uncourteous ; prejudging the case by a direct impeachment, and referring with an intelligible severity to the history of the trespass of Achan. To this the Reubenites, Gadites, and Manassites, promptly answered, that so far from intending to adopt a measure calculated to seduce any part of the people of Israel from their allegiance to God, they had raised the altar in question for the very opposite purpose of perpetuating his worship, and transmitting to their posterity the rich inheritance of the true religion. If in time to come, it should ever be objected to them, as it probably might be, that they were excluded, by their very circumstances and situation, from the body of the Israelitish nation; they thought it highly expedient to make an altar conformably to the divine pattern, as a proof that Jordan could not separate them from a participation in the privileges and religion of their brethren: and they expressed a horror at the thought of being guilty of that apostacy which had been so unexpectedly imputed to them. This explanation was, of course, satisfactory; the embassy returned, and the people dispersed. A name significant of its real design was given to the altar, that it might occasion no future misapprehensions: it was called Ed, that is, a witness.
Civil peace being thus restored, and external quiet secured by the A.M. 2561. undisputed sovereignty of the country acquired by the arms of B.c. 1443. Israel, a long period of prosperity and leisure attended the declining life of Joshua. At length, perceiving the approach of that day, when he must tread the valley of death, in which so many illustrious men had preceded him, he imitated the conduct of Moses, in assembling the chiefs and magistrates, with their tribes, at She
A.M 2561. chem; where he delivered to them a farewell and affectionate B.C. 1443. address. He retraced the goodness of that God who had guided
and guarded them through the years that were gone by, reminding them of the assistance they had received, and the victories they had obtained; and faithfully warning them of the fatal consequences that must inevitably ensue, should they forget their obligations, falsify their vows, and amalgamate themselves in any degree, with the nations whom they were bound to exterminate. With a calmness peculiar to a good man, he adverts to the subject of his own speedy departure; and with the zeal of an eminent Israelite. he engages them to renew their covenant with God, by fresh and solemn asseverations of eternal obedience. The words of each party were written in the book of the law, and a great stone was set up under an oak, near the sanctuary of worship, that they might be perpetually reminded of their renewed engagements. After this solemnity the people were dismissed to their several residences, and their illustrious leader, at the age of a hundred and ten years, died in faith, and invested with a glory which religion only can confer upon mortality. He was buried at Timnah-serah, in mount Ephraim, in the year of the world 2561, B.c. 1443. Soon afterwards, Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, followed him to the grave; and was interred in one of the neighbouring hills, which descended as a possession to Phinehas, his son and successor in
the priesthood. The two tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, availed Josh xxiv. themselves of this opportunity of public mourning, to fulfil the
wishes of Joseph, whose bones were brought out of Egypt, according to his request, and now buried in Shechem, in a piece of ground which Jacob purchased of the sons of Hamor, and bequeathed to Joseph's posterity.
Joshua is the reputed and probable author of the book which character,
passes under his name; with the exception of a few concluding verses, containing an account of his death, which were supplied by one of his successors. The whole narrative is distinguished by that animation and preciseness of description which evince, that the historian was also the principal actor. His mode of writing is at once simple, concise, and glowing. His exploits were long preserved in memory, through the distorted representations of the pagan nations of antiquity. There is an evident allusion to the miraculous passage of Jordan, in the story of Neptune drying up the river Inachus. Hercules was certainly the same with the Hebrew general: the scene of his victories, and his various achievements, may be traced in the accounts of the Phænician hero, who is stated to have carried on a war with Tryphæus and the giants, in behalf of the gods, as Joshua fought the Canaanites; many of whom were reported to be of gigantic stature. The scripture facts of the descending stones, and the arrest of the sun and moon in their spheres, have each their respective antitypes: for Hercules received a similar kind of assistance in his
contest with the sons of Neptune; and Callimachus describes the sun A.M. 2561. as stopping the wheels of his chariot, to hear the melodious chorus B.C. 1443. of nymphs; which occasioned the prolongation of the day. Statius also represents the sun as standing still at the sight of the unnatural murder committed by Atreus.'
The measure of extirpating the nations of Canaan, has been charged The measure with extreme cruelty, and cited as an instance of unwarrantable ating the aggression : but whatever objections may be urged against it, they de
defended. cannot be imputed to Joshua, since he acted under a commission of paramount authority. The councils of heaven, therefore, are impeached by the objection; than which nothing can be more presumptuous in a short sighted mortal. The governor of the universe may have reasons for his conduct which it would be improper or unnecessary to communicate to his creatures, and which, in many cases, could not be fully comprehended even by the utmost stretch of human sagacity. It is sufficient for a man that he has the commission of God, acting in obedience to which, it is impossible to err; and whether the line of conduct we are directed to pursue, coincide with our predilections, or oppose them, the principle of obedience is simply the will of God. But we need not recur merely to this sentiment, in order to vindicate the conquest of Canaan : satisfactory reasons are assigned for the proceeding, in the sacred page. The iniquities of its inhabitants rendered them obnoxious to the divine displeasure, and proper subjects of punishment. When Moses summoned the Israelites to a general audience, previous to the passage of Jordan, he expressly states, and with reiterated declarations, “for the wickedness of these nations the Lord thy God doth Deut. ix. 31. drive them out from before thee.” In executing that decree, which was founded upon this consideration, an ample space was afforded them for repentance, which would, no doubt, have had the effect of averting those calamitous visitations which they sustained by the hands of the Israelites. In this sense the severities which were predicted were conditional, implying the happy consequences that might result from their reformation: but instead of improving in character, they degenerated, becoming more and more confirmed in sin. The language of Rahab renders it highly probable, that some means had been adopted, some special monition had been given them, respecting the determinations of heaven; for this subject appears to have been familiar to her mind. Her acknowledgments of the supremacy of the true God, and the predetermined capture of the land, are not a little remarkable, betokening the existence of an impression in her own mind, and in that of her countrymen, respecting their real situation. “I know,” said she, “ that the Lord hath given you the land .... the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath."
1 Callim. in Dian. Stat. Theb. Lib. 1 et 5. Comp. also Ovid, Metamorph. de Phæton.
A.M. 2561. The following judicious remarks of Dr. Paley are highly illustraB.c. 1443. tive of this subject, and must prove eminently satisfactory to those Paley's who, being scrupulous of the divine honour, have strongly felt the
difficulties which involve this dispensation. “When God, for the wickedness of a people, sends an earthquake, or a fire, or a plague amongst them, there is no complaint of injustice, especially when the calamity is known, or expressly declared beforehand, to be inflicted for the wickedness of such people. It is rather regarded as an act of exemplary penal justice, and as such, consistent with the character of the moral governor of the universe. The objection, therefore, is not to the Canaanitish nations being destroyed, (for when their national wickedness is considered, and when that is expressly stated as the cause of their destruction, the dispensation, however severe, will not be questioned ;) but the objection is solely to the manner of destroying them. I mean there is nothing but the manner left to be objected to; their wickedness accounts for the thing itself. To which objection it may be replied, that if the thing itself be just, the manner is of little signification: of little signification, even to the sufferers themselves. For where is the great difference, even to them, whether they were destroyed by an earthquake, a pestilence, a famine, or by the hands of an enemy? Where is the difference, even to our imperfect apprehensions of divine justice, provided it be, and is known to be, for their wickedness that they are destroyed ? But this destruction, you say, confounded the innocent with the guilty. The sword of Joshua and of the Jews, spared neither women nor children. Is it not the same with all other national visitations? Would not an earthquake, or a fire, or a plague, or a famine amongst them, have done the same? Even in an ordinary and natural death the same thing happens. God takes away the life he lends, without regard, that we can perceive, to age, or sex, or character. But, after all, promiscuous massacres, the burning of cities, the laying waste of countries, are things dreadful to reflect upon. Who doubts it? So are all the judgments of Almighty God. The effect, in whatever way it shows itself, must necessarily be tremendous, when the Lord, as the Psalmist expresses it, “ moveth out of his place to punish the wicked.” But it ought to satisfy us—at least this is the point upon which we ought to rest and fix our attention that it was for excessive, wilful, and forewarned wickedness, that all this befell them, and that it is all along so declared in the history which recites it.”
The directions which the Israelites received with regard to the method of proceeding in the conquest of Canaan, were as follow. Every city to which they approached belonging to another nation, was to be formally summoned: if the surrender were refused, they were to besiege it, and smite every male with the edge of the sword, the women and children being spared: if on the other hand the gates were opened to them, the inhabitants were to be spared, but reduced to the condition of slaves and tributaries. A different A.M. 2561. course was to be pursued when those cities were taken, which b.c. 1443. belonged to the land of promise: nothing that breathed was to be saved alive: the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebuzites, were to be unconditionally exterminated. They were required most scrupulously to avoid all alliance with these nations, lest they should be tempted to conform in any degree to their idolatries.
Whoever is acquainted with the human mind, is aware, that moral contagion is much more easily diffused than moral purity; and that, other things being equal, a system of religion comporting with human passions is more likely to predominate over one that opposes their indulgence, than that the latter should displace the former, by the mere influence of its intrinsic excellence over minds already enlisted in the service of evil. Besides, the government of Israel during this period being essentially Theocratic, it was peculiarly proper to maintain the divine authority, by an absolute interdiction of every measure calculated to alienate the mind from God, or dissatisfy it with his service. Contact with surrounding nations might have spread the infection of disobedience ; for while a conquered people are apt to contract the manners of their conquerors, they are capable also of diffusing their own habits amongst them, and the two nations in time, lose a considerable portion of their respective and characteristic peculiarities. Hence, it was necessary to prevent this intermixture, by requisitions tending to insulate and dissever Israel from the vanquished Canaanites; on which account, they were commanded to “overthrow their altars, break their Deut. xii. 3. pillars, burn their groves with fire, and hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them.”
Nor is this all. It is notorious, that victory in war was at that period, considered as the most decisive evidence of the power of any of the gods of the nations, and the conquerors claimed the superiority in behalf of their own deities, above those who were adored by the vanquished party. Nothing, therefore, could be better calculated to impress upon the Canaanites, and upon surrounding countries, a sense of the glory of the only true God, than these signal and repeated successes; nor would the ordinary judgments of Providence, as earthquakes and tempests (against which, by the way, infidelity does not venture to object, although the means of effecting the extermination were comparatively of little consequence,) have accomplished in any proportionable degree so important an impression.