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answered, “Nay, but as the Lord of hosts I come.' Then Joshua fell on his face before the glory of the Lord thus suddenly revealed to him, and he said, “What says my Lord to His servant.' And he received the answer, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot, for the place whereon thou standest is holy.'
The fall of Jericho was connected with extraordinary marvels and wonders. The conquest of the first Canaanitish city did not depend on the courage of the Hebrew warriors, or on the strategy of Joshua, but it was to be marked as the work of the Lord's own will and might. It was indeed calculated to terrify the heathens and to encourage the Hebrews. The Lord commanded Joshua to besiege the city. Its gates were shut, its walls closely watched; no one was allowed either to enter or to go out. The Hebrew army encompassed Jericho as with an iron grasp. For seven days the siege lasted: once on each day the Ark of the Covenant was borne by the priests from the camp at Gilgal round the walls; seven priests preceded it, blowing a blast on their silver trumpets, and the armed men followed in solemn silence. On the seventh day the Ark was carried round seven times, and at the seventh long blast of the trumpet, Joshua called out to the people, Shout! for the Lord has given you the city. A great war-cry rose up into the air, the walls of Jericho fell down to the ground, and the Hebrew warriors rushed into the town. Then followed the work of destruction which sounds so terrible to our ears. The affrighted and panicstricken people fell beneath the weapons of the invaders ; even women and children were slain, old and young together, nor was the cattle spared. But the spies did not forget the promise they had made to Rahab; they went into her house, brought her out with all her family, and led them safely to the camp. They alone of their whole race were allowed to dwell among the Hebrews. The city
of Jericho was burnt; only the vessels of gold and silver, of brass and iron, were saved for the holy Tabernacle; and Joshua proclaimed publicly, “Cursed be the man before the Lord that raises up and builds this city Jericho; he
all lay the foundation thereof with his first-born, and with his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it.'
64. CAPTURE OF AI AND STRATAGEM
OF THE GIBEONITES.
(Josu. VIII. IX.]
The next point of Joshua's attack was the town of Ai, north-west of Jericho and south-east of Beth-el, which was probably then a holy place of the Canaanites. He sent spies up to the mountains to explore the country, who, seeing but few of the enemies, augured an easy victory for the Hebrews. Only three thousand men went up to the attack; but the people of Ai rushed furiously upon them, slaying some and driving the others back to the camp. It was the first signal defeat, and the Israelites were utterly dismayed. Joshua rent his clothes, and fell upon the ground before the Ark, praying to the Lord for help, and wailing bitterly in his despair. What hopes could the chosen people cherish? What glory would they bring to their God? The voice of the Lord answering Joshua told him, that some of the devoted treasures of Jericho had been secretly appropriated by one of his soldiers, and that until the offender had been discovered and punished, the Hebrews would feel the Divine displeasure. Joshua then called all the people together, and announced the will of God. On the following day, when the twelve tribes were assembled, the trial by lot commenced; the tribe of Judah was taken, then the family of the Zarhites, then the household of Zabdi, and last of all the lot fell upon Achan.
Joshua called out the disobedient man and said, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession to Him, and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me.' Achan did not attempt to conceal his sin, but confessed that he had taken from the spoil a valuable Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a bar of gold fifty shekels in weight, and that he had hidden these things in and under his tent. Joshua's messengers found the objects as they were described, and brought them before the Lord,' that is, to the door of the Tabernacle. Then the whole congregation led Achan into the valley of Achor, with his sons and his daughters, and his oxen and his asses. There the men and beasts were stoned to death, and then burnt, together with their tent and the spoil unlawfully taken at Jericho. A huge pile of stones was raised up over the remains, as a monument of the Lord's anger.
The city of Ai now fell an easy prey to the eager Israelites. It was to be taken by stratagem. Joshua divided his soldiers into two parts, sending the larger number by night to the mountains, westward of the town, on the road to Beth-el, where they were to lie quietly in wait; whilst he himself, at the head of the other part, encamped in a plain at the northern side of the town. When the king of Ai saw, in the morning, the advancing Hebrews, he summoned his soldiers and marched boldly out to meet the enemy. Joshua awaited their approach, and then suddenly, as if seized by a panic, turned round with his men, and fled in hot haste towards the desert. The heathen army pursued them exultingly, until they touched the sandy tracts of the desert. Joshua then raised his mighty spear, brandishing it aloft; and when it was seen by the men lying in ambush in the west of Ai, they rushed, without check or obstacle, into the unguarded eity, and set it on fire. When the pursuing hosts looked
behind them, and beheld the rising flames, they were seized by a sudden fear. As they stopped, Joshua turned round upon them, forcing them back to the burning city. Here they were received and opposed by the Hebrew conquerors; thus they were hemmed in by the two armies of the Israelites; fight was impossible, and they fell beneath the sword of the invaders. All the Hebrews now entered Ai, where they completed the work of carnage. They slew the inhabitants, but they took with them the cattle and the spoil. The king of Ai was hanged on a tree, and then thrown down before the gate, where the corpse was covered with a huge heap of stones.
After these fearful acts of devastation, Joshua and all the Israelites, the priests and the Levites carrying the Ark, journeyed northwards, probably through Shiloh to Mount Ebal. Here they built an altar to the Lord, and faithfully carried out the commands given by Moses: the Law was engraved on stones; then it was read to the whole congregation, together with all strangers; and finally the blessings and the curses were recited from Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, in the exact manner previously enjoined.
Terror and consternation spread through the land of Palestine. Every king and chief prepared to do battle to the invader. Then a league was formed among the principal tribes: the Amorites, the Hittites, and the Hivites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, and the Jebusites, came from their hills and plains, and assembled to meet the common foe. But the town of Gibeon, lying to the west of Jericho, resolved to save itself by stratagem. There appeared one day in the camp of Gilgal a party of men with ragged sacks slung across their asses, with leathern wine-bottles, old, rent, and bound up again; shoes torn and way-worn; garments dusty and faded ; and their bread dry and mouldy. They had the appearance of
people who had made a very long journey. They told Joshua that, having heard of the great wonders performed by the God of the Hebrews, they had travelled from their far-distant homes to meet him, and had come to offer their allegiance, and to make a treaty with the Hebrews. As a sign of the truth of their words, they pointed to their tattered garments, and showed their dry provisions. Joshua, not doubting their words, concluded a league with them, promising to spare them in the general destruction. But soon after he was told that these very men belonged to a neighbouring tribe, and that Gibeon itself was one of their cities. Though indignant at their cunning, he adhered to the oath by which he had pledged himself, and he was supported in this course by the elders of the congregation. But the people murmured and insisted on the punishment of the impostors. Joshua calmed them by this decision: We will let them live, but let them be hewers of wood and drawers of water to all the congregation.' Then summoning the men of Gibeon, he severely censured their deceit, and told them that, though he would protect their lives from the wrath of the Israelites, they must be servants, and the lowest menials at the Sanctuary for ever.
65. FURTHER CONQUESTS IN CANAAN.
The sincerity of Joshua's promise to save the men of Gibeon was soon to be tested; for the neighbouring tribes, seized with fear and jealousy, leagued together to attack their city under the leadership of the king of Jerusalem. Five kings assembled their armies, those of Jebus, Hebron, and Jarmuth, of Lachish and Eglon, all determined to punish the subservient and cowardly