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Being, in the midst of most discouraging obstacles, our gratitude and reverence are due to Moses. Deservedly he stands conspicuous among the agents, whom God has chosen in all ages, and from all nations, to bring the world gradually out of darkness into light.
After the death of Moses, Joshua led the people over Jordan, and conquered many of the tribes of Canaan. He taught the Israelites, as his predecessor had done, that they were the chosen agents of Jehovah, to exterminate idolaters and take possession of their lands. But tribes, who bad cities and vineyards thus violently wrested from them by foreign invaders, naturally viewed the subject in another light. Procopius, a Greek historian, native of Cæsarea, in Palestine, supposed to have died six hundred and fifty years after our era, speaking of a nation in Libya, says: “They were the Gergesites, Gebusites, and other nations, who were driven out of Palestine, by Joshua the son of Nave.” [Nun.] He testifies that he himself saw the following sentence, engraved in Phænician characters, near a fountain in Libya: “We are they who fled from the face of Joshua the robber, the son of Nave.” The author of Ecclesiasticus calls Joshua the "son of Nave," that being a change in the name by Jews who spoke Greek.
When Grecians represented their deities as conniving at falsehood, and assisting to break solemn treaties, their perfidy was sanctified to popular imagination, by its being always done in favour of the Greeks, who believed themselves especial favourites of the gods. In a similar spirit, Hebrews represented Jehovah as commanding his chosen people to steal from the Egyptians, and to kill by thousands, men, women, and infants, from whom they had received no injury; and when the bloody work was accomplished, they devoutly thanked the Lord, because he had given them“ vineyards they had not planted, and harvests they had not sowed.”
Hebrew Sacred Books declare that Joshua was "full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him: and the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the Lord commanded Moses.” He also is said to have acted under the immediate and perpetual guidance of Deity. “After the death of Moses, it came to pass that Jehovah spake unto Joshua."
Concerning the rite of circumcision, we are told that “the Lord said unto Joshua, Make thee sharp knives and circumcise the children of Israel the second time. And this is the cause why Joshua did circumcise. All the people that came out of Egypt were circumcised, and they had all died in the wilderness by the way; but all those that were born in the wilderness they had not circumcised.” The fact that Egyptians considered all uncircumcised men unclean, is implied in the record of this transaction; for after the rite had been performed on all the Hebrews, “the Lord said to Joshua, This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you.”
The directions Joshua received from God are characterized by the same austerity as those to Moses. He was commanded to exterminate the Canaanites; "to destroy them utterly, and leave nothing to breathe.” When one of the Hebrew soldiers concealed under his tent some gold and silver taken from images or temples, among the spoils of war, “the Lord commanded Joshua to burn him, and all that he had, with fire. So Joshua, and all Israel with him, took him, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tents, and all that he had, and all Israel stoned them with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones."
The Tabernacle had been carried with the Israelites in all their wanderings through the wilderness. Wherever it rested, there they pitched their tents; and whenever it moved, though in the middle of the night, they rose and followed it. This prompt obedience originated in their belief that it was God's house, where he actually dwelt; and that He himself went before them as a guide, in the form of a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. Joshua brought the Tabernacle into the land of Canaan. Seven years it remained at Gilgal, guarded by a strong force, while the Israelites encamped there. When they went to battle, the Ark was taken out of it and carried before them, that the Lord might be always present with them, ready to be consulted in case of difficult emergencies. When Israel had more quiet possession of the land of Canaan, the Tabernacle was removed to Shiloh, and enclosed within walls. At Mount Ebal, Joshua built an altar of whole stones, and wrote on the stones a copy of the Law of Moses, and "read all the words before all the congregation of Israel, with the women and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them. And they offered upon the altar burnt-offerings, and sacrifices, and peace-offerings, to the Lord God of Israel."
The Hebrews, and “the mixed multitude" who, according to their Sacred Records, came up with them from Egypt, were so imbued with the customs of that country, that even Aaron consented to make a golden calf for them to worship, and himself erected an altar before it. Notwithstanding the severe edicts of Moses, and the efforts of Joshua to impress them on the minds of the people, they manifested in Canaan the same proneness to idolatry. Joshua found it necessary to assemble the tribes and earnestly remind them of the temporal blessings they had received from their tutelary God: “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I brought your fathers out of Egypt. And I brought you into the land of the Amorites. And I sent the hornet before you, which drove them out before you, even the two kings of the Amorites; but not with thy sword, nor with thy bow. And I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwelt in them; of vineyards and olive yards, which ye planted not, do ye eat.” And Joshua said: "Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods, which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, [the river Euphrates) and in Egypt. But if it seem evil to you to serve the
Lord, choose ye this day whom ye will serve; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. And the people answered, The Lord our God brought our fathers out of the land of Egypt, and drove out from before us all the people, even the Amorites, which dwelt in the land; therefore will we serve the Lord. And Joshua said to the people, He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. If ye forsake him and serve strange gods, he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good. Now therefore put away the strange gods that are among you, and incline your heart to the God of Israel. And the people said, We will serve the Lord our God, and his voice will we obey. And Joshua made a covenant with the people, and set them a statute and an ordinance, and wrote the words in the book of the Law of God, and took a great stone and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the Lord. And he said, This stone bath heard all the words of the Lord, which he spake unto us; it shall therefore be a witness unto you, lest ye deny your God."
Hebrew records declare that the very next generation of "the children of Israel forsook the Lord God of their fathers, and served Baal and Ashtaroth." The first is supposed to have been the Chaldean representative of the Sun, and the other the Syrian representative either of the Moon, or of the planet Venus. Wild and troubled times followed the death of Joshua Israelites intermarried with neighbouring tribes, and "forgat the Lord their God, and served Baalim and the groves. Therefore the anger of the Lord waxed hot against Israel.” The king of Mesopotamia conquered them, and they served him eight years before they were delivered out of his hand. Forty years after, the king of Moab conquered them, and they served him eighteen years. He was finally murdered by one of the tribe of Benjamin, and the Israelites had rest for eighty years. After that, they were conquered by the king of Canaan. At that period, Hebrews were governed by judges; and it is a very remarkable feature in such unsettled times that “Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, judged Israel.” By pursuing her advice the king of Canaan was conquered, and “the land had rest forty years." Then the Midianites conquered Israel and kept them in subjection seven years, so that they were compelled to “hide in dens in the mountains.” In their distress, they cried unto the Lord, and a prophet named Gideon rose up to remind them of the God who brought their fathers out of Egypt. " The Lord said unto Gideon, Throw down the altar of Baal, which thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it; and build an altar unto the Lord thy God, and take thy father's young bullock and offer a burnt-sacrifice with the wood of the grove, which thou shalt cut down." Gideon obeyed the command; but so popular were the foreign gods, that he did it in the night-time, not daring to do it by day. When the men of the city discovered who had done it, they insisted he should be put to death; but his father warded off the present danger, and Gideon afterward secured the affections of the people by fighting successfully against the Midianites. He requested the men of Israel to bring him all the golden ear-rings they took with the spoils of war, and they willingly gave them, “beside ornaments, and collars, and purple raiment, that was on the kings of Midian, and chains that were about their camels' necks. And Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city.” There is no explanation concerning the use made of this ephod, but the natural supposition would be that it was consulted as an oracle. That it came in some way to be regarded as an idol, is implied by the remark that “all Israel went thither a whoring after it; which thing became a snare unto Gideon and his house."