Page images

a people who received an express and manifest commission from him for that purpose ; and this could not but be evident, when all the passage of the children of Israel from Egypt to the land of Canaan was conducted by a series of miracles, and when they were aflisted by supernatural power in making their conquests. It was like the regular execution of a commission, by persons who carried their credentials or warrant along with them..

The particular reasons for the extirpation of the Canaanites are clearly and repeatedly expressed in the books of Moses. Thus, in one place, the fete tlement of the Israelites in the promised land is said to have been deferred, because the iniquity of the inhabitants was not full; and the Israelites are frequently reminded that the extermination of the Canaanites, and their own settlement in the country, were appointed by God, not on account of their goodness, but for the wickedness of those people who were driven out before them. It is remarkable that, in all the other wars in which the Israelites might happen to be engaged with their neighbouring nations, they were expressly enjoined to pursue very different and more humane maxims, sparing all except such as were found bearing arms. In this particular case, only, they were expressly commanded to exterminate utterly.

That the Israelites were not influenced by the usual paffions of conquerors, but acted under an


authority which controuled their natural desires, is manifest from their not sparing even the cattle, and even refraining to appropriate to themselves the treasure which they found in Jericho, which was the first fruits of their conquests, and to be devoted to God. The Ifraelites have often been compared to barbarous conquerors and cruel murderers; but let other conquerors and assassins be produced, who refrained from plunder as these did. That they were not actuated by mere rage and revenge is evident from their having received no particular provocation, not indeed, having had any personal intercourse with the inhabitants of Canaan. Their motives, it is evident, must have been of a very different nature from those of common robbers and murderers, and, in the eye of reason, it is the motive that determines the nature of the action.

It is also remarkable that, notwithstanding the paffion the Ifraelites may be fupposed to have had for war, which would have been infamed by the rapidity of their conquests, they were forbidden to extend them beyond the boundaries of the land of Canaan; and the constitution of their government was altogether unsuited to extensive empire.

It would be a sufficient reason for the extermin nation of the Canaanites by the sword of the children of Israel, if, as is very possible, it was the best method of impressing the minds of the Israelites themselves with a juft idea of the heinous nature of


idolatry, and to make sufficient provision against their being seduced into the same abominable prace tices. If their living only in the neighbourhood of idolatrous nations was so unsafe for this people, as their history shews it to have been, what danger would they not have been in, if they had spared the old inhabitants of Canaan, and suffered them to live unmolested among them.

I would observe, however, that the order to exterminate utterly in the case of the Canaanites ; though expreflied in absolute terms, is supposed by fome to have been conditional in fact, and that their lives were to have been fpared upon their fub. miffion, and especially on their forsaking idolatry,

This supposition is sufficiently analogous to other threatnings in the scriptures (the nature of which is explained by the prophet Ezekiel xxxiii. 14.) as that of Jonah against the Ninevites. He was commiffioned to say that in forty years Nineveh hould be overthrown, Jonah iii. 4. and yet we see that, upon repentance, that city was spared.

It is plain in fact, that the Ifraelites either did not understand the command to be absolute, or they knowingly tranfgrefsed it, even in the best and most flourishing state of their affairs ; for mention is made of the remains of the Canaanitish nations living in subjection to the Israelites even to the times of the kings. Kings, ix. 20, 21. All the people that were left, of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, which were not of the children of Israel, their children that were left after them in the land, whom the children of Israel also were not able utterly to destroy, upon those did Solomon levy a tribute of bond service unto this day. It is plain from this passage that, though before the days of David and Solomon, the Israelites could not entirely fubdue those nations, they were then wholly reduced, and at the mercy of their conquerors; and we no where read of their being blamed for the favour they shewed them, as Saul was in the case of the Amalekites, who were reduced by war. We also read Judges, i. 28. It came to pass that when Ifrael was firong, that they put the Canaanites to tribute, and did not utterly drive them out. And it must be observed that Uriah, one of David's principal heroes was a Hittite.

Besides the reason and end for which the order for the extermination of the Canaanites was given,

left the children of Israel should be inticed by them into idolatry, entirely ceased upon their submission, and abandoning their idol worThip.

Lastly, it is pretty clearly inferred, that this or. der was conditional, from finding that if the hearts of the Canaanites had not been hardened to oppose the Israelites, they would not have been cut off. Joshua, xi, 19, 20. There was not a city that made


which was,

peace with the children of Israel save the Hivites. For it was of the Lord to har den their hearts, that they fould come against Israel in battle, that' he might defray them utterly, and that they might have no favour, but that he might destroy them, as the Lord commanded Mofes, i. e, evidently in case of opposition only. As to the Lord's hardening their hearts, there is nothing peculiar in it in this case, and, it will be explained hereafter.

The orders which the Jews had, not to spare even their nearest relations, if they should attempt to seduce them into idolatry, has been made the foundation of the same charge of cruelty, and has also been censured as a perfecution on the account of religious principles. But it should be considered, that the very reason for setting apart the Jewish nation to be the theatre of the extraordinary providence of God, respecting the whole world of mankind, which was at that time universally sinking into idolatry, was to secure the belief of the great and important doctrine of the divine unity, and universal moral government; and that this, which was the great object both of the religious constitution, and also of the civil government of the Hebrews, would have been des feated, if the most effectual provision had not been made for securing to the one true God the allegiance of this one nation, and their adherence to the purity of his worship.


« PreviousContinue »