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when the river overflowed its banks, from the great quantity of water; which made the miracle the more wonderful. “ And all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan."
The number of the Israelites at this time was six hundred thousand men besides women and children, which was, indeed, a vast army; yet it is wonderful that the Canaanites did not watch them, and try to stop their crossing of Jordan. But perhaps they thought they could not pass the river where they did ; and if they saw that the waters yielded to make way for them, it was quite enough to frighten them, alarmed as they already were, and to make them run away, wherever they could, for safety.
You know it is very usual for us to set up monuments in memory of great events. In London there is a large monument erected in Hyde-park, in memory of the victories of the Duke of Wellington; and there is the monument of London, which was built in memory of the great fire, by which it was nearly all burnt down, in the
year 1666. The passing of Jordan was a far greater event than either of these could commemorate, and Joshua, therefore, commanded twelve men, one from each tribe, and probably the same men spoken of before, to take twelve stones from the spot where the priests' feet had stood, and to carry them to their first lodging-place over Jordan, where they were to leave them. And so, when at any future time their children should ask, “What mean you by these stones ?” they should be told, " that the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, when it passed over Jordan, and that the stones were a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever."
Joshua also set up twelve other stones " in the midst of Jordan, in tho place where the feet of the priests which bore the ark of the covenant stood ;" and there they were when the Book of Joshua was written.
All the people having passed over, including the children of Reuben and Gad, ard the half tribe of Manasseh, who passed over before the rest, being about forty thousand prepared for war, Joshua then ordered the priests to come out of Jordan, and its waters immediately flowed as before. So “ On that day the Lord magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel," and owned him as his servant appointed to lead Israel;“ and they feared (or honoured) him, as they feared Moses, all the days of his life.”
And the people encamped in a place which they called Gilgal, in the east borders of Jericho, where the twelve stones brought out of the river were pitched, “ That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty :” and so fear the Lord God of Israel for ever.
The drying up of Jordan must have been seen for some miles, and the news of the wonderful event, with the passage of the Israelites, soon spread among the Canaanites, and filled them with the greatest alarm, “neither was there spirit in them any more, because of the children of Israel."
And God now commanded Joshua to mark the Israelites of the new generation with the sign of his covenant with them, and they kept a solemn passover, which they had been denied in their wanderings in the wilderness. The country people naturally fled away from the invading armies, and all their corn in the field and in store became the property of the Israelites, who took it and fed upon it, as part of their promised possession, given them by that God who caused it to grow; and having no more need of manna, that miraculous supply of food ceased, and “ they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan' that year.”
The fifth chapter closes with an account of a wonderful appearance to Joshua. The person who appeared to him while he was, perhaps, thoughtfully looking around Jericho, and contriving how to take it, was no common being, or he would not have worshipped him; and from the command to take off his shoe, which was an act of reverence, it was that Angel who appeared in the burning bush to Moses. He now told Joshua that he had come as Captain of the Lord's host, and Joshua might well be encouraged with the assurance that God would fight for him, and give him the promised land for his people.
The Taking of Jericho.
When the people of Jericho saw the armies of Israel coming, they shut up the strong gates of their city; but though this would have preserved them from usual danger, yet now that God had given them up to Israel, nothing could save them.
But the city was to be taken in a very wonderful way, to show that, after all, the hand of God was in it.
Joshua had no orders to batter it, or scale its walls. The men of war were only to march round it once a day for six days ; and the ark was to be carried round, and seven priests were to march before it, blowing seven trumpets of rams’-horns. And on the seventh day they were to walk round the city seven times, and the priests were to blow with their trumpets: and at a long blast of the trumpets, the people were to make a loud shouting, when the wall of the city should fall down flat, and every man could get in without difficulty.
So the armed men went before the priests that blew the trumpets, and a number of people followed the ark, and they marched round the city daily, till the seventh day. Then Joshua gave the word, “Shout, for the Lord hath given you the city.”
And he commanded that everything should be destroyed in the city, except Rahab and her family, and the valuable metals that might be found, which were to be preserved for sacred uses.
And when the people shouted, down fell the wall, and then the Israelites marched in, “and they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword.”
The city was also burnt with fire, but Raliab and her family were, by order of Joshua, saved by the spies, who took them without the camp, and she ever after lived with the Israelites.
The Sin of Achan.
Although the Israelites had been warned at their peril not to touch any part of the spoils of Jericho, yet one was so overcome by his covetous spirit that he ventured, in spite of God's command.
This sin was, however, soon found out; for Joshua sent men to view Ai, another city, about twelve miles from Jericho. And when they returned, they told him that the people were fled, and that the city would be easily taken; so that if he sent two or three thousand men against it, that would be quite enough.
And Joshua did so, but the men of Ai rushed out of the city, put them to flight, and killed thirty-six of their number. This frightened Israel, for they thought that, after what had happened to Jericho, the other people of Canaan would take their revenge, and their hearts lost all courage, and became as weak as water.
Then Joshua rent or tore his clothes, as the Jews did when they were in great grief, and he and the elders of Israel put dust upon their heads, and fell with their faces before the ark of the Lord, to prove how much they felt humbled before God. And Joshua pleaded with God to save Israel.
Then God told Joshua, in some way, that Israel had sinned, and had taken what was accursed, and ought not to have been saved, and this was the reason why they could not stand before their enemies.
And God ordered Joshua to tell the people to sanctify or wash themselves, to appear decently on the solemn occasion, and to take the tribes of Israel, and find out who had been the thief; and after casting lots it was discovered that Achan, of the tribe of Judah, was the man.
Then Achan confessed his sin, and he said, “When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment,” which some think was, most likely, the king of Jericho's royal robe," and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it.
“So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent; and, behold, it was hid in the tent, and the silver under it.” And they took them out of the midst of the tent, and brought them unto Joshua, and unto all the children of Israel, and laid them out before the Lord.
“And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had : and they brought them unto the valley of Achor.
“ And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us ? the Lord shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones."
The Taking of Ai.
God now encouraged Joshua to go and take Ai, the inhabitants of which were to perish, like those of Jericho.
So Joshua took all the people of war with him, and chose out thity thousand brave men, who marched by night to lie in wait behind the city.