Page images
PDF
EPUB

it the next point of attack. They returned, flushed with the hopes of an easy victory; stating that the people of Ai were but few in number, and that a small detachment of two or three thousand men, would be abundantly sufficient to conquer a place so poorly provided with the means of defence. The event will show how much they were mistaken ; and that, probably, both they and Joshua relied too much on the prowess of their arms, forgetting their dependence on God, and indulging a spirit of presumption which the conquest of Jericho, obtained with such little difficulty, might have tended to inspire.

We have reason to believe, also, that there was not, on the part of Joshua and the Israelites, that tenderness of conscience and spirit of inquiry which was needed under the circumstances in which they were placed, to ascertain whether there might not be among them some secret purloining of the spoils of Jericho for a private use. They must be taught humility and watchfulness, and by a lesson of no small severity.

At the command of Joshua, about three thousand men went promptly forward to attack Ai. On reaching the city, they were suddenly met by a large party of the Amorites, rushing out of the gates, who repulsed them with such bravery, that the Israelites, confused and panic-struck, filed before their pursuers to the camp at Gilgal, thirty-six of their number being killed in the flight.

This unexpected defeat filled all with great consternation.

" The hearts of the people,” we are told," melted and became as water." They sunk down into a state of despondency ; distrusting their ability to cope with such powerful enemies, and even the disposition of the Almighty to afford them his aid.

Joshua regarded the whole scene with the strongest emotion. He saw that the Lord was not with them. There must be some weighty reason for this. Sin in himself, or the people, or more probably in both, was the cause, he well knew, of this expression of the divine displea

He called upon the elders of Israel, to unite with him in an act of deep humiliation before God. As was the custom, at that time, in order to give an outward and striking exhibition of their grief, they rent their clothes, and prostrated themselves before the ark of the Lord until the close of the day, and put dust upon their heads. Joshua, then, broke out into this earnest expostulation : "Alas! O Lord God, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan! O Lord, what shall I say when Israel turneth their backs

sure.

before their enemies ! For the Canaanites, and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it, and shall environ us round, and cast off our name from the earth : and what will thou do un, to thy great name ?"

Here was some portion, as it would seem, of murmuring and unbelief; and yet, in estimating the true character of his feelings, we must make all due allowance for the earnestness of Joshua's plea, and recollect, too, the familiarity to which Moses and himself appear to have been sometimes admitted in their intercourse with their Maker. Besides, his great anxiety, while offering this expostulation, evidently arose not from a regard to his own honor and welfare, or that of the Israelites, in the matter, but from a deep concern for the honor of God, and the glory of his great name. And this abates very much from what might, otherwise, appear to be an air of complaint and irreverence in the words which he uttered.

"Get thee up,” was the reply, "wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies

but turned their backs before their enemies because they were accursed : neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you.”

God then commanded Joshua to cause the people to sanctify themselves against the morrow; that is, to prepare themselves, by the proper, ceremonial ablutions, and the cultivation of a suitable frame of mind, for the solemn transactions of the ensuing day. "For,” it was added, " thus saith the Lord God of Israel, There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel : thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among

you."

For this purpose, the detection of the offender was necessary; and God gave directions to Joshua for having it done with despatch and certainty. In the morning, the different tribes were to be arranged around the ark of the covenant, to stand before the presence of the Lord, and await his decision. The lot, as we have reason to believe, was to be cast, and in this way the tribe determined in which the offender would be found. Then, this tribe, being divided into its respective families, the particular family was to be designated. A further division of this family into households, would, in the same way, ascertain the household ; and, last of all, the lot

rael.

being cast among the members of this household, the guilty individual would be detected.

Early the ensuing morning, the people were assembled by Joshua, and, in accordance with the divine directions, the investigation began. A fearful suspense prevailed as the decisive lots were cast. For the denunciation of Jehovah against the detected offender, was a terrible one. "He that is taken with the accursed thing shall be burnt with fire, he and all that he hath : because he hath transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he hath wrought folly in Is

It was certain, for God had declared it to be

so, that some one was guilty, and had incurred this awful doom. He would soon be discovered. Who could it be ? His family, too, were to be involved in his fate. What trembling anxiety even among the innocent, lest they might be called to share in this horrible and disgraceful punishment! What agitation of soul, what selfreproach, what inward agony, if conscience had any sensibility left, or a sense of disgrace remained, must have burst upon the guilty individual, while the scrutiny was going on, and a few moments more would draw him from his conceal. ment, and he stand forth the condemned one before God and the whole assembly! Were he a father-had he a circle of children surrounding him, still dear to his heart, (for crime does not

« PreviousContinue »