Page images

evidence of the obedience and faith of Joshua who thus stretching out his hand, with the farseen spear and waving banner, stood at a distance from the scene of bloodshed, relying on the arm of Jehovah to consummate that destruction of their enemies which he had himself directed.

What will not obedience to the divine commands, and faith in his promises accomplish. Trust him, my young friend, at all times, and especially in the conflicts which you may have with the world, the flesh, and the adversary of your soul. These spiritual enemies must be utterly vanquished, if you would have a sure way opened for your entering upon the inheritance of the heavenly Canaan. Their destruction, in all their malignant power and influence over you, must be complete. Rest not till you gain the victory. Pray, watch, strive to the end. The extermination of your foes is the only certainty of your triumph.

[blocks in formation]


The king of Ai is put to death. The blessings and curses

pronounced on Gerizim and Ebal. The embassy of the Gibeonites.

The king of Ai was reserved for an ignominious and exemplary punishment. He doubtless deserved it; having, as we have reason to believe, been conspicuous in wickedness, making the high station which he occupied the means of corrupting his people by the force of his example. After being put to death, at the command of Joshua, he was suspended from a tree till the close of the day, and then buried, at the entrance of the gate of the city, under a huge pile of stones. The spot was one to attract attention in future time, even though the city was in ruins. For in such places justice was often adminis. tered, and important business transacted, both of a public and private nature; and the heap of stones would remain a rude yet imperishable memorial of the fate of one who, a king himself, was a rebel against the monarchy of heaven.

The Israelites had now a solemn, religious duty to perform, which made it necessary for them to suspend all their military operations, and proceed to a spot some forty or fifty miles from Gilgal. It was in obedience to the divine injunction given by Moses but just before his death, that they did this. He had marked out the place, and enjoined the peculiar ceremonies to be observed. Directing their course, then, under the command of Joshua, through the rough and hilly regions which stretched in a north-west direction from Gilgal, they reached the moun tains of Ebal and Gerizim.

These eminences are about seven or eight hundred feet in height above the level of the val. ley lying between them ; the former, at the present day, being as remarkable for its barren and desolate appearance, as the latter is for its beauty and fertility. The valley is two hundred paces in width, in the midst of which stands the town of Shechem, the burial-place of Joseph ; the seat of the small remnant of the Samaritans who are yet living ; and in the immediate neighborhood of which was Jacob's well, where our Saviour held his memorable discourse with a woman of that nation. Ebal is west of Shechem, and Gerizim on the east.

Having arrived in this valley with the whole body of the Israelites, Joshua erected an altar unto the Lord on mount Ebal, in exact conformity with the directions which Moses had given.

It was built of stones in their rude and natural state, no tool of any kind being employed in shaping thern for the purpose. On it burut-offerings and peace-offerings were offered up in sacrifice; the Israelites thus solemnly renewing their covenant with Jehovah, on their taking possession of the promised land, to be his faithful and obedient people.

In addition to the altar, Joshua set up a num. ber of stone pillars, smoothed over with a kind of plaster, on which he wrote out that part of the law which contained the blessings and curses, in full view of all the people.

Then, the most solemn and affecting part of the ceremony began. Six of the tribes were placed in order, along the foot and up the side of mount Gerizim, to pronounce the blessings of God upon the obedient. These were Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin.

Opposite to these, on the acclivity of mount Ebal, and quite down to its base, were arranged the six remaining tribes, Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulon, Dan, and Naphtali, to utter aloud the divine denunciations and curses upon the disobedient. Among these, however, were a few of the priests and Levites, chosen from the rest to pronounce against peculiar offences some curses of deep and fearful import.

In the valley between, and eqni-distant from the two great divisions of the people, in sight of them all, was the ark of the covenant, borne on the shoulders of the priests, and surrounded by them, and the Levites to whose more immediate care it was entrusted.

Here, under the blue arch of heaven, with the symbol of the divine presence in their midst, the Israelites pronounced on themselves the blessings and curses of the Almighty, according as they might prove obedient or disobedient to his commands. As the united voices of thousands upon thousands filled the air, a reverential solemnity pervaded the vast multitudes, and impressions were made upon their minds, both of the goodness and severity of Jehovah, which it would seem as if time could never obliterate. But ah! they were,

in many cases, too soon forgotten; such was the perverseness of this people, or rather such is the perverseness of the human heart !

After this part of the ceremonies was cluded, Joshua "read all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law. There was not a word of all that Moses commanded which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them.”

Such was the memorable transaction that took place at the mounts Ebal and Gerizim ; after


« PreviousContinue »