The Conquest Of Canaan To The Establishment Of The Kingdom Of David

The only survivors of the generation that had escaped from Egypt were

Caleb and Joshua. All the rest had offended God by murmurings, rebellion,

idolatries, and sundry offenses, by which they were not deemed worthy to

enter the promised land. Even Moses and Aaron had sinned against the Lord.

So after forty years' wanderings, and the children of Israel were

encamped on the plains of Moab, Moses finally addressed them, forbidding

all intercourse with Jews with other nations, enjoining obedience to God,

requiring the utter extirpation of idolatry, and rehearsing in general,

the laws which he had previously given them, and which form the substance

of the Jewish code, all of which he also committed to writing, and then

ascended to the top of Pisgah, over against Jericho, from which he

surveyed, all the land of Judah and Napthali, and Manasseh and Gilead unto

Dan--the greater part of the land promised unto Abraham. He then died, at

the age of 120, B.C. 1451 and no man knew the place of his burial.

The Lord then encouraged Joshua his successor, and the conquest of

the country began--by the passage over the Jordan and the fall of Jericho.

The manna, with which the Israelites for forty years had been miraculously

fed, now was no longer to be had, and supplies of food were obtained from

the enemy's country. None of the inhabitants of Jericho were spared except

Rahab the harlot, and her father's household, in reward for her secretion

of the spy which Joshua had sent into the city. At the city of Ai, the

three thousand men sent to take it were repulsed, in punishment for the

sin of Achan, who had taken at the spoil of Jericho, a Babylonian garment

and three hundred sheckels of silver and a wedge of gold. After he had

expiated this crime, the city of Ai was taken, and all its inhabitants

were put to death. The spoil of the city was reserved for the nation.

The fall of these two cities alarmed the Hamite nations of

Palestine west of the Jordan, and five kings of the Amorites entered into

a confederation to resist the invaders. The Gibeonites made a separate

peace with the Israelites. Their lives were consequently spared, but they

were made slaves forever. Thus was fulfilled the prophecy that Canaan

should serve Shem.

Meantime the confederate kings--more incensed with the Gibeonites than with

the Israelites, since they were traitors to the general cause, marched

against Gibeon, one of the strongest cities of the land. It invoked the

aid of Joshua, who came up from Gilgal, and a great battle was fought, and

resulted in the total discomfiture of the five Canaanite kings. The cities

of Makkedah, Libnah, Gizu, Eglon, Hebron, successively fell into the hands

of Joshua, as the result of their victory.

The following year a confederation of the Northern kings, a vast

host with horses and chariots, was arrayed against the Israelites; but the

forces of the Canaanites were defeated at the "Waters of Merom," a small

lake, formerly the Upper Jordan. This victory was followed by the fall of

Hazor, and the conquest of the whole land from Mount Halak to the Valley

of Lebanon. Thirty-one kings were smitten "in the mountains, in the

plains, in the wilderness, in the south country: the Hittites, the

Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites."

There only remained the Philistines, whose power was formidable. The

conquered country was divided among the different tribes, half of which

were settled on the west of Jordan. The tabernacle was now removed to

Shiloh, in the central hill country between Jordan and the Mediterranean,

which had been assigned, to the tribe of Ephraim. Jacob had prophetically

declared the ultimate settlements of the twelve tribes in the various

sections of the conquered country. The pre-eminence was given to Judah,

whose territory was the most considerable, including Jerusalem, the future

capital, then in the hands of the Jebusites. The hilly country first fell

into the hands of the invaders, while the low lands were held tenaciously

by the old inhabitants where their cavalry and war chariots were of most


The Israelites then entered, by conquest, into a fruitful land,

well irrigated, whose material civilization was already established, with

orchards and vineyards, and a cultivated face of nature, with strong

cities and fortifications.

Joshua, the great captain of the nation, died about the year 1426

B.C., and Shechem, the old abode of Abraham and Jacob, remained the chief

city until the fall of Jerusalem. Here the bones of Joseph were deposited,

with those of his ancestors.

The nation was ruled by Judges from the death of Joshua for about

330 years--a period of turbulence and of conquest. The theocracy was in

full force, administered by the high priests and the council of elders.

The people, however, were not perfectly cured of the sin of idolatry, and

paid religious veneration to the gods of Phoenicia and Moab. The tribes

enjoyed a virtual independence, and central authority was weak. In

consequence, there were frequent dissensions and jealousies and


The most powerful external enemies of this period were the kings of

Mesopotamia, of Moab, and of Hazor, the Midianites, the Amalekites, the

Ammonites, and the Philistines. The great heroes of the Israelites in

their contests with these people were Othnie, Ehud, Barak, Gideon,

Jepthna, and Samson. After the victories of Gideon over the Midianites,

and of Jepthna over the Ammonites, the northern and eastern tribes enjoyed

comparative repose, and when tranquillity was restored Eli seems to have

exercised the office of high priest with extraordinary dignity, but his

sons were a disgrace and scandal, whose profligacy led the way to the

temporary subjection of the Israelites for forty years to the Philistines,

who obtained possession of the sacred ark.

A deliverer of the country was raised up in the person of Samuel,

the prophet, who obtained an ascendancy over the nation by his purity and

moral wisdom. He founded the "School of the Prophets" in Kamah, and to him

the people came for advice. He seems to have exercised the office of

judge. Under his guidance the Israelites recovered their sacred ark, which

the Philistines, grievously tormented by God, sent back in an impulse of

superstitious fear. Moreover, these people were so completely overthrown

by the Israelites that they troubled them no longer for many years.

Samuel, when old, made his sons judges, but their rule was venal

and corrupt. In disgust, the people of Israel then desired a king. Samuel

warned them of the consequences of such a step, and foretold the

oppression to which they would be necessarily subject; but they were bent

on having a king, like other nations--a man who should lead them on to

conquest and dominion. Samuel then, by divine command, granted their

request, and selected Saul, of the tribe of Benjamin, as a fit captain to

lead the people against the Philistines--the most powerful foe which had

afflicted Israel.

After he had anointed the future king he assembled the whole nation

together, through their deputies, at Mizpeh, who confirmed the divine

appointment. Saul, who appeared reluctant to accept the high dignity, was

fair and tall, and noble in appearance, patriotic, warlike, generous,

affectionate--the type of an ancient hero, but vacillating, jealous, moody,

and passionate. He was a man to make conquests, but not to elevate the

dignity of the nation. Samuel retired into private life, and Saul reigned

over the whole people.

His first care was to select a chosen band of experienced warriors,

and there was need, for the Philistines gathered together a great army,

with 30,000 chariots and 6,000 horsemen, and encamped at Michmash. The

Israelites, in view of this overwhelming force, hid themselves from fear,

in caves and amid the rocks of the mountain fastnesses. In their trouble

it was found necessary to offer burnt sacrifices; but Saul, impulsive and

assuming, would not wait to have the rites performed according to the

divine direction, but offered the sacrifices himself. By this act he

disobeyed the fundamental laws which Moses had given, violated, as it

were, the constitution; and, as a penalty for this foolish and rash act,

Samuel pronounced his future deposition; but God confounded, nevertheless,

the armies of the Philistines, and they were routed and scattered. Saul

then turned against the Amalekites, and took their king, whom he spared in

an impulse of generosity, even though he utterly destroyed his people.

Samuel reproved him for this leniency against the divine command, Saul

attempted to justify himself by the sacrifice of all the enemies' goods

and oxen, to which Samuel said, "Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt

sacrifices and offerings as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold! to

obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams; for

rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness as iniquity and

idolatry." Most memorable words! thus setting virtue and obedience over

all rites and ceremonies--a final answer to all ritualism and phariseeism.

The remainder of the life of Saul was embittered by the

consciousness that the kingdom would depart from his house; and by his

jealousy of David, and his unmanly persecution of him; in whom he saw his

successor. He was slain, with three of his sons, at the battle of Gilboa,

when the Philistines gained a great victory--B.C. 1056.

David, meanwhile had been secretly anointed by Samuel as king over

Israel. Nothing could exceed his grief when he heard of the death of Saul,

and of Jonathan, whom he loved, and who returned his love with a love

passing that of women, and who had protected him against the wrath and

enmity of his father.

David, of the tribe of Judah, after his encounter with Goliath, was

the favorite of the people, and was rewarded by a marriage with the

daughter of Saul--Michal, who admired his gallantry and heroism. Saul too

had dissembled his jealousy, and heaped honors on the man he was

determined to destroy. By the aid of his wife, and of Jonathan, and

especially protected by God, the young warrior escaped all the snares laid

for his destruction, and even spared the life of Saul when he was in his

power in the cave of Engedi. He continued loyal to his king, patiently

waiting for his future exaltation.

On the death of Saul, he was anointed king over Judah, at Hebron;

but the other tribes still adhered to the house of Saul. A civil war

ensued, during which Abner, the captain-general of the late king, was

treacherously murdered, and also Ishboseth, the feeble successor of Saul.

The war lasted seven and a half years, when all the tribes gave their

allegiance to David, who then fixed his seat at Jerusalem, which he had

wrested from the Jebusites, and his illustrious reign began, when he was

thirty years of age, B.C. 1048, after several years of adversity and


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