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, f
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
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