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metaphors commonly used in the languages of the East, “ cities walled to heaven.” But fo far were the Ifraelites from furpassing their enemies in number, that they bore no proportion to them in this respect.
It has been foolishly said, that “ we read in the “ books ascribed to Mofes, Joshua, &c. that the “ Israelites came by stealth upon whole nations of people x.”
But nothing of this nature is said in any of these books. Nor was it possible that “ whole nations of people” could have been overcome by the Israelites in this manner. Had they succeeded in subduing one city or one nation by stealth, the rest would undoubtedly have taken the alarm, and prepared to defend themselves.
As it thus appears that the Israelites could not be indebted, for their conquest of Canaan, to superiority in military prowess, or in numbers, or to any successful stratagem ; and that they have still ascribed it to the power of God; it follows that the account given in Scripture of this conquest cannot be reasonably rejected. We have formerly considered the preservation of the Gibeonites to a late period in the Jewish history, as a standing testimony of the truth of those wonderful facts which are recorded in the books of Moses and Joshua. Their preservation may particularly be viewed as a striking proof that the Israelites acted by the authority of God in destroying the Canaanites; as they formed a part of one of the seven nations faid to be devoted to destruction.
Before * Age of Reason, Part II. p. 2.
Before particularly entering on the confideration of the objections made to this part of the Sacred History, I shall premise a few things, which may tend to rescue this injunction from the false and invidious light in which it has been exhibi. ted.
First, This destruction was amply merited. The crimes of the devoted nations were very heinous. Adultery, incest, sodomy, and bestiality prevailed among them. They not only worshipped a great multitude of strange gods, but offered human sacrifices. In the blindess and cruelty of their idolatry, they sacrificed their own children. Their crimes were highly aggravated. It would seem that they had rapidly corrupted themselves. So late as the period of Abraham's sojourning in Canaan, many of its inhabitants appear to have worshipped the true God. Among these we may reckon, not only Melchizedek king of Salem, but Abimelech king of Gerarz. It is natural to think that their people adhered to the same worship. They had enjoyed many mercies. Abraham, Lot, Isaac and Jacob sojourned among them. They had the benefit of their example, instructions and reproofs. These patriarchs frequently changed their fituation. This might be ordered in Providence, not merely to remind themselves that they were only pilgrims, but that the benefit already mentioned might be more extensively diffused among the inhabitants of that country.
y Lev. xviii. 3. 6..--24.
2 Gen. xx. 4. 2.
But they despised their mercy. Nor did they take warning from the awful punishment of the cities of the plain, although this punishment was inflicted for the commiflion of a crime common among themselves. God exercised his long-suffering towards some of these nations for more than four centuries, after they were greatly corrupted. He would not cast them out of Canaan, till their iniquity was full, not even to make way for the seed of Abraham
Secondly, This destruction was limited. The Ifraelites had no authority to destroy any of the heathen nations, except those seven particularly mentioned. They were to offer peace to others, and could only make them tributaries b. The inoffensive conduct of the Israelites, indeed, to feveral other nations, affords a strong collateral proof that they acted under a divine command in what they did to the seven nations of Canaan. Can it be accounted for on natural principles, that they should have quietly passed by other nations, whom they could as easily have conquered, as far as natural strength was concerned, nay more easily ; nations, for whom they had no partiality; from whom indeed they had received fuch provocation, as is generally reckoned a fufficient reason for hostility; whereas the Canaanites had done them no injury whatsoever ? Were the Israelites so bloody a race; and how did they spare the Moabites and Ammonites, who not only refused them a passage through their land, but hired Balaam to curse them d? Whence did they difcover no inclination to avenge themselves on the children of Edom, although the latter would not suffer them to pass through their territories, where they offered to pay for every thing they needed; and even came out against them in a hostile mannere? These circumstances are totally irreconcilable, not merely with the character given to the Israelites by the enemies of religion, but with their conduct towards the Canaanites; unless we receive the folution given in their own scriptures, that they acted under the influence of a prohibition in the one case, and obeyed an express command in the other. No provocation could give them a warrant to injure these nations. For God had said ; “ Distress not the Moabites, neither “ contend with them in battle : for I will not
Balaam fe Judg. xi. 17.
a Gen. xv. 16.
b Deut. xx. 10, 11.
give thee of their land for a possession, because “ I have given Ar unto the children of Lot for a
possession.—Thou art to pass through Ar, the “coast of Moab this day. And when thou co“mest nigh over against the children of Ammon, " distress them not, nor meddle with them : for I “ will not give thee of the land of the children “ of Ammon any poffeffion, because I have given “ it unto the children of Lot for a poffeflion f.” They had received similar instructions with refpect to Edom. The Lord said to Moses, “ Com“ mand thou the people, saying, Ye are to pass
through the coast of your brethren the children " of Efau, which dwell in Seir, and they shall be
d Deut. xxiii. 4.
e Numb. XX, 14 ---21.
f Deut; ii. 9. 17.-19.
" afraid of you : take ye good heed unto your“ selves therefore. Meddle not with them ; for “ I will not give you of their land, no not so “ much as a foot-breadth, because I have given “ Mount Seir unto Esau for a poffeffion. Ye shall
buy meat of them for money, that ye may eat ; “ and ye shall also buy water of them for money, “ that ye may drink &.” Whence the difference of their conduct to Sihon king of the Amorites ? They sent the same message to him, when on their way to Canaan, which they had sent to the kings of Moab and Edom. Sihon did nothing more than these other kings had done. He refused to suffer the Israelites to pass through his land, and came out against them to battle. He even did less than the king of Moab. He used no divinations against them. But he and all his people were destroyed. We can account for this difference no other way, than by believing that the Ifraelites were restrained by a divine prohibition in the one case, but not in the other.
Thirdly, This destruction was to be gradual. Hence Moses said to the Israelites, concerning the devoted nations; “ The Lord thy God will put “out those nations before thee, by little and lit“ tle : thou mayest not consume them at once, “ left the beasts of the field increase upon thee h.” Here we observe a trait of mercy not merely to the Ifraelites, but to the Canaanites. Thus, an opportunity was left them to flee out of the land, if they chose. For it would seem that the thrcatVol. II.
& Deut. ii. 4.-6.
h Deut, vii, 2%.