Antiquities of the Jews     by Flavius Josephus
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Book V, Chapter 1

How Joshua, The Commander Of The Hebrews, Made War With The Canaanites, And Overcame Them, And Destroyed Them, And Divided Their Land By Lot To The Tribes Of Israel

1. When Moses was taken away from among men, in the manner already described, and when all the solemnities belonging to the mourning for him were finished, and the sorrow for him was over, Joshua commanded the multitude to get themselves ready for an expedition. He also sent spies to Jericho to discover what forces they had, and what were their intentions; but he put his camp in order, as intending soon to pass over Jordan at a proper season. And calling to him the rulers of the tribe of Reuben, and the governors of the tribe of Gad, and [the half tribe of] Manasseh, for half of this tribe had been permitted to have their habitation in the country of the Amorites, which was the seventh part of the land of Canaan, (1) he put them in mind what they had promised Moses; and he exhorted them that, for the sake of the care that Moses had taken of them who had never been weary of taking pains for them no, not when he was dying, and for the sake of the public welfare, they would prepare themselves, and readily perform what they had promised; so he took fifty thousand of them who followed him, and he marched from Abila to Jordan, sixty furlongs.

2. Now when he had pitched his camp, the spies came to him immediately, well acquainted with the whole state of the Canaanites; for at first, before they were at all discovered, they took a full view of the city of Jericho without disturbance, and saw which parts of the walls were strong, and which parts were otherwise, and indeed insecure, and which of the gates were so weak as might afford an entrance to their army. Now those that met them took no notice of them when they saw them, and supposed they were only strangers, who used to be very curious in observing everything in the city, and did not take them for enemies; but at even they retired to a certain inn that was near to the wall, whither they went to eat their supper; which supper when they had done, and were considering how to get away, information was given to the king as he was at supper, that there were some persons come from the Hebrews' camp to view the city as spies, and that they were in the inn kept by Rahab, and were very solicitous that they might not be discovered. So he sent immediately some to them, and commanded to catch them, and bring them to him, that he might examine them by torture, and learn what their business was there. As soon as Rahab understood that these messengers were coming, she hid the spies under stalks of flax, which were laid to dry on the top of her house; and said to the messengers that were sent by the king, that certain unknown strangers had supped with her a little before sun-setting, and were gone away, who might easily be taken, if they were any terror to the city, or likely to bring any danger to the king. So these messengers being thus deluded by the woman, (2) and suspecting no imposition, went their ways, without so much as searching the inn; but they immediately pursued them along those roads which they most probably supposed them to have gone, and those particularly which led to the river, but could hear no tidings of them; so they left off the pains of any further pursuit. But when the tumult was over, Rahab brought the men down, and desired them as soon as they should have obtained possession of the land of Canaan, when it would be in their power to make her amends for her preservation of them, to remember what danger she had undergone for their sakes; for that if she had been caught concealing them, she could not have escaped a terrible destruction, she and all her family with her, and so bid them go home; and desired them to swear to her to preserve her and her family when they should take the city, and destroy all its inhabitants, as they had decreed to do; for so far she said she had been assured by those Divine miracles of which she had been informed. So these spies acknowledged that they owed her thanks for what she had done already, and withal swore to requite her kindness, not only in words, but in deeds. But they gave her this advice, That when she should perceive that the city was about to be taken, she should put her goods, and all her family, by way of security, in her inn, and to hang out scarlet threads before her doors, [or windows,] that the commander of the Hebrews might know her house, and take care to do her no harm; for, said they, we will inform him of this matter, because of the concern thou hast had to preserve us: but if any one of thy family fall in the battle, do not thou blame us; and we beseech that God, by whom we have sworn, not then to be displeased with us, as though we had broken our oaths. So these men, when they had made this agreement, went away, letting themselves down by a rope from the wall, and escaped, and came and told their own people whatsoever they had done in their journey to this city. Joshua also told Eleazar the high priest, and the senate, what the spies had sworn to Rahab, who continued what had been sworn.

3. Now while Joshua, the commander, was in fear about their passing over Jordan, for the river ran with a strong current, and could not be passed over with bridges, for there never had been bridges laid over it hitherto; and while he suspected, that if he should attempt to make a bridge, that their enemies would not afford him thee to perfect it, and for ferry-boats they had none, God promised so to dispose of the river, that they might pass over it, and that by taking away the main part of its waters. So Joshua, after two days, caused the army and the whole multitude to pass over in the manner following: The priests went first of all, having the ark with them; then went the Levites bearing the tabernacle and the vessels which belonged to the sacrifices; after which the entire multitude followed, according to their tribes, having their children and their wives in the midst of them, as being afraid for them, lest they should be borne away by the stream. But as soon as the priests had entered the river first, it appeared fordable, the depth of the water being restrained and the sand appearing at the bottom, because the current was neither so strong nor so swift as to carry it away by its force; so they all passed over the river without fear, finding it to be in the very same state as God had foretold he would put it in; but the priests stood still in the midst of the river till the multitude should be passed over, and should get to the shore in safety; and when all were gone over, the priests came out also, and permitted the current to run freely as it used to do before. Accordingly the river, as soon as the Hebrews were come out of it, arose again presently, and carne to its own proper magnitude as before.

4. So the Hebrews went on farther fifty furlongs, and pitched their camp at the distance of ten furlongs from Jericho; but Joshua built an altar of those stones which all the heads of the tribes, at the command of the prophets, had taken out of the deep, to be afterwards a memorial of the division of the stream of this river, and upon it offered sacrifice to God; and in that place celebrated the passover, and had great plenty of all the things which they wanted hitherto; for they reaped the corn of the Canaanites, which was now ripe, and took other things as prey; for then it was that their former food, which was manna, and of which they had eaten forty years, failed them.

5. Now while the Israelites did this, and the Canaanites did not attack them, but kept themselves quiet within their own walls, Joshua resolved to besiege them; so on the first day of the feast [of the passover], the priests carried the ark round about, with some part of the armed men to be a guard to it. These priests went forward, blowing with their seven trumpets; and exhorted the army to be of good courage, and went round about the city, with the senate following them; and when the priests had only blown with the trumpets, for they did nothing more at all, they returned to the camp. And when they had done this for six days, on the seventh Joshua gathered the armed men and all the people together, and told them these good tidings, That the city should now be taken, since God would on that day give it them, by the falling down of the walls, and this of their own accord, and without their labor. However, he charged them to kill every one they should take, and not to abstain from the slaughter of their enemies, either for weariness or for pity, and not to fall on the spoil, and be thereby diverted from pursuing their enemies as they ran away; but to destroy all the animals, and to take nothing for their own peculiar advantage. He commanded them also to bring together all the silver and gold, that it might be set apart as first-fruits unto God out of this glorious exploit, as having gotten them from the city they first took; only that they should save Rahab and her kindred alive, because of the oath which the spies had sworn to her.

6. When he had said this, and had set his army in order, be brought it against the city: so they went round the city again, the ark going before them, and the priests encouraging the people to be zealous in the work; and when they had gone round it seven times, and had stood still a little, the wall fell down, while no instruments of war, nor any other force, was applied to it by the Hebrews.

7. So they entered into Jericho, and slew all the men that were therein, while they were aftrighted at the surprising overthrow of the walls, and their courage was become useless, and they were not able to defend themselves; so they were slain, and their throats cut, some in the ways, and others as caught in their houses; nothing afforded them assistance, but they all perished, even to the women and the children; and the city was filled with dead bodies, and not one person escaped. They also burnt the whole city, and the country about it; but they saved alive Rahab, with her family, who had fled to her inn. And when she was brought to him, Joshua owned to her that they owed her thanks for her preservation of the spies: so he said he would not appear to be behind her in his benefaction to her; whereupon he gave her certain lands immediately, and had her in great esteem ever afterwards.

8. And if any part of the city escaped the fire, he overthrew it from the foundation; and he denounced a curse (3)against its inhabitants, if any should desire to rebuild it; how, upon his laying the foundation of the walls, he should be deprived of his eldest son; and upon finishing it, he should lose his youngest son. But what happened hereupon we shall speak of hereafter.

9. Now there was an immense quantity of silver and gold, and besides those of brass also, that was heaped together out of the city when it was taken, no one transgressing the decree, nor purloining for their own peculiar advantage; which spoils Joshua delivered to the priests, to be laid up among their treasures. And thus did Jericho perish.

10. But there was one Achar, (4) the son [of Charmi, the son] of Zebedias, of the tribe of Judah, who finding a royal garment woven entirely of gold, and a piece of gold that weighed two hundred shekels; (5) and thinking it a very hard case, that what spoils he, by running some hazard, had found, he must give away, and offer it to God, who stood in no need of it, while he that wanted it must go without it, made a deep ditch in his own tent, and laid them up therein, as supposing he should not only be concealed from his fellow soldiers, but from God himself also.

11. Now the place where Joshua pitched his camp was called Gilgal, which denotes liberty; (6) for since now they had passed over Jordan, they looked on themselves as freed from the miseries which they had undergone from the Egyptians, and in the wilderness.

12. Now, a few days after the calamity that befell Jericho, Joshua sent three thousand armed men to take Ai, a city situate above Jericho; but, upon the sight of the people of Ai, with them they were driven back, and lost thirty-six of their men. When this was told the Israelites, it made them very sad, and exceeding disconsolate, not so much because of the relation the men that were destroyed bare to them, though those that were destroyed were all good men, and deserved their esteem, as by the despair it occasioned; for while they believed that they were already, in effect, in possession of the land, and should bring back the army out of the battles without loss, as God had promised beforehand, they now saw unexpectedly their enemies bold with success; so they put sackcloth over their garments, and continued in tears and lamentation all the day, without the least inquiry after food, but laid what had happened greatly to heart.

13. When Joshua saw the army so much afflicted, and possessed with forebodings of evil as to their whole expedition, he used freedom with God, and said, "We are not come thus far out of any rashness of our own, as though we thought ourselves able to subdue this land with our own weapons, but at the instigation of Moses thy servant for this purpose, because thou hast promised us, by many signs, that thou wouldst give us this land for a possession, and that thou wouldst make our army always superior in war to our enemies, and accordingly some success has already attended upon us agreeably to thy promises; but because we have now unexpectedly been foiled, and have lost some men out of our army, we are grieved at it, as fearing what thou hast promised us, and what Moses foretold us, cannot be depended on by us; and our future expectation troubles us the more, because we have met with such a disaster in this our first attempt. But do thou, O Lord, free us from these suspicions, for thou art able to find a cure for these disorders, by giving us victory, which will both take away the grief we are in at present, and prevent our distrust as to what is to come."

14. These intercessions Joshua put up to God, as he lay prostrate on his face: whereupon God answered him, That he should rise up, and purify his host from the pollution that had got into it; that "things consecrated to me have been impudently stolen from me," and that "this has been the occasion why this defeat had happened to them;" and that when they should search out and punish the offender, he would ever take care they should have the victory over their enemies. This Joshua told the people; and calling for Eleazar the high priest, and the men in authority, he cast lots, tribe by tribe; and when the lot showed that this wicked action was done by one of the tribe of Judah, he then again proposed the lot to the several families thereto belonging; so the truth of this wicked action was found to belong to the family of Zachar; and when the inquiry was made man by man, they took Achar, who, upon God's reducing him to a terrible extremity, could not deny the fact: so he confessed the theft, and produced what he had taken in the midst of them, whereupon he was immediately put to death; and attained no more than to be buried in the night in a disgraceful manner, and such as was suitable to a condemned malefactor.

15. When Joshua had thus purified the host, he led them against Ai: and having by night laid an ambush round about the city, he attacked the enemies as soon as it was day; but as they advanced boldly against the Israelites, because of their former victory, he made them believe he retired, and by that means drew them a great way from the city, they still supposing that they were pursuing their enemies, and despised them, as though the case had been the same with that in the former battle; after which Joshua ordered his forces to turn about, and placed them against their front. He then made the signals agreed upon to those that lay in ambush, and so excited them to fight; so they ran suddenly into the city, the inhabitants being upon the walls, nay, others of them being in perplexity, and coming to see those that were without the gates. Accordingly, these men took the city, and slew all that they met with; but Joshua forced those that came against him to come to a close fight, and discomfited them, and made them run away; and when they were driven towards the city, and thought it had not been touched, as soon as they saw it was taken, and perceived it was burnt, with their wives and children, they wandered about in the fields in a scattered condition, and were no way able to defend themselves, because they had none to support them. Now when this calamity was come upon the men of Ai, there were a great number of children, and women, and servants, and an immense quantity of other furniture. The Hebrews also took herds of cattle, and a great deal of money, for this was a rich country. So when Joshua came to Gilgal, he divided all these spoils among the soldiers.

16. But the Gibeonites, who inhabited very near to Jerusalem, when they saw what miseries had happened to the inhabitants of Jericho; and to those of Ai, and suspected that the like sore calamity would come as far as themselves, they did not think fit to ask for mercy of Joshua; for they supposed they should find little mercy from him, who made war that he might entirely destroy the nation of the Canaanites; but they invited the people of Cephirah and Kiriathjearim, who were their neighbors, to join in league with them; and told them that neither could they themselves avoid the danger they were all in, if the Israelites should prevent them, and seize upon them: so when they had persuaded them, they resolved to endeavor to escape the forces of the Israelites. Accordingly, upon their agreement to what they proposed, they sent ambassadors to Joshua to make a league of friendship with him, and those such of the citizens as were best approved of, and most capable of doing what was most advantageous to the multitude. Now these ambassadors thought it dangerous to confess themselves to be Canaanites, but thought they might by this contrivance avoid the danger, namely, by saying that they bare no relation to the Canaanites at all, but dwelt at a very great distance from them: and they said further, that they came a long way, on account of the reputation he had gained for his virtue; and as a mark of the truth of what they said, they showed him the habit they were in, for that their clothes were new when they came out, but were greatly worn by the length of thee they had been on their journey; for indeed they took torn garments, on purpose that they might make him believe so. So they stood in the midst of the people, and said that they were sent by the people of Gibeon, and of the circumjacent cities, which were very remote from the land where they now were, to make such a league of friendship with them, and this on such conditions as were customary among their forefathers; for when they understood that, by the favor of God, and his gift to them, they were to have the possession of the land of Canaan bestowed upon them, they said that they were very glad to hear it, and desired to be admitted into the number of their citizens. Thus did these ambassadors speak; and showing them the marks of their long journey, they entreated the Hebrews to make a league of friendship with them. Accordingly Joshua, believing what they said, that they were not of the nation of the Canaanites, entered into friendship with them; and Eleazar the high priest, with the senate, sware to them that they would esteem them their friends and associates, and would attempt nothing that should be unfair against them, the multitude also assenting to the oaths that were made to them. So these men, having obtained what they desired, by deceiving the Israelites, went home: but when Joshua led his army to the country at the bottom of the mountains of this part of Canaan, he understood that the Gibeonites dwelt not far from Jerusalem, and that they were of the stock of the Canaanites; so he sent for their governors, and reproached them with the cheat they had put upon him; but they alleged, on their own behalf, that they had no other way to save themselves but that, and were therefore forced to have recourse to it. So he called for Eleazar the high priest, and for the senate, who thought it right to make them public servants, that they might not break the oath they had made to them; and they ordained them to be so. And this was the method by which these men found. safety and security under the calamity that was ready to overtake them.

17. But the king of Jerusalem took it to heart that the Gibeonites had gone over to Joshua; so he called upon the kings of the neighboring nations to join together, and make war against them. Now when the Gibeonites saw these kings, which were four, besides the king of Jerusalem, and perceived that they had pitched their camp at a certain fountain not far from their city, and were getting ready for the siege of it, they called upon Joshua to assist them; for such was their case, as to expect to be destroyed by these Canaanites, but to suppose they should be saved by those that came for the destruction of the Canaanites, because of the league of friendship that was between them. Accordingly, Joshua made haste with his whole army to assist them, and marching day and night, in the morning he fell upon the enemies as they were going up to the siege; and when he had discomfited them, he followed them, and pursued them down the descent of the hills. The place is called Bethhoron; where he also understood that God assisted him, which he declared by thunder and thunderbolts, as also by the falling of hail larger than usual. Moreover, it happened that the day was lengthened (7) that the night might not come on too soon, and be an obstruction to the zeal of the Hebrews in pursuing their enemies; insomuch that Joshua took the kings, who were hidden in a certain cave at Makkedah, and put them to death. Now, that the day was lengthened at this thee, and was longer than ordinary, is expressed in the books laid up in the temple. (8)

18. These kings which made war with, and were ready to fight the Gibeonites, being thus overthrown, Joshua returned again to the mountainous parts of Canaan; and when he had made a great slaughter of the people there, and took their prey, he came to the camp at Gilgal. And now there went a great fame abroad among the neighboring people of the courage of the Hebrews; and those that heard what a number of men were destroyed, were greatly aftrighted at it: so the kings that lived about Mount Libanus, who were Canaanites, and those Canaanites that dwelt in the plain country, with auxiliaries out of the land of the Philistines, pitched their camp at Beroth, a city of the Upper Galilee, not far from Cadesh, which is itself also a place in Galilee. Now the number of the whole army was three hundred thousand armed footmen, and ten thousand horsemen, and twenty thousand chariots; so that the multitude of the enemies aftrighted both Joshua himself and the Israelites; and they, instead of being full of hopes of good success, were superstitiously timorous, with the great terror with which they were stricken. Whereupon God upbraided them with the fear they were in, and asked them whether they desired a greater help than he could afford them; and promised them that they should overcome their enemies; and withal charged them to make their enemies' horses useless, and to burn their chariots. So Joshua became full of courage upon these promises of God, and went out suddenly against the enemies; and after five days' march he came upon them, and joined battle with them, and there was a terrible fight, and such a number were slain as could not be believed by those that heard it. He also went on in the pursuit a great way, and destroyed the entire army of the enemies, few only excepted, and all the kings fell in the battle; insomuch, that when there wanted men to be killed, Joshua slew their horses, and burnt their chariots and passed all over their country without opposition, no one daring to meet him in battle; but he still went on, taking their cities by siege, and again killing whatever he took.

19. The fifth year was now past, and there was not one of the Canaanites remained any longer, excepting some that had retired to places of great strength. So Joshua removed his camp to the mountainous country, and placed the tabernacle in the city of Shiloh, for that seemed a fit place for it, because of the beauty of its situation, until such thee as their affairs would permit them to build a temple; and from thence he went to Shechem, together with all the people, and raised an altar where Moses had beforehand directed; then did he divide the army, and placed one half of them on Mount Gerizzim, and the other half on Mount Ebal, on which mountain the altar was; he also placed there the tribe of Levi, and the priests. And when they had sacrificed, and denounced the [blessings and the] curses, and had left them engraven upon the altar, they returned to Shiloh.

20. And now Joshua was old, and saw that the cities of the Canaanites were not easily to be taken, not only because they were situate in such strong places, but because of the strength of the walls themselves, which being built round about, the natural strength of the places on which the cities stood, seemed capable of repelling their enemies from besieging them, and of making those enemies despair of taking them; for when the Canaanites had learned that the Israelites came out of Egypt in order to destroy them, they were busy all that time in making their cities strong. So he gathered the people together to a congregation at Shiloh; and when they, with great zeal and haste, were come thither, he observed to them what prosperous successes they had already had, and what glorious things had been done, and those such as were worthy of that God who enabled them to do those things, and worthy of the virtue of those laws which they followed. He took notice also, that thirty-one of those kings that ventured to give them battle were overcome, and every army, how great soever it were, that confided in their own power, and fought with them, was utterly destroyed; so that not so much as any of their posterity remained. And as for the cities, since some of them were taken, but the others must be taken in length of thee, by long sieges, both on account of the strength of their walls, and of the confidence the inhabitants had in them thereby, he thought it reasonable that those tribes that came along with them from beyond Jordan, and had partaken of the dangers they had undergone, being their own kindred, should now be dismissed and sent home, and should have thanks for the pains they had taken together with them. As also, he thought it reasonable that they should send one man out of every tribe, and he such as had the testimony of extraordinary virtue, who should measure the land faithfully, and without any fallacy or deceit should inform them of its real magnitude.

21. Now Joshua, when he had thus spoken to them, found that the multitude approved of his proposal. So he sent men to measure their country, and sent with them some geometricians, who could not easily fail of knowing the truth, on account of their skill in that art. He also gave them a charge to estimate the measure of that part of the land that was most fruitful, and what was not so good: for such is the nature of the land of Canaan, that one may see large plains, and such as are exceeding fit to produce fruit, which yet, if they were compared to other parts of the country, might be reckoned exceedingly fruitful; yet, if it be compared with the fields about Jericho, and to those that belong to Jerusalem, will appear to be of no account at all; and although it so falls out that these people have but a very little of this sort of land, and that it is, for the main, mountainous also, yet does it not come behind other parts, on account of its exceeding goodness and beauty; for which reason Joshua thought the land for the tribes should be divided by estimation of its goodness, rather than the largeness of its measure, it often happening that one acre of some sort of land was equivalent to a thousand other acres. Now the men that were sent, which were in number ten, traveled all about, and made an estimation of the land, and in the seventh month came to him to the city of Shiloh, where they had set up the tabernacle.

22. So Joshua took both Eleazar and the senate, and with them the heads of the tribes, and distributed the land to the nine tribes, and to the half-tribe of Manasseh, appointing the dimensions to be according to the largeness of each tribe. So when he had cast lots, Judah had assigned him by lot the upper part of Judea, reaching as far as Jerusalem, and its breadth extended to the Lake of Sodom. Now in the lot of this tribe there were the cities of Askelon and Gaza. The lot of Simeon, which was the second, included that part of Idumea which bordered upon Egypt and Arabia. As to the Benjamites, their lot fell so, that its length reached from the river Jordan to the sea, but in breadth it was bounded by Jerusalem and Bethel; and this lot was the narrowest of all, by reason of the goodness of the land, for it included Jericho and the city of Jerusalem. The tribe of Ephraim had by lot the land that extended in length from the river Jordan to Gezer; but in breadth as far as from Bethel, till it ended at the Great Plain. The half-tribe of Manasseh had the land from Jordan to the city of Dora; but its breadth was at Bethsham, which is now called Scythopolis. And after these was Issachar, which had its limits in length, Mount Carmel and the river, but its limit in breadth was Mount Tabor. The tribe of Zebulon's lot included the land which lay as far as the Lake of Genesareth, and that which belonged to Carmel and the sea. The tribe of Aser had that part which was called the Valley, for such it was, and all that part which lay over-against Sidon. The city Arce belonged to their share, which is also named Actipus. The Naphthalites received the eastern parts, as far as the city of Damascus and the Upper Galilee, unto Mount Libanus, and the Fountains of Jordan, which rise out of that mountain; that is, out of that part of it whose limits belong to the neighboring city of Arce. The Danites' lot included all that part of the valley which respects the sun-setting, and were bounded by Azotus and Dora; as also they had all Jamnia and Gath, from Ekron to that mountain where the tribe of Judah begins.

23. After this manner did Joshua divide the six nations that bear the name of the sons of Canaan, with their land, to be possessed by the nine tribes and a half; for Moses had prevented him, and had already distributed the land of the Amorites, which itself was so called also from one of the sons of Canaan, to the two tribes and a half, as we have shown already. But the parts about Sidon, as also those that belonged to the Arkites, and the Amathites, and the Aradians, were not yet regularly disposed of.

24. But now was Joshua hindered by his age from executing what he intended to do (as did those that succeeded him in the government, take little care of what was for the advantage of the public); so he gave it in charge to every tribe to leave no remainder of the race of the Canaanites in the land that had been divided to them by lot; that Moses had assured them beforehand, and they might rest fully satisfied about it, that their own security and their observation of their own laws depended wholly upon it. Moreover, he enjoined them to give thirty-eight cities to the Levites, for they had already received ten in the country of the Amorites; and three of these he assigned to those that fled from the man-slayers, who were to inhabit there; for he was very solicitous that nothing should be neglected which Moses had ordained. These cities were, of the tribe of Judah, Hebron; of that of Ephraim, Shechem; and of that of Naphthali, Cadesh, which is a place of the Upper Galilee. He also distributed among them the rest of the prey not yet distributed, which was very great; whereby they had an affluence of great riches, both all in general, and every one in particular; and this of gold and of vestments, and of other furniture, besides a multitude of cattle, whose number could not be told.

25. After this was over, he gathered the army together to a congregation, and spake thus to those tribes that had their settlement in the land of the Amorites beyond Jordan, for fifty thousand of them had armed themselves, and had gone to the war along with them: "Since that God, who is the Father and Lord of the Hebrew nation, has now given us this land for a possession, and promised to preserve us in the enjoyment of it as our own for ever; and since you have with alacrity offered yourselves to assist us when we wanted that assistance on all occasions, according to his command; it is but just, now all our difficulties are over, that you should be permitted to enjoy rest, and that we should trespass on your alacrity to help us no longer; that so, if we should again stand in need of it, we may readily have it on any future emergency, and not tire you out so much now as may make you slower in assisting us another thee. We, therefore, return you our thanks for the dangers you have undergone with us, and we do it not at this thee only, but we shall always be thus disposed; and be so good as to remember our friends, and to preserve in mind what advantages we have had from them; and how you have put off the enjoyments of your own happiness for our sakes, and have labored for what we have now, by the goodwill of God, obtained, and resolved not to enjoy your own prosperity till you had afforded us that assistance. However, you have, by joining your labor with ours, gotten great plenty of riches, and will carry home with you much prey, with gold and silver, and, what is more than all these, our good-will towards you, and a mind willingly disposed to make a requital of your kindness to us, in what case soever you shall desire it, for you have not omitted any thing which Moses beforehand required of you, nor have you despised him because he was dead and gone from you, so that there is nothing to diminish that gratitude which we owe to you. We therefore dismiss you joyful to your own inheritances; and we entreat you to suppose, that there is no limit to be set to the intimate relation that is between us; and that you will not imagine, because this river is interposed between us, that you are of a different race from us, and not Hebrews; for we are all the posterity of Abraham, both we that inhabit here, and you that inhabit there; and it is the same God that brought our forefathers and yours into the world, whose worship and form of government we are to take care of, which he has ordained, and are most carefully to observe; because while you continue in those laws, God will also show himself merciful and assisting to you; but if you imitate the other nations, and forsake those laws, he will reject your nation." When Joshua had spoken thus, and saluted them all, both those in authority one by one, and the whole multitude in common, he himself staid where he was; but the people conducted those tribes on their journey, and that not without tears in their eyes; and indeed they hardly knew how to part one from the other.

26. Now when the tribe of Reuben, and that of Gad, and as many of the Manassites as followed them, were passed over the river, they built an altar on the banks of Jordan, as a monument to posterity, and a sign of their relation to those that should inhabit on the other side. But when those on the other side heard that those who had been dismissed had built an altar, but did not hear with what intention they built it, but supposed it to be by way of innovation, and for the introduction of strange gods, they did not incline to disbelieve it; but thinking this defamatory report, as if it were built for divine worship, was credible, they appeared in arms, as though they would avenge themselves on those that built the altar; and they were about to pass over the river, and to punish them for their subversion of the laws of their country; for they did not think it fit to regard them on account of their kindred or the dignity of those that had given the occasion, but to regard the will of God, and the manner wherein he desired to be worshipped; so these men put themselves in array for war. But Joshua, and Eleazar the high priest, and the senate, restrained them; and persuaded them first to make trial by words of their intention, and afterwards, if they found that their intention was evil, then only to proceed to make war upon them. Accordingly, they sent as ambassadors to them Phineas the son of Eleazar, and ten more persons that were in esteem among the Hebrews, to learn of them what was in their mind, when, upon passing over the river, they had built an altar upon its banks. And as soon as these ambassadors were passed over, and were come to them, and a congregation was assembled, Phineas stood up and said, That the offense they had been guilty of was of too heinous a nature to be punished by words alone, or by them only to be amended for the future; yet that they did not so look at the heinousness of their transgression as to have recourse to arms, and to a battle for their punishment immediately, but that, on account of their kindred, and the probability there was that they might be reclaimed, they took this method of sending an ambassage to them: "That when we have learned the true reasons by which you have been moved to build this altar, we may neither seem to have been too rash in assaulting you by our weapons of war, if it prove that you made the altar for justifiable reasons, and may then justly punish you if the accusation prove true; for we can hardly suppose that you, have been acquainted with the will of God and have been hearers of those laws which he himself hath given us, now you are separated from us, and gone to that patrimony of yours, which you, through the grace of God, and that providence which he exercises over you, have obtained by lot, can forget him, and can leave that ark and that altar which is peculiar to us, and can introduce strange gods, and imitate the wicked practices of the Canaanites. Now this will appear to have been a small crime if you repent now, and proceed no further in your madness, but pay a due reverence to, and keep in mind the laws of your country; but if you persist in your sins, we will not grudge our pains to preserve our laws; but we will pass over Jordan and defend them, and defend God also, and shall esteem of you as of men no way differing from the Canaanites, but shall destroy you in the like manner as we destroyed them; for do not you imagine that, because you are got over the river, you are got out of the reach of God's power; you are every where in places that belong to him, and impossible it is to overrun his power, and the punishment he will bring on men thereby: but if you think that your settlement here will be any obstruction to your conversion to what is good, nothing need hinder us from dividing the land anew, and leaving this old land to be for the feeding of sheep; but you will do well to return to your duty, and to leave off these new crimes; and we beseech you, by your children and wives, not to force us to punish you. Take therefore such measures in this assembly, as supposing that your own safety, and the safety of those that are dearest to you, is therein concerned, and believe that it is better for you to be conquered by words, than to continue in your purpose, and to experience deeds and war therefore."

27. When Phineas had discoursed thus, the governors of the assembly, and the whole multitude, began to make an apology for themselves, concerning what they were accused of; and they said, That they neither would depart from the relation they bare to them, nor had they built the altar by way of innovation; that they owned one and the same common God with all the Hebrews, and that brazen altar which was before the tabernacle, on which they would offer their sacrifices; that as to the altar they had raised, on account of which they were thus suspected, it was not built for worship, "but that it might be a sign and a monument of our relation to you for ever, and a necessary caution to us to act wisely, and to continue in the laws of our country, but not a handle for transgressing them, as you suspect: and let God be our authentic witness, that this was the occasion of our building this altar: whence we beg you will have a better opinion of us, and do not impute such a thing to us as would render any of the posterity of Abraham well worthy of perdition, in case they attempt to bring in new rites, and such as are different from our usual practices."

28. When they had made this answer, and Phineas had commended them for it, he came to Joshua, and explained before the people what answer they had received. Now Joshua was glad that he was under no necessity of setting them in array, or of leading them to shed blood, and make war against men of their own kindred; and accordingly he offered sacrifices of thanksgiving to God for the same. So Joshua after that dissolved this great assembly of the people, and sent them to their own inheritances, while he himself lived in Shechem. But in the twentieth year after this, when he was very old, he sent for those of the greatest dignity in the several cities, with those in authority, and the senate, and as many of the common people as could be present; and when they were come, he put them in mind of all the benefits God had bestowed on them, which could not but be a great many, since from a low estate they were advanced to so great a degree of glory and plenty; and exhorted them to take notice of the intentions of God, which had been so gracious towards them; and told them that the Deity would continue their friend by nothing else but their piety; and that it was proper for him, now that he was about to depart out of this life, to leave such an admonition to them; and he desired that they would keep in memory this his exhortation to them.

29. So Joshua, when he had thus discoursed to them, died, having lived a hundred and ten years; forty of which he lived with Moses, in order to learn what might be for his advantage afterwards. He also became their commander after his death for twenty-five years. He was a man that wanted not wisdom nor eloquence to declare his intentions to the people, but very eminent on both accounts. He was of great courage and magnanimity in action and in dangers, and very sagacious in procuring the peace of the people, and of great virtue at all proper seasons. He was buried in the city of Timnab, of the tribe of Ephraim (9) About the same time died Eleazar the high priest, leaving the high priesthood to his son Phineas. His monument also, and sepulcher, are in the city of Gabatha.


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Matt Curtin
Last modified: Wed Apr 15 19:48:23 EDT 1998