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thus crossing, the priests with the ark stood in the middle of the channel, till every From Josh. i. thing was done that Joshua commanded; and then, upon their coming out of it, the to the end. river returned to its wonted course.
By this miraculous passage, Joshua, having gained the plains of Jericho, encamped in at place which was afterwards called Gigal; and while the whole country lay under a great terror and consternation, God commanded +2 the rite of circumcision, which for the space of almost forty years had been intermitted, to be renewed, that the people might be qualified to partake of the ensuing passover. This was the third time of their celebrating that festival: The first was at their departure out of Egypt; the second at their erection of the tabenacle at the foot of Mount Sinai; and now, that they were arrived in a country, wherein there was a sufficient provision of corn for unleavened
+ Gilgal, the place where the Israelites encamped for some time, after their passage over the river Jordan, was so called, because here the rite of circumcision, which had long been disused, was renewed: Whereupon "the Lord said unto Joshua, this day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt (i. e. uncircumcision) from off you, wherefore the name of the place is called Gilgal (i. e. rolling) unto this day." Josh. v. 9. From this expression the place received its name; and if we look into its situation, we shall find, that as the Israelites passed over Jordan right against Jericho, Josh. iii. 16. and encamped in Gilgal, in the east border of Jericho, it is plain, that Gilgal must be situated between Jordan and Jericho; and therefore, since Josephus tells us, that Jericho was sixty furlongs distant from Jordan, and the camp of Gilgal was fifty furlongs from the same river; it hence follows, that Gilgal was ten furlongs (i. e. about a mile and a quarter) from Jericho eastward. But as some learned men have observed, that five of the furlongs used by Josephus make up an Italian mile, so the distance between Gilgal and Jericho will be just two miles; which exactly agrees with the testimony of St Jerom, who makes it two miles distant from Jericho, and a place held in great veneration by the inhabitants of the country in his days. Wells's Geography, vol. ii. c. iv.
+ The command which God gives Joshua concerning the rite of circumcision, is this" Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise the children of Israel the second time." Josh. v. 2. And, after the rite was performed, God said, "This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you," ver. 9. Both of which passages have given no small trouble to commentators. The sharp knives are allowed to be (what our marginal notes call them) knives of flint, which stones could not but be plentiful in the mountains of Arabia, and, when made very sharp, were the knives commonly made use of in the eastern countries: But St Jerom himself (as great an Hebraist as he was) could not find out what was this circumcision, which was to pass upon the Israelites the second time. Some of the Jews, from these words of Jeremiah, "I will punish the circumcised that has a foreskin." Chap. ix. 25. have undertaken to prove, that it was possible to bring the foreskin again by art, which the Israelites had done, during their abode in the wilderness, and for this reason were ordered to be circumcised afresh: and those Christians who have em
braced this notion, pretend to support it by the words. of St Paul, "If any man is called, being circumcised, μù izαoxála, let him not get a foreskin again," or, as we render it, "let him not become uncircumcised." But whether the recovery of a prepuce be a thing probable or not, it is certain, that all the difficulty of the words arises from misunderstanding the idiom of the original, and may easily be removed, if they were translated or paraphrased thus," Let the ceremony of circumcision, which has been so long discontinued, be renewed, as it was once heretofore." While the Israelites lived in Egypt, we do not read of any neglect of this rite of circumcision among them; but, while they abode in the wilderness, there are several reasons that might oblige them to omit it, until they arrived in the promised land, when they were to renew the ordinance of the Passover, and, previous to that, were all to be circumcised; because no uncircumcised person, nor any one who had a son or a man servant in his house uncircumcised, was capable of being admitted to it, Exod. xii. 43. 2d, The rolling away the reproach of Egypt, is supposed by some to relate to the reproaches which the Egyptians used to cast upon the Israelites, viz. that the Egyptians, seeing the Israelites wander so long in the wilderness, reproached and flouted them, as if they were brought to be destroyed there, and not conducted into the promised land; from which reproaches God now delivered them, when, by enjoining circumcision, he gave them assurance, that they should shortly enjoy the country, which no uncircumcised person might inherit. Our learned Spencer thinks the reproach of Egypt to be the slavery to which they had long been there subject, but were now fully declared a free people, by receiving a mark of the seed of Abraham, and being made heirs of the promised land. But the most common opinion is, that by the reproach of Egypt is meant nothing else but uncircumcision, with which the Israelites always upbraided other people, and particularly the Egyptians, with whom they had lived so long, and were best acquainted; and, admitting this to be the true (as it is the most unconstrained) sense, this passage is a plain proof, that the Israelites could not learn the rite of circumcision from the Egyptians, (as some pretend) but that the Egyptians, contrary-wise, must have had it from them. Universal History, lib. i. c. 7. Spencer de Leg. Heb. lib. i. c. 4. Patrick's Commentary, and Shuckford's Connection, vol. iii, lib. 12.
&c. or 3803. Ant. Chris.
A. M. 2553. bread, God insisted upon the observance of his ordinances: He was minded indeed, that all things now should go on in their regular way; and therefore, for the future, he 1451, &c. left them to the provision which this land of plenty afforded them, and ceased to supply them any longer with manna.
Gilgal was much about two miles from Jericho, and therefore Joshua might possibly go out alone to reconnoitre the city, and to think of the properest way of besieging it ; when, all on a sudden, there † appeared to him a person clothed in armour, and standing at some distance, with a drawn sword in his hand. Undaunted at this unusual sight, Joshua advances to him, and having demanded of what party he was, the vision replied, that he was for the host of Israel, whose captain and guardian he was; and as Joshua, in humble adoration, was fallen prostrate before him, he ordered him (in the manner he had done Moses at the burning bush) to loose his sandals from off his feet, and then proceeded to instruct him in what form he would have the siege carried on, that the Canaanites might perceive that it was something more than the arm of flesh that fought against them.
The form of the seige was this:-All the army was to march round the city, with seven priests before the ark, having in their hands trumpets made of rams horns, six days successively. On the seventh, after the army had gone round the city seven times, upon signal given, the priests were to blow a long blast with their trumpets, and the people on a sudden set up a loud shout; at which instant the walls of the city should fall so flat to the ground, that they might directly walk into it without any let or obstruction. These orders were put in execution; and accordingly, on the seventh day, the walls fell, and the Israelites entered. They put every one, men, women, and children, nay the very beasts, to the sword, and spared no living creature but Rahab only, and such relations as she had taken under the protection of her roof, according to the stipulation which he had made with her. For Joshua had given the two spies a strict charge before hand, that when the town was going to be sacked, they should repair to her house, and convey every thing safe out that belonged to her; which accordingly they did, and then the whole army fell on, and set fire to the city, and destroyed every thing in it, except the silver and gold, and such vessels of brass and iron as were to be put into the treasury of the house of the Lord," as they had done once before (a) in a case of the like nature: and that it might never be rebuilt again, Joshua † denounced a
Who this person was that appeared to Joshua is not so well agreed among commentators. Some are of opinion, that it was an angel, who, because the Hebrew calls him Gebir, is supposed to be Gabriel; but there are several reasons, in this very account of his apparition, which denote him to be a divine, and not a created being, For, in the first place, besides his assuming the title of " the captain of the host of the Lord," (an image under which God himself is frequently represented in Scripture) Joshua's calling him Jehovah, or the Lord, a name which neither Joshua should have given, nor he accepted of, had he been no more than an angel; his falling down and worshipping him, which he durst not have done, (since God alone is to be adored) nor would the other have permitted, but rather have reproved him, as we find one of them did St John, Rev. xxii. 10. are the surest evidence of the divinity of his person. For, when in stead of reproving him for doing him too much honour, we find him commanding him to do him more, by requiring him to loose" his shoes from his feet," insisting upon the highest acknowledgment of a Divine Presence that was used among the eastern na
tions, we cannot but think ourselves obliged (with a
(a) Numb. xxxi. 22, 23.
The words of Joshua's execration are these:"Cursed be the man before the Lord, that raiseth up and buildeth this city Jericho; he shall lay the foundation thereof in his first-born, and in his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it." Josh. vi. 26. "This anathema (says Maimonides) was pronounced, that the miracle of the subversion of Jericho might be kept in perpetual memory; for whosoever saw the walls sunk deep into the earth (as he understands it) would clearly discern that this was not the form of a building destroyed by men, but miraculously thrown down by God." Hiel, however, in the reign of Ahab, either not remembering or not believing this denun ciation, was so taken with the beauty of its situation,
prophetic imprecation on the man (viz. that it should occasion the utter ruin of his fa- From Josh. i. mily) that should attempt it.
Ai was a little city about twelve miles distant from Jericho, and as Joshua knew that it was neither populous nor well-defended, he detached a small body of three thousand men only to go and attack it. But, contrary to their expectation, the inhabitants of the place sallied out upon them, and having slain some few, put the rest to flight, and pursued them as far as their own camp. This defeat (how small soever) struck such a damp upon the people's courage, that Joshua was forced to have recourse to God, who immediately answered him (by Urim as is supposed) that his commands had been sacrilegiously infringed, and therefore ordered him to have the offender punished with death, and directed him to a method how to discover who he was.
Before the taking of Jericho, (a) Joshua had cautioned the people not to spare any thing that was in it, but to burn and destroy all that came in their way, except silver, and gold, and brass, and iron, which were to be consecrated to the Lord: but notwithstanding his strict charge against reserving any thing that was either devoted to this general destruction, or consecrated to the Lord; a man of the tribe of Judah, whose name was Achan, took some of the rich plunder and concealed it in his tent. To find out the person therefore, Joshua early next morning called all the tribes together before the tabernacle, where, †2 by casting the lot first upon the tribes, and so proceeding
that he rebuilt Jericho, and (as the sacred history informs us)" laid the foundation thereof in Abiram, his first-born, and set up the gates thereof in his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Joshua, the son of Nun." 1 Kings xvi. 34. However, after that Hiel had ventured to rebuild it, no scruple was made of inhabiting it; for it afterwards became famous upon many accounts. Here the prophet sweetened the waters of the spring that supplied it and the neighbouring countries: Here Herod built a sumptuous palace; it was the dwelling place of Zaccheus ; and was honoured with the presence of Christ, who vouchsafed likewise to work some miracles here. Universal History, lib. 1. c. 7.
We have this place mentioned in the history of Abraham, who, both before and after his going into Egypt, pitched his tent between Bethel and Ai, or Hai as it was then called; and from both Gen. xii. 8. and Josh. vii. 2. it appears, that this city lay to the east of Bethel, about three leagues from Jericho, and one from Bethel, as Masias informs us; and the reason why Joshua sent so small a detachment against it was, because the place in itself was neither strong nor large. For, when it was taken, the number of the slain both in it and Bethel, which (as some think) was confederate with it, were " but twelve thousand, both of men and women." Josh. viii. 25 The Providence of God however was very visible in sending so small a party against Ai; for if the flight of three thousand men put the Israelites into such a consternation, as we read Josh. vii. 5, 6. what a condition would they have been in, if all the people had been discomfited, as doubtless it would have happened, while the guilt of Achan's sacrilege remained unpunished? Wells's Geography, vol. ii. c. 4.
* The spirits of the army (as Josephus tells us) were so sunk upon this disorder, and cast down into such a desperation of better things to come, that af
ter they had spent the whole day in fasting, weeping,
(a) Josh. vi. 18, 19.
Some Jewish doctors are of opinion, that in the discovery of the guilty person, there was no use made of lots at all, but that all Israel, being ordered to pass by the high priest, who on this occasion had his pectoral on, in which were the twelve stones with the names of the twelve tribes engraven on them, when the tribe to which the guilty person belonged was called, the stone in which was the name of that tribe changed colour and turned black; and so it did when the family, the household, and the person was called: but this is a mere fiction. There is much more probability in the opinion of those, who suppose, that at first twelve lots or tickets were put into one urn, on
to the end.
1451 &c. or 1608.
A. M. 2553, from tribe to family, from family to household, and from household to particular persons, &c. or 3803. the criminal was at last found to be Achan; who, upon Joshua's admonition, confessed the fact, viz. that he had secreted a royal robe, two hundred shekels of silver, and a large wedge of gold; and when, upon search, the things were produced in the presence of all the people, they took him, and all his family, his cattle, his tent, and all his moveables, and carrying them to a neighbouring valley, (which, from that time, † in allusion to this man's name, was called the valley of Achar) || there they stoned him, and those belonging to his family, as accomplices in his crimes. Whatever goods or utensils he had, these they consumed with fire, and so raised a great heap of stones over all, that thereby they might perpetuate the memory of the crime, and deter others from the like provocation.
After this execution of the Divine justice, God ordered Joshua to attempt the conquest of Ai once more, and promised him success; which might best be obtained, as he told him, by laying an ambuscade somewhere behind the city towards Bethel. + Thirty thousand men were therefore drawn out, and sent away by night upon this expedition, with instructions to enter the city as soon as the signal (which was to be a spear with a banner upon it) was given them: And early next morning, he himself marched, with the remainder of his forces, against the city. As soon as the king of Ai perceived him, he sallied hastily out of the town with all his troops and all his people, and fell upon the Israelites, who at the first onset fled as if they had been under some great terror.
each of which was written the name of one of these
* In the original, this robe is called a garment of
Non ego prætulerim Babylonica picta superbè
Bochart's Phaleg, lib. 1. c. 9. Saurin, lib. 3. Dis-
+ Though his name was primarily Achan, yet ever
Since the law against sacrilege condemns transgressors to the flames, and God commanded the person here guilty to be burnt accordingly, Josh. vii. 18. the Jews affirm that Achan was actually burnt; and whereas it is said in the text that he was stoned, they think that this was done, not judicially, but accidentally by the people, who were so highly provoked, that they could not forbear casting stones at him as he was led to execution. Vid. Munst. in Josh. vii.
+ Some are of opinion, that this detachment of thirty thousand made up the whole force that was employed in this expedition against Ai; and that out of these five thousand were sent to lie in ambush, that at a convenient time they might set fire to the city. But this is so directly contrary to God's command of "Joshua's taking all the people of war with him,” which accordingly, in chap. viii. 3, 11. we are told he did, that there is no foundation for it. And therefore it is reasonable to suppose, that the whole body designed for the ambuscade consisted of thirty thousand men, and that the five thousand mentioned in the 12th verse, was a small party detached from these, in or der to creep closer to the city, while the five aud twenty thousand kept themselves absconded behind the mountains, until a proper signal was given, both from the city, when this small party had taken it, and from the grand army, when they had repulsed the enemy, that then they might coine out from their ambush, and intercept them as they were making their flight. Patrick's Commentary on Josh, viii,
But this was only a feint to draw the enemy into the plain; and therefore as soon as From Josh. i. Joshua saw, that by this stratagem the city was pretty well emptied, he gave the signal to the ambuscade, which, finding it now defenceless, immediately entered and set it on fire.
By the ascent of the smoke, Joshua discerned that his men had got possession of the town, and therefore facing about, he began to charge the enemy very briskly; who, little expecting that the Israelites would rally, began now to think of retreating to the city; but when they saw it all in flames, and the party which had set it on fire issuing out, and just going to fall upon their rear, they were so dismayed and dispirited, that they had power neither to fight nor fly; so that all the army was cut to pieces: the city was burnt and made an heap of rubbish; every soul in it, man, woman, and child, were put to the sword; and the king, who was taken prisoner, was ordered to be hanged upon a gibbet till sunset, when he was taken down, thrown in at a gate of the city, and a great heap of stones raised over him.
After this action was over, the cattle and all the spoil of the city was by God's ap-' pointment given to the soldiers; and as Joshua was now not far distant from the mountains of Gerizim and Ebal, this reminded him of the command which (a) Moses had given about reading the law, with the blessings and curses thereunto annexed, from those two mountains; which he not only ordered to be done, but had an altar likewise erected, whereon not only sacrifices were offered, to give God the glory of all his victories, but an abridgement of the law, or some remarkable part of it, was likewise engraven, at the same time that the whole of it was read in a large assembly of all the tribes.
Joshua's success against the two towns of Jericho and Ai, and the terrible slaughter. he had made among their inhabitants, had so alarmed the kings on that side the Jordan, that they confederated together, and entered into league for their mutual defence: But the Gibeonites, foreseeing the destruction that was hastening upon them, endeavoured by a stratagem to gain a peace with the Israelites, which they effected in this manner. They chose a certain number of artful men, who †2 were instructed to feign
(a) Deut. xi. 29. and xxvii, 1-13.
It is a question (as we said before, vol. i. page 584 in the notes) among the learned, what it was that was written upon these stones? But besides other conjectures already enumerated, some think it not unlikely to have been a copy of the covenant, by which the children of Israel acknowledged, that they held the land of Canaan of God, upon condition that they observed his laws, to which they and their posterity had obliged themselves; for this was the third time that the covenant between God and his people was renewed, and therefore the contents of that covenant might be very proper at this time to be thus monumentally recorded. Patrick on Deut. xxvii. 3. and Joshua viii. 32.
* The Jews, in the Talmud, tell us likewise, that a farther cause of the Gibeonites fear, was the inscription which they had met with upon Mount Ebal, where, among other parts of the law which Joshua (as they pretend) wrote upon stones, they found the orders which both he and Moses had received from God, utterly to extirpate all the inhabitants of the land of Canaan. Saurin, lib. iii. dissertation 4.
+ It is a question among the casuists, whether the Gibeonites could, with a good conscience, pretend that they were foreigners, and tell a lie to save their lives? And to this Puffendorf (Droit de la Nature, lib. iv. c. 2.) thus replies. "The artifice of the Gi
beonites, says he, had nothing blameable in it, nor
to the end.