Story of the Chosen People - Helene Guerber

The Conquest of the Promised Land

God had ordered that all the property of the inhabitants of Jericho should be destroyed. Only one man dared transgress this command, by keeping back a small portion of the spoil. He hid it, and fancied that his disobedience would remain unknown and unpunished. But when the Israelites next tried to take a city, they were defeated. Joshua knew that this misfortune would never have happened if the people had obeyed God’s commands; so he now fervently prayed that the sinner might be revealed.

Lots were drawn, first among the twelve tribes, then among the divisions of the tribe on which the first lot had fallen, and lastly among the families. By this means the sinner was discovered. He confessed having saved two hundred shekels, or pieces of silver, and was punished by being stoned to death with all his family.

This signal example having been made, Joshua again led the people against the city, which they succeeded in taking by stratagem. Thus the Israelites won all the passes from the valley of the Jordan; and, marching on to Shechem, they erected an altar upon which they inscribed the law.

While the Chosen People were tarrying at Shechem, the neighboring nations made a league against them; but the Gibeonites pretended to be friendly with them. Hoping to make the Israelites believe that they lived very far away, the Gibeonites came in tattered garments and worn foot gear, and brought no provisions but moldy bread.

Without consulting God, the Israelites now made an alliance with them; but when they found out the fraud three days later, they marched against Gibeon, and made all the people their slaves.

Shortly after this, Joshua’s troops were attacked by the combined forces of five allied kings, and he would have been overwhelmed by their numbers had he not been helped by a violent hailstorm. Such was the fury of the storm, that there "were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword."

Joshua began to pursue the fugitives, and seeing that daylight would fail him before the victory was really assured, he commanded: "Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, moon, in the valley of Ajalon." In obedience to this order both sun and moon stood still until Joshua had won a great victory.

Joshua pursued the people to a place where the five kings, his enemies, were hiding in a cave. These monarchs were dragged from their retreat and led away and hanged, just as the sun at last went down and closed the longest day which has ever been known.

By a few more battles Joshua became master of all the southern half of the country, and now he prepared to march northward, and subdue another king, who had an army "as the sand that is upon the seashore in multitude." In spite of this array of warriors, Joshua defeated the king, burned his principal city, put the inhabitants to death, seized their property, and then took possession of all the northern part of the promised land.

Although Joshua had thus conquered all the promised land, many of his enemies were not entirely subdued, and the Canaanites and Philistines still owned much territory. The conquest of their land, however, was reserved for another leader; for Joshua was now very weary and old, and he felt that his end was near.

He therefore called the heads of the remaining ten tribes to him, and portioned out by lot the land which he had conquered. The city of Hebron, however, was given as a reward to Caleb, a man who had never murmured, and who was now the only one left of the twelve spies that had visited the Holy Land forty years before.

The only tribe which received no province at all was that of Levi, because the Levites were chosen to serve the Lord. They were to receive a certain amount from all the people, and the Lord himself "was their inheritance."

Peace now reigned everywhere, and the two tribes of Reuben and Gad, which had received their portions long before, prepared to recross the Jordan, and go home. As soon as they reached the other side of the river, they began to build an altar. Their brethren, fearing that they were about to forget God and worship idols, immediately sent Phinehas, the son of the high priest, to inquire what it meant.

This messenger soon came back, and the people were greatly relieved when they heard that the new altar was not for the worship of foreign gods. The men had built it merely to remind their children that they too belonged to the Chosen Race, although they were separated from the rest of it by the Jordan’s rushing tide.

When all these matters had been satisfactorily settled, Joshua called the heads of the people together, and exhorted them "to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses." He prophesied that, if they dared serve other gods, they would lose the land which their God had given them.

Then, after receiving a solemn promise from all the people to remain faithful, and after writing the history of his time, Joshua died peacefully, at the age of one. hundred and ten. He was buried in the country which he had won for Israel, a country which is called the Promised Land, the Holy Land, or Palestine.