Legends of Old Testament Characters/Chapter 33



HITHERTO Israel had required a lawgiver, and they had been given one in Moses; now they needed a general, and they were provided with one in Joshua.

After the death of Moses and his brother Aaron, the children of Israel remained seven years in the wilderness, till the forty years were accomplished. Then God conferred on Joshua the function of prophet, and ordered him to lead the chosen people out of the desert and to attack the three cities of the giants.

Joshua was of the tribe of Joseph. He was the son of Nun, who was the son of Ephraim, who was the son of Joseph; and his mother was Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron.[1]

Before Joshua led the people of the Lord to the conquest of the Holy Land, Joshua sent three deputations into Canaan; of these the first proclaimed, "Let any one who will escape death, leave the country."

Then came the second deputation, and declared, "Let such people as will make an alliance with us, do so, and we will receive them."

Then came the third deputation, and cried, "Let those who persist in desiring war, prepare for it."

The result of these deputations was that one nation deserted the country and settled in Africa, and that another nation made terms with Israel. But thirty-one princes made ready for war.[2]

Joshua marched with his army against Jericho, took the city, and slew all the men therein; they were giants, and it took a hundred men to cut off the head of each giant.

After the capture of Jericho, Joshua went against Ai, which is beside Beth-aven, on the east side of Bethel. And as the people went up, the men of Ai came forth, and routed them, and they fled.[3]

Then Joshua rent his clothes, and fell on his face to the earth before the ark of the Lord, until eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust on their heads.

And the Lord said to Joshua, "Get thee up. I am wroth with the people, for there is amongst them a sin which is not put away, and till that accursed thing is cast out, victory shall not attend their arms."

Now Joshua had ordered all the plunder of Jericho to be burnt with fire; but although it was heaped up, the fire would not consume it. Then he knew that the pile could not be complete, for the flames danced up, but would consume nothing, as though they waited for the entirety of their prey.

So Joshua made inquisition; and it was found that Achan (Adjezan in Arabic) had concealed a portion of the booty, which he desired to appropriate to his own use.

Then the booty taken by Achan was added to the heap, and instantly the flames roared up, and devoured the whole of the spoil.[4]

And when Ai was taken, Joshua said: "Enter into this town; for God has taken it from the giants, and has given it to you to be your inheritance. But when you pass through the gates, prostrate yourselves, with your heads in the dust, and adore God, saying, Hittaton, hittaton, which is by interpretation, Pardon our sins."

Some of those who entered Ai obeyed the voice of Joshua, and God gave them a possession in that city, and their posterity retain it to this day.

But there were some ungodly men who disobeyed the voice of Joshua, and when they passed through the gates, they did not prostrate themselves, but they raised their heads to heaven, and instead of saying "hittaton" as commanded, they said "hintaton," asking for corn.

Then the wrath of God was kindled against these men, and fire fell from heaven, and consumed all that had said hintaton in place of hittaton.[5]

Near Ai there were mountains, in which reigned two kings, Kuma and Djion (Sihon). These Amorites were wealthy. When Joshua attacked these kings, they asked to make a league with the people of Israel; and they were accepted, on condition that they believed in the religion of Moses.

Another of these mountain kingdoms was governed by a king called Barak (Adoni-bezek). He also sought by submission to escape ruin, and Joshua accepted him on the same terms as Kuma and Djion.

To the west were five cities, whose inhabitants were also Amorites. The kings of these cities made war on Joshua. Joshua routed them, and these five kings took refuge in a cave. Joshua ordered the cave to be closed with a stone, whilst he pursued the routed army. Then God sent hail from heaven, and each hailstone struck down and killed a man.[6]

On that day Joshua cried to the Lord, for the sun hasted to go down, and it was a Friday, and he feared that he should not have utterly discomfited the host before the Sabbath came in. Then the Lord lengthened the day one hour, so as to enable him to complete his victory.[7]

After the battle, it was announced to him that Barak and the other kings who had made submission to him had taken advantage of the rising of the kings of the five cities to renounce their allegiance, and to return to the worship of false gods. Therefore Joshua prayed, "O Lord! because they have become unfaithful, take from them their riches, and make them poor, that they may become bondsmen; and that their king may fall into misery!"

Joshua was sick and unable to march against them. He was aged a hundred and twenty-eight years. He was a hundred years old when Moses died, and he governed Israel twenty-eight years.[8]

For the benefit of coin-collectors, the following information is inserted. "On the coins struck by Abraham are figured, on the obverse, an old man and an ass; on the reverse, a boy and a girl. On the coins of Joshua are, on one side a bull, on the other a unicorn. On those of David, on one side a staff and wallet on the other a tower. On those of Mordecai, on the obverse, sackcloth and ashes; and on the reverse, a crown."[9]

After Joshua, Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, and Othniel, the son of Kenaz,[10] Caleb's brother, governed Israel. They collected the people, and marched against Barak (Adoni-bezek)[11] and his people who had apostatized, and attacked them, and slew great numbers of them.

They took the king and cut off his thumbs. This Barak had, during his reign, treated seventy kings in like fashion, so that they were unable to pick up anything off the ground. And when Barak was feasting, these kings were brought before him. Then he cast bread among them, but they were unable to pick it up, having no thumbs, and they were obliged to stoop to the ground, and take it in their mouths like dogs; and this caused huge merriment to the king.[12]

  1. Tabari, i. p. 396.
  2. Talmud of Jerusalem; Tract. Terumoth.
  3. Josh. vii. 1-5.
  4. Tabari, i. p. 402.
  5. Koran, Sura ii. v. 55, 56.
  6. Tabari, p. 404.
  7. Tabari, p. 401.
  8. Ibid. p. 404.
  9. Berescheth Rabba.
  10. The Mussulmans say Khasqîl or Ezechiel.
  11. Judges i. 4.
  12. Tabari, i. p. 404.