« VorigeDoorgaan »
eyes of the children of Israel, therefore
shall not bring this congregation into the land which I gave them."
To the various abominations committed and sanctioned, by that powerful and splendid sovereign Solomon, is ascribed the rending of the nation into two divisions, the total separation of the ten tribes from the house of Israel, and the shameful civil wars which ensued. The idolatrous practices commenced by Jeroboam, who led the revolt against the successor to Solomon, continued and increased by a quick succession of profligate kings, are declared to have occasioned the total destruction of this revolting branch, by their being carried captive into Assyria, and dispersed among the nations.
In relating the numerous events which succeeded to each other, during the space of several centuries, from the first invasion of the inhabitants of Canaan by Joshua, to the Babylonish captivity, one grand object of the sacred history is, to evince that every instance of success obtained by the descendants of Abraham over their numerous and powerful adversaries;—every instance of their defeat ;--- all the seasons of their national prosperity ;--all their national calamities, were perfectly correspondent, either to the degrees of their faith and obedience to the divine commands, or to their unbelief and disobedience. While they preserved themselves secure from being corrupted by the maxims and examples of the idolatrous nations, they were triumphant; nor did the largest disproportion in their numbers, prove an impediment to victory. Their deviations were punished in an xeemplary manner : but to repent of their folly was to be replaced under the divine protection.
This subject constitutes so essential a branch of the Jewish history, that it will be resumed in a future section.
It is obvious, from several parts of their history, that it was not enjoined upon the Israelites, in the character of warriors, to deviate from those laws of war which were admitted as just and reasonable, through every part of the world. These san: guinary laws allowed, in many cases, of the total extirpation of the conquered countries, if interest or convenience demanded, or a spirit of revenge prompted to the execution. The most severe punishments of retaliation, were not con: sidered as acts of cruelty, but acts of military justice. Every thing dear to Man, wives, children, every species of property, were at the sole disposal of the conquerors; and a partial remission of claims which no one, in these happier days, would be entitled to make, was extolled as the excess of liberality. It was not the object of the divine Being, in the exercise of a peculiar providence towards the Israelites, to inspire them with transcendent virtue by a perpetual miracle; but to preserve uncontaminated, those religious and moral principles which should, in the ordinary course of his providence, ultimately improve the human race. However, it is expressly declared that the Israelites were restrained from inflicting the horrors of war, in the manner wars were at that period conducted, until the iniquities of the inhabitants of the land should render them ripe for destruction. In the promise to Abraham, after predicting that his seed shall be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and they “shall serve them, and they shall afflict them four hundred years,” it is added, “ but in the fourth generation, they shall come hither again; for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” When the important period was arrived, had the Israelites deviated from the usual laws of war, in this respect, the designs of Providence could not have been accomplished. It is, however, a great and triumphant peculiarity, observable in the legislation of Moses, and unknown in every other
leader, that the most delicate attention to the received principles of justice, was enjoined upon their martial bands. They were commanded not to invade any rights They never commenced hostilities. The nations whom they fought against were always the aggressors. Thus we are told that Moses sent messengers unto the king of Edon, when they arrived at the borders of his land, informing him who the people were, and what they had suffered, soliciting a passage through his country, and promising, “ we will not pass through the fields nor through the vineyards, neither will we drink of the wells ; we will go by the king's highway ; we will not turn to the right handonor to the left.” Those who permitted them to pass unmolested, were treated with the good faith due to the confidence reposed in them. Although the Gibeonites, amazed at the marvellous reports that were spread concerning the Hebrews, and terrified at their power, obtained a league with them by the artful manner in which they imposed upon Joshua, the agreement was religiously observed until the days of Saul; and he was punished for a violation of it. When the surrounding nations resented the conduct of the Gibeonites, by which the combination against these dangerous strangers was weakened, and attacked them as enemies, they were defended by the Hebrews with vigour and success. The descendants of Esau and Ishmael having retained, to a certain degree, the religion and manners of their pious ancestors, and not being as yet deeply contaminated by the gross idolatry of the neighbouring nations, were preserved, by the express command of God, from the calamities that awaited the more abandoned nations. « Command thou the people, saying, ye are to pass through the coast of your brethren the children of Esau, which dwell in Seir ; and they shall be afraid of you, take ye heed unto yourselves 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 possession.”—“ And the Lord said unto me, distress not the Moabites, neither contend with them in battle; for I will not give thee of their land for a possession; because I have given Ar unto the children of Lot for a possession."*These injunctions, replete with clemency, are a beautiful illustration of the declaration of God, that although he “ visit the iniquities of the fathers upon the children, to the third and fourth generations, yet he will have mercy upon thou.