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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Jos. 1–24]

AFTER the death of Moses, the Lord spoke to Josue: “My servant Moses is dead; arise and pass over this Jordan, thou and the people with thee. I will deliver to thee every place which the sole of your foot shall tread upon. No man shall be able to resist thee all the days of thy life.” Encouraged by these promises the people advanced towards the Jordan. When they reached its banks, Josue ordered the priests to take the Ark of the Lord, and go before the people. As soon as the priests, carrying the Ark, stepped into the Jordan, and their feet touched the water at the bank, the waves that came from above stood heaped together, and swelling up like a mountain, were seen afar off; but the floods, which were beneath, ran down into the sea, until they wholly failed. Then all the people passed over through the channel that was dried up. They pitched their tents before Jericho. On the following day they celebrated the Pasch, and having eaten of the fruits of the earth, the manna ceased to fall.

Jericho (Fig. 37) was a strongly fortified city, capable of offering a long resistance. The children of Israel wished to take it, but they lost courage when they saw the height and strength of the ramparts. But the Lord, seeing their want of confidence, ordered Josue to bring together all the fighting men of Israel, and to march in deep silence around the city once a day for six days, and on the seventh day go around the city seven times; and at the last time, all the people, on hearing the priests that were before the Ark sound the trumpets, were to shout together with a great shout. So it was done. When the seventh day came, they marched silently six times around the city; but at the seventh turn, when the priests sounded the trumpets, all the people shouted, and instantly the walls fell down. Every man went up by the place that was against him; and they took the city.

 

Fig. 37. Ruins of Jericho. (Phot. Bonfils.)

After many hard-fought battles, Josue at length made himself master of all the land of Chanaan. During this period he several times experienced the especial assistance of God. On one occasion he waged war against the five kings of the Amorrhites. The Israelites conquered and pursued their enemies. But night coming on would soon have put an end to the victory. Then Josue spoke to the Lord, in the sight of all the people: “Move not, O sun, toward Gabaon; nor thou, O moon, toward the valley of Ajalon.” So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven. There was not, before nor after, so long a day.

Chanaan was divided among the twelve tribes of Israel. The tribe of Levi alone received no portion, as they lived on the tithes and sacrifices; but they received forty-eight cities in different parts of the country. The descendants of the two sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasses, received each a portion of the land. Thus the country was divided among the twelve tribes: Reuben, Simeon, Juda, Zabulon, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Aser, Nephtali, Benjamin, Ephraim and Manasses. Thus were the promises fulfilled which God had made to the patriarchs. When Josue was old, he assembled the people and admonished them to observe the law, and to avoid intercourse and marriage with the heathen. Josue died at the age of one hundred and ten years.

The Omnipotence of God. By God’s will the running waters of the Jordan rose up like rocks; at His bidding the strong walls of Jericho fell down; and by His command the light of day was prolonged. Nothing can resist God’s omnipotence, nothing can hinder the workings of divine Providence.

The Faithfulness of God. The promise which God had made to Abraham six hundred and fifty years before was now fulfilled, and by His wonderful guidance, Abraham’s descendants were now given possession of the Promised Land. God also fulfils what He threatens. Not one of those men who departed from Egypt, except Josue and Caleb, entered the Promised Land. They all died in the desert, as God said they should die. God has promised us everlasting happiness if we keep our baptismal vows, that is, if we stand fast in faith, keep the commandments, and use the means of grace given to us: if we neglect to do this, we shall not go to heaven, but to hell.

The object of miracles. During the journey of the Israelites to the Promised Land God worked great miracles for His people. Now that it was a case of completing the great work, and putting His people in possession of the Promised Land, He worked still greater miracles. By doing this the Lord wished to confirm His people’s faith in His omnipotence, and their confidence in His loving care. He wished them also to learn that they could do nothing by their own strength and numbers, and that it was only by His help they could attain to the Promised Land, and that they therefore owed Him an everlasting debt of gratitude. Neither can we reach the promised land of heaven by our own strength, but only by the help of God’s grace.

The folly of idolatry was proved to the Chanaanites by the miracle which made the sun to shine on the earth for a longer time than was its wont, and this for the purpose of bringing defeat upon them. The Chanaanites worshipped the sun and moon as gods, and the fact that these heavenly bodies obeyed the command of Josue, the servant of God, ought to have proved to them that the God of Israel was infinitely more powerful than their self-made deities which, far from being able to help them, were compelled to help their enemies.

The power of prayer. Full of faith, Josue prayed, and at his prayer the day was prolonged.

The power of faith. “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down” (Hebr. 11:30). The Israelites knew very well that their marching round the town, the blowing of the trumpets and the shouting of the multitude could not, of themselves, overthrow the walls; but full of faithful confidence in God, they did exactly everything that He commanded, and through their faithful obedience God worked the miracle.

Josue, the ninth type of Jesus Christ. He was this, inasmuch as he led the Israelites into the Land of Promise, and triumphantly conquered it. Jesus Christ, by His Death and Resurrection, has overcome sin, Satan and death, and has opened to us the kingdom of heaven. He leads us there by His doctrine, His example and His grace, and especially by holy Baptism.

The passage of the Jordan (as well as that of the Red Sea) is a type of Baptism, by which we enter the kingdom of God upon earth, i. e. the holy Church, and acquire a claim to those priceless means of grace which Jesus Christ bequeathed to His Church.

The Promised Land was a figure of heaven. As the Israelites did not obtain possession of Chanaan till they had toiled, fought, and suffered much, so Christians cannot enter heaven, the true land of promise, unless they contend bravely against the enemies of their salvation.

Processions. By God’s command the Israelites went in procession round Jericho thirteen times. These were religious processions, in which the Ark of the Covenant was carried.

APPLICATION. After crossing the Jordan the Israelites had to fight for a long time before they acquired the Promised Land. Thus we, after our holy Baptism, must fight against the enemies of our souls, especially against evil inclinations and passions. “Labour as a good soldier of Christ Jesus … He also that striveth for the mastery is not crowned except he strive lawfully” (2 Tim. 2:3, 5). As a reward, we shall receive the everlasting possesion of heaven. Fight especially against your besetting sin. Make a good resolution to overcome it every day, and let it be the object of your particular examination of conscience.








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