IS IT GOD'S WORD?
THE "CONQUEST" OF THE PROMISED LAND
R RTHE "CONQUEST" OF THE PROMISED LAND R R BUT NOT CONQUERED R R THE ABJECT SUBJECTION OF ISRAEL
R RRETURN TO THE INDEX OF CHAPTERS
HAVING been duly impressed with the promises reiterated by Yahveh to his Chosen People, let us turn our attention to the wondrous manner of their fulfillment, as recorded in the inspired history. The promises are repeated so often, from Abraham to Moses, and with so many variant ifs, buts, conditions, provisos, circumlocutions, and contradictions, that it is difficult to select the most representative one. But a fair sample proceeds from amid the smoke and fire of Sinai:
"Behold, I send an angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place, which I have prepared...
"For mine angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorities, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and I will cut them off; ... thou shalt utterly overthrow them. ...
"I will send my fear before thee, and will destroy all the people to whom thou shalt come, and I will make all thine enemies turn their backs unto thee.
"And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee.
"I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee.
"By little and little I will drive them out before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land.
"And I will set thy bounds from the Red Sea even unto the Sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river: for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee.
"Thou shalt not make no covenant with them, nor with their gods.
"They shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me: for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee" (Ex. 23: 20, 23, 24, 27-33 ).
Under both the old and the new "dispensations," promises are always coupled with threats of penalties. There is a difference in favour of the old: its punishments are always temporal; those of the new are eternal as hell fire. It is the earthly body alone that suffers according to Yahveh's Old Will, and that has an end with life; in the New Testament of the gentle and loving Jesus, the penalty only attaches when life ends, and the immortal soul writhes out its expiation through all eternity. But even the Old is not wanting in picturesque detail of torture that does credit to a God distinguished for long-suffering, forgiveness, and mercy. Here is one typical hint to the Chosen:
"If ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all of these commandments. ... I also will do this unto you; I will even appoint over you terror, consumption, and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart. ... And I will set my face against you, and ye shall be slain before your enemies. ... Then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. ... I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass: And your strength shall be spent in vain: for your land shall not yield her increase, neither shall the trees of the land yield their fruits. ... "I will bring seven times more plagues upon you according to your sins. I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number; and your high ways shall be desolate.
"And if ye will not be reformed by me by these things, but will walk contrary unto me; then will I also walk contrary unto you, and ... will bring a sword upon you, that shall avenge the quarrel of my covenant: ... I will send the pestilence among you; and ye shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy. ...
"And I will walk contrary unto you then also in fury; and 1:even 1:will chastise you seven times for your sins. And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat. And I will cast your carcasses upon the careases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you" (Lev. 26: 14, 16-25, 28-30 )
Verily the old priests of Yahveh were fit prototypes of those of the new dispensation of love and mercy. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb. 10: 31 )!
Encouraged by the promises, and thus lovingly admonished to the fear of Yahveh, at last, after 685 long Years since Abraham of hopeful waiting, slavery and affliction, of suffering and of destruction, the Chosen People of Yahveh, in Yahveh's own leisurely way, finally
"On Jordan's stormy banks did stand, And cast a wistful eye On Canaan's fair and happy land, Where their possessions lie."
Now might they have some reason to expect, from the explicit terms of the divine covenant, that the Almighty Grantor would put them into immediate, peaceable possession of the long promised land. He had covenanted to send an angel and hornets on before them, to put "the fear of Yahveh" into the rightful inhabitants, and to drive them out well in advance of the arrival of the new and "peculiar" occupants. But now it appeared that the place was not "prepared" at all; the old inhabitants were still tenaciously in their walled cities and by their domestic vines and fig-trees undisturbed. The newcomers must yet do their own "preparing," driving out, and cleansing the land, by fire and sword, before they could even begin to possess and enjoy it. And the possession must be thorough; this was Yahveh's motto: "When I begin, I will also make an end" (I Sam. 3: 12 ). Yahveh, who was a "man of war" (Ex. 15: 3 ), would see to that, and even help with the angel and hornets, though he had not done so yet, as he had promised.
The task which confronted the newcomers, six hundred-odd thousand soldiers of Yahveh, all mighty men and valiant, armed with scavenger-paddle-spears (Deut. 23: 13 ), and with impedimenta of a couple of million or more old men, women, children, and camp-followers, was a war of extermination against "seven nations more and mightier" than they; seven highly civilized and powerful peoples, aggregating, according to the Mosaic estimate, at least twenty-odd millions, inhabiting a country of about 11,000 square miles, about the size of Belgium, practically the most densely populated country in the world, with its less than 8,000,000 people. Canaan then was nearly three times as densely populated. The God who had wrought such fearful wonders in Egypt, and brought out his Chosen with a "mighty hand and an outstretched arm," is under contract now to send one angel and hornets to help his soldiers drive these seven mightier nations out of their land! But they must not be all driven out or destroyed at once, or the wild animals would multiply against the new arrivals too rapidly (Ex. 23: 28, 29 ) -- in a country about as sparsely settled as New York City!
Yahveh, Man of war, the merciful God, as generalissimo of the armies of Israel, issued these notable orders of the day:
"When Yahveh thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, [naming again the "seven nations greater and mightier]; and when Yahveh thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them: ...
"And thou shalt consume all the people which Yahveh thy God shall deliver thee; thine eye shall have no pity upon them" (Deut. 7: 1, 2, 16 ).
These divine war orders, possibly even more drastic and diabolic than the brutal ones issued by a modern war-lord, are repeated time and again in the inspired texts. These were about the only commands of Yahveh which his Chosen People ever so much as partially obeyed. We shall see in the sequel that the Almighty Yahveh did not deliver and drive out so completely as the Chosen had perhaps the right under the covenant to expect; nor were they able, despite the divine allies of angel and hornets, to massacre the home-defenders of the land to the degree of extermination which Yahveh ordered and promised. But scores of times the official report of battle after battle, and massacre after massacre, reads like this first one: "And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and sheep, and ox, and ass, with the edge of the sword. And they burnt the city with fire" (Josh. 6: 21, 24 ).
A little later the original orders were modified so as to give play to the holy lust and greed of Yahveh's Chosen, it being ordered: "Thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword; but the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself" (Deut. 20: 13, 14 ).
The Chosen were urged forward with this repeated divine assurance: "There shall no man be able to stand before you: for Yahveh your God shall lay the fear of you and the dread of you upon all the land that ye shall tread upon" (Deut. 11: 25 ). And just before Moses passed to his reward -- or was afflicted with his promised punishment -- above but not across Jordan, he put on record Yahveh's final reassurance: "Yahveh thy God, he will go over before thee, and he will destroy these nations from before thee, and thou shalt possess them" (Deut. 31: 3 ). With this illusory promise on his lips Moses died.
Joshua succeeded to the command next under Yahveh; and he proceeded to cross over Jordan under circumstances that are reported in two ways. Beginning his campaigns of quasi-conquest with the famous fall of Jericho, where he "utterly destroyed all that was in the city," but kept the gold and silver and other loot for the treasury of Yahveh (Josh. 6: 21, 24 ), he swept on from massacre to massacres city after city being taken and burned by Joshua: "he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as Yahveh God of Israel commanded" (Josh. 10: 40 ).
Here we may begin to see in what fashion the glittering, sweeping promises of Yahveh were kept. A brief retrospect will recall to us the original simple promise of 685 years before to Abram, to give to him and his seed "the land to possess it." Later the "covenant of circumcision" was superimposed as a single condition; then 400 years of abject slavery in a strange land was imposed as a dismal preliminary, lengthened into 430 years by a bit of forgetfulness on the part of Yahveh. At last he "remembered" his people and his covenant, and he commanded Moses to lead the hosts of Israel out of Egypt into the promised land. This looked like a tardy start towards performance. But because the people got hungry and thirsty while camping for a year in the wilderness around Sinai, the "fierce anger of Yahveh was kindled" against them, and untold numbers of them were massacred by plague, fire and sword, and fiery serpents, and the entire millions of them were condemned to wander forty years in the wilderness until their carcasses were all scattered in the wilderness -- or were not, as the case may be. Then, at length, the children of Israel, or the children of the children, were sent across into the land which had been promised to be made ready and waiting for their undisturbed possession.
Yahveh repeatedly promised to accomplish this annihilation of the nations, and to help his Chosen People to execute this program of universal extermination. They were to possess the land completely, with no one to share it with them or to molest them in it, or to corrupt their holy lives by wicked examples of idolatry and whoredom. This precise reason, as justification for the extermination of millions, was expressly stated by Yahveh himself: "They shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me" (Ex. 23: 33 ). The land was to have rest.
But after a number of preliminary massacres of extermination as above noticed, Yahveh and his Chosen seem to have slacked their murderous zeal, or to have failed in their ability to perpetrate their purpose, or else the exaggeration of their chroniclers was toned down. Joshua did not exterminate the Hivites, but made peace with them and spared the lives of the people, in direct disobedience of orders, and made them "hewers of wood and drawers of water to Yahveh" (Josh. 9: 27 ). He then helped these Hivites in a war made against them by the five kings, on the occasion when the sun stood still upon Gibeon and the moon in the valley of Ajalon (Josh. 10: 12, 13 ) so that the massacre might be completed. Then the kings of the Canaanites (already totally exterminated, Num. 21: 3 ) Amorites, Hivites (already enslaved "unto this day") Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, and others, leagued and went to fight against Israel. And the inspired record assures us that Joshua and his Israelites "smote them, until they left them none remaining. And all the cities of those kings, and all the kings of them, did Joshua take, and smote them with the edge of the sword, and he utterly destroyed them, as Moses the servant of Yahveh commanded" (Josh. 11: 8, 12 ). But the Jebusites continued to inhabit "Jebus, which is Jerusalem" (Judges 19: 10 ), until, at least, the time when part of the city was taken by David; and Jerusalem was certainly not destroyed until it was captured by the Babylonians. The Canaanites and others for centuries afterwards occupied the land. But it is solemnly declared: "So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that Yahveh said unto Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance unto Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. And the land rested from war" (Josh. 11: 23 ).
This sounds like the thorough fulfillment of Yahveh's sacred promise and covenant. And for further assurance, inspiration itemizes the muster-roll of conquered lands and kings:
"And these are the kings of the country which Joshua and the children of Israel smote ... which Joshua gave unto the tribes of Israel for a possession according to their divisions;
"In the mountains, and in the valleys, and in the plains, and in the springs, and in the wilderness, and in the south country; The Hittites, the Amorites, and the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites" (Josh. 12: 7, 8 ).
A long list of countries and their kings which Joshua took and smote, of which thirty-one were on the west side of Jordan, is given in Joshua 12.
And time and again the inspired historian repeats the refrain, reckless of its verity: "And Yahveh gave unto Israel all the land which he swore to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein. And Yahveh gave them rest around about: ... there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; Yahveh delivered all their enemies into their hand" (Josh. 21: 43, 44 ).
BUT NOT CONQUERED
What is then our legitimate surprise to read, in the very next chapter of the sacred history that Yahveh himself negatives this whole Solemn record? In Joshua 13: 1, Yahveh says to Joshua: "Thou art old and stricken in years, and there remaineth yet very much land to be Possessed"; and a good part of chapter 13 is taken up with an account of "the land that yet remaineth" to be possessed -- being precisely the lands and cities just recorded as taken. Nor had a single one of the seven nations been destroyed and driven out, as so often promised, commanded, and proclaimed to have been totally accomplished. ~~
It is a number of times expressly declared: "Nevertheless, the children of Israel drave not out" the very several peoples named, "but they dwell among the Israelites unto this day" (e.g., Josh. 13: 13; 15: 63; 16: 10; 17: 12, 13 ). Even under the judges they "could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron" (Judges 1: 19 ). And as Joshua approached death, he gave this warning and admission: 'That ye come not among these nations, these that remain among you ... but they shall be snares and traps unto you and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land" (Josh. 23: 7, 13 ). Nearly the whole of Judges 1 (19-34 ) is a schedule of peoples whom the Chosen "could not drive out -- but they dwell among Israel to this day" -- very long afterwards. And it is by divine inspiration related: "Now these are the nations which Yahveh left, to prove Israel by them. ... namely ... all the Canaanites ... and the Hivites that dwelt in Mount Lebanon. ... And they were to prove Israel by them, to know whether they would hearken unto the commandments of Yahveh. ... And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amolites, and Petizzites and Hizites, and Jebusites [precisely the nations who were so annihilated that "not a man was left of them to breathe"]: And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods" (Judges 3: 1-6 )! What a rare bit! One wonders what was the matter with Yahveh and his hornets.
This admission that the children of Israel "dwelt among" the seven nations proves that the 600,000 soldiers of Yahveh had not exterminated the 20-odd millions of inhabitants of Canaan, but remained a small and, as is now to be seen, conquered minority among their vengeful enemies.
For these several nations quickly took their turn in conquering and subjecting Israel. First, the King of Mesopotamia kept them in subjection for 8 years (Judges 3: 8 ); then the Moabites for 18 years (3: 14 ); then the oft-destroyed Canaanites enslaved them for 20 years (4: 3 ); then the Philistines for 18 years (10: 8 ) ; and again for 40 years (13: 1 ); and so on all but continuously until the time of David, though Yahveh had promised: "Ye shall reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over you" (Deut. 15: 6 ).
Thus the performance of the reiterated promise of complete inheritance is seen to be a dismal failure. The covenant of quiet and peaceable possession was equally illusory and unperformed. War between the soldiers of Yahveh and the seven nations was continuous under Joshua, was hardly interrupted during the four hundred-odd years of the judges, was Saul's chief occupation and the occasion of his death, and was so incessant and sanguinary during David's whole reign that he had no time and was too bloody-handed to build the phallic temple of Yahveh. As late as Solomon, six hundred years after the "conquest" of extermination by Joshua, these nations still dwelt in "thy land"; Solomon levied tribute on six of these same nations (I Kings 9: 15-23 ).
THE ABJECT SUBJECTION OF ISRAEL
The sacred record contains many instances, of which but a sample or two will be cited here, of the desperate straits to which Yahveh's heroes of the "conquest" were reduced by their exterminated enemies. In the days of Samuel the judge, the Philistines beat the Chosen so badly that the latter sought recourse to miracle or magic, and brought up the wonder-working Ark of the Covenant of Yahveh out of Shiloh, so that, they said, "when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies" (1 Sam. 4: 3 ). It is recorded that the Philistines were afraid when they heard of the advent of the Ark, and said: "Woe unto us, for Gods [Elohim] are come into the camp." Nevertheless, they attacked the soldiers of Yahveh at Ebenezer (which was not then in existence; 7: 12 ), killed 30,000 of them, and, to their own great misfortune, captured the Ark, which they kept until, to get well rid of it, they sent it back to the Chosen accompanied by suggestive golden images of emerods and mice.
When Saul was king, the Ammonites besieged Jabesh-Gilead, a city of the Benjaminites, and the Chosen were so abjectly terrified that they immediately offered to surrender and become slaves of the Ammonites. Nahash, the Ammonite leader, replied that he would accept "on this condition. ... that I may thrust out all your right eyes, and lay it for a reproach on all Israel" (1 Sam. 11: 2 ). The elders of Jabesh begged seven days' time in order to send throughout Israel for aid; and they said: "If there be no man [What of Yahveh or his hornets?] to save us, we will come out to thee" (11: 3 ), and suffer their eyes to be punched out and themselves to be made slaves! They then send out a wild call for aid to Saul; and when the tidings became known throughout Israel, "all the people lifted up their voices, and wept" (11: 4 ). King Saul sent swift couriers from Dan to Beersheba, commanding every man in Israel, under pain of being "hewed to pieces," to report at once for war. And, it is said, "the fear of Yahveh fell upon the people" (as well as, maybe, the fear of Saul's dire threats); and they "came with one accord," to the number of 330,000 men. The next day they defeated and drove off the Ammonites, who are reported to have waited complaisantly a whole week till a force could be raised in all Israel to destroy them!
How the Israelites could do this, an unarmed mob, as the following account proves, is one of the standing wonders not revealed. It will be noted that Saul's threat of death could raise in all Jewry but 330,000 men, about one-half of the alleged armed host that crossed the Jordan with Joshua. The truly God- forsaken condition of the Chosen People despite the celebrated "everlasting covenant," is shown by the following picture drawn by the inspired historian within two years after Saul was made king:
"The Philistines gathered themselves together to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand which is on the sea shore in multitude: and they came up, and pitched in Michmash. ...
"When the men of Israel saw that they were in a strait, then the people did hide themselves in caves, and in thickets, and in rocks, and in high places, and in pits. And some of the Hebrews went over Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. As for Saul, he was yet in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling. ...
And Saul numbered the people that were present with him, about six hundred men. ...
"Now, there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel: for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make them swords and spears: But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his axe, and his mattock. ...
"So it came to pass in the day of battle, that there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people that were with Saul and Jonathan" (I Sam. 13: 5-7, 15, 19, 20, 22 ).
From bad to worse the Chosen People had gone and yet went. Saul, under threat of death, had gathered an unarmed rabble of 330,000, which was later reduced to only 600; this was in the year 1095 B.C. But a sudden temporary increase, which recalls the prodigies of the sojourn in Egypt, is recorded, with a notable contradiction. In 1017 B.C., when Yahveh in his anger (2 Sam. 24: 1 ) or Satan (I Chron. 21: 1 ) "moved" or "provoked" David to number Israel, Joab took the census and reported that "of valiant men that drew the sword" there were in Israel 800,000, and in Judah 500,000 (2 Sam. 24: 9 ), a vast host of Hebrew soldiers further exaggerated by the historian of Chronicles, who records the returns of the same census: the "men that drew sword" in Israel were 1,100,000 and in Judah 480,000 (I Chron. 21: 5 ). In the light of the other returns noticed, we see that the war casualties and Jahvistic massacres of the Chosen People surpassed all human records.
Only sixty years later, in 957 B.C., in the civil wars following the death of Solomon, Abijah, successor to Rehoboam as king of Judah, in one battle is said to have had 400,000 "chosen men," and Jeroboam, King of Israel, to have had 800,000, all "being mighty men of valor" (2 Chron. 13: 3 ); and in this single fight "there fell down slain of Israel five hundred thousand chosen men" (13: 17 ), the casualties of Judah not being recorded. That these figures are also "inspired" there is no doubt. There is no other such battle in all history.
In the brief space of fifty-six years yet later, these vast armies of Yahveh's Chosen had vanished like the hosts of Sennacherib; and when Benhadad King of Syria came against Israel with armies that "filled the country," "the children of Israel pitched before them like two little flocks of kids"; Ahab "numbered all the people, even all the children of Israel, being seven thousand" (I Kings 20: 27, 15 ).
Thus we see the Chosen People, the redoubtable soldiers of El-Sabaoth, whom he had brought in with a mighty band and outstretched arm -- and hornets -- and whom he had hedged about with an "everlasting covenant," reduced by the inhabitants of the land which was to be perfectly "prepared" for their sole possession to a dire state of misery and oppression. And Israel was the,"peculiar treasure" of Yahveh, his Chosen People; so warlike that the "Men of war" were alone numbered, and were captained by their Yahveh, the "mighty man of war," in person. The "everlasting covenant" of Yahveh may have been the original "scrap of paper."
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