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HER GIFT OF LANDS.
(Joshua xv. 18, 19; AND JUDGES 1. 14, 15.)
ON the death of Moses, who was denied an entrance into the promised land for his conduct at the waters of Meribah, the Almighty appointed Joshua his successor, and gave him this commission:-‘Arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast. There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them. Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt.have good success. Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest,” Josh. i. 2–9.
Obedient to the Divine command, Joshua girded on his sword, and prepared for contest with the idolatrous Canaanites. Passing over Jordan, whose waters opened a pathway for his feet, he encompassed Jericho, which he finally burned with fire, after having “destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword,” Josh. vi. 21. The same fate awaited Ai and its inhabitants, with twenty-nine other ancient kingdoms, or distinct governments, of Canaan, as enumerated in Josh. xii. 9—24.
All these conquests were made within five years after the passage of the Jordan. So completely were the inhabitants of Canaan prostrated before the power of Israel, that, although there was much land yet remaining to be actually possessed, Joshua now received command to divide the country by lot, which he did in the year B.C. 1602.
Among the noted warriors of Israel was the aged Caleb, of whom we find honourable mention. As Moses approached the confines of Canaan, he selected one man out of every tribe to go forward, and examine the quality of the land and the strength of its inhabitants. On their return, ten out of this number declared it to be not only a barren land, incapable of supporting those who possessed it, but represented the inhabitants as being unconquerable. Not so did Joshua and Caleb. Although the Israelites, believing the evil report, rebelled, and formed the resolution of appointing a leader to conduct them back to their bondage in Egypt, they, acting for the two leading tribes of Judah and Ephraim, fearlessly and faithfully represented the land as a good land, and the inhabitants as easily to be conquered. Still the Israelites disbelieved them; and they were about to stone these faithful men, when the glory of Jehovah appeared in the cloud above the tabernacle. From thence he issued a decree, that all the men above twenty years of age when they left Egypt, should be cut off from their portion of the rich inheritance, which they so readily intended to forego, and leave their bones amidst the sands and solitudes of the desert, Joshua and Caleb only excepted.
Nor was it a prolongation of days alone which was promised to Joshua and Caleb on this occasion. To the latter, especially, Moses declared that the land in which he beheld the gigantic Anakim should be given to him for a possession, “because he had wholly followed Jehovah his God.” Accordingly, before the internal distribution of the territories was made to particular families, Caleb presented himself before the assembly, and reminded it of this promise. As he made this plea, he thankfully acknowledged that the Lord had, according to his word, kept him alive for forty-five years, while the generation to which he belonged had perished; and that now, although fourscore and five years old, he was as strong, and as able for council and war, as in that day when Moses sent him to explore the land. He added, that although the land promised him was again in the possession of the Anakim, * and the towns they held were very strong, he was confident that God would be with him, and enable him to drive them out, if the grant was confirmed.
The assembly, convinced of the justice of Caleb's claim, confirmed these possessions to him; and he succeeded, not only in expelling three chiefs of the Anakim who held possession of Hebron, but in obtaining the other strong town of Debir, which was upon the lands assigned to him.
A circumstance connected with the capture of Debir illustrates some of the customs of the time. Caleb caused it to be publicly known, that he would give his daughter Achsah in marriage to the man who should take this place for him. The enterprise was undertaken by Othniel, the son of Caleb's brother, who had, by custom, the best right to the hand of his cousin, and would have incurred disgrace if he had allowed her to be taken away by another.f Othniel succeeded, and received his reward.
By this free grant of Caleb, Achsah obtained some land. This land, however, was a south land, dry, and generally barren; whence she was not satisfied with her marriage portion. She advised her husband to ask for a field, probably some particular field which belonged to Caleb, and adjacent to the land already bestowed upon them. Othniel deemed it most prudent that Achsah should solicit the boon herself, she being most likely to prevail. Accordingly, Achsah took the opportunity, when her father brought her home to the house of her husband, to make this request. Alighting from her ass, in token of respect and reverence to her aged father, she gave him occasion to ask her what she wanted. Caleb, alive to the interests of his daughter, asked what she desired. Achsah replied, “ Give me a blessing," or, “ some gracious gift of land,”! 6 for thou hast given me a south land,” (a land barren and dry,) “ give me also springs of water.” Achsah gained her object. Her
* The gigantic Anakim in and about Hebron had been extirpated or expelled by the captain of Israel. Some of them, however, had sought a refuge in the country of the Philistines, and many of these, probably while the attention of Joshua was engaged in the affairs of the north, had re-established themselves in parts of their ancient seats.
+ This custom, the absolute right of a father to dispose of his daughter, or to propose her as the reward of some perilous enterprise, still exists in oriental countries.