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Story of the Bible by  Jesse Lyman Hurlbut
Table of Contents


 

 

HOW THE RIVER JORDAN BECAME DRY, AND THE WALLS OF JERICHO FELL DOWN

Joshua iii: 1, to vi: 27

[190]

A FTER the two spies had come back from Jericho to the camp of Israel, Joshua commanded the people to take down their tents and remove from their camping place to the bank of the river Jordan. Then the priests took apart the Tabernacle, and covered the ark and all the furniture in the Holy Place; and ran the poles through the rings for carrying the altar, and made ready for leaving the camp. At the same time the people took down their tents, and rolled them up, and brought together their flocks and cattle, and stood ready to march.

Then Joshua gave the word, and they marched down toward the river, which was rolling high and strong in front of them. Joshua said:

"Let the priests carry the ark of the covenant in front, and let there be a space between it and the rest of the people of three thousand feet. Do not come nearer than that space to the ark."

And all the people stood still, wondering, while the ark was brought on the shoulders of the priests far out in front of the ranks of men, until it came down to the very edge of the water. They could not see the ark, for it was covered, but they knew that it was under its coverings on the shoulders of the priests.

Then said Joshua to the priests, "Now walk into the water of the river."

Then a most wonderful thing took place. As soon as the feet of the priests touched the water by the shore, the river above stopped flowing, and far away, up the river, they could see the water rising and piling up like a great heap. And below the place [191] where they were standing the water ran on, until it left a great place dry, and the stones on the river's bed were uncovered. Then, at Joshua's command, the priests carried the ark down to the middle of the dry bed of the river, and stood there with it on their shoulders.

And Joshua gave order to the people to march across the river. In front came the soldiers from Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, who had already received their homes on the east of the river, but were with the other tribes to help in the war (see Story 33). After them came all the other tribes, each by itself, until they had all passed over the river; and all this time the priests stood on the river's dry bed holding the ark.

Then Joshua called for twelve men, one man from each tribe; and he said to them:

"Go down into the river and bring up from it twelve stones, as large stones as you can carry, from the place where the priests are standing."

They did so; and with these stones Joshua made a stone-heap on the bank; and he said:

"Let this heap of stones stand here to keep in memory what has taken place to-day. When your children shall ask you, 'Why are these stones here?' you shall say to them, 'Because here the Lord God made the river dry before the ark of the covenant, so that the people could cross over into the land that God had promised to their fathers.' "

And Joshua told these twelve men to take also twelve other stones, and heap them up in the bed of the river where the priests stood, with the ark, so that these stones also might stand to remind all who should see them of God's wonderful help to his people.

When all this had been done, and the two heaps of stone had been piled up, one on the bank, the other in the bed of the river, Joshua said to the priests, "Come now up from the river, and bring the ark to the shore."

They did so; and then the waters began to flow down from above, until soon the river Jordan was rolling by as it had rolled before. So now at last the children of Israel were safely in the land which God had promised to their fathers more than five hundred years before.

They set up a new camp, with the Tabernacle in the middle, the altar before it, and the tents of the tribes around it in order. [192] The place of the camp was near the river, on the plain of Jordan, and was called Gilgal. And there the main camp of the Israelites was kept all the time that they were carrying on the war to win the land of Canaan.

When they came into the land, it was the time of the early harvest; and in the fields they found grain and barley in abundance. They gathered it, and ground it, and made bread of it; and some of it they roasted in the ear; and on that day the manna which God had sent them from the sky through forty years ceased to fall, now that it was needed no more. (See Story 24.)

There, in full view of the new camp, stood the strong walls of Jericho. Joshua went out to look at the city; and he saw a man all armed coming toward him. Joshua walked boldly up to the man, and said to him, "Are you on our side, or are you one of our enemies?"

And he said, "No; but as captain of the Lord's host have I come."

Then Joshua saw that he was the angel of the Lord; and as he bowed down before him, said, "What word has my Lord to his servant?"

And the captain of the Lord's host said to Joshua, "Take off your shoes from your feet, for it is holy ground where you are standing."

Joshua did so; for the one who was speaking to him was not merely an angel, but the Lord himself appearing as a man. And [193] the Lord said to Joshua, "I have given to you Jericho, and its king, and its mighty men of war; and I will destroy the city of Jericho before you."

Then the Lord told Joshua the way in which the city should be taken; and Joshua went back to the camp at Gilgal, and made ready to march as God commanded. During the next seven days all that was done was according to the word spoken by the Lord to Joshua.

They drew out the army as if to fight against the city. In front came the soldiers from the tribes on the east of the river. Then came a company of priests with trumpets made of rams' horns, which they blew long and loud. Then came the ark of the covenant, borne on the shoulders of the priests. And, last of all, came the host of Israel, marching in order. No one shouted, nor was any noise heard, except the sound of the rams'-horn trumpets. They marched around the walls of Jericho once on that day, and then all marched back to the camp.


[Illustration]

THE PRIESTS BLOWING THEIR HORNS

The next morning they all formed in the same order, and again marched around the walls of the city; and so they did again and again, marching once each day for six days.

On the seventh day, by God's command, they rose very early in the morning, and did not stop when they had marched around the walls once; but kept on marching round and round, until they had gone about the walls seven times. As they went by they saw at one window on the wall a scarlet cord hanging down; and they knew that this was the house of Rahab, who had saved the lives of the two spies.

When the seventh march was ended, they all stood still. Even the trumpets ceased, and there was a great silence for a moment, until the voice of Joshua rang out, "Shout, for the Lord has given you the city!"

Then a great shout went up from the host; and they looked at the wall, and saw that it was trembling, and shaking, and falling! It fell down flat at every place but one. There was one part of the wall left standing, where the scarlet cord was hanging from the window.

And Joshua said to the two spies, "Go and bring out Rahab and her family, and take them to a safe place."

They went into Rahab's house on the wall and brought her [194] out, and with her her father and mother, and all their family. They cared for them, and kept them safely in the camp of the Israelites until all the war against the people of the land was ended.

While some of the soldiers were taking care of Rahab, all the rest of the army was climbing up over the ruined wall. The people in the city were so filled with fear when they saw the walls falling down on every side, that they did not try to defend it, but sank down helpless and were slain or taken prisoners by the Israelites.

Thus the city was taken, with all that was within it. But the Israelites were forbidden to use for themselves any of the treasures in the city. Joshua said to them, "Nothing in this city belongs to you. It is the Lord's, and is to be destroyed as an offering to the Lord."

So they brought together all the gold, and silver, and precious things, and all that was in the houses. They took nothing for themselves, but kept the gold and silver and the things made of brass and iron for the Tabernacle. All the rest of what they found in the city they burned and destroyed, leaving of the city of Jericho nothing but a waste and a desolation. And Joshua said:

"Let the Lord's curse rest on any man who shall ever build again the city of Jericho. With the loss of his oldest born shall he lay its foundation, and with the loss of his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it."

After this Rahab, the woman who had saved the spies, was taken among the people of Israel just as though she had been an Israelite born. And one of the nobles of the tribe of Judah, whose name was Salmon, took her for his wife. And from her line of descendants, of those who came from her, many years after this, was born David the king. She was saved and blessed, because she had faith in the God of Israel.


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