The Fall of Jericho

For forty years the Israelites had wandered and sojourned in the wilderness, in its wastes of scorching sun by day, and bitter cold by night, and they had seen hard warfare. They had defeated Sihon, king of the Amorites, bearded men and hardy, and had slain him with all his host. They had invaded the land of Og, the King of Bashan, a monarch of mighty stature who ruled over sixty cities fenced with walls and with gates and bars, and whose throne was of wrought iron; and they had vanquished Balak and the five princes of Moab who had allied themselves with the tribesmen of Midian.

They burned their cities and destroyed their strongholds and captured a very great booty, with many thousands of sheep and oxen and asses. But hardships had been heavy upon them, and death had wasted them.

Of the grown men among them who had been upwards of twenty years of age when they crossed the Red Sea in their flight from Egypt, not one now remained alive. Many of them had been faithless or rebellious. They had died by the way, or had been slain in battle. But the youngest children, who with dream-ridden eyes had shared with their mothers and fathers in the first solemn midnight Feast of the Passover a whole lifetime ago, were now in the full vigour of manhood. And their own sons had grown up to be young men hardy and fearless. They too had suffered but had endured.

And Israel, though but a race of desert tribesmen, ill-armed and few in numbers by comparison with the great nations around them, from being little better than a cowed and unruly mob of fugitives, had become a doughty, resolute and disciplined people, fierce of spirit, implacable in battle, and under captains bold and valiant and skilled in war. They were now moreover a race united and at one; their hearts aflame with ardour for the one true God they worshipped, even though they could follow his will but stumblingly, and were aware of him but darkly and in part.

All Israel mourned for Moses thirty days, and when the days of their great mourning were over, they marched on from the mountainous region of Nebo and encamped about seven miles north-east of the mouth of the Jordan where it pours its waters into the Salt Sea. It is a region sere and sombre, and sunken lowest of any land on earth beneath the level of the oceans.

But about two days’ march beyond and westward of it stood the rich city of Jericho. Strongly fortified, it reared its massive walls amidst the plain, between the river and the mountains of Canaan. And on its downfall hung the conquest of all that lay beyond.

That day Joshua sent out two men, spies, with orders to make their way by stealth into the city and glean what knowledge they could of its power in men and arms and engines of war, and the strength of its defences. They disguised themselves, crossed over the Jordan by one of its fords, and pressed on across the burning plain until, after the heat of the day, they neared the bright oasis in the desert in which at the foot of its hills the city lay. Here were gardens wildly green and sweet to eyes parched with the weary sands of the wilderness. Groves of palms and cypresses, and bowers of green orange trees in bloom—there too, hedges of budded thorn and aromatic tamarisk, gourd and cucumber and fig, and plenteous vineyards. A stream of marvellous clear water gushed forth from its well-spring in the hills, to brim pools darting with fish, and the moat about the walls—thence to spend itself in a hundred channels, refreshing the gardens in the plain. And many birds made music by the waterside, for it was the hour of their evensong.

The two spies rested here, in hiding. Never even in their dreams had they looked out upon a paradise so fair. Verily Eden itself might once have been found here. Here then they lay until the sun had set behind the mountains, and the light of day had swiftly ebbed out of the heavens. And a little before nightfall they rose up and made their entry into the city by its eastern gate.

Already dark was down, and since the streets of the city would soon be deserted and any chance wayfarer might arouse suspicion, they knocked at the door of a house that seemed to be open to travellers, to seek lodging for the night. A woman named Rahab dwelt alone in this house, and she herself opened to

  By PanEris using Melati.

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