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was made by a wholesale, systematic, simultaneous inva-
sion 1 by all the Hebrew clans together. The Canaanites
were no doubt divided by their political genius and their
long habit of segregation in their walled cities. But any

1 Stacle, GVI. p. 116 ff., 132 ff., while denying on critical grounds
the whole story of the military operations of Israel east of the Jordan,
tries to show how the Hebrews became an agricultural people in that
region, and then, through an increase of the population beyond the
nourishing capacity of the country, migrated by detachments into Western
Palestine. Wellhausen, the leader of his school, shows more historical
insight (see Skizzen, etc., p. 7 and 14 ; and IJG. p. 14 f.). Stade's theory
of the occupation is fully disproved by G. A. Smith, HG. p. 659 ff. ;
cf. 274 ff.


considerable section of them was still strong enough to
beat back a divided Israel, in spite of their losses through
former invasions (§ 166 f.). (3) The Biblical story of the
Exodus, the attempt on Southern Palestine, the desert
marching, the attack from the east, the line of invasion,
and the method of the conquest, is the only account that
has come down to us of a unique event otherwise inexpli-
cable. But, what is of equal importance, the main con-
verging lines of the tradition harmonize with one another,
and the essential elements of the whole representation
are mutually consistent. If Israel's survival of the long-
Egyptian residence, the Exodus, the leadership of a great
commander and organizer, the occupation of Canaan itself,
are indisputable matters of history, then all of the material
facts that set forth the successive stages in the action are
not only natural, but we may even say necessary.

§ 474. We may now pass on to a consideration of the
process of settlement and of the ways in which the new
settlers grew and changed in their permanent home. A
glance at the code of laws contained in Ex. xx.-xxiii., com-
monly called the " Book of the Covenant," reveals the
fact that it was intended for a people who had advanced
beyond, but not very far beyond, the pastoral stage. Cities
are never once alluded to directly,^ and there is not a
single statute which necessarily has to do with conditions
of life in walled towns. On the other hand, most of the
enactments refer expressly to agricultural conditions, and
most of the remainder imply them. The direct explana-
tion of the phenomenon is obvious. The Hebrews for a
long while after the jjeneral invasion did not inhabit
cities, at least not in large bodies. Of those which the}'

1 In the fourth commandment of the Decalogue (Ex. xx. 10), the
phrase "thy client (f/er) that is within thy gates" is quite exceptional and
is supposed by some to be of Deutcronomic origin. Notice that in the
passage (Ex. xxi. 18) referring to an asylum for the innocent manslayer,
the word "place" is used, and not the term "city" of refuge, which is
the form used in Deuteronomy and tlie priestly code.


early succeeded in conquering, they occupied at first but
few. One reason, therefore, is connected with the usage
and policy of victorious invaders generally. As a rule,
an alternative was struck between two entirely different
kinds of treatment. When an enemj^ was rebellious, ex-
cessively turbulent, and permanently dangerous, his cities
would be destroyed. But the ordinary principle was to
put the peoples holding the cities under tribute. By this
means they became a source of profit to the new occupants
of the land, who also had in view their ultimate amalga-
mation, and the consequent strengthening of the dominant
people. After a conquest was effected in any district, it
was not so difficult as might be supposed to keep the
Canaanites tributary, since (§ 37 ; cf. § 35) they were ac-
customed to live in small, isolated communities. Thus
they were in many instances allowed to continue their old
manner of life, though the towns themselves were invested
by a sufficient garrison (2 Sam. viii. 6, 14) ^ to keep order
and prevent conspiracy or revolt.

S 475. Aofain, the Hebrews did not as a rule live in
the conquered cities during the earlier stages of the
settlement, because they were not at all adapted or
inclined to such a life. There were among them few of
the commercial or industrial class. What they preferred
to do was to occup}' plantations and estates, once the
property of the people of the land, and have them worked
by their slaves, most of whom were naturall}' subjugated
Canaanites. Vineyards, olive yards, barley and wheat
fields, were found ready at hand. For the cattle which
they brought with them pasture was available ; nor was it
necessary to turn mau}^ of them to agricultural uses, since
the oxen and the asses and the sheep of their serfs became
their property along with the former owners. The promi-
nence of these animals as valuable possessions in the earli-
est legislation is very noticeable. Equally remarkable is

1 As was done by the Philistines among the Hebrews themselves, 1 Sam.
xiv. 1 ff.


the absence of all mention of the horse and the camel. Not
that these animals were not familiar to the residents of
Canaan. The camel was an indispensable means of com-
munication with the desert and the lands beyond. The
horse was, to be sure, not used by the Hebrews in agri-
culture in the earlier times, ^ nor yet for riding, probably
not even for war. Yet we cannot suppose it to liave
been entirely discarded in Canaan, where it had been in
vogue for military purposes since the Egyptian times.
The point to be noticed is that all other animals than the
ox, the ass, and the sheep were irrelevant to the juris-
prudence of a society which was so purely agricultural.
Other indications of the sphere of application of this body
of laws are the statutes relating to the protection (xxii. 5 f .)
and cultivation (xxiii. 10 ff.) of fields and vineyards, to the
law of the first-fruits, and to that of the three great feasts.
But, indeed, surviving features of the pastoral life so
slowly abandoned are everywhere apparent. Cattle are
not only of practical service ; they constitute, also, the
chief capital or chattels. Justice is to be carried on
according to the elementary principles of retaliation and
compensation. " Personal injuries fall under the law of
retaliation, just as murder does. The principle of retalia-
tion is conceived as legitimate vengeance (xxi. 20, 21,
margin'). Except in this form there is no punishment,
but only compensation." ^

§ 476. Enough has been said to indicate at least the
general condition of the people for many decades after
the settlement. Broadly speaking, this semi-pastoral,
semi-agricultural type of society prevailed throughout
the period of the Judges. It was inevitable that it
should be so. Not one generation or two could convert
a race of cattle-tenders into tradesmen, or dwellers in

1 Isa. xxviii. 28, however, refers to long-established usages. It has
been suspected that the reading is wrong, because the term used is the
one employed for chariot-horses.

2 W. R. Smith, OTJC. 1st ed. p. 336 ; of. 2d ed. p. 340 f.


tents into builders of cities. The whole atmosphere of
the contemporary records is redolent of the life of shep-
herds and husbandmen. The song of Deborah and the
book of Ruth represent the same social conditions all
the more vividly from their poetic and idyllic character.
The leading men up to the new era under David were
men of the country or inhabitants of villages. David
himself was the last of that renowned order of nobility.
It is the land-holder with his retinue of " servants " who
is the representative man in this democracy, the man of
force and worth. ^ How different it became under the
rule of the Kings, when this same land-owner, the first
among his equals, became a peer in the new order of
nobility ! He speedily developed into the grasping, oppres-
sive land-grabber, having his residence in the city, reduc-
ing the small peasant proprietor to serfdom, and by this
inversion of the natural order of things in Israel subvert-
ing the foundations of the state.

§ 477. Clearness of conception on these points is essen-
tial. No sudden revolution was accomplished in the man-
ners and habits of Israel by their change of residence.
To adapt a figure of Victor Hugo,^ the curve of the tran-
sition was never so much increased as that progress was
thereby checked. The most outstanding fact has been
already referred to (§ 474), but it needs further eluci-
dation. Life in large and powerful cities was almost
unknown to the Hebrews till the kingly era, though the
necessity of gathering-places and walled towns early made

1 The Hebrew word for wealth ('?''n) is the same as that for capacity
and moral worth. Hence the two notions are often combined in descrip-
tions of men or types of character. It is noticeable tliat tlie magistrates
who were to be appointed according to Ex. xviii. (§ 455) were to be men
of this double qualification (v. 21, 25). A man proved his worth by his
possessions (cf. Job). It was only in the later times of changed social
conditions that poverty and affliction were esteemed as compatible with
moral excellence. This should be borne in mind in connection with the
relative ages of several compositions of disputed date (cf . § G05) .

2 Les Miserables , Part IV, Book I, ch. ii.


itself felt (§ 483 f., 501). This a^Dpears plainly enough
from the historical notices. We are familiar with Shiloh,
Bethel, Gilgal, Ramah, Gibeah. These are among the
places mentioned in Judges and Samuel as the scenes
of activity or centres of influences. They are all at best
insignificant towns. They were defended by walls and
gates, as a matter of course, but they were not the his-
torical fortresses known to us from the annals of Thoth-
mes III (§ 145), the El Amarna tablets (§ 152), the
monuments of Ramses 11 (§ 163), or even those detailed
in the lists of Joshua and Judges. Those cities that were
overcome by the Hebrews in the combined onslaught of
the first stage of the invasion we must assume to have
been only slowly rebuilt. With those that remained,
intermittent war of the guerilla sort was waged, with
the result that many of them became finally tributary
(Jud. i. 28 ff.), and the rest were not subdued at all
till the era of the monarchy. Shechem plays a prominent
r81e ; but it was then a Canaanitish town. Most of the
cities of Canaan were really made over again. Those that
were destroyed were renewed in outward form. Those
that survived were transformed in the character of their
population. There was but one way for the Hebrews to
fulfil their destin}', and that was to conform to it. Even
the cities which they found ready made they could not at
first utilize. The Hebrew city, no less than the Canaanitic,
was an institution, an affair of growth and development.
Even the gate of the elders (Ruth iv. 1 f.), the nucleus
of the city, was irrelevant to the Hebrew society of the
earlier years of the occupation. The council must still
be held before the tent of the tribal or family chief. No
doubt new forms of social integration were speedily mani-
fested. Small communities began to crystallize, especially
around business and religious centres, and thus the new
was blended with the old in the civic life of Israel.

§ 478. The political progress of the Hebrews at the
end of the first half-century may be roughly indicated.


Northern and Central Palestine were still more fully taken
up by the new settlers than was the south country (§ 186
ff.). Many of the larger fortresses (on elevated points)
were still held by the Canaan ites. The valleys were
mainly but not exclusively (Jud. i. 19) occupied and
cultivated by the newcomers. The importance of this
circumstance is plain. If Israel is, on the whole, stronger
than Canaan, the latter may be more isolated than ever
before. For the command of the lowlands and the ravines
makes communication easy on every side. The native
fortresses are being surrounded by a network of hostile
forces, which is drawn closer and tighter till political life
and movement are stilled. But the process is long, and
here and there a strong and ancient fortress like Jeru-
salem is able to hold out and command the surrounding
district, even till the time of David, the restorer of Israel
and the final conqueror of Canaan. The length of the
task of subjugation attests its slowness and difficulty.
It is, indeed, plain that no combined effort could be made
to dislodge Israel after the days of Joshua. But many
a time did the beleaguered Canaanites swoop down upon
the Hebrew settlements, harassed as these often were by
outside foes.

§ 479. Scanty reminiscences flash out now and then
an illuminating gleam over the obscurity of the period.
Particularly suggestive is the episode of Shamgar.
According to the Song of Deborah (Jud. v. 6) the
Hebrews of Central Palestine were, in his time, sorely
pressed. "The highways were unused," because the
Canaanites had taken advantage of the losses inflicted in
the recent invasion by Moab to lie in wait for travellers
and messengers, shepherds and field-labourers, and thus
to cut off communication between the settlements of
Israel. Manifestly numerous formidable castles and
fortresses were still manned by Canaanites about 1100
B.C., "so the wayfarers used to walk by circuitous paths."
A sudden raid by the Philistines is announced. They


broke into the plain of Megiddo by the well-frequented
route upon which they were often later to march. We
are simply told (Jud. iii. 31) that " Shamgar, the son of
Anath, smote of the Philistines six hundred men with
ox-goads." But how instructive is the picture! A hasty
levy brings out a band of sturdy shepherds. These are
not the only warriors of Israel; but they are the surest
and readiest. The kernel of the nation is still pastoral !
Spears and perhaps a few swords (§ 514) are to be had
elsewhere. But to this old chief and his men the accus-
tomed weapons are nearest at hand, and wielded by them
they are sufficient. The Philistines are beaten back.
But a more desperate foe is preparing a more formidable
array. The last great struggle is to be waged for the
possession of the fairest and most coveted portion of
Palestine. Israel has, by dint of long and gradual
aggression, gained the richest districts on the southern
side of the valley of Jezreel, and in the fertile plain itself.
Naphtali and Zebulon are encroaching slowly and surely
upon the Canaanitic reserves to the west of the Lake
of Galilee. The time is favourable for retrieval and
revenge. Israel is disunited. The tribes have ceased
to act in common. In any case they cannot communicate
with one another. " The peasantry are no more, they are
no more" (v. 7). On whom should Israel rely? A chief
and chieftainess arise. The covenant at Sinai has still
its power to bind the people of Jehovah. Deborah, the
chieftainess, is also a "prophetess" (cf. § 423). She
knows the secret of Israel's strength: unity in a common
devotion to Jehovah. She inspires the general, Barak,
not merely with her zeal against the enemy, but with her
faith in Jehovah. In spite of the "circuitous ways" the
leaders of the clans are reached. All Israel is once more
aroused, though all do not respond. The battle is fought
on the banks of the famous "old river Kishon " (v. 21).
Again the victory is with Israel, though again the people
are short of weapons.


§ 480. It is plain that we have arrived here at a criti-
cal point. With this last general struggle against the
Canaanites Israel stood at the parting of the ways, relig-
iously, politically, and socially. No wonder that a great
national ode was now sung and forever preserved! The
old tribal brotherhood was breaking up, and Israel could
not present a united front against its foes till a century
of disintegration and readjustment had passed. This
was the last great gathering of the clans. Hitherto three
powerful motives had kept together, in emergencies at
least, the dominant central tribes.^ These were fidelity
to Jehovah, the need of common action against the
Canaanites, and the tribal organization. For political
and social advantage the last is the most potent of
the three. Religion, the first motive, is at bottom a
personal matter. Its outward expression in ancient
society — ceremonj^ ritual, sacrifice — is, no doubt, the
strongest uniting bond, the fundamental basis, and the
enduring symbol of corporate fellowship. But when
external influences intervene to prevent common worship
on more than a local scale, when new modes of life
supervene upon and gradually supplant the old, then the
religious feeling more easily finds satisfaction with a
shorter pilgrimage, at a nearer shrine, with new fellow-
worshippers, it may be, or even Avith unaccustomed or
modified rites. So was it with Israel after a few decades
of the new conditions of life in Canaan.

§ 481. This was one of the main reasons why a single
central sanctuary was prescribed, a requirement which
thus had a strong political as well as moral justification.
But it is easy to see how difficult it then was of realiza-
tion. And without this centralization of worship, a
common faith in Jehovah, which was the main inspiration
of national feeling, could not be maintained. We may
put the case briefly. Trust in the God of Israel had

1 In Barak's army were represented Zebulon, Naphtali, Issachar,
Mauasseli, Epliraim, Benjamin.


brought the tribes together to the borders of Canaan. It
had made their first attacks successful. It had kept
them united, at least in the decisive struggles, until the
power of the Canaanites was broken. But it failed as a
common impulse against the divisive forces which hence-
forth prevailed until the new monarchical principle
brought the people together once more under new condi-
tions. We may observe, moreover, that the worship of
Jehovah ceased to be an enthusiastic, inspiring, national
sentiment, not merely because of the development of local
interests leading to the establishment of local assemblies,
or because of the distracting effect of subsequent attacks
here and there on the borders of Israel and actual devas-
tations of its territor}-; but, above all, because of the
disturbing and deteriorating influences of the Canaanitic
worship itself.

§ 482. It may be remarked, further, that it was the
influence of the cities that was most strongl}- felt in this
direction.^ Hebrew society in Canaan was purer and
freer in its original seats among the pastures and the
plantations. The cities, which remained so largely
Canaanitic in population, if not always in allegiance,
became ever more and more a menace to the worship and
a snare to the worshippers of Jehovah. Thus we see that
the same tendencies which made for social disintegration
and the relaxing of the tribal bonds, promoted also relig-
ious degeneration, infidelit}', and consequent disunion.
And so we find all the three motives to united action
and sentiment simultaneously weakened and corrupted.

^ Thus we find that instances of idolatry are mentioned in connection
with cities. For example tlie altar of Ba'al, nnder the immediate protec-
tion of the father of Gideon, has as its defenders "the men of the city"
(Jud. vi. 27 ff.). It was the Ba'al of the city of Shechem that seduced the
neighbouring Hebrews after the death of Gideon (Jud. viii. 3o ; cf. ix.
4(5). The same thing is true of the practice of gross licentiousness. For
instance, it is in the town of Gibeah of Benjamin that those deeds were
wrought which aroxised the Hebrew tribes to a sense of the awful degenera-
tion of morals brought about by association with the Canaanites (Jud. xix.).


§ 483. We ma}^ say, broadly speaking, that it was
the effort to adjust itself to the needs and obligations of
life in cities that brought about the disruption of Hebrew
society as a necessary step towards its reorganization in
higher and more efficient forms. It is not difficult to
draw an outline sketch of the elementary community
which is typical of this intermediate stage. How the
Semitic city of the ancient time was founded, how it
grew, how it was constituted, and how it was governed
we have already seen (§31 ff.). These more outward
aspects may now be supplemented by an account of its
inner life and movement. It is often said that Oriental
manners do not change, and that a modern Eastern town
offers a good representation of an ancient city of Pales-
tine. There is much that is true in the suggestion, but
much also that is misleading. Every great period in the
history of every race of mankind impresses its own dis-
tinctive symbolism of outward expression, not merely
upon the figures and faces of men, but also upon all the
works of their hands, their habitations, and their whole
mechanical environment. In all the products of human
action there are marks of life and thought and, therefore,
also the conditions of variation as well as of perpetua-
tion of form and type. National character is depicted in
the construction of houses, the style of their furniture,
and in the products of the useful arts generally, as well
as in the physical movement, the address, and the social
bearing- of the men of the time.

§ 484. Such features of the special life of the Hebrew
city we cannot wholly reproduce. But of some matters
of interest we may be reasonably sure. We may say, for
example, that, except for purposes of war or training for
war, or of tribal or national feasts and religious pilgrim-
ages, the city was the exclusive gathering-point of its
own proper community. As city or village life grew
more and more, the family at the one extreme, and the
tribe or even the clan at the other, grew less and less.


The residents of a city might possibly be all or nearly all
of the same tribe ; they would hardly be all of the same
clan, or of the same kin or family group (1 Sam. xx. 6).
Tlieir religious services, except upon great occasions,
would be held more and more apart. Their work,
whether commercial or industrial, would become greatly
more specialized. New guilds of tradesmen would be
added in the larger cities, such as makers of agricultural
implements, carpenters, bricklayers, stonecutters. Hand-
mills became the property of nearly every house, but often
the larger mills, turned by asses, were used for whole
neighbourhoods. Husbandmen, before almost unknown,
were now the prevailing type of labouring men. These
branched off into several classes. The raising of cereals
and of flax and hemp now divided the interests of the
bulk of the people with the rearing and tending of cattle.
Besides, there was the care of the vine, the fig, and the
olive, which represented so largely the productiveness of
Palestine. The smiths and founders, the potters and
weavers, to keep pace with the demands of the new com-
plex society, now developed into artists and designers.
The stationary forge, the wheel, and the loom became the
training schools for the ingenuous youth who, in the freer,
simpler times, had no apprenticeship to works of skill save
in the school of the bow, the sling, and the lance.

§ 485. It is manifest that by the operation of such
tendencies Hebrew society was gradually but surely
undergoing a revolution. The change from tribal to
civic life was, socially, far more radical and distinctive
than the movement which later brought about the mon-
archy. The latter altered the external aspect of the state
by giving a common direction and purpose to a number
of communities otherwise incapable of united action.
But the former Avas an internal revolution. It created
the communities themselves, and determined forever the
prevailing type of the social life of Israel. In tr3'ing to
apprehend this transformation we have been specially con-


cerned with the occasions and forms of the new mode of
life in cities. We may now summarily complete this
portion of our survey by pointing out how the processes
by which the new type of society was evolved brougfit
about, in spite of their benefits, a state of things little

Online LibraryJames Frederick McCurdyHistory, prophecy and the monuments (Volume 2) → online text (page 12 of 39)