The Story of Joshua and Jephthah

When Moses died, Joshua took charge of the children of Israel, and sought to do God’s will, as Moses had done. And Joshua sent word through the camp that in three days they would cross the Jordan. And when they set foot in the stream the waves stood back as they did in the Red Sea, and they went through Jordan on dry ground. And as they came up out of the stream the waves closed up and there was no pathway through them.

The children of Israel made their camp at a place called Gilgal; and as there was no lack of food in this good land, the Lord ceased to rain down manna for them to eat.

The next day Joshua left the camp and came near to the walls of Jericho. There he met a man with a drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua said, Art thou for us or for our foes?

And the man said, As prince of the Lord’s host am I now come. And at these words Joshua fell on his face to the earth; for he knew it was the Lord that spoke to him.

The Lord told Joshua to have no fear of the king of Jericho, for the children of Israel should take the town. All their men of war were to march round the town once each day for six days. Some of the priests were to bear the ark, which held the things they made use of when they went in to talk with God, and some were to blow on rams’ horns.

And the next day—when the six days were at an end—they were to march round the town seven times, and the priests were to blow their horns. And when the men of Israel heard a long loud blast they were all to give a great shout and the wall would fall flat to the ground, and they could march in and take the town.

Joshua bade his men do all the Lord had said; and told them to make no noise with their voice as they went their rounds till he bade them shout. And when the priests blew their horns for the last time, Joshua cried, Shout! for the Lord is with us! and there was a great shout and the wall fell, and they took the town; and the fame of Joshua spread through all the lands.

Joshua fought with more than a score of kings and won their lands from them; but yet there was much land in Canaan for which the children of Israel would have to fight.

But as the years went on, Joshua grew so old that he could not lead his men to war as he used to do. And he called his flock to him and told them how good the Lord had been to them. And he bade them love the Lord and serve him, and put from them all strange gods. He said, Choose ye this day whom ye will serve; but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.

And the men said, The Lord hath done great things for us, and him will we serve, for he is our God.

And Joshua took a great stone and set it up ‘neath an oak tree that stood near where the ark was kept at Shiloh. And this stone, he said, was to be a sign of the vow they had made there to serve the Lord. And when the talk was at an end, the men went to their own homes.

And ere long Joshua died. And they laid him in the part of the land that God gave him as his own, on the north side of the hill of Gaash.

Then the children of Israel went to war with the tribes that were in the land of Canaan, as Joshua had told them to do. But they did not drive them all out, as they should have done, but made friends with those that were left, and were led into sin, and were made to serve as bondslaves. And when they were sick of their sins, and sought the help of the Lord, he sent men to rule them, and to lead them out to war and set them free from these friends who proved to be the worst kind of foes.

Now there was a man in Israel whose name was Jephthah. He was a brave man, and had done great deeds, but the children of Israel were not kind to him, so he fled from their land, and went to live in the land of Tob. But when the Jews had need of a man to lead them out to war, they thought of Jephthah. And they said, Come, and be at the head of us when we go out to fight the Ammonites.

And Jephthah said, If I go with you, and win the fight, will you make me judge in Israel?

And they said they would.

Now ere the fight took place, Jephthah made a vow that if the Lord would let him win he would give to God—that is, would slay and burn as if it were a lamb—the first who came out of his doors to meet him when he went back to his home.

Jephthah should not have made this rash vow, and need not have kept it if he had asked God to forgive the sin.

He went out to fight the Ammonites, and by the help of the Lord the children of Israel were set free from them.

When the fight was at an end Jephthah went back to his home, and the first to come out to meet him was his own child, a fair young maid, whose face was bright with joy. She was all the child that Jephthah had, and when he saw her he rent his clothes and told her of the vow he had made.

And she said, My father, if thou hast made a vow to the Lord, do with me as thou hast said. And he took his child and did to her as he had said he would, and all the young girls in Israel wept for her.

Jephthah was a judge for six years, and then he died.

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