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20So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpets, they raised a great shout, and the wall fell down flat; so the people charged straight ahead into the city and captured it.

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20. So the people shouted, etc Here the people are praised for obedience, and the faithfulness of God is, at the same time, celebrated. They testified their fidelity by shouting, because they were persuaded, that what God had commanded would not be in vain, and he, in not allowing them to lose their labor, vindicated the truth of what he had said. Another virtue of not inferior value was displayed by the people, in despising unlawful gain, and cheerfully suffering the loss of all the plunder. For there cannot be a doubt, that in the minds of many the thought must have risen, For what end does God please to destroy all the wealth? Why does he envy us that which he has given into our hand? Why does he not rather gladden us by furnishing us with the materials of thanksgiving? Dismissing these considerations, which might have interfered with their duty, it was a proof of rare and excellent self-denial, voluntarily to cast away the spoils which were in their hands, and the wealth of a whole city.

The indiscriminate and promiscuous slaughter, making no distinction of age or sex, but including alike women and children, the aged and decrepit, might seem an inhuman massacre, had it not been executed by the command of God. But as he, in whose hands are life and death, had justly doomed those nations to destruction, this puts an end to all discussion. We may add, that they had been borne with for four hundred years, until their iniquity was complete. Who will now presume to complain of excessive rigor, after God had so long delayed to execute judgment? If any one object that children, at least, were still free from fault, it is easy to answer, that they perished justly, as the race was accursed and reprobated. Here then it ought always to be remembered, that it would have been barbarous and atrocious cruelty had the Israelites gratified their own lust and rage, in slaughtering mothers and their children, but that they are justly praised for their active piety and holy zeal, in executing the command of God, who was pleased in this way to purge the land of Canaan of the foul and loathsome defilement’s by which it had long been polluted. 6666     In confirmation of the views thus admirably expressed, it is not out of place to add those of the profoundest and most philosophical English theologians on the same subject. Bishop Butler, in his Analogy, Part 2, chapter 3, after saying that “it is that province of reason to judge of the morality of Scripture; i.e., not whether it contains things different from what we should have expected from a wise, just, and good Being — but whether it contains things plainly contradictory to wisdom, justice, or goodness; to what the light of nature teaches us of God,” continues thus: “I know nothing of this sort objected against Scripture, excepting such objections as are formed upon suppositions which would equally conclude, that the constitution of nature is contradictory to wisdom, justice, or goodness: which most certainly it is not. Indeed there are some particular precepts in Scripture, given to particular persons, requiring actions, which would be immoral or vicious, were it not for such precepts. But it is easy to see, that all these are of such a kind, as that the precept changes the whole nature of the case and of the action: and both constitutes and shows that not to be unjust or immoral, which, prior to the precept, must have appeared, and really have been so: which well may be, since none of these precepts are contrary to immutable morality. If it were commanded to cultivate the principles, and act from the spirit of treachery, ingratitude, cruelty; the command would not alter the nature of the case, or of the action, in any of these instances. But it is quite otherwise in precepts, which require only the doing an external action: for instance, taking away the property or life of any. For men have no right to either life or property, but what arises solely from the grant of God. When this grant is revoked, they cease to have any right at all in either: and when this revocation is made known, as surely it is possible it may be, it must cease to be unjust to deprive them of either. And though a course of external acts, which, without command, would be immoral, must make an immoral habit, yet a few detached commands have no such natural tendency. I thought proper to say thus much of the few Scripture precepts which require, not vicious actions, but actions which would have been vicious had it not been for such precepts: because they are sometimes weakly urged as immoral, and great weight is laid upon objections drawn from them. But to me there seems no difficulty at all in these precepts, but what arises from their being offences; i.e., from their being liable to be perverted, as, indeed, they are, by wicked designing men, to serve the most horrid purposes, and, perhaps, to mislead the weak and enthusiastic.” — Ed.