Old Testament History

By Henry Preserved Smith | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
THE CONQUEST

ACCORDING to the Pentateuch, Israel made an attempt upon Canaan from the south and were repulsed, whereupon they made the circuit of Edom, took possession of Gilead and Bashan, and entered Canaan by the Jordan valley at Jericho. Although we hear of the repulse on the southern border, we know that Judah was in part made up from clans which always had their seat in that region. We suspect, therefore, that the circuit of Edom is a device of the narrator to unite two discordant traditions. In fact it is clear on reflection that the attack of Israel on the coveted land was made at more than one point, and that it was repeated with varying success a number of times before their footing was secure. The clans settled at Kadesh were only a minute fragment of what afterward became the people of Israel.

Palestine is so situated that it has been the scene of almost continuous conflict from the earliest times. Lying between Egypt and the great Asiatic empires it was an object of desire to both its more powerful neighbours. Almost more constant is the menace of the Bedawin on its south and east. Arabia has always produced more men than it can nourish. Perhaps in no part of the world is the population so constantly on the verge of starvation. The Bedawy is at the end of the year just where he was at the beginning of the year. Nine months of the twelve the milk of his flocks has barely sufficed to keep him alive. That such a people live in a chronic state of warfare is natural. The cultivated country on the border of which they dwell is the constant object of their desire. History shows their steady pressure toward this goal. Two streams of migration have issued from Arabia from time immemorial. One proceeds northward from the Hejaz and threatens Palestine directly. The other strikes eastward and impinges upon the kingdoms of the Euphrates valley. But as these kingdoms have usually been well organised, this second stream has worked its way northward until it meets

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