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the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt, and serve ye the LORD.
And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house we will serve the LORD.”
Then the people burst out with their answer. “ God forbid that we should forsake the LORD, to serve other gods. . . . He is our God."
Then Joshua bade the people remember that the LORD is an holy God, and a jealous God, and that He would not bear with them if they were faithless, and turned away to serve false gods. And again the people said, “ Nay, but we will serve the Lord.”
So Joshua said unto the people, “Ye are witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen you Lord "
the LORD to serve Him.” And they said, “ We are witnesses."
Then Joshua made a covenant with the people, and wrote it in the Book of God's law; and set up a great stone as a pillar of witness, under an oak tree that stood near the sanctuary of the LORD, and he bade all the people remember that that stone was a witness against them, not to deny their God.
Joshua's work was ended when this was done. “ And behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth,” he said to the people, “and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spake concerning you."
Then Joshua died, being one hundred and ten years old; and the people buried him in that part of the land of Canaan which had been given him for his inheritance.
THE FIRST JUDGES OF ISRAEL.
AFTER Joshua's death, the people continued faithful for a while, as long as those elders lived who had known Joshua, and seen all that the LORD had done for the Israelites by his hand. But by degrees they began to neglect God's commands, and in different parts of the country they entered into leagues and made friends with the heathen people, instead of casting them out utterly, as God had ordered. Then the LORD sent one of His holy angels to
rebuke them, and he came to the people and reproached them with their disobedience, and told them how, because they had displeased GOD, He would cease to drive out their enemies from before them, and He would allow the heathen people to be as thorns in their sides, and their false gods as a snare unto them.
When the people heard the words of the Angel, they were very sorry, and lifted
their voice, and wept, and they offered sacrifices unto the LORD. But their repentance did not last long; the next generation that grew up forgot God and all the wonders He had wrought for their fathers. The heathen among whom they dwelt taught them their ways, and the people forsook the Lord, and worshipped the false gods of Canaan, Baal and Ashtaroth. God's anger came upon them for this, as He had said it would do ; and He did not fight with them any more, so that they were conquered by all their enemies. From time to time some one rose up among the people who led them back again towards their God, and He heard their groanings under their heathen oppressors, and came to help them; but then after awhile they fell back again, and “ceased not from
their own doings, nor from their stubborn way.” Then God said that He would no more drive out any of the nations from before them.
The persons by whose means God now led the children of Israel were called judges, because they judged and ruled the people, and for a time saved them from their enemies. The first of these judges was called Othniel. He was the nephew of Caleb, who had been so faithful to Joshua. For eight years the king of Mesopotamia had oppressed Israel, and the people cried unto the Lord in their trouble. He heard them, and sent forth His SPIRIT upon Othniel, and taught him how to lead the people, so as to conquer their enemies. When God fought with His people, they were certain to win the battle ; and so Othniel overthrew the king of Mesopotamia, and for forty years the children of Israel had rest.
However, when Othniel died, the people fell back to their sinful ways, and displeased the LORD; and soon Eglon, the king of Moab, got the mastery over them, and kept it for eighteen years. It seems strange to read of the children of Israel going on under Eglon's tyranny all those long years, when they had but to cry humbly to their God for help, and He, Whose
arm was not shortened that He could not save, was certain to help them.
When at length they cried to the LORD, He raised them up another deliverer, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, called Ehud, who killed the king of Moab, and gathering the Israelites into an army, led them to battle and quite subdued Moab. This time the people had eighty years' peace, before they had fresh troubles, and then Shamgar was sent to deliver them from the Philistines, who had again troubled them very sorely.
DEBORAH AND BARAK.
The next king that oppressed the Children of Israel, was Jabin, king of Canaan. He was a very mighty monarch, and had nine hundred chariots of iron. For twenty years Jabin treated the Israelites very cruelly, and at length in their misery they cried unto the Lord. As usual,
, the Lord heard and answered their prayer; and as if to show them that His Hand was powerful to help in whatever way He pleased, it was by a woman that He delivered them this time.
There was a Hebrew woman called Deborah,