So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD said to Moses…
These words bring us a grateful sense of relief. We are weary of reading the long catalogue of bloody victories - how of one city after another it is said, "They smote all the souls that were therein with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them; there was not anything left to breathe." We are ready to say with the Prophet, "O thou sword of the Lord, how long will it be ere thou be quiet?" (Jeremiah 47:6). If it were not for our conviction that an all wise and righteous Divine purpose determined all this (Carlyle's distinction between the "surgery" of God's judgments and "atrocious murder"), we should turn with loathing from the sickening tale of slaughter. Certain thoughts about war are suggested.
I. THE CAUSES OF WAR. The baser passions of human nature are the sources from which it always more or less directly springs. These are the root of all its practical wickednesses. "Whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?" (James 4:1). Vain ambition, the desire for territorial aggrandizement, the thirst for power, jealousy, revenge, etc. - these are the demons that kindle its destructive fires. Other and more plausible motives are but the false veil that hides their hatefulness. There is no real exception. Self defence is no doubt an imperious instinct of nature, and there are interests (liberties, sanctities of social life, principles of eternal righteousness) which it may often be a noble thing for a nation, even by utmost force of arms to guard. But there would be no need to defend if there were no lawless lust or cruel wrong to endanger them. These "wars of the Lord" are no exception to the rule. They were waged by the Divine command, but their cause lay in the moral evil that cursed the land - those foul iniquities which, to the view of Infinite Wisdom, could be wiped out only by such a baptism of blood.
II. THE MISERIES OF WAR. It is the very symbol of almost all the woes of which human nature is capable, and that can darken with their shadow the field of human life.
(1) The frenzy of malignant passions,
(2) physical suffering,
(3) the cruel rending of natural ties,
(4) the arrest of beneficent industries,
(5) the imposition of oppressive burdens,
(6) the increase of the means and instruments of tyranny.
These are some of the calamities that follow in the track of wax. Their sadness and bitterness cannot be exaggerated.
III. THE POSSIBLE BENEDICTIONS OF WAR. It is a marvellous proof of the Divine beneficence that reigns supreme over all human affairs that even this deadly evil has something like a fair side to it, and is not unmixed with good.
(1) It developes certain noble qualities of character - self reliance, self control, resolution, fortitude, mastery of adverse circumstances, etc.; so much so that men have been led to look upon the experience of great wars as essential to the vigorous life of nation, necessary to save it from the lethargy of moral indifference and the enervating influence of self indulgence. We may give due weight to those heroic qualities that war calls forth, and yet feel that they in no way counterbalance the crimes and horrors that attend it.
(2) It prepares the way for new and better conditions. As storms clear the air, as a great conflagration in the city destroys its dens of shameful vice and loathsome disease, so wars which dislocate the whole frame of society, and let loose lawless passions, and inflict unspeakable miseries, do, nevertheless, often bring about healthier conditions of national life, and clear the ground for the spread of truth and righteousness. God" makes the wrath of man to praise him," though in itself it "worketh not his righteousness." And when the land rests from war there often arises a benign power of restoration that soon changes the face of things
"softening and concealing,
And busy with its hand in healing,"
the rents and ravages the sweep of the destroyer may have made.
IV. THE CURE FOR WAR. There is no cure but that which is supplied by the redeeming influence of the Prince of Peace.
(1) It will uproot and destroy those hidden evils in the heart of man from which all war arises, substituting for them that "love which worketh no ill to his neighbour."
(2) It will turn those energies of our nature to which war gives a false and fatal impetus into worthier directions, enlisting them in a purely moral conflict with the abounding evils of the world (2 Corinthians 10:4, 5; Ephesians 6:12-18). - W.
Parallel VersesKJV: So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD said unto Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance unto Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. And the land rested from war.
WEB: So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that Yahweh spoke to Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. The land had rest from war.