Life And Writings Of Sulpitius Severus by Sulpitius Severus
Chapter XXIV. After the death of Joshua, the people acted without a leader.à
After the death of Joshua, the people acted without a leader. But a necessity of making war with the Canaanites having arisen, Judah was appointed as general in the war. Under his guidance, matters were successfully conducted: there was the greatest tranquillity both at home and abroad: the people ruled over the nations which had either been subdued or received under terms of surrender. Then, as almost always happens in a time of prosperity, becoming unmindful of morals and discipline, they began to contract marriages from among the conquered, and by and by to adopt foreign customs, yea, even in a sacrilegious manner to offer sacrifice to idols: so pernicious is all alliance with foreigners. God, foreseeing these things long before, had, by a wholesome precept enjoined upon the Hebrews to give over the conquered nations to utter destruction. But the people, through lust for power, preferred (to their own ruin) to rule over those who were conquered. Accordingly, when, forsaking God, they worshiped idols, they were deprived of the divine assistance, and, being vanquished and subdued by the king of Mesopotamia, they paid the penalty of eight years' captivity, until, with Gothoniel as their leader, they were restored to liberty, and enjoyed independence for fifty years. Then again, corrupted by the evil effect of a lengthened peace, they began to sacrifice to idols. And speedily did retribution fall upon them thus sinning. Conquered by Eglon, king of the Moabites, they served him eighteen years, until, by a divine impulse, Aod slew the enemies' king by a stratagem, and, gathering together a hasty army, restored them to liberty by force of arms. The same man ruled the Hebrews in peace for forty years. To him Semigar succeeded, and he, engaging in battle with the Philistines, secured a decisive victory. But again, the king of the Canaanites, Jabin by name, subdued the Hebrews who were once more serving idols, and exercised over them a grievous tyranny for twenty years, until Deborah, a woman, restored them to their former condition. They had to such a degree lost confidence in their generals, that they were now protected by means of a woman. But it is worthy of notice, that this form of deliverance was arranged beforehand, as a type of the Church, by whose aid captivity to the devil is escaped. The Hebrews were forty years under this leader or judge. And being again delivered over to the Midianites for their sins, they were kept under hard rule; and, being afflicted by the evils of slavery, they implored the divine help. Thus always when in prosperity they were unmindful of the kindnesses of heaven, and prayed to idols; but in adversity they cried to God. Wherefore, as often as I reflect that those people who lay under so many obligations to the goodness of God, being chastised with so many disasters when they sinned, and experiencing both the mercy and the severity of God, yet were by no means rendered better, and that, though they always obtained pardon for their transgressions, yet they as constantly sinned again after being pardoned, it can appear nothing wonderful that Christ when he came was not received by them, since already, from the beginning, they were found so often rebelling against the Lord. It is, in fact, far more wonderful that the clemency of God never failed them when they sinned, if only they called upon his name.