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Charles Foster Kent
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 125 pages of information about The Making of a Nation.

This type of political organization favored the growth of polytheism rather than the worship of one god.  Each city had its local god or baal, which was worshipped at a high place either within the city or on some adjacent height, while in the larger cities elaborate altars and temples were reared to them.  These local deities were regarded as the gods of fertility which gave to their worshippers ample harvests and numerous offspring both of the family and of the nock.  The principle of generation occupied such a prominent place in the Canaanite cults that in time they became exceedingly immoral and debasing.  To secure the favor of their gods the Canaanites brought rich sacrifices to their altars and observed certain great annual festivals with ceremonies very similar to those later adopted by the Hebrews.

While the Canaanites were on a much higher plane of material civilization than the Hebrews, they ultimately fell a prey to those hardy invaders of the desert:  (1) Because they were incapable of strong united action, and (2) because their civilization was corrupt and enervating.  Courage and real patriotism were almost unknown to them even as early as the seventeenth century B.C., when the Egyptian king Thutmose III invaded the land of Palestine.  Their strong walls and their superior military equipment, however, made their immediate conquest by the Hebrews impossible.  This explains why the earliest account of the initial conquest, now found in Judges 1, is chiefly devoted to recounting the strong Canaanite cities which the Hebrews failed to conquer.

III.

THE CAPTURE OF THE OUTPOSTS OF PALESTINE.

In the light of our present knowledge of the Canaanite civilization it becomes evident why most of the early Hebrew conquests were in the south.  The only large Canaanite city which they could conquer in the early days was Jericho.  Recent excavations have also shown why later generations regarded its capture by the Hebrews as a miracle, although many modern interpreters hold that the early account does not imply that it was by supernatural means.  Like most of the Canaanite cities, it was situated on a slightly rising eminence, close to the foothills that on the west rose abruptly to the central plateau of Canaan.  Northward, eastward, and southward, extended for miles the level plain of the Jordan river, which plowed its way through its alluvial bed, six miles east of Jericho.  Close by the site of the ancient city came the perennial waters of the Wady Kelt with which it was possible to irrigate its fields.  Past the town ran the main highway from across the Jordan, along the northern side of the Wady Kelt, to join the great central highway that extended through the centre of Palestine.  Jericho was, therefore, the key to the land of Canaan, and its capture was necessary if the Hebrews were to maintain their connection with their kinsmen east of the Jordan.

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