Disregarding God’s Warnings Brings Calamity
WHEN God gives a warning it is not without reason, nor is it done merely to show his authority. It is always for the personal benefit of all who hear. It will save them from grave and costly mistakes. Before the nation of Israel entered the Promised Land, God warned them of the danger of disregarding his law, and added: “For it is no valueless word for you, but it means your life.”—Deut. 32:46, 47.
Furthermore, by listening to Jehovah’s warnings we learn how he feels about certain matters, how he views them, and we come to know his ways. And this is the most important thing of all—to know Jehovah God intimately, thereby coming into closer relationship with him. He tells us not to brag about riches, wisdom or mightiness that we may have, “but let the one bragging about himself brag about himself because of this very thing, the having of insight and the having of knowledge of me, that I am Jehovah, the One exercising loving-kindness, justice and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I do take delight.”—Jer. 9:23, 24; John 17:3.
The warnings that God gave were often in the form of prophecies, or were commands that, in effect, were prophetic. A case in point is the declaration made with regard to Jericho by Joshua, the successor of Moses and commander of Israel’s armies. Joshua was under orders from God to vanquish the Canaanite inhabitants in the Promised Land, because they practiced extremely degraded sex worship and idolatrous, demonistic rites, and were polluting the land with immorality, disease and bloodshed. (Deut. 20:15-18; Lev. 18:24-30) Jericho was the first city that the army of Israel encountered in the land. As such, it was the “firstfruits” of the conquest of Canaan. Just as the firstfruits of all the produce of the Israelites—grain, cattle, and so forth, were considered sacred, “devoted,” so Jericho was to be. (Lev. 23:10-14; Josh. 6:17) And just as the firstfruits were “devoted,” to be offered to Jehovah before any of the crop could be eaten by the farmer, so Jericho was to be completely “devoted,” nothing being taken from the city for personal use. Therefore Joshua utterly destroyed and burned the city, turning over its metal to Jehovah’s temple (tabernacle).
This requirement of God was like the law, which applied later, regarding a city of Israel that should fall away to idolatry. Such a city was “made sacred by ban.” Its inhabitants were to be put to death and the city burned, never to be rebuilt. Nothing from that city was to be appropriated for any personal use. It was to be viewed by Israel as absolutely detestable. They were not even to toy with the idea of using such things.—Deut. 13:12-17.
Accordingly, when Joshua destroyed the city of Jericho, he pronounced an oath, saying: “May the LORD’S curse light on the man who comes forward to rebuild this city of Jericho: the laying of its foundations shall cost him his eldest son, the setting up of its gates shall cost him his youngest.”—Josh. 6:26, New English Bible.
What did Joshua mean? His words evidently did not mean that the site of Jericho, “the city of palm trees,” would not be inhabited, for Joshua himself allotted the site of the city of Jericho to the Benjamites, and it is mentioned later as an inhabited place. (Judg. 3:13; 2 Sam. 10:5) The emphasis is on a walled “city.” Joshua’s words show that he had reference to the rebuilding of the city. This included a wall. The laying of the foundations would be the foundations of the walled city. The setting up of its gates would not be erecting doors on the homes, but setting up the city gates, which could not be hung without walls. The man who would do this in disregard of Joshua’s prophetic oath would pay the price of his eldest and youngest sons. This expression may mean ‘all his sons,’ so that he would have no one to carry on his name in Israel.
A strong warning, this, but it was nonetheless ignored after Israel fell into gross idolatry. Under the reign of Ahab over the ten-tribe northern kingdom of Israel, Baal worship had been brought in. Indicative of the low level to which Israel had fallen was the action of Hiel the Bethelite. The account reads: “In [Ahab’s] days Hiel the Bethelite built Jericho. At the forfeit of Abiram his firstborn he laid the foundation of it, and at the forfeit of Segub his youngest he put up its doors, according to Jehovah’s word that he spoke by means of Joshua the son of Nun.”—1 Ki. 16:34.
Whether the boys died in accidents connected with the building of the fortifications, or by other means, is not stated. Nevertheless, the declaration of Joshua had proved to be prophetic.
All other declarations of God in his Word are likewise sure of fulfillment. Therefore we should carefully avoid things that God declares to be dangerous. We can learn the things that God considers good and the things that he views as detestable by closely considering the Bible. We should feel as he does about the things he condemns; we should train our hearts and consciences so that we have no leaning at all toward the things against which he warns and should stay completely away from them for safety. We should not delay, but should take immediate action to free ourselves from any connection or association with things disapproved by God. Jesus Christ was deeply conscious of what pleased and what displeased his Father. (Heb. 1:9) He said: “I always do the things pleasing to him.” (John 8:29) Note how instantly he rejected Peter’s wrong advice, not entertaining it for even a second. (Matt. 16:21-23) He proved Jehovah’s words true: “Not by bread alone does man live but by every expression of Jehovah’s mouth does man live.” (Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4) The sad calamity that overtook Hiel the Bethelite is one of the Bible’s many examples that emphasize the danger of disregarding God’s warnings.