Saturday, March 12, 2011

Joshua 4-8 In The Land of Milk and Honey and Bloodshed

Joshua 4-8

5 chapters today but it's a pretty easy and action filled read.

The Israelites cross Jordan and enter the promised land.  Joshua commemorates the event by preserving twelve stones (4:9), or did he (4:20)?

All young males are circumcised and the older ones re-circumcised (?)  Why did they stop the tradition while wandering in the desert?

The first thing on their agenda after stepping foot on the promised land is to continue the massacre of the inhabitants.  Jericho is first on the list.

The priests practice some psychological warfare against Jericho by blowing horns and marching around the locked up city.  It must have been pretty scary for the inhabitants.  But they didn't live in fear for long because the Israelites brought the walls down and killed every living thing inside except for Rehab the harlot and her family.

But Achan has to go and screw up by coveting.  God's reaction?  Sending a small army to Ai to get it's ass kicked.  This humbles the Israelites.

They make things right by stoning and burning Achan, his family, cattle and possessions.  Sounds reasonable.

The Israelites are then able to attack and destroy Ai (in a very clever move IMO).
The laws of Moses are once again written in stone.

Another happy ending.
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  1. Hi, longtime lurker here. I was recently reading Budge's translations of the Tel Amarna tablets, among them a few letters from the king of Jerusalem to the king of Egypt, describing an invasion of "bloody ones" who had left their pastures and the fall of a fortress which might be Jericho. This is cool, but it is also really hard to figure out the names from the tablets and I suspect a certain amount of translating with a view to making things fit events in the Bible.

    Either way, bloody ones seems accurate, though it is also a common epithet used for several invading enemies mentioned in the tablets.

  2. Joshua is good material for a new Dethklok song, except they might want to change the name to "Hate, Kill, Destroy".

  3. @Paul

    Now be fair, does it say they hated them? I think they focused mainly on the kill and destroy part. ;)

  4. Josh 5:2 - I have no idea what a 'second' circumcision is, but I'm certain I would be unequivocally against it.

    Josh 6:21 - In Jericho, even the virgins didn't get a reprieve this time around. God seems only interested precious and semi-precious metals. I guess they are stocked up on virgins from the whole Midianite thing.

    Josh 7:1 - What the hell is 'the accursed thing'? I can't figure it out. Was it a little golden idol that Achon pocketed, a virgin, a goat, what? Seems fuzzy to me. Also is he the son of Carmi or the son of Zerah (7:24). Proofreading, people, proofreading!

    Josh 8:2 - It's OK to keep the cattle this go around (don't forget the gold tho!!) Kill the 12,000 people. STILL not running low on virgins apparently.

  5. @David,
    7:21 "When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it."

  6. @shinigami-sidhe: Very cool! I like extra-biblical pieces of the puzzle. The bloody ones having left their pastures seems to fit the revolt model of Israelite settlement of Canaan: that it was an internal revolt of tribes of herdsman who felt marginalized (and possibly banded together with escaped slaves from Egypt - the merging of the Exodus tradition with the Sinai tradition?).

    I think Achan's crime was violating a rule of holy war in taking spoils that are designated for Yahweh (he is the lord, and the Israelites are just vassals). This rule appears to be laid out in 6:18-19. The process for singling out Achan in 7:16-18 (select tribe, select family, select man) reminded me of The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. The obvious difference is that Achan is actually guilty of something.

  7. @Bruce and BHitt

    Thanks! I seemed to have read right past that.

  8. Again my Sunday school teachers just glossed over the whole story but "then the walls came a tumblin' down" sure sticks in my head as a good thing.
    I wonder if the there is a change in requirements virgin vs harlot? 40 years is an awful long time...

  9. Rahab mentioned that many people were frightened of the Hebrew od because of the tales that cam out of Egypt. Apparently, news traveled faster than the Jews!
    Anyway, I get that it was OK to do all the killing, pillaging, and burning because their god had promised them the land and the natives were in effect tresspassing. I don't understand why the cities had to be destroyed, unless it was some kind of nomadic contempt for city slickers. Did you noticed that there was no mention of any Hebrew deaths during the battles, though? And where did they get their weapons? Had they been carrying them since they left Egypt?

  10. Yah probably a case of tithe evasion, like Ananias and Sapphira in the New Testament.

  11. It seems pretty horrific that no one in the cities had any chance to surrender or accept clemency but Rahab, who was only in a position to help them by luck.

  12. The stone story in ch. 3&4 is an obvious composition of two texts. Notice that 3:12 is out of place; the command is repeated at 4:2. 3:17 is repeated at 4:10.

    4:9-13 is basically an insertion (the story's obvious contradictions are gone when its removed) but there's been a lot of editing.

    There's two intriguing/problematic references to P here. The "Ark of the Tokens" (4:16) is a P phrase, totally anomalous here. And the description of the Red Sea incident matches P's- including using P's word for "dry ground" (יַּבָּשָׁה) (different from J's חָרָבָה. This distinction is present in both the Noah's Ark and Red Sea doublets. חָרָבָה was used in 3:17)

    With two P signatures so close together, I have no choice but to admit there is some P in Joshua. MY WORLD IS COLLAPSING IN ON ITSELF.

    Later in Judges there is a P insertion, but it is very clunky and obvious. Is this in the same vein?

    It is now my LIFE GOAL to determine if P exists throughout Joshua. I will not stop.

    Anyway. Uh... 6:24 is an anachronistic reference to the Temple. (or any Israelite temple... either way, it shouldn't exist yet.)

    I don't know the details, but archaeologists have dated the ruins of Jericho and Ai, and, surprise surprise, they wildly contradict the biblical text.

  13. @Barbara,

    They had left Egypt 40 years ago. I think that news should be out by 40 years right?

  14. @David,

    Josh 5:2
    Allot of people have speculation on what this means. After reading over different ideas in MHC, i seem to think this is what they meant.

    The Hebrews that came out of Egypt were told, because of their disbelief, that they would not see the promised land. The practice of circumcising the male children on the 8th day was a seal of the promise. Since they (the rebels) would not enjoy that promise they may have discontinued that practice. Now it's time to enter into the Promised Land, and Joshua issues this order to circumcise the males to reinstate that seal of the covenant, seeing that they would be enjoying the benefit of that promise.

  15. @Barbara,

    Sorry Barbara that thought needs to be finished. Here is the rest.

    I think because of what happened in Egypt that the word spread, and people were on alert. Leaders of the different nations would want to keep tabs on where the Hebrews were moving. (In hopes of self preservation, be prepared for a fight.) I am sure they found out that they were heading their way. People would be talking about the promise. Also speaking of why they were in the wilderness for so long and where they were planing on settling down.

    We see in Deut 2:6,7, the Hebrews were in contact with other people. They bought food and water from the children of Esau. In Numbers 20:19 they would pass a country of Edom and offered to pay if their cattle
    or they drank the water. I would take it there was allot of contact with other countries.

    I would guess that once they had crossed Jordan someone was monitoring their movement and reported it. We can even see that the spies could not even get into the city unnoticed (Joshua 2:2). This even happens today. Granted we have more tech to help us monitor stuff. :-D

    Sorry for my short post earlier i should have explained myself more.

  16. @Bruce,

    "(4:9), or did he (4:20)"

    Yes he did. 19 says it all. And the people came up out of Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and encamped in Gilgal, in the east border of Jericho.

    "The laws of Moses are once again written in stone."

    I think this is fulfilling the order that was given out in Deuteronomy 27:3-8

  17. @Leah,

    "It seems pretty horrific that no one in the cities had any chance to surrender"

    Yes they did. Except for specific cities, see Deuteronomy 20:17, the people were able to come out and proclaim peace. See Deuteronomy 20:10-15.

  18. A lot of cities (aka all inhabited by Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites each of whom had multiple cities).

    "16However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. 17 Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you."

    According to Joshua 1:4 that land occupied by those peoples was

    "4 Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west."

    This includes large chunks of modern Syria and Jordan.

    We'll see that according to this book the people of Gibeon (one of the Hivite cities) tricked the Israelites into making a solemn pact to avoid the total destruction called for.

    BTW if we want to skip ahead, according to Matthew, Rahab the harlot is an ancestor of Jesus (wife of Salmon, father of Boaz). Jewish Midrash says she became the wife of Joshua and ancestor of several Jewish prophets.

  19. I'm interested in the fact that after Moses died we were told there would never be another who God would know face to face. But it seems that God's interactions with Joshua are just the same as his interactions with Moses. And again I have to ask exactly what Achan's sons and daughters did to deserve being stoned and burned. It's hard to avoid the conclusion that God punishes the innocent along with the guilty. And their sheep too.

  20. Yes they did. Except for specific cities, see Deuteronomy 20:17, the people were able to come out and proclaim peace. See Deuteronomy 20:10-15.

    But doesn't "make peace" just mean "submit instantly to the Israelites so they won't kill you as they steal your land."

    A lot of cities (aka all inhabited by Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites each of whom had multiple cities).

    AFAIK Jebusites were the people of the city-state of Jerusalem, which remained independent through the "judges" period. Canaanites and Amorites are the general terms for people living in Canaan.

    The list covers pretty much everyone. The only people not on it are the Philistines, a greek-descended civilization that always had a stronghold in the southwest.

    But it seems that God's interactions with Joshua are just the same as his interactions with Moses.

    I noticed that too. *cough* sources *cough*

  21. 8:34-35 "And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and the curse, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the sojourners who lived among them."

    Long night for those people. Bummer.

    Did anyone else notice the endless repetition of "to this very day" throughout Joshua so far? Certainly makes it read like someone is writing about something that happened a long, long time ago....

  22. @Susan
    I thought the same thing about all the "to this very day"s.
    It continues into chapter 11 at least.