Joshua (Day 188-211)

Day 188: Joshua 1 — July 7

            1-9: God speaks directly to Joshua, as with Moses before him, but this will turn out more and more to be a rare phenomenon. In any case it is remembered here that, as far as Joshua is concerned, the gift of the land includes everything from the Mediterranean Sea to the Euphrates River — all of modern Israel, Jordan and Syria, and most of Saudi Arabia and Iraq. That is much greater than the territory assigned to the 12 tribes, and probably reflects later holdings under the rule of David and Solomon. Obedience to the Law is again emphasized.

            10-11: So, 33 days after Moses dies they are going to invade Canaan!

            12-15: The tribes that settled east of the Jordan River are reminded of their promise to lead the invasion of Canaan.

            16-18: The tribes pledge their loyalty to Joshua and give their blessing to his leadership. So far they are saying and doing the right things.

            So it is with us; we approach a task with good intentions, but don’t always maintain that determination.

Day 189: Joshua 2

            1-7: Joshua sends two spies to Jericho. They wind up at Rahab’s, a popular local night spot, perhaps, but scholars don’t all agree that she was a prostitute. The word used about her here could simply mean something as innocent as “innkeeper.” Still, it does introduce a bit of humor that these two fellows should think this was the place to find out what they were sent to learn. Rahab hides them from the local authorities.

            8-14: It has long been recognized as a useful military strategy to strike fear into the heart of your enemy before the battle begins. Here, God has done that for them. Word has reached Jericho about the Israelites and the way God has protected them.

            15-21: The two spies offer a deal with Rahab: if she keeps quiet about them, and ties a red cord in her window, they will see to it that she and her family are spared when the siege begins. She agrees, of course, and in chapter 6 we’ll see that the Israelites keep their end of the deal.

            22-24: The words of Rahab have convinced the spies that the land is ripe for the taking because the people are already afraid of them. The passing of three days might be a metaphor for the new chapter that is about to begin in the life of the people of Israel.

            Oftentimes when we pray for help, God gives us help from improbable sources.

Day 190: Joshua 3

1-6: Once again we read of the passing of three days. Then Joshua announces that the ark of the covenant will go first to the Jordan. They are to stay about 2/3 of a mile behind it, giving a great deal of respect to what they believe represents the presence of God.

7-13: God instructs Joshua, who instructs the people — the same process we saw with Moses. Joshua tells the people more, however, than God told him — just as we saw with Moses. He tells them that when the priests carrying the ark step into the river, it will stop flowing. He won’t be outdone by Moses!

14-17: And so it is: the river is stopped, and the people cross on dry land. Some have explained the situation by speculating a landslide upstream that blocks the flow of the river, but such speculation misses the point of the story. They crossed a body of water to begin their trek, and now they cross a body of water to end it. (“When through the deep waters your pathway shall lie, my grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply.” — from the hymn “How Firm a Foundation.”)

The hard times in life are a lot easier when we can trust that God has already gone ahead of us.

Day 191: Joshua 4

1-7: Joshua really is a genius when it comes to symbolism. First he has the priests with the Ark of the Covenant go before them to symbolize the presence of God leading them onward. Now he has them take twelve stones from the dry riverbed to make a monument on the west bank of the river, to serve as a reminder of how God helped them across. It also marks a boundary to help them look ahead instead of back!

8-9: Now we are told that Joshua also has a monument placed in the middle of the Jordan, to serve as a marker that the people once walked there on dry ground, but you wonder why he thought this would ever be seen again.

10-13: The plains of Jericho are filling with warriors ready for battle.

14: Joshua’s stock is rising (unlike the Dow Jones right now).

15-18: As soon as the priests step out of the river, the water flow returns. The sequence is the same as in the Exodus: God speaks, the leader repeats, the people obey, a miracle occurs.

19-24: The crossing of the Jordan River is specifically tied to the crossing of the Red Sea. The 12-stone monument is now a memorial. Even today we use monuments as memorials to remember the great events in our history.

Day 192: Joshua 5

            1-9: The indigenous people are afraid when they hear that the Israelites have entered the land. Even so, Israel must acknowledge God’s part. They do so first of all with the ritual of circumcision. We learn, surprisingly, that circumcision has not been practiced by the people since they left Egypt. Joshua therefore commands them (at God’s command) to be circumcised. In this circumstance it serves as a powerful symbol of their unity as God’s people. It’s a good thing the Canaanites didn’t know they were healing from the surgical procedure, else the story might have turned out differently (see Genesis 34).

            10-15: More events that mirror the Exodus: The Passover is celebrated on the eve of entering the land of Canaan, just as it was celebrated on the eve of leaving the land of Egypt. It is their first act of community worship in the Promised Land. In addition, the manna ceases as soon as they begin to eat the produce of the land, emphasizing that the land God is giving them is able to produce enough for them, unlike the wilderness through which they have come. Finally, Joshua’s leadership is further sealed by a sort of “burning bush” episode. In this case it is an armed angel in lieu of the burning bush, but the message is the same — Joshua is now God’s chosen leader for the people.

Day 193: Joshua 6

            While Moses was a diplomat/administrator, Joshua is clearly a general. God provides exactly the kind of leadership needed at the moment. This trend will continue through the books of Judges and Kings. Joshua 6-12 records the conquest of the land. The destruction of people and cities is barbaric, but there are hints that the record is somewhat “optimistic” in its assessment of Israel’s successes. We will see in subsequent readings that many of the people displaced by Israel still lived in the land throughout the years to come. Perhaps Israel’s tradition of the utter destruction of entire populations is a result of the telling and retelling of victory stories, enhanced with the passage of time.

1-7: God instructs Joshua in the manner of besieging Jericho, and Joshua organizes the attack. The city is first blockaded so no one can escape to seek allies or reinforcements. Creation imagery is abundant in the use of the numbers six and seven (six days of marching once around the city with seven priests blowing seven rams’ horns; on the seventh day they are to march around it seven times with seven priests blowing seven rams’ horns). Joshua clarifies God’s instructions by sending soldiers before and after the Ark of the Covenant.

            8-11: The first day of the siege: they march around the city once — soldiers, seven priests blowing rams’ horns, then priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant, then a rear guard of soldiers. The rest of the people stand by, watching silently.

            12-14: The same ritual is repeated on the second day and 3rd-6th days. We are not told which day of the week they begin on, but it is apparent that on this occasion they do not keep Sabbath!

            15-16: On the seventh day they march around seven times, then Joshua commands the people (who have been patiently watching) to shout.

            17-19: Joshua (not God!) tells them that everyone in the city except Rahab and her family are to be put to the sword. Everything is to be destroyed except silver and gold, which will become part of the treasury of the tabernacle. At this stage, this treasury really represents the national treasury.

            20-25: The people shout, the walls fall down, and Jericho is conquered. All living things are put to the sword according to Joshua’s (not God’s) command, and the city is burned. The two spies who were protected by Rahab are sent to get her and her family and grant them asylum, and they become resident aliens in Israel.

            26-27: Joshua utters a curse on Jericho, that it will not be rebuilt but at the cost of the firstborn of the one who rebuilds it. This echoes again the story of the exodus, when the firstborn of the families of Egypt perished. Later, in the days of King Ahab, a warlord named Hiel rebuilds the walls of Jericho, and his firstborn son dies (recorded in I Kings 16:34). However, others live in Jericho before then, perhaps only camping amidst the ruins (see Joshua 18:21, Judges 3:13, and 2 Samuel 10:5).

Day 194: Joshua 7

            1: We are told at the beginning of the chapter that Achan, son of Zabdi, took some of the “devoted things” in Jericho. (In verse 21 we will learn that this consisted of silver and gold and expensive millinery goods.)

            2-5: Then the tale turns to a continuation of the conquest of the land, with spies sent to Ai (pronounced “Eye”), about 15 north of Jerusalem. They return with a positive report, and Joshua dispatches 3000 soldiers to capture that city next, but the Israelites are defeated.

6-9: Joshua fears the setback will result in their being ousted from the land altogether, and he complains to God.

10-15: God tells him that someone has “broken my covenant that I imposed on them.” Some commentators think this is God’s stamp of approval on the utter destruction Joshua brought upon Jericho, although God’s words don’t go quite that far: it is only the sin of theft (“Thou shalt not steal!”) that is being punished here. The punishment hardly fits the crime, it would seem, but in this case it is imposed by God himself. The guilty party will be found and burned along with all his possessions.

16-21: The manner of “choosing” is not specified; perhaps lots were cast in some way to choose first the tribe, then the clan, then the household, and finally the individual. Achan, for his part, readily confesses.

            22-26: The stolen goods are found in Achan’s tent, and God tells Joshua to destroy all that he has. Joshua interprets that to include Achan’s sons and daughters (but apparently not his wife?). Joshua is fond of raising heaps of stones, isn’t he?

Day 195: Joshua 8

            1-2: Now God takes charge of the battle plan and instead of sending only a small force tells Joshua to take the whole of Israel’s warriors to engage Ai and to set up an ambush behind the city.

3-9: The battle plan is clever: 30,000 soldiers are sent out at night to hide in a flanking position outside the city. The rest of them are to make a frontal attack when daylight comes, then turn and run when the soldiers of Ai come out to fight.

10-17: The plan is executed to perfection. Thinking the Israelites are fleeing as they have before, the Ai army comes out of the city to give chase, exposing the city to the troops Joshua has hidden during the night.

18-23: The city is set afire, and the 30,000 troops press the attack on the Ai army from their rear, thus surrounding them. The city is easily captured, and the king of Ai is brought to Joshua.

24-29: The enemy army is utterly defeated and the inhabitants of the city are put to the sword. All the inhabitants are killed, but this time the Israelites are allowed to take spoils from the city. The king of Ai is hanged, and Joshua builds yet another pile of stones.

            30-25: After the victory, Joshua has an altar built, on which he engraves all the Law of Moses. Sacrifices of thanksgiving are offered to God. Then the people line up on either side of the ark, half in front of Mt. Ebal and half in front of Mt. Gerizim, and Joshua reads the blessings and curses as they had been instructed by Moses (see Deuteronomy 27 and 28).

Day 196: Joshua 9

            1-2: Word of Joshua’s successes against Jericho and Ai spreads throughout the land, and the various little city-states in Canaan form an alliance against him.

3-15: Gibeon, a little town 7 or 8 miles southwest of Ai, does not enter into the alliance. Some sort of organization seems to include several other towns (verse 17) as well. They apparently have no king and no military, and decide to try to fool Joshua into making a compact with them. They go to him, pretending to have traveled a long way, and offer a treaty. After some examination, Joshua agrees, and a treaty is made. Then the ruse is discovered, and the Gibeonites become servants to the Israelites.

            16-21: There are two versions of the story. In the first version the ruse is discovered by “the leaders” of the Israelites, who honor the treaty and grant the Gibeonites a pardon, but make them “hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation,” as the leaders decided concerning them (verse 21).

            22-27: But in these verses it is Joshua who discovers their ruse and saves them from the Israelites, so that they do not kill them (verse 26). Then, Joshua makes them hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of the Lord.

            We will find out later, of course, but it could be that this spells the beginning of conflict and questioning of Joshua’s leadership by the other leaders.

Day 197: Joshua 10

            1-5: The last chapter began with notice that an anti-Israel alliance was being formed. Now we learn the identity of the allies — the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon. They lay siege to Gibeon.

6-11: The Gibeonites send to Joshua for reinforcements. Joshua responds by marching his army overnight to Gibeon and attacking the Canaanite Alliance by surprise, routing them and sending them into a wild retreat.

            12-14: The legend of the sun standing still (verses 12-14) actually doesn’t read like a miracle at all. The sun “did not hurry to set for about a whole day,” says the text. But isn’t that the case with the sun every day? Still, in Israel’s memory the day seemed to last longer than usual, long enough for Israel to defeat a powerful alliance in a single day. More to the point, perhaps, the longer-than-usual day and Israel’s sterling victory is credited to Joshua.

            15-21: The five kings hide in a cave. Joshua turns the cave into a jail until the battle is over.

22-27: After the battle Joshua returns to Makkedah and executes the five kings. He has “the chiefs of the warriors” put their feet on the necks of the five kings. This symbolic act serves two purposes: first, to show that they have authority over the five kings; and second (and perhaps most important) that Joshua has authority over the chiefs of Israel. When it’s all over, Joshua has them pile up a bunch of stones, of course.

28-43: Another important shift is happening in this chapter. Israel’s conquest of the land began with offensive maneuvers. Now the conquest of the land is depicted as Israel defending itself against the offensive of Canaanite kings. The attack of the five kings is then seen as an opening for Israel in turn and sweep through the south of Canaan (in verses 29-39) and take the whole land that had belonged to the five kings plus some other towns not mentioned before. By the end of the chapter, the entire southern portion of the land is in Joshua’s hands.

            One little footnote: in spite of the report that Israel slaughtered entire populations, it is obvious as we continue to read these books that there are lots of indigenous people still in the land.

Day 198: Joshua 11

            1-23: Once again, Israel’s conquest is depicted as a defensive move. Another alliance is formed, this time of kings in the northern part of Canaan — a much larger alliance than before. Still, Joshua has no trouble in defeating them. After these victories, Joshua proceeds to subdue much of the surrounding territory.

            If you have a Bible Atlas, it could be very helpful in reading this chapter. Alternatively, Google the names of some of the places captured by Joshua to get a picture of the way in which he engineered the conquest of the land of Canaan.

Day 199: Joshua 12

            The chapter is in two parts:

            Verses 1-6 list the victories on the east side of the Jordan that were accomplished in the time of Moses, and resulted in the settlement of that land by the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh.

            Verses 7-24 list all the kings Joshua defeated as he went about the conquest of the land of Canaan west of the Jordan River.

            Don’t worry about how to pronounce the names. Just do your best, and you’ll probably be as close as anybody.

Day 200: Joshua 13

            As Moses reached the end of his life, his task was to prepare the people spiritually for their conquest of the land. Now as Joshua comes to his last years, his task is to assign territory to each of the tribes so that (1) there will not be conflict between them in the years to come, and (2) to fulfill Abraham’s legacy that God had given them all the land. The next several chapters are filled with lists of towns, many if not most of which are lost and cannot be located today. Make use of a Bible Atlas — bound book or Internet — to get a clearer idea of the extent of Israel’s possessions.

            1-7: Joshua receives God’s word that he must allot each of the tribes their territory. Remember, Reuben, Gad and Manasseh already have been granted the country east of the Jordan. The territories outlined here still to be inhabited are the coastal lands of the Philistines (a Greek word from which the Latin word Palestine is formed) and the northern territories in what is today part of Lebanon.

            8-14: The tribes that settled the east bank of the Jordan are allotted that territory. Note that in verse 13 there are still indigenous people in the land — they were not wiped out after all!

            15-33: Now each of the three eastern tribes’ possessions are enumerated. The large number of “towns” undoubted included many settlements that probably had no more than a family or two.

Day 201: Joshua 14

            1-5: Now Joshua’s attention turns to the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. In verse 1 we are told that the distribution was made by Joshua and Eleazar the priest. This separation of duties between military and religious leaders was started after the death of Moses. In Israel’s future there will be many times when the military/political leader or the religious leader will try to take on both mantles, almost always with bad results. The idea for separation of church and state dates back to Joshua’s time!

            6-15: Caleb comes to Joshua to request a special allotment for him and his descendants. He reminds Joshua of the story we read in Numbers 13, about the initial sortie authorized by Moses to spy out the land (Caleb was the only one of the 12 spies who believed they could conquer it). In verse 7 Caleb says that he was 40 years old when that event took place, and in verse 10 he says that he is now 85. Between 38 and 39 years passed between the spy episode and the crossing of the Jordan. So Joshua and the people have been fighting for territory in Canaan now for six years or so.

Day 202: Joshua 15

            1-12: Judah is given a large territory in the south, including the Philistine territories on the coast, although there was apparently some effort at avoiding immediate conflict with them. None of the five Philistine cities are included in the list, and verse 11 specifically says that the boundary passes north of Ekron.

            13-19: Caleb’s territory is within Judah, but he has to fight to take control of it. He settles Hebron, Abraham’s primary address in Genesis. Indeed, these verses sound like the stories we read in Genesis. Caleb gives his daughter to his nephew, Othniel, for taking the stronghold of Kiriath-sepher. She is shrewd and asks for pastureland as a wedding gift, and then insists on wells also.

            20-63: The list of towns given to Judah. The boundary passes just to the south of Jebus, which could not be subdued. Jebus later will become the capital of the country under King David. The name will be changed to Jerusalem.

Day 203: Joshua 16

            Ephraim and Manasseh were the two sons of Joseph born in Egypt. They were given status as individual tribes early in the exodus, perhaps as a way of preserving the number 12 since Levy was set apart for religious service. Manasseh settled east of the Jordan. Ephraim’s territory is in the southeast of Canaan. The last verse is another interesting example of the fact that the Israelites did not, after all, commit genocide against the people of the land.

Day 204: Joshua 17

            1-13: Manasseh’s settlement east of the Jordan is revisited. The intrepid daughters of Zelophehad come to Joshua and Eleazar to press their case for their own inheritance based on the ruling of Moses (see the last paragraph in Numbers). Joshua agrees, but apparently the tribe was allotted some additional land west of the Jordan to make up for what was given the five ladies! Verses 12 and 13 once again tell us that there are still lots of Canaanites in Canaan.

            14-18: The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh join together as the tribe of Joseph to register a complaint on behalf of the Ephraimites. They feel that their portion is too small, plus they haven’t been able to subdue the Canaanites with their iron chariots (16:10). After some debate, Joshua gives them additional land, but they have to clear it to build towns, and Joshua refuses to give them assistance against the indigenous Canaanites. He tells them what any good leader would tell them: I have great confidence in you and I’m sure you can handle that all by yourself!

Day 205: Joshua 18

            1-10: A Lewis and Clark type expedition is arranged to map the remaining territory and draw up boundaries for the remaining 7 tribes. I wonder how reassuring it was to the tribal leaders when Joshua allotted their portions by casting lots — their version of rolling dice.

            11-28: Benjamin’s territory will lie adjacent to Judah and Ephraim. Jebus (Jerusalem) is in their territory — Judah’s boundary passes a few hundred feet south of Jebus through the valley of Hinnom.

Benjamin is apparently the first tribe not to have trouble with undefeated Canaanites still in the land.

Day 206: Joshua 19

            1-9: Simeon’s inheritance is defined. Now we learn that the process of meting out territory was not without its flaws: Judah has been given too much land, so Benjamin is allowed to settle some of it.

            10-16: Zebulun’s lot is next.

            17-23: Then Issachar.

            24-31: Asher.

            32-39: Naphtali.

            40-48: Dan’s territory included some Philistine cities, and apparently the Philistine didn’t care much for that arrangement. Verse 47 tells us that Dan quickly lost their territory. Rather than wear themselves out against the Philistines, they made the practical decision to take somebody else’s town.

            49-51: Finally, Joshua is given a special inheritance in the territory of Ephraim.

            During the time of Israel’s kings, Judah and Ephraim will become the dominant tribes. When they separate into north and south after Solomon’s reign the southern kingdom (capital at Jerusalem) will be called Judah. The northern kingdom (capital at Shechem) will be called Israel, but will often be referred to as Ephraim. The other 10 tribes gradually lose influence. By the time of Jesus, only Judah (as Judea) will remain.

A summary for this week’s readings:

            The allotment of territories is completed with the establishment of refuge cities and the setting aside of holdings for the Levites. A potential conflict with the three eastern tribes is settled peacefully. Joshua leads the people in a renewal of the covenant. We will see that they didn’t take it as seriously as they should have. Joshua and Eleazar both die at the conclusion of the book. The book of Judges begins with a list of areas not subdued by the Israelites and begins to record Israel’s unfaithfulness to the covenant after Joshua is dead and gone (surprise?!!!).

Day 207: Joshua 20

            1-7: It would be an interesting exercise to go through the stories of Moses and Joshua and see the number of times it is said that God spoke directly to each of them. Here we have God reminding Joshua to establish “cities of refuge” to protect those who might have accidentally caused a death from the revenge of the family of the one killed. See Numbers 35:9-15, where the general idea is outlined but the actual cities are not named. Now that the land has been subdued, more or less, Joshua can identify which towns will suffice, and designates three — one in the north (Kadesh), one in the central highlands (Shechem, which later became the capital of the northern kingdom after the time of Solomon), and one in the south (Hebron, a dozen or so miles south/southwest of Jerusalem).

            8-9: Three cities on the east side of the Jordan are also set apart as “cities of refuge,” one in each tribal territory — Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh.

            Notice that God did not specify which cities should be chosen. The general idea (that there should be “cities of refuge”) comes from God, the details have to be worked out by the “boots on the ground.” That is how God often works, isn’t it? God gives us the big idea, we have to figure out how to live into the big idea.

Day 208: Joshua 21

            1-8: Joshua, Eleazar and the other leaders are petitioned by the elders of the tribe of Levi to grant them cities as Moses had planned. It is interesting that for the “cities of refuge” God spoke directly to Joshua (20:1), but not for the Levite cities. Towns are granted from the territories of all the tribes on both sides of the Jordan. The grants are given to the three main divisions of the Levites: the Kohathites, the Gershonites, and the Merarites — divisions named after the three sons of Aaron, Moses’ brother.

            9-12: The first branch of Levites to be considered is the Kohathite clan. Special attention is given to Hebron (also called Kiriath-arba). Hebron does triple duty now: it is a Levite town, it is also a “city of refuge,” and it is the special reward to Caleb and his descendants for his loyal service to Moses. It appears that the town itself was not part of the gift to Caleb, but only the surrounding fields and villages. Compare this with 14:13-15. Caleb apparently raises no objections.

            13-26: The list of towns and cities given for the Kohathites is laid out here. Notice that some of the Philistine cities are named, even though the Israelites have so far been unsuccessful in subduing that area.

            27-33: The Gersonite division is given thirteen towns in the territories of Manasseh, Issachar, Asher and Naphtali.

            34-40: The Merarite division is given twelve towns out of the territories of Zebulun, Reuben and Gad. Notice that a number of the “cities of refuge” are given to the Levites. Notice also that their cities are scattered on both sides of the Jordan.

            41-45: The chapter ends with an optimistic summary of the progress so far. The land has been conquered and settled, and they are at peace. This won’t last long!

Day 209: Joshua 22

            1-6: Joshua summons the warriors of the three trans-Jordan (east of the Jordan River) tribes — Reuben, Gad and Manasseh — and thanks them for helping the other tribes settle their territories (although they haven’t finished subduing the land yet, have they?). He gives them leave to return to their families across the river.

            7-9: Joshua also grants that they keep their share of the spoils gathered during the campaigns to take over Canaan for the other tribes. So far everything seems to be all hunkie-dorie.

            10-12: But that doesn’t last long. The easterners decide to build a huge altar beside the Jordan River — on the west bank! The other tribes apparently see this as evidence that the eastern tribes have turned to the worship of other gods, and suit up for battle. So much for tribal harmony! (Perhaps they also see it as an attempt to claim some of the land west of the Jordan.)

            13-20:  To their credit, though, they don’t rush into battle, but send Phinehas, son of the High Priest, to confront the other tribes. Phinehas is the High-Priest-in-waiting; his high status indicates the seriousness of the conflict. He reminds the eastern tribal leaders of the tragedy at Peor when thousands died because of exactly this kind of apostasy. He begs them to bring their sacrifices to Shiloh (where the tabernacle is currently located), and worship God there.

            21-29: It turns out that the altar is not an altar: it is a monument to remind later generations that the three tribes on the east side of the river are part of Israel, too. The easterners promise not to use it as an altar, and to bring their sacrifices only to the tabernacle, currently at Shiloh.

            30-34: Phinehas and the westerners are satisfied and return home, and everybody is happy. For now.

Day 210: Joshua 23

            1-13: A “long time” has passed. Assuming Joshua to have been about the same age as Caleb, the “long time” equates to about 25 years. Although the land has not been completely subdued by the Israelites, they seem at least to have secured enough territory to settle, and for now they are at peace. Joshua was an Ephraimite, and he calls the tribal leaders together for one last meeting. It is in Shechem, the primary town of the tribe of Ephraim (see 24:1). He recounts their many conquests to date, and emphasizes God’s part in their success. He warns them against intermarriage — the fear being that in so doing they will be assimilated into the Canaanite religions. In many ways, Joshua has been the first King of Israel.

            14-16: Joshua concludes this first farewell speech with a reminder that God has given everything he promised them, and a warning that God will punish them if they go and serve other gods.

Day 211: Joshua 24

            1-13: This appears to be a separate gathering from the one in chapter 23: this time the text emphasizes that all the tribes are gathered to Shechem. Joshua then summons the leaders, but when he speaks in verse 3 he is speaking to all the people. He recites their history all the way back to Terah, father of Abraham, in the city of Ur on the Euphrates River. In verse 2 he notes that they — Abraham included – served other gods. He quickly covers the birth of Isaac and Jacob, then moves on into the stories of Exodus and Numbers, recounting the wilderness wanderings, the battles with the Moabites, the strange intercession of Balaam, and the conquest of the land thus far. Joshua is speaking in the first person singular, as God’s own voice.

            14-15: A famous passage — Joshua “draws a line in the sand.” Notice that he is now speaking as himself, not as God’s voice. Choose, he says, whom you will serve: the God who brought your ancestors out of Egypt and gave you this land, or the gods your ancestors served before they were claimed by the LORD.

            16-18: There is something questionable about their response. At first glance it appears that they are agreeing with Joshua. But on second reading it is no longer clear that they will not serve the other gods. They will serve the LORD, yes, but they do not say specifically that they will stop serving the other gods, too!

            19-28: Joshua apparently picks up on the ambiguity of their response, and insists that they cannot forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods. Again, they promise to serve the LORD but also again they do not specifically say they will put away the other gods. Joshua notes that in verse 22, but then in verse 23 he insists once again that they put away the other gods, and in verse 24 they once again dodge the question — they promise to serve the LORD but never promise to put away the foreign gods! And they never do.

            For his part, Joshua apparently figures enough is enough, and moves on to other business. He reverts back to his habit of setting up stones, and this last Joshuan monument is to remind them of the covenant they have made with the LORD. The tabernacle has now been moved to Shechem, it would seem.

            29-32: Joshua dies at the ripe old age of 110. He is buried at his home, and the text says that the people of Israel were faithful to the LORD as long as there were leaders who were alive during the time of Joshua.

            33: The bones of Joseph are brought to Shechem. Remember that Shechem is in the territory of the tribe of Ephraim. Ephraim was Joseph’s youngest son, but Jacob put him above his older brother Manasseh (see Genesis 48:8-20). (The half-tribe of Manasseh has settled on the east side of the Jordan.)

            34: The High Priest Eleazar, son of Aaron, dies and is buried at Gibeah. His son Phinehas will succeed him, although the title “high priest” at this stage is mostly honorary.

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