Are you familiar with the book of Joshua in the Bible? It’s the first book after the Five Books of Moses, because it’s the book named after the person who led the Israelites after Moses kicked the bucket.
Joshua and the Conquest
Well, traditionally, the story of Joshua, which is to say the book of Joshua, is known as the Conquest of Canaan because it’s the story of the Israelites marching into Canaan, conquering the entire local population and taking all of the land for themselves that God had decided to give them. On multiple occasions the text says explicitly that the Israelites conquered all of the locals. For example, Joshua 11:19 reads, “There was not a town that made peace with the Israelites…all were taken in battle.”
Curiously, however, numerous later discussions of the Israelites in the land, whether from Judges, Samuel, Kings or other books speak of other local Canaanites being in the land, an indication that the book of Joshua did not accurately reflect what happened.
Interesting as well is the fact that half of the book is consumed with the division of the land for the tribes and other such technical details and not actually the conquest of the land. Only a few battle stories occur, all of which have different reasons for existing and which collectively lay down the “way things worked.” I’d like to focus on one: Jericho.
Jericho – Silliness Equals Victory?
God tells Joshua that in order to properly concur the city of Jericho the people needed to do a bunch of things related to parading the ark for seven days around the city, blowing their trumpets at allotted times, etc. and then the wall would fall down and they could go inside and kill everybody.
This, you may say, sounds silly. Run around the city a bunch of times, play some music and CATCHA! – the city walls come crashing down. But do the Israelites do as they were commanded? Yes, they do. And what happens? The wall tumbles down and the Israelites are victorious.
What, then, is the battle of Jericho actually meant to teach us (us being the contemporary reader, whether at the time of the story’s composition or now – or theoretically the Israelites at the time)? That we should do exactly as God says and we will be victorious in battle. Repeat: exactly as He says, no matter how silly sounding or how unlikely a path to victory, and God will take care of the rest for us.
And what about the battle with the Gibeonites, when they deceive the Israelites into swearing peace on God’s name despite the fact that God wanted them dead? Well, we learn here that we must under all conditions respect oaths made in God’s name, even if those defy God’s wishes, because an oath on God’s name is more important. Curious, no? An oath before God’s wishes?
What lessons do you derive from the book of Joshua? Did you notice how few battle stories there actually were?
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