Feast upon the Word Blog

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Posted by cherylem on May 9, 2010

It has been quite a while since I’ve posted here, but I wanted to share my notes on Joshua, which I am teaching today:

JOSHUA and conquest of Canaan
Who wrote Joshua? When?

1. Inconsistencies in the Bible Story: total conquest (Joshua 11:16-23 vs. less than total conquest (Joshua 23:12-13, 13:1-7; Judges 1:1; Judges 1:19).
2. Holy War. Theological problems of the ban, or devotion of the spoils of war to God (Deut. 7:1-2, 7:16, 20:15-18).
“Few of the many issues raised by the book of Joshua create more difficulty than the question of how a loving God could command the wholesale extermination of nations that inhabited the Promised Land. There is no easy or simple solution to this problem. (Joshua: An introduction and commentary, Richard S. Hess, Intervarsity Press, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, D. J. Wiseman, General Editor, 1996, p. 42)”
• Done by Moabites to Israel (Mesha Stelle) and sometimes practiced by Ancient Near Eastern cultures along with Celts, Teutons, and Germans.
• Differs from the nature of warfare in the Book of Mormon, law of Ancient Israel described in D&C 98:31-38, and the nature of Jesus in the NT.
• Disbelieved by medieval rabbis.
• Disbelieved by most (perhaps hopefully?) modern scholars to be theoretical/ideal and never put into effect – a later concept in theory retrojected to the time of the conquest.
• All wars in ANE thought were dedicated to the glorification of a deity and the extension of that deity’s reign.
• Papal move against Christian heresies: “Kill them all, let God sort them out.” 1210 a.d., Pope Innocent III, against Cathars, Waldensians, Albigensians. Perhaps 100,000 killed at Beziers. (using Timothy 2:19 as justification)
3. Achan and his family and household punished for Achan’s sin. (violates Deut. 24:16: The afathers shall not be put to bdeath for the children, neither shall the cchildren be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his down esin.) Was Achan the only one who took plunder? Is this realistic? What other reason could there be for failure to win initial battle at Ai? (loss of group solidarity? How would the punishment of Achan reverse this? Purely military reasons?) Since Achan was to be given the death penalty, why confess?? He accedes in his own and his family’s death, and accedes in his own use as scapegoat. (?)
4. 1 Nephi 17:31-35. But: when and where were the Canaanites taught? Nephi coming up with a justification for the ban?? Perhaps Nephi could not conceive of God destroying a people who were not first given a chance to repent. Why were the Nephites destroyed and the Lamanites spared?
5. Extremely nationalist book.
6. Further things to think about:
Joshua 5: Preparations at Gilgal
v. 13-15. Joshua’s vision.
If truly divine, does this text mean that God would help Israel with offensive warfare (as 6:2-5, 10:14, 11:20 imply) or only with defensive warfare (as Book of Mormon and D&C 98 imply?)
Did Joshua have the higher priesthood? (See D&C 84:23-26)
v. 27 What kind of glory did Joshua gain? How does this compare to God in Ex. 14:4, 17-18?
Does God need this kind of glory?
Joshua 6: Fall of Jericho. A ritual human sacrifice?
v. 3-21, 24-27: Destruction of Jericho as ritual

New Testament Use. LDS transformations (baptism, temple, the holy life).
1. The holy war. Christ (Jesus = Joshua = the 2nd Joshua) as the warrior in the true holy war. But: Christ becomes the victim of this war, and overcomes as victim, as the murdered innocent. Thus Christ becomes the voice of all murdered innocents since time began. (The philosopher/anthropologist Rene Girard has done a lot of work on this idea.) Christ engages Christians in a struggle against sin and wrong, with the knowledge that they may be persecuted, martyred, but will eventually overcome.
2. Land as an inheritance. In Joshua, God has given land to the Israelites; however, they must occupy it: a combination of challenge and opportunity. In Christ, the atonement has been accomplished through Christ; however, we must live within it, occupy it. This becomes a model of our Christian life (See Romans 3 – 8; Hebrews 11:16). As Joshua mediates the covenant in Joshua 8 and 23-24, so Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant.
3. The holy and redeeming God. Each part of Joshua emphasizes the gracious and redemptive work of God on behalf of Israel and Joshua. God’s mercy is also shown to Rahab, and the Gideonites.
4. Joseph Smith’s work on justified (not holy) war. See D&C 98:29-38, D&C 58:53; D&C 63:29-31.

Specific lessons for us today:
Chapter 2: Rahab and the Spies.

“M. Weinfield argues for the antiquity of Joshua 2, citing examples of parallels with Ancient Near Eastern cultures of the second millennium B.C.:

Sending out men for reconnaissance was a widespread phenomenon in the east. Moreover, a prostitute’s or innkeeper’s house was the accustomed place for meeting with spies, conspirators, and the like. Thus, for example, we read in Hammurabi’s Code: “If scoundrels plot together [in conspiratorial relationships] in an innkeeper’s hosue, and she does not seize them and bring them to the palace, that innkeeper shall be put to death” (law 109). In a Mari letter we read about two men who sow fear and panic and cause rebellion in an army. Also the pattern of a three-day stay in an area when pursuing escapees has support in ancient eastern sources; for example the instructions to the Hittite tower commanders specify that if an enemy invades a place he must be pursued for three days. In the same collection of instructions we find that it is forbidden to build an inn (arzana) in which prostitutes live near the fortress wall, apparent because of the kind of danger described in Joshua 2.” (from Richard Hess, p. 26, see reference above).

• How does Rahab, a female Canaanite, correspond to Joshua?
• Joshua 6:25. What does Rahab becoming part of Israel typify? (See Gen. 12:3, Matt. 1:5 – Rachab = Rahab, though the Talmud says that Rahab married Joshua.)
• How is Rahab able to be saved? V. 9-11 (see John 17:3; Hebrews 11:31)
• Is Rahab justified in lying or deceiving? (v. 26).
• How does the scarlet cord (v. 17-20) relate to the Passover? See Ex. 12:13, 22-23.
• V. 23-24. How do these spies correspond to the spies in the wilderness in Numbers 13:26-33; 14:1-10, 37?
• What does the story of Rahab do to the BAN? What might it teach about the relationship of Israel to the Canaanites?
• Note the symbolism of Rahab’s window (v. 15) being the only non-closed spot in Jericho’s wall (6:1), just as she was the only one with . . . an open heart? Open mind?

Joshua 3 and 4: a ritual crossing of the Jordan = Israel is “born” into the Promised Land.

From the Class Member Study Guide:

• What did the Lord tell Joshua to do to “have good success”? (See Joshua 1:8.) Why do you think scripture study would have been important for Joshua to succeed in his calling? How has regular scripture study helped you?
• What important counsel did Joshua give at the end of his life? (See Joshua 24:14–15.) Why is it important to choose today to serve the Lord? How can we show that we have chosen to serve him?

10 Responses to “Joshua”

  1. robf said

    Thanks cherylem. This is one book of scripture I tend to shy away from. Would be interested to see what others here make of it.

  2. cherylem said

    For those who are teaching this section, there is a good university course (Yale) at freeversity.org, here: http://www.freeversity.org/liberal-arts-1/religious-studies/introduction-to-the-old-testament-hebrew-bible

    Segments 11, 12, and 13 are especially helpful to understanding the Biblical narrative at this point (through Kings, actually)

  3. sjames said

    Great post and useful website, thank you for the link.

    The question of ‘how a loving God could command the wholesale extermination of nations’ is a question that assumes some acceptance of the representations of God provided by the author(s) of Joshua and subsequent translators that we might be aligned with their particular sympathies in this regard.

    You have provided plenty to consider here, with several suggested ways forward, much appreciated.

  4. cherylem said

    Thanks SJames.

    Rob – Joshua is simply a difficult book. Putting it in historical construct helps, but it does beg the question of holy war – the ban and proscription are things we need to talk about when we teach Joshua.

  5. Robert C. said

    Thanks for these notes, Cheryl, and for the link to that Freeversity course.

    I’m esp. interested in your question, “What does the story of Rahab do to the BAN? What might it teach about the relationship of Israel to the Canaanites?” Would you mind sharing your thoughts in how to respond to this question?

    I’m particularly curious because of the way I think this shift is linked to the notion of consecration in the early restored Church (cf. Malachi 4:13, quoted in 3 Nephi and in D&C 42: “I will consecrate their gain unto the Lord” where the Hebrew for “consecrate” is charam, the same word for the ban = utter destruction).

  6. Robert C. said

    Also, I think there is something interesting going on in 2 Nephi 3:3 where Lehi tells Joseph that “thy seed shall not utterly be destroyed“—words that come just after Lehi says that the Lord will consecrate the land for Joseph and his inheritance (verse 2).

    The notion of remnant that Joe has been exploring here thus seems implicated in interesting ways with this notion of consecration and the ban. Perhaps there is even a parallel with the two ritual scapegoats: one is utterly destroyed while the other is spared and flees in the wilderness like the righteous remnant?


  7. Jim F said

    Cheryl, as always this is absolutely great stuff. I hope you’ll keep supplying notes for studying the lessons. Thanks.

  8. cherylem said

    Thanks, Jim.

  9. cherylem said

    Excellent comments. I don’t know what I think about that question. I like to pose questions like that to get everyone talking/thinking, but I don’t really have an answer. Except the ban did not apply to Rahab.

    The women in the OT are so very interesting. As is the sexuality of the people, which is definitely all over the place.

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