Dirk helped us all out today by reading Joshua 13 with all of its difficult to pronounce names. And he did it all very well. We were privileged to have Rabbi Portman visiting with us today and sharing his insights with us. This chapter lays out the boundaries of Canaan which God told Joshua to capture for the Israelites. It also indicates where the various tribes will be located in this new land. It indicated that the tribe of Levi would have no land to itself as that is the tribe of priests who will be supported by everyone by their offerings to God. This was mentioned twice both in verses 14 and 33. The Lord God of Israel is their inheritance. It is interesting that the people of Israel did not drive out the Geshurites or the Maacathites and that these people still live in the midst of Israel. Was this because the Israelites failed to drive them out or did God have some reason to leave them there? Might this remnant be the Palestinians of today? [See the map of the conquest below.]
This is a description of the territory of Canaan and how the land was to be divided among the tribes of the paper. Levi didn’t get a land share as they were the priests. Rabbi Portman was our guest. RP said the scriptures have to come from God because it is too bizarre to imagine it. The writers put the words into Gods words to make it more powerful. This part of the word, the so called prophecy books, isn’t usually read along with the first five books, the pentateuch. Rabbi Portman said that Jews see NT is a description of one character and his ministry whereas the Hebrew Bible has many characters. The torah and its teachings are most important and god is almost secondary. People wonder why god would violate His commandments by all these killings and plundering. Mark said that we have to remember this isn’t as reliable historically as maybe the civil war accounts. Although even accounts of the Civil War are sometimes sketchy. Our faith is built on the totality of texts that describe the god here. Rabbi Portman said this was a story of how the people heard God in their day. Inspiration today is how we write how God speaks to us.
Approach the scriptures as a whole for how to interact with god.Dirk told story about a man named Mark hitting tree in his car while texting, drinking, or some other distraction and when he was taken to the hospital, the chaplain there said that he had received the just reward for his action. However, his nurse for the hospital stay was a beautiful woman who cared for him during his hospital stay and he married her. After 30 years of marriage, he wrote that the crash which put him in the hospital was God’s way of introducing him to this wonderful woman who would give him a wonderful life. Now which interpretation is the correct one or is it the perspective of the writer and is it the way the chaplain and Mark each interpreted the story in a different way. Al said maybe it is the inspiring word of god as opposed to inspired word of god. We are still writing the story of our interaction with god. We gather around studying the bible to discern our relationship with God and to understand how God talks with us.
Go to Exodus next week.
Today we read about the continuing conquest of the land of Canaan by Joshua. It is a story of Joshua fighting and winning against tremendous odds over the 31 kings who controlled cities in Canaan. All is attributed to the will of God. The people were commanded to kill all those who they fought against, even the women and children, but to keep the spoils. We have to remember that we are reading about a people who were making their way in a world at approximately 1440 BCE. The story was believed to have been composed in the early part of the Babylonian captivity around 600 BCE. However, there are a number of archeological scholars who believe that there is little evidence of the Israelites in Canaan until about 1250 BCE. There is evidence in the 11th and 12th centuries of the presence of Israelite people who settled in small towns in the highlands of Canaan. There are also questions about all of the battles that were fought and the subsequent genocide that supposedly happened. There is evidence that many of the kings who were described as those killed in the battles the Israelites fought for the land existing in much later times.
So what are we to make of the story that we consider today? Should we see this as rabbinic Jewish literature depicts it as describing Joshua as a faithful, humble, deserving, wise man who is obedient to the dictates of God and therefore illustrative of these qualities and of the rewards from God he received because of them? Or is there more to it than that. What was the role this text plays for the people at the time it was written? If it was written in the early part of the Babylonian captivity, was it a pep talk for the people talking about how strong they had been under Joshua being able to conquer all of the people in Canaan and in a bravado saying that they had marched through killing everyone in sight? How would this play out with a people who had been conquered by the Babylonians and taken away to be slaves in Babylonia? Maybe it would rouse a spirit among them that better days are coming and God will again support them as they become a great people again, throw off the Babylonian yoke, and conquer a land for their homes again.
The other question raised by this story is what does it mean for us today. In Hebrews 4:8-10, Paul identifies Jesus as a better Joshua, as Joshua led Israel into the rest of Canaan, Jesus leads the people of god into salvation. Early Christians considered Joshua to be a type of Jesus Christ. Some say that Joshua’s crossing of the Jordan is mirrored by Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, Joshua’s military campaigns foreshadow Jesus’s battles with Satan, specifically His time in the wilderness and the temptations of Satan that followed, and Joshua’s succession of Moses symbolizes the end put to Mosaic law by Jesus. A comparison can be made of the temptations of Jesus by Satan with the experiences of the people following Moses and then Joshua. I don’t see all the points of comparison. There is obviously the 40 years in the wilderness by Moses, and the 40 days by Jesus. There is the creation of a kingdom by Joshua and the way that Satan calls out to Jesus to establish a kingdom that Satan will give him. But Joshua appeared to create the kingdom, whereas Jesus created a virtual kingdom that we would obtain for a life of obedience to God. Was it the case that among these bronze age people they would not understand any of the virtual ideas that Jesus presented therefore they had to describe physical success in order to keep the people obedient to God. There are lots of questions about this aspect of our study of Joshua!
Chapter 9 is about a clever ploy by the Amorites to avoid being wiped out by the Israelites. The oath that the Joshua and the priests made with the Amorites appeared to be very strong. If they would break the oath, God would punish them. Why would God be so concerned about an oath that was made and then tell them to murder everyone in a city. What did it mean to be a neighbor in those days? Was it the same kind of neighbor as is referred to by Jesus when he says you should love your neighbor as yourself. It is certainly the case that God has changed over time and takes different positions at different times. God had made an agreement with Moses that the land should be taken and all the inhabitants should be killed. But he honored the oath that the people made with the people who said they had come from afar, but were actually only 3 days away. Interesting, these people became slaves to the Israelites and were wood cutters and water carriers for them.
Chapter 10 presents all the gory details about the conquest of all the other kings and their subjects in the area. All were killed with the 5 kings’ deaths in particular highlighted and only the booty was saved. One asks the question whether all of the people were actually wiped out or if some were permitted to join the Israelites as Rahab had done. Possibly they had to be circumcised before joining them. In some sense one would think that God had an army that could be devoted to helping the Israelites. Because Joshua faced impossible situations and the Lord would turn to victory. Israel had to rely on the Lord for both offense and defense. Was the whole story meant to teach the people about obedience and to honor their commitments? That might indeed be a good outcome.
A question was raised as to how Jesus could be the God of the Old Testament. The two messages are so different. In the Old Testament, God wanted to separate and purify, and went to great lengths to show how the people who followed him profitted by their relationship. Whereas in the New Testament, Jesus welcomed all particularly the downtrodden and they didn’t even have to be circumcised. What would Rabbi Portman say about Jesus, that he was a very good Rabbi?
A note from the Lutheran Study Bible on verses 10:29-43. “The Lord leads his people through a series of successive victories. Consider the deliverance that came by God’s hand as you reflect on the challenges you face. What a blessing that by Christ’s crucified hands, he gives us his victory against all our sin and death’s power. He equips us for every new challenge. ”
Map of Joshua’s campaign to conquer Canaan.
We read Joshua 8 today. This is the story of Joshua taking the city of Ai in the foothills above Jericho. I assume that he did this to protect the area around Jericho from attack. They would have a lookout at a high place. The Lord told Joshua to kill everyone including the King of Ai and burn the city leaving only the spoil and its cattle as booty. The conquest of the city was certain because God willed it.
This was a case of genocide as were many of the conquests in that day. The people weren’t allowed to take plunder in Jericho, but were encouraged to do so here. There is a reference to aliens among them, probably some people who had just joined in the group and it could also include the family of Rahab from Jericho. They used a battle ploy to entice the King of Ai into battle. They hid the main battle troop and had a smaller troop of soldiers that came toward the city and when the King of Ai came out to meet them with his whole army, the group waiting in ambush attacked from behind and vanquished the army. Joshua was told by the Lord to hold out his spear until all are killed. So some 12,000 people were killed including the soldiers, but also all the women and children. The king of Ai was hanged on a tree. Then Joshua built an altar to the Lord and the priests paraded in victory with the arc of the covenant. The story talks about obedience to the Lord, but what are we to make of this story for our times. Does God want to protect them from enemies in the future by killing off potential enemies? Joshua was obedient, but received the plunder as a reward. Are we obedient to God so that we will be prosperous? And then we have to blame ourselves for bad results.
We talked about our legacy in life. Mark raised the issue of Paul Horek’s legacy in terms of the articles he left behind as well as his autobiography. It will be a legacy of bravery and courage and the willingness to overcome a physical ailment, in his case to make a mark in the hearing world. He showed that even in the midst of his regular routine he could make a difference.
We began with prayer and a reminder that we are reading the stories of how Israel became a nation. Pastor Pries noted that the reference to Iron comes from a later time. These passages do not show up in our regular lectionary, in part because the lectionary serves to unite Christians in proclamation that follows a certain rhythm in the church year, and of course because we have such a hard time understanding these stories in our contemporary context.
Vicar Jason provided this summary of our session as I was not able to be at the Bible Study: We questioned what would burn when these ancient cities made of rock and stone were set ablaze. How do we understand war in the name of God? We can often question whether some of these stories might contain some amount of allegory. In our post-modern era of religious plurality, it is difficult to claim this scripture as relevant. Yet, we do hold that the God of the Old Testament is the same as the New Testament God is revealed in Jesus Christ. We seek comfort in the questions and the mystery of faith. How is this scripture useful for us? Those in need of God’s protection could find here an example that God is faithful to the promise to protect us from enemies.
The Canaanites worship another god, and this seems to imply that the God of Israel has no problem making them ‘dedicated for destruction.’ One of the themes in Joshua and in the Old Testament is that disobedience to God carries consequences. Obedience makes sense to us, even when some of the details of the story do not.
When the Kings west of the Jordan heard how the Lord had dried up the Jordan before the Israelites, they didn’t want to face them. The first thing the Lord told Joshua to do is to circumcise all of the men. It seems that whereas all the men going to live in Egypt had been circumcised, they had dropped the practice while they were in Egypt. So the Lord reinstated it before the fight for Jericho. The Lord said sharpen your flint knives and do the deed to all male Israelites. Then they celebrated the Passover at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho.
Then the Lord did an amazing thing. He told Joshua to have the priests carry the arc of the covenant around the outside of the walls of Jericho along with 7 men playing their trumpets for 6 days. They were followed by armed men. On the 7th day of doing this, the armed men were told to shout after they had circled the city and the walls collapsed and the city surrendered to the Israelites. They were told to go into the city and get Rahab, the prostitute and her family as they were to be spared. Everyone else was to be killed and they put the gold and silver they captured into the Lord’s treasury. The Lord said the city should not be rebuilt and the Lord was with Joshua and his fame spread throughout the land.
Today we read and discussed Joshua 4, which details how the Israelites crossed the Jordan River and how the river parted for them as the priests carried to Arc of the Covenant across it. It detailed how Joshua deployed the priests to carry stones from the middle of the Jordan to convey the idea of the crossing for the future.
Jason led today and started off with a discussion of how grandparents had told stories to us and maybe how reticent they were. A number of us contributed stories about the stories told us by our grandparents, usually grandfathers. Many noted how reticent they were to tell these stories. Bill says thinking that sin entered by Adam for all of us and one sinless person, Jesus, took it away from all of us. It seems preposterous just like the Jordan parting for Joshua. But that is what faith is about, to find meaning in these words from the Bible. We want proof of things spiritual. People who say science destroyed their belief in God don’t know science. Religions like people grow by forgetting. Most profound ethical or moral foundations are those that are acted upon. When a major breakthrough occurred in science there would be enthusiasm but in religion there is distress. Is it the religious organizations that cause all the problems in the world? The Doge of Venice who supplied the ships for the crusades said it was for the glory of God and 10% for him. Eldon asked what happens in revisions. Look at the revisions made by Mohammad in his revision that became the Koran written well over 1,000 years after these stories of Abraham and Joshua. So that the people may know that god was with them and guided them. In what circumstance do you feel closest to God? A few answers were provided. Several mentioned music as the time when they feel closest to God.
We are grateful to Jason who led the Bible study this morning. After Moses’ death, Joshua was named the leader of the people and was given permission to lead the people out of the wilderness to the land promised to Abraham. So Joshua sent two men as spies to find out how hard it was going to be to take Jericho. Of course, the men found a prostitute that they could stay with. There seems to be a history of these people of Israel consorting with prostitutes as they went on their ways. The spies came back to Joshua and told about how they could overcome the people.
The God promised them they would prosper if they followed him. this is really Calvinism and it raises the question of whether there is a real god but yet the people from Abraham on down have prospered and always attribute it to their God. These nomads who have traveled many miles through many territories always land on their feet, displace the people who had used the land before they came, and at the end come away with more flocks, herds, slaves, and wives and a larger entourage.
A comment was made that Jews and Mormons have a lot in common. Their ways have helps that that identify the people and serve as guides for the people. Did Jesus really tear the fabric of this whole people apart with his talk of helping the poor and saying it would be difficult for a rich person to enter His kingdom?
It was noted that Rahab was listed as one of the ancestors of Jesus. It appears that the men were doing something besides user her house as a hideout!!!