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text 2016-04-21 14:00
Reflections on Joshua

The book of Joshua concludes the story that began back in Egypt in the book of Exodus. Moses had liberated the Israelites and was leading them to the land that God had promised to their fathers when they hit a few snags in the road. Those are dealt with in the last books and this is where everyone gets right back on track. It's still not perfect, but a lot of the doubt and mistrust of God appears to be gone. It's a whole new generation, one that grew up with the faith and the deeds in mind. 

 

Notable Women

Rahab is the only woman really mentioned in this book. She is a woman from Jericho who may have been a prostitute, temple prostitute or inn keeper, depending on where you get your information. She may or may not have been revered for her role as prostitute or an upstanding citizen of the community. Regardless of the way her community looked at her, she saved two members of Israel and made a deal to be spared, along with her household, when the walls of Jericho came down. 

The rest of the book isn't quite aware of the women, except in chapter 17 where the daughters of  Zelophehad are finally named and given the inheritance Moses promised them back in Numbers. Their names were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. 

 

Major Themes

There's really just one theme. Follow God. If you do what He tells you to do, you will succeed. Of course, this is very specific and shouldn't be taken as a blanket platitude. In this century, we are not given the direct instructions from God to carry out His orders. We have to attempt to intuit them and maybe we aren't so good at that. Or maybe there aren't direct orders anymore, not like this. Nevertheless, the major theme of this book is still that anyone who receives direct instructions, should follow them. Waiver and they will fail, though. More importantly, this book is about God fulfilling that original promise, but doing so with the cooperation of the people. It was necessary that they be a part of it too.

 

Strictly feminist

It was good to see that the daughters of Zelophehad got their inheritance. Despite the issue of referring to Rahab solely by her occupation, it was also good to see people of Israel beholden to and save a woman and her household because of her faith. The rest of the book doesn't really mention women, but it doesn't exactly separate the men either. We have a situation where it can be exclusive or inclusive depending on the outlook of the reader. This one doesn't seem like either to me. It's about all the people, not just the men or just the women at any point. The whole people of Israel moved in and settled in to the land that had been promised to them. 

 

For other Bible posts, click here

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text 2016-04-11 14:00
Joshua 6-12: Taking the Land

When we left Joshua, he had just met a stranger on the road who called himself "the commander of the Lord's Army". Now it's time to put the Lord's army to work.

 

Chapter six

This begins with some specific instructions on how to take the city of Jericho. We know from previous readings that all the people in the army are men, so they are definitely the ones marching around the city everyday for seven days. The question that I have is whether or not the women were adding to the "great shout" by "all the people". It's only ambiguous because of the combination of assumptions at play. Where are the rest of the people? Theoretically, the women are back at camp with the kids, but it doesn't say "all the men". If it's a translation issue, then why? 

Among the parallel verses in other translations, it is also commonly termed "the entire army", and the Strong's concordance has it listed as "folk" which doesn't help. The part of speech is listed as the "noun masculine" but we know that the nouns are masculinized in mixed company, as we learned back with Sodom and Gomorrah. So..... yeah, it was probably just the men because I don't think they deserted the entire camp or left just the kids, but I hate it when terminology is inconsistent. Of course, having to translate things always adds hardships to understanding. Moving along...

 

They do as commanded and then Joshua issues this great long order to shout and the city is delivered to them. In it, he says "Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live" and it bothered me. Does he have to point out that she's a prostitute? There's also a theory that she wasn't a prostitute, but an innkeeper and the words are so similar that they have been misconstrued all these years. Sure, it doesn't matter on the surface what her occupation was, but are we simply acknowledging who she was or reducing her to her job description? Why couldn't he say Rahab the Protector for what she did for them? Another theory that I saw said that she was cultic or priestly prostitute, so this isn't an insult at all but a high status that she is giving up because she believed more in Israel's God. 

Then they shout and the walls fall and the city is destroyed with all inhabitants and livestock except Rahab's household. The chapter ends with a curse that Joshua puts on Jericho and that Joshua was famous throughout the land. 

 

Chapter seven

It only takes one. One guy kept some stuff from Jericho that he shouldn't keep. This resulted in God not supporting them in their next engagement and a horrible loss. Joshua prays to God, a prayer that is more of a lament and is the one that includes questioning God and why He freed them from Pharaoh for them to die here. Then God tells him what got Him mad and how to make up for it. They had to bring everyone forward so God can tell him who the culprit was and then that guy was stoned to death in what was apparently a notable heap of stones. 

 

Chapter eight

They go back up against the people that had defeated them when God was mad and win this time. Afterward, Joshua builds an altar, writes down the Book of the Law of Moses and they stand on the mountains and do the blessings and curses again. I thought it was interesting that they continued to renew the covenant. 

Did they need the reminder? Did they need to continue pledging themselves to God so they don't forget their own words or that God is with them for as long as they actually follow Him? 

 

Chapter nine

After Israel defeated the last two inhabitants of their lands, the rest got worried. Most decided to go in together to attempt to defeat Israel, but one has another idea. This chapter sums up the deception of the Gibeons, who pretend to be from far away and make a covenant with Joshua to spare them. 

The thing to note about the covenant that was made is that Joshua does not consult God first, assuming that they were telling the truth and it wouldn't be a big deal. This covenant appears to work like a peace treaty today. Once signed, there cannot be war among them. So these guys get away with it, except that Joshua gets to change the terms based on the deception. The people are still protected but belong to Israel and are now basically servants. They may not have their territory and whatever else, but they were kept alive as Israel had promised. 

 

Chapter ten

None of the Israelites make the mistake of the guy in chapter seven and so this chapter has them beating one group after another. The first group rose against the Gibeons, who asked their new masters for help that is given to them. These were people that Joshua and the Israelites were going to go after eventually anyway. Then there's a whole slew of others that get defeated without further issue. 

Important note, this story includes a day when God makes the sun wait for Joshua to descend. It specifies that there had been no day like it since or before. 

 

Chapter eleven

More battle and conquests in this chapter. The addition here is the note that Joshua did it all according to the way Moses had passed down from God to do. Also that their hearts had been hardened by God. This is interesting because I had always thought that Pharaoh was the only one that God had specifically hardened. It really calls the whole "free will" thing into question. Do we really have free will? Or is it something we have only for as long as God decides but isn't a guarantee? Or is it a guarantee now but wasn't back then? Or were the people so hateful that the writer of this book could only fathom it this way? 

There's no telling at this point, but questions are a part of the process, so let's proceed and see if answers come down the road. 

 

Chapter twelve

This one just recaps the kingdoms that Moses and then Joshua put down during the battles and quest to take the land. 

 

So the commander of the Lord's Army isn't mentioned again in any of these battles. Was he an adviser to Joshua? Did he show up and then leave after the first few wins? Perhaps we will see his departure in the peace that follows this part. 

 

So there are my feelings and impressions on chapters 1-5 of Joshua. Have you read it? What do you think?

For other Bible posts, click here

 

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review 2012-07-07 00:00
This Scarlet Cord - Joan Wolf "Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho —and she lives among the Israelites to this day." -- Joshua 6:25This Christian historical fiction novel attempts to re-tell the story of Rahab, a Caananite woman living in Jericho who saved the lives of Joshua's spies, and, through that act, saved herself and her family from the destruction brought upon that city. Rahab's mention in the Bible is brief, and the author of this novel tries to fill in the gaps of her life before the spies arrived, how she came to know the true God, and how she came to later marry an Israelite and later become the mother of Boaz, an ancestor of Christ himself.I sometimes enjoy reading stories like this. I love learning more about the world during Biblical times, how people lived their daily lives, and be able to imagine what the heroes of the Bible were like as real people. Rahab is portrayed as a fiery fourteen-year-old -- brave, stubborn, and in love with an Israelite boy, despite her father's wishes to marry her off to a wealthy Jericho noble. She's a sympathetic character and star-crossed lover, which may be appealing for many readers and certainly makes for an interesting story. I found the main characters of Rahab and Sala somewhat immature. Their attraction develops at a very young age (Rahab was 12, Sala only a few years older) and then they're separated for two years before meeting again and almost upon meeting again immediately express their love for one another. Because of their backgrounds, they aren't given much opportunity to see one another before Jericho falls, they escape, and are married. The rapidity of their relationship made it feel more like puppy love than an actual romance.My greatest disappointments, however, come from the inconsistencies when compared with the Biblical accounts of Joshua 2-6. When I read historical fiction, I like it to be true to fact, expounding upon the known facts, but not contradicting them. Unfortunately, this book contained a couple of contradictions I couldn't overlook, the first being Rahab's reputation as a prostitute. Although the word used in the Bible simply mean that she was an innkeeper, the author chose to instead make the case that the Israelites only thought she was a prostitute because she was a Caananite, and didn't believe her or Sala when they told her she was actually pure. If the Biblical Rahab were a prostitute, it would be an amazing testament to God's forgiveness, and how He can use even the most lowly, despised, defiled people to fulfill His wondrous purposes. But by making the title of "prostitute" merely a misunderstanding among the Israelites, the author implies that God allowed the author of His inspired Word to make this error in the written account, and that God's Word is therefore based more on human's perception than on His inerrant inspiration.I also had a very hard time reconciling the place of Sala and his father in the Biblical account of the Exodus. His father tells Sala that some of Jacob's family -- including his ancestors -- had stayed in Canaan during the famine of Joseph's time -- "Not all of our people went into Egypt during the family, but well over half of us did", despite the fact that Genesis 46 makes it fairly clear that ALL of Jacob (Israel)'s descendants went down there to survive the famine:"Then Jacob left Beersheba, and Israel’s sons took their father Jacob and their children and their wives in the carts that Pharaoh had sent to transport him. So Jacob and all his offspring went to Egypt, taking with them their livestock and the possessions they had acquired in Canaan. Jacob brought with him to Egypt his sons and grandsons and his daughters and granddaughters—all his offspring." -- Genesis 46:5-7There were a number of other, smaller inconsistencies as well -- including Rahab referring to "the Judean hill country", despite the fact that these events took place before Judah had settled in the land (p221 e-book version).Overall, I like what the author tried to do with this book -- make a Biblical "character" into a real person with her own thoughts, emotions, dreams, and desires... but in how she did it, I think she did an injustice to the story itself as God told it in the Bible. This story is one of a girl's love for a boy and her courage to do she has to do to save herself; God's story is one of His love, forgiveness, and mercy for ALL people and His ability to use even the least-deserving among us to accomplish His perfect will.
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