Fifth Sunday of Easter

Fifth Sunday of Easter
April 29, 2018

‘Remember, Resist, Redraw’

This week in our Sunday evening and Tuesday conversations in the Garret, we are wrapping up Joshua, and beginning Judges, considering the theme of ‘Remember, Resist, Redraw’.   

Did you hang in for some or all of Joshua?  Did you begin to revise your earlier assumptions about the book’s message?  I did – again this time.  As each people read this as ‘our story’, and bring our voice to the ‘intersectional identity of our congregation – or yours – the message is transformed. 

‘Go back where you came from?’  I belong here, now. God made space for me – why can’t you?  I will assert myself and claim what providence allows and allots me – and us.

‘Kill them all?’  God dispossesses and displaces – our might fails without consensus and participation in the plan, and ceding by the other.  When we occupy, it’s not by assimilation, though.

If we serve Yahweh (not our own appetites), we are blessed beyond our deserving.  If we break covenant (claiming all the goods now) we will pay, though not all that we deserve.

If Joshua is a recital of our people acting faithfully to claim their allotted place in the providential order, prudently….

Then Judges is a recital of our people living in anarchy, rallying behind judges from time to time in response to external threats…

Over and over:  ‘there was no king in Israel in those days, and everyone did what was good in their own eyes’ – I call it free market.


Settlers and Anarchists: What Side Are We On?
Reading Joshua and Judges - Easter Season, 2018
Trinity UC Kitchener  www.trinityunitedkw.ca

Daily reading and reflection with audio
Easter Week April 1 to Pentecost week May 24
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Joshua 24

Joshua 24,
Friday, April 28, 2018 

Here goes another farewell speech – this time at Shechem, not Shiloh (or Bethel, or Gilgal, or Beer-sheva). This time the pecking order of leadership, probably dating to one of the later edits.
 
Joshua acknowledges that our own ancestors were once ‘them’ to us.  They lived elsewhere, and service other gods.  That struck some of you this week as recognition of progress, of evolution, that we can learn from experience about divinity.  I agreed – but warned that we are equally liable to degeneration and regression into barbarism.
 
Abraham ‘begat’ many offspring, throughout Canaan.  Surely this is post-exilic, using ‘beyond the River’ as reference point in Persia.  One line of Abraham is Isaac, Jacob and Esau.  Surely we are to recall Ishmael, and that Arab tribes are our cousins, just as we are reminded that the Edomites to the south of Israel are Esau’s people.
 
Just as we were reminded of our Persian and Asian roots, then we are reminded of our African roots.  Out of Egypt is repeatedly part of our story.  This is not a parochial vision, but a unifying mythmaking exercise, reminding of our connection to common humanity in Nahor and Noah, to the empires and worlds of the east and the south.
 
Back to competing gods, as those of our ancestors, we get to those of our neighbours.  The divine legitimacy of Balaam is acknowledged, and the vying of God’s miracles through Moses and Aaron with those of the Egyptian magicians.  God simply trumps it, and vanquishes the other rather than asking Israel to do so.
 
We enter the promise from the east, crossing the Jordan.  We are reminded to distinguish our fright and flight, and our freeze the first time we approached the land with spies, from this deliberate plan of occupation of space cleared by God providentially for Israel.  Whether by hornet or by trumpet, the others were scared off, not by the military weapons or strength of Israel.
 
Finally, Joshua reminds the people that providence, not their own prudence, got them prosperity.  Grace got them more blessings than they earned, and mercy gave them less punishment than they were owed.  They should put away their ancestors’ gods, to serve Yahweh.  Joshua reviews the promise, and the threat – and leaves the choice.
 
Joshua will choose – for himself and his household.  When the others say ‘me too’, he challenges them that they will fail.  Does that remind you of Jesus’ response to the optimistic disciples?  We know the future for this people, and get the touch of irony.  It is marked at Schechem, and remembered forever.  
 
We recalled ‘As For Me and My House’, Sinclair Ross’ novel about a United Church minister’s disillusionment from that early optimism.  Buried at Schechem are the bones of Joseph, and the reminders of Joshua’s covenant.  What is your reference point, glory or shame?
 
 
Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem,
 and summoned the elders,
 the heads,
 the judges,
 and the officers of Israel; 
and they presented themselves before God.
 
 2And Joshua said to all the people,
 ‘Thus says the Lord,
 the God of Israel: 
Long ago your ancestors
—Terah and his sons Abraham and Nahor—
lived beyond the Euphrates
and served other gods.
 
 3Then I took your father Abraham
from beyond the River
and led him through all the land of Canaan
and made his offspring many.
 I gave him Isaac;
 
 4and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau.
 I gave Esau
 the hill country of Seir to possess, 
but Jacob and his children
went down to Egypt.
 
 5Then I sent Moses and Aaron, 
and I plagued Egypt
with what I did in its midst;
 and afterwards I brought you out.
 
 6When I brought your ancestors out of Egypt,
 you came to the sea; 
and the Egyptians pursued your ancestors
 with chariots and horsemen to the Red Sea.
 
 7When they cried out to the Lord,
 he put darkness between you and the Egyptians, 
and made the sea come upon them
and cover them; 
and your eyes saw
what I did to Egypt. 
 
Afterwards
you lived in the wilderness
for a long time.
 
 8Then I brought you
to the land of the Amorites, 
who lived on the other side
of the Jordan; 
they fought with you,
 and I handed them over to you, 
and you took possession of their land, 
and I destroyed them before you.
 
 9Then King Balak, 
son of Zippor of Moab,
 set out to fight against Israel. 
 
He sent
and invited Balaam son of Beor
to curse you,
 
 10but I would not listen to Balaam; 
therefore he blessed you; 
so I rescued you out of his hand. 
 
 
11When you went over the Jordan
and came to Jericho,
 the citizens of Jericho fought against you,
 and also the Amorites, 
the Perizzites,
 the Canaanites,
 the Hittites,
 the Girgashites, 
the Hivites, 
and the Jebusites; 
and I handed them over to you.
 
 12I sent the hornet ahead of you, 
which drove out before you
the two kings of the Amorites; 
it was not by your sword
 or by your bow.
 
 13I gave you a land
on which you had not laboured, 
and towns that you had not built, 
and you live in them; 
you eat the fruit of vineyards
 and olive groves that you did not plant.
 
14 ‘Now therefore revere the Lord,
 and serve him in sincerity
and in faithfulness;
 put away the gods that your ancestors served
beyond the River and in Egypt, 
and serve the Lord.
 
 15Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, 
choose this day whom you will serve,
 whether the gods your ancestors served
 in the region beyond the River
or the gods of the Amorites
 in whose land you are living; 
but as for me and my household, 
we will serve the Lord.’
 
16 Then the people answered,
 ‘Far be it from us
that we should forsake the Lord
 to serve other gods;
 
 17for it is the Lord our God
who brought us and our ancestors up
from the land of Egypt, 
out of the house of slavery, 
and who did those great signs
 in our sight.
 
 He protected us
along all the way that we went, 
and among all the peoples
through whom we passed;
 
18and the Lord drove out before us
all the peoples, 
the Amorites who lived in the land.
 
 Therefore
we also will serve the Lord,
 for he is our God.’
 
19 But Joshua said to the people,
 ‘You cannot serve the Lord,
 for he is a holy God.
 
 He is a jealous God; 
he will not forgive your transgressions
 or your sins.
 
 20If you forsake the Lord
 and serve foreign gods,
 then he will turn
and do you harm,
 and consume you, 
after having done you good.’
 
21And the people said to Joshua,
 ‘No, we will serve the Lord!’
 
 22Then Joshua said to the people,
 ‘You are witnesses against yourselves
that you have chosen the Lord,
 to serve him.’ 
 
And they said,
 ‘We are witnesses.’
 
23He said,
 ‘Then put away the foreign gods
 that are among you, 
and incline your hearts
to the Lord,
 the God of Israel.’
 
 24The people said to Joshua,
 ‘The Lord our God we will serve, 
and him we will obey.’
 
 25So Joshua made a covenant
 with the people that day, 
and made statutes and ordinances for them
at Shechem. 
 
26Joshua wrote these words
 in the book of the law of God; 
and he took a large stone,
 and set it up there
 under the oak
 in the sanctuary
of the Lord.
 
 27Joshua said
to all the people,
 ‘See, 
this stone shall be a witness
against us; 
for it has heard
 all the words of the Lord
 that he spoke to us; 
therefore it shall be a witness
against you,
 if you deal falsely
with your God.’
 
 28So Joshua sent the people away
 to their inheritances.
 
29 After these things Joshua son of Nun,
 the servant of the Lord,
 died,
 being one hundred and ten years old.
 
 30They buried him
 in his own inheritance
at Timnath-serah, 
which is in the hill country of Ephraim,
 north of Mount Gaash.
 
31 Israel served the Lord
all the days of Joshua, 
and all the days of the elders
who outlived Joshua
and had known all the work
 that the Lord did for Israel.
 
32 The bones of Joseph,
 which the Israelites had brought up from Egypt, 
were buried at Shechem,
 in the portion of ground
that Jacob had bought
from the children of Hamor, 
the father of Shechem,
 for one hundred pieces of money;
 it became an inheritance
of the descendants of Joseph.
 
33 Eleazar son of Aaron died; 
and they buried him at Gibeah,
 the town of his son Phinehas, 
which had been given him
 in the hill country of Ephraim.
 
 
 

Joshua 23

Joshua 23,
Friday, April 27, 2018 

Here’s a clearer ‘happily ever after’ speech, a deathbed oration by a revered old leader.  It’s like Jacob saying good-bye to his 12 sons late in Genesis, or like Moses’s farewell at the end of Deuteronomy.  It’s a bit operatic, like the long solo of the hero showing remarkable lungs.
 
We are asked to frame this as long into a legendary peace from all enemies, when Joshua was 110.  In rhetorical terms, it is peroration, summarizing what came before – and what will follow in the next bit.  You did good, God did good, all prospered – but the covenant is conditional, and consequences will be as sure for unfaithfulness.
 
If the original militant versions of this story were belligerent toward neighbouring tribes, the people in the land around and among us, and perhaps ambitious and expansionary in the times of Solomon, by the time we read it, we know better than to hear a triumphal tale.
 
By the time of Josiah, we know that Assyria has replaced Egypt as our empire, and ‘ten lost tribes’ is already a fair way to talk about the remnant we hope to save in Judah and Benjamin.  By the time of a Second Temple, we’ve known exile, and return to the ‘people of the land’ who stayed and were Samaritans among the tribes.
 
As it has been read from the beginning, this is an argument against assimilation.  We are revolted by Joshua prohibiting intermarriage, from our liberalism, our fundamentalist faith in being rights-bearing atomized individuals.  Spectres of racializing religious wars and genocidal rejection of the ‘Other’ fill our heads and hearts. Ouch.
 
Put the anti-assimilation message in the mouth of a First Nations elder, and it begins to sound more plausible.  Put our self-righteous glib liberalism in the mouths of governmental monopolies on education and child welfare, and it is tyrannical cultural genocide. 
 
Don’t surrender your missing and murdered indigenous women to the apathy of institutions that do our sinning for us.  Don’t take their status when they marry non-indigenous men, or deny status to their children.  Who determines who is part of ‘us’?  
 
Can anybody simply claim unilaterally to be First Nations, from Archie Belaney claiming to be Grey Owl until Joseph Boyden’s cultural appropriation.  “Who do you think you are?” ask the people who have not validated the claim, regardless of genetic tests.
 
We are all too familiar with a particular reading of this text, from a peculiar subculture of political Zionism:  God gave us all this land, and any of us have a Right of Return, and divine title to all the land.  Settlers are simply fulfilling the charge of Joshua!
 
There are plenty of good Jewish readings of this text that simply claim God’s providential gift of a right to exist wherever we find ourselves, and to claim those gifts and use them to serve the divine. That is not imperialistic or genocidal to all other peoples.  
 
God ‘pushes back’ or ‘drives out’ other nations to make room for Israel to occupy.  It is not their own strength or warfare that makes space.  The providential gift is conditional on serving the divine, and just as blessings can reward obedience, curses follow self-serving.
 
That’s more than my 400 word quota for the day… what’s your word?
 
A long time afterwards, 
when the Lord had given rest to Israel
 from all their enemies all around, 
and Joshua was old
and well advanced in years,
 
 2Joshua summoned all Israel,
 their elders and heads,
 their judges and officers,
 and said to them,
 
 ‘I am now old
and well advanced in years;
 
 3and you have seen
all that the Lord your God has done
to all these nations
for your sake,
 for it is the Lord your God
who has fought for you.
 
 4I have allotted to you
as an inheritance for your tribes
those nations that remain, 
along with all the nations
that I have already cut off, 
from the Jordan
to the Great Sea in the west.
 
 5The Lord your God
will push them back before you, 
and drive them out of your sight;
 and you shall possess their land,
 as the Lord your God promised you.
 
 6Therefore be very steadfast
to observe and do
all that is written
 in the book of the law of Moses, 
turning aside from it
 neither to the right
nor to the left,
 
 7so that you may not be mixed
 with these nations
left here among you,
 or make mention
of the names
of their gods,
 or swear by them,
 or serve them,
 or bow yourselves down
to them,
 
 8but hold fast
to the Lord your God,
 as you have done
to this day.
 
 9For the Lord has driven out before you
great and strong nations; 
and as for you,
 no one has been able to withstand you
 to this day.
 
 10One of you
 puts to flight a thousand,
 since it is the Lord your God
 who fights for you, 
as he promised you.
 
 11Be very careful, therefore, 
to love the Lord your God. 
 
12For if you turn back, 
and join the survivors of these nations
left here among you,
 and intermarry with them, 
so that you marry their women
and they yours,
 
 13know assuredly
that the Lord your God
will not continue to drive out
these nations before you; 
but they shall be a snare
and a trap for you,
 a scourge on your sides,
 and thorns in your eyes,
 until you perish
 from this good land
that the Lord your God
has given you.
 
14 ‘And now
 I am about to go
 the way of all the earth,
 and you know in your hearts and souls,
 all of you,
 that not one thing has failed
of all the good things
that the Lord your God promised
concerning you;
 all have come to pass for you, 
not one of them has failed. 
 
15But just as all the good things
that the Lord your God promised concerning you
 have been fulfilled for you,
 so the Lord will bring upon you
all the bad things,
 until he has destroyed you
from this good land
that the Lord your God
has given you.
 
16If you transgress
the covenant of the Lord your God,
 which he enjoined on you, 
and go and serve other gods
 and bow down to them, 
then the anger of the Lord
will be kindled against you, 
and you shall perish quickly
from the good land
that he has given to you.’
 
 
 

Joshua 22

Joshua 22,
Thursday, April 26, 2018

Just as the book opened with charging the shock troops of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh to lead the way across the Jordan, the bracket is closed, by sending them home.  They made their deal with Moses, wide pastureland claims east of the Jordan, north of Edom through Moab and Ammon and Gilead, the full length of the river.
 
It was a moral affirmation at the outset, that even though their lands had already been won from Sihon and Og, the 2.5 tribes would lead the fight for the other tribes’ claim.  They have done their duty, and are now blessed, paid, and send ‘home’ to the Transjordan.  It’s a ‘happily ever after ending at Shiloh as the tribes depart.
 
Just before they re-cross the Jordan toward the east, the 2.5 tribes stop to build a big pile of stones altar, like the ones built in front of the Tent of the Ark of the Covenant at several stops along the way.  They built it big, and built it on the frontier between Canaan and Gilead regions, on the west side of the Jordan.
 
We have trouble making the leap to verse 12, and all the rest of the tribes gathering back to Shiloh to make war against the 2.5 because of the ‘treachery’ of the altar.  Was it an American Revolution of 1776 or an Upper Canada Rebellion of 1832?  How is this different from the other ancient shrines, 10,000 years old, some reclaimed like Bethel or Schechem or Gilgal or Shiloh, as subordinate to Jerusalem?
 
It might read differently in Solomon’s time, when the Temple was new after a long tradition of a mobile ‘god in a box’ visiting different altar sites.  It might be read differently in Josiah’s time with the northern shrines fallen to Assyria, or in Second Temple times.  When is a new religious centre just another cathedral, and when is it the start of a Reformation and Wars of Religion?
 
Phineas is sent with 10 senior warriors as a diplomatic mission to try to avert civil war.  The 2.5 tribes defence themselves, that this pile of stones is purely symbolic, a sort of Disneyland teaching aid for their descendants to claim roots, like European architecture for government sites in North America.  They promise to keep sacrificing only at certified altars, thus keeping the tithes flowing to Jerusalem.
 
Hotter parallels might be the Chinese corporations buying Nexus in Calgary and Aecon in Toronto, claiming their form of corporation with state ownership is flattering imitation, while we suspect a threat to our long-term sovereignty.  Another might be federal-provincial talk about a pipeline from Alberta to the Atlantic or Pacific, balancing collective goods and risks.  More modest would be the increasing congregationalism in our communion, and the risk of division. 
 
 
 
Then Joshua summoned
the Reubenites,
 the Gadites, 
and the half-tribe of Manasseh,
 
 2and said to them, 
‘You have observed all that Moses
the servant of the Lord
commanded you, 
and have obeyed me
in all that I have commanded you;
 
 3you have not forsaken your kindred
 these many days, 
down to this day,
 but have been careful
 to keep the charge
of the Lord your God.
 
 4And now the Lord your God
has given rest to your kindred, 
as he promised them; 
therefore turn and go to your tents
 in the land where your possession lies, 
which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you
on the other side of the Jordan.
 
 5Take good care
 to observe the commandment and instruction
that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, 
to love the Lord your God, 
to walk in all his ways, 
to keep his commandments,
 and to hold fast to him, 
and to serve him
with all your heart
and with all your soul.’
 
 6So Joshua blessed them
and sent them away,
 and they went to their tents.
 
7 Now to one half of the tribe of Manasseh
Moses had given a possession in Bashan; 
but to the other half Joshua had given a possession
beside their fellow-Israelites in the land west of the Jordan. 
And when Joshua sent them away to their tents
and blessed them,
 
 8he said to them,
 ‘Go back to your tents
with much wealth,
 and with very much livestock,
 with silver, gold, bronze, and iron, 
and with a great quantity of clothing;
 divide the spoil of your enemies
with your kindred.’
 
 9So the Reubenites
 and the Gadites
and the half-tribe of Manasseh
returned home,
 parting from the Israelites at Shiloh, 
which is in the land of Canaan, 
to go to the land of Gilead, 
their own land
of which they had taken possession
by command of the Lord through Moses.
 
 
10 When they came to the region near the Jordan
that lies in the land of Canaan,
 the Reubenites
 and the Gadites
and the half-tribe of Manasseh
built there an altar
by the Jordan,
 an altar of great size. 
 
11The Israelites heard
 that the Reubenites
and the Gadites
and the half-tribe of Manasseh
had built an altar
at the frontier of the land of Canaan, 
in the region near the Jordan,
 on the side that belongs to the Israelites.
 
 12And when the people of Israel heard of it, 
he whole assembly of the Israelites gathered at Shiloh,
 to make war against them.
 
13 Then the Israelites sent the priest Phinehas son of Eleazar
to the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, 
in the land of Gilead,
 
 14and with him ten chiefs, 
one from each of the tribal families of Israel,
 every one of them the head of a family
among the clans of Israel.
 
15They came to the Reubenites, 
the Gadites, 
and the half-tribe of Manasseh
 in the land of Gilead,
 and they said to them,
 
 16‘Thus says the whole congregation of the Lord,
 “What is this treachery
that you have committed against the God of Israel
 in turning away today
from following the Lord,
 by building yourselves an altar today
 in rebellion against the Lord?
 
 17Have we not had enough
 of the sin at Peor
from which even yet
we have not cleansed ourselves,
 and for which a plague came
 upon the congregation of the Lord,
 
 18that you must turn away today
from following the Lord! 
 
If you rebel against the Lord
today,
 he will be angry with the whole congregation of Israel
tomorrow.
 
 19But now, 
if your land is unclean,
 cross over into the Lord’s land
where the Lord’s tabernacle now stands,
 and take for yourselves a possession among us;
 only do not rebel against the Lord,
 or rebel against us
 by building yourselves an altar
other than the altar of the Lord our God.
 
 20Did not Achan son of Zerah
 break faith in the matter of the devoted things, 
and wrath fell upon all the congregation of Israel? 
 
And he did not perish alone for his iniquity!” ’
 
21 Then the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh
said in answer to the heads of the families of Israel, 
 
22‘The Lord, God of gods! 
The Lord, God of gods! 
 
He knows; 
and let Israel itself know! 
 
If it was in rebellion
or in breach of faith towards the Lord, 
do not spare us today
 
23for building an altar
 to turn away from following the Lord;
 
 or if we did so
 to offer burnt-offerings or grain-offerings
or offerings of well-being on it, 
may the Lord himself take vengeance.
 
 24No! 
We did it from fear
that in time to come
 your children might say to our children,
 
 “What have you to do
with the Lord, the God of Israel? 
 
25For the Lord has made the Jordan a boundary
 between us and you,
 you Reubenites and Gadites; 
you have no portion in the Lord.” 
 
So your children might make our children
cease to worship the Lord.
 
 26Therefore we said, 
“Let us now build an altar,
 not for burnt-offering, 
nor for sacrifice,
 
 27but to be a witness between us and you, 
and between the generations after us, 
 
that we do perform
the service of the Lord
in his presence
with our burnt-offerings
and sacrifices
and offerings of well-being; 
 
so that your children
may never say to our children
 in time to come,
 ‘You have no portion in the Lord.’ ”
 
 28And we thought, 
If this should be said to us
or to our descendants in time to come,
 we could say,
 
 “Look at this copy of the altar of the Lord,
 which our ancestors made, 
not for burnt-offerings, nor for sacrifice,
 but to be a witness between us and you.”
 
 29Far be it from us
that we should rebel against the Lord, 
and turn away this day
 from following the Lord
 by building an altar
 for burnt-offering, 
grain-offering,
 or sacrifice, 
other than the altar of the Lord our God
that stands before his tabernacle!’
 
30 When the priest Phinehas
 and the chiefs of the congregation,
 the heads of the families of Israel
 who were with him, 
heard the words
that the Reubenites
and the Gadites
and the Manassites spoke,
 they were satisfied. 
 
31The priest Phinehas son of Eleazar
said to the Reubenites
and the Gadites
and the Manassites,
 
 ‘Today we know
 that the Lord is among us, 
because you have not committed this treachery
 against the Lord;
 now you have saved the Israelites
from the hand of the Lord.’
 
32 Then the priest Phinehas son of Eleazar
and the chiefs
returned from the Reubenites
and the Gadites
in the land of Gilead
 to the land of Canaan,
 to the Israelites, 
and brought back word to them.
 
 33The report pleased the Israelites;
 and the Israelites blessed God
 and spoke no more of making war against them,
 to destroy the land
where the Reubenites
and the Gadites
were settled.
 
 34The Reubenites
 and the Gadites
called the altar Witness;
 
 ‘For’, said they,
 ‘it is a witness
 between us
that the Lord is God.’
 
 
 

Joshua 21

Joshua 21,
Wednesday, April 25, 2018

It’s a logical continuation for the whole Levite tribe to claim towns, since presumably they will run the asylum towns offering some neutrality to that judicial institution.  The chapter today enumerates towns given 3 clans: Kohathites, Gershonites, and Merarites.  For millennia, the names of Cohen and Gershon at least continue, and are still respected in a local synagogue’s morning minyan. 
 
Just as yesterday, you recognized the pattern in the proper nouns as an asylum was named in Galilee, Ephraim, and Judah (north, central and south), then east of the Jordan, south, central and north towns – so this summary offers a summary of the prior allotments of tribal territories.  By now, you remember some of the back-stories.
 
Archaeologists in the last century demonstrated that most of these towns were not occupied in the 10th century BCE, when the claims of David and Solomon were asserts.  It was the 8th century BCE, the 700’s, in which they can find evidence of all these towns.  It would, then, be Josiah’s edit of Joshua that layers in this chapter.
 
So what?  Imagine tribes flowing into the region, particularly its highlands.  Some come from nomadic traditions and lifestyle, and stay east of the Jordan and down in the Negeb, or high in the hills.  Down in the valleys are pastoralists, farmers with vineyards.  Now add a layer of urbanization, particularly on trade routes.
 
Imagine that people telling a story, first of metropolis and hinterland in a small scale of petty kings and tyrants, like local mob bosses, culminating in empires: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome.  Meanwhile, the peoples, the goyim live beside each other, and negotiate economics and social orders.  Remember the musical Oklahoma?  Can the farmers and ranchers ever be friends?
 
The heritage of an urban class, a Levitical and Aaronic priesthood not limited to the temple priesthood, connects to this century and this chapter.  Songs of David and songs of Korah are going to be collected in the ‘greatest hits’ editions of the psalms in the Second Temple – but the cultural class is deeper, reworking early roots. 
 
 Then the heads of the families of the Levites
came to the priest Eleazar
and to Joshua son of Nun
 and to the heads of the families
of the tribes of the Israelites;
 
 2they said to them
at Shiloh in the land of Canaan, 
‘The Lord commanded through Moses
that we be given towns to live in, 
along with their pasture lands for our livestock.’
 
 3So by command of the Lord
 the Israelites gave to the Levites
the following towns and pasture lands
out of their inheritance.
 
4 The lot came out
for the families of the Kohathites. 
So those Levites
who were descendants of Aaron the priest
 received by lot thirteen towns
from the tribes of Judah, Simeon, and Benjamin.
 
5 The rest of the Kohathites
received by lot ten towns
from the families of the tribe of Ephraim, 
from the tribe of Dan, 
and the half-tribe of Manasseh.
 
 
 
6 The Gershonites received by lot
 thirteen towns
from the families of the tribe of Issachar,
 from the tribe of Asher, 
from the tribe of Naphtali, 
and from the half-tribe of Manasseh in Bashan.
 
7 The Merarites
 according to their families
received twelve towns
from the tribe of Reuben, 
the tribe of Gad, 
and the tribe of Zebulun.
 
8 These towns and their pasture lands
the Israelites gave by lot to the Levites,
 as the Lord had commanded through Moses.
 
9 Out of the tribe of Judah
and the tribe of Simeon
 they gave the following towns
 mentioned by name, 
 
10which went to the descendants of Aaron,
 one of the families of the Kohathites
who belonged to the Levites,
 since the lot fell to them first. 
 
11They gave them Kiriath-arba
 (Arba being the father of Anak),
 that is Hebron,
 in the hill country of Judah,
 along with the pasture lands around it.
 
 12But the fields of the town and its villages
 had been given to Caleb son of Jephunneh
 as his holding.
 
13 To the descendants of Aaron the priest
they gave Hebron, 
the city of refuge for the slayer, 
with its pasture lands, 
Libnah with its pasture lands,
 
14Jattir with its pasture lands,
 Eshtemoa with its pasture lands,
 15Holon with its pasture lands,
 Debir with its pasture lands,
 
 16Ain with its pasture lands,
 Juttah with its pasture lands, 
and Beth-shemesh with its pasture lands
—nine towns out of these two tribes.
 
 17Out of the tribe of Benjamin: 
Gibeon with its pasture lands, 
Geba with its pasture lands,
 
 18Anathoth with its pasture lands, 
and Almon with its pasture lands
—four towns.
 
19The towns of the descendants of Aaron
—the priests—
were thirteen in all,
 with their pasture lands.
 
20 As to the rest of the Kohathites
belonging to the Kohathite families of the Levites, 
the towns allotted to them
were out of the tribe of Ephraim.
 
21To them were given Shechem, 
the city of refuge for the slayer, 
with its pasture lands in the hill country of Ephraim, 
Gezer with its pasture lands,
 
22Kibzaim with its pasture lands, 
and Beth-horon with its pasture lands
—four towns. 
 
23Out of the tribe of Dan: 
Elteke with its pasture lands, 
Gibbethon with its pasture lands,
 24Aijalon with its pasture lands,
 Gath-rimmon with its pasture lands
—four towns. 
 
25Out of the half-tribe of Manasseh: 
Taanach with its pasture lands, 
and Gath-rimmon with its pasture lands
—two towns. 
 
26The towns
of the families
 of the rest of the Kohathites
 were ten in all, 
with their pasture lands.
 
27 To the Gershonites, 
one of the families of the Levites, 
were given out of the half-tribe of Manasseh, 
Golan in Bashan with its pasture lands, 
the city of refuge for the slayer, 
and Beeshterah with its pasture lands
—two towns. 
 
28Out of the tribe of Issachar:
 Kishion with its pasture lands,
 Daberath with its pasture lands,
 29Jarmuth with its pasture lands,
 En-gannim with its pasture lands
—four towns. 
 
30Out of the tribe of Asher:
 Mishal with its pasture lands, 
Abdon with its pasture lands, 
 
31Helkath with its pasture lands, 
and Rehob with its pasture lands
—four towns.
 
 32Out of the tribe of Naphtali: 
Kedesh in Galilee with its pasture lands,
 the city of refuge for the slayer,
 Hammoth-dor with its pasture lands,
 and Kartan with its pasture lands
—three towns. 
 
33The towns of the several families of the Gershonites
were in all thirteen, 
with their pasture lands.
 
34 To the rest of the Levites
—the Merarite families—
were given out of the tribe of Zebulun:
 Jokneam with its pasture lands,
 Kartah with its pasture lands,
 
 35Dimnah with its pasture lands,
 Nahalal with its pasture lands
—four towns.
 
 36Out of the tribe of Reuben:
 Bezer with its pasture lands, 
Jahzah with its pasture lands,
 
 37Kedemoth with its pasture lands, 
and Mephaath with its pasture lands
—four towns. 
 
38Out of the tribe of Gad: 
Ramoth in Gilead with its pasture lands, 
the city of refuge for the slayer,
 Mahanaim with its pasture lands,
 
 39Heshbon with its pasture lands,
 Jazer with its pasture lands
—four towns in all.
 
 40As for the towns of the several Merarite families,
 that is, the remainder of the families of the Levites, 
those allotted to them were twelve in all.
 
41 The towns of the Levites
within the holdings of the Israelites
were in all forty-eight towns with their pasture lands.
 
 42Each of these towns had its pasture lands around it; 
so it was with all these towns.
 
43 Thus the Lord gave to Israel
all the land that he swore to their ancestors
that he would give them; 
and having taken possession of it,
 they settled there. 
44And the Lord gave them rest
on every side
 just as he had sworn to their ancestors; 
not one of all their enemies had withstood them, 
for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands.
 
45Not one
 of all the good promises
 that the Lord had made
 to the house of Israel
had failed; 
all came to pass.
 
 
 

Joshua 20

Joshua 20,
Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Today’s discussion group spent extra time on this chapter, excited by its surprising relevance – once we sorted out what a ‘city of refuge’ (NRSV) or ‘asylum cities’ (Message), asylum-cities (NIV) ‘Towns of Asylum’ (Schocken) might mean.
 
My reading of Joshua defies its glib dismissal as a genocidal tract, since it acknowledges throughout that predecessors were either dispossessed by divine providence, then simply occupied by Israel, or that the people in the land remained among and around the 12 tribes in an ebb and flow of prosperity or comparative good management.  
 
The occasional battle references are like boasting and sports bar ‘trash talk’ about how the competing team was ‘annihilated’ and will ‘never recover from that trouncing’.  Surely the constant diplomacy of trade and commerce and cultural interaction was perpetual, and occasionally, ‘war is diplomacy continued by other means’.  
 
At a more personal level, conflict can come to a head in physical violence.  In our law, assault is ‘unconsented touching’, usually arising in the context of conflict. As a criminal law prof taught us over 40 years ago: “the only difference between assault and murder is that the other guy dies.”  The dimension of intention is also critical.
 
Torah, particularly in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, set out overlapping legal codes covering a range of matters, some of which we would class as crimes against a person, others as torts of battery, or negligence or carelessness, or frauds and breaches of contract.  Some provide for exile or banishment as consequences.
 
‘O sinner man, where you gonna run to?’  When the young hothead in a commercial or cultural conflict escalates the fight to physical violence and assault, and ‘the other guy dies’ – he can run. Nobody in the village, particularly the bereaved relatives, will offer him a fair trial, just vengeance through a ‘blood redeemer’.  Let him run!
 
This chapter implements a plan of cities of refuge, where a fugitive can be given sanctuary and refuge while the aggrieved and bereaved cool off back home.  The killer has to satisfy the asylum that his act did not meet the intention, our mens rea, for first degree murder, but was either accidental, negligent, careless, a crime of sudden passion or of self defence.  Then he is given asylum.
 
There are only 6 cities named here, north, central, and south on each of the west and east sides of the Jordan.  These are gated cities or towns, not wee villages, and the reference to ‘the high priest of the time’ suggests a Josiah era edit.  Snowden holes up in an embassy for Wiki-leaks. Any number of political asylum seekers facing trumped-up charges until regimes change back home: 
 
Then the Lord spoke to Joshua, saying,
 2‘Say to the Israelites, 
“Appoint the cities of refuge, 
of which I spoke to you through Moses,
 3so that anyone who kills a person
 without intent or by mistake
may flee there;
 they shall be for you a refuge
from the avenger of blood.
 
4The slayer shall flee to one of these cities
and shall stand at the entrance of the gate of the city,
 and explain the case to the elders of that city; 
then the fugitive shall be taken into the city, 
and given a place, and shall remain with them.
 
 5And if the avenger of blood is in pursuit, 
they shall not give up the slayer,
 because the neighbour was killed by mistake,
 there having been no enmity between them before.
 
 6The slayer shall remain in that city
until there is a trial before the congregation, 
until the death of the one who is high priest at the time:
 then the slayer may return home,
 to the town in which the deed was done.” ’
 
7 So they set apart Kedesh in Galilee
 in the hill country of Naphtali,
 and Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, 
and Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the hill country of Judah.
 
 8And beyond the Jordan east of Jericho, 
they appointed Bezer in the wilderness on the tableland,
 from the tribe of Reuben, 
and Ramoth in Gilead, 
from the tribe of Gad,
 and Golan in Bashan,
 from the tribe of Manasseh.
 
 9These were the cities
designated for all the Israelites, 
and for the aliens residing among them, 
that anyone who killed a person
without intent
could flee there,
 so as not to die
 by the hand of the avenger of blood,
 until there was a trial
before the congregation.
 
 
 

Joshua 19

Joshua 19,
Monday, April 23, 2018

After all the delays for the exceptions – 7 lots for 7 tribes in one chapter!  Look on your map, and see where they lie in relation to the others.  Some are down south, tucked into Judah, on the edge of desert.  Others are up north, in areas never fully occupied by those tribes – all the way to Tyre and Sidon.
 
Why are these nearly leftovers, after all the buildup?  You might trace the legends of their ancestral fathers.  Simeon, or Shimon, offended his father early on with real genocide, unauthorized, provoked by the rape of Dinah – then later, he slept with his father’s maid/wife.  He also comes off badly in the story of seeling Joseph.
 
Another set are the sons of the maids, Bilhah and Zilpah, offered up by Rachel and Leah to Jacob for the kind of breeding now famous from The Handmaids Tale.  Here, it’s etiological legend to explain how these are frontier territories, never cleanly held by these half-brothers of Leah’s 4 and Rachel’s 2 sons.
 
If you are hearing this recital, in 1000 BCE, 900 BCE in Solomon’s court, in 650 in Josiah’s reform, or in 500BCE in the Second Temple, you likely identify with one of the tribes already described.  The recital just rounds out the claim to Canaan.
 
As we start a last week of reading Joshua, do we hear less detail and passion in the claims for land outside the heartland of Judea, or at least acquiescence to other claims on these lands?  I think so.  Joshua, like Caleb before him, the 2 scout/spies that were firsts to recognize the attainable promise, gets his rest in Ephraiim, last, after everybody else has been satisfied and paid for their service.
 
What’s left for the week?
 
The second lot came out for Simeon,
 for the tribe of Simeon, 
according to its families; 
its inheritance lay
within the inheritance
 of the tribe of Judah.
 
 2It had for its inheritance
Beer-sheba, Sheba, Moladah,
 
 3Hazar-shual, Balah, Ezem,
 
 4Eltolad, Bethul, Hormah,
 
 5Ziklag, Beth-marcaboth, Hazar-susah,
 
 6Beth-lebaoth, and Sharuhen—
thirteen towns with their villages;
 
 7Ain, Rimmon, Ether, and Ashan—
four towns with their villages; 
8together with all the villages
 all around these towns
as far as Baalath-beer, 
Ramah of the Negeb. 
 
This was the inheritance
 of the tribe of Simeon
according to its families
 
. 9The inheritance of the tribe of Simeon
formed part of the territory of Judah; 
because the portion of the tribe of Judah
was too large for them,
 the tribe of Simeon obtained an inheritance
within their inheritance.
 
10 The third lot came up for the tribe of Zebulun, 
according to its families.
 
 The boundary of its inheritance reached as far as Sarid;
 
 11then its boundary goes up westwards, 
and on to Maralah, and touches Dabbesheth,
 then the wadi that is east of Jokneam;
 
 12from Sarid it goes in the other direction
eastwards towards the sunrise
to the boundary of Chisloth-tabor;
 from there it goes to Daberath,
 then up to Japhia;
 
 13from there it passes along on the east
towards the sunrise to Gath-hepher, 
to Eth-kazin,
 and going on to Rimmon
it bends towards Neah;
 
 14then on the north the boundary
makes a turn to Hannathon, 
and it ends at the valley of Iphtah-el;
 
 15and Kattath, Nahalal, Shimron, Idalah, and Bethlehem
—twelve towns with their villages.
 
 16This is the inheritance of the tribe of Zebulun,
 according to its families—
these towns with their villages.
 
17 The fourth lot came out for Issachar, 
for the tribe of Issachar, 
according to its families. 
 
18Its territory included Jezreel, Chesulloth, Shunem,
 
 19Hapharaim, Shion, Anaharath, 
 
20Rabbith, Kishion, Ebez,
 
21Remeth, En-gannim, En-haddah, Beth-pazzez;
 
 22the boundary also touches Tabor,
 Shahazumah, and Beth-shemesh,
 and its boundary ends at the Jordan
—sixteen towns with their villages.
 
 23This is the inheritance of the tribe of Issachar, 
according to its families—
the towns with their villages.
 
24 The fifth lot came out for the tribe of Asher
according to its families.
 
25Its boundary included Helkath, Hali, Beten, Achshaph,
 
 26Allammelech, Amad, and Mishal; 
on the west it touches Carmel and Shihor-libnath,
27then it turns eastwards, 
goes to Beth-dagon, 
and touches Zebulun
and the valley of Iphtah-el
northwards to Beth-emek and Neiel; 
then it continues in the north to Cabul,
 
 28Ebron, Rehob, Hammon, Kanah, 
as far as Great Sidon
; 29then the boundary turns to Ramah,
 reaching to the fortified city of Tyre;
 then the boundary turns to Hosah,
 and it ends at the sea; 
Mahalab,* Achzib, 
 
30Ummah, Aphek, and Rehob
—twenty-two towns with their villages.
 
 31This is the inheritance of the tribe of Asher
according to its families
—these towns with their villages.
 
32 The sixth lot came out for the tribe of Naphtali, 
for the tribe of Naphtali, 
according to its families
 
. 33And its boundary ran from Heleph, 
from the oak in Zaanannim,
 and Adami-nekeb, and Jabneel,
 as far as Lakkum; 
and it ended at the Jordan;
 
 34then the boundary turns westwards
to Aznoth-tabor, 
and goes from there to Hukkok, 
touching Zebulun at the south, 
and Asher on the west,
 and Judah on the east at the Jordan.
 
 35The fortified towns
are Ziddim, Zer, Hammath, Rakkath, Chinnereth,
 
 36Adamah, Ramah, Hazor,
 
 37Kedesh, Edrei, En-hazor
, 38Iron, Migdal-el, Horem, Beth-anath, and Beth-shemesh
—nineteen towns with their villages.
 
 39This is the inheritance of the tribe of Naphtali
according to its families
—the towns with their villages.
 
40 The seventh lot came out for the tribe of Dan, 
according to its families
 
.41The territory of its inheritance
 included Zorah, Eshtaol, Ir-shemesh,
 
42Shaalabbin, Aijalon, Ithlah, 
 
43Elon, Timnah, Ekron, 
 
44Eltekeh, Gibbethon, Baalath,
 
 45Jehud, Bene-berak, Gath-rimmon,
 
 46Me-jarkon, and Rakkon
 at the border opposite Joppa.
 
 47When the territory of the Danites was lost to them,
 the Danites went up
and fought against Leshem, 
and after capturing it and putting it to the sword, 
they took possession of it
and settled in it,
 calling Leshem, Dan, 
after their ancestor Dan. 
 
48This is the inheritance of the tribe of Dan, 
according to their families
—these towns with their villages.
 
49 When they had finished
distributing the several territories of the land
as inheritances, 
the Israelites gave an inheritance among them
to Joshua son of Nun. 
 
50By command of the Lor
d they gave him the town that he asked for,
 Timnath-serah in the hill country of Ephraim; 
he rebuilt the town, 
and settled in it.
 
51 These are the inheritances
 that the priest Eleazar and Joshua son of Nun
and the heads of the families of the tribes of the Israelites
distributed by lot at Shiloh before the Lord, 
at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 
 
So they finished dividing the land.
 
 

Joshua 18

Fourth Sunday of Easter
April 22, 2018

‘Remember, Resist, Redraw’

This week in our Sunday evening and Tuesday conversations in the Garret, we are 3/4 of the way through Joshua, considering the theme of ‘Remember, Resist, Redraw’.   

What were the facts of a people, a collection of tribes, occupying the central highlands of Palestine about 1100 BCE?  Were the stories of desert nomads, ‘Hapiru’ refugees from Egypt, farmers, ‘Sea People’ or others cobbled together as a shared story?  How much turf was held and claimed, by which tribes?

By the time David, a local warlord, running a protection racket in the highlands a bit north, extended his control and established his capital in Jerusalem, we’re about 1,000 BCE.  As his son and successor Solomon consolidated a ‘united monarchy’ and built a temple, a written version of these stories, a court history based on earlier oral sources, may be discernible in these pages.

After the kingdom split into two, and the northern kingdom of Israel, cosmopolitan under Ahab and Jezebel, fell to the Assyrians, the ambitious claims of the story under Solomon needed some revision.   Josiah, seeing the threats of Egypt in the south and Babylon coming from the north and east, tried reform, confessing mistakes that led to the fall of the north, and might doom Judah in the south.  A revised version of this story was needed for Josiah in the mid-600’s BCE.

As the Second Temple was built, with the permission of Cyrus of Persia who ended the Babylonian captivity, more Hebrew scripture was wrestled into shape, from a hymnbook (Psalms) to founding myths (Torah), and an edit of the ‘former prophets’, a Deuteronomic history.  About 500 BCE, this editorial voice edits our received texts. 


Settlers and Anarchists: What Side Are We On?
Reading Joshua and Judges - Easter Season, 2018
Trinity UC Kitchener  www.trinityunitedkw.ca

Daily reading and reflection with audio
Easter Week April 1 to Pentecost week May 24
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What are the historical facts, and the competing interpretations, of a century of Zionism, a Holocaust, and the creation of a state of Israel in 1948, with complementary plans for a second state of Palestine, and the resistance of neighbours?  What is the role of outside empires in continuing conflicts?  Does it make a different who retells the story, from which life situation, in which of the past 7 decades?    Which are like 1100, 900, 650, or 500 BCE?

What are the historical facts, and competing interpretations, of the Americas before 1491, or after 1493?  Over the 500 years since ‘first contact’ and ‘Doctrine of Discovery’, primarily Spanish and Portuguese empires, with later French and British empires  laid land claims to the Americas, and particularly in more recent centuries, carved up the globe in colonialism, then dismantled those empires’ colonies into ‘nation states’ in Africa, or talk of ‘rights of indigenous peoples’ framed in this century’s international discourse?

How do we collectively construe empirical facts and human experience, and to whose accounts do we grant authority to tell us who we are and whose we are?  This last week of Joshua, we hear about the last – and yes, the least – of the tribal claims in Canaan.  By the time we read it, (from the 900’s, mid 600’s, or post 500 BCE), we know that most of these grand claims were not fully realized – and the texts in our received form admit it!


Joshua 18,
Saturday, April 21, 2018

As the week ends, we are down to 7 remaining tribes, waiting for their allotments.  Joshua chides those tribes for not taking up their allotment.  He proposes that each tribe send out 3 surveyors to asses the remaining Canaanite land, to divide into 7 lots.
 
(Again: Judah in the south, house of Joseph north of that.  2.5 tribes back on the east side of Jordan, Levites with no turf.)
 
The 21 geographers ‘write up a book’ to sort out 7 regions.  We still do this in 2018, as the national United Church sorts out regions to replace conferences and presbyteries!
 
Shiloh is the town in which Joshua will cast the lots. No wonder the name was claimed in various places in North America by settlers claiming the ‘Doctrine of Discovery’, and repeated in Western movies made in Hollywood. 
 
The first lot falls to Benjamin – the other son of Rachel, the youngest of the 12.  This patrimony winds between Joseph and Judah.  It touches Jerusalem – but not Bethlehem, to the surprise of Christians! That name will appear in Zebulun’s list of towns on Monday – just as Jerusalem already appeared in Judah’s list this week.  
 
At the end of the week, we have carved off the exceptions, and reinforced the core territory that will remain even in the time of Josiah, as Judah distinguished from Israel in the period of divided kingdoms. 
 
By post-exilic times, we can speak of ‘ten lost tribes’, only Judah and Benjamin territories recognizably Jewish.  To the north, the lands of the rest of the seven, and to the east, the lands of the rest, we will call Samaria and Amon, Moab, Edom, and so on.
 
Then the whole congregation of the Israelites
assembled at Shiloh, 
and set up the tent of meeting there. 
The land lay subdued before them.
 
2 There remained among the Israelites seven tribes
whose inheritance had not yet been apportioned.
 
 3So Joshua said to the Israelites, 
‘How long will you be slack
about going in and taking possession of the land
that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you?
 
 4Provide three men from each tribe, 
and I will send them out
that they may begin to go
throughout the land, 
writing a description of it
 with a view to their inheritances. 
Then come back to me.
 
 5They shall divide it into seven portions, 
Judah continuing in its territory on the south,
 and the house of Joseph in their territory on the north.
 
 6You shall describe the land in seven divisions
and bring the description here to me; 
and I will cast lots for you
here before the Lord our God.
 
 7The Levites have no portion among you,
 for the priesthood of the Lord is their heritage; 
and Gad and Reuben and the half-tribe of Manasseh
have received their inheritance
beyond the Jordan eastwards, 
which Moses the servant of the Lord gave them.’
 
8 So the men started on their way; 
and Joshua charged those
who went to write the description of the land, 
saying, ‘Go throughout the land
and write a description of it,
 and come back to me; 
and I will cast lots for you
here before the Lord in Shiloh.’
 
 9So the men went
and traversed the land
and set down in a book
a description of it by towns in seven divisions;
 then they came back to Joshua
 in the camp at Shiloh, 
 
10and Joshua cast lots for them
 in Shiloh before the Lord; 
and there Joshua apportioned the land
 to the Israelites, 
to each a portion.
 
11 The lot of the tribe of Benjamin
according to its families
came up,
 and the territory allotted to it
fell between
the tribe of Judah
 and the tribe of Joseph.
 
 12On the north side
 their boundary began at the Jordan; 
then the boundary goes up
to the slope of Jericho
on the north,
 then up through the hill country
westwards; 
and it ends
at the wilderness of Beth-aven.
 
13From there
the boundary passes along
southwards
 in the direction of Luz,
 to the slope of Luz
 (that is, Bethel), 
then the boundary goes down
 to Ataroth-addar, 
on the mountain
that lies south of Lower Beth-horon.
 
14Then the boundary goes
in another direction,
 turning on the western side
southwards
from the mountain
 that lies to the south, 
opposite Beth-horon, 
and it ends at Kiriath-baal
 (that is, Kiriath-jearim), 
a town belonging
 to the tribe of Judah. 
This forms the western side.
 
 15The southern side
begins at the outskirts of Kiriath-jearim; 
and the boundary goes from there to Ephron,
 to the spring of the Waters of Nephtoah;
 
16then the boundary
 goes down to the border of the mountain
that overlooks the valley
of the son of Hinnom, 
which is at the northern end
 of the valley of Rephaim; 
and it then goes down
the valley of Hinnom, 
south of the slope of the Jebusites, 
and downwards to En-rogel;
 
 17then it bends
 in a northerly direction
 going on to En-shemesh,
 and from there goes to Geliloth, 
which is opposite the ascent of Adummim; 
then it goes down to the Stone of Bohan, 
Reuben’s son;
 
 18and passing on
to the north of the slope of Beth-arabah
 it goes down to the Arabah;
 
 19then the boundary
 passes on to the north
of the slope of Beth-hoglah; 
and the boundary ends
at the northern bay
of the Dead Sea, 
at the south end
of the Jordan: 
this is the southern border
 
. 20The Jordan forms its boundary
on the eastern side. 
This is the inheritance
of the tribe of Benjamin, 
according to its families, 
boundary by boundary
 all round.
 
21 Now the towns
of the tribe of Benjamin
according to their families
were Jericho, Beth-hoglah, Emek-keziz, 
 
22Beth-arabah, Zemaraim, Bethel,
 
 23Avvim, Parah, Ophrah,
 
 24Chephar-ammoni, Ophni, and Geba—
twelve towns with their villages:
 
 25Gibeon, Ramah, Beeroth, 
 
26Mizpeh, Chephirah, Mozah,
 
 27Rekem, Irpeel, Taralah,
 
28Zela, Haeleph, Jebus
 (that is, Jerusalem), 
Gibeah, and Kiriath-jearim—
fourteen towns
with their villages. 
 
This is the inheritance
of the tribe of Benjamin
according to its families.
 
 

Joshua 17

Joshua 17,
Thursday, April 20, 2018

Today’s chapter begins with the allotment to the second half-tribe of Manasseh ( the first half-tribe got its turf on the east side of the Jordan from Moses, according to this history, and it’s a convenient miracle that the lot falls for the rest of the tribe in contiguity with the much earlier land grant ).  Moderns may be sceptical about the lottery but be patient, to find its salience at the end of the chapter.
 
Gilead and Bashan have already been ceded to Manassites, on the east side of the Jordan.  On one end, Asher’s territory is contiguous, and along the way, Schechem, another place familiar elsewhere in scripture, up around Kinnereth in the northeast, never really controlled, as the text admits.  Within that turf, stories are told:
 
The daughters of Zelophehad is a repeated story from Torah. When their Manassite father dies, 5 daughters with no brothers appeal to Moses that it’s not fair to take their inheritance away based on gender, and he agrees.  The issue is communal wealth of a clan or tribe, not the individual wealth of a first-born son.  Here, the daughters collect from Joshua the promises of Moses, and get land.
 
Up around Asher and Issachar borders, the Canaanites again resisted and remained in the land.  The text concedes the point, but as it has before, notes that mostly they became servants of the Manassites.  It reminds me of post-colonial admissions that slaves, racialized people, or religious minorities co-existed all along with the dominant groups, and shared the economic burdens and benefits, and formed households and parented children together – but of course, ‘the other’ were always servants to ‘us’!
 
Finally, when Joseph’s tribe(s), Ephraim and Manasseh, complain to Joshua that they are numerous, and need more patrimony, he advises them to self-help.  If they clear the land of the highlands, and displace the chariots on the plains, their geography is enough.  
 
‘From those to whom much is given, much is expected’.  Faced with the whining of the privileged, expecting entitlement, Joshua simply tells them to make something of the plenty that they’ve already got.  These exceptional stories are easily applied over millennia to issues of distributive justice among the weaker and stronger among us.
 
 
Then allotment was made to the tribe of Manasseh,
 for he was the firstborn of Joseph. 
 
To Machir the firstborn of Manasseh, 
the father of Gilead, 
were allotted Gilead and Bashan,
 because he was a warrior.
 
2And allotments were made
 to the rest of the tribe of Manasseh,
 by their families,
 Abiezer, Helek, Asriel, Shechem, Hepher, and Shemida; 
these were the male descendants of Manasseh son of Joseph,
 by their families.
 
3 Now Zelophehad
son of Hepher son of Gilead
son of Machir son of Manasseh
had no sons, 
but only daughters; 
and these are the names of his daughters:
 Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah.
 
 4They came before the priest Eleazar
 and Joshua son of Nun
and the leaders, 
and said,
 
 ‘The Lord commanded Moses
to give us an inheritance
along with our male kin.’ 
 
So according to the commandment of the Lord
 he gave them an inheritance
 among the kinsmen of their father.
 
 5Thus there fell to Manasseh ten portions, 
besides the land of Gilead and Bashan, 
which is on the other side of the Jordan,
 
 6because the daughters of Manasseh
 received an inheritance along with his sons. 
The land of Gilead was allotted
to the rest of the Manassites.
 
7 The territory of Manasseh reached
from Asher to Michmethath, 
which is east of Shechem;
 then the boundary goes along southwards
to the inhabitants of En-tappuah.
 
 8The land of Tappuah belonged to Manasseh,
 but the town of Tappuah
 on the boundary of Manasseh
 belonged to the Ephraimites.
 
 9Then the boundary went down to the Wadi Kanah. 
The towns here, 
to the south of the wadi, 
among the towns of Manasseh, 
belong to Ephraim. 
 
Then the boundary of Manasseh
goes along the north side of the wadi
and ends at the sea.
 
 10The land to the south is Ephraim’s
 and that to the north is Manasseh’s, 
with the sea forming its boundary;
 on the north Asher is reached, 
and on the east Issachar.
 
 11Within Issachar and Asher,
 Manasseh had Beth-shean and its villages,
 Ibleam and its villages, 
the inhabitants of Dor and its villages,
 the inhabitants of En-dor and its villages,
 the inhabitants of Taanach and its villages,
 and the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages
 (the third is Naphath).
 
 12Yet the Manassites could not take possession
of those towns; 
but the Canaanites
continued to live in that land.
 
 13But when the Israelites grew strong, 
they put the Canaanites to forced labour,
 but did not utterly drive them out.
 
14 The tribe of Joseph spoke to Joshua, saying,
 ‘Why have you given me
but one lot and one portion as an inheritance, 
since we are a numerous people, 
whom all along the Lord has blessed?’ 
 
15And Joshua said to them, 
‘If you are a numerous people,
 go up to the forest, 
and clear ground there for yourselves
 in the land of the Perizzites and the Rephaim, 
since the hill country of Ephraim is too narrow for you.’
 
 16The tribe of Joseph said,
 ‘The hill country is not enough for us;
 yet all the Canaanites who live in the plain
have chariots of iron, 
both those in Beth-shean and its villages
and those in the Valley of Jezreel.’
 
 17Then Joshua said to the house of Joseph, 
to Ephraim and Manasseh,
 ‘You are indeed a numerous people,
 and have great power;
 you shall not have one lot only,
 18but the hill country shall be yours,
 for though it is a forest, 
you shall clear it and possess it
 to its farthest borders; 
for you shall drive out the Canaanites, 
though they have chariots of iron, 
and though they are strong.
 
 
 

Joshua 16

Joshua 16,
Thursday, April 19, 2018

This is a short chapter, eh?  Chapter splits date to maybe 4th century of the Common Era, when Jerome used them to facilitate dialogue and discussion with Jewish scholars in Alexandria and elsewhere.  
 
This is a subject matter split, a chapter about ‘Josephites’, or tribe of Joseph, elsewhere in Joshua consistently treated as two half-tribes of Manasseh and the tribe of Ephraim.  Earlier, I noted the ‘back-story’ from Genesis about Joseph’s Egyptian wife.
 
Sure, there is some heartland in this geography, starting in contiguity to the earlier land grants by Moses on the east side of the Jordan, and by Joshua to Judah.  I think of this as north-east of Judah, on the west side of the Jordan.  Probably the key inclusion for past and future stories, etiological or legendary or historic, is Bethel.  The shrine at Bethel will be a key competing regional shrine related to the short-lived kingdom of Israel, concurrently with Jerusalem once the ark had been settled in Solomon’s temple in that city.
 
The vague and confusing summary of how some Ephraimite towns were within Manassite territory, and the admission that they never really controlled Gezer, brings me back to one of my themes in this year’s reading: the repeated admission that conquest, let alone genocide, was never total, despite the way one can select bloodthirsty scraps from the first half of Joshua.
 
Since I’ve got a few words left in my daily quota, I’d note that yesterday also, there was a lot of irony assumed in the recital of Judah’s turf.  It blithely included Goshen, where Joseph billeted his brothers from late Genesis till early Exodus, in the east Nile delta. 
 
Judah’s lot recited without comment the whole seacoast plain, one of the great north/south land routes from Africa to Asia and Europe, including what we call Gaza, and lots of places acknowledged in chapter 13 as not conquered by Joshua. A land claim is not a land title – ask any First Nation person!
 
Put another way, in terms of residential real estate dear to us lately, it’s one thing for a buyer to tell the agent what she wants – another to say what she’s willing to accept!  On the seller’s side of the haggling, as my father-in-law says: ‘Sure, that’s what they’re asking these days – but what are they getting these days?’
 
 
 
The allotment of the Josephites
went from the Jordan by Jericho,
 east of the waters of Jericho,
 into the wilderness, 
going up from Jericho
 into the hill country
 to Bethel;
 
 2then going from Bethel to Luz,
 it passes along to Ataroth,
 the territory of the Archites;
 
 3then it goes down westwards
to the territory of the Japhletites, 
as far as the territory of Lower Beth-horon,
 then to Gezer, 
and it ends at the sea.
 
4 The Josephites
—Manasseh and Ephraim—
received their inheritance.
 
5 The territory of the Ephraimites
 by their families
was as follows:
 the boundary of their inheritance on the east
was Ataroth-addar as far as Upper Beth-horon,
 
 6and the boundary goes from there to the sea; 
on the north is Michmethath; 
then on the east
 the boundary makes a turn towards Taanath-shiloh,
 and passes along beyond it on the east to Janoah,
 7then it goes down from Janoah to Ataroth and to Naarah,
 and touches Jericho, 
ending at the Jordan.
 
 8From Tappuah
 the boundary goes westwards
 to the Wadi Kanah, 
and ends at the sea.
 
 Such is the inheritance
 of the tribe of the Ephraimites
by their families, 
9together with the towns
that were set apart for the Ephraimites
within the inheritance of the Manassites, 
all those towns with their villages.
 
 10They did not, however, 
drive out the Canaanites
who lived in Gezer: 
so the Canaanites
have lived within Ephraim
 to this day
but have been made
to do forced labour.
 
 

Joshua 15

Joshua 15,
Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Finally, a first lot is drawn, for Judah.  You could accept the outcome of an actual lottery conducted at Gilgal by Joshua. Or you could guess that Judah, or Yehuda, is the big, successful province of Israel in Solomon’s time, in Josiah’s time, and in Second Temple time.   Not coincidentally, it is also the tribe from which David’s line comes.
In Genesis, Judah is the fourth son of Jacob and Leah.   The tribe of the eldest, Reuben, has already got land in Transjordan.  The tribe of Levi gets priesthood instead of turf.  Simeon’s lot falls later – but you might recall bits of his story of genocidal revenge for the rape of Dinah, and later sleeping with his father’s wife.  Judah comes off a bit better in these stories than his full brothers do.
Take a moment with a map to trace the boundaries of Judah’s patrimony, all the way south to Edom and Zin.  This is the southern trade route to the Gulf, traditional trading partners and competitors associated with Esau in the Genesis narrative.  From the Dead Sea to the Mediterranean on the way to Egypt is a wide southern border.
The east side is easier and shorter, along the Dead Sea up to the mouth of the Jordan near Jericho, contiguous with Reuben’s turf already granted to the east.  Most important to us, the boundary wandering west again to the Mediterranean coast includes Jerusalem.  You don’t likely need more than that picture for now, and the west boundary is the sea, down toward Egypt.
Verses 13-19 revisit the exception of Caleb’s Hebron turf in the midst of Judah.  In particular, in Caleb’s battles with the Anakites, his best leader gets married off to his daughter. Yes, it’s treating women – and soldiers – as pawns.  It’s also community interest in alliances of the able leaders, and it is Achsah, not Othniel, who shrewdly demands more key oases and springs be attached to their land swinging down into the Negeb fit only for shepherding.  (Spoiler alert – Othniel is coming back as one of the Judges).
Our eyes cross at the lists of places – but you could count them, to find that they don’t match the summary numbers for each sub-region, and you could compare the places and lists with other biblical texts, and discover lots more nuances of meaning. 
However, at the end of my word limit for the day – Joshua 14 ends with the bald admission that we always shared Jerusalem, and could
The lot for the tribe of the people of Judah
according to their families
 reached southwards to the boundary of Edom, 
to the wilderness of Zin at the farthest south.
 
 2And their southern boundary ran
from the end of the Dead Sea, from the bay that faces southwards;
 3it goes out southwards of the ascent of Akrabbim, 
passes along to Zin, 
and goes up south of Kadesh-barnea, along by Hezron, up to Addar, 
makes a turn to Karka, 
4passes along to Azmon,
 goes out by the Wadi of Egypt,
 and comes to its end at the sea. 
This shall be your southern boundary.
 
5And the eastern boundary is the Dead Sea,
 to the mouth of the Jordan. 
And the boundary on the north side
 runs from the bay of the sea at the mouth of the Jordan;
 6and the boundary goes up to Beth-hoglah,
 and passes along north of Beth-arabah; 
and the boundary goes up to the Stone of Bohan, 
Reuben’s son; 
 
7and the boundary goes up to Debir from the Valley of Achor, 
and so northwards, turning towards Gilgal, 
which is opposite the ascent of Adummim, 
which is on the south side of the valley; 
and the boundary passes along to the waters of En-shemesh, and ends at En-rogel;
 8then the boundary goes up by the valley of the son of Hinnom
at the southern slope of the Jebusites (that is, Jerusalem); 
and the boundary goes up to the top of the mountain
that lies over against the valley of Hinnom, 
on the west, at the northern end of the valley of Rephaim;
 
 9then the boundary extends from the top of the mountain
to the spring of the Waters of Nephtoah,
 and from there to the towns of Mount Ephron; 
then the boundary bends around to Baalah
 (that is, Kiriath-jearim); 
 
10and the boundary circles west of Baalah to Mount Seir, 
passes along to the northern slope of Mount Jearim
(that is, Chesalon), 
and goes down to Beth-shemesh, 
and passes along by Timnah;
 
 11the boundary goes out to the slope of the hill north of Ekron,
 then the boundary bends around to Shikkeron, 
and passes along to Mount Baalah, 
and goes out to Jabneel; 
then the boundary comes to an end at the sea.
 
12And the western boundary
 was the Mediterranean
with its coast. 
This is the boundary
surrounding the people of Judah
 according to their families.
 
13 According to the commandment of the Lord to Joshua,
 he gave to Caleb son of Jephunneh
 a portion among the people of Judah, 
Kiriath-arba, that is, Hebron
(Arba was the father of Anak). 
 
14And Caleb drove out from there
the three sons of Anak: Sheshai, Ahiman, and Talmai,
 the descendants of Anak.
 
15From there he went up against the inhabitants of Debir;
 now the name of Debir formerly was Kiriath-sepher.
 
 16And Caleb said, 
‘Whoever attacks Kiriath-sepher and takes it, 
to him I will give my daughter Achsah as wife.’ 
 
17Othniel son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb, took it;
 and he gave him his daughter Achsah as wife.
 
 18When she came to him, 
she urged him to ask her father for a field. 
As she dismounted from her donkey, 
Caleb said to her, ‘What do you want?’
 
 19She said to him, ‘Give me a present; 
since you have set me in the land of the Negeb, 
give me springs of water as well.’
So Caleb gave her the upper springs and the lower springs.
 
20 This is the inheritance
of the tribe of the people of Judah
according to their families. 
 
21The towns belonging to the tribe of the people of Judah
 in the extreme south, 
towards the boundary of Edom,
 were Kabzeel, Eder, Jagur,
 22Kinah, Dimonah, Adadah,
 23Kedesh, Hazor, Ithnan,
 24Ziph, Telem, Bealoth,
 25Hazor-hadattah, Kerioth-hezron (that is, Hazor),
26Amam, Shema, Moladah,
 27Hazar-gaddah, Heshmon, Beth-pelet,
28Hazar-shual, Beer-sheba, Biziothiah,
 29Baalah, Iim, Ezem, 
30Eltolad, Chesil, Hormah,
 31Ziklag, Madmannah, Sansannah,
 32Lebaoth, Shilhim, Ain, and Rimmon:
 in all, twenty-nine towns, 
with their villages.
33 And in the lowlands, 
Eshtaol, Zorah, Ashnah, 
34Zanoah, En-gannim, Tappuah, Enam,
 35Jarmuth, Adullam, Socoh, Azekah,
 36Shaaraim, Adithaim, Gederah, Gederothaim:
 fourteen towns with their villages.
 
37 Zenan, Hadashah, Migdal-gad, 
38Dilan, Mizpeh, Jokthe-el,
39Lachish, Bozkath, Eglon,
 40Cabbon, Lahmam, Chitlish,
 41Gederoth, Beth-dagon, Naamah, and Makkedah: 
sixteen towns with their villages.
 
42 Libnah, Ether, Ashan,
 43Iphtah, Ashnah, Nezib,
 44Keilah, Achzib, and Mareshah:
 nine towns with their villages.
 
45 Ekron, with its dependencies and its villages;
 46from Ekron to the sea, 
all that were near Ashdod, 
with their villages.
 
47 Ashdod, its towns and its villages;
 Gaza, its towns and its villages;
 to the Wadi of Egypt, 
and the Great Sea with its coast.
 
48 And in the hill country, 
Shamir, Jattir, Socoh, 
49Dannah, Kiriath-sannah (that is, Debir),
 50Anab, Eshtemoh, Anim, 
51Goshen, Holon, and Giloh:
eleven towns with their villages.
 
52 Arab, Dumah, Eshan,
 53Janim, Beth-tappuah, Aphekah,
 54Humtah, Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron), and Zior: 
nine towns with their villages.
 
55 Maon, Carmel, Ziph, Juttah, 
56Jezreel, Jokdeam, Zanoah,
 57Kain, Gibeah, and Timnah:
 ten towns with their villages.
 
58 Halhul, Beth-zur, Gedor,
 59Maarath, Beth-anoth, and Eltekon:
 six towns with their villages.
 
60 Kiriath-baal (that is, Kiriath-jearim) and Rabbah:
 two towns with their villages.
 
61 In the wilderness, 
Beth-arabah, Middin, Secacah, 
62Nibshan, the City of Salt, and En-gedi:
 six towns with their villages.
 
63 But the people of Judah
could not drive out the Jebusites,
the inhabitants of Jerusalem; 
so the Jebusites live with the people of Judah
 in Jerusalem
to this day.
 

Joshua 14

Joshua 14,
Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Just when you thought we had cleared away the exceptions to the lot in chapter 13, here comes another one.  Sure, we start today with another recap of the plan of allotment, and the exceptions that get us to 9.5 tribes to join the lottery.  Take 2.5 from 12, then another one for the Levites, and you’ve got… 9.5?  8.5! That’s bad math!  And where are the Levites supposed to live?

So verse 4 explains that Joseph was counted as 2 tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim.  In Genesis, we were told that Joseph while in Egypt was married to Pharaoh’s daughter, so his kids were half-Egyptian. After all, we all owe everything to Joseph, the favourite son of Jacob, by his favourite wife Rachel, despite how his brothers treated him.

That’s more like ‘back-story’ to the much later prominence of the territory occupied by Manasseh and Ephraim, justified by some hagiography about the original patrilineage.  By the time of Josiah, the second rewrite of this history, after Assyria and before Babylonian exile, only the Judean southern tribes still had sovereignty. 

As for the Levites, the hereditary priesthood, including the Aaronic and Korahite clans, they got status in the religious cultic business, rather than territory.  They exercised their vocation from bases in towns identitifed as theirs, with associated pasture land.  It reminds me of ‘manse and glebe’, a house with enough pasture to feed the pastor’s horse – or perhaps monastery or cathedral towns.

Once more, the narration tries to get back on track in verse 5: ‘so, the Israelites allotted the land, as God told Moses’.  Read this in different voices, and it’s like a constitutional monarch or parliamentary head of state being reminded that it’s parliament who will do the work, not just our Joshua!

Even then, there is an interruption, from Caleb.  His entire tribe of Judah trots over to Gilgal to talk with Joshua.  Caleb reminds Joshua that the two of them were the exceptions in the original spy party (story in Numbers).  Caleb told Moses he loved Hebron highlands, and was ready to invade, and Moses told him to be patient and he’d get that land.  Caleb was 40 when he scouted, and is now 45, and fit to claim that promise through Joshua.  Caleb gets the land, and the text gives a nod to Arba, and the Anakites as tough opponents holding the strategically important Hebron before the tribe of Judah.

The chapter ends with a bit of a sigh, about rest from war – perhaps a sly acknowledgement of this haggling of exceptions before the lottery begins!

 
 
These are the inheritances that the Israelites received
 in the land of Canaan, 
which the priest Eleazar, 
and Joshua son of Nun,
 and the heads of the families of the tribes of the Israelites
 distributed to them.
 
2Their inheritance was by lot, 
as the Lord had commanded Moses
for the nine and a half tribes.
 
 3For Moses had given an inheritance
to the two and a half tribes beyond the Jordan;
but to the Levites he gave no inheritance among them.
 
 4For the people of Joseph were two tribes, 
Manasseh and Ephraim; 
and no portion was given to the Levites in the land, 
but only towns to live in, 
with their pasture lands for their flocks and herds.
 
 5The Israelites did as the Lord commanded Moses;
 they allotted the land.
 
6 Then the people of Judah
came to Joshua at Gilgal; 
and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite
said to him,
 ‘You know what the Lord said
to Moses the man of God
 in Kadesh-barnea
concerning you and me.
 
 7I was forty years old
when Moses the servant of the Lord
sent me from Kadesh-barnea
to spy out the land; 
and I brought him an honest report.
 
 8But my companions who went up with me
made the heart of the people fail; 
yet I wholeheartedly followed the Lord my God.
 
 9And Moses swore on that day, saying,
 “Surely the land on which your foot has trodden
 shall be an inheritance for you and your children for ever,
 because you have wholeheartedly followed the Lord my God.”
 
 10And now, as you see, 
the Lord has kept me alive, as he said, 
these forty-five years
since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, 
while Israel was journeying through the wilderness; 
and here I am today, eighty-five years old.
 
 11I am still as strong today
as I was on the day that Moses sent me;
 my strength now is as my strength was then,
 for war, and for going and coming.
 
 12So now give me this hill country
 of which the Lord spoke on that day; 
for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, 
with great fortified cities;
 it may be that the Lord will be with me, 
and I shall drive them out, 
as the Lord said.’
 
 
13 Then Joshua blessed him,
 and gave Hebron
 to Caleb son of Jephunneh
for an inheritance.
 
 14So Hebron became the inheritance
of Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite
 to this day, 
because he wholeheartedly followed the Lord, 
the God of Israel.
 
 15Now the name of Hebron formerly was Kiriath-arba; 
this Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim. 
And the land had rest from war.
 
 

Joshua 13 & Intro to Part 2

Third Sunday of Easter
April 15, 2018

‘Remember, Resist, Redraw’

This week in our Sunday evening and Tuesday conversations in the Garret, we can consider the theme of ‘Remember, Resist, Redraw’, if we don’t just read the book and let it speak. 

I’ll share a new book of maps from United Church minister Brian Brown, challenging the Mercator projection, starting with the Peters projection. The book goes on to speculate with maps from a  northern and First Nations perspective, proposing new provinces!

I’ll also share books with maps of the state of Israel and the occupied territories of Palestine, from 1948, 1967, and in more recent decades.  It starts to look more like honeycombs – likely more like Joshua’s real geography of interspersed towns and regions.

Settlers and Anarchists: What Side Are We On?
Reading Joshua and Judges - Easter Season, 2018
Trinity UC Kitchener  www.trinityunitedkw.ca

Daily reading and reflection with audio
Easter Week April 1 to Pentecost week May 24
Pick up CDs at Trinity United on Church
Follow the study online at www.hereticslikeus.com
Download audio for Week 1, Joshua 1-6 here
Download audio for Week 2, Joshua 7-12 here
and/or at www.trinityunitedkw.ca

Weekly live conversations at ‘The Garret’
Sundays 7-8:30pm (come to one, some, all)
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We have reached the halfway point of the first of a pair of scrolls. Joshua and Judges. It’s a good time to pause and put this book in its wider context in launching a set of 6 books in our bible. This pair might be called ‘before we had kings’.  ‘1 and 2 Samuel’ might be called ‘the rise of the united kingdom of David and Solomon’, then call ‘1 and 2 Kings’ something like ‘the fates of divided kingdoms.  

The set is known as the ‘former prophets’, and as the ‘Deuteronomist History’.  The overall story is ‘the rise and fall of our monarchy’.  How, with such a great start, did we blow it?  What were the fatal flaws in our leaders, in our peoples?  How did we misunderstand, or misbehave, individually and collectively?  What if we had another chance, to reform under Josiah, or to rebuild a Second Temple?

Sure, these early Joshua and Judges stories may be based on events of the 1100’s BCE or so, written first from oral sources into written claims for Solomon’s courts in the 900’s BCE.  They would serve as legitimating propaganda for the ambitious expansion of a United Kingdom with a ‘world-class’ economy and pride.

By reformer Josiah’s time ruling Judah in the mid 600’s BCE, after Israel had fallen in 750 BCE to the Assyrians, the story sounds different when we repeat it.  Succession was bad after David, worse after Solomon.  Ahab in the north wed Jezebel from Tyre like Solomon courted African and Egyptian wives for trade alliances – but it didn’t work out, nor would it do for Josiah, runs the argument.

In the late 500’s BCE, after the Babylonian exile, a final rewrite fits the Second Temple perspective. That’s a lot like us reading Chaucer and Shakespeare as literature for moral and political guidance, or as sources to understand our history. Does it sound different, this claim of genocide, vanquishing of a whole region, in the mouths of a beleaguered wee people under threat?  

What follows is the ‘allotment’ of this land claim among tribes.  Did you earn your enviable share of Canada’s ‘social wage’ of shared prosperity and resources?  I just got mine from providence, neither to my credit or blame.  I’m responsible for what I do with what I am given – which comes from the outrageous claims and actions of my ancestors, who began as illiterate refugees, long since prospered. 


Joshua 13,
Monday, April 16, 2018

In case you still thought that Joshua was a record of an actual successful genocide from Egypt to Syria, from Mediterranean to Euphrates, here’s a summary of unfinished business as Joshua retires from his long campaigns. God enumerates all the turf Joshua left in the hands of others, summarized as what we know as the Gaza strip, and the east of what we’d call Sea of Galilee.

The enumeration, bracketed in the NRSV below, but not of course in the original Hebrew ‘squiggles’ which are consonants with few separations and no punctuation.  Ballpark, run along the Mediterranean from Egypt to Lebanon, the coastal plains, and concede that Joshua never got control – lots of folk left ‘in the land’!  God lets Joshua off the hook, and offers to follow through God-self, but meanwhile authorizes Josh to divvy up this unconquered land among 9.5 tribes.

From verses 8-13, God reminds Joshua that Moses already gave turf to 2.5 tribes, so it’s not part of this allotment.  Remember the kings of Sihon and Bashar?  This is the land east of the Jordan, the Amorite and Moabite territory we’d call Jordan or Transjordan.  You could check Numbers 32 for that ‘back-story’ of Gad, Reuben, and half of Manasseh agreeing to act as shock troops for Moses’ promise to give them this land – which we all know was not long controlled by ‘us’.

Don’t get lost again in the broad swaths of territory named – though you notice Lebanon and Sidon to give you the northern reach, from the mountain slopes in the southeast where Moses got his glimpse of the Promised Land in Numbers and Deuteronomy.  My epiphany is again how broadly qualified and limited is the claim of successful genocide and occupation, here in the middle of Joshua.

Verse 14, (and later 33), confirm that the other exception is that Levi gets no patrimony, instead an entitlement to sacrifices, as the tribe of priests.  So 2.5 handled by Moses, and 1 alternatively endowed, should leave 8.5 tribes to get allotments, eh?  Stay tuned.

The enumeration of what Moses gave Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh runs south to north, elaborating on the earlier Torah references, and including reference to the Balaam story in Numbers.  The implied admission is that ‘we’ never had a firm grip on this turf.

Reaching my 400 words, I just remind you this dovetails through the entirety of Hebrew scriptures, and you might get something from this  stage setting as you read other scriptures….

Now Joshua was old and advanced in years; 
and the Lord said to him,
 ‘You are old and advanced in years, 
and very much of the land
still remains to be possessed.
 
 2This is the land that still remains: 
all the regions of the Philistines, 
and all those of the Geshurites
 
 3(from the Shihor, which is east of Egypt, 
northwards to the boundary of Ekron,
 it is reckoned as Canaanite; 
there are five rulers of the Philistines, 
those of Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron), 
 
and those of the Avvim 4in the south; 
all the land of the Canaanites, 
and Mearah that belongs to the Sidonians,
 to Aphek, to the boundary of the Amorites,
 
 5and the land of the Gebalites, 
and all Lebanon, towards the east, 
from Baal-gad below Mount Hermon
 to Lebo-hamath,
 
 6all the inhabitants of the hill country
from Lebanon to Misrephoth-maim,
 even all the Sidonians.
 I will myself drive them out
from before the Israelites; 
only allot the land to Israel for an inheritance, 
as I have commanded you.
 
 7Now therefore divide this land for an inheritance
to the nine tribes and the half-tribe of Manasseh.’
 
8 With the other half-tribe of Manasseh,
 the Reubenites and the Gadites received their inheritance, 
which Moses gave them,
 beyond the Jordan eastwards,
 as Moses the servant of the Lord gave them:
 
 9from Aroer, which is on the edge of the Wadi Arnon, 
and the town that is in the middle of the valley,
 and all the tableland from Medeba as far as Dibon;
 
10and all the cities of King Sihon of the Amorites, 
who reigned in Heshbon, 
as far as the boundary of the Ammonites;
 
 11and Gilead, 
and the region of the Geshurites and Maacathites, 
and all Mount Hermon,
 and all Bashan to Salecah;
 
 12all the kingdom of Og in Bashan, 
who reigned in Ashtaroth and in Edrei
 (he alone was left of the survivors of the Rephaim); 
these Moses had defeated and driven out. 
 
13Yet the Israelites did not drive out the Geshurites
or the Maacathites; 
but Geshur and Maacath live within Israel
 to this day.
 
14 To the tribe of Levi alone
Moses gave no inheritance; 
the offerings by fire to the Lord God of Israel
are their inheritance, 
as he said to them.
 
15 Moses gave an inheritance
 to the tribe of the Reubenites
according to their clans. 
 
16Their territory was from Aroer, 
which is on the edge of the Wadi Arnon, 
and the town that is in the middle of the valley, 
and all the tableland by Medeba;
 
 17with Heshbon, 
and all its towns that are in the tableland;
 Dibon, and Bamoth-baal, 
and Beth-baal-meon, 
18and Jahaz, and Kedemoth, and Mephaath, 
19and Kiriathaim, and Sibmah, 
and Zereth-shahar on the hill of the valley,
 
 20and Beth-peor, 
and the slopes of Pisgah,
 and Beth-jeshimoth, 
 
21that is, all the towns of the tableland,
 and all the kingdom of King Sihon of the Amorites, 
who reigned in Heshbon,
 whom Moses defeated with the leaders of Midian,
 Evi and Rekem and Zur and Hur and Reba, 
as princes of Sihon, 
who lived in the land.
 
 22Along with the rest of those they put to death,
 the Israelites also put to the sword Balaam son of Beor, 
who practised divination.
 
 23And the border of the Reubenites
 was the Jordan and its banks. 
This was the inheritance of the Reubenites
according to their families, 
with their towns and villages.
 
24 Moses gave an inheritance also to the tribe of the Gadites, 
according to their families.
 
25Their territory was Jazer,
and all the towns of Gilead,
and half the land of the Ammonites,
 to Aroer, which is east of Rabbah,
 
26and from Heshbon to Ramath-mizpeh and Betonim, 
and from Mahanaim to the territory of Debir,
 
 27and in the valley Beth-haram, Beth-nimrah, Succoth, and Zaphon, the rest of the kingdom of King Sihon of Heshbon,
 the Jordan and its banks, 
as far as the lower end of the Sea of Chinnereth, 
eastwards beyond the Jordan.
 
 28This is the inheritance of the Gadites
according to their clans, 
with their towns and villages.
 
29 Moses gave an inheritance to the half-tribe of Manasseh;
 it was allotted to the half-tribe of the Manassites
according to their families.
 
30Their territory extended from Mahanaim, 
through all Bashan, 
the whole kingdom of King Og of Bashan, 
and all the settlements of Jair, 
which are in Bashan,
 sixty towns, 
 
31and half of Gilead,
 and Ashtaroth, and Edrei, 
the towns of the kingdom of Og in Bashan; 
these were allotted to the people of Machir son of Manasseh
according to their clans—for half the Machirites.
 
32 These are the inheritances that Moses distributed
 in the plains of Moab,
 beyond the Jordan east of Jericho.
 
 33But to the tribe of Levi
Moses gave no inheritance; 
the Lord God of Israel is their inheritance, 
as he said to them.
 
 

Joshua 12 & End of Part 1

Joshua 12,

Saturday, April 14, 2018

 

It’s the end of our second week, end of the first half of Joshua, and chapter 12 is clearly a summing-up, in the form of a song for public recitation.  Use your map, trace with your finger the claim of land now available for allotment by Joshua among the tribes of Israel!

The first 6 verses sum up the land east of the Jordan, already allocated to Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Menashe.  Moses led the battles against Amorite kings Sihon and Og, and this is a reminder of recitations in the earliest part of this book.  

Verses 7 and 8 summarize Joshua’s victories west of the Jordan, from Lebanon to Egypt, before enumerating 31 specific kings defeated.  The expansive borders are followed by a reminder that these are the lands of 6 peoples: Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites.  The list is repeated in Torah, now in ‘former prophets’

The text has been laid out in ‘half bricks’ since the earliest scraps of manuscripts available to us, in striking contrast to the rest of Hebrew scripture with its conventional consonants written from right to left.  You see a vertical column of narrow lines, and a lot of blank page. The effect is of a narrow unstable tower of letters.

Of the list of 31 kings, you can trace 14 from what you’ve read, in order from Jericho and Ai, Jerusalem and Hebron.  Another 17 are interspersed as the chant continues, and you’ll find the order is set by the geography of contiguous or adjoining places.

This time through, I am struck by the sense that 12 tribes together faced one city Jericho, then sent a small party to Ai and failed, requiring attach by 12 tribes again.  The next two battles were led by the kings of Jerusalem in the south and Hebron in the northern highlands, but included several kings against the 12 tribes. Thereafter, I imagine 12 tribes picking off one stray king at a time.

This is just the first half of the first of a pair of scroll, Joshua and Judges.  This pair is followed by another, of ‘1 and 2 Samuel’, then ‘1 and 2 Kings’. The set is known as the ‘former prophets’, and as the ‘Deuteronomist History’.  The overall story is ‘the rise and fall of our monarchy’. How, with such a great start, did we blow it?

Sure, these stories may be based on events of the 1100’s BCE or so, written first from oral sources into written claims in Solomon’s courts in the 900’s BCE.  In reformer Josiah’s time ruling Judah in the mid 600’s BCE, after Israel had fallen in 750 BCE to the Assyrians, a bit edit is likely. In the late 500’s BCE, after the Babylonian exile, a final rewrite fits the Second Temple perspective. That’s a lot like us reading Chaucer and Shakespeare as literature!  

Does it sound different, this claim of genocide, vanquishing of a whole region, in the mouths of a beleaguered wee people under threat?  Your turn to listen:

Now these are the kings of the land,

whom the Israelites defeated,

whose land they occupied

beyond the Jordan towards the east,

from the Wadi Arnon to Mount Hermon,

with all the Arabah eastwards: 

2King Sihon of the Amorites

who lived at Heshbon,

and ruled from Aroer,

which is on the edge of the Wadi Arnon,

and from the middle of the valley

as far as the river Jabbok,

the boundary of the Ammonites,

that is,

half of Gilead,

 3and the Arabah

to the Sea of Chinneroth eastwards,

and in the direction of Beth-jeshimoth,

to the sea of the Arabah,

the Dead Sea,

southwards

to the foot of the slopes of Pisgah;

 4and King Og of Bashan,

one of the last of the Rephaim,

who lived at Ashtaroth

and at Edrei

 5and ruled over

Mount Hermon

and Salecah

and all Bashan

to the boundary

of the Geshurites

and the Maacathites,

and over half of Gilead

to the boundary

of King Sihon of Heshbon. 

6Moses, the servant of the Lord,

and the Israelites defeated them;

and Moses the servant of the Lord

gave their land for a possession

to the Reubenites

and the Gadites

and the half-tribe of Manasseh.

7 The following

are the kings of the land

whom Joshua

and the Israelites

defeated

on the west side

of the Jordan,

from Baal-gad

in the valley of Lebanon

to Mount Halak,

that rises towards Seir

(and Joshua gave their land

to the tribes of Israel

as a possession

according to their allotments,

8in the hill country,

in the lowland,

in the Arabah,

in the slopes,

in the wilderness,

and in the Negeb,

the land

of the Hittites,

Amorites,

Canaanites,

Perizzites,

Hivites,

and Jebusites): 

9 the king of Jericho
          one
the king of Ai, which is next to Bethel
          one
10 the king of Jerusalem
          one
the king of Hebron
          one
11 the king of Jarmuth
          one
the king of Lachish
          one
12 the king of Eglon
          one
the king of Gezer
          one
13 the king of Debir
          one
the king of Geder
          one
14 the king of Hormah
          one
the king of Arad
          one
15 the king of Libnah
          one
the king of Adullam
          one
16 the king of Makkedah
          one
the king of Bethel
          one
17 the king of Tappuah
          one
the king of Hepher
          one
18 the king of Aphek
          one
the king of Lasharon
          one
19 the king of Madon
          one
the king of Hazor
          one
20 the king of Shimron-meron
          one
the king of Achshaph
          one
21 the king of Taanach
          one
the king of Megiddo
          one
22 the king of Kedesh
          one
the king of Jokneam in Carmel
          one
23 the king of Dor in Naphath-dor
          one
the king of Goiim in Galilee, 
          one
24 the king of Tirzah
          one
thirty-one kings in all.

Joshua 11

Joshua 11,
Friday, April 13, 2018

Did you believe yesterday that Joshua laid waste from Jerusalem to Egypt, in time to come home to Gilgal?  Reset, reboot, it’s a new day, and a new chapter of Joshua, and there’s a whole slew of northern kings to be faced.  Not just a few Amorites under 5 kings, but 5 peoples: Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, and Hivites.

The leader this time is King Jabin of Hazor.  Hazor is known to us as Hebron. The heights that still must be controlled for military dominance in Palestine.  We’re ranging north, but also south to the Dead Sea, and east and west.

The other guys are as numerous as the sand on the seashore – but Israel is not scared.  God is on their side, providing tactical advice to hamstring horses and burn chariots, to demobilize the cavalry.  It’s reminiscent of the fate of Pharaoh’s horses and chariots sunk in mud, but with more agency for the Israeli troops. 

Just as the rout yesterday ran all the way through the Negev to  Goshen, the east Nile delta, today the rout heads north to Sidon, and east as far.  Look at a map, and see the scope:  ‘this land is your land, from Bonavista, to Vancouver Island, from the Arctic Circle, to the Great Lakes waters…’.  That’s a song we sang, and First Nations heard differently, back in the day, eh?

Just as the king of Jerusalem was humiliated yesterday, the king of Hazor lost his alpha male status today.  His town is razed, but all the other cities built on mounds were spared, and booty taken.  Of course, genocide of their people was complete.  Are you beginning to take this rhetoric with a grain of salt?  What’s the message?

The chapter concedes near the end that Joshua fought these peoples for a long time.  The people remained in the land.  We all knew that, always.  We coexisted, in Peter Russell’s terms in ‘incomplete conquest’, with others who we no longer feared, but we kept up our guard and our boundaries.  Good fences make good neighbours.

The exception is the Anakim, a people not mentioned before in the recitations of the 6 peoples of the land.  Are they the Beothuk, or are they a mythical tribe? They are dismissed to the Gaza strip. The claim to the Hebron highlands is crucial for David in the future.  The summary of the highlands as ‘Israel and Judah’ are terms from centuries later, the divided kingdoms. Is it a later editorial summary?

As we near the end of the week we near the end of war, with the ritual claim that the land has been cleared of other peoples.  Now the land can be divided among the 12 tribes by allotment – by lots.  Listen once more to the chapter:


 
When King Jabin of Hazor heard of this, 
he sent
to King Jobab of Madon,
 to the king of Shimron,
 to the king of Achshaph,
 2and to the kings who were
 in the northern hill country, 
and in the Arabah south of Chinneroth, 
and in the lowland, and in Naphoth-dor on the west, 
3to the Canaanites in the east and the west,
 
 the Amorites, 
the Hittites, 
the Perizzites,
 and the Jebusites
in the hill country, 
 
and the Hivites under Hermon
 in the land of Mizpah.
 
 4They came out,
 with all their troops, 
a great army,
 in number like the sand on the seashore,
 with very many horses and chariots.
 
 5All these kings joined their forces,
 and came and camped together
at the waters of Merom, 
to fight with Israel.
 
 
6 And the Lord said to Joshua,
 ‘Do not be afraid of them,
 for tomorrow at this time
 I will hand over all of them, 
slain, 
to Israel; 
you shall hamstring their horses, 
and burn their chariots with fire.’
 
 7So Joshua came suddenly upon them
 with all his fighting force, 
by the waters of Merom,
 and fell upon them.
 
 8And the Lord handed them over to Israel,
 who attacked them and chased them
as far as Great Sidon and Misrephoth-maim, 
and eastwards as far as the valley of Mizpeh. 
 
They struck them down, 
until they had left no one remaining.
 
 9And Joshua did to them
as the Lord commanded him;
 he hamstrung their horses,
 and burned their chariots with fire.
 
10 Joshua turned back at that time, 
and took Hazor, 
and struck its king down with the sword. 
 
Before that time
 Hazor was the head
 of all those kingdoms.
 
 11And they put to the sword
all who were in it, 
utterly destroying them; 
there was no one left who breathed,
 and he burned Hazor with fire.
 
 12And all the towns of those kings, 
and all their kings, 
Joshua took, 
and struck them with the edge of the sword, 
utterly destroying them, 
as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded.
 
13But Israel burned none of the towns
that stood on mounds
except Hazor,
 which Joshua did burn. 
 
14All the spoil of these towns, 
and the livestock,
 the Israelites took for their booty; 
but all the people
they struck down with the edge of the sword, 
until they had destroyed them, 
and they did not leave any who breathed.
 
 15As the Lord had commanded his servant Moses, 
so Moses commanded Joshua,
 and so Joshua did; 
he left nothing undone
 of all that the Lord had commanded Moses.
 
16 So Joshua took all that land:
 the hill country
and all the Negeb
and all the land of Goshen
 and the lowland
 and the Arabah
and the hill country of Israel
and its lowland,
 17from Mount Halak,
 which rises towards Seir,
 as far as Baal-gad
 in the valley of Lebanon
 below Mount Hermon. 
 
He took all their kings, 
struck them down,
 and put them to death. 
 
18Joshua made war a long time
 with all those kings. 
 
19There was not a town
that made peace with the Israelites,
 except the Hivites,
 the inhabitants of Gibeon; 
all were taken in battle. 
 
20For it was the Lord’s doing
to harden their hearts
so that they would come against Israel in battle,
 in order that they might be utterly destroyed,
 and might receive no mercy, 
but be exterminated, 
just as the Lord had commanded Moses.
 
21 At that time
Joshua came
 and wiped out the Anakim
 from the hill country,
 from Hebron,
 from Debir,
 from Anab,
 and from all the hill country of Judah, 
and from all the hill country of Israel;
 Joshua utterly destroyed them
with their towns. 
 
22None of the Anakim was left
in the land of the Israelites; 
some remained
 only in Gaza,
 in Gath, 
and in Ashdod.
 
 23So Joshua took the whole land,
 according to all that the Lord had spoken to Moses; 
and Joshua gave it
for an inheritance to Israel
according to their tribal allotments. 
And the land had rest from war.
 

Joshua 10

Joshua 10,
Thursday, April 12, 2018

One of the kings of one of the peoples takes some initiative to cobble together an alliance of other Amorites.  If the Gibeonites, from the Hivites, cut a deal, thought the king of Jerusalem, what’s next?  Let’s at least get a cluster of southern cities to punish Gibeon, as a threat to other wavering allies!

The Gibeonites call for help under their treaty with Israelites, who honour their word in the name of God.  Joshua, assured of victory by God, moves faster than the Amorites expect, and successfully drives them off from Gibeon, chasing the fleeing troops into the mountains.

The Amorites, vanquished by God, chased by Joshua, then suffer showers of stones, or hailstones, that cause more casualties than Joshua had.  You may want to minimize this as making a big deal out of a weather event and routed rabble – or a miracle of divine stoning.

It’s harder to minimize and rationalize the claim that God stopped the sun and the moon, so that the ‘day’ lasted long enough for Joshua to ‘mop up’ the remaining Amorites.  The text even appeals to the authority of another written account, long since lost!

Joshua heads home to Gilgal after the miraculous long day.  There he hears that the 5 kings are holed up in the cave of Makkedah – and he orders them sealed into the cave.  The Israelites chase down the fleeing troops before they get to their cities, God-given to Israel.

Joshua enacts a ritual with the kings, making his officers put a foot on their enemies’ necks.  Does this remind you of an ISIS video yet? Who is motivated, and who is demoralized by this spectacle?  The bodies are strung up on trees, again only till sundown, then tossed into the cave, sealed again, to remain ‘till this day’. 

How can you distinguish a ‘terrorist’ from an ‘insurgent’?  The leaders of 20th century Israel faced those challenges, from David Ben Gurion to Menachem Begin to Golda Meir.  The leaders of Intifadah I and Intifadah II face the same challenges to their acts of violence.  This month, ‘Land Day’ protests met by IDF forces are killing Palestinians daily.  What news do you read from Syria or Afghanistan today?

There follows a rhythmic recitation of one genocide after another.  It’s as obscene as the recitations of Navy Seals or JTF2 missions, sometimes extra-territorial renditions, with high casualties for ‘them’ and minimal damage to ‘us’ and ‘our’ teams and snipers.  Recall ‘Bomber Harris’ in 1943, Dresden 1944, Hiroshima and Nagasaki 1945, or the past 25 years of ‘shock and awe’ from Kuwait to Iraq, into Afghanistan and Osama Bin Laden’s home in Pakistan.

You need a map to check the closing claims this day.  What started as a fight with a few Amorite kings of cities organized from Jerusalem covers all the highlands to start.  However, it swings south through the Negev to the east delta of the Nile in Egypt – like the 6 Day War of 1967.  Is this factual history, or some form of boasting, closing with ‘Joshua went home to Gilgal’?

 

When King Adoni-zedek of Jerusalem heard
how Joshua had taken Ai,
 and had utterly destroyed it, 
doing to Ai and its king
as he had done to Jericho and its king, 
and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel
and were among them, 
2he became greatly frightened, 
because Gibeon was a large city,
 like one of the royal cities, 
and was larger than Ai, 
and all its men were warriors.
 
 3So King Adoni-zedek of Jerusalem sent a message
to King Hoham of Hebron,
 to King Piram of Jarmuth, 
to King Japhia of Lachish, 
and to King Debir of Eglon, 
saying,
 
4‘Come up and help me, 
and let us attack Gibeon; 
for it has made peace with Joshua
and with the Israelites.’
 
 5Then the five kings of the Amorites—
the king of Jerusalem, 
the king of Hebron, 
the king of Jarmuth,
 the king of Lachish,
 and the king of Eglon—
gathered their forces, 
and went up with all their armies
 and encamped against Gibeon,
 and made war against it.
 
6 And the Gibeonites sent to Joshua
at the camp in Gilgal, 
saying,
 ‘Do not abandon your servants; 
come up to us quickly,
 and save us, 
and help us;
 for all the kings of the Amorites
who live in the hill country
are gathered against us.’
 
 7So Joshua went up from Gilgal,
 he and all the fighting force with him,
 all the mighty warriors.
 
 8The Lord said to Joshua,
 ‘Do not fear them, 
for I have handed them over to you;
 not one of them shall stand before you.’
 
 9So Joshua came upon them suddenly,
 having marched up all night from Gilgal.
 
 10And the Lord threw them into a panic before Israel, 
who inflicted a great slaughter on them at Gibeon, 
chased them by the way of the ascent of Beth-horon, 
and struck them down as far as Azekah and Makkedah.
 
 11As they fled before Israel, 
while they were going down the slope of Beth-horon,
 the Lord threw down huge stones from heaven on them
as far as Azekah,
 and they died; 
there were more who died
because of the hailstones
than the Israelites killed
with the sword.
 
12 On the day
 when the Lord gave the Amorites
 over to the Israelites, 
Joshua spoke to the Lord;
 and he said in the sight of Israel,
‘Sun, stand still at Gibeon,
   and Moon, in the valley of Aijalon.’ 

13 And the sun stood still, 
and the moon stopped,
   until the nation took vengeance
on their enemies.

Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? 
The sun stopped in mid-heaven,
 and did not hurry to set
for about a whole day.
 
 14There has been no day like it
before or since, 
when the Lord heeded a human voice; 
for the Lord fought for Israel.
 
15 Then Joshua returned, 
and all Israel with him,
 to the camp at Gilgal.
 
16 Meanwhile, 
these five kings fled
and hid themselves
 in the cave at Makkedah.
 
 17And it was told Joshua,
 ‘The five kings have been found, 
hidden in the cave at Makkedah.’
 
 18Joshua said, 
‘Roll large stones against the mouth of the cave,
 and set men by it to guard them; 
19but do not stay there yourselves;
 pursue your enemies,
 and attack them from the rear.
 
 Do not let them enter their towns,
 for the Lord your God has given them into your hand.’ 
 
20When Joshua and the Israelites had finished
 inflicting a very great slaughter on them, 
until they were wiped out, 
and when the survivors had entered
into the fortified towns,
 21all the people returned safe to Joshua
 in the camp at Makkedah; 
no one dared to speak
against any of the Israelites.
 
22 Then Joshua said,
 ‘Open the mouth of the cave, 
and bring those five kings out to me from the cave.’
 
 23They did so, 
and brought the five kings out to him from the cave, 
the king of Jerusalem,
 the king of Hebron,
 the king of Jarmuth,
 the king of Lachish,
 and the king of Eglon.
 
 24When they brought the kings out to Joshua, 
Joshua summoned all the Israelites, 
and said to the chiefs of the warriors
who had gone with him,
 ‘Come near, 
put your feet on the necks of these kings.’ 
 
Then they came near
and put their feet on their necks.
 
 25And Joshua said to them,
 ‘Do not be afraid or dismayed; 
be strong and courageous; 
for thus the Lord will do
 to all the enemies against whom you fight.’
 
 26Afterwards Joshua struck them down
and put them to death,
 and he hung them on five trees. 
 
And they hung on the trees
until evening. 
27At sunset
Joshua commanded, 
and they took them down from the trees
and threw them into the cave
where they had hidden themselves; 
they set large stones
against the mouth of the cave, 
which remain to this very day.
 
28 Joshua took Makkedah on that day,
 and struck it and its king with the edge of the sword; 
he utterly destroyed every person in it;
 he left no one remaining.
 
 And he did to the king of Makkedah
as he had done to the king of Jericho.
 
29 Then Joshua passed on from Makkedah, 
and all Israel with him, 
to Libnah,
 and fought against Libnah
 
. 30The Lord gave it also and its king
 into the hand of Israel; 
and he struck it with the edge of the sword,
 and every person in it; 
he left no one remaining in it;
 and he did to its king
 as he had done to the king of Jericho.
 
31 Next Joshua passed on from Libnah,
 and all Israel with him, 
to Lachish,
 and laid siege to it,
 and assaulted it. 
 
32The Lord gave Lachish
 into the hand of Israel,
 and he took it on the second day,
 and struck it with the edge of the sword,
 and every person in it,
 as he had done to Libnah.
 
33 Then King Horam of Gezer
came up to help Lachish;
 and Joshua struck him and his people,
 leaving him no survivors.
 
34 From Lachish Joshua passed on with all Israel
to Eglon; 
and they laid siege to it, 
and assaulted it;
 35and they took it that day,
 and struck it with the edge of the sword; 
and every person in it he utterly destroyed that day,
 as he had done to Lachish.
36 Then Joshua went up with all Israel
 from Eglon to Hebron; 
they assaulted it,
 37and took it, 
and struck it with the edge of the sword, 
and its king and its towns,
 and every person in it;
 he left no one remaining,
 just as he had done to Eglon, 
and utterly destroyed it
with every person in it.
 
38 Then Joshua, with all Israel,
 turned back to Debir and assaulted it,
39and he took it with its king and all its towns; 
they struck them with the edge of the sword, 
and utterly destroyed every person in it;
 he left no one remaining, 
just as he had done to Hebron, 
and, as he had done to Libnah and its king,
 so he did to Debir and its king.
 
40 So Joshua defeated the whole land,
 the hill country
 and the Negeb
and the lowland
and the slopes, 
and all their kings; 
he left no one remaining,
 but utterly destroyed
 all that breathed,
 as the Lord God of Israel commanded
 
. 41And Joshua defeated them
from Kadesh-barnea to Gaza,
 and all the country of Goshen, 
as far as Gibeon. 
 
42Joshua took all these kings
and their land
 at one time, 
because the Lord God of Israel
fought for Israel. 
 
43Then Joshua returned, 
and all Israel with him, 
to the camp at Gilgal.
 

Joshua 9

Joshua 9,
Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Now that Jericho and Ai are behind us, the countryside of Palestine has been aroused to the incursion of these insurgents.  We envision this invasion and occupation from our modern nation-state wars – but this is closer to a 21st century pattern of insurgency.

Just as the map of the ‘occupied territory’ of Palestine looks today, or the maps of Afghanistan or Syria, honeycomb or sponge patterns of strongholds for vying factions, with tides of armed combat flowing around obstructions, has replaced the 20th century ‘fronts’ of war.

6 peoples, and as many as 31 kings, are roused to respond to the 12 tribes of Israel, according to Joshua. Find these 6 peoples on a map, through the ‘hill country’, and you will be better able to ‘hear’.  We learn unfamiliar proper nouns and place names, to ‘hear’ the story.

You can ‘hear’ if I use area codes to describe Ontario: the 416 (and the 647), the 905, and the 705, or over into the 519 (and the 226).   That’s a different pattern than if I recite counties, or regional governments – or original villages, towns, or cities.  What’s it ‘mean’?

One bunch of Hivites disguise themselves to trick the Israelites into a treaty.  Did they deceive in order to avoid being punished by the other 5 tribes – who will punish them anyhow later? By then, the Hivites can call on Israel’s aid under the treaty.

Did they plan to deceive Israel to avoid the genocidal plan of the invaders?  Sure, that too – but the text says it’s Israel’s fault that they made a deal in haste, without consulting God or testing the evidence of the Hivites’ home.  Israel must honour the deal, and repent at leisure being fooled.  

The Hivites don’t become Israelites, as Rahab did.  They will be ‘hewers of wood and drawers of water’ for Israel.  Harold Innis applied the term to Canada in 1930 in ‘The Fur Trade in Canada’ to describe our reliance on primary resources rather than competing with the UK or the US imperial colonial economies.  

Peter Russell has now written a similar tome, ‘Canada, Land of Incomplete Conquests’, describing how the British did not follow through with victorious genocide of the French, nor of first nations, as the Americans did.  He, like Innis, is alluding to Joshua.  The peoples of the land remain, despite the episodic victories here.

Yet, the story of the Gibeonites, the Hivites, is not a story of equals and allies, but of patronage, of subordination, short of slavery.  The more I read Joshua, the more I am derailed from my one-track mind about justifying or repenting of invasion and genocide, and shunted around on sidings of complex coexistence with other peoples. 

That’s my 400 – enjoy 1000 from Joshua again, in chapter 9! 

Now when all the kings
who were beyond the Jordan
in the hill country
and in the lowland
all along the coast
 of the Great Sea
towards Lebanon
—the Hittites, 
the Amorites, 
the Canaanites,
 the Perizzites, 
the Hivites, 
and the Jebusites—
heard of this,
 
 2they gathered together
 with one accord
to fight Joshua and Israel.
 
3 But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard
what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai,
 4they on their part acted with cunning: 
they went and prepared provisions, 
and took worn-out sacks for their donkeys, 
and wineskins, worn-out and torn and mended,
 5with worn-out, patched sandals on their feet, 
and worn-out clothes; 
and all their provisions were dry and mouldy. 
 
6They went to Joshua
 in the camp at Gilgal, 
and said to him
and to the Israelites, 
 
‘We have come from a far country; 
so now make a treaty with us.’ 
 
7But the Israelites said to the Hivites, 
‘Perhaps you live among us; 
then how can we make a treaty with you?’
 
 8They said to Joshua, 
‘We are your servants.’ 
And Joshua said to them,
 ‘Who are you?
 And where do you come from?’
 
 9They said to him, 
‘Your servants have come from a very far country, 
because of the name of the Lord your God;
 for we have heard a report of him, 
of all that he did in Egypt,
 10and of all that he did
to the two kings of the Amorites
who were beyond the Jordan, 
King Sihon of Heshbon,
 and King Og of Bashan
who lived in Ashtaroth. 
 
11So our elders
and all the inhabitants of our country
said to us,
 “Take provisions in your hand for the journey; 
go to meet them, and say to them, 
‘We are your servants; 
come now, 
make a treaty with us.’ ”
 
12Here is our bread;
 it was still warm
when we took it from our houses
as our food for the journey,
 on the day we set out to come to you,
 but now, see,
 it is dry and mouldy; 
 
13these wineskins were new
when we filled them, 
and see, they are burst; 
and these garments and sandals of ours
are worn out from the very long journey.’
 
 14So the leaders partook of their provisions, 
and did not ask direction from the Lord. 
 
15And Joshua made peace with them, 
guaranteeing their lives by a treaty; 
and the leaders of the congregation swore an oath to them.
 
16 But when three days had passed
after they had made a treaty with them, 
they heard that they were their neighbours
and were living among them. 
 
17So the Israelites set out
and reached their cities
on the third day. 
 
Now their cities were
Gibeon,
 Chephirah,
 Beeroth, 
and Kiriath-jearim.
 
18But the Israelites did not attack them, 
because the leaders of the congregation had sworn to them
by the Lord, the God of Israel. 
 
Then all the congregation murmured against the leaders.
 
 19But all the leaders said to all the congregation, 
‘We have sworn to them
by the Lord, the God of Israel,
 and now we must not touch them. 
 
20This is what we will do to them:
 We will let them live, 
so that wrath may not come upon us,
 because of the oath
 that we swore to them.’ 
 
 
21The leaders said to them, 
‘Let them live.’ 
 
So they became hewers of wood
and drawers of water
for all the congregation, 
as the leaders had decided concerning them.
 
22 Joshua summoned them, 
and said to them, 
‘Why did you deceive us, 
saying, 
“We are very far from you”,
 while in fact you are living among us?
 
23Now therefore you are cursed, 
and some of you shall always be slaves,
 hewers of wood
and drawers of water
 for the house of my God.’
 
 24They answered Joshua, 
‘Because it was told to your servants
 for a certainty
 that the Lord your God had commanded his servant Moses
to give you all the land, 
and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land before you;
 so we were in great fear for our lives
because of you, 
and did this thing.
 
 25And now we are in your hand:
 do as it seems good and right in your sight to do to us.’
 
 26This is what he did for them: 
he saved them from the Israelites;
 and they did not kill them. 
 
27But on that day Joshua made them
hewers of wood and
drawers of water
for the congregation
and for the altar of the Lord, 
to continue to this day,
 in the place
that he should choose.

Joshua 8

Joshua 8,
Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Now that Israel has repented and rooted out the booty stolen by Achar – (or scape-goated Achar, as one of you suggested in our Sunday evening conversation) – they are ready for Ai, using all the people to take what God is giving.  This time they can keep booty.

The strategy and tactics involve ambush, and Ai underestimating Israel based on the first skirmish.  It’s clever, but again involves total genocide of the army that pursued, and the families in the city, and this time, there is the profit motive: keep the chattels, burn the city.

Notice Joshua holding his scimitar aloft throughout the battle, like Moses holding his staff aloft through battle, supported by helpers.  He holds it up till the job is done – by God, with Israel’s support.  Shrewd tactics, and following the plan, not mighty men, win for God.

12,000 humans are said to have died, every inhabitant of Ai, and after the pillaging, the city was burnt to rubble, not rebuilt or occupied, just as Jericho had been laid waste.   How does the waste of the enemy relate to the sacrifices of Israel?

Our worldview is about ‘using’ stuff, people, time, for our purposes.  We ‘spend’, ‘save’, ‘waste’ and ‘sacrifice’ in that utilitarian calculus.  Jacques Ellul challenged techné itself and the technology that informs and expresses it.  We treat God's creation instrumentally, in our age, as tools, to serve our goods, not our God.

To try that again, 'using' stuff, people, time for our purposes, is not Joshua's worldview.   Joshua honours stuff, people, and time as sacred creations of the creator, so Israel is to oppose all desecrating enemies, and help sanctifying divinity. This is Torah talk, of 'holiness' and 'gift'.   ‘Abuse’ talk does not challenge ‘use’ talk enough for me.  Joshua, if we begin to get it, does.
 
The gory vision of the king of Ai hanged on a tree evokes lynching, and crucifixion for us.  Perhaps Joshua is not showing sadistic torture, but a sort of symbolic restraint.  The body is taken down at sunset, not left to rot.  The humanity of the body is finally respected.  It has been 'devoted to destruction, and no longer threatens the sanctity of Israel and God's gifts to them.

The readers and hearers of Joshua knew of the competing shrines of Gilgal, Bethel, and those given edited revisions of Joshua knew of Solomon’s Temple, and later, the Second Temple.  These ‘heaps of stones’ at Ebal and Gerazim also get etiological legends, revered by the levitical and Aaronic priesthoods and all tribes, not competing with the temples where the ark of the covenant would later rest.

Finally today, we’re told that Joshua wrote in stone a complete copy of the Torah of Moses from Sinai, and that it was read allow, every word, for the whole people, including slaves and aliens to listen.  Every word was heard, including the blessings and curses.  I’ve reached my 400 words for the day – better you read or hear 1000 words in chapter 8 of Joshua today:

Then the Lord said to Joshua,
 ‘Do not fear or be dismayed; 
take all the fighting men with you,
 and go up now to Ai. 
 
See, I have handed over to you the king of Ai
 with his people, his city, and his land.
 
 2You shall do to Ai and its king
as you did to Jericho and its king; 
 
only its spoil and its livestock
you may take as booty for yourselves. 
 
Set an ambush against the city, behind it.’
 
3 So Joshua and all the fighting men set out
to go up against Ai. 
 
Joshua chose thirty thousand warriors
and sent them out by night
 4with the command,
 ‘You shall lie in ambush against the city,
 behind it; 
do not go very far from the city, 
but all of you stay alert.
 
 5I and all the people who are with me
will approach the city.
 
When they come out against us, 
as before, we shall flee from them.
 
 6They will come out after us
until we have drawn them away from the city; 
for they will say, 
“They are fleeing from us, 
as before.” 
 
While we flee from them,
 7you shall rise up from the ambush
and seize the city;
 for the Lord your God will give it into your hand.
 
 8And when you have taken the city, 
you shall set the city on fire,
 doing as the Lord has ordered; 
see, I have commanded you.’
 
 9So Joshua sent them out; 
and they went to the place of ambush,
 and lay between Bethel and Ai,
 to the west of Ai; 
but Joshua spent that night in the camp.
 
10 In the morning
Joshua rose early and mustered the people,
 and went up, with the elders of Israel,
 before the people to Ai.
 
 11All the fighting men who were with him went up, 
and drew near before the city, 
and camped on the north side of Ai, 
with a ravine between them and Ai.
 
12Taking about five thousand men,
 he set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai,
 to the west of the city.
 
 13So they stationed the forces, 
the main encampment that was north of the city
and its rearguard west of the city.
 
 But Joshua spent that night in the valley.
 
 14When the king of Ai saw this,
 he and all his people,
 the inhabitants of the city,
 hurried out early in the morning
to the meeting-place facing the Arabah
 to meet Israel in battle; 
but he did not know
that there was an ambush against him
behind the city.
 
 15And Joshua and all Israel made a pretence
of being beaten before them, 
and fled in the direction of the wilderness.
 
 16So all the people who were in the city
 were called together to pursue them, 
and as they pursued Joshua
they were drawn away from the city.
 
 17There was not a man left in Ai or Bethel
who did not go out after Israel;
 they left the city open, 
and pursued Israel.
 
18 Then the Lord said to Joshua,
 ‘Stretch out the sword that is in your hand towards Ai; 
for I will give it into your hand.’ 
 
And Joshua stretched out the sword that was in his hand
 towards the city.
 
 19As soon as he stretched out his hand,
 the troops in ambush rose quickly out of their place
 and rushed forward. 
 
They entered the city, took it, 
and at once set the city on fire.
 
 20So when the men of Ai looked back, 
the smoke of the city was rising to the sky.
 
 They had no power to flee this way or that, 
for the people who fled to the wilderness
turned back against the pursuers.
 
21When Joshua and all Israel saw
that the ambush had taken the city
and that the smoke of the city was rising, 
then they turned back and struck down the men of Ai.
 
 22And the others came out from the city against them;
 so they were surrounded by Israelites, 
some on one side, and some on the other;
 and Israel struck them down
 until no one was left who survived or escaped.
 
 23But the king of Ai was taken alive
and brought to Joshua.
 
24 When Israel had finished
slaughtering all the inhabitants of Ai
in the open wilderness where they pursued them, 
and when all of them to the very last
had fallen by the edge of the sword,
 all Israel returned to Ai, 
and attacked it
with the edge of the sword.
 
 25The total of those who fell that day, 
both men and women, 
was twelve thousand
—all the people of Ai.
 
 26For Joshua did not draw back his hand, 
with which he stretched out the sword, 
until he had utterly destroyed
all the inhabitants of Ai.
 
 27Only the livestock and the spoil of that city
 Israel took as their booty,
 according to the word of the Lord
 that he had issued to Joshua.
 
 28So Joshua burned Ai, 
and made it for ever a heap of ruins,
 as it is to this day.
 
 29And he hanged the king of Ai on a tree
until evening;
 and at sunset
 Joshua commanded, 
and they took his body down from the tree,
 threw it down at the entrance of the gate of the city,
 and raised over it a great heap of stones, 
which stands there to this day.
 
 
30 Then Joshua built on Mount Ebal
an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, 
31just as Moses the servant of the Lord
 had commanded the Israelites,
 as it is written in the book of the law of Moses,
 ‘an altar of unhewn stones,
 on which no iron tool has been used’;
 and they offered on it burnt-offerings to the Lord, 
and sacrificed offerings of well-being.
 
 32And there, in the presence of the Israelites, 
Joshua wrote on the stones
a copy of the law of Moses, 
which he had written.
 
33All Israel, 
alien as well as citizen, 
with their elders and officers and their judges,
 stood on opposite sides of the ark
in front of the levitical priests
who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord,
 half of them in front of Mount Gerizim
and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, 
as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded at the first, 
that they should bless the people of Israel.
 
34And afterwards he read all the words of the law,
 blessings and curses,
 according to all that is written in the book of the law.
 
 35There was not a word of all that Moses commanded
 that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel,
 and the women, and the little ones, 
and the aliens who resided among them.
 

Joshua 7

Joshua 7,
Monday, April 9, 2018

Did you get stuck on the weekend with the genocide at Jericho, or apprehensive about this coming week of slaughter?  Let’s tell a story of what went wrong coming out of Jericho. It’s about breaking the prohibition on plundering and pillaging.  Achan got greedy.

We’re back to spies – and they are a bit cocky.  Jericho was so easy, Ai would fall to a raiding party, leaving most of the people at ease. But 3,000 Israelites cut and ran, and suffered 36 casualties.  Now it’s the people of Israel whose ‘hearts turn to water’. 

Joshua folds, and whines to God.  Worse, he threatens God that it’s Yahweh’s reputation that is at risk.  God barks at Joshua to stand up and stop grovelling.  Acting like a free and responsible person includes taking responsibility for yourself – and as a leader for others.

‘Devoted to destruction’ is a denial of venal motives of profit, and commitment to following through on the providential opportunity given by God, not earned by our merit.  What God’s replacing, we don’t scavenge – we risk infection from the original disease.

Collective and vicarious responsibility is the issue here.  Just as we get our providential allotments, so the guilty are revealed. The guilty party is revealed, and punished – but the entire community shares his guilt until they punish him: from genocide to capital punishment.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the United Church of Canada was vicariously liable for harm to students of residential schools.  We did not do the crimes.  We did not intend them.  We were not negligent in how we ran them.  But the things were bound to result in the specific crimes that followed, and we didn’t punish.

As my mentor 40 years ago would often put it: “Our institutions do our sinning for us.”  We don’t have to see the suffering, but we are complicit.  For 25 years we have been sending troops to the middle east since the first Gulf War – and more die at home than in the field, from the moral confusion of our collective behaviour.  

Joshua is not a tract in favour of genocide or capital punishment.  It proposes modesty about our power, deference to divinity and humanity, and collective responsibility and repentance.  We do not stand over the text as innocent judges of Joshua, but as complicit accomplices in preserving our material wealth, at others’ expense.

That’s my 400 words for today – better that you should read Joshua.


But the Israelites broke faith
in regard to the devoted things: 
Achan son of Carmi son of Zabdi son of Zerah, 
of the tribe of Judah,
 took some of the devoted things; 
and the anger of the Lord burned
against the Israelites.
 
2 Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, 
which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, 
and said to them,
 ‘Go up and spy out the land.’
And the men went up and spied out Ai.
 
 3Then they returned to Joshua and said to him,
 ‘Not all the people need go up; 
about two or three thousand men should go up
and attack Ai. 
Since they are so few,
 do not make the whole people toil up there.’
 
 4So about three thousand of the people went up there; 
and they fled before the men of Ai.
 
 5The men of Ai killed about thirty-six of them, 
chasing them from outside the gate as far as Shebarim
and killing them on the slope. 
The hearts of the people failed and turned to water.
 
6 Then Joshua tore his clothes, 
and fell to the ground on his face
before the ark of the Lord
until the evening, 
he and the elders of Israel; 
and they put dust on their heads.
 
 7Joshua said, 
‘Ah, Lord God! 
Why have you brought this people across the Jordan at all,
 to hand us over to the Amorites so as to destroy us? 
Would that we had been content
to settle beyond the Jordan!
 
 8O Lord, what can I say, 
now that Israel has turned their backs to their enemies!
 
 9The Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, 
and surround us, and cut off our name from the earth. 
Then what will you do for your great name?’
 
10 The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Stand up! 
Why have you fallen upon your face?
 
 11Israel has sinned; 
they have transgressed my covenant
that I imposed on them. 
They have taken some of the devoted things; 
they have stolen, they have acted deceitfully,
 and they have put them among their own belongings.
 
 12Therefore the Israelites are unable to stand before their enemies; 
they turn their backs to their enemies, 
because they have become a thing devoted for destruction themselves.
 
I will be with you no more, 
unless you destroy the devoted things from among you.
 
 13Proceed to sanctify the people, 
and say, “Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow; 
for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, 
‘There are devoted things among you, O Israel; 
you will be unable to stand before your enemies
until you take away the devoted things from among you.’
 
 14In the morning therefore you shall come forward tribe by tribe. 
The tribe that the Lord takes shall come near by clans,
 the clan that the Lord takes shall come near by households, 
and the household that the Lord takes shall come near one by one.
 
 15And the one who is taken as having the devoted things
shall be burned with fire, together with all that he has, 
for having transgressed the covenant of the Lord, 
and for having done an outrageous thing in Israel.” ’
 
16 So Joshua rose early in the morning,
 and brought Israel near tribe by tribe,
 and the tribe of Judah was taken.
 
 17He brought near the clans of Judah, 
and the clan of the Zerahites was taken; 
and he brought near the clan of the Zerahites, family by family, 
and Zabdi was taken. 
 
18And he brought near his household one by one, 
and Achan son of Carmi son of Zabdi son of Zerah, 
of the tribe of Judah, was taken.
 
 19Then Joshua said to Achan, 
‘My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel
and make confession to him. 
Tell me now what you have done; 
do not hide it from me.’
 
 20And Achan answered Joshua,
 ‘It is true; 
I am the one who sinned against the Lord God of Israel. 
This is what I did:
 
 21when I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantle from Shinar, 
and two hundred shekels of silver, 
and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels,
 then I coveted them and took them. 
 
They now lie hidden in the ground inside my tent, 
with the silver underneath.’
 
22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent;
 and there it was, hidden in his tent with the silver underneath.
 
 23They took them out of the tent
and brought them to Joshua and all the Israelites; 
and they spread them out before the Lord.
 
 24Then Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan son of Zerah, 
with the silver, the mantle, and the bar of gold, 
with his sons and daughters, with his oxen, donkeys, and sheep, 
and his tent and all that he had; 
and they brought them up to the Valley of Achor.
 
 25Joshua said, ‘Why did you bring trouble on us? 
The Lord is bringing trouble on you today.’ 
And all Israel stoned him to death; 
they burned them with fire, cast stones on them,
 26and raised over him a great heap of stones
 that remains to this day. 
 
Then the Lord turned from his burning anger.
 Therefore that place to this day is called the Valley of Achor.
 

Settlers and Anarchists: 
What Side Are We On?
Reading Joshua and Judges
Easter Season, 2018
Trinity UC Kitchener
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Daily reading and reflection with audio
Easter Week April 1 to Pentecost week May 24
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Second Sunday of Easter
April 8, 2018

‘Go home! Go back where you came from! Get out!’

We’ve all got a story.  What’s yours?  Over this first week, I hope you were reminded of your story, and how it fits into ‘our story’ as ‘Trinity on Church’, in a ‘United Church of Canada’.  What other ‘our story’ narratives do you claim, as citizens of a city, part of an extended family or clan, identifying with a racialized group, or as gendered or identified by sexual orientation?  I provoke you to wonder about issues of economic class, within colonial and capitalist empires, and as ‘settlers’ in relation to indigenous peoples, First Nations  and Métis  people.  Our intersectional identities are complex, eh?

Can you ‘map’ your stories?  Which map of ‘home’, or ‘the old neighbourhood’, or ‘where I belong’, or ‘have a right to return’?  Again, these exercises of working in the first person plural or collective are surprisingly challenging in most groups.  What did you include, in how big a geography?  What features mattered? Our individualistic and narcissistic culture generates lots of ‘me’ but less ‘us’, more psychology than geography.  Adam Shoalts‘ ‘A History of Canada in Ten Maps’ is one approach.  How big is your ‘turtle island’?

This is not a study of Genesis, or of Exodus – though you can revisit those first scrolls of Torah at www.hereticslikeus.com in the same format of brief texts and audio, arising from repeated local church readings.  The stories and maps of our universal humanity in creation as children of Adam, and of our particular peoples, in relation to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, shape the story and map of liberation from bondage in Exodus – and now in turn those of entering into a promise, and accepting a providential allotment prudently, in Joshua.  

As I acknowledged last Sunday, setting out on Easter, we are the first generation in millennia to deal with a current actual state of Israel, in territorial conflict with Palestinians.  European colonialism and North American capitalist imperialism, now facing resurgent Islam, have traded heavily on these biblical narratives, providing the finances and military material to shape these conflicts.  Naïve fundamentalist American Christians, and more sophisticated Jewish communities, lobby Canadian governments.  They assert these texts, and we concede their reading without offering our own.

This reading of Joshua also keeps the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) challenges in your face.  Our story and our map as a church is inextricable from the narrative of ‘Doctrine of Discovery’ through residential schools.   Our people, including All Native Circle Conference communities, claim God’s blessing upon our homes here.  We distance ourselves from crudely genocidal readings of Joshua, and ‘spiritualize’ or ‘personalize’ it, but what is suppressed erupts in shocking violations that cry for healing.

I was taught 40 years ago that if we cannot salvage a gospel that is not inherently anti-Semitic, we must abandon Christianity after the Holocaust.  I have long since extended the challenge to demand that if we cannot salvage a gospel in right relations to First Nations, we must also abandon Christianity in the face of the TRC. The academy and the bureaucracy will give us carefully parsed words, but we live it out in parochial life to bear repentant witness to hope, or not at all.

The first week was pretty easy, allowing us this discussion of stories and maps in our first conversations, 7pm Sunday evening April 8 and noon Tuesday April 10.  The week ahead gets a lot bloodier.   I did not write it – but I need your company to read it, here and now!

Joshua 6

Joshua 6,
Saturday, April 7, 2018

“Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho
Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, 
and the walls came a-tumblin’ down”

On the final day of the week, the Sabbath, we finally get to a battle.  It’s a parody of a battle, of course, as any child knows – they march around the walls once a day for 6 days, and on the 7th day it’s 7 times, trumpet blast and a great shout.  That’s ritual, not warfare.

Yes, this is an account of total genocide, succinctly stated in v.21.  Yet, compare this to other literature of war, relishing the blood and gore, the sounds and smells of battle.  Simply put, they killed every living thing, except Rahab’s clan who stayed in her whore house. 

I kept a cartoon in my office for years, ‘remedial Viking classes’, with the instructor repeating to the chastened warrior: ‘Pillage, and then burn!  Pillage, and then burn!’  This story is about taking only precious metals, and ‘devoting to destruction’ all potential booty.

The norms of Bronze Age warfare assumed pillage and booty as the rewards of victory for soldiers and armies.  To reserve precious metals as sacred for the treasury of God, and ‘devote-to-destruction’ everything or everybody else is a big demand for restraint by troops.

Can we imagine what that exceptional model of restraint has meant over millennia, to soldiers and civilians, attackers and defenders, winners and losers in warfare?  It’s worth trying – this may not be historically accurate, but aspirational in terms of morality and war.

Rahab is spared, along with her family who sheltered in the wall of the city.  The promise of restraint is honoured again, and she is counted among the ancestors or David, and of Jesus.  This is not a narrative of racial purity or supremacy, though it resists assimilation.

It matters where we situate ourselves as readers of the battle of Jericho.  If we are children of Israel, we know what tribe is ours, and where we fit in the ritual, and how our forebears showed restraint.  If we are marginal like Rahab, we read a different story.

Jericho was entirely ‘devoted-to-destruction’.  In our world, ‘scorched earth’ strategies and genocide mean something newly evil, with technology to effect total destruction inconceivable a millennium before Jesus, three millennia before our time.  In those times, this is sacrificial talk of sacred things not to be treated as economic assets.

What does ‘sacrifice’ mean to us?  I’ve preached it a few times in this century, barely grasping our ancestors’ sacrifices, shamed by my utilitarian ethics of maximizing gain and minimizing loss of property.  Our first world warfare runs on an immoral calculus weighing ‘our’ casualties far more heavily than ‘theirs’, and ‘our’ security over ‘their’ continued impoverishment.  We can hardly stand above Jericho.

The curse against anyone rebuilding Jericho belongs in this context of ‘sacrificial’ signifiers of meaning.  What had been vanquished, and what was triumphant?  If we are still stuck after tomorrow’s break, on the first day of the week, Sunday – there will be more hints!


Now Jericho was shut up inside and out
because of the Israelites; 
no one came out and no one went in.
 
 2The Lord said to Joshua,
 ‘See, I have handed Jericho over to you,
 along with its king and soldiers.
 
 3You shall march around the city, 
all the warriors circling the city once.
 
 Thus you shall do for six days,
 4with seven priests bearing seven trumpets of rams’ horns
 before the ark. 
 
On the seventh day
you shall march around the city seven times,
 the priests blowing the trumpets. 
 
5When they make a long blast with the ram’s horn,
 as soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, 
then all the people shall shout with a great shout;
 and the wall of the city will fall down flat, 
and all the people shall charge straight ahead.’ 
 
6So Joshua son of Nun summoned the priests
and said to them,
 ‘Take up the ark of the covenant, 
and have seven priests carry seven trumpets of rams’ horns
 in front of the ark of the Lord.’
 
 7To the people he said,
 ‘Go forward and march around the city;
 have the armed men pass on before the ark of the Lord.’
8 As Joshua had commanded the people, 
the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets of rams’ horns
before the Lord went forward, 
blowing the trumpets,
 with the ark of the covenant of the Lord following them.
 
 9And the armed men went before the priests
who blew the trumpets;
 the rear-guard came after the ark, 
while the trumpets blew continually. 
 
10To the people Joshua gave this command:
 ‘You shall not shout
or let your voice be heard, 
nor shall you utter a word, 
until the day I tell you to shout. 
Then you shall shout.’
 
 11So the ark of the Lord went around the city,
 circling it once; 
and they came into the camp, 
and spent the night in the camp.
 
12 Then Joshua rose early in the morning, 
and the priests took up the ark of the Lord.
 
 13The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets of rams’ horns
before the ark of the Lord passed on,
 blowing the trumpets continually. 
 
The armed men went before them, 
and the rear-guard came after the ark of the Lord, 
while the trumpets blew continually. 
 
14On the second day
 they marched around the city once
and then returned to the camp. 
 
They did this for six days.
 
15 On the seventh day
they rose early, at dawn, 
and marched around the city
 in the same manner
seven times. 
 
It was only on that day
that they marched around the city
seven times.
 
 16And at the seventh time, 
when the priests had blown the trumpets, 
Joshua said to the people,
 ‘Shout! 
For the Lord has given you the city.
 
 17The city and all that is in it
shall be devoted to the Lord
 for destruction. 
 
Only Rahab the prostitute
and all who are with her
 in her house
 shall live,
 because she hid the messengers
we sent. 
 
18As for you, 
keep away from the things
devoted to destruction,
 so as not to covet and take any
of the devoted things
and make the camp of Israel
 an object for destruction, 
bringing trouble upon it
 
. 19But all silver and gold,
 and vessels of bronze and iron, 
are sacred to the Lord;
 they shall go into the treasury of the Lord.’
 
 20So the people shouted, 
and the trumpets were blown.
 
 As soon as the people heard
 the sound of the trumpets, 
they raised a great shout,
 and the wall fell down flat;
 so the people charged straight ahead
 into the city and captured it. 
 
21Then they devoted to destruction
 by the edge of the sword
all in the city, 
both men and women, 
young and old, 
oxen, sheep, and donkeys.
 
22 Joshua said
to the two men who had spied out the land, 
‘Go into the prostitute’s house,
 and bring the woman out of it
and all who belong to her, 
as you swore to her.’ 
 
23So the young men who had been spies
went in and brought Rahab out, 
along with her father,
 her mother, 
her brothers, 
and all who belonged to her
—they brought all her kindred out—
and set them outside the camp of Israel. 
 
24They burned down the city, 
and everything in it; 
only the silver and gold,
 and the vessels of bronze and iron,
 they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord.
 
 25But Rahab the prostitute
 with her family
and all who belonged to her, 
Joshua spared. 
 
Her family has lived in Israel ever since. 
For she hid the messengers
whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.
 
26 Joshua then pronounced this oath, 
saying,
‘Cursed before the Lord be anyone
who tries
   to build this city—this Jericho!


At the cost of his firstborn he shall lay its foundation,
and at the cost of his youngest he shall set up its gates!’
 
27 So the Lord was with Joshua; 
and his fame was in all the land.