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,


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


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,





and Jebusites): 

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