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

Daily reading and reflection with audio
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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.