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

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
and it ends
at the wilderness of Beth-aven.
13From there
the boundary passes along
 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
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.