Joshua 3

Joshua 3, 
Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Check your map.  We’re crossing the Jordan down by Jericho, from the east side to the west side.   Again, we get deliberate movement with 3 days to prepare, and movement in a procession staying well back from the ark of the covenant and its bearers.

Is this a battle story, or a parade?  Is this a historical re-enactment at a safe separation of time and distance?  Compare it to the exodus crossing the Red Sea.  Sure, millennia of tellers and hearers of this story had no problem with supernatural miraculous events.  You do.  

Watch the movie between your ears, and adjust it to fit the text and what others have imagined.  Here, the feet step in water, and the river backs up for miles to a wall of water near Adam, and down river to the Dead Sea.  The ark leads us into the riverbed, and we all cross past them on a dry bed, leaving them in the water’s path.

Joshua gives a tough pep talk about the 7 peoples to be driven out by God.  But it’s the whole people, women and kids and stuff, crossing the Jordan.  Have armies joined in combat yet in Joshua, except off-stage against Og and Sihon in Transjordan? 

How do we imagine ‘first contact’ in the Americas or Africa?  How do we tell the story of the 20th century state of Israel?  How we construe human migration matters: who is a refugee and who is an insurgent, a freedom fighter, an innocent displaced person? Who is Palestinian?

We may not buy supernatural, magical phenomena, but we do recognize the war for ‘hearts and minds’ using ideology and imagery of symbols and brands.  What motivates individuals and groups to behave in apparently irrational choices of risk and reward? 

Early in the morning
Joshua rose and set out from Shittim
with all the Israelites, 
and they came to the Jordan. 
They camped there before crossing over. 
2At the end of three days
the officers went through the camp
3and commanded the people, 
‘When you see the ark of the covenant
of the Lord your God
being carried by the levitical priests, 
then you shall set out from your place. 
Follow it,
 4so that you may know the way you should go,
 for you have not passed this way before. 
Yet there shall be a space between you and it,
 a distance of about two thousand cubits; 
do not come any nearer to it.’
 5Then Joshua said to the people, 
‘Sanctify yourselves; 
for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.’
6To the priests Joshua said,
 ‘Take up the ark of the covenant, 
and pass on in front of the people.’ 
So they took up the ark of the covenant
and went in front of the people.
7 The Lord said to Joshua, 
‘This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, 
so that they may know that I will be with you
as I was with Moses. 
8You are the one who shall command the priests
who bear the ark of the covenant,
 “When you come to the edge of the waters of the Jordan, 
you shall stand still in the Jordan.” ’ 
9Joshua then said to the Israelites, 
‘Draw near and hear the words of the Lord your God.’ 
10Joshua said, 
‘By this you shall know that among you is the living God
who without fail will drive out from before you
the Canaanites, Hittites, 
Hivites, Perizzites, 
Girgashites, Amorites, 
and Jebusites: 
11the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth
 is going to pass before you into the Jordan. 

12So now select twelve men from the tribes of Israel, 
one from each tribe. 
13When the soles of the feet of the priests
who bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, 
rest in the waters of the Jordan, 
the waters of the Jordan flowing from above shall be cut off; 
they shall stand in a single heap.’
14 When the people set out from their tents
 to cross over the Jordan,
 the priests bearing the ark of the covenant
were in front of the people. 
15Now the Jordan overflows all its banks
throughout the time of harvest. 
So when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, 
and the feet of the priests bearing the ark
were dipped in the edge of the water, 
16the waters flowing from above stood still, 
rising up in a single heap far off at Adam, 
the city that is beside Zarethan, 
while those flowing towards the sea of the Arabah, 
the Dead Sea, were wholly cut off. 
Then the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 
17While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, 
the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord
stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, 
until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan.