Monday, April 5, 2010


Joshua 4-6

Chapter four of Joshua tells how the Israelites made a pile of stones after they crossed the Jordan. The Lord told Joshua to have one man of each tribe take a stone from where the priests stood in the middle of the river and carry it to the campground. There, they would pile the stones as a sign, and to tell their children that "the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD...and they are there to this day." When all had been done and everyone had crossed, the priests walked out of the river and "the waters of the Jordan returned to their place." They set the stons up at Gilgal.

In chapter five, the Lord commanded Joshua to make flint knives "and circumcise the Israelites again." The generation of men of military age who came out of Egypt had all died off, and they had all been circumcised, but the men born in the desert had not been. The LORD told Joshua to have them all circumcised, and he did, and they "remained where they were in camp until they were healed." After they celebrated the passover, while camped at Gilgal, they ate some of the produce of the land and "the manna stopped the day afgter they ate this food from the land." As Joshua neared Jericho, he saw a man with a drawn sword and asked if he was "for us or for our enemies?" The man replied that he was the "commander of the army of the LORD." Joshua fell facedown and asked what the message was, and was told to "take off your sandals, for theplace where you are standing is holy."

In chapter six, the Israelites take Jericho. Following the LORD's instructions, they marched around the city blowing the trumpets for six days, once per day. On the seventh day, they marched around seven times and then blew the trumpes while all of the poeple gave a loud shout, and "the wall collapsed." The Israelites "destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys." But the spies who had gone in to the promised land earlier went to the house of Rahab and brought her out, "her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her," so that they were spared while the rest of the city was destroyed. Then they "burned the whole city and everything in it" though they put the silver and gold and bronze in "the treasury of the LORD's house."

Thoughts, questions, issues

  • Reading chapter four in the King James version, it seems as if there are two piles of stones, one which is place in the river where the priests are and one which comes out of the river to sit in the campground. It didn't seem to make much sense, but that's the impression I got. That is not how the NIV reads.
  • The "commander of the army of the LORD" said the same thing to Joshua that the LORD had said to Moses on Mt. Sinai - "take off your sandals, you are on holy ground."
  • This is not the first military encounter for the Israelites, but it again raises one of the troubling aspects of the scriptures, at least from our modern point-of-view, and that is God's advocacy of total war and conquer by the sword. The idea that he has them killing even the women and children, while it might make sense from a strictly military point of view, or from a tribal dominance point-of-view, is something that we frown on. We pride ourselves in not targeting non-combatants, and the loss of life associated with the sack of Jericho seems cruel and wasteful. As I've said before, there are things that make us uncertain if we even want to worship God, and this is one of them.
  • And again, God' perspective is not ours. Our ways are not his (though we long to make his ours.) Certainly there are reasons, but it's not easy or obvious for us to see them.

Proverbs 19:15-29

I've commented, a couple of times, on one of the differences between Jewish and Christian prayers, that is, the idea in Christian prayer that one cannot justify oneself - only Jesus justifies us. There are prayers in the Psalms, for example, where the psalmist would seem to be demanding as his right God's justice, whereas the Christian would not. But here's a proverb in which we see the essential Christian attitude: "Who can say, "I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin"?"

Proverbs 20

1 Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler;
whoever is led astray by them is not wise.

2 A king's wrath is like the roar of a lion;
he who angers him forfeits his life.

3 It is to a man's honor to avoid strife,
but every fool is quick to quarrel.

4 A sluggard does not plow in season;
so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing.

5 The purposes of a man's heart are deep waters,
but a man of understanding draws them out.

6 Many a man claims to have unfailing love,
but a faithful man who can find?

7 The righteous man leads a blameless life;
blessed are his children after him.

8 When a king sits on his throne to judge,
he winnows out all evil with his eyes.

9 Who can say, "I have kept my heart pure;
I am clean and without sin"?

10 Differing weights and differing measures—
the LORD detests them both.

11 Even a child is known by his actions,
by whether his conduct is pure and right.

12 Ears that hear and eyes that see—
the LORD has made them both.

13 Do not love sleep or you will grow poor;
stay awake and you will have food to spare.

14 "It's no good, it's no good!" says the buyer;
then off he goes and boasts about his purchase.

15 Gold there is, and rubies in abundance,
but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel.

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