Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Joshua 7-9

Joshua chapter seven describes the aftermath of the battle of Jericho. One of the Israelites, Achan (of the tribe of Judah) took "some of the devoted things...so the LORD's anger burned against Israel." Joshua, not knowing this, sent men to Ai to "spy out the region" and they returned saying that only a few men were there and two or three thousand Israelites would be sufficient to take the city. But when three thousand went, they were routed and chased away. Joshua "tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the LORD" and asked the LORD why he had let them cross the Jordan. The LORD told him to stand, and told him that Israel had violated the covenant by taking some of the "devoted things" and that he would not be with them anymore unless they destroyed them. The LORD told Joshua to have the people consecrate themselves, and that could not "stand against your enemies" until they removed the "devoted things." The next morning, they went through the tribes and identified Achan as the man who had taken them, and he admitted that he had taken "a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels" and hidden them under his tent. Joshua sent messengers to get the things, and they returned with them, and then they took the things and Achan and "his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys and sheep, his tent and all that he had" our to the valley of Achor, where they stoned them all and burned everything. "Then the LORD turned from his fierce anger."

In chapter eight, the Israelites destroy the city of Ai. The LORD told Joshua not to be afraid or discourages, "and go up and attack Ai." Joshua sent thirty thousand men out to set an ambush behind the city during the night and then marched on the city the next morning. The king of Ai saw the approaching army and moved out to mee them in battle "at a certain place overlooking the Arabah." Joshua and his men let themselves be driven back and fled into the desert, with "all the men of Ai" chasing them. Then the LORD told Joshua to hold his spear out towards the city, and the men waiting in ambush rushed into the city and set it afire. The men of Ai saw the smoke, but "had no chance to escape in any direction, for the Israelites who had been fleeing toward the desert had turned back against their pursuers." The Israelites surrounded them and "cut them down, leaving them neither survivors nor fugitives." They destroyed the city, carried off the livestock and plunder, and burned the remains, leaving "a permanent heap of ruins." The king of Ai was "hung...on a tree," and then his body was thrown in the entrance of the city gate and a large pile of rocks raised on it "which remains to this day." Then they build an altar to the LORD on Mount Ebal and Joshua read "all the words of the law - the blessings and the curses" to "the whole assembly of Israel."

In chapter nine, the Gibeonites did not join the other tribes in making war against Joshua and the Israelites. "All the kings west of the Jordan" heard what had happened to Jericho and Ai, and "came together to make ware against Joshua and Israel." But the Gibeonites "resorted to a ruse." They dressed as if they had traveled a long way and went as a delegation to Gilgal and asked to make a treaty. The Israelites wanted to know where they came from even after they told them that they would be their servants. The Gibeonites told them that they had traveled "from a very distant country" because they had heard "of the fame of the LORD your God," including what he had done in Egypt and in the lands on the east side of the Jordan. Joshua made a treaty of peace to let them live "and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath." Just three days later they discovered that they were neighbors, and set out for their cities, but didn't attack "because the leaders of the assembly had sworn an oath to them by the LORD, the God of Israel." The people of Israel "grumbled" but the leaders asserted that they had given their oath by the LORD "and we cannot touch them now." Joshua summoned the Gibeonites and berated them for their deception, and told them that they were "now under a curse: You will never cease to serve as woodcutters and water carriers for the house of my God." The Gibeonites told him that they had feared for their lives and were now in Israel's hands. So they did not kill the Gibeonites, who were made "woodcutters and water carriers for the community and for the altar of the LORD...And that is what they are to this day."

Thoughts, questions, issues

  • There is some detail about the "devoted things" (a robe, silver and gold) but the terminology is a little vague. I assume that the silver and gold were in the form of idols or "gods" that the Canaanites worshipped in their religion, and that that's the source of the LORD's anger. But that may well be reading too much into it. Clearly (Joshua 6:19) all of the gold and silver were to go to the LORD's treasury.
  • The punishment seems a bit harsh, if not for Achan (though even for him it seems disproportionate), then certainly for his "sons and daughters." Is the purpose to "erase his name from Israel?" They don't say so, though there are other times when that, or avoiding that, is a motive for actions.
  • Joshua "hung the king of Ai on a tree and left him there until evening." In the Old Testament, there are references to hanging someone "on a tree" as a particularly demeaning or degrading punishment. This is another one of the cultural references that is hard for us to understand in the context of the crucifixion. We may think of it as a particularly brutal method of execution, but there is, or at least may be, a cultural level of degradation that we don't viscerally get.
  • There's a real dilemma for the Israelites with regard to the Gibeonites. The LORD was very clear that they were to kill all of the other tribes and ruthlessly drive them out of the land. On the other hand, they took an oath to the LORD, albeit under false pretenses, not to hurt them.

Proverbs 20:15-30

A wonderful image illustrating "honesty is the best policy" - "food gained by fraud tastes sweet to a man, but he ends up with a mouth full of gravel."

16 Take the garment of one who puts up security for a stranger;
hold it in pledge if he does it for a wayward woman.

17 Food gained by fraud tastes sweet to a man,
but he ends up with a mouth full of gravel.

18 Make plans by seeking advice;
if you wage war, obtain guidance.

19 A gossip betrays a confidence;
so avoid a man who talks too much.

20 If a man curses his father or mother,
his lamp will be snuffed out in pitch darkness.

21 An inheritance quickly gained at the beginning
will not be blessed at the end.

22 Do not say, "I'll pay you back for this wrong!"
Wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you.

23 The LORD detests differing weights,
and dishonest scales do not please him.

24 A man's steps are directed by the LORD.
How then can anyone understand his own way?

25 It is a trap for a man to dedicate something rashly
and only later to consider his vows.

26 A wise king winnows out the wicked;
he drives the threshing wheel over them.

27 The lamp of the LORD searches the spirit of a man;
it searches out his inmost being.

28 Love and faithfulness keep a king safe;
through love his throne is made secure.

29 The glory of young men is their strength,
gray hair the splendor of the old.

30 Blows and wounds cleanse away evil,
and beatings purge the inmost being.

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