Monday, June 28, 2010

Joshua 9

The coalition against Joshua (vs. 1-2)—Usually these peoples fought each other, but on this occasion the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites—with one exception—formed a confederacy to defeat Joshua and the children of Israel. It must have been an awesome force, but Joshua, the man of God, was confident because Jehovah was on his side.

The craftiness of the Gibeonites (vs. 3-15)—Gibeon was a Hivite city about 6.5 miles from Jerusalem via a main road, but five miles as the crow flies. It would lie, eventually, in the territory of Benjamin. The Hivites were descendents of Noah’s son Ham, through Ham’s son Canaan. It was a Hivite, Shechem, who violated Jacob’s lone daughter, Diana, and led to the mass murder of the inhabitants of that city by Levi and Simeon (Genesis 34). A remnant of Hivites still existed in Solomon’s time (I Kings 9:20), but they aren’t heard from after that and disappeared into the dustbin of history. The city of Gibeon was in Joshua’s path and so, fearing destruction, “they worked craftily, and went and pretended to be ambassadors” (v. 4). They took some old provisions and clothes and told Joshua that they had come from a long distance to make a covenant with Israel (vs. 5-6). Joshua was suspicious (v. 7), but when the Gibeonites showed him their “dry and moldy” bread (v. 12), plus their empty wineskins and worn out sandals and clothes (v. 13), they convinced the Israelites that they indeed had come from afar and posed no threat. “So Joshua made peace with them, and made a covenant with them to let them live; and the rulers of the congregation swore to them” (v. 15). It’s the only time in the book that Joshua doesn’t come out well. Verse 14 says “the men of Israel…did not ask counsel of the Lord.” Since “men,” plural, were involved, it’s highly likely that Joshua got some bad advice. But the buck stopped with him, so Joshua is given the responsibility for making the treaty (v. 15).

The deception discovered (vs. 16-27)—But, obviously, the Gibeonites' secret could not remain so for long. Three days later (v, 16), they were found out. The Hivites actually lived in four cities, and they are listed in verse 17—Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kirjath Jearim. The Gibeonites apparently acted in behalf of the whole tribe of people. So when the Israelites came upon those cities (v. 17), they “did not attack them, because the rulers of the congregation had sworn to them by the LORD God of Israel. And all the congregation complained against the rulers” (v. 18), a legitimate gripe. But, to their credit, even though they had been deceived “all the rulers” abode by their agreement with the Gibeonites and did not attack those cities (v. 19). However, they did enslave the Hivites—“let them be woodcutters and water carriers for all the congregation” (v. 21).

Joshua was understandably upset that he had been tricked. He asked the Hivites, “’Why have you deceived us, saying, “We are very far from you,” when you dwell near us?’” (v. 22). So he told them that, because of their dishonesty, they would become Israel’s slaves (v. 23). The Hivites told Joshua pretty much what they had told him earlier, that, having heard of all that the God of Israel had done for His people, “we were very much afraid for our lives because of you, and have done this thing” (v. 24). So, they agreed to Joshua’s conditions (v. 25). No “give me liberty or give me death” for these people. Better to be a live slave than a dead hero, at least to the Hivites. Thus, they became the slaves of the children of Israel, “even to this day,” i.e., the “day” that the book of Joshua was written, a “day” which we do not know.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Joshua 8

The capture of Ai (vs. 1-29)—Once the sin had been removed the camp, the children of Israel were ready to take Ai. The Lord gave Joshua encouragement in verses 1 and 2, and a brief tactical plan: “Lay an ambush for the city behind it" (v. 2).

Joshua chose 30,000 “mighty men of valor” to be the main force for the capture of Ai (v. 3). 5,000 of them would be placed on the west side, between Ai and Bethel (v. 12), and the rest would take their position on the north side of the city (v. 11). Joshua would take a small contingent and approach the city; when the men of Ai came out after them, Joshua and his troops would “flee before them” (v. 5), drawing their attackers farther away from their town (v. 6). Then the Israeli ambushers would seize the city (v. 7). The town was to be burned (v. 8), though the Lord did allow them to take booty this time (v. 2).

The plan worked to perfection. The king of Ai took his troops and attacked Joshua (v. 14), who “fled” before him (v. 15). This drew all the Ai men of war out of the city (v. 16); apparently, the troops of Bethel came to Ai’s assistance (v. 17). Joshua, at the Lord’s command, then gave the signal for the ambushers to attack (v. 18). They did, and easily entered the city—there was no one left to protect it (v. 19). The army of Ai knew it had been had (v. 20), and became easy prey for Joshua’s contingent of troops (v. 22). They took the king alive, however, (v. 23), but Joshua hanged him (v. 29).

12,000 people of Ai, “both men and women” (v. 25), were put to death. As the Lord allowed, the livestock and “spoil of that city” were taken (v. 27). Ai was completely obliterated, “a heap forever, a desolation to this day” (v. 28). The king of Ai was buried under a pile of stones at where the entrance of the gate had been (v. 29). A glorious victory for the children of Israel, the first time, in the land of Canaan, they had won an actual battle. They took Jericho, of course, without a fight.

The altar and the reading of the law (vs. 30-35)—Even though there was much to be done, time was taken to give glory to God. Joshua “built an altar to the Lord God of Israel” (v. 30), “of whole stones over which no man has wielded an iron tool” (v. 31). Burnt offerings and peace offerings were sacrificed on this altar (v. 31). Joshua then wrote a copy of the law on the stones, the “blessings and cursings” (v. 34), not the whole law. Half the people were in front of Mount Gerizim and the other half in front of Mount Ebal when Joshua read the law (v. 33). All of Israel, men, women, children, and “strangers” were there for the reading (v. 35). It was their law; they needed to hear it as often as possible.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Joshua 7

The crime of Achan and defeat at Ai (vs. 1-5)—Unbeknownst to anyone, a man named Achan had violated the order not to take any valuables from Jericho (v. 1). Interestingly, the Lord held the entire community accountable (v. 1). “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (I Cor. 5:6). In one body, every individual must be extremely cautious and watchful over each other. This is so true today. How many times has a church been reproached because of the actions of one person? In Israel’s case, they lost a battle against a small city called Ai. Thirty-six men were killed (vs. 2-5). The Lord had forsaken them because of the sin of one man. A dire warning, indeed!

Joshua’s complaint and the Lord’s answer (vs. 6-15)—Understandably, Joshua took the matter up with Jehovah. Israel’s defeat would very probably embolden their enemies and lead to eventual destruction (v. 8). “Then what will You do for Your great name?” (v. 9). Jehovah explained to Joshua that “Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them” (v. 11). The specific sin is revealed: “they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff” (v. 11). Notice again the plural “they.” Because of this sin, the army was defeated and “neither will I be with you anymore, unless you destroy the accursed from among you” (v. 12). The command is thus given to purify the camp (v. 13). The Lord would reveal the guilty party (vs. 14-15).

Achan discovered and confesses (vs. 16-21)—Joshua followed Jehovah’s instructions, and Achan was found out (v. 18). He confessed his covetousness and the extent of his transgression: “When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the silver under it" (v. 21). His admission will do him no good, however; 36 men lost their lives because of him.

Achan’s punishment (vs. 22-26)—Joshua sent men to locate the hidden items, and they “laid them out before the LORD” (v. 23). All that Achan had stolen, plus his belongings and family were taken to the Valley of Achor (v. 24). Joshua pronounced the doom, and “all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones” (v. 25). The text is a little ambiguous—they stoned HIM, and burned THEM after they had stoned THEM. Some other foreign translation seem to indicate that only Achan was punished. Deuteronomy 24:16 reads “Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall the children be put to death for their fathers; a person shall be put to death for his own sin.” What appears to have happened, though, is that Achan was stoned in the presence of his family, and then they were stoned as well, and the whole of his belongings were burned. This particular perspective implies that Achan’s entire family was culpable in his crime; could he have dug a hole in his tent without his family being aware of it? Probably not, but I think it’s worth noting that some commentators believe that only Achan was put to death. After the punishment was inflicted, “a great heap of stones” was raised at the location, and “the Lord turned from the fierceness of His anger” (v. 26). The Valley of Achor became symbolic in Israel of purification. Hosea 2:15 says “I will give her her vineyards from there, and the Valley of Achor as a door of hope.” Once again, the Lord is very strict in dealing with these people. It is the early stages of their habitation of Canaan and He wants them to know that sin will not be tolerated even after He has fulfilled His great promise to them.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Joshua 6

The taking of Jericho (vs. 1-27)—The city of Jericho was apparently preparing for a siege by the Israelites: “Jericho was securely shut up because of the children of Israel; none went out, and none came in” (v. 1). Such wasn’t what the Lord had in mind, however. Jericho would be taken, without a fight, as a gift of God (v. 2). The instructions from Jehovah were for the men of war were to walk around the city once for six days (v. 3). Seven priests would “bear seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark” (of the covenant, v. 4). On the seventh day, the men would walk around the city seven times, the priests would blow their trumpets, the people would shout “with a great shout” (v. 5), and the wall would fall down (v. 5). Joshua passed that information along to the priests and people (vs. 6-7). The Lord’s instructions were followed (vs. 8-21). The people were to keep silent until the seventh day when Joshua told them to shout (v. 10). Rahab the harlot and her family weren’t forgotten (v. 17). And the people were take no booty when they entered the city; the silver, gold, bronze, and iron items were all “consecrated to the LORD; [and] they shall come into the treasury of the LORD” (v. 19). This command, as we shall subsequently see, was not fully obeyed. Every living thing—human and animal—was to be “utterly destroyed” (v. 21). Once Israel had completed Lord’s directive, then, as He promised, “the wall fell down flat. Then the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city” (v. 22). Never before or since has a city been captured by the means employed here; it was, of course, a miraculous gift from God. But without faith and obedience, that wall would never have fallen (Hebrews 11:30). Interestingly, the text speaks twice of the “wall,” not “walls,” of the city. It was one continuous structure surrounding the city, and it all came crashing down at once.

Joshua sent the two men who had spied out the city to go into Jericho and bring out Rahab and her family. She had been able to convince “her father, her mother, her brothers, and all that she had” (v. 23). She, too, is commended for her faith in Hebrews 11:31. The city was subsequently burned (v. 24), only the commanded articles were spared to put into the treasury. The chapter closes with Joshua placing a curse on anyone who tried to rebuild the city of Jericho. “He shall lay its foundation with his firstborn, and with his youngest he shall set up its gates" (v. 26). This is exactly what happened some 500+ years later. I Kings 16:34 reads, “In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation with Abiram his firstborn, and with his youngest son Segub he set up its gates, according to the word of the LORD, which He had spoken through Joshua the son of Nun.” So the “curse” Joshua placed on the rebuilding of the city was actually “the word of the Lord.” The taking of Jericho, not surprisingly, enhanced Joshua’s reputation throughout Canaan (v. 27).