|Summary:||This chapter lists the kings and kingdoms that the Israelites slaughtered and whose land they took east of the Jordan River, from the Arnon River to Mount Hermon, and all the plains to the east:|
The following are the names of the kings which Joshua and the Israelites slaughtered on the west of the Jordan River, from Baalgad in the valley of Lebanon toward Mount Halak, going toward Seir. Joshua divided these lands amongst the Israelites by their tribes. These lands included the mountainsides, valleys, plains, wilderness, and south country where lived the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and the Jebusites.
|Notes:||1.) The kingdom of Geder (meaning "stone wall") is mysteriously only referenced twice in the bible - both in this chapter and in 1 Chronicles 27:28. It is unknown where this place may have existed, with some scholars believing that it may in fact be an error, or perhaps the misspelling of a similar city. (Reference: http://www.studylight.org/dic/hbd/view.cgi?number=T2222)|
2.) Another mysterious unknown city referenced by the bible in a handful of passages: Numbers 14:45, Numbers 21:3 (where it is named), and in Judges 1:17 (where the city is also referenced by its Canaanite name of Zephath). However, the city's name and destruction as it is referenced in Numbers: Chapter 21 happened under Moses's leadership, not Joshua's as this chapter implies.
3.) While there is no prior account of the city of Arad being conquered by Joshua, there is a reference to a King Arad in Numbers: Chapter 21. However, the destruction of King Arad's cities occurred under Moses's leadership, not under Joshua's as this chapter seems to imply.
4.) No prior account of the conquering of this city is referenced.
5.) Yet another mysterious unknown city referenced only a handful of times throughout the bible. It may or may not be the cities and places referenced in Joshua 15:34, 15:53, 16:8, 17:8.
6.) Yet another mysterious unknown city. It's not clear if there may be any relation to the city Gath-Hepher referenced in Joshua 19:13. Additionally "Hepher" is also the name of the youngest son of Gilead (Numbers 26:32), the second son of Asher (1 Chronicles 4:6), and a hero of David (1 Chronicles 11:36).
7.) Yet another mysterious unknown city. Although it is referenced several times throughout the bible under various different spellings, it's believed that these may refer to several distinct places, some of which may simply be fortresses or encampments and not actual cities. (Reference: http://www.studylight.org/dic/hbd/view.cgi?number=T371)
8.) Yet another mysterious unknown city. It's possible that this may not refer to a city in its own right, but perhaps is meant to serve as a qualifier to the preceeding city of Aphek to distinguish it from other Apheks, however this theory seems unlikely as the final verse totals the conquered kingdoms at 31. (Reference: http://www.studylight.org/dic/hbd/view.cgi?number=T3774)
9.) Yet another unknown city, Taanach appears seven times in the bible, in addition to here in Joshua 12, it is mentioned mostly in lists and can be found in Joshua 17:11, 21:25, Judges 1:27, 1 Kings 4:12, and 1 Chronicles 7:29. It is also referenced in Judges 5:19 as the site of a battle against the Canaanites.
10.) Interesting of note is the role that this city will play much later in the book of Revelation. The Greek translation of Mount Meggido (Har Megiddo, in Hebrew) is Armageddon, referring to the site where it is predicted that the "end times" will occur.
11.) It's assumed that "Kedesh" may be an alternate spelling for "Kadesh-Barnea", the site where the Israelites had stayed for the majority of the thirty-eight years after leaving Mount Sinai. (Reference: http://www.studylight.org/dic/hbd/view.cgi?number=T3577)
12.) Believed to be the modern city of "Kaimon", 12 miles south-west of Nazareth. (Reference: http://www.studylight.org/dic/hbd/view.cgi?number=T2100)
|Thoughts:||This chapter essentially serves as a list of the kingdoms that the Israelites had annihilated. While prefaced with the massacre of the kingdoms of King Sihon and King Og - once again noting that King Og was apparently a remnant from a race of giants - under Moses's leadership, the chapter goes on to list 31 kingdoms conquered by Joshua.|
Of the 31 kingdoms listed, only about half of the conquests are depicted in the bible. It's possible that in some cases this may be due to ancient cities sometimes having alternate names, and in other cases it may be that the conquest might perhaps have been recorded in a "lost book" of the bible. Even more curious is how little is known about half of these cities that are unaccounted for.
Friday, September 16, 2011
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
|Summary:||When King Jabin of Hazor had heard of these events, he sent word out to King Jobab of Madon; as well as the kings of Shimron, Achshaph, and the kings north of the mountains; the kings of the plains south of Chinneroth; the kings in the valley; the kingdoms that border the west of Dor; the Canaanites to the east and to the west; the Amorites, the Hitites, the Perizzites, and the Jebusites in the mountains; and the Hivites under King Hermon in the land of Mizpeh.|
They gathered forces, together with as many people as there are grains of sand upon the seashore, along with multitudes of horses and chariots, and encamped along the waters of Merom to fight against the people of Israel.
God tells Joshua not to fear, stating to him that by this time tomorrow he will deliver them all, slain, over to the people of Israel, and that they are to subsequently cripple their horses by hamstringing them and burn their chariots.
Joshua arrived with his armies by the waters of Merom and attacked his enemies. God delivered them into the hands of the Israelites, who smote them and pursued them toward greater Zidon, to Misrephothmaim, and east toward the valley of Mizpeh. The Israelites continues to smite them until none survived. Joshua then did as God had commanded him - he hamstringed their horses and burnt their chariots.
Joshua then turned back, took the kingdom of Hazor and slew King Jabin*, for the kingdom of Hazor was the leader of the kingdoms that had joined forces against the Israelites. The Israelites slaughtered all of the people in the city at swordpoint, utterly destroying them, sparing none that breathed, and Joshua burnt the city of Hazor with fire.
Joshua took all of the cities belonging to those kings, executed the kings at sword point, and destroyed their cities, just as Moses, God's servant, had commanded. But the Israelites burned none of these cities - except Hazor, which Joshua had burnt. The Israelites looted the spoils of these cities and took the livestock for themselves, but every person was slaughtered by the edge of their swords, until they destroyed them all, leaving none left to breathe.
As God had commanded Moses, so did Moses command Joshua, and so Joshua did, leaving nothing undone that God had commanded Moses.
Joshua took all the land: the hills, all the south country, all the land of Goshen, the valley, the plains, the mountain of Israel and the valley below. From Mount Halak, going up to Seir, to Baalgad in the valley of Lebanon under mount Hermon. All of their kingdoms he took, and their kings he smote and slew them.
Joshua waged war for a long time against those kings, and there was not a city that made peace with the Israelites, except for the Hivites that inhabited the city of Gibeon, all others were defeated in battle. It was God who had hardened their hearts so that they would come against the Israelites in battle, so that he might destroy them utterly without favor, as God had commanded Moses.
At that time Joshua had cut off the Anakims from the mountains, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab, from the mountains of Judah, and the mountains of Israel. Joshua had destroyed them completely along with their cities. There we none of the Anakims left in the land seized by the Israelites, and they remained only in Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod.
Joshua took the entirety of the land, according to what God had laid out to Moses, and Joshua distributed it as an inheritance unto the Israelites according to their divisions by their tribes. The land then rested from war.
|Notes:||1.) The slaying of King Jabin by Joshua seemingly appears to contradict Judges 4:24 which depicts the slaying of King Jabin occurring 120 years after Joshua's death. While it's possible that perhaps these could be two distinctly different kings that happened to have coincidentally shared the same name and ruled over the same kingdom, the possibility that the latter king could have been descended from the former seems unlikely due to the following verse of this chapter that reads:|
11:11 - "And they smote all the souls that were therein with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them: there was not any left to breathe: and he burnt Hazor with fire."
|Thoughts:||The chapter begins with King Jabin, the king of the city of Hazor, forming a military alliance with the kings of well over a dozen other cities in order to attempt to thwart the impending invasion by the Israelites. While the kingdoms amass a massive army, horses, and chariots camped along the waters of Merom, God reassures Joshua that he has nothing to fear, stating that by the same time the following morning, they will all be slain. He adds after which the Israelites are to "hamstring" the horses and burn the chariots of their enemies|
.Joshua arrived with his army in a surprise attack by the waters of Mermom and he chased the enemy forces, smiting them until none were left surviving, burning their chariots, and hamstringing their horses.
After conquering the kingdom of Hazor and executing King Jabin, Joshua slaughtered all of the inhabitants sparing no one, and burnt the city to the ground.
Similarly he conquered the rest of the cities, slaughtered the inhabitants, but did not burn them to the ground. Instead, the Israelites looted the city and took the livestock for themselves, while leaving no survivors.
The chapter makes sure to make note that these conquests were commanded by God to Moses, and in turn Moses had commanded Joshua, and that Joshua had followed these commandments decreed by God to the letter - leaving nothing undone. It's made important to understand that these violent, ghastly, and merciless conquests were not Joshua acting on his own volition, but that he was actually acting precisely upon God's commands. In fact, the bible states that once again God hardened the hearts of the enemy kings to ensure that they would engage the Israelites in battle, and that they wouldn't attempt to flee or make peace with the Israelites like the Gibeonites did, opting for enslavement as an act of self preservation.
This is yet another example that is inconsistent with the claims that the god of the bible is somehow "merciful". There is simply no way you can describe a being with the quality of "merciful" that robs his enemies of free will and provokes them into attacking in order to justify an excessive retribution. Instead it actually becomes more difficult to view the Israelites' enemies as wholly "evil" if God has removed, hampered, or otherwise interfered with their ability to flee, surrender, or subject themselves to enslavement as the Gibeonites had done. In fact, God would share culpability and blame for any "evil" committed by his enemies by preventing them from acting any other way.
The chapter wraps up by stating that Joshua had now taken all of the land he was commanded to, slew their inhabitants as commanded to, and had annihilated the Anakims from the land he took, leaving them only to dwell in Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod. After dividing up the conquests of lands amongst the Israelites by their tribes, war had ceased in the land.
Monday, July 4, 2011
|Summary:||King Adonizedec of Jerusalem heard that Joshua had conquered and destroyed the city of Ai, the same fate that had befell the city of Jericho and its king. He had also heard that the people of Gibeon had made a peace treaty with Israel and had become their slaves. This alarmed both him and his people because the city of Gibeon was one of the royal cities, and was much larger than the city of Ai had been and had a mighty army. King Adonizedec sought to form an alliance with King Hoham of Hebron, King Piram of Jarmuth, King Japhia of Lachish, and King Debir of Eglon to attack the city of Gibeon for "making peace" with the Israelites.|
The five kings of the Amorites - Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon - formed an alliance, moved their troops into position, and attacked the city of Gibeon.
The Gibeonites met with Joshua at the Israelites camp at Gilgal begging him not to abandon "his new servants" by failing to protect them against the kings of the Amorites.
As Joshua marched his army toward the city, God spoke to Joshua telling him, "Do not fear them for I have brought them into your hands. None of them will be able to stand before you."
Joshua met the Amorites by surprise after an all night march from Gilgal, and the Israelites slew a great many of them at the city of Gibeon, chasing them toward Bethhoron, and smiting them at Azekah and at Makkedah. As they fled through Bethhoron toward Azekh, God cast down large hailstones from the sky, killing more of the Amorites than the Israelites had managed to kill in battle.
Joshua, in the presence of the Israelites, then said to God, "Sun, you stand still upon the city of Gibeon; and you, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon." The sun and the moon stood still in the sky until the Israelites slew their enemies, as recorded in the book of Jasher. The sun stood in the midst of the sky, not going down for the entirety of the day. There was no day like this either before or after it, which God had listened to the voice of a man, for God fought for the Israelites.
Joshua then returned with the Israelites to the camp at Gilgal.
The five kings of the Amorites managed to survive the Israelite's slaughter and fled to a cave at Makkedah. When Joshua was told about their hiding spot, he instructed his men to roll large stones in front of the cave and have some of the men keep watch. He then added that they are not to stop pursuing the survivors of the Amorite kingdoms, and that they are to kill them off before they return to their cities, reminding them that God had "delivered them into their hands".
After Joshua and the Israelites greatly slaughtered the Amorites, a few survivors managed to escape and return to their fortified cities. The Israelites then returned to their camp at Makkedah, and none spoke a word against the Israelites.
Joshua then commanded, "Open up the cave, retrieve the five kings, and bring them forth to me." The Israelites retrieved the five kings - the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon - and brought them before Joshua.
Joshua summoned all the men of Israel, and said to the captains of his army, "Come here and place your feet upon the necks of these kings." After they stepped on the necks of the kings, Joshua continued, "Fear not, nor be dismayed, be brave and strong, for this is what the Lord shall do to all your enemies that you battle." After which Joshua slew the kings and hung each of them on five trees, leaving them hanging until night fall. After the sun set, Joshua commanded his men to take down the corpses and cast them into the cave where they had attempted to hide, closing of the entrance to the cave with large stones, which remain there to this day.
That day Joshua conquered the city of Makkedah, destroying its king and every living being therein, leaving no survivors. He did to its king as he had done to the king of Jericho.
Joshua then left Makkedah and headed to Libnah. Joshua conquered and destroyed Libnah, its king, and every living being therein, leaving no survivors. He did to its king as he had done to the king of Jericho.
Joshua then left Libnah and headed to Lachish. Joshua conquered and destroyed Lachish and every living being therein, leaving no survivors, just as he had done in Libnah. King Horam, king of Gezer came to help Lachish in battle, but Joshua smote him and his men, until there were none of them left remaining.
Joshua then left Lachish and headed to Eglon. Joshua conquered and destroyed Eglon and every living being therein, leaving no survivors, just as he had done in Lachish.
Joshua then left Eglon and headed to Hebron. Joshua conquered and destroyed Hebron and every living being therein, leaving no survivors, just as he had done in Eglon.
Joshua then left Hebron and headed to Debir. Joshua conquered and destroyed Debir and every living being therein, leaving no survivors, just as he had done in Hebron. Joshua smote Debir's king just as he had done to the king of Libnah.
In the end Joshua massacred the entire region, from the hill country to south of the valley, along with all of their kings. He left no survivors, killing all that breathed, just as the Lord God of Israel had commanded. Joshua smote them from Kadeshbarnea to Gaza, and all of the region of Goshen to Gibeon. Joshua slaughtered all of these kings and took their land all in one strike because God fought for Israel.
Joshua and the rest of the Israelites returned to their camp site in Gilgal.
|Notes:||1.) The Book of Jasher (properly translated as the "Book of the Upright" or "Book of the Just") refers to a supposed "Lost book of the Old Testament". It is believed that it was a book of poetry from the context of it's mention later on in the book of Samuel.|
|Thoughts:||After reading this chapter it's difficult for me to decide which is more problematic about it: whether it's the utter lack of even a basic rudimentary understanding of how our solar system actually works, or the sheer amount of brutal and merciless genocide and glorified violence clearly being attributed as being commanded by God.|
The chapter begins with the king of Jerusalem, Adonizedec, forming a military alliance with four other kingdoms (Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon) to attack the city of Gibeon for having allowed themselves to become enslaved to the Israelites as a measure of sparing themselves from falling victim to the Israelites' genocidal conquest.
Despite the chapter's implications that the city of Gibeon was a large city with a mighty army, the Gibeonites run to their new slave masters begging them to save their new "servants" from the attacking Amorite coalition. It seems more likely to be a literary ploy to brag about how "mighty" the Gibeonite army was in oder to bolster how much more mighty and fearsome the Israelites were supposed to be needing to have to beg the Israelites to hurry up and come out to "save" them.
As Joshua marched his army towards the city of Gibeon, the land of his newly enslaved people he was bound to protect, God reassures Joshua that he has nothing to fear as his enemies won't stand a chance against him in battle.
Joshua manages to catch the Amorite army by surprise (although it's unclear as to how exactly, considering that a retaliatory response must have been expected) and slaughteres a great many of them driving them off toward Bethhoron. Not one to be outdone apparently, God assaults the Amorites with large hailstones and the chapter states that he was able to kill more Amorites with his "killer hailstones" than the Israelites killed with their swords. Interesting to note however is that although it seems rather clear that God had no intent or desire for there to be survivors, his "killer hailstones" didn't manage to completely vanquish the Amorites, making his alleged perfection and omnipotence certainly questionable.
What happens next in our story is one of those moments where it becomes painfully obvious that what we're reading is a work of fiction that is conjured from the mind of a person wholly ignorant of how our solar system works. If you've managed to make it this far into the bible and have rationalized away such claims as God creating light prior to creating the sun; talking snakes (and donkeys); people living well over 800 years in age; a single man thousands of years ago being able to procure a pair of every known "kind" of animal all over the globe, and managing to keep them healthy and alive on a boat for nine months; and over a million people leaving a country at once without a single shred of the sort of economic evidence one would expect to find in the wake of such a sudden shift of losing over a million slaves simultaneously, by insisting that God is omnipotent and can defy not just physics, but logic, it becomes far more improbable to defend the ridiculous aspects of story we're about to be presented with than to dismiss it as fictitious and ignorant.
Joshua speaks to God in the presence of the people of Israel - meaning that we are lead to presume that due to the presence of witnesses, that there should be less of a likelihood that this story could be misrepresented or misremembered - and he commands the sun to stand still in the sky over the city of Gibeon, and commands the moon to stand still in the sky over the valley of Ajalon. The chapter claims that the sun and the moon hung there in the sky for and entire day until the Israelites completed killing their enemies.
This story reflects a primitive geocentric view of the universe (the theory that the Earth is the center of the solar system - or the universe - and that all other objects revolve around the Earth) rather than the current heliocentic understanding of our solar system (that the Earth revolves around a stationary sun) popularized by Copernicus much later in the 16th century. If we're to believe that God "stopped" the sun and the moon, this obviously presents numerous problems:
Simply put, Joshua wanted more time and daylight to battle the Amorites, and due to his primitive understanding of astronomy, commanded the sun (which we now understand doesn't revolve around the Earth) and the moon to stay put until he was finished in battle, which the bible claims lasted for "the entirety of the day". It's absurd to think than an omnipotent being would devise such an elaborate Rube Goldberg-esque ruse just to appease Joshua's exact command to the letter, rather than simply grant him what he really desired - more light and time to battle - in a far less ridiculous manner. Perhaps the return of "God's Flashlight" could have accomplished this simpler, or better yet, perhaps God could have simply come to Joshua's aid in battle again with his "killer hailstones".
Additionally another problem arises in the claim that the sun stood in the sky for the entirety of the day. While the claim is vague in describing how much time elapsed, considering that the primitive means of measuring time in the time period would most likely have been limited to sun dials (which would be rendered redundant if the position of the sun in the sky were to remain unchanged) there would be no accurate means of determining how much time elapsed. Factoring in that the Israelites also were engaged in strenuous activity by fighting in battle, it's fair to say that they would also be in an extremely bad position to accurately estimate how much time had elapsed without the aid of the sun.
A common apologetic response to the more ridiculous stories contained within the bible is to claim that the passages weren't intended to be meant as literal fact. However the story of Joshua having God cause the sun and the moon to stand still appears to be presented as if it were a literal event by the additional mention that the event was also recorded in the Book of Jasher - an alleged "Lost book of the Old Testament".
Simply put, the justifications needed - even allowing for the supernatural elements - to meet a basic need for light to continue to battle in could be much more simply met and it's ridiculous to assume that it's more plausible that God was willing to humor Joshua and fulfill his request to the letter, than it is that this story is merely the invention of primitive people with an ignorant geocentrist perspective trying to brag about the powers of their god being oblivious to how unlikely their story would appear to heliocentric reality, in additon to problems related to the laws of gravity. Likewise, outside of claiming that God himself confirmed the length of time elapsed to the Israelites, it would also be impossible for the Israelites to accurately determine how long the sun and moon had stayed put in their positions in the sky, especially with the added distraction of being engaged in battle.
Following this ridiculous story, the five kings of the Amorites somehow manage to survive Joshua's onslaught and escape into hiding in a cave located in Makkedah. When Joshua was told about their hiding spot (it isn't clear by whom, whether it was told to him by God, or that the Amorite kings migh have perhaps been careless enough to have been observed retreating to their cave) he had his men roll large stones blocking the entrance of the cave and left a few of them behind to keep watch.
After Joshua and his men drove the survivors of the Amorite kingdoms back to their fortified cities, Joshua then returned to the cave and has his men drag out the five kings. He then commanded the captains of his army to stand upon the necks of the kings while Joshua exclaimed that what he was about to do would be what God would do to all of the enemies that Israelites battle. He then proceeded to slay the kings and hung them on trees until night fall, after which he tossed their corpses into the same cave they had dragged them out of, and closed off the entrance with large stones.
Joshua then proceeded to go on a genocidal rampage against the kingdoms of: Makkedah; Libnah; Lachish (in addition to annihilating the soldiers that King Horam of Gezer sent to help defend Lachish); Eglon; Hebron; and Debir. The chapter claims that Joshua massacred the entire region from the hill country to the south of the valley, along with the kings who ruled the region, leaving no survivors and killing all that breathed - which would include women (presumably without a provision made for virgin girls this time), infants, children, and animals - and reinforces that this act was precisely and exactly as the God of Israel had commanded.
Again, it's difficult to decide which presents more of a problem - what sort of mental gymnastics one would need to go through to try and explain away the "miracle" claim of the sun and moon standing still in the sky for an entire day, or the moral and ethical dilemma presented by the mass genocide committed by Joshua claimed to be the precise command from God.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
|Summary:||The kings west of the Jordan River heard of Joshua's conquests (the kings of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites) and banded themselves together, forming an alliance to battle together against Joshua and the Israelites.|
However, when the Gibeonites heard about the massacres at Jericho and Ai, they devised a plan to disguise themselves as ambassadors from a far away land, carrying old worn sacks upon their donkeys, weathered and repaired wine bottles, worn-out shoes upon their feet, tattered clothes, and they made sure that the food they carried with them was dry and moldy. They approached Joshua at his campsite in Gilgal, telling him that they were from a far away country, and asked Joshua to make a treaty with them.
The Israelites asked the Hivites how could they be sure that they didn't live close by and therefore why should they make a treaty with them. They answered to Joshua that they were his servants. Joshua asked them who they were and where they came from, to which they replied that they had come from a far away country to be servants to the Israelites, stating that they had heard of God's fame, and all that he did in Egypt, in addition to what he did to King Sihon and to King Og. They said, "Our leaders and the people of our country told us to stock up with provisions for our long journey to meet you, and tell you that we are your servants and would like to make peace with you. This bread we took with us was fresh from our houses on the day we began our journey, but it has now become dry and moldy; these bottles of wine which we filled were new, and now are beginning to crack; and our clothes and shoes have become worn after our long journey."
The Israelites inspected their provisions, but didn't consult God about them, so Joshua made peace with them, allowing them to live, and the leaders of the congregation swore an oath to uphold their treaty.
Three days later, however, the Israelites discovered that the people they had just sworn an oath to instead lived amongst them. The Israelites on a journey, discovered on the third day the cities of Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kirjathjearim. However, the Israelites didn't massacre them since the leaders of the congregation had sworn to uphold peace with them by in the name of the God of Israel.
The Israelites voiced their displeasure towards their leaders, but the leaders replied, "We have sworn to them by the Lord God of Israel, therefore we may not touch them. We will let them live due to the oath we swore, however, let them fetch our lumber and draw water for the congregation."
Joshua summoned the Gibeonites and said to them, "Why did you deceive us, telling us that you were from a far away land when instead you dwell among us? Therefore we shall curse you, and none of you shall be free from being our slaves, cutting our wood and drawing our water for the house of my God."
The Gibeonites answered Joshua, saying, "Your servants were told how the Lord your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you this land and to destroy its inhabitants from before you. We feared for our lives because of you, and we are now in your hands. Do whatever you see as good and right for you to do to us."
And so Joshua prevented the Israelites from slaughtering them, and instead made them permanent slaves, cutting wood and drawing water for the congregation, and for God's altar in the place where he would choose.
|Thoughts:||When you hear biblical apologists try and justify horrific genocides such as those we've covered in previous chapters (Jericho and Ai, in addition to the slaughter of the Midianites, in which Moses ordered the non-combatant women and children to be slaughtered - except for the virgin girls, which the soldiers could "keep for themselves") an oft repeated rationalization is that genocide is somehow a better fate than slavery. After discussing Numbers: Chapter 31 which details the slaughter of the Midianites, we heard this exact apologetic used to defend the chapter by apologeticspress.org (that I also gave a detailed rebuttal to):|
"Complaining about Jehovah’s order to destroy innocent children is a vain gesture when one realizes that the children were spared an even worse fate of being reared as slaves under the domination of sin."The flaw in this apologetic is that it makes assumptions on behalf of the people faced with either a violent death or a life of enslavement. While the apologist might attempt to explain away that it boils down to a matter of "historical context", explaining away that people in the days of Moses's and Joshua's lifetimes would rather opt for the dignity of death than the indignity of slavery, the Gibeonites from this chapter dispel the likelihood of that notion.
The Gibeonites in this chapter clearly demonstrate that they value their self preservation more than they do their freedom. It's arrogant to claim that slavery is a worse fate than death when you're not the one facing such options, and that in light of the "historical context" excuse, there are those who have clearly demonstrated that they're willing to face any punishment, including slavery, to preserve their lives:
9:23 "Now therefore ye are cursed, and there shall none of you be freed from being bondmen, and hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God."It's interesting to point out the parallels between the stories of Rahab the harlot to the Gibeonites and how drastically they're intended to be perceived.
Friday, March 11, 2011
|Summary:||God said to Joshua, "Fear not, don't be dismayed. Take all of your soldiers and head up to Ai. You will see that I have given into your hand the king of Ai, along with his people, his city, and his land. You shall do to Ai and its king just as you had done to the city of Jericho and its king; take only the spoils and the livestock for yourselves, and prepare an ambush behind the city."|
Joshua and his army prepared to attack the city of Ai, and he chose thirty thousand of his best men, and sent them out into the night. Joshua commanded them, "Wait behind the city, but don't go too far from the city, and be ready. I, and those with me, will approach the city and when the inhabitants come out against us, as they did before, we will flee from them. Then you shall rise up from your positions and seize the city - for the Lord your God will deliver it to your hand. When you have taken the city, you are to set the city on fire. You are to do as the Lord commands you, as per my orders."
Joshua sent them on their way, and they settled into their ambush, abiding between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of Ai, while Joshua was camped with the rest of the people of Israel.
Joshua rose early the next morning, gathered his men, and along with the elders of the tribes of Israel, approached the city of Ai. They set up camp to the north side of Ai on the other side of a valley separating them from the city. Joshua had sent about five thousand to the west of the city between Bethel and Ai laying in ambush. With his main forces in position to the north, and his ambush party to the west, Joshua entered the valley that night.
When the king of Ai saw Joshua's army approaching, he hastily assembled his own army to meet them in battle that morning out in the plains, completely unaware of the ambush lying just behind the city. Joshua and his army feigned defeat and fled toward the wilderness while the people of Ai pursued after them. With not a man remaining in either Ai or Bethel, as they all went after the Israelites, the city was left wide open.
God then tells Joshua to point his spear toward the city of Ai, and the ambush party arose from their place on cue, entered the city, seized it, and set the city on fire. The people of Ai looked behind them and saw the smoke from their burning city ascending into the sky, suddenly realizing that they were trapped once the Israelites they were pursuing into the wilderness changed course back upon them. They were trapped between the Israelites they had been pursuing on one side, and those that burned their city on the other. The Israelites slew their enemies, allowing none to remain or escape, except for the king of Ai, whom they kept alive and brought before Joshua.
After the Israelites slew all of the inhabitants of Ai out in the plains and in the wilderness to where they were chased, they returned to the city and slew everyone that remained. In all, twelve thousand men and women were massacred, all the people of Ai. Joshua did not lower his spear pointed at the city until all the inhabitants of Ai had been utterly destroyed. Only the livestock and the spoils that God had ordered the Israelites to loot had been spared. The city was burnt to a heap that remained permanently desolated.
The king of Ai was hanged on a tree until the evening, and as soon as the sun set, Joshua ordered that his carcass was to be taken down and thrown down at the entrance of the city gates. Upon it they heaved a large pile of stones that remains to this day.
Joshua then built an altar in Mount Ebal (using uncut stones untouched by iron tools, as commanded by Moses) and sacrificed some "burnt offerings" and "peace offerings" upon it.
Joshua then wrote upon the stones in the presence of the Israelites a copy of the law of Moses. All of the Israelites, along with the tribe elders, officers, and judges flanked the ark of the covenant on both sides facing the Levite priests who carried it. Both the native Israelites and the foreigners amongst them stood before the ark, half of the people standing in front of Mount Gerizim, and the other half standing before Mount Ebal, as Moses had commanded.
Joshua read every word of the law, the blessings and the curses, not missing a word of what Moses had written, before the entire congregation of Israel, including the women, children, and foreigners among them.
|Thoughts:||After lethally punishing not only Achan, but his entire family along with his livestock, and setting the corpses along with all of Achan's belongings on fire, God is again willing to aid the Israelites in battle. Curiously, unlike the strict prohibitions of taking any items from the city of Jericho, God permits the looting of spoils and livestock from the city of Ai.|
God devises a strategy for Joshua to ambush the city of Ai, by setting up a legion of soldiers camped behind the city. Joshua explains to his men that the plan will be to have his main troops attack the city and feign defeat, coaxing the soldiers of Ai to give chase and thereby leaving the city wide open for the ambush party to seize the city and set it on fire.
The first major difference in strategy to note from the Israelites' first failed attempt at conquering Ai in the previous chapter, is the vast differences in the number of troops being sent forth. In the last chapter Joshua is urged not to send many troops, because of the small population - which as we're told in this chapter, 12,000 people from the city of Ai were killed - and 3,000 troops were sent in the first attempt. In this chapter Joshua selects thirty thousand of his best men to attack the city - ten times the amount he originally sent - with 5,000 of them alone selected to ambush the city from behind. I think it's fair to speculate that increasing the number of soldiers ten-fold, to almost three times the entire population of the city they're attacking, probably had more to do with the Israelites success in this battle than whether or not one them stole a Babylonian coat.
After sending off 5,000 of his soldiers in the night to set up an ambush on the west side of the city, Joshua camps his troops off to the north of the city. In the morning he leads his troops on a fake attack, feigns defeat, and has them flee toward the wilderness. God then tells Joshua to point his spear toward the city, and as if on command, the ambush party invades the city of Ai and sets it on fire. The "fleeing" Israelites in the north changed course into and attack position, and the people of Ai looking back saw their city billowing with smoke now realized that they were trapped. The Israelites slew the inhabitants of Ai, sparing only the life of their king, whom they kept alive and brought before Joshua. The Israelites after slaughtering everyone out in the field, then returned to the city of Ai and slew everyone left alive there. Joshua did not lower his spear, pointed at the city, until all of the inhabitants had been massacred. With only the livestock and the spoils remaining, the city was burnt to a desolate heap.
Reserving a special death for the king of Ai, instead of slaying him at sword point, the Israelites hanged him from a tree, threw his carcass at the city gates, and heaved a pile of stones upon it.
While it is rather appalling to read about the annihilation of the cities of Jericho and Ai, fortunately archaelogical evidence suggests these aren't historically accurate events and that the most likely explanation is that the story serves as a myth invented to explain the ruins of ancient cities that the Israelites encountered that were destroyed over a thousand years prior to the biblical timeline.
Another interesting thing to note is that the Hebrew translation of "Ai" is "the ruin", which while makes sense in the context of the story presented in the book of Joshua, presents a problem with the claim that Moses authored the Pentateuch - the first five books of the bible. The city of Ai is referenced in both Genesis: Chapter 12, and in Genesis: Chapter 13. In what context would it make sense for Moses to have referred to the city of Ai by a name meaning "the ruin", considering that Joshua's invasion occurred after Moses's death? It would seem that either the name had to have been, at the very least, inserted after Moses's death (putting into question what other parts of the Pentateuch might have been altered after Moses's death); that the Pentateuch, whether in full or part was authored by someone else other than Moses; or that the city of Ai had been "ruins" prior to Moses's death, and that the story as presented in Joshua is inaccurate.
The chapter closes out with Joshua constructing an altar using uncut stones, followed by a bit of animal sacrificing upon the altar. He then writes Moses's laws upon the stones in the presence of the entire population of Israelites, with the people sectioned off in halves standing before either Mount Gerizim or Mount Ebal, as Moses commanded in Deuteronomy: Chapter 27. Joshua then reads every word of the law, and it his accuracy is noted in that not a single word was omitted.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
|Summary:||The Israelites however disregarded the command against the cursed items, as Achan - son of Camri, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah - of the tribe of Judah, took some cursed objects, which resulted in God's anger toward the Israelites.|
Joshua sent some men from there camp outside of Jericho to the city of Ai, which is beside Bethaven, on the east of Bethel. He told the men to go up and view the country, and after they had done so they returned to Joshua and said to him, "Don't send the entire army, but instead about two or three thousand men to smite Ai. Let's not put the entire army to work, as there aren't many in Ai."
About three thousand men were sent, but retreated after the men of Ai smote thirty six soldiers. The men from Ai chased them from the city gates to Shebarim, and smote them as they descended. The hearts of the Israelites melted and became like water.
Joshua tore at his clothes and fell on his face before the ark of the covenant and stayed there until the evening. The elders of Israel also fell on their faces before the ark and put dust on their heads.
Joshua said, "Lord, why have you brought our people across the Jordan River, merely to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? Would you have been content for us to stay on the other side of the Jordan River? Lord, what shall I say when the people of Israel turn their backs before their enemies. For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of this, surround us and blot us out from this earth - what will you do for your great name?"
God replied to Joshua, "Get up! Why are you lying on the ground on your face? Israel has sinned and has violated my covenant - for they have taken cursed items, and have stolen, deceived, and put them amongst their own belongings. Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but fled before them, because they were cursed - neither will I be with you anymore unless you destroy the accursed from among you.
"Get up, sanctify the people and tell them, 'Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, for the Lord God of Israel has said that there is a cursed thing in your midst, and you cannot stand before your enemies until you remove the cursed thing from among you. In the morning you shall be brought forward according to your tribes: the tribe that the Lord picks shall come forward according to their families; the family which the Lord picks shall come forward by their households; and the household which the Lord picks shall come forth man by man.
"'He that has taken the cursed object shall be burnt with fire, himself and everything he has, because he broke the covenant of the Lord and brought folly upon Israel.'"
Joshua rose early in the morning and gathered the Israelites by tribe. After the tribe of Judah was selected, the family of the Zarhites were selected, the Zahrites were brought forth man by man until the household of Zabdi was selected, and the household of Zabdi was brought forth man by man until Achan (son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah) was selected.
Joshua said to Achan, "My son, give, I pray of you, glory to the Lord God of Israel, and confess to him. Tell me what you have done and don't hide it from me."
Achan replied, "Indeed I have sinned against the Lord, and I shall explain what I had done. When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a piece of gold worth fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. I hid them in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath it." Joshua sent messengers to investigate, and they found the items hidden in the ground of Achan's tent, with the silver underneath it, and brought them before Joshua, the people of Israel, and God.
Joshua, along with the rest of Israel, took Achan, the silver, the garment, the piece of gold, Achan's sons and daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent, and everything he owned and brought them out to the valley of Achor. Joshua said, "Why have you troubled us? The Lord will now trouble you today."
The Israelites stoned Achan, his family, and his livestock to death and set their remains on fire along with his belongings. They placed a great heap of stones over the charred remains, and God relented from his anger. The place was then named the Valley of Achor*.
|Notes:||1.) "Achor" is a Hebrew word for "trouble".|
|Thoughts:||The chapter begins with the revelation that a man named Achan, decided not to heed God's command and warning from the previous chapter about not taking any of the "accursed" items, and that all the gold and silver was to be given to God. This of course made God angry with all of the Israelites, not just Achan.|
Conveniently, the next city that the Israelites happened to have next on their list to massacre was a small one, so it was suggested to Joshua by the men he selected to scope out their intended target that he should only send two or three thousand soldiers. After thirty six soldiers were killed by the enemy soldiers of Ai, the Israelites turned tail and ran. Joshua tore at his clothes and fell on his face, and remained there on the ground in front of the ark of the covenant until evening. The elders of the tribes of Israel joined Joshua, also "falling on their faces" in front of the ark and additionally "poured dust on their heads". (Admittedly, I was a bit unfamiliar with the "pouring of dust on one's head" ritual practiced in Judaism to express grief, and I still fail to see much practical purpose behind such a bizarre ritual.)
Joshua then whines to God about the Israelites' loss, complaining that when the Canaanites hear about the defeat at Ai, that they in turn will attack and wipe out the Israelites. God replies to Joshua in an apparently condescending tone, telling him to get up, and explains that the reason the Israelites lost this battle is due to them taking cursed items from the spoils of Jericho and hiding them amongst their own belongings. He explains to Joshua that the Israelites therefore won't have God on their side anymore until and unless they destroy the accursed from amongst them.
Instead of informing Joshua who it is among them that must be destroyed, like an omniscient being should be wholly capable of doing, God tells Joshua to stage an elaborate production of assembling the entire population of Israel together and having God one by one pick out the tribe, the family, the household, and finally the guilty party, sifting them out man by man. Again, an omniscient being shouldn't need to orchestrate such an elaborate production, however, it's likely that the intent of this display was to intimidate and serve as a reminder as to what could happen to them if they don't keep in line.
God then tells Joshua that whomever has taken the cursed items must be set on fire - along with all of his possessions, which includes the members of his entire household.
The way "sins" and "curses" are treated by God in the bible are akin to the childhood game of "cooties", in which the child "infected with cooties" is stigmatized without any real discernible affliction or real symptoms while either simultaneously lacking any sort of "cure", or if there is a "cure", that it is just as ridiculous and rife with nonsense as is the "affliction". While one could make the rationalization that Achan committed an offense against God and perhaps deserves punishment, there simply is no rational justification for also punishing Achan's children and livestock, and setting every single item of his possessions on fire. In a modern context, it's baffling to me how we can recognize the unjust barbarism when a person in the Islamic world is stoned to death for a non-violent offense, yet simultaneously not see the same brutality in a biblical story like this that not only targets the offender, but the innocent lives of his children and livestock as well.
Our story continues with Joshua parading out the tribe of Judah, paring them down to the Zahrites, paring them down further to the Zabdi household, until Achan was finally brought out. Joshua then goads Achan to "give glory" to God by confessing, and demanding that Achan not try to hide what he has done. Achan confesses that he stole a Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a piece of gold worth fifty shekels, and also tells Joshua where he hid them in his tent. After Joshua's messengers search Achan's tent and find the items he took, Joshua has the Israelites take Achan, along with his sons and daughters, oxen, sheep, donkeys, his tent, and all of his possessions out to the valley of Achor.
Hauntingly, Joshua rhetorically asks Achan why he has he caused so much trouble for Israel, and retorts that now God will "trouble" Achan today. With those words, the Israelites stoned Achan, his children, and his livestock to death, set the remains on fire along with the rest of Achan's possessions, and placed a big heap of stones on top of the charred remains. The death and destruction of Achan and all that he owned, including the innocent lives of his children and his livestock, was sufficient to quell God's anger toward the Israelites.
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
|Summary:||Because of the Israelites, the gates to the city of Jericho were secured so that no one could get in or go out.|
God said to Joshua, "I have delivered the city of Jericho, along with its king and his soldiers, into your hands." He then commands Joshua to lead a march of the his soldiers around the city for six days. On the seventh* day, God adds that seven* priests blowing ram's horn trumpets are to join the soldiers as they march around the city seven* times. God instructs that when Joshua hears a long blast from the trumpets, he is to command his entire army to give a loud shout, and subsequently the walls of the city will fall to allow Joshua's army to invade.
Joshua commanded the priests to pick up and carry the ark of the covenant with the seven priests carrying trumpets in front of the ark. He then ordered the army to begin marching around the city, and placed an armed guard to march ahead of the ark. The trumpets began to blare as an armed guard marched in front of the ark, and another guard followed behind the ark. Joshua however commanded the army to not shout or make any noise with their voices until the day comes when he will command them to issue a war cry. The army marched once around the city and camped for the night.
Joshua awoke early in the morning and the priests picked up the ark of the covenant, while the seven priests blew their seven trumpets, accompanied by the armed men leading and flanking their procession. For six straight days they repeated this procession, circling the city once, and returning to camp
On the seventh day, the Israelites again rose early, but this time they encircled the camp seven times instead of just once. During the seventh pass, when the priests blew their trumpets, Joshua told the people, "Shout, for the Lord has given you the city.
"The city shall be cursed," Joshua continued, "it and everything it contains shall be sacrificed to the Lord - only Rahab the harlot, and all those residing in her house, shall live, for she hid the messengers that we sent. You should be wise to avoid any of the accursed things in the city, lest you make yourselves accursed by taking any accursed thing and thereby bring upon a curse to the camp of Israel. But all the silver and gold, as well as items made of brass and iron, are to be consecrated to the Lord and shall be given to his treasury."
So the people shouted as the priests blew their trumpets and the city wall fell down flat allowing the Israelites to take the city. They utterly destroyed all that was in the city - man and woman, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys, all by the edge of their swords.
Joshua had the two men who had spied out the city go to the Rahab's house and bring out the harlot and her family that they had promised to spare. The spies did as they were commanded and brought Rahab, her parents, her siblings, and all of her relatives to a spot outside the camp of Israel.
They then burnt the city to the ground along with everything in it, taking only the gold, silver, and objects made of brass and iron for God's treasury. Rahab and her family were spared and lived amongst the Israelites through their generations, their lives spared because Rahab hid the men sent to spy out the city of Jericho.
Joshua proclaimed to the people, "Cursed be the man before God who attempts to rebuild the city of Jericho. He shall pay the price of building its foundation with his firstborn, and pay the price of building its gates with his youngest son."
God was with Joshua and his fame spread throughout the country.
|Notes:||1.) Yet more occurrences of the mystical number seven.|
|Thoughts:||The sixth chapter of the book of Joshua centers itself around the complete annihilation of the city of Jericho and its inhabitants. Recognizing the impending assault from the Israelites, the city secured its gates so that none could enter or exit the city.|
God then gives Joshua his attack plan, revolving heavily around yet another several mystical occurrences of the number seven: Joshua's army is to march around the city for seven days; in the procession, seven priests carrying seven ram's horn trumpets are to join the soldiers, and on the seventh day are to blow their horns seven times. After which, and not a moment before, the entire army is to let out a loud battle cry, and the walls of Jericho will collapse. Obviously, while there isn't any practical reason for having such a heavy reliance upon the number seven (seven priests with seven trumpets, marching and blowing their horns for seven days, blowing them seven times on the seventh day) it's yet another example of the bible's borrowing from, and perhaps in some cases inspiring, numerological mysticism.
Joshua then sets his battle plan in motion, starting with the priests tasked with carrying the ark of the covenant with the seven trumpeted priests marching in front of them, and flanking both the head and rear of the procession with armed soldiers. Joshua then commanded his army not to make a war cry or any noise with their voices until the day comes that Joshua will command it. After marching around the city, the Israelites camped for the night.
The following morning they marched around the city again a single time, trumpets blaring, and repeated this ritual for six consecutive days. On the seventh day, they encircled the camp seven times, the trumpeters blew their horns seven times, before Joshua gave the order to his army to shout, stating that God had "given" them the city.
Before they let out their war cry and invade the city however, Joshua tells them to destroy every living being within the city walls - except for Rahab the prostitute from chapter 2 along with her family - and warns the soldiers not to take any items or property in the city because doing so would bring a curse upon Israel. However, Joshua adds that they are to take all of the gold, silver, and objects made of brass and iron, to be given to "God's treasury".
Once again we're presented with another example of the bible attempting to justify the genocide of non-combatants (women, infants, children, and the elderly), however this time the bible introduces a new spin to its tactic. Beginning with Abraham's questioning of God's ethics and morality concerning the possibility of innocent casualties in the destruction of Sodom and Gommorah, the bible justifies massacre, destruction, and genocide by presenting their targets in terms of absolutes. With God promising Abraham that he wouldn't destroy the city of Sodom if there were as few as 10 "righteous" people living there, we're to assume that the city was entirely "wicked" in strict absolute terms, and that the children and infants of the city who were incapable of distinguishing right from wrong were deserving of their violent and horrific deaths right along with the "wicked". The bible further reinforces this stance with the horrific extermination of the Midianites in Numbers: Chaper 31, in which after the Israelites slaughter the adult male Midianites, Moses chastises them for sparing the lives of the women and children that they took prisoner, and orders that they too be slaughtered - except for the young virgin girls, whom the soldiers can "keep for themselves".
In this new variant presented here in the book of Joshua it's important to analyze several key aspects about Rahab:
For example, if we were to build a society upon a lineage of Caucasian descent and wanted a piece of land occupied by a society comprised of black people, the most simple and thorough means of conquering a society and preventing them from possible revenge in the future would be to order genocide against their entire race. If we establish a law binds us by duty to commit genocide against all black people, it would be viewed as a hypocritical law if there happened to already be some black people living amongst us that we made exception to. Perhaps we were reliant upon the skills or services that these black families provided to our society, and that slaughtering them would put us at some sort of disadvantage. This puts us in a dilemma where we either risk a possible retaliation by any survivors should we avoid commanding genocide against a particular race, or requires us to invent a justification to explain why there are black families living amongst us that are exempt from the law.
The story and depiction of Rahab presents her in a mostly unfavorable light (she's a Canaanite, a prostitute, a liar, a traitor, and being a woman, she's viewed as less than a man in the context of the times) which makes it easier to villainize the inhabitants of the city of Jericho by not making Rahab out to be a noble righteous hero (such as how Lot is intended to be viewed - despite offering his daughters up for ransom to a pack of rapists, and later on getting drunk and having sex with them). It provides a justification for why there may be a Canaanite living amongst the Israelites claiming that he's descended from Rahab and her family that were spared, without painting Canaanites in too sympathetic of a light.
The chapter continues with the priests blowing their trumpets and the soldiers shouting a war cry, causing the city wall to come down - which seems odd in light that Rahab's house is apparently built into the city wall (Joshua 2:15). The soldiers proceeded to massacre every living being - man, woman, infants, young and old, oxen, sheep, donkeys - all by sword point. Joshua sends the two spies that Rahab had helped in Joshua: Chapter 2 to go to Rahab's house (built into the city wall that just fell over) and to bring out Rahab and her family. Rahab and her parents, siblings, and relatives were brought to spot outside of the Israelite's camp while the soldiers burned the city of Jericho, along with everything in it - except for the gold, silver, and brass and iron object that they looted - to the ground. The bible states that Rahab and her family lived among the Israelites for generations.
Joshua proclaims a curse that anyone who attempts to rebuild Jericho will pay the price of their firstborn for building it's foundation, and will pay the price of his youngest son for building its gates. It's not clear if this curse applies only to the youngest son at the time of building or applies to all subsequent sons as well.
The chapter closes out by stating that Joshua's fame (or perhaps infamy) spread throughout the country.