Tuesday, March 1, 2011

JOSHUA: Chapter 6

Chapter 6
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:Virtually every aspect of Rahab's character is viewed negatively by the Israelites, and quite often biblical apologists spin this off as if this demonstrates that even a "sinner" can earn God's grace. What they fail to address however, is that it may in fact simply be a justification to side-step their own rules in order to protect the non-Hebrew members of their society while maintaining their racial oppression against others in the camp.

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.

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