Monday, July 4, 2011

JOSHUA: Chapter 10

Chapter 10
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:
  • In order for both the sun and the moon to appear to "stay put" over the city of Gibeon and the valley of Ajalon respectively, this would require both the Earth and the moon to cease their orbits around the sun and the Earth respectively. Additionally the Earth would also have to halt on it's axis.
  • Such interruptions of orbit and axial rotation would also have disasterous effects on gravity not just on Earth, but throughout the entire solar system.
  • Even for "just a day" the lack of sunshine and heat on the side of the earth facing away from the sun would have disasterous and lethal ecological effects, while the side of the Earth facing the sun would likely also suffer from over exposure to UV rays and accumulation of heat.
  • Due to the adverse effects that would be witnessed and experienced throughout the globe by such an event, the least of which being prolonged daylight or night time depending on location, the lack of any corrobrative mention within the contemporary histories of other civilizations further contributes to the unlikelihood of the claim.
Even if one explained away all of these problems by stating that God is omnipotent and therefore he could simultaneously stop the Earth on its axis and orbit, stop the moon in its oribt, provide a gravitational substitute on the earth, provide some sort of UV and heat management for the portion of the Earth stuck in daylight mode, provide some sort of heat and UV substitute for the portion of the Earth stuck in darkness, and somehow make this appear unremarkable to other civilizations and managing all of these tasks with ease, when we examine exactly why Joshua commanded the sun and the moon to stay put in the sky, the justifications become akin to a Rube Goldberg contraption.

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.

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