When we left Joshua, he had just met a stranger on the road who called himself “the commander of the Lord’s Army”. Now it’s time to put the Lord’s army to work.
This begins with some specific instructions on how to take the city of Jericho. We know from previous readings that all the people in the army are men, so they are definitely the ones marching around the city everyday for seven days. The question that I have is whether or not the women were adding to the “great shout” by “all the people”. It’s only ambiguous because of the combination of assumptions at play. Where are the rest of the people? Theoretically, the women are back at camp with the kids, but it doesn’t say “all the men”. If it’s a translation issue, then why?
Among the parallel verses in other translations, it is also commonly termed “the entire army”, and the Strong’s concordance has it listed as “folk” which doesn’t help. The part of speech is listed as the “noun masculine” but we know that the nouns are masculinized in mixed company, as we learned back with Sodom and Gomorrah. So….. yeah, it was probably just the men because I don’t think they deserted the entire camp or left just the kids, but I hate it when terminology is inconsistent. Of course, having to translate things always adds hardships to understanding. Moving along…
They do as commanded and then Joshua issues this great long order to shout and the city is delivered to them. In it, he says “Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live” and it bothered me. Does he have to point out that she’s a prostitute? There’s also a theory that she wasn’t a prostitute, but an innkeeper and the words are so similar that they have been misconstrued all these years. Sure, it doesn’t matter on the surface what her occupation was, but are we simply acknowledging who she was or reducing her to her job description? Why couldn’t he say Rahab the Protector for what she did for them? Another theory that I saw said that she was cultic or priestly prostitute, so this isn’t an insult at all but a high status that she is giving up because she believed more in Israel’s God.
Then they shout and the walls fall and the city is destroyed with all inhabitants and livestock except Rahab’s household. The chapter ends with a curse that Joshua puts on Jericho and that Joshua was famous throughout the land.
It only takes one. One guy kept some stuff from Jericho that he shouldn’t keep. This resulted in God not supporting them in their next engagement and a horrible loss. Joshua prays to God, a prayer that is more of a lament and is the one that includes questioning God and why He freed them from Pharaoh for them to die here. Then God tells him what got Him mad and how to make up for it. They had to bring everyone forward so God can tell him who the culprit was and then that guy was stoned to death in what was apparently a notable heap of stones.
They go back up against the people that had defeated them when God was mad and win this time. Afterward, Joshua builds an altar, writes down the Book of the Law of Moses and they stand on the mountains and do the blessings and curses again. I thought it was interesting that they continued to renew the covenant.
Did they need the reminder? Did they need to continue pledging themselves to God so they don’t forget their own words or that God is with them for as long as they actually follow Him?
After Israel defeated the last two inhabitants of their lands, the rest got worried. Most decided to go in together to attempt to defeat Israel, but one has another idea. This chapter sums up the deception of the Gibeons, who pretend to be from far away and make a covenant with Joshua to spare them.
The thing to note about the covenant that was made is that Joshua does not consult God first, assuming that they were telling the truth and it wouldn’t be a big deal. This covenant appears to work like a peace treaty today. Once signed, there cannot be war among them. So these guys get away with it, except that Joshua gets to change the terms based on the deception. The people are still protected but belong to Israel and are now basically servants. They may not have their territory and whatever else, but they were kept alive as Israel had promised.
None of the Israelites make the mistake of the guy in chapter seven and so this chapter has them beating one group after another. The first group rose against the Gibeons, who asked their new masters for help that is given to them. These were people that Joshua and the Israelites were going to go after eventually anyway. Then there’s a whole slew of others that get defeated without further issue.
Important note, this story includes a day when God makes the sun wait for Joshua to descend. It specifies that there had been no day like it since or before.
More battle and conquests in this chapter. The addition here is the note that Joshua did it all according to the way Moses had passed down from God to do. Also that their hearts had been hardened by God. This is interesting because I had always thought that Pharaoh was the only one that God had specifically hardened. It really calls the whole “free will” thing into question. Do we really have free will? Or is it something we have only for as long as God decides but isn’t a guarantee? Or is it a guarantee now but wasn’t back then? Or were the people so hateful that the writer of this book could only fathom it this way?
There’s no telling at this point, but questions are a part of the process, so let’s proceed and see if answers come down the road.
This one just recaps the kingdoms that Moses and then Joshua put down during the battles and quest to take the land.
So the commander of the Lord’s Army isn’t mentioned again in any of these battles. Was he an adviser to Joshua? Did he show up and then leave after the first few wins? Perhaps we will see his departure in the peace that follows this part.
So there are my feelings and impressions on chapters 1-5 of Joshua. Have you read it? What do you think?