how to make it through Joshua –
Given many of you are reading the three books over the 4th of July – let me recommend then that you do not let Joshua get you down. Once you make it through Joshua, Judges and Ruth – especially Ruth – will be a real pleasure.
I’ve been doing some more reading in the Oxford Commentary – a very thick book that accompanies the edition of the Bible that we are reading.
The scholars make very good points about the Book of Joshua:
– first, the notion of “herem” – total devastation of all living things in the promised land by the Jews and God who are entering it – is hard to take for modern readers. it presents the greatest moral dilemna when reading the book. so, know that and anticipate it.
– second, in understanding “herem” we must put it into the context of the ancient near east “conquest stories.” conquest stories typically elevated the people and their gods (or god) – and told of total devastation. it is clear that Joshua is written in that tradition – imitating it and applying it to the history of the Jewish people.
– third, scholars believe that what actually happened was a gradual development of judaism in “canaan” starting in the 13th century BCE – that it’s very unlikely that there was a “herem” that occured. rather, the religion and “Israel” slowly spread. it was later writers, in their attempt to glorify Israel and God, who imitated the conquest stories and wrote the book of Joshua.
If you can – see through the words – to the historical development that the words point to.
You will still find the book hard to read – and the events of the 20th century – especially the Holocaust – force us to read the words in a different way. Just remember that when the Book of Joshua talks about extermination and the “herem” in cities like Jericho and others – that this is not a historical description of an actual Holocaust brought on by the invading Jews – though you can be sure that these words were manipulated and used by the Nazis and others.
Good reading – Phil