Moses is dead and buried, so now the Israelites are ready to cross the Jordan and take Canaan! Our new hero is the title character of this book, Joshua, and he wastes no time in getting to work on those pesky Canaanites. Based off his military exploits in this book, I would go so far as to say that Joshua would be one of the most successful generals of all time (if he actually existed, which is unlikely). Lets jump right into chapter 1.
Josh 1, Verses 1-2: After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites.
Even though God is omnipotent, it seems he’s only capable of speaking to one person at a time, and that favourite pet of his can only change upon death. But yeah, Moses is dead, lets go to Canaan now lads.
Josh 1, Verse 5: No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.
Hrm. I’ll keep that statement in mind, God.
Josh 1, Verses 16-17: Then they (The people of Israel) said to Joshua, “Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses.
Fully obeyed Moses? You’re having an absolute giraffe, right? A quick skim of Numbers will show that you were complaining all the time. Lots of people died because of it, I’m shocked you’ve forgotten. Well, no I’m not.
Josh 2, Verse 1: Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. “Go, look over the land,” he said, “especially Jericho.” So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.
“Oh . . . uh, quick, hide in here! Oh, what do you know? A prostitute’s house.”
Josh 2, Verse 2: The king of Jericho was told, “Look, some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.”
They must be the worst spies in the world if they are figured out literally one verse after they started.
Josh 2, Verse 3: So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.”
If I was King of Jericho I wouldn’t send a message, I would have my soldiers march right in and take them. Rahab responds by saying that the spies have already left the city (they were actually hiding on her roof). Once the kings men had left, Rahab went to speak with the Israelite spies.
Josh 2, Verses 12-13: “Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them—and that you will save us from death.”
Rahab really is taking a big risk here. First of all betraying the city of Jericho, as if the Israelite attack fails, she will certainly not come out of it well. But second of all by working with the Israelites themselves. As a prostitute, she wouldn’t be viewed very positively by the Israelites, you know, as a woman who has the audacity to have sex outside of marriage.
Josh 2, Verse 14: “Our lives for your lives!” the men assured her. “If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the Lord gives us the land.”
But luckily for Rahab, they swear an oath, which God binds them to, meaning she cannot be harmed by the Israelites. With that, the two men have seen all they need to see (apparently) and sneak off out of the town, and back to the Israelite camp.
In chapter the 3, the Israelites cross the river Jordan. You might notice similarities to an earlier Bible story.
Josh 2, Verses 15-17: Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.
Only crossed a river, not a sea, didn’t drown thousands of Egyptians. I give God’s body of water crossing sequel a 4/10.
In Chapter 4, they set up some stones to mark their crossing. Riveting.
Josh 5, Verses 2-3: At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again.” So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the Israelites at Gibeath Haaraloth.
First of all, Gibeath Haaraloth is believed to mean ‘the hill of foreskins’ which I just think is kind of funny. Anyway, I know it says circumcise the Israelites again but it doesn’t actually mean cut off more of their penis. The chapter goes on to explain that while they were out in the wilderness for those extra 40 years (because some people complained about stuff) the boys went uncircumcised, so this is just them rectifying that heinous mistake.
Josh 5, Verses 13-14: Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell face down to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”
God chats to Joshua, like straight into his ear, apparently. I still don’t understand why he sends out angels to these people to deliver messages, when he could just say them himself.
Josh 6, Verse 1: Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in.
I’m sure many of you have heard the story of the walls of Jericho, and have at least an idea of what comes next. I will take this opportunity to say there is no archaeological evidence to support this story.
Josh 6, Verses 2-5: Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.”
No catapults? No siege towers? No Tunneling? Alright God, but you better be right about this.
So after marching around like God tells them, Joshua gives the command.
Josh 6, Verse 16: The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city! The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord.
In the Hebrew Bible when things are given over to the Lord, or ‘devoted’ to the Lord that means they are destroyed. You can see where this is going . . .
Josh 6, Verse 19: “All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury.”
“Destroy everything and everyone! . . . Except the really valuable stuff, uh God needs that.”
Josh 6, Verses 20-21: When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city. They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.
And of course, God pulls through by making the impossible happen. Thank you God, for allowing the Israelites to slaughter defenceless people and animals. You must be tired from so many genocides of your own, delegating is a good idea.
Josh 6, Verse 24 & 26: Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the Lord’s house. At that time Joshua pronounced this solemn oath: “Cursed before the Lord is the one who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho.
The purpose of the conquest wasn’t to capture Jericho in subjugation, or even colonisation. It was done for the sole reason of murdering it’s inhabitants. The only people who survived were Rahab and her family, because she sold out the rest of the people of Jericho. This story teaches us that barbarous murderers and traitors are the good guys.
Josh 7, Verse 1: But the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel.
But as always with the Israelites, they get very distracted by shiny things. God didn’t start killing them straight away though. Joshua the sent spies to another town, Ai. The spies reported that Ai was very weak, and only 3,000 men would be required to take it.
Josh 7, Verses 4-5: So about three thousand went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai, who killed about thirty-six of them. They chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the stone quarries and struck them down on the slopes. At this the hearts of the people melted in fear and became like water.
This is what happens when God wins all your battles for you, you forget how to actually fight. 3000 men were routed because of 36 casualties? What kind of army is that!? An army that breaks after such minor losses wouldn’t be fit to conquer a pantry, let alone a whole region.
Josh 7, Verses 7-8: And Joshua said, “Alas, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! Pardon your servant, Lord. What can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies?
You lost 3,000 men out of 40,000 supposed fighting men. That still leaves you with 37,000 men, certainly a formidable force to be reckoned with.
Josh 7, Verses 10-11: The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions.
“Oh. Right. Well sorry for not being able to see that when I looked into my crystal ball, God.”
So the next day all the tribes of Israel are gathered before the Lord, for him to single out the perpetrator, and of course he picks out Achan, son of Karmi, the guy who kept some stuff.
Josh 7, Verses 19-21: Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and honor him. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me.” Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. This is what I have done:21 When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”
Well he has confessed his sins. Surely forgiveness in some capacity is comin . . . oh who am I kidding, take him and his family, and gather some rocks.
Josh 7, Verses 24-25: Then Joshua, together with all Israel, took Achan son of Zerah, the silver, the robe, the gold bar, his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys and sheep, his tent and all that he had, to the Valley of Achor. Then all Israel stoned him, and after they had stoned the rest, they burned them.
So yes, because this one man ‘stole’ something, his family and animals had to also die a disgustingly painful death. But the thing is, according to Jewish law, the murder of Achan’s children is illegal.
Deut 24, Verse 16: Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin.
I’ve read of some people saying that the reason his daughters were killed too is because they stayed silent on the matter, and didn’t tell the authorities, and so were made complicit. These are of course, the type of people who try and make excuses for all parts of the Bible in a desperate attempt to cover up how awful it really is, but lets assume for a moment they’re right. The daughters did know their father had taken the items. They would know, that by reporting him, they would be sentencing him to death by stoning. If you were in their situation, would you report your father/mother/loved one for what Achan did if you knew that they would be stoned because of it?
In the time of Moses we saw plenty of examples of the ruthlessness of the Israelites, and how willing they were to butcher the people east of the river Jordan (remember the Midianites), but the book of Joshua takes it to a whole new level. The genocide of Jericho is only the first on a long list which we are about to uncover throughout the rest of this book. I hope you’re more prepared than the Canaanites were.
By Rory McDowell