Taking the Promised Land - Part 2
JOSHUA GET SERIOUS
I’m not here to go through the whole conquest of the Promised Land but there are a few instances that struck me so I’ll just throw in my two cents and you can take what you want.
After Moses was gone it fell on Joshua, Moses’ right hand man, to lead the charge into the land of Canaan1 and take possession of the ‘Promised Land’.
As you might imagine, the people who already lived there weren’t too thrilled about it. After all, this was their home and they’d been living there for a long time. That being said, they were scared to death of the Israelites. Everybody knew that these slaves had come out of Egypt after killing and plundering the Egyptians and they’d pretty much killed everybody who got in their way ever since. The sons of Abraham were a very nasty bunch.
So the first thing Joshua did was send spies to check out Jericho, the first city he had his sights on. These spies ended up in the house of a prostitute named Rahab. Why they ended up in the house of a prostitute is notable but I’ll leave you to your own conclusions about that.
Anyway, Rahab knew what they were up to and quickly made a deal. She’d hide them and help them escape if they agreed to spare her and her family when they came to take the city. Deal.
And just in time, because the king of Jericho had found out about the spies and knew they’d paid a visit to the local whore.
But Rahab was a good liar. “Sure, they’d been there,” she said, “but they did their business and took off not too long ago. If you hurry you can catch them.” 2
Sure enough, the king took the bait and the spies escaped.
The next thing you know, Joshua and his army laid siege to Jericho.
You may have heard of the walls of Jericho falling down after the Israelites had marched around it for seven days. Some figure, if it actually happened, it must have been an earthquake. Literalists believe it was the hand of God, and some dismiss the whole story as a myth.3
Regardless, as the story goes they marched around the city for six days and blew their horns on the seventh day and the walls fell down. And once again, the Israelites killed everybody, men, women, children, oxen, sheep, donkeys, everything. Everyone except Rahab the whore and her family.
I guess it was okay to not observe the Sabbath.as long as they were murdering an entire population.4
But during the siege a guy named Achan had taken something he shouldn’t have and God, being all knowing, knew about it and was pissed. So what did he do? He ordered Achan, his whole family and everything he had; wives, sons, daughters, donkeys, oxen, sheep and even his tent, be stoned, then burnt and a big pile of stones be raised ver them. According to the Bible that stone pile “stands to this day.” 5
This Old Testament God was not a very forgiving guy.
Next Joshua set his sights on the city of Ai. The reason I mention this is because, besides killing everybody in the city, men, women, children, he used a simple battle technique that has been used ever since.
First he got a bunch of his guys to hide out behind the city. Then he took a bunch of other guys and attacked the city from the front. Then he pretended to be losing and took off in retreat. That got the guys in Ai to chase after him. Once all the warriors of Ai were well outside the city, Joshua’s ambushers rose up and took the city and burned it to the ground. Then they had the Ai warriors in a vice and killed them all, all 12,000 of them.
It’s the same technique used by the Spartans, the Roman Republic, William the Conqueror and Genghis Khan. It’s what the Sioux used to beat Custer. Sun Tzu warned in his ‘Art of War’; “do not pursue an enemy who feigns retreat.” Wise advice, whether in business or on the battlefield, beware if somebody gives up too easily.
In another battle it’s said “And the sun stood still and the moon stopped until the nation (Israel) took vengeance on their enemies.” 6
People have been debating this since time immemorial. Anyone with a brain knows there’s no way the sun stood still, which would really mean the earth ceased to rotate. It’s pretty obvious what would happen if that were literally true but many early scientists were burned at the stake for even mentioning the possibility. God can do what he wants, right? If he can work miracles he can easily make the Earth stand still. And who are we to question the Bible anyway?
What they fail to account for is the Near Eastern penchant for exaggeration. It’s like when they say, “Their numbers are so great, like the sand on the seashore.” You come across this type of phraseology regularly in the Bible and none of them were meant to be taken literally. It’s a euphemism, a figure of speech. Paraphrased, it really means, “We killed so many of them and with such ease it was like we had two days worth of killing in one day.”
Also, here’s a funny fact; this verse references The Book of Jasher as a prophecy of this sun standing still event. The problem with that is the Book(s) of Jasher, of which there are several, were not written until after the birth of Jesus. And Jasher isn’t even a name, it’s an adjective meaning ‘the upright one’. You can research this until your head explodes and you still won’t settle the debate.
One last thing about this verse. The part about taking vengeance on their enemies. I just want to point out that Israel was invading this land. The people who lived there had never done anything to them. So technically, Israel was the invading horde attacking people who had done them no harm. Vengeance was not the issue and these people were not their enemy.
So just to be clear, Israel was the enemy. None-the-less, they killed everybody. Oh, and by the way, at the end of all this there’s another reference to “…until this day.” 7
Then they went to Libnah, Lachish, Eglon, Hebron, Debir, Negeb, Hazor, Shimron, Achshaph and killed everybody there too.
So now that they’d pretty much killed everybody, they took possession of their Promised Land.
But then Joshua died and Israel again lost its way. And just as God had promised, they started losing the land they’d fought so hard for.
For those who’ve heard of the story of Samson and Delilah, this is when it happened 8.
At the time the Philistines ruled over Israel but Samson was a continual thorn in their side. As you might have heard, he was super strong. One time he killed 1,000 men with only the jawbone of a donkey as a weapon. This is undoubtedly one of those Aramaic exaggerations but we won’t quibble.
To make a long story short, he fell in love with Delilah who tricked him into telling her the source of his strength, which was his hair. If he ever cut his hair he’d lose his strength. This is beginning to sound like classic mythology but again, let’s take it at its word.
So Delilah cut Sampson’s hair and the Philistines grabbed him, gouged his eyes out and threw him in prison. Then they had a big feast to celebrate their great victory so they brought Sampson up out of prison to make fun of him. But Sampson had other ideas. He leaned into the main pillars that held up the building they were in, called on God to help him, and miraculously his strength returned. He pushed over the pillar and literally brought the house down, killing over 3,000 people, himself included. Talk about a hero.
I’m not going to get into it any more than I have but this whole portion of the Bible (Judges) is chock full of scandal, killing, lies, deceit and betrayal so if you’re into that kind of stuff, or want to know more about this “Promised Land” thing, you might like it.
2I’m paraphrasing here
3Sounds to me like another example of Aramaic exaggeration; kind of like when we say, “The enemy melted before us”, they didn’t actually melt, right.
4Remember, no work (or killing) on the seventh day
5See Documentary Hypothesis