Friday 06 September 2013

Bible Book:

Joshua 5:13 – 6:20 Friday 6 September 2013


In the New Testament we are told "By faith the walls of Jerichofell after they had been encircled for seven days" (Hebrews 11:30), and the story here in Joshuastrongly underlines the fact that this was entirely God's victoryas the people placed their trust in God.

The passage begins with the somewhat mysterious story ofJoshua's encounter with a heavenly "commander of the army of theLord" (5:13). Unlike the heavenly encounters of Moses at theburning bush (Exodus 3) or Gideon at the wine press (Judges6:11-24) there is no strategic briefing by God involved. Whatis stressed is Joshua's deference to the angel, understood asworship of God, which is an acknowledgement that it will not be hisown military prowess that wins the battle for Jericho.

The primary objective in campaigns against fortified cities wasbreaching the walls or gates. Sometimes this was achieved by ruse -there is an example in chapter 8, sometimes by attacking theweakest point and scaling the walls, and sometimes by siege untilthe hungry inhabitants surrendered. However none of thesestrategies is deployed here, but rather one where the peopleeffectively act as though performing a victory parade while waitingfor God to break the walls. Horns were used as a war-cry but alsohad a role in worship (eg 2Chronicles 15:14).

Joshua instructs (verse 17) that once the walls have falleneverything in the city should be destroyed (except Rahab and herfamily as promised to her in chapter 2) making the ruins aperpetual monument to God's victory. Whilst complete destruction ofa captured city and its people was not unusual in ancient warfare,the view of such action as a religious necessity, a sacrifice toGod (verse 18), is not easy for a modern reader. The instructionhowever is in line with Deuteronomy 7:2; 20:17, where the contexts make clear that thereason for such extreme measures is to avoid all risk of idolatrousworship spreading from those conquered to the people of Israel.

To Ponder

  • Have you ever had an experience or encounter that has led youto consider a place as especially holy (5:15)? If so, what were thereasons for that conclusion?
  • How might you begin to answer the claim that we cannotlegitimately seek inspiration for our own living in a book whichtreats genocide as a godly act?
  • The contemporary world is different from Joshua's, and many ofus live in multi-faith communities. What principles enable us tolive together peacefully without the risk of our faith beingundermined by different religious doctrines?
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