Wednesday 11 September 2013

Bible Book:

Joshua 8:10-29 Wednesday 11 September 2013


Today's passage is the sequel to the story we looked at yesterday. Having lost 36 Israelites in thefirst, humiliating, battle for Ai (Joshua7:1-5), Joshua plotted his revenge by tricking its inhabitantsinto an ambush, with the Lord's help. The city was burned down, all12,000 inhabitants were slaughtered and "the livestock and thespoil of that city Israel took as their booty, according to theword of the Lord that he had issued to Joshua" (v. 27). The king ofAi was captured and hung, and the city left in ruins. And no doubtthere were cries of 'Praise the Lord!' at the successful outcome ofwhat today we would undoubtedly regard as a religiously-motivatedgenocidal war crime.

 As yesterday, we are faced with a problem: how should weunderstand a passage like this? It is part of the Christian (aswell as the Jewish) Bible and it features in the liturgicallectionary for public reading in church as part of organisedworship. We might choose to ignore it and read a comforting Psalminstead, or, as is often the case, leave out the Old Testamentreading altogether. But that is to avoid the challenge of takingthe Bible seriously as responsible readers - to choose to treat itsimply as a selective 'pick and mix' of texts that serve our ownpurposes and reinforce our existing beliefs (just as this text onceserved the purposes of its original editors/compilers). It would beworrying, for example, if Christians (or Israeli settlers) usedthis particular passage to justify violence and oppression, justbecause it's 'in the Bible'.

To Ponder

Responsible reading, which takes the Bible seriously, asksintelligent questions of the text and recognises that we inevitablybring our existing understanding with us as we read. So we mightask the kind of question we considered yesterday, as well as the following:

  • How do you decide which bits of the Bible you will choose toinform your understanding of God, and which bits will you treatwith suspicion?
  • Do you regard the whole Bible as equally 'inspired', or aresome bits more 'inspired' than others?"
  • Is it wise to pay more attention to the New Testament than tothe Old, given that it was the Old Testament which shaped thebeliefs of Jesus and Paul? Why?
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