Lucia's Blog: THE ISRAELITES IN CANAAN: JOSHUA, JUDGES AND RUTH
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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

THE ISRAELITES IN CANAAN: JOSHUA, JUDGES AND RUTH

THE BOOK OF JOSHUA


GIANTS OF THE FAITH: JOSHUA

After leaving Egypt, the Israelites were punished wandering in the wilderness for forty years because of their lack of faith and trust in their Jehovah God. They trusted more in their own flesh than in the Almighty God.

After forty years from the time of their Exodus from Egypt, all of the adults who were over the age of twenty were dead, except for Joshua and Caleb, Moses' best leaders. Notice that a new generation of Israelites had come into view, a generation with their hearts hardened and toughened by all the years of wilderness living. They had little or no memory of Egyptian slavery and the brutality of it. In other words, they had little memory of ever being oppressed slaves. They were more blessed in seeing all of God's provision for them, such as the daily manna. They had very little or no memory of the Egyptian gods, so their faith in their Jehovah was not contaminated by idolatry like that of their fathers. They were a group of men and women who had waited their entire lives to move into the land that was promised to their ancestors. Although they were disturbed and grieving over Moses' death, they were motivated enough with hope and joy that they were finally entering the Promised Land, Canaan. This conquest of the land, Canaan, finally happened around 1400 BC.

The Book of Joshua begins with the death of Moses and ends with the death of Joshua. Notice that it begins with God's promise to be their God and to take care of them and not forsake them. It ends with their covenant to follow and obey God. As we open the first page of this book, God is encouraging Joshua with these words:

"No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you." Joshua 1:5

As the book closes, Joshua reminds the Israelites that their God Jehovah had been with them all throughout their wandering in the wilderness and had set them free from Egyptian slavery. He exhorted them to choose to follow and obey Him. In response to this they made a vow to God:

Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. The people answered and said, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; for the Lord our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and who did these great signs in our sight and preserved us through all the way in which we went and among all the peoples through whose midst we passed. The Lord drove out from before us all the peoples, even the Amorites who lived in the land. We also will serve the Lord, for He is our God.”  Joshua 24:14-18.

What remains of the Book of Joshua can be divided into two major sections:  the conquest and the dividing of the land.


THE CONQUEST (Joshua 1-12)
In order for the Israelites to enter the Promised Land, they had to cross the Jordan River. This river was at flood stage when they were setting out to cross it. The LORD parted the Jordan River just as He had parted the Reed/Red Sea. "It shall come about when the soles of the feet of the priests who carry the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan will be cut off, and the waters which are flowing down from above will stand in one heap. So when the people set out from their tents to cross the Jordan with the priests carrying the ark of the covenant before the people, and when those who carried the ark came into the Jordan, and the feet of the priests carrying the ark were dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks all the days of harvest), the waters which were flowing down from above stood and rose up in one heap, a great distance away at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan; and those which were flowing down toward the sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. So the people crossed opposite Jericho. And the priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while all Israel crossed on dry ground, until all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan." Joshua 3:13-17.

Joshua had already sent two spies to Jericho, the first Canaanite fortress they were planning to attack, Joshua 2.  The spies brought back the news that the Canaanites were terrified of the Israelites and the God they served. While in Jericho, these two spies, were protected by a Canaanite woman named Rahab who risked her life in order to save them from being discovered.

After crossing the Jordan River, the Israelites built a monument that was made out of 12 stones taken from the river bed. After that Joshua had all the men circumcised as an oath to reaffirm their covenant with their God Jehovah. Then they celebrated the Passover. After they had the Passover meal, they ate produce from Canaan, and then the manna from heaven finally stopped after forty years, Joshua 4 and 5:1-14.

The rest of the conquest of the land section includes the following account stories of fascinating interest to read:

Joshua 5 & 6:  The LORD asks Joshua to have all the men circumcised. They called the place where they were staying Gilgal. Here the LORD asked the army to march around Jericho. The walls of the city came down on the seventh day of marching by the hand of God without any Israelite demolition!
Joshua 7:   Achan had taken some of the banned items during the battle of Jericho. When the army went out against Ai, they were defeated because of Achan's sin. When the LORD revealed the cause of their defeat, Achan and all of his house were stoned to death.
Joshua 8:1-29:  Total destruction of Ai as commanded by the LORD.
Joshua 8:30-35:  Joshua renewed the covenant with God by building an altar of uncut stones on Mt. Ebal, offering sacrifices and then writing on stones all of the Laws of Moses.
Joshua 9: The Gibeonites dressed up as distant foreigners in order to deceive Joshua into making a treaty of security contrary to the laws that God had given to Moses.
Joshua 10:  The five southern kings of the Amorites united together against the Gibeonites because of the treaty that they had made with Israel. Israel attacked the Amorite kings. The sun stood still in order for the Israelites to have enough daylight to destroy the Amorites. Joshua killed the five kings conquering their southern cities.
 Joshua 11:  Joshua turned north overcoming the northern cities. Hazor was totally destroyed like Ai and Jericho. Joshua took over the whole land.
Joshua 12:  Joshua defeated 31 kings. These were the kings from both sides of the Jordan river, the ones destroyed while Moses still led them on the east side and the ones destroyed by Joshua on the west side. God is amazing!  He was with Israel, Moses and Joshua giving them the victory.



DIVIDING THE LAND (Joshua 13-22) 
There were thirteen Israelite tribes.  Jacob had twelve sons, but he also adopted Joseph's two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. This would allow Joseph to receive a double portion of his father's estate, a firstborn's portion.

The Tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe, had a special provision: they were not given a separate division of land but rather received towns within each of the other tribes' divisions in order that they could live and minister among the people. For this reason the land was divided into twelve sections on both sides of the Jordan River (see map), even though they were thirteen tribes.


GIANTS OF THE FAITH: RAHAB

Rahab is an unusual and interesting character in the Bible. Remember, she protected the two Israelite spies from being discovered just before the conquest of the land of Canaan. I admire her profound understanding of their God Jehovah during this process of conquest. She secured her own protection through her bargain with these two spies. Although she was a Gentile woman, she is part of Jesus' genealogy!

Joshua sent two spies to investigate the land of Canaan especially Jericho. They were able to enter Jericho ending up in Rahab's house. Although, she is known as Rahab, the harlot, it is uncertain why the spies came into her house. I am pretty sure this was the hand of God Jehovah. When the king of Jericho heard that the Israelites had come to search out all the land, he sent word to Rahab demanding she bring out these two spies and be given into his hands. Instead, she lies, saying that she did not know where the men were from. She also said that the men escaped when it got dark and she did not know where they went. She urged the king’s men to pursue quickly and overtake them. As soon after the king’s men left, the gates were shut. Rahab, came to the spies on the roof where they were hiding and said to them, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you.  For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. When we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.  Now therefore, please swear to me by the Lord, since I have dealt kindly with you, that you also will deal kindly with my father’s household, and give me a pledge of truth, and spare my father and my mother and my brothers and my sisters, with all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” Joshua 2:9-13.  

Then she helped them escape through her window, down the wall with a rope and out of the city. That scarlet rope hanging out her window was to become the signal that saved her from the invading Israelites.
In return for her help, the spies and Rahab made a covenant to spare her life when the Israelites came to conquer Jericho. This promise was fulfilled:
 
"However, Rahab the harlot and her father’s household and all she had, Joshua spared; and she has lived in the midst of Israel to this day, for she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho."  Joshua 6:25.   Rahab’s faith in the true God was very rare among the polytheistic Cannanites.  It is stunning to me that although she was a prostitute and a Gentile when she cast her lot with the people of  God that God would receive her and honor her as a hero of faith.  

There is no more mention of Rahab's name again in the Bible until the New Testament. She is listed in the Gospel of Matthew as the mother of Boaz, the man who married Ruth. This makes her one of Jesus' ancestors. She appears again in the Book of Hebrews, in the chapter known as the “faith hall of fame.” She joints a list of heroes of the faith in God without ever seeing what they hoped for:

"By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace." Hebrews 11:31. Also, we read of her in James 2:25, "In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?"  God's ways are not our ways!


THE SAVAGERY OF THE ISRAELITES' CONQUEST OF THE PROMISED LAND
In both Joshua and Judges, the Israelites are charged by God not merely to drive out the inhabitants of the land, but to destroy them all. This would include all men, women and children. This might sound shocking and brutal to many. Some may dare to question God's unfairness in demanding that the Israelites should do all of this savagery and killing. Others perhaps might be wondering why a loving and merciful Jehovah God could demand the killing of all including children. In response or before any other speculations let us consider the following:
  • God is the Creator, Judge and Ruler of all creation.  He alone has the power to hold life in His hands.
  • As Judge, God has all rights to decide who or which nation has reached a level of sin that cannot be condoned.  Notice that the sins of these Canaanites had reached the climactic level. God is longsuffering, but not forever. The sins of the Canaanites are mentioned in Leviticus 18:1-24.  The list includes all manner of perverse sexual immorality as well as child sacrifice. These were abominations to our Jehovah God.
  • The destruction done by the Israelites was an act of DIVINE judgment. Don't forget that Israel became God's instrument for judging all of these nations. The destruction was not the Israelites' idea but rather it was God's judgment on them.
  • The Israelites did not destroy the Canaanites because of their own righteousness, but because the Canaanites were absolutely sinful, Deuteronomy 9.
  • God was not being arbitrary in His judgments. He had warned the Israelites that if they should commit these abominations, then they were going to meet the same judgment as the Canaanites, Leviticus 18:25-30.
  • Finally, since the Israelites disobeyed God’s instructions and allowed many Canaanites to remain, they were eventually led to their own death. Notice that they even married into some of the Canaanite families contrary to God’s specific orders.  Their stubbornness and lack of faith in Jehovah their God led them to go astray worshiping the Canaanite gods.  Eventually they were driven out of the land themselves.  Sadly, they trusted more in their own flesh than in their God Jehovah.  God is a jealous God!

JOSHUA AND MOSES
The following are some interesting similarities between Moses and Joshua:

  • Both were called by God who directly promised each one that He would never forsake them.
  • Both were God's instruments used to speak to His people.
  • Both led the Israelites across water that God parted for them to cross.
  • Both had encounters with God in which they were told to remove their shoes.
  • Both presented stone tablets to the people with the law written on them. 
  • Both were given tasks that seemed impossible for any men.
  • Both were witnesses of Jehovah God's mighty acts of power over nature.
  • Both are mentioned in Hebrews 11 as heroes of the faith, in the "hall of fame."
     
In my next study we will be discussing the Book of Judges.

Luci