Notes on Joshua February 21, 2010– this is not a paper – just rough study notes – meant to both remind and to stimulate further thought. Sources are in bold and described at end.
Josh 1:1-18 is haftarah for V’zot habrachah (last Deut 33:1 – 34:12)
Josh 2:1-24 for Shelach Lecha (Numbers 13:1 – 15:39 – spies)
People’s perception of God: Creator vs Legislator
Rabbi Isaac asks why Torah begins with Creation instead of Ex 12, 1 = “This month shall be onto you the first of months”, which is the first commandment. Works before laws.
I read Torah as people’s perceptions about God/universe not as what is God? Creator/nurturer or law-giver/judge?
Shamor v’zachor b’dibur echad
Ex 20:8 – zachor – Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy – Creation and God’s rest
Deut 5:12 – shamor – Observe the Sabbath and keep it holy – 7th day you do not work – God freed you from Egypt and therefore commanded you to observe the sabbath
The idea that historical writing should capture events “as they were” is relatively recent. Biblical writers use narratives about the past to illustrate various issues of significance to their earliest audience – the ancient Israelite community. They use Bible to substantiate a particular picture of God. Torah and Prophets developed simultaneously from a chronological perspective – not all Prophets know the Torah.
Jewish community had accepted Torah as central to its identity by Persian period (6th to 4th centuries). Probably Torah canonized in Persian period, Nevi’im late Persian or early Greek and Ketuvim around 70 CE (JSB – Brettler)
Deuteronomists set out to show how downfall of Northern and Southern Kingdoms was result of people’s persistent breaking of covenant, even thought Israel was at first loyal. According to D historians, every conflict was a contest between Israel’s God and its opponents. (HCBC– Rast)
Josh 1:1-18 Joshua has been groomed for leadership
(Ex) – leads people against Amalek
(Ex) – accompanies Moses to Sinai
(Num) – gives good report as one of the 12 scouts
(Num) – is only one of 2 men of his generation to enter the promised land
Torah does not mention anyone in Joshua’s personal life. BT Megillah says Joshua married Rahab and had children. 8 prophet/priests descended from Rahab. Rabbis have Rahab convert so she can marry Joshua (WHC – R Myers)
Joshua leads people of Israel across Jordan River into land promised to ancestors, takes possession of land, divides it among tribes, and leads them in swearing allegiance to covenant. Focus on covenant is central to Joshua. Joshua probably written not too far from Babylonian exile – 587 BCE. Some may be much older – town lists, battle stories.
Circumcision and Passover mark entry into land – two traditions that became defining practices of Judaism. Prominence of Ark of Covenant along with priests, altars and sacrifices – foreshadows centrality of synagogue Ark.
Joshua mirrors aspects of Moses
crossing Jordan parting of Red Sea
apportion land apportion land
Exodus is thus replicated to a certain extent.
The unity of Israel in obeying Covenant is an ideal emphasized in Joshua as in Torah – it is an ideal which dissipates later – when tensions develop between ideal and reality
The moral horror of the story may be diminished by the historical fact that it did not seem to happen. So why all the violence? Why is this part of the story? Settlement of earliest Israel consisted of scores of new villages – settlements of previously unoccupied territory in central highlands – rather than rebuilt towns on destroyed Canaanite strongholds. In this understanding the herem is not historical but rather an ideological expression of divine ownership of land being transmitted to Israelites as the rightful heirs to their inheritance from God. This emphasized that the Canaanites were a religious threat. Non-Israelites did indeed survive in the land for generations to come.
(JSB – Meyers)
Israelite spies keep promise to save Rahab and family, despite earlier Mosaic law in Deut 7:2 and 20:12-18 not to make agreements with any of the peoples of the land.
Nevertheless, spies make it clear that they are doing it for Rahab: Jos 2:17: We are guiltless.
Shittim, from where Joshua sends the spies was the place where Israelites became involved with forbidden Moabite women (Num 25:1)
Look at Rahab and Gibeonites together – seems like an attempt to show that boundaries between Israelite and non-Israelite are more permeable than one might think.
Rahab, like Shifra and Puah and Yocheved makes an exodus possible. Rahab lies to King just like midwives did. Note that Rahab sites the Exodus from Egypt. (WHC – R Wax)
Goaded by divinely ordained intolerance, Israelites are pitted against Canaanites in a struggle for differentiation. Joshua could be construed as a book about holy war (fought by men). It is the recognition of holiness, not one’s nationality, that identifies one with God’s people. Rahab and Gibeonites are outsiders, whereas Achan and his family do not recognize holiness. Whereas Rahab, a Canaanite woman, saves her whole family, Achan, an Israelite man, is instrumental in destroying his. Rahab saves the feeble spies (they go to a brothel for information rather than looking and overhearing for themselves – cavort with foreigners and with a woman whom they would have otherwise killed. Rehab’s faith and kindness raise serious questions about the obsession with holy war. How many Rahabs are killed in the attempt to conquer the land. How many people with vision and loyalty surpassing that of the Israelites are destroyed in the attempt to establish a pure and unadulterated nation?
Stories of Achsah and daughters of Z undermine Israel’s vision of itself as a monolithic, male centered institution.
Daughters of Z = men are not the only alternative
Achsah – male vision of what is necessary for survival and prosperity is limited – the women knows that land is dry and must have water. (WBC – Fewell)
JSB = Jewish Study Bible. Carol Meyers: “Joshua.” Marc Zvi Brettler: “Nevi’im” and “Canonization”
HCBC = Harper Collins Bible Commentary. Walter E. Rast: “Joshua.”
WHC = Women’s Haftarah Commentary. Rabbi Nancy Rita Myers: “Jos 1:1-18.” Rabbi Pamela Wax: “Jos 2:1-24”
WBC = Women’s Bible Commentary: Dana Nolan Fewell: “Joshua.”