Monday, December 10, 2007

Until the children of Israel have inherited every man his inheritance (Joshua 16-22)

Maybe I should have covered more material in the last post, as most of the issues, well, pretty much through the rest of the book are repeats of the ones I already covered. We see numerous notes of various Canaanites that couldn't be driven out, a giant or two here and there, casting lots to determine a course of action or division of land, etc. This is really the part of the book of Joshua that's much more on the dry side, being a list of a conquest here, a list of cities there, and I'm going to skim over it pretty lightly for the most part, pausing to comment on notable things.

I think actually, the latter part of Chapter 17 is notable in that it illustrates much more fully the principle of what's going on when conquests of parts of the land fail. The tribe of Manasseh complains to Joshua that they don't have enough land, and Joshua tells them that they'd have plenty if they'd just drive the Perizzites out of it. Manasseh complains that the Perizzites "have chariots of iron", and therefore they can't possibly win. Joshua tells them to buck up and just do the job they have to do, since God is on their side. It seems quite clear to me that the only thing holding back this conquest was the fear of the people.

Joshua 20, while having no notes in the SAB is an interesting one for reasons that I'll probably delve into more deeply when I go back to the Mosaic Law. The "cities of refuge" are a concept that has to do with the laws in Israel about manslaughter. If a person killed another by accident, they could be protected by going to one of those cities according to the law. There, a person would stand trial instead of being subject to vigilante justice from the victim's close relative, the "avenger of blood".

Joshua 21 contains what is claimed to be an error, but while I think there may indeed be an error here, I think the SAB has misidentified the error. Or, that is to say that the error is not here so much as it is in the parallel passage in 1Chronicles 6. If you look carefully at that chapter, there are two things to note. First, that chapter is not about apportioning the land by tribes, but about listing cities given to the Levites, so the precise locations are not so important. Secondly, and this is the real problem, 1 Chronicles as a chapter names every tribe of Israel except for Dan, which is the tribe mentioned in Joshua 21. I suspect the real error is the omission of Dan's name from the list. Whether that was a scribal error or an omission in the original document (which could have been on purpose, actually) we can't say, choose what you like, or give me another suggestion as many people have done.

Joshua 22 discusses Joshua giving an address to the tribes who had land on the West side of the Jordan, and it turns out that all these years (the conquest took somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 years to finish) these tribes stayed faithful in their promise to stand by the others, and Joshua commends them for this. I myself am rather impressed, as I don't get the impression that there was really a lot of unity among the tribes in general.

Well, It looks like I might be able to finish this book in one more post, we'll see when I get to it.

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