Abide: Joshua 1-8; 23-24
Scholars spend entire careers debating texts, their origins, their impact, and the most valuable contributions they make to broader understanding. At the Maxwell Institute, we participate in these debates, but recognize that a text’s value cannot be narrowed down to observable fact–the long-lasting test of scripture is how it shapes the readers’ or hearers’ faith. In today’s episode of “Abide: A Maxwell Institute Podcast,” we discuss the book of Joshua, exploring the meanings of the Promised Land, archaeological possibilities and limits, and early Christians understanding of Joshua as a type of Christ.
Scholars spend entire careers debating texts, their origins, their impact and the most valuable contributions that make to broader understanding. At the Maxwell Institute, we participate in these debates but recognize that a text’s value can be narrowed down to observable fact. The long lasting test of scripture is how it shapes readers’ or hearers’ faith, not how it fits into a footnote. In today’s episode of Abide: A Maxwell Institute Podcast, we discuss the book of Joshua exploring the meanings of the promised land, the archeological possibilities and limits, and how early Christians read the book of Joshua. My name is Joseph Stuart. I’m the Public Communications Specialist at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at Brigham Young University. Kristian Heal is a research fellow at the Maxwell Institute and each week we discuss the week’s block of reading from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Come, Follow Me curriculum. We aren’t here to present a lesson but rather hit on a few key themes from the scripture block so as to help fulfill the Maxwell Institute’s mission to inspire and fortify Latter-day Saints and their testimonies of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and engage the world of religious ideas. Today we are once again joined by Dorie Cameron, one of our research assistants. Dorie is a junior at BYU from Great Falls, Montana, studying Art and Creative Writing. She has a strong interest in literature, culture, media, and language.
Joseph Stuart: Welcome back, Dorie.
Dorie Cameron: Glad to be back and haunting your audio devices.
Joseph Stuart: Thank you Dorie. We are very excited to have you here. Now Kristian, we are looking at the Book of Joshua today, specifically chapters 1-8 and 23-24, although of course we will look at more of it. What should readers understand about the book of Joshua before we begin our more in depth discussion?
Kristian Heal: So the book of Joshua divides fairly neatly into two halves. Chapters 1-12 describe the conquest of the land and chapters 13-24 describe the division of the land among the tribes. But it’s not quite as neat as that. Most of the second half of the book does indeed give lists of towns and regions assigned to specific tribes, mixed with brief narratives describing specific origin stories. This includes chapter 20, which lists the cities of Asylum and chapters 21, which includes the town allotted to the Levites. And it seems that the book could have ended with chapter 21, especially since we read in its final verses an epitome of the book’s message. It reads as follows, “The Lord gave to Israel the whole country which he had sworn to their fathers that he would assign to them. They took possession of it and settled in it. The Lord gave them rest on all sides, just as he had promised to their fathers on oath. Not one man of all their enemies withstood them. The Lord delivered all their enemies into their hands. Not one of the good things which the Lord had promised to the house of Israel was lacking. Everything was fulfilled.” These verses make clear that the main objective of the book of Joshua is to show that God is faithful in fulfilling his promises. Before we come to the better known conclusion of the book, chapter 22 tells a story of building an altar west of the Jordan and is part of a long running debate over the legitimacy of worship outside of the central sanctuary. The book concludes with Joshua’s farewell speech in chapter 23, including his testimony of the Lord’s power working for them, and finally chapter 24 tells of the renewal of the covenant and Shechem. Joshua here acts as prophet rather than warrior, and tells in the name of the Lord, the history of God’s dealings with Israel and invites them to choose which of the Gods they will serve. The book is filled with big ideas and themes. For example, we notice the way that Joshua was confirmed as the rightful successor to Moses by having similar experiences and performing similar wonders such as taking the children of Israel through a body of water on dry ground. The book of Joshua emphasizes that the God of creation is with Israel, especially through the descriptions of how he created things such as water, walls, the sun, and moon obey the command of God. Wherever God’s armies fight alongside Israel. Israel’s faithfulness means that they were rewarded with clever military strategies inspired by God. God is the conqueror, and even when kings combine against him and his people, they are still defeated. In fact, God hardens these foreign kings so that they can be destroyed as a sign of his power before the people, just like Pharaoh in Exodus. Finally, there is an absoluteness about the book of Joshua which we should be familiar with now after having seen the same ideas in Deuteronomy. For example, God demands that Israel separate completely from the people of the land. Association with followers of other Gods is so dangerous that their armies are commanded to completely slaughter the inhabitants of the land, leaving no breathing person. We cannot help but be shocked by this. As Richard Hess notes in his Introduction to the Old Testament, “Perhaps the greatest challenge to belief in Israel’s and Christianity’s God is his apparent brutality in commanding the destruction of the Caananites. Nowhere does this come into sharper focus than in the book of Joshua.”
Joseph Stuart: Thank you for that overview, Kristian. So we are going to be discussing the city of Jericho, do we know where the city of Jericho was located?
Kristian Heal: So, yes. Jericho was a known city and archeologists have worked on the site during the 19th and 20th century. And there are a number of interesting things that have come out of this. So one reason is because this is not my area of training, the other is because I am more interested in the text of the Old Testament and what that text meant to later Jewish and Christian readers than I am about the equally interesting question of the historical context of either the setting of the text of scripture or the writing of the text. For me, archeology doesn’t prove anything about the Bible, but it does show us the world in which Biblical figures lived and which it was set, which is really fascinating and remarkable. I say archeology doesn’t prove anything about the Bible, but that’s not quite right. In the case of the city of Jericho, archeology actually proves something quite interesting and that is that there is no archaeological evidence to support the presence of a walled town at Jericho during the period of the conquest. This is really interesting because of course, the most famous story in Joshua is the story of the destruction of the walled town of Jericho—
Dorie Cameron: “Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho. Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, and the walls came tumbling down.”
Kristian Heal: Exactly. So how can we sing this song without these walls coming tumbling down? In fact, what archeologists have shown is the city was abandoned during the late part of the bronze age and it was not thought to be reoccupied to any extent until the seventh century. So the whole conquest of the land described in the book of Joshua is built upon this extended description of the conquest of these two cities. These are the ones that we really hear about in detail. Jericho and Ai. And both of the Jewish study bibles observed were apparently not inhabited when Israelites were said to have entered the land. So instead, archeology suggests a different story of the settlement of the land, one in which quote, “The first Israelites settled a mostly empty part of the region, the central hill country.” That’s again the Jewish study Bible, and then expanded from there through conquests and assimilation. The book of Joshua then, rather than being a historical account of the conquest is as Professor Nili Wazana of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem put it, “…a literary ideological construct, the result of many editions, revisions, and additions, reflecting changing concepts in the fulfillment of the divine promise of the land over a long period of time.”
Joseph Stuart: Okay, so if I have this right, there’s not necessarily a physical wall around the city but rather it’s something metaphorical or it’s something that’s an ideological construct remembered over time by scribes. But what does that mean for modern Latter-day Saints?
Kristian Heal: Well, it means several things as being engaged with the book of Joshua. First of all, the idea of objective history is of course, a modern notion. Anciently, history was didactic, aiming to inculcate theological, moral or civic values, virtues or apologetic aiming to promote the legitimacy of a particular rule or defend their policies.
Joseph Stuart: I’m thinking about the story of George Washington and the cherry tree. There’s no recollection or record that shows that George Washington could not tell a lie after chopping down a cherry tree. The important point is more that he became a wise and honest ruler. Does that match what’s going on here?
Kristian Heal: Precisely, history is serving a function, it’s teaching a lesson. As Professor Marc Brettler observes, biblical writers like their ancient Near Eastern contemporaries are not primarily interested in the accurate recording of real events. Rather, they use narratives set in the past to illustrate various issues of significance to their earliest audience, the ancient Israelite community. And we have to remember these are the people for whom the Book was first written, though we are the grateful beneficiaries of these wonderful scriptural texts. Historians wishing to use the Bible to reconstruct the history of Israel need, therefore, to weigh up each unit of the text, as Brettler said, weigh these inch unit up individually in terms of its data composition, and its likely goals. So that’s the first thing, we have to reconceptualize how we engage with the Bible as history and stop thinking of it as a historical record in a kind of a modern positivist terms. Secondly, one of the things that this archaeological evidence does for us is perhaps we might think, get us out of a tricky problem, as Professor Hess said, and we’ve converged in the introduction, this great challenge of the Bible is this apparent brutality and destroying the Canaanites. Well, if there was no city of Jericho there, then maybe this is not actually how things happened. Maybe God led his people into this land and settled in there in a different way. One in which they were living together with the people, one in which they were establishing themselves through different means, one in which there may have been warfare, but not a command by God to affect genocide. And certainly after the multiple genocides that we have witnessed in the modern era, we can only be disturbed by a book that describes God ordering the genocide of an indigenous population. If the archaeological evidence does not agree with that description, then maybe Israel was established in this different way, maybe there was no systematic genocide. In fact, scholars have created several models for how Israel might have been settled in the land, through conquest, through peaceful infiltration, through a peasant revolt, through certain terrorization, and other ecological or economic arguments. What this allows us to do is rethink the process of settlement, look at the combined evidence and sort of understand how the land of Israel became settled in a perhaps a different way than the book of Joshua would suggest. And in fact, as we come to the book of Judges we’ll see that actually, the Bible itself suggests that the story of Joshua is not entirely what was the facts on the ground at that point, suggesting a much more diverse reality than this one could have complete, completely being conquered. Finally, we’re still left with the book of Joshua in our Bible. So even if the destruction didn’t happen in the way that the book of Joshua describes it, the book and its theology are still in our scriptures. And it’s difficult to imagine that the message of God, or the genocide is the message of the book for God’s followers today. The theology and ethics of the book of Joshua are problematic and deserve to be wrestled with. But the overarching imperative of the book, which is to be completely faithful to God, as he is completely faithful to us, is one that we can hear today with ready ears, I think.
Joseph Stuart: Well, so what do we do then, with the book of Joshua, recognizing its historical limits as we understand history today and understanding aspects of its problematic theology or ethics?
Kristian Heal: One of the ways that we can engage with it is by looking at some of the big overarching themes. Themes, which still have resonance and significance to us today. One of these fascinating themes of the whole book is the notion of the promised land.
Dorie Cameron: So the promised land as a narrative device as an image, carries a lot of baggage in modern culture. When I think of the promised land, I think of epic music playing as they enter into this valley. I think of Dorothy approaching the Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz, of finding Narnia in the wardrobe. It’s something beautiful, it’s been adopted by immigrants, it’s been adopted by African American slaves looking for something better. When we talk about the promised land, it represents an escape, it represents hope, it’s something to look forward to. I’m also going to be the pessimist here and say that that is not what the promised land actually is. So first of all, I want to place the promised land in the context of the entire journey narrative. So at the very beginning of all of this back in Egypt, we had the Exodus, and then it was followed by the journey through the wilderness, and it is concluded by entry into the promised land. This is a pattern that repeats throughout the scriptures, not just in the Bible, but also in the Book of Mormon, in the Doctrine and Covenants, in other forms of non scriptural literature. You leave out of a place of trial and suffering, you journey through a desert or a wilderness where you are tested, where you learn to rely on a greater power. And then in a final test, you prove your faith in that power and you are granted entry into the promised land. The narrative that is set up throughout this first part of the Old Testament is an almost perfect rendition of the journey, this type. You might also recognize it from the Book of Mormon. Lehi and his family exodus out of Jerusalem, they travel through the wilderness and across the sea and having proven their faith and having been refined they land in the promised land. In this case, not Canaan or Jerusalem. In this case, it’s America. Similar thing happens with the Jaredite people in modern Latter-day Saint theology, we may point to our pioneer ancestors who exodused out of New York or Ohio or Missouri or Nauvoo, traveled across the plains and landed in Utah where Brigham Young said, “This is the place.” It’s compelling imagery. It makes us look forward to a place where we can be blessed, where we can relax, where we can have peace, where we can avoid our enemies. Again, I’m going to be the party pooper here and say that, that doesn’t exist. The promised land, in so much as we think of it in our modern culture, does not actually exist.
Joseph Stuart: So what do you mean by that? Because it seems to me that we can think about a plot of land being a choice or a chosen land, like we read in the Book of Mormon, or a promised land like it was like the narrative that we have in the Old Testament where Judah settles. How could we think more productively about what a promised land is, Dorie?
Dorie Cameron: The first plot of land that was blessed or set aside by God was Eden. And I think that’s what we’re actually thinking of, when we have this modern idea of a promised land. It’s a place where there is no strife, there are no enemies, there’s no pain, we can just relax and enjoy the weather. But with the fall, Eden no longer exists. We cannot attain that until the next life, until we have gone through all of that process. But as far as what the promised land actually is, I want to first remove the idea of land. And in this case, it is an actual plot of land that God is giving to the Israelites. God gives this land to the Israelites because he can. Why? Because the land belongs to God. It belongs to Yahweh or Jehovah. God created the entire Earth. In a sense, the entire thing is his land. I want to instead focus on the promised aspect of the promised land. In Latter-day Saint theology when we talk about promises, we are almost always talking about covenants, and that is what this is. God has chosen to make a covenant with the people of Israel. I think it’s significant that they are called the people of Israel and not the people of Jacob. Israel is the name given to Jacob as part of his covenant with God. So in a sense, the people of Israel are not blood descendants of Jacob. Rather, they are part of this covenant. There are some accounts that Egyptians came out of Egypt who believed in the God of Israel, and were a part of this group that entered into Canaan. In modern Latter-day Saint theology, we believe that the Abrahamic covenant is a matter of faith, of choosing to make those covenants and not purely a matter of blood or descendancy. So when the Israelites enter into Canaan, they are not claiming this land as part of a blood right. They are being given this land by God as part of this covenant. The covenant is laid out pretty well in Joshua Chapter 24. In the traditional way. First, God introduces himself what he has done for His people. He has blessed their fathers, he has brought them out of Egypt, preserved them through the wilderness, and then he gives his requirements that you do not worship other gods. You keep all of my commandments, specifically the ones that I gave to Moses, followed by the blessings of keeping this, of keeping this covenant. You will be able to keep this land. You will be protected from your enemies and you will have joy and peace in the land followed by curses if you do not keep this covenant, all bets are off. When God makes a covenant, he is bound to follow through if we follow through on our end. “I the LORD am bound when you do what I say, but when you do not what I say, ye have no promise.” In Joshua 24 It is well recorded that the people of Israel agreed to the requirements of this contract, this promise. As we get on and to the New Testament, we will start to see what happens when they are keeping this covenant. And we also see the backlash of when they do not keep this covenant because God does indeed follow through on both ends.
Joseph Stuart: In discussing this, I’m thinking about what our own promised land might look like, not necessarily the Garden of Eden or Jackson County, Missouri. But what might it look like?
Dorie Cameron: That is a very good question. A promised land is a place prepared by God for you. It’s a promise. It’s not necessarily a physical piece of land. I think I’ve encountered some promised lands in my life. On my mission, I feel like Ohio was a promised land for me. I think there are places that my family has moved where they found it was a promised land for them, it was what they needed. God has a very tricky way in his own way of putting us in places where he can bless us, where he can teach us what we need to learn, where we can see the full bounty of his blessings. And again, it does not need to be a literal land or location. It’s largely a matter of covenant keeping. If we keep our covenants, we make those covenants with him, we follow through on what we choose to do. God then has free rein to pour out all of his blessings, fulfill all of his promises, which as we learned from reading the book of Joshua, he does indeed follow through on his promises and then some. The way that the Israelites enter into the Promised Land, enter into Canaan by crossing the Jordan River is powerful in its imagery, but also didactic. It teaches us metaphorically, symbolically what entering into this covenant looks like. They enter into the Jordan River. Which first of all, it’s a perfect mirror of the Exodus when they crossed the Red Sea. It’s a perfect bookend to this entire journey, however, where the Israelites crossed the Red Sea after it was already parted, the Israelites had to wade into the water a little bit before it would part. So there was a very real act of faith in there. They had to enter into what typically embodies chaos and destruction, this running water, in order to see those blessings. Entering into the water may also remind the Latter-day Saint or Christian of baptism. Entering into the river, both the Red Sea and the Jordan River, the place where Christ would later be baptized, should definitely remind the reader of the covenant of baptism. After they have crossed this river, they make more covenants appropriate to this dispensation. They perform circumcision, they purify themselves, they do all the things required of them for their covenants, and then the Ark of the Covenant follows in front of them. They put their covenants first God goes before them. The entire thing is about God’s promises and his covenants.
Kristian Heal: You’ve given us a really beautiful kind of reading here, I think Dorie, of an idea that’s so potently presented in the book of Joshua and it kind of reminds us that scripture is sort of constructed to teach us these powerful lessons. On the contrary I was looking at Joshua, made a point that it’s all about boundaries, and crossing boundaries, thresholds, establishing boundaries. And it seems that this notion of promised lands, which I really love how you’ve presented that, has to do with kind of crossing these thresholds, these kind of liminal moments in our life, where we go from one place to another, from one phase to another, from one state to another. And it really opens up, I think, the possibilities of sort of thinking about promised lands essentially, as God leading us. These are the moments when God is leading us, then promised land seem to be involved in our lives.
Dorie Cameron: Exactly. Yeah, there’s not a lot of rest involved. Even when they were entered into Canaan, they still had a lot of work to do. I don’t think it’s surprising that 40 years previous, when they had sent out spies to see this so-called promised land, they were hesitant because it was not ready made, there would be some, shall we say remodeling that had to be done. And even when they had conquered, they were still surrounded by enemies. They still had work to do, setting up a government for one, agricultural work, it was not a restful place. There was still work to do. Nevertheless, it was a place God could bestow upon them his full blessings, which in this particular case, a permanent settlement where they could build a temple.
Joseph Stuart: Thanks so much for that Dorie and Kristian. Early Christians also read the book of Joshua and read it in ways that I think we can benefit from. Could you tell us more about those readings?
Kristian Heal: Christians did see in the book of Joshua, all kinds of interesting applications for themselves, all kinds of principles that were taught through this book, which were applicable to this new community of followers of Christ. As they looked back, they saw examples of faith in the story. They saw examples of how following God involves the application of faith. One particular author of fourth century Syriac Christian, who is known by the name of Afrahat, wrote a series of sermons in which he draws examples from the scriptures, rich examples where he put clusters together to illustrate particular virtues and to illustrate particular connections between the Old Testament and the New. And in one of these homilies called Demonstrations and Contemporary Scholarship, he writes about how Joshua was an example of faith. And it goes as follows.
“Joshua son of Nun also divided the Jordan through faith, and the Israelites passed over as in the days of Moses. It was also through faith that Joshua, Son of Nun, threw down the walls of Jericho, and they fell without any struggle. They also destroyed the 31 kings through faith and gave the land to the Israelites as an inheritance. It was also through his faith that he stretched out his hands towards heaven, stopped the sun in Gebian, and the moon in the valley of Ayalon. And they stopped in their tracks and stood still. In summary, all the righteousness our fathers were triumphant and all the things they did through faith, as a blessing apostle testifies concerning them through faith they prosper.”
These same experiences also illustrate other virtues that Joshua exhibits; for example, Afrahat reminds us that Joshua the Son of Nun had great success by his prayer before God. His prayer divided the Jordan, knocked down the walls of Jericho, and brought trouble to Arkhan in the valley of Aghor. He held back the sun and immobilized the moon, eliminated kingdoms and subdued the country and caused the Israelites to inherit the land. So the same experiences which illustrate faith, also illustrate prayer. And so what is happening here is this new reading of the story of Joshua, that are pulling out from it examples that can be applied to the lives of this new Christian community. As we look back to their scriptures, do we take the message of this book and apply it? So we have the examples of faith, we have the examples of prayer, and as he’s talking about fasting, Afrahat does something interesting in that sort of points out actually, that Joshua’s victories were not Joshua’s victories. They were God’s victories, and that he worked through the Archangel Michael in establishing these victories for Israel. And so teaching the point that often spiritual forces are acting in our lives in ways that we’re not aware of, bringing him back good things for us. So this is what Afrahat has to say about this. “It was Michael” he said, “about whom God spoke to Moses, ‘Behold, my angel will go before you and will eliminate from before you the Amorites of the land.’” That’s from Exodus 23. It was he who appeared to Barlum’s donkey when Barlum was about to curse Israel. Afrahat then goes on to tell us about Joshua and the angel. “He also appeared to Joshua, Son of Nun with his sword drawn,” Afrahat tells us. “Standing in the plane of Jericho, when Joshua saw him he thought he was one of his adversaries and said to him, ‘Are you with us or one of our enemies?’ Michael replies, ‘I am the leader of the armies of the Lord and now have come.’ It was he who knocked down the walls of Jericho before Joshua Son of Nun, and it was he who also destroyed the 31 kings before him.”
Dorie Cameron: Michael’s response in that, it implies he is not necessarily with the Israelites. Rather, he is working directly for the Lord and God is no respecter of persons.
Kristian Heal: Yeah, that’s a really great point Dorie. One of the reasons that Afrahat keeps calling Joshua by his full name, Joshua Son of Nun, is because Joshua’s name in Syriac and in Greek is exactly the same as the name of Jesus. These sound different in the modern English translations, but they are exactly the same name. Jesus’s name was Joshua. That’s the same as Joshua is in the Old Testament. So this quickly and easily made it possible for Afrahat to draw connections between the life of Joshua, Son of Nun, and the life of Jesus. And so he does this in two places in his sermons. One is in a series of a sermon when he’s talking about circumcision and how relating the principle of circumcision from the Old Testament, the Law of Circumcision, to his new setting within the Christian community and talking about circumcision of the heart. He has this lovely comparison between Joshua and Jesus and showing how Joshua is a type of Jesus. And this goes as follows:
“When he and his people crossed the Jordan, Joshua Son of Nun, circumcised the people a second time with a blade of flint. Jesus our Savior, circumsized a second time with the circumcision of the heart, the peoples who believed in him. They plunged into baptism and were circumcised by the blade of his word which is sharper than a two-edged sword. Joshua, Son of Nun, brought the people to the land of promise. Jesus our Savior promised the land of life to all those who had crossed the true Jordan and who believe and circumcised the foreskin of their hearts. Joshua, Son of Nun, set up stones as a witness in Israel. Jesus our Savior called Simon the true stone and established him as a faithful witness among the peoples. Joshua, Son of Nun celebrated the passover in the plain of Jericho, in a cursed land and the people ate the bread of the land. Jesus our Savior celebrated the Passover with the disciples in Jerusalem, a city he had cursed. Not one stone will be left on another stone. There he gave the mystery in the bread of life. Joshua, Son of Nun, condemned the greedy Akon who stole and hid. Jesus our Savior condemned the greedy Judah who stole and hid money from the box that he was holding. Joshua, Son of Nun, destroyed unclean peoples. Jesus our Savior threw down Satan and his army. Joshua, Son of Nun, made the sun stand still in the sky. Jesus our Savior made the sun set at noon when they crucified him. Joshua, Son of Nun, was the savior of the people of Israel. Jesus was called the Savior of the peoples of the world.”
So for Afrahat, these parallels seem especially obvious because of this connection between Joshua and Jesus. He returns back to this connection, drawing on repeating some of the parallels that he has established already but also drawing on a new set of parallels where he talks about the Christians being persecuted and has a long series of examples of people who were persecuted for the sake of their belief. And this develops for Afrahat into this comparison between the people who were persecuted and Jesus, who for Afrahat is the great example of someone who is persecuted. Now we have to think a little bit just for a moment that Afrahat lived through some of the great persecutions within the Persian empire and saw people put to death for their belief in Christ. So in this second comparison series, he introduces additional ways in which Joshua Son of Nun is just like Jesus our Savior and this goes as follows:
“Joshua, Son of Nun, was also persecuted just as Jesus, our Savior, was persecuted. Joshua, Son of Nun, was persecuted by the unclean peoples and Jesus our Savior was persecuted by the foolish people. Joshua, Son of Nun, took the inheritance from his persecutors and gave it to his people. Jesus our Savior took the inheritance from his persecutors and gave it to the foreign peoples. Joshua, Son of Nun, made the sun stand still in the sky and took vengeance upon the peoples, his persecutors. Jesus, our Savior, made the sun set in the middle of the day so that the persecuting people who had crucified him might be ashamed. Joshua, Son of Nun, divided the inheritance for his people and Jesus our Savior promised to give the people the land of life. Joshua, Son of Nun, gave life to Rehab the prostitute and Jesus our Savior gathered together and gave life to the prostituted assembly. On the seventh day, Joshua, Son of Nun, overturned and tore down the walls of Jericho. On the seventh day, which is the Sabbath and the rest of God, Jesus our Savior will make this world dissolve and fall apart. Joshua, Son of Nun, stoned Akon who stole from what had been devoted to God. Jesus our Savior separated Judah from the disciples, his friends, because he had stolen from the money for the poor. When he was dying, Joshua Son of Nun set up a witness for his people. When he was taken up, Jesus our Savior set up a witness for his apostles.”
So this reading of the Book of Joshua that focuses on exemplary virtues and Christological typology as a perfectly legitimate Christian reading of the text. Scriptures for Christians are meant to be profitable, to teach us how to become more virtuous and also typological, to draw out the ways of the Old Testament lives that point forward to the works of Christ. This is inspiring. But of course, it’s not completely satisfactory. It may not be completely satisfactory, to a modern reader, as the only way to read a text. It seems then that perhaps an authentically Christian reading of the Old Testament needs to be respectful in its understanding of the history, theology, and artistry of the original authors. Ethical in what it embraces and rejects of the texts practices and admonitions. Faithful in seeing Christ promised in the scriptures. And redemptive in seeing how the scriptures can be transformative in our own lives, and Dorie gave us such wonderful examples of this in thinking about promised lands. It’s often easier to do these things one at a time. But I think we want to aspire to a reading of the scriptures that is both historical and faithful, ethical and redemptive. The book of Joshua offers us a challenging test case for just such an aspiration.
Joseph Stuart: That’s a lovely place for us to stop today. Have a blessed week y’all.
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