When you’re working for the Lord. Joshua’s tenacity shows us an example of how we are to behave if given a commission from God.
But before I begin, let me say this…
So far, 2016 has had an interesting start. A lot of stories from 2015 have carried over, of course, but I am also surprised at the rapid number of notable deaths that sprung off this new year. Alan Rickman and the husband and manager of Celine Dion, Rene Angelil, were both just announced. My condolences to the families of the deceased. They have long roads ahead of them.
In other “wow” news, the scandal in Flint, Michigan just keeps getting worse. My heart breaks for those people, and I am wondering when some governmental heads are going to roll. Latest headlines report an increase in the number of reported cases and deaths of Legionnaire’s disease in the area, although public health officials are not yet saying that the tainted Flint water is the definitive cause of the spike in the disease (coincidence?? I think not!). Then, another report came that out of nowhere a $575 million budget surplus appeared. No, it didn’t come out of nowhere. It came from ripoffs perpetuated against the people of Michigan.
Flint Water Crisis–Spike in Legionnaire’s Disease
Sad to say that I do not trust our government in our home state with anything or about anything. I am so disappointed in this place. If it weren’t for a few members of my family who I know will refuse to move from this place I would leave in a New York minute. Michigan has just gotten sloppy in terms of our direction and leadership. Rick Snyder had no business being elected governor.
Before the aches and pains of my pregnancy interfere, let me get into Chapter Eight of the book of Joshua.
In the previous chapters, we saw how the sin of one man, Achan, resulted in dire consequences for the entire nation of Israel, including the loss of a battle in the city of Ai that the Israelites should have won easily had God not turned His back on them due to the presence of forbidden idols in the Israelite camp. Now, the Israelites will return to Ai, but since the sin has been purged from the camp, God will be with them, and chapter eight begins with God reassuring Joshua as such. The whole army is to go, and the Israelites are allowed to keep the plunder and livestock from the conquest for themselves.
Joshua lays out the strategy required to capture the city–he and 5,000 men with him (there are 30,000 men altogether) will draw the Ai soldiers out and then flee to a location where a second group of Israelite soldiers will be lying in wait. Once the Ai soldiers have pursued Joshua and those with him, the remaining soldiers are to ambush the city and set it on fire. Just as planned, once Joshua and his 5,000 comrades were spied out, every last man from Ai and Bethel pursued them, leaving Ai wide open for attack. The men from Ai that were in pursuit of Israel look back and see their city ablaze. They know now they have been defeated, but there is nowhere for them to turn. The Israelites stop playing possum and turn the tables on their pursuers. The men from Ai are killed from both sides–the Israelites who attacked the city have come to help, and the soldiers from Ai are surrounded. The king is spared and brought before Joshua, who impales the king’s body on a pole and left it on display until the evening. The men and women of Ai, about twelve thousand people, are put to the sword, and the city is burned into a desolate heap of ruins. At sunset Joshua orders the body of the king removed from the pole and thrown down at the entrance of the gate. A pile of rocks is then heaped on top of it.
Joshua then builds an altar atop Mt. Ebal according to the commands God had given Moses–using no cut stones or iron tools. The people provide offerings and sacrifices. In the presence of the entire congregation of people, Joshua writes the entire Law of Moses and reads it before them, every single word. Half of the people stood on Mt. Gerizim, the other half on Mt. Ebal (fulfilling Scripture of Deuteronomy 11:29 and 27:12). Joshua must have had a really loud voice, or those mountains had to be very close together 🙂
The covenant has now been renewed, and that takes us to Chapter Nine. Word of the Israelite’s victory against Ai has traveled, and the kings of other nearby nations–the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites–unite in battle against Israel. However, the Gibeonites/Hivites have decided upon a different tactic–lying to save their butts. A group of Hivites approach Israel with a very well thought-out deception. They wore worn-out clothing, empty wineskins, and the bread they had was moldy. They pretended to be sojourners in the land, not a part of the nation the Israelites were preparing to invade and destroy (vv.6-13):
“We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us.”
The Israelites said to the Hivites, “But perhaps you live near us, so how can we make a treaty with you?”
“We are your servants,” they said to Joshua.
But Joshua asked, “Who are you and where do you come from?”
They answered: “Your servants have come from a very distant country because of the fame of the Lord your God. For we have heard reports of him: all that he did in Egypt, 10and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan—Sihon king of Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth. And our elders and all those living in our country said to us, ‘Take provisions for your journey; go and meet them and say to them, “We are your servants; make a treaty with us.” ’ This bread of ours was warm when we packed it at home on the day we left to come to you. But now see how dry and moldy it is. And these wineskins that we filled were new, but see how cracked they are. And our clothes and sandals are worn out by the very long journey.'”
Well played, Hivites.
The next Scripture tells of an error Joshua and the Israelites made that could have prevented this deception–they sampled what the people had brought them but never asked the Lord about them.
I’m sure you can guess what happens next. Joshua has made a peace treaty with these people (recall that they are supposed to be wiped out) and he cannot take back his word (people took these oaths seriously back then). Three days later they learn that the people they have made the treaty with, believing that they were not neighbors, do in fact live nearby. Joshua and Co. attack the other cities, but per their oath, have to let the Gibeonites be. The Israelites are displeased and grumble against the leaders, and the leaders have to explain that because of their treaty with the Hivites, they had to spare them. They have no choice but to let them leave, but the Gibeonites will be woodcutters and water carriers for the service of the altar.
Joshua then gives the Gibeonites the what for, and they answer very honestly. They were afraid of what they knew the Israelites were capable of. Joshua places the curse on them that they will be woodcutters and water carriers, and life goes on.
A truly remarkable event takes place in Chapter Ten. Gibeonite blunder over, now it is time to move forward. Having heard of their victories and that Gibeon has allied with Israel, five kings come together to defeat Gibeon–the kings of Jerusalem (Adoni-Zedek), Hebron (Hoham), Jarmuth (Piram), Lachish (Japhia) and Eglon (Debir). They move in for the attack and Gibeon sends word to Joshua. God assures Joshua that he will be victorious in this battle (I see that Joshua remembered to consult God this time), and Joshua and his men march forward to battle. The Lord caused confusion amongst the enemy, allowing Israel to completely defeat them. As the men fled from Israel, God hailed down large hailstones, so many that more men died from the stones than the sword. Here is the passage of Scripture that describes the remarkable event I alluded to earlier (vv. 12-14):
On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel:
“Sun, stand still over Gibeon,
and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”
So the sun stood still,
and the moon stopped,
till the nation avenged itself on its enemies,
as it is written in the Book of Jashar.
The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!”
Of course I wanted to know what this “Book of Jashar” was. It is mentioned again in II Samuel, and is probably a book consisting of numerous songs and poems detailing the victories and war heroes in Hebrew history.
As we move on, we read that the five Amorite kings are cowering in a cave in Makkedah. When Joshua hears that they are in hiding in the cave, he orders some of his men to shut up its entrance with large rocks and guards. However, a few men have managed to escape the battle, and Joshua encourages his troops to continue their pursuit of any survivors. He tells them not to let the people reach their cities, but a few of them do.
Joshua and camp return to the city Makkedah, where Joshua has the five kings brought before him. He summons the commanders of the army to come forward and put their feet on the necks of the kings, telling them that ““Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous. This is what the Lord will do to all the enemies you are going to fight” (v. 25). The kings are killed and their bodies exposed on five poles until evening. At sunset the bodies are taken down from the poles and thrown into the cave in which they had been hiding. Large rocks were again placed at the cave’s entrance. The Bible says that those rocks are there to this day.
Joshua’s conquests continue. Makkedah is destroyed, Libnah, then Lachish. Horam, king of Gezer, came to the aide of Lachish and was also destroyed in the process. Next on the agenda are Eglon, Hebron and Debir. In each situation, the king of that city and the people in it are destroyed. Joshua, per God’s instruction, left no survivors. I like this line here:
“All these kings and their lands Joshua conquered in one campaign, because the Lord, the God of Israel, fought for Israel” (v. 42).
We can do all things with God, and nothing outside of God. We can be as victorious as Joshua if we are obedient and if we simply include God in our lives! If we have a decision to be made, no matter big or small, it serves us best to have a little chat about it with God first.
Chapter Eleven is an account of Joshua’s victories against the Northern kings. Several kings get together against Israel, but God assures Joshua that the victory is theirs. I’m sure you can guess that since God was with Israel, they defeated many kings and conquered much land:
“So Joshua took this entire land: the hill country, all the Negev, the whole region of Goshen, the western foothills, the Arabah and the mountains of Israel with their foothills, from Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir, to Baal Gad in the Valley of Lebanon below Mount Hermon. He captured all their kings and put them to death. Joshua waged war against all these kings for a long time. Except for the Hivites living in Gibeon, not one city made a treaty of peace with the Israelites, who took them all in battle. For it was the Lord himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the Lord had commanded Moses” (vv. 16-20).
Joshua also destroys the Anakites in the hill country. He takes the entire land and gives it to the Israelites per their tribal divisions. Then the land is given rest from war. Chapter Twelve provides a listing, a historical record if you will, of Israel’s victories.
Although the record in Chapter Twelve is definitely a notable one, we learn in Chapter Thirteen that there is still land to be conquered, and Joshua is growing older (vv. 2-5):
“This is the land that remains: all the regions of the Philistines and Geshurites, from the Shihor River on the east of Egypt to the territory of Ekron on the north, all of it counted as Canaanite though held by the five Philistine rulers in Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron; the territory of the Avvites on the south; all the land of the Canaanites, from Arah of the Sidonians as far as Aphek and the border of the Amorites; the area of Byblos; and all Lebanon to the east, from Baal Gad below Mount Hermon to Lebo Hamath”.
God informs Joshua that He Himself will drive out the Sidonians, and that their land is to be divided upon the nine remaining tribes and the half-tribe of Manasseh (leaving out, of course, the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the other half-tribe of Manasseh that decide to settle along the east of the Jordan, and of course the Levites, who were given no inheritance). Chapter thirteen then discusses how the land east of the Jordan is to be divided among the three tribes and tells us that the Israelites failed to drive out all the inhabitants of Geshur and Makaah, whose descendants continued to live among the Israelites. Here we also find out the fate of Balaam, who we first encountered in the book of Numbers, a practitioner of divinity. He is put to the sword.
And now I am starving. BAAAH! I have no access to what I am craving right now–the same thing I craved daily with both of my other kids–a Whopper with cheese and extra tomato. So I’ll have to make do. My husband is getting a kick out of my hunger pangs, but I tell you it is no joke. I get hungry within nanoseconds, and it’s not a regular hunger, it’s a “I haven’t eaten in weeks” hunger. SMH. And it’s actually quite irritating, especially, because like I just said, I always crave late at night when I can’t get what I want.
Ahh, the joys of bringing forth new life. I cannot wait for the 22nd, when I will find out whether this is a boy or a girl, and I am definitely looking forward to seeing a cute new face in June!