Joshua 15: Caleb’s daughter

16 Apr california-joshua-trees-1013tm-pic-1054~2~2

So this chapter confused me a lot – more specifically verses 16 to 19. Why did Othniel have to conquer Debir again? Hadn’t they done this already? And how did this little vignette about Acsah fit in? Doing my usual thing I googled around her name and discovered this interesting article: Caleb’s daughter: Achsah the pushy. It really helped me to understand the reconquering of the city and more about Acsah.

On Debir, the author reminded me that Israel had only destroyed 3 towns completely – a point I had noted about Joshua not destroying towns on mounds. Also the author reminded me that the Israelites had not always killed everyone in a town – their description about this is definitely worth reading. So it makes sense that since the last battle against the city under Joshua, Debir is again rebelling and seeking to push the invaders out of their land. What I had not thought about was that Caleb used this battle as a way to find a suitable husband for his daughter.

I guess I am so used to the fairytale rule that kings give their daughters to the man who slays the dragon/kills the witch etc. I never questioned why Caleb was doing this. In this case Caleb wants a man who kills giants, because then he will know he has found Acsah a husband who can definitely take care of her. (Maybe this story s the origin of those fairytales?)

The part I liked about Acsah was when she suddenly appeared at her father’s field demanding water for the land he had given as a dowry. There is a long description in the article which is worth reading, but to me it confirmed that Acsah was definitely her father’s daughter. There are not many women mentioned in the Bible but we do know that it is exceptional for women to inherit land, which means that Acsah probably had no legal rights to any land of her father’s. Yet when she discovered that he had given desert land as her dowry she was straight over to his place to demand land with access to water. Perhaps this was another little test of Caleb’s, he wanted to know that together Acsah and Othniel would fight for what they needed to survive – he knew that they could not live in this land without being demanding.

But finally Caleb reminds me of God the Father, who will always give us what we need with love – perhaps like Caleb, God sometimes just wants us to ask for it?

Joshua 14: Caleb on the land allocated to him

15 Apr california-joshua-trees-1013tm-pic-1054~2~2

This chapter reminded me of the promise made to Caleb. He and Joshua were the only men still alive from the first set of spies sent into Canaan. Caleb had been promised by God, via Moses, that due to his faithfulness he would receive the hill country and Hebron. Not only was the tribe of Judah the largest tribe, therefore deserving a large piece of land, but they were also led by a strong man ready to fight some more to take control of the land allocated to them. In my mind this deserves some extra land.

Caleb reminded Joshua of this and said that at 85 he was still strong and ready to clear the hill country of Canaanites to take possession of his inheritance. To have survived all the battles alongside Joshua, Caleb must have been a very strong warrior. Even though many of the battles had been won for the Israelites by God, they had the disaster at Ai and inevitably some people had to have died in battle along the way.

Caleb is not someone I think of often in relation to faithful warriors of the Old Testament but he deserves recognition and is a survivor par excellence. My NIV Study Bible cites the following about Caleb:

  • One of the twelve spies (Numbers 13:6)
  • Courageous (Numbers 13:30; 14:6-9)
  • Preserved when other spies perished (Numbers 14:37-8)
  • Consecrated to God (Deuteronomy 1:36)
  • Vigorous and faithful in old age (Joshua 14:10-14)
  • Invincible, drove out giants from his inheritance (Joshua 15:14)

Wow, if anyone of us are still fighting giants at 85 then I guess we can say we have nothing to learn from Caleb. One aspect of Caleb that I notice is that he must have been focused. He saw the land and he never stopped fighting until he received it. Yes, God promised him it as an inheritance but he also was prepared and ready to fight for it. This focuses me on our inheritance in Christ – how often do we ever think we need to fight for it? Caleb understood Paul’s charge to Timothy to fight the good fight (1 Timothy 6), or the charge to run the race in Corinthians (1:9) or to “press on toward the goal to win the prize” (1 Philippians 3:14).

None of these exhortations expect us to do this alone and we must start with God, like Caleb, and continuously keep to Him and the goal. We might not be fighting physical giants but there are always spiritual challenges to be met.

 

Joshua 13: The start of the division of the land

14 Apr california-joshua-trees-1013tm-pic-1054~2~2

In this chapter, the allocation of the tribal land by Moses to the half tribe of Manasseh as well as Reuben and Gad was confirmed.

What is highlighted is that there were some tribes who were never defeated and whose land was alongside and in some cases within the tribal allocations. So the Philistines continued to fight the Israelites for a long time, the people of Macaah definitely were around long enough to fight David alongside the Ammonites and the Geshurites are mentioned by Samuel later in the Bible.

division-of-promised-land-to-israel I found the various descriptions of the land a bit confusing until I found this map at BibleStudy.org. Here you can easily see the allocation of land to Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh to the east of the Jordan.

Looking at the map I find the sizes of allocations interesting in relation to the last census material. The last census was taken before Moses started the battles which Joshua finished (Numbers 26). I suppose that the tribal numbers may have changed with all the battles, but this census would have been the one used for the allocation of the land as this was done prior to the invasion.

  • The largest piece of land goes to Judah which makes sense as this tribe had the largest population of 76,500.
  • The next biggest size of land is Manasseh’s allocation which could even be larger than Judah’s when looking at the total apportionment, yet Manasseh only had 52,700 men.
  • In contrast Issachar with 64,300 was allocated one of the smallest pieces of land as was Dan (64,400) and Zebulun (60,500).
  • Asher still had more people than Manasseh at 53,400 but their allocation was not even half that of Manasseh.
  • Then Issachar (64,300), Zebulun (60,500) and Benjamin (45,600) all have more men than Naphtali (45,400), Reuben (43,730), Gad (40,500), Ephraim (32,500) and Simeon (22,200) yet they are allocated really tiny pieces of land in contrast to these tribes.

I did consider whether land per person could be allocated as more when the land was less fertile or was mountainous or desert-like, but even with this taken into account I cannot find a logic to the allocations.

Joshua 12: Lists of kings

13 Apr california-joshua-trees-1013tm-pic-1054~2~2

This chapter seems to be from Numbers as it lists the kings defeated by Israel with the number one next to them all. Perhaps this list is the last naming of some of these kings – God certainly helped the people to clear the land for His kingship. They are listed below and all except the first two were defeated by Joshua:

  1. Sihon king of the Amorites who reigned in Heshbon (conquered by Moses)
  2. Og king of Bashan (conquered by Moses)
  3. King of Jericho
  4. King of Ai
  5. King of Jerusalem
  6. King of Hebron
  7. King of Jarmuth
  8. King of Lachish
  9. King of Eglon
  10. King of Gezer
  11. King of Debir
  12. King of Geder
  13. King of Hormah
  14. King of Arad
  15. King of Libnah
  16. King of Adullam
  17. King of Makkedah
  18. King of Bethel
  19. King of Tappuah
  20. King of Hefer
  21. King of Aphek
  22. King of Lasharon
  23. King of Madon
  24. King of Hazor
  25. King of Shimron
  26. King of Acshaph
  27. King of Taanach
  28. King of Megiddo
  29. King o Kedesh
  30. King of Jokneam
  31. King of Dor
  32. King of Goyim
  33. King of Tirzah

What a litany of death and destruction. Peeking ahead I am pleased to see that this seems to be the end of war for Joshua, and us, in the Book of Joshua.

Perhaps I have found the continuous fighting for Joshua so hard to read because I often find life to be a series of fights. Joshua’s faith and leadership and determination have always inspired me, but this chapter by chapter, battle by battle approach is almost exhausting. The inspiration I find in this chapter is that at some point God gives us rest from our battles.

Joshua 11: Defeat of the Northern Kings

12 Apr california-joshua-trees-1013tm-pic-1054~2~2

This chapter contains disturbing images that may offend sensitive readers. Rather than dwelling on these I focus on the fact that in this case Joshua and the Israelites were acting in self defence. The northern kings came together in a formidable alliance and they had to defend themselves.

The Kings aligned against Joshua were Jabin king of Hazor, Jobab king of Madon, and kings of Shimron and Acshaph. The army is described in Joshua as “as numerous as the sand on the seashore.” (verse 4). Joshua with God’s help defeated this extensive army and goes on to burn the capital cities and kill everyone in them. Verse 13 is an interesting aside where it says Joshua did not burn any of the cities on mounds. Presumably this is because he could use these cities? This is the reason given by various critics when I searched online. But I don’t understand why he burnt any of the cities as surely all of them would be useful? And what if there was a capital city on a mound? I guess he would destroy capital cities as these probably had the heart of the previous regime entrenched within them even the religious institutions would have been there too.

After this extended campaign of destruction, the final verse of this chapter says that the land had rest from war. I am sure the people were relieved to rest too.

There are numerous wars happening at this moment across the Earth. I am sure that most of them were started by someone who earnestly believed they were defending their home, their religion, their rights or their history; and the conflicts continue because the premise of defence means there was an opposition to defend against. The Old Testament describes the ongoing dilemma of the human problems based in fear. Jesus’ focus on not being fearful hits this point exactly. It also covers the issue that hate is not the opposite of love, fear is the opposite of love. So when Jesus to focus on teaching people not to fear and to trust Him, as well as to love Him and our neighbours as ourselves – He was treating the human condition described again and again in the Old Testament’s wars.

I am not discounting that God ordered the battles – God also gave those people who wished to become part of the Israelites by worshiping Him the opportunity to survive.

Joshua 10: Conquering the southern kings

2 Apr california-joshua-trees-1013tm-pic-1054~2~2

At this stage, Joshua and the Israelites had conquered Ai and Jericho, and made peace with Gibeon. In chapter 10 the conquests come thick and fast, starting with the defeat of the the five Amorite kings who attacked Gibeon.

That battle is known for Joshua asking God to stop the sun so they could have sunlight to finish the battle. God also killed more men with giant hailstones than the Israelites killed themselves. This battle accounted for the defeat of Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem, Hoham king of Hebron, Piram king of Jarmuth, Japhia king of Lachish and Debir king of Eglon. After killing these kings, Joshua destroyed Makkedah.

Joshua then took the cities of Libnah, Lachish, Eglon, Hebron and Debir. When he had finished the Israelites controlled the land from Kadesh Barnea to Gaza and from Goshen to Gibeon.

Joshua proved himself to be a strong military leader, under God. Many of the kings they captured he executed. Whilst I understand that the peoples of Canaan Joshua was detroying worshipped pagan gods with often terrible rituals and sacrificial practices; I still find it sad to think of the destruction of so much. It is clear that once the Israelites left Egypt they would have to attack people to find land or be destroyed themselves. There was no other way. They were a vast multitude of people and they needed land and homes.

What is clear though, is that after not listening to God with regard to Gibeon, Joshua is careful to consult God at every encounter thereafter. God was with him and gave him numerous victories.

In our lives, the victories are seldom military in nature but they are none the less important. The characteristics valued by God and developed from the Holy Spirit within in us are faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love according the 2 Peter 1. Learning to love our neighbours under Jesus and the Holy Spirit is also arguably more difficult than wiping them out – depends on your neighbours I guess. 

The idols we fight against are more indisidious and more difficult to destroy as they are so often in our hearts and minds. The places that God told the Israelites to keep only for Him. The battles we fight are still to Love the Lord our God with all our hearts and souls and minds, and to love our neighbours as ourselves. We cannot do this without Him, any more than Joshua could lead the Israelites without Him.

Joshua 9: Again they forgot to ask God

1 Apr california-joshua-trees-1013tm-pic-1054~2~2

I would have hoped that Joshua learnt from his experiences with Ai, yet in this chapter again he makes a covenant with a people who deceive him and the others leaders. They believed the people came from far away and yet they were actually their neighbours.

No one asked of God whether it was a good idea or not, and suddenly they had people living next to them who they could not subdue (as they had agreed with God they would). Joshua’s make do solution was that the people from Gibeon became the woodcutters and servants of the Israelites.

Yet as I write this I think of the times I did not ask God for guidance, or I thought I did but I did not listen for a reply. It is difficult to figure out where we need His guidance and where we should step out in faith, trusting He will stop us. I don’t know the answer except that if we continuously try to seek His face then surely it will be easier to hear Him.

Perhaps Joshua was finding leadership a little overwhelming. When Moses was alive Joshua had spent a lot of time in the Tent of the Tabernacle before God. Suddenly he was the centre of attention, everyone probably wanted his advice on this and his opinion on that; and he was leading the people into battle and into diplomatic alliances. Perhaps he simply did not have much of a chance to sit before God?

How often do we seek the busyness and responsibility of leadership not realising how much we will lose in peace with God? Joshua did not really have a choice, God made him the leader but even then Joshua made mistakes.  What a relief it is to know that a man who had lived before God and learnt from God’s friend, Moses, made mistakes and “forgot” God.

Most of us don’t have a nation depending on our decisions, but does that make them any less important to God? Sometimes I think simple small decisions for God, made when no one is around, are even more important than the big world changing decisions.

 

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