Sunday, November 5, 2017

Joshua: Chapter 8

Learn to lie.
Learn to trap.
Learn to circle round from the back,
weapon clenched in upraised hand.

[For full chapter, click here
With the exorcism of Ahan, the worse seems to have passed. The Children of Israel are no longer infected with the contigion of herem; God once more speaks as comforter rather than in "fierce anger," telling Joshua "do not fear, and do not be lowered." Yet even though God speaks as he did "at the first" (one of the key phrases of this chapter), something fundamental has changed.

From a world of miracles and open revelation, we move to a world of tactics. There is a huge chasm between the capture of Jericho, and the destruction of the Ai. The fall of Jericho does not require warfate in the usual sense of the word. The warriors circle silently, doing nothing. On the seventh day, after seven circles, the walls of the city fall away--just as on the Jubilee year of seven-seven, all human ownership falls away. God's presence is palpable, and His central command is to restrict human action: "do not open your mouth." And after the victory, the command not to try to approparite this victory: all spoils are to be herem to God. 

In Ai, by contrast, God acts as a tachtician. He does not provide victory--only the information that can allow Israel to win by their own means. Yehoshua, under the direction of God, plans a sophisticated ambush that takes advantage of the Ai's own over-confidence (an echo of Israel's over-confidence in the previous chapter). The mistakes and failures "of the first" are used to Israel's own advantage here, as the backup (two?) ambush parties attack the undefended city, leaving the main force to turn around and wipe out the war party. The leitwort  of this chapter is "hand", emphasizing the role of human action: if in Jericho, the inhabitants "hearts" melted, here, the warriors of Ai don't have a "hand." Emphasing the change is Joshua's hands, which remain upraised trhoughout the battle--an echo of Moses' upraised hands in the battle against Amalek.  Yet in contrast to Moses' empty hands, upraised to heaven, Joshua's hands hold up a spear, emphasizing the importance of tachtics and weapons. 

The violation of the Herem moves us out of the world of divine Precense and into the human realm . The spoils now belong to the people rather than God.
 The chapter ends with an enactment of the covenanat at mount Gerizim and Eival that Moses commanded before his death--a covenant that emphasizes the human role in recording the Torah. It is unclea if the stones here are the same stones taken from the Jordan. The ambigity of whether this is a new covenant or a reitification emphasies the transformation: having changed the framework of the relationship between God and Israel, the covenant must be changed as well. ]

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