Tue, 1 May 2018
Bible Study #33: The Kherem Wars of Joshua/Jesus
Warm up question (an old one revisited):
Joshua 9: The Deception of the Gibeonites
St. Ambrose. Joshua was deceived because he was good. So sacred was one’s promised word held in those days that no one would believe that others could try to deceive. Who could find fault with the saints in this, namely, that they should consider others to have the same feelings as themselves and suppose no one would lie because truth was their own companion? They do not know what deceit is, they gladly believe of others what they themselves are, while they cannot suspect others to be what they themselves are not. Hence Solomon says, “An innocent man believes every word.” We must not blame his readiness to believe but should rather praise his goodness. To know nothing of anything that may injure another, this is to be innocent. And although he is cheated by another, still he thinks well of all, for he thinks there is good faith in all [he also uses it to teach that friendship with Christ generates hostility from others].
Joshua 10: Joshua Purifies the Southern Parts
Count how many places were given over “to destruction” with nothing “left remaining”.
St. Ambrose. But how brave was Joshua the son of Nun, who in one battle laid low five kings together with their people! Again, when he fought against the Gibeonites and feared that night might stop him from gaining the victory, he called out with deep faith and high spirit: “Let the sun stand still”; and it stood still until the victory was complete [he also uses this to compare Joshua to Moses].
St. John Chrysostom. Consider how great of value is the righteous man. Joshua the son of Nun said, “Let the sun stand still at Gibeon, the moon at the valley of Elom [Aijalon],” and it was so. Let then the whole world come, or rather two or three, or four, or ten, or twenty worlds, and let them say and do this; yet they shall not be able. But the friend of God commanded the creatures of his friend, or rather he besought his friend, and the servants yielded, and the one below gave command to those above. Do you see that these things are fulfilling their appointed course for service?
St. Jerome. five kings who previously reigned in the land of promise and opposed the gospel army were overcome in battle with Joshua. I think it is clearly to be understood that before the Lord led his people from Egypt and circumcised them, sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch had the dominion, and that to these, as to five princes, everything was subject. And when they took refuge in the cave of the body and in a place of darkness, Jesus entered the body itself and killed them, that the source of their power might be the instrument of their death.
Joshua Purifies the Northern Parts
In prior readings, the king of Jerusalem had assembled four other kings with him against Jesus [Joshua] and against the sons of Israel. But now no longer does someone assemble four or five; on the contrary, see how great a multitude one person assembles.…
You see how many swarms of opposing powers and of malicious demons may be stirred up against Jesus [Joshua] and the Israelite army. Before the coming of our Lord and Savior, all those demons, undisturbed and secure, were occupying human spirits and ruled in their minds and bodies. But when “grace appeared” in the world, the mercy “of God our Savior” instructs us to live piously and purely in this world, separated from every contagion of sin, so that each soul may receive its liberty and the “image of God”3 in which it was created from the beginning. Because of this, fights and battles spring forth from their iniquitous old possessors. If the first ones are overthrown, far more rise up afterwards, and they unite into one and conspire in evil, always remote from the good. And if they are conquered for a second time, again a third time other more wicked powers will rise up. So perhaps the more the people of God are increased, and the more they thrive and are multiplied, there are that many more who conspire to assault.
What was the real target? Joshua 11:21–23 provides the answer.
St. Augustine. One should not at all think it a horrible cruelty that Joshua did not leave anyone alive in those cities that fell to him, for God himself had ordered this. However, whoever for this reason thinks that God himself must be cruel and does not wish to believe then that the true God was the author of the Old Testament judges as perversely about the works of God as he does about the sins of human beings. Such people do not know what each person ought to suffer. Consequently, they think it a great evil when that which is about to fall is thrown down and when mortals die.
St. Ephraim the Syrian. Whoever believes in me will also do the works which I do, and will do even greater ones. And where is this word which he said, “The disciple is not greater than his master” [illustrated]?6 For example, Moses killed only three kings, but Joshua killed thirty. [Moses] persevered in prayer, made supplication, but did not enter [the promised land]. It was Joshua rather who entered and shared out the inheritance.8 Likewise, Samuel was greater than Eli, and Elisha received a double portion of his master’s spirit after his ascension, like the Lord our Savior, for his disciples effected twice through their signs.
Teaching Point: Note what this implies for reclaiming the sanctified territory of our hearts and bodies!
Next Week: Judges!!!
Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Heiser, M. S. (2015). The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (First Edition, p. 205). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press. Chapter 25.