Welcome to Joshua, the book where half the headings to the notes in my NOAB have some mention of herem. Fun times ahead!
This chapter is relatively benign, however. It picks up right where Deuteronomy left off, with Joshua being spoken to by God and entrusted with the conquest. In fact, a lot of scholars consider Deuteronomy through 2 Kings (except Ruth) to be a continual strand of narrative, what they call “the Deuteronomist History,” patched together from other sources but with common themes and outlooks. Ruth isn’t part of this because Ruth, in the older, Hebrew version, is in the Ketuviim, or “writings” rather than here in the histories – the Lesser Prophets (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings) in Hebrew.
God commands Joshua to “Be strong and courageous,” and the Reubenites, Gadites, and Manassehites end the chapter with the same request (v 6, 18). That’s an interesting command. We tend to think of strength and courage as traits, not actions that you can control. Maybe we shouldn’t. Maybe courage should be seen as an action, rather than an absence of fear. Or perhaps, by acting courageous, one becomes courageous.
This is the first time the word “meditate” has come up in the Bible. God commands Joshua to remember the laws that Moses recorded: “This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it.” (v 8) That phrase, “meditate on it day and night” sounded familiar, and sure enough a word search in oremus turned up Psalm 1.2: “their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night.” Which, in turn, is at the very end pf Sinead O’Connor’s “Kyrie Eleison,” which is a song I love.
Most of the references to meditation are in the Psalms, or in the Zokuhen*, and the law is one of the two objects of meditation. The other is God’s works and deeds. There’s multiple words translated as “meditation.” Neither suggest a formal practice like in India, but rather rumination, analysis, and deep pondering.
Still, as someone who’s interested in East Asian religions and has a heck of a time maintaining a prayer life, maybe I should start considering “meditating” as an alternative. Deep thought, reflection on scripture, is a command from God as much as trying to communicate through prayer. And it’s something I feel more comfortable doing than talking to someone I can’t see (hate telephone conversations for the same reason).
The Japanese: juusha “attendant” (v 1), tachihadakaru “to stand in one’s way, to confront” (v 5), kuchizusamu “to hum” (v 8), taigo “rank,” totonoeru “to prepare, to make ready” (v 14).
*Reminder: I’m using the Japanese because trying to be all neutral and typing Deuterocanonical/Apocryphal all of the time would be a pain.