It’s chapters like these where I’m grateful to have my NOAB on me. It saves me looking up what the 10th day of the first month is (v 19) to have a little note reminding you that it’s the start of Passover. So when this chapter draws a comparison between crossing the Jordan and crossing the Sea of Reeds (v 23), it’s made doubly-explicit with another parallel to the Exodus, i.e. the timing of Passover. Children asking about the “meaning” of things is yet another call-back to the Passover (Ex 13:14). It all supports the establishment of Joshua as the “second Moses”… if only the chapter wasn’t so odd to read.

It keeps backtracking, like the author forgot details. The Israelites had already finished crossing the river in the previous chapter, but then the author remembers, oh, wait, I forgot about the stones. Send twelve people back to get them while the priests carrying the ark wait. Except, wait the people haven’t crossed yet and they actually got the stones before everyone had finished? (v 10-11)

Source theory – i.e. this is two accounts merged together awkwardly – is so helpful. Either that, or you’re imagining unorganized chaos of people running back and forth across the Jordan. Admittedly there’s something humorous and humanizing about that image, but it doesn’t exactly mesh with the image of Joshua being as revered as Moses. Then again, this generation is too young to remember crossing the Sea of Reeds, which went more smoothly, so maybe they’re more easily impressed.

This story seems to be telling the origins of a memorial or holy place at Gilgal. That seems to be a fairly significant place in later history, looking at what a word search comes up with. If Joshua is really “Deuteronomist history,” it seems odd that it’s giving so much attention to what seems to have been a non-Jerusalem sanctuary. Then again, since there’s no mention of sacrifices or offerings here, this passage might be trying to affirm that Gilgal is just a memorial, not a shrine.

I guess what I’m saying is, I’m not as sure of the idea that Joshua is as unified and contiguous with Deuteronomy as other scholars seem to be. Obviously I may start noticing patterns as I go along, because they’ve done this longer than me and presumably know what they’re talking about more. So far, though, this feels more like Numbers, where stories got a little mangled and confusing.

The Japanese: sueru “to place in position, to fix, to set, to lay a foundation, to install” (v 3), kanete “previously, already” (v 4), totonoeru “to get ready, to prepare” (v 12), uyamau “to honor” (v 14), karasu “to dry up, to exhaust” (v 23).

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