One final battle, and the buildup for it is like something out of a Peter Jackson film. The final kings in the north join forces. They’re vast (“in number like the sand on the seashore”) and have superior technology to the Israelites, namely horses and chariots. It’s all set up for the big showdown, and then…
…Joshua defeats them, the end. *yawn*
Being exciting is not the point of this passage, I know. But it all ends so quickly.
Except that it doesn’t. Because later it notes that “Joshua made war a long time with all those kings” (v 18), which runs completely counter to the depictions of swift, easy victories that have characterized the story so far.
This is another appearance of the phrase “harden their hearts,” as the author/editor explains why the Canaanites didn’t just surrender by saying God did it, “in order that they might be utterly destroyed, and might receive no mercy, but be exterminated” (v 20), which puts us right back into “God is a jerk” territory. That always happens whenever the writers start with this line of logic. God basically has to make things harder to show off how awesome he is.
Why he didn’t harden the Gibeonites’ hearts, or Rahab’s, is never mentioned. Nor would any of these people really have needed heart-hardening. What they were doing was perfectly reasonable: joining forces to protect their land from outside invaders. Maybe they should have struck some alliances, as the Gibeonites did, but the Israelites weren’t too happy about having to make friends with them, so maybe that was impossible.
Basically, heart-hardening turns them into the villains. God manipulates them so that they stand and fight rather than joining forces, just so that they can be slaughtered. It’s as though the writer sort of knew that slaughtering all these people had a bad moral taste to it, so they had to have been bad in some way, but couldn’t come up with anything better than “all part of God’s puppet theater.”
Well, the invasion is now over. One chapter of recap, then on to what looks like the most boring part of the Bible ever, and I read the begats.
The Japanese: gunba “war horse” (v 4), mizuba “watering hole” (v 5), meishu “the leader, leading power” (v 10), tojou “en route, half-way” (v 17), kakutoku suru “to acquire, to gain” (v 19), haibun “distribution, allocation” (v 23).