The Israelites made a covenant with God when they entered the promised land, but here, 30 years later, Joshua is making another with them. Actually, come to think of it, Moses made a covenant with them at Sinai too, forty years before entering the promised land. Was this an ancient pattern, renewing the covenant with every new generation? Or is this another example of drawing parallels between Joshua and Moses?
(Joshua isn’t quite as good as Moses; he only lives 110 years versus Moses’ 120.)
Joshua’s speech at his covenant is quite a bit different from Moses’ at the end of Deuteronomy. There Moses lays out the dire consequences of obedience versus disobedience, telling them to choose life or choose death. Follow God, or die.
Joshua, on the other hand, seems to almost be discouraging them from making a covenant. He tells them the story of God liberating them and all the wonder God performed, but when the Israelites hastily say that they’ll follow God, he replies “[y]ou cannot serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins” (v 19). He goes on to paint a picture of the Israelite God that wouldn’t be out of place in a Dawkins critique, saying that God is demanding, easily ticked off, and exceedingly wrathful.
So… are they allowed to back out now? Really? After everything? Without negative consequences? How would not agreeing to this latest version of the covenant not count as “forsaking” God, worthy of being punished? Would it simply remove God’s veil of protection? But that’s the chief threat used for betraying God after they sign the covenant, so how is that any different?
Or is this a way of drawing parallels between the post-conquest Israelites and the pre-conquest Israelites? That they are easily able to recognize the good deal they have going with their patron deity? It’s a confusing passage.
Well, that’s Joshua. A book about a genocide that didn’t happen but that the authors felt should have. Together with Deuteronomy (and they’re right, the two have a lot of commonalities), it’s made me reflect a lot on the insider/outsider dichotomy we often enforce in religion. While I understand why the editors of these texts were so isolationist, xenophobic, and genocide-approving, I inescapably feel that they were wrong.
The Bible being wrong isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. If it’s a text inspired by a people’s relationship with God, then it’s good to be reminded that this is one of the responses people have towards God and that relationship. Thus I found my own heroes in this book to be Rahab as she defended her family and friends, or the Gibeonites as they trick the Israelites into saving their people. These little chunks of heroism-by-deception are the highlights of an otherwise indifferently bloodthirsty little narrative.
On to Judges, where at least the Israelites are now the victim of invasions rather than the other way around.
The Japanese: mashikuwaeru “to add more” (v 3), sashimukeru “to send into” (v 6), hedateru “to separate” (v 7), idomu “to challenge, to defy” (v 9), ~nimo yorazu “notwithstanding” (v 12), rou suru “to work hard” (v 13), nozokisaru “to eliminate” (v 14), itten suru “to turn suddenly” (v 20), zaisechuu “during one’s lifetime,” motoyori “from the beginning,” zonmeichuu “while one is still alive” (v 31), maisou suru “to bury, to inter” (v 32).