Saturday, March 23, 2013

Joshua's scorched earth policy

On Monday, I started reading the book of Joshua, and I must say that it is one war after the other. Once the Israelites crossed the Jordan River, they fought and fought and fought. Lots of fighting, lots of killing, lots of destruction. To say that it's not pleasant would be an understatement.
Ready for battle???
There was the battle of Jericho, made well known by the song, Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho (sung by the great gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972).
So the book of Joshua seems to be a combination of military campaigns, land grabs, and the division of the land among the tribes of Israel. It is unclear as to how long these wars took. What is clear is that many people were killed. There were massacres and cities being burned to the ground. The Israelites took all of the valuables away with them. Kings were executed by hanging. In fact, 31 Amorite kings were executed.
So then, after the battles end, the land is divided. Each tribe received land, where that tribe settled and made its home after many years of wandering.
But oh! All of those wars! This stuff was challenging for me to read. It was violent and gruesome. I wondered about all of those people who were killed. Who were they? How did they live? What did they want out of life? What made them happy? What made them sad? Did they sing to their children at bedtime? What did they like to eat? I know nothing about them. In fact, they are depicted as somewhat anonymous and completely expendable.
So I looked for information about the Amorites. I found out that they were nomads, who wandered through areas that were known as Mesopotamia and Canaan. It was from Canaan that the Israelites sought to dispossess the Amorites. Their language would be placed in the northwestern Semitic family of languages. They had a written language, and they wrote in a dialect of Akkadian. They were ruled by kings. The Amorites were described as very tall. The Israelites described the Amorites as being as tall as cedars. Hmmm.
The fighting and fires and massacres make the book of Joshua a difficult book for me to read. I am horrified by the violence and by what I perceive to be a lack of regard for life. But I cannot begin to understand life in Biblical times.
More later.

1 comment:

  1. You're right. I haven't read much of the bible. Sounds like the past isn't much different from the present.