Day 90 (March 31): Judah and Simeon are victorious, some tribes fail to drive out Canaanites because they disobeyed God’s command, Joshua dies, Israelites turn to Baal, God raises up judges to rescues Israelites, Othniel and Ehud become judges

Good day.  If you have been reading along with us, we have just completed Joshua and moving on to Judges.  Tomorrow we are officially one-fourth the way through the Bible. And, I have a feeling that the lessons and wisdom is going to get more plentiful as we go.  If you are reading BibleBum for the first time, WELCOME.  This is a blog where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.  For background information on Judges, go to Enjoy!

Judges 1-3:30

Questions & Observations

Q. (Judges 1:6): What is the practice of cutting off thumbs and big toes?  I remember something with priests and some kind of ceremony where toes or feet were included.  Another thought: To be a leader takes a good amount of risk of your own life, even today.  But a point that might be worth noting is did any of the leaders who followed God ever get killed?

A. The act of cutting off toes and thumbs was a common mutilation of this era.  This disfigurement caused the man to be no longer fit for military service, as he could not march or carry a weapon such as a sword or spear.

Regarding Israel’s leaders, we will see some of them get into trouble, but only those who are unfaithful.  The first king of the nation, Saul, dies in combat, and we will see how Samson’s unfaithfulness to God causes his downfall later in this text.

Q. (1:20): I remembered you said that Anak’s people where the “giants” who scared the Israelite scouts because of their size.  I just looked up Anak and my Bible dictionary said that he and his descendants were part of the Nephilim that we talked about in Genesis.  They were ancient heroes, a product of sexual relations between heavenly beings and humans.  I am surprised this came up again.

A. Honestly, I suspect part of the reason it is mentioned in Genesis at all is because the descendants of this Anak settle in the land of Canaan.  If you look back at it, you can see a bit more clearly now why the author of Genesis (whoever it was) spent all that time looking at family lines: they keep coming up because the descendants are still around.

Q. (1:21-36): Several of the tribes failed to clear their land of Canaanites.  Is there a reason? 2:1-5 gives us the answer, right?

A. You got it.

Q. (2:10): I think we see a pattern here of one Israelite generation following the word of God and then the next generation falls from obedience.  Thank goodness we have the Bible to show us that following the Lord has to be a constant practice.  We have to teach it to our kids, so if they stray, they have Christianity as their foundation and will likely come back.  Then, they teach their kids the same thing.  Any comments on the patterns?

A. It appears what keeps happening is that these “next” generations are taking for granted what God had provided to their families, and just as God (through Moses) warned them (Deuteronomy 6:12 and 8:11), when they forgot God, they tended to make bad decisions.  That appears to be the pattern.

I think we can see this in the lives of our own families.  People who started with nothing and worked their way into wealth would be much more likely to appreciate what they have, but their children, who do not know poverty, are much more likely to take the wealth for granted, even if the parents warn them not to.  I do think that teaching our kids to trust in Christ is, obviously, a worthwhile goal, but we have to ensure that we are really trusting in Him, and not just our wealth or possessions, because kids see through facades like that.  If we try to fake it, or don’t give God our whole heart, I think our children will be much more susceptible to the types of corruption that we see in this story and throughout the Bible.

Q. (2:11): Why were the false idols so attractive to the Israelites.  Is it because they could see the idols, where God is not visible?

A. That certainly would have something to do with it.  I think a majority of the problem is that the gods such as Baal and Asherah had their power related to things such as crop growth and fertility, both of which were crucial to the survival of the people.  Just like us today, the people were seduced by the voices of others telling them that all they had to do was put this faith in this product or this god, and they would be taken care of.  In a way, it is remarkable how close we are to that very pattern in our consumeristic thoughts today.

Q. (2:16): Will we find out who the judges are?

A. I guess I don’t understand the question.  The point of the book is to reveal the way that God raised up leaders from the people (which the book calls judges, but they are more like tribal warlords at this point) to deal with the series of crises that arise during the book.  If you’re dying to know right now, the introduction at the top of the page lists the major judges and what they did.

O. (2:21-23): I love when the answer to a question is right there in plain sight, “I did this (no longer drive out nations that Joshua left unconquered) to test Israel — to see whether or not they would follow the ways of the Lord as their ancestors did.”  I think that many times, I need wait a little longer for answers.  I get impatient.

Q. (3:15): Why is someone being left-handed important enough to mention?

A. My notes indicate two reasons this was noticeable.  First, the tribe Ehud is from, Benjamin, means “son of my right hand,” so the reference is somewhat ironic, and is perhaps a bit of humor on the authors part.  The other thing that IS crucial is that being left-handed, Ehud could conceal his dagger on the opposite side where it would commonly be searched for on his right side.  This is probably what allowed him to sneak the dagger into the king’s chamber and assassinate him.

Q. (3:21-23): This scene sounds like something from South Park.  (I have not watched it in 14-15 years, but what I remember is that it’s pretty vile humor.)  Why is this in the Bible?  I don’t mind.  It offers some comedy.  Also, this version says that he escaped through the latrine, which has a footnote that it could be a porch and that the Hebrew translation is uncertain.  Maybe it was through the bathroom window, onto the porch? Ha.

A. I don’t really have a good answer to this question.  The author is recounting what he was (I assume) told happened.  Ehud skillfully assassinates the king, and even if it is (sort of) humorous, he deals a major blow to the enemy and then brings peace to the entire nation for almost 100 years.

Q. (3:25): Can we assume that he committed suicide?  Not important, right?

A. I think you’ve misread the passage.  Ehud killed him, but (morbidly) lost his dagger in the process.

Q. (3:30): So there was peace for 80 years.  Because of the calm, we can assume that Ehud was a follower of God?

A. Yes.  When the story tells us that God raised a person up, it is a person who follows Him faithfully.  That’s the pattern that is set and will be followed.

Day 89 (March 30): Easterners return home after years of battles, Easterners build altar to preserve memory of union between Western Canaan and Eastern Canaan, Altar sparks controversy but quickly resolved, Joshua delivers final words to Israelites, Joshua renews Israel’s covenant with God, Joshua dies, Eleazer dies

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.

Joshua 22-24

Questions & Observations

Q. (Joshua 22:10-34): So, there was a big gap in communication here.  Apparently, to build another altar to sacrifice would have been severely disrespecting God’s wishes?  But, the 2½ tribes didn’t build it for sacrifice; they built it as a reminder.  The reminder serves as a bridge between the Israelites east of the Jordan and those west of the Jordan.  The easterners were concerned that the westerners may not allow the easterners in to worship the Lord and make sacrifices?  I was under the impression that the tribes’ borders were transparent and they could just flow between the territories, but always belong to one.  Was there hostility between them?

A. It reads to me as though the Eastern tribes were saying, “Everything is great now, but what happens in a hundred years when every one of us is long dead?  Will our people still be welcome?”  So they set this plan in motion to build a reminder that they are in fact a united people.  I think that the Western tribes were willing to go to war to ensure that the Eastern tribes hadn’t given up on God, but all was well once the emissaries were able to talk.

Q. I feel like we are going through a big change now.  Joshua and Eleazer both died without appointing a new leader.  That gives me a feeling of bad things to come.

A. I don’t want to spoil a good story (Judges is a good story), so I’ll just say that we will see the way that God will provide for His people in their hour(s) of need.

And, that’s the end of Joshua.  Tomorrow, we start Judges!

Day 88 (March 29): Joshua’s land, cities of refuge, Levites territory

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.

Joshua 19:49-21:45

1 Chronicles 6:54-81

Questions & Observations

O. (Joshua 19:50): I am just paying attention to notable tidbits about the tribes and who comes from which one.  I did look up which tribe Joshua came from — it had slipped my mind.  It is the tribe of (drumroll, please) Ephraim, one of Joseph’s sons.  I just thought that it was predictable, yet interesting and noteworthy, that he chose his own tribe to live among.

Q. (20:1-9): There sure is a significant amount of scripture given to the cities of refuge.  Why were they so important?  It sounds like a simple, logical idea, yet so much text is devoted to their conception.  Are there any particular cities of refuge that we should make note of?

A. According to my notes, the cities were important because they prevented blood feuds between families, which would be the result of potentially endless life for life retribution.  I can’t give you a really good explanation as to why they get so many verses, but it appears that the cities provided an important cog in the Israelite system of justice.

As to the cities themselves, in this area, the city of Kedesh, was not an important place at this point (it was consecrated in this reading), but the other two sites are important to note: the city of Shechem was the site where Israel renewed its covenant with God in Joshua 8.  Joseph’s bones will be buried there in our next reading.  Hebron — in addition to being the land given to Caleb — was among the most important places in all of Canaan, as it was the place where Sarah died way back in Genesis 23, and would subsequently be the resting place of many of the patriarchs and their wives: Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and Leah (Genesis 49:29-50:14).

On both sides of the Jordan (remember there are 6 cities total), there is a city in the north, south, and middle of the Israelite territory, in order to ensure that no one has to go too far in order to be protected.

Q. (21:2): There seems to be a lot going on at Shiloh.  Is it the city where the leaders settle?

A. Yes.  As mentioned, the Tabernacle is setup in Shiloh, and it will serve as an unofficial capital until David moves the capital to Jerusalem in 2 Samuel.

Q. (21:6): I don’t ever think we talked about why Manasseh split.  Did they act as one tribe after the split or two?

A. Joseph’s son Manasseh got the single largest share of the Promised Land, and if we consider the Transjordan area as part of their territory as well, then their allotment is truly huge.  Because of the major geographical barrier between East and West (the Jordan river), as far as I can tell, the tribes acted more like two than one.  The Bible does not tell us why the tribe split in half, but it appears that some of the families of Manasseh wanted to stay in the Transjordan area, while others wanted to enter the true Promised Land.

Q. (21:43-45): In today’s society, we have expectations of immediate gratification.  We want something, we charge it and hopefully pay later.  In these times, God makes a promise to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and on to Joseph and Moses among all the other faithful Israelites.  However, they did not get to see the Promised Land.  It seems almost unjust that these men of God did not get to enjoy the fruits of their toil.  Were expectations different back then? Something promised to your descendants would mean so much to you that you would go to great lengths to make it happen, and never enjoy it yourself?  Or, does the Bible say anything about they are there enjoying it in spirit?

A. As the story in Genesis told us, the land was not directly promised to Abraham, but rather to Abraham’s descendants, and renewed with Isaac and Jacob.  So, I think that God was perfectly up front with these men about what He was promising.  It did appear to be enough for each of these men that their families — more than 400 years later — would receive the blessing that had been promised to them.

This part of the OT does not talk much about the afterlife — though it never says there isn’t one — but rather a person’s success or failure comes with having descendants who will carry on your heritage, and hopefully succeed more than you did (something we frankly all want for our kids.  We just don’t always define “success” they way they do).  So not only is God promising Abraham and his sons that they will still HAVE descendants in more than 400 years (by no means guaranteed), but that his family will be huge, prosperous, and able to take an entire area of land with God’s help.  That sounds like an amazing promise, and I think it surely would have been enough for them to hear the ways that God would be faithful.

Day 86 (March 27): Allotments for Judah, Ephraim, and West Manasseh

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.

Joshua 15:20-18:18

Questions & Observations

Q. (Joshua 15:63): This is the second time I have seen a passage that says the Israelites could not drive out some of the people.  What is the purpose of God allowing this?

A. These other nations appear to be a test of the people’s resolve, and their ability to follow God’s orders.  Much like the 10 spies who came back proclaiming, “giants” to scare all the people, we will see the Israelites fear the iron weapons that some of the tribes possess, and they will make decisions that go against what God has told them to do.  God has made His will clear: all the tribes in the land are to be removed by force.  But Israel has, with the Gibeonites, and will continue to violate this requirement by making more treaties, or not trusting in God and losing the subsequent battle (we will see this in Judges).  So basically, what is happening is not what God desires, which could be the definition of sin in that sense.  Even today, God often allows us to make bad decisions, and then live with the consequences in the hope that we will learn from our failures.  That appears to be why God is allowing these other nations to continue.  Much like our bad decisions, the decisions that Israel is making in this period will be costly.

Overall, even with the land “conquered,” there will still be many battles to fight, because many of the tribes that Israel will face are powerful and will not surrender easily.  David will achieve great victories over some of these nations, including victory at Jerusalem where he will establish his capital, but that’s a long way off.

Day 85 (March 26): 31 kings defeated, Lands east and west of Jordan divided, Caleb gets Hebron,

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.

Joshua 12:7

Questions & Observations

Q. (Joshua 13:1, 14:10): From reading about these battles, the text makes me feel like the battles happened real fast, but I guess that wasn’t the case if Joshua is getting old.  So, we can tell from Caleb that the Israelites have been battling for 45 years.  When God told the Israelites that they would receive the land He promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, I didn’t have a feeling that they would have to fight for it.  I thought after all that misery of slavery, escaping from Egypt and wandering in the desert for 40 years, that the land of milk and honey would be ready and waiting for them to relax.  Why did they have to work so hard for the land?

A. The events described in the first 12 or so chapters do appear to take place quickly, but what Joshua is doing is establishing a beachhead of sorts in the land.  From here, the long process of taking the entire land happens over a generation or more – 45 years according to the verse you point to.  I don’t know exactly why it takes so long, but I guess it has to do with settling in new towns and taking over the old ones, which is probably not a fast job.  The central victories that are won in the first few chapters do tell the story though: Israel established itself as the dominant power in the region by destroying Jericho and Ai (along with the other battles mentioned), and from there, the battle is already won, they simply have to complete the task.

Q. Is there any significance to how the territories are laid out?

A. Honestly, not as far as I can tell.  There will “be” significance, if you will.  That is, the territories will become important for future direction of the story, but this is really an establishing moment, and I don’t think there is much significance to the locations at this point.  Here’s just one example: some of the tribes that border other regions (Dan in the north for example) will be more susceptible to the corruption of other tribes because Israel fails to drive out all the people that God tells them to.  We’ll see how this plays out.

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Day 84 (March 25): Israel defeats southern towns, Joshua kills five southern kings, Southern towns destroyed, northern armies destroyed, kings east of Jordan defeated

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.

Joshua 10-12:6

Questions & Observations

Q. (Joshua 10:9-10): So, although the Gibeonites had tricked Israel into giving them favor and thus protecting them, the Lord, through Joshua, showed them grace because they acknowledged His power?

A. Once the oath of allegiance had been sworn, the matter was settled, and Israel would at that point be responsible for the safeguarding of their servants.  That is likely why the Gibeonites had the expectation of Israel coming to their rescue.

Q. (10:26): Is there anything more discuss about impaling the kings other than it’s a sign of victory and warning to the Israelites’ enemies?

A. The execution involved being hung on a tree, even though technically they were impaled (isn’t the Bible fun!), which would have been a demonstration of their cursed nature, as mentioned in Deuteronomy 21:22.

Q. (10:28-42): This is a lot of bloodshed.  Were these towns’ residents evil or was the destruction just part of God’s wishes to clear the area and give it to the Israelites?  Are any of the towns that were destroyed connected to any Biblical character we have studied thus far?

A. The implication is that the people in this area had grown evil and corrupt.  God is telling Israel, “here’s the deal: your job is to purify this land for me, and then it is yours. Just be careful, because if you become corrupt (and they will), I’m going to bring an invading force to destroy you just like you destroyed these people.”  The areas mentioned, such as Jerusalem, have some passing reference: Jerusalem is where Abraham met with Melchizedek (Genesis 14), and will be the future capital under David and the subsequent kings.  Some of the tribes have been referred to in previous lineages, but there is nothing that is especially important for us to note.

Q. (11:20): So the Lord hardened the hearts of the kings in order to bring out rivalries, and, in turn, battle with them so the Lord can show His power?

A. It appears He did not want the other kings making terms of surrender in order to stay in the land.  It actually gives some credence to the idea that you suggested yesterday, that God desired the Gibeonites to be Israel’s servants, because otherwise He would have hardened their king’s heart as well.

Q. (11:21): Why is mentioning Anak important?   I don’t remember him mentioned from any previous reading.

A. There were references to them in Deuteronomy (1, 2, and 9).  They were the people who were, according to the 12 spies, so huge that they could not be conquered which caused Israel to flee instead of trusting God.  There are references to Genesis 6:4 here, and the creation of some sort of half human giants, for which we don’t exactly know what they mean.  But the Genesis account and these verses indicate that their descendant was Anak, which is probably the reason that he is mentioned here.

Day 83 (March 24): Achan disobeys God causing Israelites to lose a battle with Ai, culprit found and punished, Israelites defeat Ai, Covenant renewed, Gibeonites trick Israel, God is angry because Israelites left Him out of a decision

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.  Hope you enjoy!

Day 83 (March 24)

New Living Translation,

Joshua 7

Ai Defeats the Israelites

7 But Israel violated the instructions about the things set apart for the Lord.[a] A man named Achan had stolen some of these dedicated things, so the Lord was very angry with the Israelites. Achan was the son of Carmi, a descendant of Zimri[b] son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah.

1 Chronicles 2:7

The son of Carmi (a descendant of Zimri) was Achan,[a] who brought disaster on Israel by taking plunder that had been set apart for the Lord.[b]

Joshua 7:2

Joshua sent some of his men from Jericho to spy out the town of Ai, east of Bethel, near Beth-aven. When they returned, they told Joshua, “There’s no need for all of us to go up there; it won’t take more than two or three thousand men to attack Ai. Since there are so few of them, don’t make all our people struggle to go up there.”

So approximately 3,000 warriors were sent, but they were soundly defeated. The men of Ai chased the Israelites from the town gate as far as the quarries,[c] and they killed about thirty-six who were retreating down the slope. The Israelites were paralyzed with fear at this turn of events, and their courage melted away.

Joshua and the elders of Israel tore their clothing in dismay, threw dust on their heads, and bowed face down to the ground before the Ark of the Lord until evening. Then Joshua cried out, “Oh, Sovereign Lord, why did you bring us across the Jordan River if you are going to let the Amorites kill us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side! Lord, what can I say now that Israel has fled from its enemies? For when the Canaanites and all the other people living in the land hear about it, they will surround us and wipe our name off the face of the earth. And then what will happen to the honor of your great name?”

10 But the Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why are you lying on your face like this? 11 Israel has sinned and broken my covenant! They have stolen some of the things that I commanded must be set apart for me. And they have not only stolen them but have lied about it and hidden the things among their own belongings. 12 That is why the Israelites are running from their enemies in defeat. For now Israel itself has been set apart for destruction. I will not remain with you any longer unless you destroy the things among you that were set apart for destruction.

13 “Get up! Command the people to purify themselves in preparation for tomorrow. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Hidden among you, O Israel, are things set apart for the Lord. You will never defeat your enemies until you remove these things from among you.

14 “In the morning you must present yourselves by tribes, and the Lord will point out the tribe to which the guilty man belongs. That tribe must come forward with its clans, and the Lord will point out the guilty clan. That clan will then come forward, and the Lord will point out the guilty family. Finally, each member of the guilty family must come forward one by one. 15 The one who has stolen what was set apart for destruction will himself be burned with fire, along with everything he has, for he has broken the covenant of the Lord and has done a horrible thing in Israel.”

Achan’s Sin

16 Early the next morning Joshua brought the tribes of Israel before the Lord, and the tribe of Judah was singled out. 17 Then the clans of Judah came forward, and the clan of Zerah was singled out. Then the families of Zerah came forward, and the family of Zimri was singled out. 18 Every member of Zimri’s family was brought forward person by person, and Achan was singled out.

19 Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, by telling the truth. Make your confession and tell me what you have done. Don’t hide it from me.”

20 Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. 21 Among the plunder I saw a beautiful robe from Babylon,[d] 200 silver coins,[e] and a bar of gold weighing more than a pound.[f] I wanted them so much that I took them. They are hidden in the ground beneath my tent, with the silver buried deeper than the rest.”

22 So Joshua sent some men to make a search. They ran to the tent and found the stolen goods hidden there, just as Achan had said, with the silver buried beneath the rest. 23 They took the things from the tent and brought them to Joshua and all the Israelites. Then they laid them on the ground in the presence of the Lord.

24 Then Joshua and all the Israelites took Achan, the silver, the robe, the bar of gold, his sons, daughters, cattle, donkeys, sheep, goats, tent, and everything he had, and they brought them to the valley of Achor. 25 Then Joshua said to Achan, “Why have you brought trouble on us? The Lord will now bring trouble on you.” And all the Israelites stoned Achan and his family and burned their bodies. 26 They piled a great heap of stones over Achan, which remains to this day. That is why the place has been called the Valley of Trouble[g] ever since. So the Lord was no longer angry.

The Israelites Defeat Ai

8 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid or discouraged. Take all your fighting men and attack Ai, for I have given you the king of Ai, his people, his town, and his land. You will destroy them as you destroyed Jericho and its king. But this time you may keep the plunder and the livestock for yourselves. Set an ambush behind the town.”

So Joshua and all the fighting men set out to attack Ai. Joshua chose 30,000 of his best warriors and sent them out at night with these orders: “Hide in ambush close behind the town and be ready for action. When our main army attacks, the men of Ai will come out to fight as they did before, and we will run away from them. We will let them chase us until we have drawn them away from the town. For they will say, ‘The Israelites are running away from us as they did before.’ Then, while we are running from them, you will jump up from your ambush and take possession of the town, for the Lord your God will give it to you. Set the town on fire, as the Lord has commanded. You have your orders.”

So they left and went to the place of ambush between Bethel and the west side of Ai. But Joshua remained among the people in the camp that night. 10 Early the next morning Joshua roused his men and started toward Ai, accompanied by the elders of Israel. 11 All the fighting men who were with Joshua marched in front of the town and camped on the north side of Ai, with a valley between them and the town. 12 That night Joshua sent 5,000 men to lie in ambush between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of the town. 13 So they stationed the main army north of the town and the ambush west of the town. Joshua himself spent that night in the valley.

14 When the king of Ai saw the Israelites across the valley, he and all his army hurried out early in the morning and attacked the Israelites at a place overlooking the Jordan Valley.[h] But he didn’t realize there was an ambush behind the town. 15 Joshua and the Israelite army fled toward the wilderness as though they were badly beaten. 16 Then all the men in the town were called out to chase after them. In this way, they were lured away from the town. 17 There was not a man left in Ai or Bethel[i] who did not chase after the Israelites, and the town was left wide open.

18 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Point the spear in your hand toward Ai, for I will hand the town over to you.” Joshua did as he was commanded. 19 As soon as Joshua gave this signal, all the men in ambush jumped up from their position and poured into the town. They quickly captured it and set it on fire.

20 When the men of Ai looked behind them, smoke from the town was filling the sky, and they had nowhere to go. For the Israelites who had fled in the direction of the wilderness now turned on their pursuers. 21 When Joshua and all the other Israelites saw that the ambush had succeeded and that smoke was rising from the town, they turned and attacked the men of Ai. 22 Meanwhile, the Israelites who were inside the town came out and attacked the enemy from the rear. So the men of Ai were caught in the middle, with Israelite fighters on both sides. Israel attacked them, and not a single person survived or escaped. 23 Only the king of Ai was taken alive and brought to Joshua.

24 When the Israelite army finished chasing and killing all the men of Ai in the open fields, they went back and finished off everyone inside. 25 So the entire population of Ai, including men and women, was wiped out that day—12,000 in all. 26 For Joshua kept holding out his spear until everyone who had lived in Ai was completely destroyed.[j] 27 Only the livestock and the treasures of the town were not destroyed, for the Israelites kept these as plunder for themselves, as the Lord had commanded Joshua. 28 So Joshua burned the town of Ai,[k] and it became a permanent mound of ruins, desolate to this very day.

29 Joshua impaled the king of Ai on a sharpened pole and left him there until evening. At sunset the Israelites took down the body, as Joshua commanded, and threw it in front of the town gate. They piled a great heap of stones over him that can still be seen today.

The Lord’s Covenant Renewed

30 Then Joshua built an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, on Mount Ebal. 31 He followed the commands that Moses the Lord’s servant had written in the Book of Instruction: “Make me an altar from stones that are uncut and have not been shaped with iron tools.”[l] Then on the altar they presented burnt offerings and peace offerings to the Lord. 32 And as the Israelites watched, Joshua copied onto the stones of the altar[m] the instructions Moses had given them.

33 Then all the Israelites—foreigners and native-born alike—along with the elders, officers, and judges, were divided into two groups. One group stood in front of Mount Gerizim, the other in front of Mount Ebal. Each group faced the other, and between them stood the Levitical priests carrying the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant. This was all done according to the commands that Moses, the servant of the Lord, had previously given for blessing the people of Israel.

34 Joshua then read to them all the blessings and curses Moses had written in the Book of Instruction. 35 Every word of every command that Moses had ever given was read to the entire assembly of Israel, including the women and children and the foreigners who lived among them.

The Gibeonites Deceive Israel

9 Now all the kings west of the Jordan River heard about what had happened. These were the kings of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, who lived in the hill country, in the western foothills,[n] and along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea[o] as far north as the Lebanon mountains. These kings combined their armies to fight as one against Joshua and the Israelites.

But when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they resorted to deception to save themselves. They sent ambassadors to Joshua, loading their donkeys with weathered saddlebags and old, patched wineskins. They put on worn-out, patched sandals and ragged clothes. And the bread they took with them was dry and moldy. When they arrived at the camp of Israel at Gilgal, they told Joshua and the men of Israel, “We have come from a distant land to ask you to make a peace treaty with us.”

The Israelites replied to these Hivites, “How do we know you don’t live nearby? For if you do, we cannot make a treaty with you.”

They replied, “We are your servants.”

“But who are you?” Joshua demanded. “Where do you come from?”

They answered, “Your servants have come from a very distant country. We have heard of the might of the Lord your God and of all he did in Egypt. 10 We have also heard what he did to the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan River—King Sihon of Heshbon and King Og of Bashan (who lived in Ashtaroth). 11 So our elders and all our people instructed us, ‘Take supplies for a long journey. Go meet with the people of Israel and tell them, “We are your servants; please make a treaty with us.”’

12 “This bread was hot from the ovens when we left our homes. But now, as you can see, it is dry and moldy. 13 These wineskins were new when we filled them, but now they are old and split open. And our clothing and sandals are worn out from our very long journey.”

14 So the Israelites examined their food, but they did not consult the Lord. 15 Then Joshua made a peace treaty with them and guaranteed their safety, and the leaders of the community ratified their agreement with a binding oath.

16 Three days after making the treaty, they learned that these people actually lived nearby! 17 The Israelites set out at once to investigate and reached their towns in three days. The names of these towns were Gibeon, Kephirah, Beeroth, and Kiriath-jearim. 18 But the Israelites did not attack the towns, for the Israelite leaders had made a vow to them in the name of the Lord, the God of Israel.

The people of Israel grumbled against their leaders because of the treaty. 19 But the leaders replied, “Since we have sworn an oath in the presence of the Lord, the God of Israel, we cannot touch them. 20 This is what we must do. We must let them live, for divine anger would come upon us if we broke our oath. 21 Let them live.” So they made them woodcutters and water carriers for the entire community, as the Israelite leaders directed.

22 Joshua called together the Gibeonites and said, “Why did you lie to us? Why did you say that you live in a distant land when you live right here among us? 23 May you be cursed! From now on you will always be servants who cut wood and carry water for the house of my God.”

24 They replied, “We did it because we—your servants—were clearly told that the Lord your God commanded his servant Moses to give you this entire land and to destroy all the people living in it. So we feared greatly for our lives because of you. That is why we have done this. 25 Now we are at your mercy—do to us whatever you think is right.”

26 So Joshua did not allow the people of Israel to kill them. 27 But that day he made the Gibeonites the woodcutters and water carriers for the community of Israel and for the altar of the Lord—wherever the Lord would choose to build it. And that is what they do to this day.

∆ ∆ ∆

Questions & Observations

Q. (Joshua 7:25): Achan’s family was killed as punishment because maybe they knew of Achan’s sin, but hid it from everyone?

A. I’m not entirely sure, but it appears that they did so to purge the evil of Achan completely.  I would guess that as the patriarch of his family, Achan’s involvement in the theft and deceit is what got his family killed.

Q. (Joshua 8:2): Why can the Israelites keep war plunder sometimes and in other times, God tells them they can’t keep it.  Is it just a matter of obeying what God says?

A. I’m not sure if there is a pattern, but it is simply a matter of following God’s orders.

Q. (8:25): Here we get the town size of Ai to be 12,000.  Do you know if that is a typical town size?  If so, the Israelites numbers are much, much larger and should be no match for these towns.

A. It appears to be a small town in this era, according to what 7:3 tells us.  The spies informed Joshua that the area had few fighters, and could be taken without the full force.  My notes tell me that the journey from Jericho to Ai is around 15 miles uphill, which might explain why Joshua was not eager to send his whole force.

Q. (8:28-29): There are many references we have read thus far, including this one, that state the sites can still be seen today.  Why is this important for the author to convey to the readers?

A. The author appears to be marking locations throughout the nation as a way of saying, “if you don’t believe me, go see the sites for yourself.”

Q. (8:30-32): Why doesn’t God instruct the Israelites to set up the Tabernacle to offer sacrifices?  Is it because they are on the move right now?  Or, maybe they use it also as a monument to mark God’s territory?

A. The Tabernacle will be setup when the conquest is complete.  As we saw in Jericho, that doesn’t mean that the Ark is not in “use” as it were.

Q. (9:14): So, God was obviously upset with the Israelites for not confirming the identities of these travelers with Him.  So, the punishment is that these people tricked them and now they have to accept them into their society.  But, God wanted all the land wiped clean.  Was this part of his plan that the Israelites would now have laborers?

A. I couldn’t tell you for sure, but I can tell you that by making the oath he did, Joshua ensured that these people became a part of God’s plans for His nation.  There will be various references to Gibeonites throughout the OT as servants of Israel, and one location where the Tabernacle will be set is Gibeon (2 Chronicles 1:3-5).  Based upon the descriptions we saw for the Tabernacle, you could imagine that it required a lot of wood for the altar, and a lot of water for the washing basin- there appears to be a lot of menial labor associated with the Tabernacle and later the temple.  Perhaps God is making provision for His people in this way.

Thanks for joining in.  Hope to see you again!  Enjoy your day!

Day 82 (March 23): Israelites cross the Jordan, Ark parted the waters, memorial to crossing Jordan, circumcision requirement reestablished, Joshua bows to commander of Lord’s army, march around Jericho, Jericho’s walls crumble, Rahab and family saved

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.

Joshua 3-6

Questions & Observations

Q. (3:13): I like how God uses a parting of the waters again to enter into a new land.  The Israelites who witnessed this miracle at the Exodus are no longer living.  So, it is wonderful that the new generation can see the power of God parting water.  Is there anything symbolic of parting water?

A. Water was an ancient symbol of life giving deities.  By turning the Nile to blood, parting the Red Sea, and the Jordan River, God is demonstrating His power of these other false gods.

Q. (3:17): I thought the Israelites were told to stay a half mile back because of the holiness of the Ark, but here, they are passing by it.  Can you explain?

A. They were told to stay back until the Ark got to the middle of the Jordan and the water receded.  Then they could cross by it.

Q. (4:12): I notice that the warriors from the tribes that asked for the land east of the Jordan instead of west of the Jordan are asked to go first.  Is this sort of a payment of these tribes for asking for the land on the east side of the Jordan River, sort of rejecting the land that God had promised them?

A. As we mentioned yesterday, that was the bargain that Moses struck with the tribes: your leadership in battle in exchange for this good land.  As far as I know, the land on the east side of the Jordan is Canaan as well, so it was part of what God intended for Israel.

Q. (5:2): We have discussed the Lord’s requirement of circumcision of the Israelite males in Day 5’s reading (Jan. 5).  You can find it by clicking on “Index.”  Rob, anything to add here?

A. Yes, this passage indicates that exception had been made for this generation of Israel: those born in the wilderness (i.e. the generation who would take the Promised Land, as opposed to those who died out) were not circumcised, for reasons that are not explained.  The rite is simply suspended for 40 years.  This passage indicates that when Israel crossed the Jordan, the religious observances were reestablished- note that after the covenant is reaffirmed by circumcision, they celebrate Passover.  It also tells us that the manna disappears, indicating a closure to that chapter of God’s provision for His people.  My notes also tell me that it was in Canaan that Abraham and his family members were first circumcised, so doing this ceremony in the Promised Land is a way of renewing the covenant relationship that he established.

O. (5:9): I had never thought about any shame the Israelites would have carried from being former slaves.  I guess that would have been a burden to carry and now God somehow took that feeling away.

O. (6:1-5): Remember the discussion about the importance of certain numbers in the Bible?  Seven signifies completeness and fulfillment, and traces its roots back the seven days of creation.  To see other important numbers Rob told us about, see the first answer on Day 3.

Q. (6:25): Will Rahab or her descendants come up again?

A.  I don’t think so, but Rahab’s faith does get her two mentions in the NT: in Hebrews 11 (the hall of fame passage) and James 2.  Not a bad consolation, right?

Thanks for checking out!  Hope to see you tomorrow!

Day 79 (March 20): Moses reviews Covenant, God shows mercy for those who stray but return, life choices, Joshua is Israel’s new leader, Book of Instruction, Israel’s disobedience predicted

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.

Deuteronomy 29:2-31:29

Questions & Observations

Q. (Deuteronomy 29:29): This is an interesting verse.  Has God said this before that there are secrets that He has not revealed?

A. I don’t think it has come up to this point, but honestly, there will always be things about the infinite God that are incomprehensible to the finite “us.”  I don’t really like the way that this verse in translated in this version.  The NIV makes Moses’ point more carefully.  The focus is not on God and His secrets, i.e. things He has not revealed, but rather on the Law as a blessing to the people and future generations of their children.

O. (30:1-10): Yeah!  God has mercy on the Israelites.  I thought that once they sinned, they are doomed.  God is merciful.

O. (30:9-10): This passage made me smile.  It’s nice to know we can delight God.  So many times, it feels like we can either make Him happy or make Him mad.  But, the thought that we can bring joy to His heart brings joy to my heart, much like when I look at my girls and think how lucky I am that God gave them to me.

Q. (30:17): I know these commandments are for the Israelites — I never really differentiated that rules were for them and not necessarily for us today until Rob explained that — nevertheless, we can still learn from them, right?  Here Moses is telling the Israelites that if they worship other gods, they will be destroyed.  There are other false gods to worship, but I think that once you become a Christian, you are not likely to be lured by other cults, religions, etc., but we have idolatry of today: TV, work, temptations, food, alcohol, sports, anything that we give so much importance to that we forget about God.  Would you say that applying this passage to today in this way is accurate?

A. I think it is.  You have begun to see the way that we should think about idolatry today: as anything that competes with God for our attention and time.  It is anything that we trust in besides God.  Having said that, I think that we as a society are moving toward a more open view of mixed religious theology.  We usually call it pluralism, and say things like, “all roads lead to God.”  Unfortunately, this goes exactly against what Moses is teaching the people here.  We must be very careful about allowing other religious ideas to infiltrate our faith.  Intermixing their faith in God with other faiths will get the Israelites in a lot of trouble.

O. (31:1-8): Just reading this gets my heart pounding.  I imagine the Israelites thinking about how big and numerous these inhabitants were and here God said He is going to conquer them.  And now, since they did not actually see the miracles in Egypt, there may be many who doubt these commands.  But, Moses keeps reminding them of the deliverance and miracles and I’m sure their parents did — the loyal, wise ones anyway.

Q. (31:12): What is in the Book of Instruction?  The curses and the blessings?  Was this book placed in the Ark of the Covenant also?  Do any of these exist in museums today?  That’s another question.  Can you give us a nutshell version of where all of the scrolls that form the Bible were found?

A. The Book of Instruction is the Law.  It is basically some form of the previous four books we have been reading: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  I suspect the versions of the books that we have been reading were edited together to combine the instructions of the Law with the journey in the wilderness that we have been reading about.  There will be various references to copies of the Law throughout the OT, but it appears a copy of the Law did end up in the Ark.  It is very unlikely, however, that it was a copy that would have been used.  It is likely that other copies made by the priests were used for everyday study.

Regarding your other question, you’ve touched upon a complex subject: the transmission of the OT.  There’s a few things to note.  First, the oldest known copy of the complete OT in Hebrew is called the Masoretic Text (usually MT), which is a medieval copy of the OT from the Middle Ages.  We have portions of the OT that are found throughout the Middle East, but there’s a catch.  In the late BC era, the OT was translated into ancient Greek, to create a document known as the Septuagint (from the Greek word for seventy from the number of translators who worked on it).  Most of the ancient copies of the OT are Septuagints: Greek, not Hebrew copies.  Modern Jews reject the use of the Septuagint (probably because it’s the version that many early Christians, including Paul, used), and feel that only the Hebrew is valid for translation.  So while we have many fragments of the OT in Hebrew, and several copies in Greek, the oldest complete text comes from the Middle Ages.

I hear the questions rising now: isn’t that a long time?  Yes it is, but one of the coolest discoveries of modern Biblical archeology was the discovery of what is known as the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1940s and 50s- found near the Dead Sea in the West Bank.  This was a collection of nearly a thousand clay pots that contained scrolls of various sizes.  These scrolls contained various portions of nearly every book of the OT (the exception was Esther, for reasons that don’t concern us here).  The ultimate find, however, was a full-length copy of the Book of Isaiah on a 12-foot scroll.  The coolest part of the discovery: the text of Isaiah matched more than 99% of the Masoretic text, despite being more than a thousand years older!  This, I think, tells us the great care with which Jews have copied their sacred text (and the way early Christians transmitted theirs), and gives me great confidence that the copies of the Bible that we have today are accurate representations of what the original author and editors desired to write about God.

O. (31:16-18) I doubt this is news that sits well with Moses, especially on the day of his death!

Q. (31:29): So much for peace in the valley of milk and honey.  Why does the disobedience have to continue?  From reading the Bible thus far, it seems that God does have a hand in what disasters strike.  Is this just more of God testing to see who deserves His blessings?

A. The people continue to rebel against God.  And just because God can “see it coming” as it were, does not make the people any less responsible for their actions, which is part of what God is telling Moses here.  The purpose of the curses, the droughts, the conquest by other tribes, these are all tools used by God to call His people back to Him.  None of us deserve the blessings God provides for us.  Like the Israelites, our call is to be faithful to God, and He will handle the rest.

Tune in tomorrow for the Song God gave Moses to share with the Israelites.

Day 67 (March 8): Rights to Inherit land, Joshua chosen as next Israelite leader, offering rules

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.

Numbers 27-29

Questions & Observations

O. (Numbers 27:8): I never really thought about this before, but now that I have, it’s noteworthy.  God saw the importance in every being, that each one should be remembered and acknowledged — here, with land.  It isn’t just that because someone didn’t have sons that they should not have an inheritance.

Q. (27:18): Here God mentions that Joshua has the “Spirit” in him.  Does God explain anywhere thus far what he means by that?

A.  It appears to be some form of reference to the Holy Spirit at work in Joshua, but no, it is not expanded further.

Q. (28:3-8): I think this is the first time God has asked for an alcoholic drink to be offered?  Also, if there were two lambs sacrificed every day, is this meat for the priests to eat?  Or is it just burned for God?

A. You are correct, this is the first instance of an alcoholic beverage asked for, and the meat here did go to the priests.

Q. These occasions have already been mentioned, Day 55. Why are the offerings not included in the earlier descriptions?

A. I don’t really have a good answer for that.  It is simply the way it is presented.

Q. I don’t think we’ve talked about if there are reasons God asks for certain animals to be offered — ram, bull, lamb, goat, etc.?

A. These animals, and some domestic birds (doves, etc.) are the domestic animals that the Israelites have in their flocks/herds.  Each of these animals has been declared clean (what Jews today call “kosher”) by God, and this appears to be the reason He selects them for His sacrifices.  Those basically were the only animals they kept!

Q. (28:16): This festival lasts for seven days.  Of course there are the offerings, but does the Bible tell what other activities comprise a festival?  I think of our festivals now — none that I can think of last for seven days — but I doubt they have much in common.

A. You can read about many of the traditions that have come to be associated with the festivals, and sometimes in the narrative story of the OT you get some insight into what went on, but generally, no, there is not much information on the celebratory aspects of the Holy Days.  I would suggest outside reading — even the Wikipedia page — for each of the festivals to learn more about them, but we will see some festivals/rituals described in later texts.

Q. (29:12-40): Any reason God would single out this festival by requiring a greater number of sacrifices?  I can’t imagine making all of these sacrifices on one altar.  Just preparing them would take long enough and then offering them properly.

A. This particular festival (also described in Lev. 23) appears to be agricultural in nature, which might explain it.  This festival, today known as Sukkot, will come in subsequent books to be associated with the reading the entire Law every seventh year (its coming in Deuteronomy 31), so this would have been treated as both an important religious day as well.  Those are basically guesses, however.  I don’t really have a certain answer to this question.