Saturday, February 28, 2015
Joshua and God's Circle--by Linden Malki
Jericho is one of the oldest cities in the world. It is located west of the mouth of the Jordan river as it flows into the Dead Sea. This is a fertile valley, but roughly 800 ft below sea level, which makes a tropical climate. Archeologists have found fortifications going back 7-9000 years.
When Joshua and the Israelites faced the Jordan river on their return to the land God was sending them, the next obstacle they faced was the fortified city of Jericho. The inhabitants of the area at that time were Canaanites, possibly people who had migrated there from the coast. Their religion was characterized by gods and goddesses who were worshipped with fertility rituals--the Israelites had already encountered this east of the Dead Sea on their migration, and knew it was not compatible with the Laws given by God. The people of Jericho had already heard of this large migratory group of tribes moving into the area, and knew they were next on the agenda. Joshua sent spies across the river to see what they were facing. They encountered in Jericho a woman described as a "harlot" (who appears to have been an innkeeper) who not only had heard stories of these migrants but understood that they were under the care and calling of God. In return for working with the spies, she asked for mercy for herself and her family when the invasion happened.
We know the story--crossing the Jordan on dry riverbed, and Joshua being met by a messenger from God who gave him God's instructions for dealing with this challenge on their way to the Promised Land: march around the city for seven days, on the seventh march around seven times, and then let loose with trumpets and shouts and watch! There were two major instructions: no looting (there were many times this was required; they were not in this for the goodies), and find Rahab and family and get them out safely. We know that they got out, because there is a note of "Rahab" marrying an Israelite and becoming an ancestor of King David.
Jericho is one of the most interesting archeological sites in the area. There are ruins near the modern city that have collapsed walls that appear to be from the right era, and which have one small section of intact wall. I found some archeologists and scholars who think the dates are wrong for Joshua; others who see it as a match. Personally, if there there are remnants of a city with mushed walls at a reasonable dating, I'll factor it into the other historical info.
What I find interesting is that Joshua didn't seem to have made his own plans for the invasion. What we find in the book of Joshua first is God's promises to Joshua, and then he told the people to get ready to move out. The plan was given by God, and executed by Joshua. And then his next campaign failed: they didn't check in with God first, and found out that they had looters in the group. Our circles need to be God's circles; our plans His plans, and it only works if we do it His way.