ERA 5: Conquest and Judges
This Era covers Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel Ch 1-8 (Primary Narrative Books) and Ruth (Supplemental Book)
The Book of Joshua
Author and Date:
Joshua probably came into its final form through the work of the inspired redactors of the Deuteronomic tradition in the mid-sixth century BC.
The Deuteronomic writers were responsible for the bulk of Deuteronomy as well as for several other books comprising what is called the “Deuteronomic history”: Joshua, Judges, 1-2 Samuel, and 1-2 Kings.
The sacred writers of Deuteronomic history likely drew content from many oral and written accounts handed down from the various tribes from the twelfth to sixth centuries BC.
Joshua also has some content taken from the Priestly tradition, notably the list of possessions inherited by the various tribes (cf. chapters 13-19)
Joshua and all the Deuteronomic histories were intended for the Tribe of Judah as well as all of Israel as a way of preserving their history and traditions while providing the theological context for all the People of God had experienced.
Joshua is a historical narrative with deep theological meaning.
It links the Pentateuch to the history that follows, clearly indicating the continuity in the leadership under God’s blessing, handed down from Moses to Joshua
The overriding theme of Joshua is the FAITHFULNESS OF GOD to his covenant DESPITE the infidelities of His Chosen People.
God kept his promise to the patriarchs by liberating his people and leading them to the Promised Land, of which they finally took possession in Joshua.
They entered Canaan almost ritually, in what is described in terms akin to a religious procession, and enjoyed great victories in battle AS LONG AS THEY REMAINED FAITHFUL.
The conquest of the Promised Land, however, was not the end of the covenant.
Joshua RECONSECRATED the people of Israel to the covenant and engaged them in a renewed pledge to keep the Law and Commandments that they had been given.
While the journey to the Promised Land had ended, the pilgrimage of salvation history toward REDEMPTION IN CHRIST was just beginning. (*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
1406 BC to 1050 BC
What else was going on in the SECULAR WORLD?
Building projects of Pharaohs Seti I and Rameses II
Egypt was the World Power at the time
This is a very exciting period
We went from the Desert Wanderings (Tan) to the lush, green land of promise, Canaan (and that is why it’s green)
It’s not green means go
There is going to be a lot of struggle
This time period is not clean
Even though God is with his People, it is not always clean, the road is not always smooth
It is marked at times by struggle and sometimes catastrophe
Even today people believe that because God is with us, life should be easy
The question will be: Will the Israelites learn to TRUST GOD?
The last period left off on the eastern side of the Jordan River looking WESTWARD across the Jordan
You could see Jericho
You could even see Jerusalem way up on the hill
Joshua and Judges are the main narrative books
The Book of Ruth takes place in the midst of Judges
There are really 2 major sections: The Conquest of Canaan, and then the Judges
The main character is Joshua
Moses died on Mt. Nebo in Modern-day Jordan
Joshua takes the Israelites across the Jordan and it is very dramatic
The waters of the Jordan River will be rolled back about 8 MILES UPSTREAM all the way to a city called Adam
The Canaanites worshipped Baal
The two principal “gods” were Ashtera and El and they have a baby “god” named Baal
Baal was the god of fertility, god of the waters and agriculture
So God MOVES that water all the way upstream
Everyone in Jericho is going to see this
The manna will cease
The young men will be circumcised
Then they will take Jericho (pretty epic story how this happens)
Then they will DIVIDE AND CONQUER during a NORTHERN AND SOUTHERN CAMPAIGN
But the Israelites don’t take ALL the land
They take the HILL COUNTRIES
And the Canaanites take the LOWLANDS
In modern warfare, that would seem like an advantage
In ancient warfare, chariots were the advantage and they were now down in the lowlands
Numbers and Exodus were like MILITARY BOOT CAMP OR TRAINING for the Israelites
Now, IT’S SHOWTIME
Now was the time to put their faith INTO PRACTICE
The last words in Deuteronomy Ch 4 and 6 from Moses were that they had to live their lives that THERE WAS ONLY ONE GOD and they HAD TO TEACH THEIR CHILDREN THIS
Canaan was a land where they sacrificed children and intermarry
They go in and possess the land, but YET AGAIN they do not do what God commanded them to do
So we will have all kinds of interesting stories
This is the period where all of our questions are going to come about
Why did this happen?
Why did that happen?
I’m used to it after 81 days ;)
All of the land will be divided up among TRIBES
Go look at your maps in the back of the Great Adventure Bible (Or google it)
You won’t see any land for Joseph or the Levites
Joseph has two HALF-TRIBES (Pop Quiz!! Which were the two half tribes? EPHRAIM AND MANASSEH!)
The Levites did not have an inheritance of LAND
The Levites have 48 cities throughout the Land where they minister to the Israelites
The Lord said to the Levites that they wouldn’t have any land to inherit because GOD HIMSELF is their inheritance
The Israelites were isolated and protected in the wilderness
But now that they are about to enter the Promised Land, THEY MUST NOT FORGET GOD
That is why THEY MUST TEACH THEIR CHILDREN
This is why THEY MUST BE UNIQUE AMONG THE CANAANITES
The Israelites loved to intermingle with pagans
If this is going to be The Promised Land, the Israelites had to live in a certain way
You and I need to have a certain attitude when we read these stories
Do NOT approach these stories with CYNICISM OR SKEPTICISM
Approach these stories with FAITH AND TRUST (I understand it is difficult for some of us. You know what you need to do then, if you have difficulties? PRAY AND ASK GOD FOR UNDERSTANDING!)
We tend to approach Scripture from 2 attitudes
Some of us read these Scriptures and say, “God is on trial. I don’t like this. This doesn’t fit. This would not fly today. Ok, God, EXPLAIN YOURSELF! I’m finding you wanting in these stories”
Approach it like St. Thomas suggests
God is not ARBITRARY
Approach these scriptures from TRUST
“I KNOW that God is FAITHFUL.”
“I KNOW that God is MERCIFUL.”
“I KNOW that God is JUST.”
St. Augustine says, “If I can’t understand it, I have to dwell here a little longer until I can SEE what I NEED TO SEE.”
Your perspective when it comes to these stories WILL BE CHALLENGED
Remember, THIS WAS WRITTEN FOR YOU!
This was written TO ENCOURAGE YOU!
This is ULTIMATELY ABOUT YOU!
What happens to Israel certainly happens to us
“PLEASE, LORD, MAY OUR RESPONSE BE ONE OF FAITHFULNESS BECAUSE WE HAVE LEARNED ABOUT JESUS CHRIST!”
What is your attitude going to be as you read these stories?
DO NOT STOP READING!
The Blessings and the Curses (Ok, Fr. Mike is about to drop some knowledge)
Some people did not like this part
If you were FAITHFUL you had BLESSINGS
If you were UNFAITHFUL you had CURSES
It seemed that God was trying to instill “THE FEAR OF GOD” in them
It seemed that God was trying to BUY THEIR AFFECTION OR FAITH
When you KEEP READING, the very next day in fact, Moses said that God visits those curses on the unfaithful SO THEY COULD REPENT
It is NEVER about the curses
The END IS NEVER MEANT TO BE DESTRUCTION
The End is that God allows these curses and destruction to be upon the unfaithful SO THEY COULD REPENT AND TURN BACK TO GOD
This is what we will see, a cycle of UNFAITHFULNESS and then DESTRUCTION and then REPENTANCE
Joshua looks at the landscape and what the choices they have out there, “AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE, WE ARE GOING TO SERVE THE LORD” (BAM!!!!!)
This is the question we should ask of ANYONE who reads the Bible
Who are you going to serve?
This leads into the next book, the Book of Judges
At the end of the Book of Joshua, Joshua dies and suddenly the Israelites did not have a leader
They end up going through a rather lengthy period of time WITH NO LEADERSHIP
They enter into a cycle that is DEADLY
It repeats 7 TIMES in the Book of Judges
Sin--->Servitude (SLAVERY)--->Supplication (Please, God deliver us)--->Salvation (God raises up a JUDGE almost like a WARRIOR KING and they receive victory)--->Sin AGAIN
This happens over and over 7 times in Judges
We are tempted to think, “Yo, Israelites, what’s the deal? Why didn’t you guys get it?”
Because they didn’t
They keep forgetting
Just like WE do
We just forget
We just turn away
We let ourselves DRIFT
If they would JUST REMEMBER…
In the Christian life, we are called not just to make the decision for Jesus to be the Lord of our lives ONCE
But EVERY DAY, EVERY MOMENT we must make this decision
Jesus is PRESENT WITH YOU RIGHT NOW
What is Jesus calling you towards?
EVERYTHING IN OUR LIVES is under Jesus’ dominion
JESUS MUST BE THE LEADER OF OUR LIFE
But our big temptation is TO FORGET THIS
There are 12 JUDGES
They are not all one after the other, sometimes there was more than one at the same time
One WOMAN, Deborah (which means “buzzing bees” in Hebrew)
The most famous of the JUDGES was SAMSON
He was a good looking dude with amazing hair
He was a practical joker
He LOVES women
He also took a vow (POP QUIZ! Which kind of vow? NAZIRITE VOW!!)
This vow meant the person was SANCTIFIED to God, NOT A PRIEST
It could be a MAN OR WOMAN
No CUTTING HAIR, which was a sign of covenant FAITHFULNESS
Then Samson meets Delilah
She wasn’t an Israelites
She was a PHILISTINE
And then, the poop hits the fan
Samson regularly seems to break his Nazirite Vow
Samson and the lion: he eats honey out of the carcass of the lion which was breaking his vow since you were not allowed to come into contact with a dead body
Not all the JUDGES were great people, though they do the job
Even though they were CALLED by God, and God could USE THEM, they weren’t always role models for us to follow
One of the keys to reading the Bible is to UNDERSTAND SOMETHING
These are all stories, but they are part of A BIGGER STORY
That bigger story is the STORY OF SALVATION HISTORY AND GOD’S FIRSTBORN SON AMONG ALL THE NATIONS ISRAEL
This is the story of the COVENANT RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
What we see in Samson, who has a pretty great story to be honest, is a MICROCOSM of the MACRO REALITY of ISRAEL
What happens to Samson individually is really happening to the ENTIRE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL
They were supposed to be HOLY
They end up getting entangled with the neighboring pagan nations like the Philistines
What makes Israel STRONG is their UNIQUENESS in their COVENANT WITH GOD
Delilah goes after what makes Samson so unique
Once that happens, Samson starts toying with sin
In a sense, we toy with VENIAL SIN and that makes us more susceptible to MORTAL SIN
Samson ends up giving up his secret to Delilah, his covenant faithfulness
His hair is a metaphor, in a sense, of that relationship
He loses his strength
This was not a simple children’s story
What was Samson’s strength?
No, because if that were true, I got you all beat ;)
When you lose COVENANT FAITHFULNESS, you become WEAK, you become BLIND, and you become like ALL THE OTHER NATIONS
We see this even in the Book of Revelation
All 7 Churches were not faithful and lost their usefulness in the drama of the world
This is a HUGE lesson for us
Let us look at OUR OWN LIVES when we read about Samson
Scripture can be a MIRROR
Scripture can be a FLASHLIGHT
Scripture can be like SANDPAPER
Samson did not even realize that the Spirit of God had left him
I don’t ever want that to happen to me, do you want it to happen to you?
Israel may not have been the biggest, strongest, or the best nation
But THEY WERE CHOSEN
God has chosen to be AMONG THEM
God has chosen to use them TO BLESS THE WORLD
That’s what makes them UNIQUE
We are now in the AGE OF THE CHURCH
God has CHOSEN US
Not because of our beauty, power, wisdom, or strength
God CHOSE us because GOD LOVES US
God wants us to EXPAND his blessings to the world
As Christians, we have to live like that, or else we are JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE
I PRESUME that God will be there EVEN IF I COMMIT THIS SIN
But there comes a time where it is going to be YOUR LAST DAY ON EARTH
YOU DO NOT KNOW WHEN YOUR LAST DAY ON EARTH IS
Presumption is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS
There is some good news (I just saved 15% by switching to Geico…..oh wait nevermind)
God is a God of FORGIVENESS
God is a God of SECOND CHANCES
We live in a world where EVERYTHING IS PERMISSIBLE and NOTHING IS FORGIVABLE (Cancel Culture, anyone?)
You do you, but we won’t forgive you
If that was the case with Samson, he would not have renewed his covenant
The last thing Samson did was to bring down the “gods” of the Philistines
So remember that even though we live in this kind of world where no one is willing to forgive anything, GOD FORGIVES
Samson’s hair does grow back, don’t worry
Samson prays to God to once again to give him the strength to defeat the Philistines, and God answered in a powerful way
Let that be the MIRROR for you
In the beginning of Judges and in the end, notice one phrase: “Every man did what was right IN THEIR OWN EYES”
We must resist the temptation to say we know what’s best and not trust God
That was the attitude of the Israelites during the Book of Judges
Doing what is right IN OUR OWN EYES does not lead to FAITHFULNESS
It doesn’t even lead to HAPPINESS
The Book of Judges is PROOF that THINGS CAN GET WORSE no matter where you are
Yes, God is working in the story
But, they were also choosing NOT TO BE FAITHFUL
God used broken Judges to bring his people back to a place of FAITHFULNESS
Jeff Cavins predicts a lot of us will ask about the utter destruction of the cities, what’s up with that?
#ASKJEFFCAVINS every Thursday at 2 pm EASTERN TIME on Facebook
Trust Jeff, we are going to get into this
It is a complete holocaust to God
Was there a purpose?
Was it justified?
(also see my notes below from WALKING WITH GOD)
Takeaways: take stock of the movements in your own heart as Israel goes through this period
The Israelites are going through a rocky road by doing what’s RIGHT IN THEIR OWN EYES
After this era is the ROYAL KINGDOM ERA
Israel will finally say that THEY WANT A KING
Take stock of the movement of your own heart so you can go from feeling alone, with no direction, no leadership, TO THANKING THE LORD, YOUR GOD
THANK YOU LORD YOU HAVE GIVEN ME DIRECTION
THANK YOU LORD YOU HAVE GIVEN ME LEADERSHIP
THANK YOU LORD MAY I BE FAITHFUL TO YOUR PLAN
THANK YOU LORD MAY I BE FAITHFUL TO WHO YOU ARE
Avoid the temptation of PUTTING GOD ON TRIAL
Avoid the temptation of making this be about SOMEONE ELSE
THIS IS ABOUT US, THIS IS INCREDIBLY PERSONAL FOR ALL OF US
The period of the Conquest and Judges opens with Israel on the threshold of the Promised Land.
A mixture of excitement and fear fills the people: excitement at entering this land flowing with milk and honey, fear at what will be the cost to take possession of the land from its current inhabitants.
This story of new beginnings and new ordeals can be divided into two acts, the first covering the book of Joshua, and the second covering the book of Judges.
As the book of Joshua opens, Israel is armed with the covenant laws of Deuteronomy, ready to cross the Jordan River and take possession of her new home, but two questions remain: “Who will lead God’s people from this point forward?” and “Will Israel (and the pagan nations in the land) choose faithfulness to Yahweh?”
In the book of Judges, Israel enters the Promised Land with a series of great victories, but follows them with a repeating cycle of sin that causes Israel to spiral downward into darkness.
However, a hint of light shines as two foreigners place their trust in the Lord, entering into the people of God and becoming part of the line that will lead to a king and future messiah.
A New Leader
Moses led Israel out of Egypt and through the desert these forty years, but he will not lead them into the Promised Land.
Moses’ mantle passes to Joshua, whom Moses chose, mentored, disciplined, and ordained to leadership.
Joshua, along with Caleb, remained faithful to God when the first generation refused to enter Canaan; now he will lead the second generation into the Promised Land of the patriarchs.
As the book of Joshua opens, Joshua’s position is confirmed by God’s call and promise that “I will be with you” (Jos 1:5).
This is the first of many recurring parallels between these two great leaders.
Just as Moses had led Israel out of Egypt through the Red Sea on dry land, Joshua leads Israel out of the wilderness across the Jordan River dry-shod.
Joshua is instructed to “put off your shoes from your feet; for the place where you stand is holy” (Jos 5:15), just as Moses had been commanded to remove his shoes at the burning bush (Ex 3:5).
Joshua’s contact with the holy enables him, as it had Moses, to represent God to Israel, as well as Israel to God.
These parallels serve to remind the reader that although the human leadership changes from generation to generation, it is the same Lord who rules from age to age.
The Moral Problem of the Conquest
While the time of the conquest contains many marvelous events, it also casts a shadow that cannot be ignored.
What are we to make of the command for the utter destruction of the Canaanite tribes in Israel’s conquest of the Promised Land (Dt 20:16-17)?
How can such a mandate, located at the heart of Israel’s Scriptures, be the will of God?
Can the God of the Old Testament who commanded “thou shalt not kill”—the God made manifest in Jesus in the New Testament—mandate genocide?
If one is to sort out these difficult questions, it is instructive to recall how Jesus himself interpreted other difficult instructions of the Deuteronomic law.
For example, although Moses permits divorce, Jesus condemns it in no uncertain terms.
When questioned why Moses allowed for it (Dt 24), Jesus responds, “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce, but from the beginning it was not so” (Mt 19:8).
Notice that Jesus equates the “law of Deuteronomy” (or the “law”) with the “law of Moses” (what Moses allowed) and NOT with the “law of God.”
What is more, Jesus states that at least some of these laws were custom-made for HARD HEARTS. (I’m gonna harden my heeeaarrrrrttttt. I’m gonna swallow my teeeeaaaaarrrrs…..I saw Quarterflash in concert once when they opened up for Rick Springfield, my very first concert 😁)
Jesus’ critique of divorce illustrates that the later laws of Deuteronomy 6-26 WERE NOT GOD’S ORIGINAL PLAN but were concessionary and thus temporary in nature and authority.
The idea that much of Deuteronomy reflects concessions to human weakness, rather than the positive will of God, is found throughout Jewish rabbinic tradition, which recognized that the only law given directly by God on Sinai is the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments (Ex 20; Dt 5).
The laws from Deuteronomy 6-26 are ascribed to Moses and often called the Law of Moses.
Indeed, “Deuteronomy” means “second law” (deutero meaning “second,” nomos meaning “law”).
The Church Fathers saw Deuteronomy as a secondary law code given after the golden calf and therefore representing a “Plan B,” so to speak, for God’s people.
Modern scholars also recognize a distinction and observe that the Ten Commandments are given in direct discourse from God, whereas the rest of the laws are given in indirect discourse, thereby distinguishing the authority of the Ten Commandments from the other laws.
Jesus’ critique, however, SHOULD NOT be simplistically reduced to the notion that the New Testament overturns the Old Testament, for Jesus bases his teaching about the indissolubility of marriage on the Old Testament book of Genesis.
But, like the prophet Malachi, who quotes God as saying, “I hate divorce” (Mal 2:16), Jesus recognizes that in Deuteronomy God allowed “laws that are not good” (Ez 20:25) because of Israel’s hardness of heart and attachment to pagan custom and worship.
Such laws radically depart from God’s will manifest from the beginning of creation.
Given this background, we are better equipped to understand Deuteronomy’s legislation of “the ban” (in Hebrew, herem): the genocidal destruction of the peoples of Canaan.
As with divorce, herem is a concession that does not reflect God’s original plan.
When the Exodus began, God told Moses he would “drive out” the inhabitants of the land from before Israel (Ex 23:23-33).
Indeed, God says he will send a “terror” before Israel and drive out the people with “hornets” (Ex 23:27-28).
Exodus makes no mention of herem warfare.
Rather, the people occupying the Promised Land will flee before Israel, with no need for battle or slaughter.
It is only after ISRAEL’S APOSTASY AND REBELLION that Moses gives directions regarding warfare and herem.
It would seem, then, that slaughter and warfare were not in God’s ORIGINAL PLAN for Israel to take the Promised Land.
Israel’s failure to trust God and enter the land a generation earlier, along with their proclivity to follow the other nations in practicing pagan idolatry, results in their having to forcibly clear out the inhabitants of the land.
While Israel’s sins and lack of trust necessitate a forcible removal of the pagan nations, the sins and wickedness of the pagan nations also enter into God’s allowing warfare and the timing of the return to the land (Dt 9:4-5).
Long before the Conquest, God had foretold to Abraham that his descendants would not be freed from Egypt and given the Promised Land until “the iniquity of the Amorites is complete” (Gn 15:16; emphasis added).
Because of their wickedness, the Canaanite tribes are made to perish before Israel and driven from the land.
Yet God shows no partiality, as he warns Israel that if they sin as the Amorites had, then they, too, will be driven from the Promised Land (Dt 8:19-20).
Crossing the Jordan
Just as God parted the Red Sea for the Exodus, so now he parts the Jordan River at the height of the spring floods for Israel’s entry into the Promised Land (Jos 4:19).
Psalm 114, recognizing the parallel between these two crossings, says:
The sea looked and fled,
Jordan turned back.
The mountains skipped like rams, The hills like lambs.
What ails you, O sea, that you flee?
O Jordan, that you turn back? (Ps 114:3-5)
The only reason for the sea fleeing and the mountains quaking is the presence of their Creator, who is present at Sinai in the thunder and lightning and also at the Jordan with the Ark of the Covenant.
No barrier, be it sea or mountain, can stand in Israel’s way when she walks with God.
The imagery of water giving way to dry ground evokes the imagery of creation.
Indeed, in both the crossing of the Red Sea and the Jordan River the term for “dry ground” (Hebrew, yabbashah eretz) repeats the word used