Hmm wow so it’s already been a month since my Deuteronomy review huh? My how time flies. It shouldn’t have taken me quite this long, especially because Joshua has been the shortest book so far – 24 chapters as opposed to 34 in Deuteronomy, and 50 in Genesis (which was the longest one up until this point). I think I’ve just been busy with work, and we had a couple weekends where we were out doing stuff instead of me sitting at home reading the Bible like a good girl. Anywho, so let’s get to Joshua.
What happens in Joshua? Well, you may recall that pretty much nothing happens in Deuteronomy, other than a bunch of pep talks and re-readings of commandments from Moses to the people. Then Moses dies. The book of Joshua picks up shortly after that, with the Israelites still in the desert east of the River Jordan, and just waiting for the big day to come when they can cross the Jordan and start warrin’ it up and attacking people so that they can steal their land. The good (and bad) news is that it FINALLY does happen in Joshua.
The first three chapters consist of preparation, the next couple chapters involve the Israelites crossing the Jordan (God parts the waters for them again), and then the next 6 chapters are war war war. Killing and massacring and slaughtering. It’s pretty intense and jaw-droppingly disturbing. The next 9 chapters are then spent divvying up all the stolen land and spoils amongst the 12 tribes of Israel. Then at the end, Joshua croaks. He is 110 years old. They bury him, and then the book is over. So long story short, the first half of this book keeps you pretty well on the edge of your seat (and kind of wanting to vomit at the same time), and then the second half (with all the detailed descriptions of the splitting of land with exact border details and everything) will put you right into the napping mood.
So let’s get to the good stuff and the bad stuff, shall we?
Stuff I liked:
Hrrmm … you know … I gotta tell ya … I am looking through my notes and I don’t even see one bit of these highlighted in green. Remember, I use green highlighting for any passages that a reasonable human being would consider to be “good” … i.e. something you would expect out of the Bible. You know, passages about helping out your fellow man, being kind to strangers, don’t steal, don’t lie, etc etc. But I don’t see any green in these notes. Let me check this again to see if I missed something in my highlighting … BWAHAHA … wow. I’m double checking myself with a website that I sometimes use to help me in my research, in which someone has already analyzed the bible in its entirety and cataloged all the different types of passages in the Bible: stuff that’s good, violent passages, weird stuff, contradictions, etc. They have it laid out all nice and handy so that you can click each category and it’ll just list out all the verses from that book that fall into that category. So on that website, I just clicked the link for “Good Stuff” (for Joshua) and this is what it brought up:
!!!! That’s the first time I’ve ever seen that in my Bible studies thus far. It’s no freaking WONDER I don’t have anything highlighted in green in my notes!! I mean … I’m racking my brain and the absolute ONLY thing I can think of … and it’s a real stretch … is the story of Rahab the harlot. Before the Israelites cross over the Jordan to start attacking the people of Jericho, they send two spies out to Jericho to stake it out and bring back intel. The spies hide inside the house of Rahab the harlot, and when the king of Jericho sends a couple henchmen to her door looking for the spies (after being tipped off), she lies to them and tells them that the men were there, but they have already left, and she fools the henchmen into running on to try to catch the spies.
To thank Rahab for her act of kindness, the spies agree that when the Israelites come in and massacre the people of Jericho, they will spare her and her family. And they keep their promise. But we’re in a situation here where I’m only noticing this as good because everything else these people are doing is so AWFUL. There wouldn’t be any reason they should need to spare this woman and her family to begin with if they weren’t planning on massacring the entire city. That’s like praising a serial killer for that one victim he allowed to get away. If a serial killer kills 10 people and spares 1, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve to be sentenced to like 500 years in prison. There’s also the slight problem that Rahab is praised for breaking one of God’s major commandments: Don’t lie. It seems like these commandments can be bent in certain circumstances.
So yeah that’s pretty much all I’ve got for the good stuff. Let’s move on to bad stuff.
Stuff I Didn’t Like
Given that the book of Joshua has virtually nothing in the “Good Stuff” section, that has to mean one of two things: Either a) the book of Joshua is terrible, or b) It’s just super boring and lacking in substance. Well, I can tell you that the answer to this question is pretty unequivocally on the side of option A. While I disliked Numbers due to that book being all about the planning of killing people to steal their land, Joshua is all about the execution of that plan. Which basically makes it even worse than Numbers. Here are some details:
- Jericho is the first land that the Israelites attack after they cross the Jordan towards the beginning of Joshua. Even from the point that the Israelites first make it to the other side of the Jordan, all the current inhabitants of the nearby lands are freaking out, because they have heard about how God parted the waters of the Jordan so that the Israelites could cross it. There are apparently walls around the city of Jericho, and everyone in the city is hunkering down and readying themselves for attack. So God tells the Israelites to gather all their armed men plus 7 priests carrying trumpets and the Ark of the Covenant, and have them march around the city for 6 days. Then on the 7th day, they are to march around it 7 times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. The priests then have to sound a long blast on the trumpets, then all the people have to give a loud shout, and “then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in.” So they follow God’s orders, and sure enough, all the city walls collapse, and the Israelites all charge in for a good old
fashioned blood bath. Here’s what happens next: “6:21 And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword.” (Everyone and everything except Rahab and her family, of course). After all, the city was theirs because God had “delivered” it “into [their] hands.” “6:24 And they burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein: only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD.” I strongly suggest you click on the above Brick Bible link for this one to help you with the visuals (even if it is via demented Legos).
- During the massacre of Jericho, God had instructed the Israelites NOT to take any of the spoils that were considered to be “consecrated unto the Lord,” like silver, gold, bronze and iron. In chapter 7 we find out that some genius named Achan decided to disobey God’s command during the attack on Jericho, and he took some of it for himself. So God gets pissed at all of Israel. He punishes them by allowing the Israelites to “lose” when they try to send a few thousand men to attack and take over the city of Ai. They lose 36 men, and Jacob freaks out, and asks God why. God tells him he is punishing the Israelites for Achan’s sin. He says that they need to rid their people of anyone who would commit such a sin, otherwise they will not be
successful in their future endeavors (of stealing a bunch of other cities and nations). God tells Josh to gather all the people up for a witch hunt of any guilty parties. So the next day they perform the witch hunt, and Achan admits his guilt. So naturally, Joshua then has the Israelites not only stone Achan to death, but also stone to death his sons and daughters, his cattle, his donkeys, and his sheep. Then they burn them all. More evidence of our God being a kind and merciful God.
- In chapter 8, the Israelites attack the city/land of Ai again, but this time they are more successful. God and Joshua set up a clever little gameplan where 30,000 of the Israelite army men will sneak out at night and go just outside the city of Ai, behind it, and wait there, in secret, ready for an ambush. Then Joshua and 5,000 of the other army men will go out and advance on the city, and the fighting men of Ai will come out and chase Josh and them out of the city again, just like they did last time. But THIS time, the 30,000 Israelite army men will rise up and ambush the city, once all the military men of Ai have been lured out. Then Ai will be ripe and vulnerable for the taking. So they execute the plan the next day, and once ALL the men of Ai have been lured out of the city, the 30,000 Israelite army men rise up and ambush it, and quickly set the city on fire. The men of Ai, now lured out of the city in pursuit of the Israelites, then look back and realize that their city is on fire. The Israelites then say “gotcha suckas!!” and the 30,000 Israelite army men that are in the city also rush back out of the city and help the other 5,000 of the Israelite army attack and kill all the men of Ai, except the king, who they bring back to Joshua. “24. When Israel had finished killing
all the men of Ai in the fields and in the desert where they had chased them, and when every one of them had been put to the sword, all the Israelites returned to Ai and killed those who were in it. 25. Twelve thousand men and women fell that day—all the people of Ai.” “28. So Joshua burned Ai and made it a permanent heap of ruins, a desolate place to this day. 29. He hung the king of Ai on a tree and left him there until evening. At sunset, Joshua ordered them to take his body from the tree and throw it down at the entrance of the city gate. And they raised a large pile of rocks over it, which remains to this day.” Whew!! So much love and warmth in this book of the Bible.
- The only other act of mercy that happens in Joshua is in Chapter 9 with the people of Gibeon. These people, having heard about the Israelites mowing down every town in their path, are smart enough to go and try to make a treaty with the Israelites. Except the Gibeonites put on a ruse: They purposely wear worn out cloths and bring stale bread and stuff to make it look like they are from a far away land and have been traveling for a long time to get to the Israelites’ camp, even though their city is actually right nearby. The Israelites fall for their trick and sign a peace treaty with them in exchange for the Gibeonites being their “servants”. But they then just three days later, Josh and the Israelites learn that the Gibeonites were actually lying, and Gibeon is right nearby. D’OH!! The Israelites would have wanted that land. But they decide to uphold their oath anyway, so I guess we’re supposed to respect them for this, but then they decide to enslave the Gibeonites. So, you know, very merciful and kind.
- In chapter 10, the king of Jerusalem starts freaking out after hearing about the treaty with the Gibeonites. Gibeon is a larger city than Jerusalem, and all its men are warriors. So the king of Jerusalem bands together with Hoham king of Hebron, Piram king of Jarmuth, Japhia king of Lachish and Debir king of Eglon, to form a large super-army to attack Gibeon. Joshua brings the Israelite army to defend Gibeon, and God then steps in and throws the enemy attackers “into confusion” before Israel, so the Israelites can easily defeat them. Then as the attackers flee, God kills the men fleeing by raining huge hailstones down on them. He then magically freezes the sun so it’ll stay shining for more than a full day, to give the Israelites light to continue killing the rest of the enemy attackers. The kings of the 5 enemy cities, however, had managed to escape and are now hiding in a cave at
Makkedah. Josh and co. go to the cave, kill all five kings, and hang them from a tree.
- The rest of chapter 10 and all of chapter 11 are just more of the same: attacking and killing and stealing cities/lands. Here is the final tally of destroyed/massacred lands/cities and people (in addition to what I’ve already listed above). When you read this, remember that when I say “no survivors”, I mean literally NO living thing was spared, including innocent civilians and kids and even animals most of the time:
- After all the kings are hung in Makkedah, Josh and co. then attack and kill EVERYONE in Makkedah. No survivors.
- Libnah: Total massacre, no mercy, survivors.
- Lachish: Total massacre, no mercy, survivors.
- Horam king of Gezer had come up to help Lachish, but Josh and co. killed their entire army too.
- Eglon: Total massacre, no mercy, survivors.
- Hebron: Total massacre, no mercy, survivors.
- Debir: Total massacre, no mercy, survivors.
- The rest of the southern “region, including the hill country, the Negev, the western foothills and the mountain slopes, together with all their kings”: Total massacre, no mercy, survivors.
- Chapter 11: “1. When Jabin king of Hazor heard of this, he sent word to Jobab king of Madon, to the kings of Shimron and Acshaph, 2. and to the northern kings who were in the mountains, in the Arabah south of Kinnereth, in the western foothills and in Naphoth Dora on the west; 3. to the Canaanites in the east and west; to the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites and Jebusites in the hill country; and to the Hivites below Hermon in the region of Mizpah. 4. They came out with all their troops and a large number of horses and chariots—a huge army, as numerous as the sand on the seashore. 5. All these kings joined forces and made camp together at the Waters of Merom, to fight against Israel.” But Josh and his whole army “defeated them and pursued them all the way to Greater Sidon, to Misrephoth Maim, and to the Valley of Mizpah on the east, until no survivors were left. 9. Joshua did to them as the Lord had directed: He hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots.”
- Land of Hazor: Total massacre, no mercy, survivors.
- Chapter 11 then gets hazy and says that Josh and co. took the rest of the “royal cities” and killed all the people within them, but kept the goods and livestock for themselves.
- It then says “16. So Joshua took this entire land: the hill country, all the Negev, the whole region of Goshen, the western foothills, the Arabah and the mountains of Israel with their foothills, 17. from Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir, to Baal Gad in the Valley of Lebanon below Mount Hermon.”
- This book then specifically calls out again that God is PURPOSELY “hardening the hearts” of the inhabitants of all these lands JUST so he can have an excuse to destroy them!! Clearly even God needs to get his jollies off somehow, and it usually involves mass slaughter/genocide … kinda like a little kid might smash a bunch of his little green plastic army men while staging an imaginary battle or something. I mean come on, God needs something to pass the time, why not this?
- After all this, Israel finally “rests from war”.
- As mentioned earlier, the rest of Joshua, from chapters 12 onward, mostly deals with the allotment of land amongst the 12 tribes of Israel and the drawing of borders. It’s rather disturbing to read in the sense that these people are now just having a heyday with all the land, spoils and plunder that they have stolen by slaughtering
nation after nation and city after city of people.
- In chapter 15, Joshua gives Caleb a portion of the land that has been allotted for the tribe of Judah. You may recall Caleb from Numbers: One man from each tribe of Israel is sent to spy out the promised land of Canaan, and Caleb and Joshua are the only two guys who come back with a positive attitude about whether the people of Canaan can be defeated. So now he gets a reward of a bunch of land. But there’s one minor problem: Some of this land still has other people living there. So Caleb drives out “the three Anakites—Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai.” Then he has to deal with driving out the inhabitants of Debir. In order to do that, he offers to give his daughter to whatever man can conquer Debir for him. The man that ends up doing that is his brother’s son (i.e. his nephew). So he gives his daughter to her cousin to marry (which, to be fair, is considered to be completely normal in the Bible).
- The last bulletpoint in my list is a note of inconsistency: God has said MANY times both in Joshua and in previous books that he will ensure that Joshua and co. drive out ALL the people from the “promised lands”. Here’s just one example from Deuteronomy: “7:23 But the LORD thy God shall deliver them unto thee, and shall destroy them with a mighty destruction, until they be destroyed. 7:24 And he shall deliver their kings into thine hand, and thou shalt destroy their name from under heaven: there shall no man be able to stand before thee, until thou have destroyed them.” However, chapters 15, 16, and 17 of Joshuah totally negate this promise. These chapters mention in passing that the Israelites FAILED to drive out the Jebusites from Jerusalem, and also failed to drive out the Canaanites from Gezer, Issachar, Asher Bethshean, Ibleam, Dor, Endor (the Ewoks must’ve been a factor there), Taanach, and Megiddo. If God was really helping the Israelites with this task and ensuring that they would be successful, why did he not follow through with this 100%? Is he a half-asser, or were the Israelites simply delusional in thinking that they were backed by God in all of this madness?
- As a side note, the book of Joshua then contradicts itself again in chapter 21 when it says: “43. So the Lord gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. 44. The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord handed all their enemies over to them. 45. Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.” Really, book of Joshua, are you sure about that??
So there you have it, that sums up the book of Joshua. Given that most of the action happens in the first 12 chapters of this book, I thought this review would be short, but the amount of terrible stuff that happens in those 12 chapters is just SO immense, that apparently it amounted to another novel of a review. Given the fact that Joshua has essentially nothing good in it at all, and the fact that it is entirely devoted to the Israelites slaughtering EVERY living thing in their path with the end goal of stealing land away from others … I am going to have to give this book a rating of:
This is now officially the lowest rated book of the Bible so far (says me). Will we have any better luck with Judges? We shall see.