Hello all, a couple of housekeeping things first. We had our first in-person meeting of the Bible Book Club Study this last Monday, and it went really well. We were smaller in numbers, just six of us, but we had some very good discussions over the origins of the Bible, questions that the Bible sought to answer, and what these first five books of the Bible have to do with the next chapters. My hope is to have a recap up on Storify.com/FvCCGladstone soon, but we shall see how that goes.
I hope that you found the reading list for this next section (http://www.fairviewcc.org/bible-book-club-study---session-2.html) we are reading both Joshua and Judges for the post Exodus narratives. Our youth have also been reading along with us in Sunday School. I really enjoy being able to share the work of our whole church with the youth and the work they've done is on display in the education wing. This last week, we covered the first part of Joshua and I set down to determine what part to read.
I settled upon the story of Jericho (Chapter 6), a story that's often told in youth Sunday school and sung about through catchy songs. "Joshua fought the Battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho" How many of you were tapping your toes right now? But something struck me when I started reading the story and thinking of how I would present it to the youth.
See, one of the most dangerous things you can do is actually read a story that you've been told about for years and years and not thought much about. The story of the battle of Jericho is not kid friendly. In fact, as soon as the walls come tumbling down they killed everyone in the town, young and old, male and female, even their livestock. No one was safe once those walls came tumbling down. Not exactly the happy story that the song seems to indicate.
What this discomfort started to illustrate for me was that how we approach the Bible has everything to do with the importance we give it. So many people want to say the Bible is infallible, there can never ever be anything wrong with the Bible. Yet, I genuinely am troubled by people who believe God told them to take the land by killing men, women, children, and even animals. Because, from my Christian perspective, I see a God who asks us to love our enemies. How can the same God tell people to go and kill?
Well, let's go back a little bit. You see, the Bible was never written as one whole book, trying to tell one whole story. It was written as many books, each telling their own stories, sharing some common themes. The book of Joshua seems to have been written as an idealized version of how the Israelites entered into the promised land. Through the idealization of the story, there can be exaggerations, such as every single person was killed. That would be almost impossible, and the book of Judges right after this tells how it didn't happen. So Joshua is trying to craft a narrative rather than to report on history.
However, what narrative is Joshua trying to craft? Remember, the first five books of the Bible have been talking about the formation of God's people. There were many promises that God gave, including the one to Abraham of a promised land. That promise also was given to Moses when God was taking them out of Egypt, out of slavery. The question is, which narrative was this, God fulfilling a promise or God leading them out of oppression? Because if it was God leading them out of oppression, why did God do it through oppressing another group of people?
Again, this study is intended to be a bit more book study then most Bible studies. So, look at the larger issues rather than pinpoint each and every verse. We are gaining a perspective of a character in a way, that character being the people of Israel. They are presenting how they see God and where they've seen God in their history. But like all histories, they are writing from the future, telling perspectives that sync with their present reality, inspiring their future. While the annihilation of Joshua sounds awful, was it being written to intimidate enemies?
Could it have been written to help the Israelites feel entitled to a land they knew they stole from some one else? Much in the same way, the US has a story of escaping oppression from tyrannical England while at the same time the US destroyed and oppressed the Native American people. The story of being victims feels better than the story of being oppressors. (See the book The Curse Of Cain, by Regina M. Schwartz, for more on this thought).
I don't know that I have all the answers, and I look forward to seeing what Judges has to say. I also look forward to seeing what you have to say. Please comment, and see you on October 25th, in person or on twitter.com/FvCCGladstone