Joshua 1 – Reading Note

  • God’s promises to Joshua are of the same format as the promises he made to the Israelites frequently in Deuteronomy.
    • Keep my laws and I will make you prosperous and successful
    • Make sure you know my laws so you can be careful to keep them, so that you will be prosperous and successful. Don’t forget them. (1: 6 -9)
  • The change of leaders was smooth. Moses died, Joshua assumed leadership and the people accepted him without any obvious trouble.

Deuteronomy 31 – Reading Note

  • I have long had misunderstandings about the meaning of the word ‘destroyed’ as it is used about people in the book of Deuteronomy, but verse 4 says that God ‘destroyed’ Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites along with their lands, so I have an example of what ‘destroyed’ means there.
  • Moses then wrote down the law, according to the writer of Deuteronomy and instructed the people to read it every seven years in front of everyone – men, women, children and aliens – so they could learn to fear God and keep his laws. (Deut 31: 10 -13). I certainly agree with the idea that learning God’s law helps you learn to fear and obey him.
  • God knew that the people were going to turn away from him in the future, so he let Moses know this, but he didn’t throw up his hands and quit. (31: 16 – 18).
  • Two things were given to the Israelites as a witness against them in case they ever turned away from God – the law was written in a book and places near the ark of the covenant; and Moses taught them a song that God has taught him.

Deuteronomy 29 & 30 – Reading Note

  • Foreigners were living with the Israelites all the while they were traveling to canaan. This probably included the Egyptians who had left Egypt with them (Deut 29: 9 – 11)
  • God said he was making his covenant not just with the Israelites present, but also with those who were not there. (Deut 29: 14, 15)
  • God made a strange promise to the Israelites. He said if they repented from their sins and turned to him, he would circumcise their hearts so they could love and serve him. He promised to do it after, not before. (30: 1 – 7)

Deuteronomy 27 – Reading Note

  • The importance of the law was made clear in a lot of passages, but God goes on to further immortalize it by commanding the people to write it on stones covered in plaster and set it up in a prominent place. (27: 1 – 8)

Verse to note:

‘ The Levites shall recite to all the people of Israel in a loud voice:…

“Cursed is anyone who leads the blind astray on the road.”

Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”

“Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow.”

Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”

 “Cursed is anyone who accepts a bribe to kill an innocent person.”

Then all the people shall say, “Amen!” ‘ – Deut 27: 14, 18, 19, 25.

Deuteronomy 11 – Reading Note

Correction on Deut 5: Moses told the Israelites that it was not their children, who saw the miracles God did, but it was them. He said something similar in Deut 5, that God’ covenant had not been made with their fathers, but with them. At the time, I assumed that averyone who saw those things were dead, so Moses must have been saying that Gd made the covenant with the Israelite community as a whole, but those 20 and below were probably still alive and saw the miracles and the covenant made (11: 1 – 7).

  • God was going to give the Israelites the strength to take over the land of Canaan, if they kept his law (11:8). He did give them the strength to take over the land, so they must have kept his law to a certain extent (or repented every time they broke it).
  • When they lived in Egypt, they had to irrigate their farms by hand, but according to Moses, rain fell in the land of Canaan they were about to take (11: 10 – 12).
  • In this chapter, Moses again reminds them that God’s blessings are conditional. They must keep their part so he can bless them. Otherwise, he will curse them. For a hilarious (in my opinion) list of the curses, check out Deuteronomy 28: 15 – 68.

Deuteronomy 4 – Reading Note

  • The Israelite’s taking possession of the land God was giving them was dependent on their keeping God’s laws (4:1, 2).
  • Moses said that the laws he was giving to the Israelites were better than those of the surrounding nations and so would prove the Israelites wise if they kept them (4: 5 – 8).
  • To remember: Moses told the people that “the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God” (4: 24).
  • Moses told the people that if they disobeyed God and began to make idols once they were living in Canaan, they would quickly perish and be destroyed. God would scatter them among the peoples (4: 25 – 27). This supports my earlier suggestion in my reading note on Deut 2 that driving people out of their land in this text is not necessarily incompatible with destroying them.
  • Also, recall that God previously promised to do to the Israelites what he was doing to the Canaanites if they did not obey his laws (Numbers 33: 55, 56). This means that if the Israelites punishment was to be driven out, that was the Canaanites’ too.
  • God is kind and merciful. He promised that if he exiled the Israelites and they eventually repented and returned to him, he would take them back. He would not destroy them (presumably, the word ‘destroy’ there means something different from the way it was used in verse 26) (4: 29 – 31)
  • If one generation of Israelites were to abandon God’s laws and God sends them into exile as a result, then their grandchildren in exile consent to serving God wholeheartedly again, calling it ‘returning’ sounds strange. The grandkids never left God. It seems the laws are talking about the Israelite community as a whole, and not individuals. If the Israelite community were to sin against God, and in exile, the community (even if it then comprised of only the grandkids) returned to God, he would take them back. But in what sense is a community still the same community if all the people in it have been replaced? And in what sense can a community sin? Is it not the individuals that sin?
  • Moses said that none of what God had done for them (the rescue from Egypt by plagues, speaking from a mountain, etc.) had been done before (4: 32 – 34).
  • The Lord is God, and there is no other (4:35, 39)
  • God spoke to the Israelites in person on Mount Sinai on order to discipline them (4: 36).

Getting into the Conquest of Canaan

I just finished reading Numbers and now I’m starting on Deuteronomy. What comes after Deuteronomy? Joshua. And what does Joshua mean? The conquest of Canaan. Okay, I admit it’s less than clear so for those who don’t get it, Numbers and Deuteronomy lead up to Joshua which details the military strategies by which the Israelites took over Canaan. It’s a very important issue. As the story goes, the Israelites either drove out or killed all of the Canaanites and took their land and God commanded it. There is also talk of mass rape, but I believe those to be unsubstantiated. Depending on which version of that you subscribe to, you might have different issues.

If God ordered the Israelites to kill all the Canaanites

  1. Isn’t that Genocide?
  2. How could God be so immoral as to order the mass killing of innocent people, even babies?
  3. Isn’t taking their land theft?
  4. How would you feel if someone did that to you?
  5. How would you take it if you heard of that in the news?

If God ordered the Canaanites, to be driven out, isn’t that still theft and unjust and immoral?

The answers range from, “those things never happened” to “God can do whatever he wants” for Christians and “this proves Christianity is false and evil” to “The Christian God is evil and racist” for non-Christians. In my opinion, lots of people are too quick to draw conclusions on this issue and drawing conclusions without knowing enough is unwise. I plan to do for this what I did for God hardening Pharaoh’s heart and the differences between Hebrew and Foreign slaves. First, I’ll gather what I can find about this. Then I’ll say what can be definitely said from the data, and then I’ll take objections and see where I stand at the end.

That’s the plan. It’s going to take a while to finish reading Deuteronomy and Joshua so this is going to be a long project. Here I would like to ask my fellow Christians a question.

What is one thing which, if present in the story of the Conquest of Canaan, would mandate the conclusion that God could not have ordered that thing and why?

And for the non-Christians:

What is one thing which if present in the conquest of Canaan, would mandate the conclusion that God’s hand really was in it and why?

I think answering both questions is the key to a successful study. Without laying out this groundwork, we run the risk of merely interpreting whatever we find to make it say what we want to say.