If you want to hate God, Joshua is a great starting place. For us believers, grappling with Joshua often involves a heaping helping of of rationalisation.
Yes, it presents like a story of racial cleansing, yes, the violence seems contrary to everything God stands for, like loving your enemies and turning the other cheek.
People talk about the “God of the old testament” but Jesus was only quoting him when he said “love your neighbour as yourself”. To question the taking of Canaan is to ask God, old or new testament, to be consistent with himself. Be consistent with yourself!
My own rationalisation, which wavers as I read through the book in detail, in summary is ‘shit happens’. Wars happen, death happens. The history section of the OT starts with the Israelites throwing the Canaanites out of Canaan, and it ends with the Israelites being thrown out by Babylon and Assyria.
The battles for the promised land are represented by 2 that are told in detail.
Jericho, is done God’s way. They have a chance to repent. Then judgement by God. No glory to the Israelites, no plunder. Except someone disobeys the last rule. The battle for Ai is done disobediently, ie: trusting in their own strength and seeking their own glory. They are defeated.
A warrior angel appears and Joshua dares ask him which side he is on. Neither side, but they are walking on holy ground. In their time, both Canaan and Israel used the valleys for child sacrifice, and the high places for ritual prostitution. Used it for their dreams of unjust wealth and jealous bloodbaths.
Providence keeps giving me experiences with indigenous Christianity at the moment. It starts to attune you so that the references to land, to creation, stand out. As Israel’s history gets to crisis point, Isaiah has a vision of God gathering the outcasts and misfits, and bringing them through a desert that is in bloom, to a new Jerusalem, as the new creation claps its hands.
And here in Joshua, when the tribes are new to the land, it is wonderful to them and they rejoice over every inch of God’s promise. Holy ground.
The creation is a symbol that God’s promises are steadfast, outlasting our lifespans long or short. Its also a reminder that God has inherent rights over our existence. A creator can determine their creation’s fate.
The long story of God’s recreation, of his abundance, love and salvation, really is more important than the story of whether your sin bound judgement comes today or tomorrow, in war or in peace. We fret about the manner and time of death, God frets about the fact of it.
Joshua the new Moses
1 Joshua literally takes Moses’ mantle and is told to be strong and courageous
2 They spy on Jericho, with the help of Rahab the prostitute. I delight at her salvation and doubt at the destruction of the rest
3 Crossing the jordan, a repeat of the red sea miracle, hairs on neck moment
4 A cairn of 12 rocks to claim the land, the men camp at the edge of Jericho
5 Time for circumcision, Passover for the first time in 40 years. A warrior angel appears, says God is on neither side in the coming battle and declares it holy ground
Taking the land
6 Jericho destroyed. They had 7 days to repent. I contemplate fairness and lifespans
7 Next, defeat for Israel because of the sin of one, taking some plunder from Jericho
8 City of Ai destroyed, I twist in knots trying to understand the killing
9 Gibeonites deceive Israel into integrating rather than destroying them, a biblical plan B
10 The killing picks up pace, as does the desperation in my prayers
11 Destruction of the northern Canaanite kings. I think I’m coming down with something
12 List of Kings destroyed. I’m going a bit numb/gaga
Dividing the land between the twelve tribes
13 They start to divide the land between the tribes. Levis, like so many Jews down the ages, have no land of their own
14 Divvying up the rest of the land. Caleb the faithful spy is rewarded. I consider the racist aspects of project promised land
15 List of lands and cities of Judah, original inhabitant comingle, weren’t wiped out
16 More lists. I compare the tolerance of ethic inhabitants in defiance of God’s word to living with sin. Pray for a hard edge
17 More land splitting
18 7 tribes to go. Ben’s land. I consider what a pivotal point this was for several of the world’s religion
19 Joshua gets a city to mark the end of land splits. They meet at the tabernacle
20 Refuge cities practical “god is refuge” available to locals and foreigners… a system of mercy in a brutal book
21 48 Levite cities, incl. refuge cities. Ends on a note of mercy, and noting that God delivered on every one of his promises