Joshua in the Lectionary

 

A Summary of the Book of Joshua: After many years in the wilderness, and after Moses has died, his successor, Joshua, leads the people across the Jordan River thereby invading the occupied land of Canaan. Under God’s directions, they destroy everyone and everything in their path. They wage nothing short of a genocidal war. That the Canaanites do not seek to make peace with the Israelites is explained as God’s doing. God “hardened their hearts”  — as God hardened Pharaoh’s heart back in Egypt —  so that Joshua would have to destroy them. By “them” I mean men, women, children and animals, combatant, non-combatant, surrendering…. All of them.  God participates in the destruction, personally throwing stones down from heaven to kill Canaanites who were fleeing. (Joshua 10.)

Small wonder that the book of Joshua does not appear in the lectionary very often.  Four times in all. Each instance is quoted below in its entirety.

 

  1. 1.       Joshua 3:7-17

The LORD said to Joshua, “This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, so that they may know that I will be with you as I was with Moses.  You are the one who shall command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, ‘When you come to the edge of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.'”

Joshua then said to the Israelites, “Draw near and hear the words of the LORD your God.” Joshua said, “By this you shall know that among you is the living God who without fail will drive out from before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites:  the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is going to pass before you into the Jordan.  So now select twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. When the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan flowing from above shall be cut off; they shall stand in a single heap.”

When the people set out from their tents to cross over the Jordan, the priests bearing the ark of the covenant were in front of the people. Now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest. So when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the edge of the water,  the waters flowing from above stood still, rising up in a single heap far off at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, while those flowing toward the sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea, were wholly cut off. Then the people crossed over opposite Jericho.  While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan.

Used in the Lectionary…

Proper 26A  Sunday nearest to November 2

 

alternative  = Micah 3:5-12

 

with Matthew 23:1-12 (The greatest among you will be your servant.)

  1. 2.       Joshua 5:9-12

The LORD said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.” And so that place is called Gilgal to this day. While the Israelites were camped in Gilgal they kept the passover in the evening on the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho.  On the day after the passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year.

Lent 4C

 

with  Luke 15:1-3, 11b32  (Prodigal Son)

  1. 3.       Joshua 24:1-2a,14-18

Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God.

And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel:… “Now therefore revere the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. Now if you are unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”   Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods;  for it is the LORD our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed;  and the LORD drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.”

Proper 16B

Sunday nearest August 24

alternative =  1 Kings 8:[1, 6, 10-11], 22-30, 41-43 (Solomon’s prayer dedicating the new Temple)

with John 6:56-69 (this is the bread that came down from heaven. Who eats this bread will live.)

  1. 4.       Joshua 24:1-3a,14-25

Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God.

And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Long ago your ancestors–Terah and his sons Abraham and Nahor–lived beyond the Euphrates and served other gods.  Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan and made his offspring many…..  “Now therefore revere the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. Now if you are unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods;  for it is the LORD our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed;  and the LORD drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.”

But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the LORD, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good.”  And the people said to Joshua, “No, we will serve the LORD!”

Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD, to serve him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.”  He said, “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.” The people said to Joshua, “The LORD our God we will serve, and him we will obey.”

So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem.

Proper 27A

Sunday nearest to November 9,

alternative = Amos 5:18-24 (Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.)

with Matthew 25:1-13 (foolish bridesmaids. “Keep awake…”)

 

None of these readings tell the story of God killing innocent Canaanites. All four are taken either from the very beginning of the book (before the carnage of the Holy War begins , Proper 26A & Lent 4C), or from the book’s very end,( when it’s all over, Propers 16B and 27A).  Three of the four passages are optional and an alternative First Reading is identified. The passage for which there is no alternative (Lent 4C) is a blessedly short passage, post river-crossing but pre-carnage, chosen perhaps to foreshadow a story element of the Prodigal Son (the end of manna and the need to rely on the produce of the land?)

The Joshua passage appointed for Proper 26A describes the order of march prescribed for the Israelites as they crossed the Jordan into Canaan.  The passages appointed for Propers 16B and 27A are both taken from the last chapter of Joshua and is Joshua’s farewell speech: his plea that the people remember that God had been on their side up to now, but in the future, if they disobeyed God,  God would destroy them. Small wonder that the people pledge fidelity to the covenant. These two readings include the well-known: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”  Those words look good on a plaque, until you consider the context and the alternative to “serving the Lord.”

 

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