Yahweh and the Promised Land (Ps 136:16-135:22)

“Yahweh led his people through the wilderness.

His steadfast love endures forever.

He struck down great kings.

His steadfast love endures forever.

He killed famous kings.

His steadfast love endures forever.

He killed Sihon,

King of the Amorites.

His steadfast love endures forever.

He killed Og,

King of Bashan.

His steadfast love endures forever.

He gave their land as a heritage.

His steadfast love endures forever.

He gave it as a heritage to Israel his servant,

His steadfast love endures forever.”

Once again, the congregational refrain, “His steadfast love endures forever” is repeated after every verse. This is once again a repetition of the previous psalm, Psalm 135, about the trip to the Promised Land. In order to take the Promised Land, they had to defeat a number of nations and countries. Yahweh helped them to strike down these fellow humans because his steadfast love endures forever. They and Yahweh killed many kings. The two most prominent as found in Numbers, chapter 21, was King Sihon of the Amorites and King Og of Bashan, on the borders of Canaan. They also killed the kings and people in Canaan as found in Joshua, chapters 5-12. Thus Yahweh gave Israel the land of Canaan as a heritage because of his enduring steadfast love.

Yahweh killed many kings (Ps 135:10-135:12)

“Yahweh struck down many nations.

He killed mighty kings.

He killed Sihon,

King of the Amorites.

He killed Og,

King of Bashan.

He killed all in the kingdoms of Canaan.

He gave their land as a heritage.

This was a heritage to his people Israel.”

Yahweh was their protector as they entered the Promised Land. In order to take the Promised Land, they had to defeat a number of nations and countries. Yahweh helped them to kill their fellow humans. They and Yahweh killed many kings. The two most prominent as found in Numbers, chapter 21, was King Sihon of the Amorites and King Og of Bashan, on the borders of Canaan. They also killed the kings and people in Canaan as found in Joshua, chapters 5-12. Thus Yahweh gave Israel the land of Canaan as a heritage.

The idol worship in Canaan (Ps 106:34-106:39)

“The Israelites did not destroy the peoples,

As Yahweh commanded them.

But they mingled with the nations.

They learned to do as they did.

They served their idols.

This became a snare to them.

They sacrificed their sons to the demons.

They sacrificed their daughters to the demons.

They poured out innocent blood,

The blood of their sons and daughters.

They sacrificed them to the idols of Canaan.

The land was polluted with blood.

Thus they became unclean by their acts.

They prostituted themselves in their doings.”

This section of this psalm is based on the description in Judges, chapter 2, when the Israelites worshipped Baal in their new home. Instead of destroying the people of Canaan as Yahweh had instructed, they mingled and intermarried with the local inhabitants. With that, they did what the locals were doing, worshiping the local gods of Baal as they served these local idol gods. Part of their rituals was the sacrificial offering up of sons and daughters. They sacrificed their children to the demons. In thus killing their own children the blood of the young children polluted the land. The psalmist here calls them prostitutes who became unclean by their own acts.

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Ps 105:6-105:11)

“O offspring of his servant!

Abraham!

Children of Jacob!

His chosen ones!

He is Yahweh our God!

His judgments are over all the earth.

He is mindful of his covenant forever.

He is mindful of the word that he commanded,

For a thousand generations.

That is the covenant

That he made with Abraham.

He had a sworn promise to Isaac.

He confirmed it to Jacob as a statute.

He has an everlasting covenant with Israel.

He said.

‘To you I will give the land of Canaan.

It is as your portion for an inheritance.’”

The people of Israel are offspring of Abraham. They are the children of Jacob. They are the chosen ones. Yahweh is their God. He judges the whole earth. He has made a covenant forever that he does not forget so that it will last 1,000 generations. This is the covenant that he made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It was a promise to Isaac and a statute to Jacob. There would be an everlasting covenant with Israel as Jacob became Israel. The land of Canaan will be their inheritance.

Achior explains the Israelite history in Egypt (Jdt 5:10-5:16)

“When a famine spread over the land of Canaan, they went down to Egypt. They lived there as long as they had food. They became so great a multitude that their race could not be counted. So the king of Egypt became hostile to them. He exploited them. He forced them to make bricks. They cried out to their God. Their God afflicted the whole land of Egypt with incurable plagues. So the Egyptians drove them out of their sight. Then God dried up the Red Sea before them. He led them by the way of Sinai and Kadesh-barnea. They drove out all the people of the wilderness. They took up residence in the land of the Amorites. By their might they destroyed all the inhabitants of Heshbon. Then they crossed over the Jordan and took possession of all the hill country. They drove out before them the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Shechemites, and all the Gergesites. They have lived there a long time.”

Achior tells the story of how these Israelites went to Egypt and came back.   Once again, there is no mention of a specific leader like Joseph, Moses, or Joshua. The Israelites were in a famine and went to Egypt, where they became a great race. However, the king of Egypt turned on them and forced them to make bricks. In their struggle, they cried out to their God, who then inflicted the Egyptians with plagues. Then the Egyptians drove them out as their God dried up the Red Sea. They even drove out the people in the wilderness. They took the land of the Amorites around Heshbon. Then they crossed the Jordan and defeated the traditional enemies, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Shechemites, and all the Gergesites. This is the Exodus story with an emphasis on how they got to Egypt and who they wiped out along the way. Apparently, they had lived in Canaan a long time.

 

Achior the Ammonite explains the history of Israel (Jdt 5:5-5:9)

“Then Achior, the leader of all the Ammonites, said to him.

‘May my lord please listen to a report

From the mouth of your servant.

I will tell you the truth about these people

Who live in the mountain district near you.

No falsehood shall come from your servant’s mouth.

These people are descended from the Chaldeans.

At one time, they lived in Mesopotamia,

Because they did not wish to follow the gods of their ancestors

Who were in Chaldea.

They had abandoned the ways of their ancestors.

They worshiped the God of heaven, the God they had come to know. Their ancestors drove them out from the presence of their gods.

They fled to Mesopotamia.

They lived there for a long time.

Then their God commanded them to leave the place

Where they were living

And go to the land of Canaan.

There they settled.

They grew very prosperous in gold

And silver with very much livestock.’”

Achior, the leader of the Ammonites, told the story of how the Israelites came to be in Canaan. In one sense, he seems to know a lot about Israelite history, yet he had been an enemy to them. He maintained that he was not lying. He started with the adventures of Abraham rather than Moses. Achior maintained that the Israelites are Chaldeans. Chaldea was the name of Babylonia, so that the Israelites were originally Babylonians. Thus the Babylonian exile meant that they were actually going home. They were kicked out of Mesopotamia because of their religious beliefs. They eventually settled in Canaan and became prosperous there. However, he did not mention Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but it is along the general outlines of the story of Abraham.

The song of the Ark of the Covenant (1 Chr 16:14-16:18)

“He is Yahweh our God.

His judgments are in all the earth.

He is mindful of his covenant forever.

The word that he commanded,

For a thousand generations,

The covenant that he made with Abraham,

His sworn promise to Isaac,

Which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute,

To Israel as an everlasting covenant,

Saying,

To you I will give the land of Canaan,

As your portion for an inheritance.”

Whether by King David or Asaph, the Gershonite Levite, this hymn or psalm continues almost word for word from Psalm 105, verses 7-11. In plain clear language, Yahweh is our God. There can be no doubt. His judgments guide us and all things on earth. He has made a covenant for 1,000 generations, 40,000 years. This everlasting covenant was first made with Abraham, renewed with Isaac and confirmed with Jacob. These are the statutes that we are to follow. Canaan is a portion of our inheritance.

The descendents of Ham (1 Chr 1:8-1:8)

“The descendents of Ham were Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan.”

Once again, either depending on Genesis, chapter 10, or as a contemporary work of this priestly description, we have the 4 sons of Ham. There will be more information about their children because these are going to be close neighbors of the Israelites. Ham was associated with Africa and parts of Asia. His sons will all become important and have their sons listed, except for Put, who has been associated with Libya and perhaps the Copts. Once again, a source for some folklore about the family of Ham would be the Book of Jubilees (60-150 BCE)

The settlement of Judah and Simeon (Judg 1:1-1:10)

After the death of Joshua, the Israelites inquired of Yahweh. ‘Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?’ Yahweh said. ‘Judah shall go up. I hereby give the land into his hand.’ Judah said to his brother Simeon. ‘Come up with me into the territory allotted to me that we may fight against the Canaanites. Then I too will go with you into the territory allotted to you.’ So Simeon went with him. Then Judah went up and Yahweh gave the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand. They defeated ten thousand of them at Bezek. They came upon Adoni-bezek at Bezek. They fought against him. They defeated the Canaanites and the Perizzites. Adoni-bezek fled. But they pursued him and caught him. They cut off his thumbs and his big toes. Adoni-bezek said. ‘Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off used to pick up scraps under my table. As I have done, so God has paid me back.’ They brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there. Then the people of Judah fought against Jerusalem, and took it. They put it to the sword, and set the city on fire.”

What are the Israelites to do after the death of Joshua? Here in Judges, the taking of the land of Canaan is a long process instead of the short process in the first twelve chapters of Joshua. They are no longer fighting as a large group. The tribe of Judah seems to take a lead role just as it got the largest territory, because Yahweh said so. Simeon seemed to be in the same territory so they joined with Judah. Notice it no longer is the tribe of Judah but goes back to seem like the two brothers are still alive, fighting side by side. The first battle is against Adoni-bezek in Bezek, a place difficult to locate, where they defeat 10,000 soldiers. This is the first time that we see the thumbs and toes cut off of anyone. Apparently Adoni-bezek used to do that to other kings that he captured. Anyway, they all end up in Jerusalem as Judah seems to take over there. Now we see the entrance into Jerusalem, which was really in the area of Benjamin.

“Afterward the people of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites who lived in the hill country, in the Negeb, and in the lowland. Judah went against the Canaanites who lived in Hebron. The name of Hebron was formerly Kiriath-arba. They defeated Sheshai, Ahiman, and Talmai.”

Now Judah takes over the whole territory, in the hills, the lowlands and the dry land of the Negeb. Hebron had been an Anakite town. Although it is in the territory given to Judah, it had been explicitly given to Caleb and was a Levite town too.

The disposition of the other seven tribes (Josh 18:1-18:10)

“Then the whole congregation of the Israelites assembled at Shiloh, and set up the tent of meeting there. The land lay subdued before them.”

This meeting of Joshua takes place at Shiloh, which is in the territory of Ephraim, northwest of Jericho, about 10 miles south of Shechem and 24 miles north of Jerusalem. This is an important first great tent meeting place of the Israelites with the whole assembly gathered together just like the meeting tent in the wilderness. This assumes that they had conquered all the Canaanites, which they had not.

“There remained among the Israelites seven tribes whose inheritance had not yet been apportioned. So Joshua said to the Israelites. ‘How long will you be slack about going in to take possession of the land that Yahweh, the God of your ancestors, has given you? Provide three men from each tribe. I will send them out that they may begin to go throughout the land, writing a description of it with a view to their inheritances. Then come to me. They shall divide it into seven portions, Judah continuing in its territory on the south, and the house of Joseph in their territory on the north. You shall describe the land in seven divisions. Then bring the description here to me. I will cast lots for you here before Yahweh our God. The Levites have no portion among you, for the priesthood of Yahweh is their heritage. Gad and Reuben and the half-tribe of Manasseh have received their inheritance beyond the Jordan eastward, which Moses the servant of Yahweh gave them.”

Clearly the tribe of Judah had the south and the tribes of Joseph had the northern area. Now they must describe and split up the remaining land into seven portions since the Levites do not get any land. 3 people from each of the remaining 7 tribes will describe the land. Then they will cast lots for the land. Of course, the Levites do not get any land.

“So the men started on their way. Joshua charged those who went to write the description of the land. ‘Go throughout the land and write a description of it. Then come back to me. I will cast lots for you here before Yahweh in Shiloh.’ So the men went and traversed the land. They set down in a book a description of it by towns in seven divisions. Then they came back to Joshua in the camp at Shiloh. Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before Yahweh. There Joshua apportioned the land to the Israelites, to each his portion.”

Strangely enough this must have taken some time, but there is no indication of how long this process was. There was a group of 21 Israelites traveling all over Canaan. They were to divide the land into 7 portions. The granting of the land to the three tribes of Judah, Ephraim, and Manasseh seemed to go very smooth, while this seems to be more complicated. There appears to be no divine intervention in this process, but merely casting lots. This casting of lots seems to be a common way of doing things. Perhaps God intervenes by letting the lots fall where they may. It would seem that they are going to carve out small land masses from the territories of Judah or Joseph, either in the north or south.