Study Guide

Book of Joshua Memory and the Past

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Memory and the Past

Joshua set up twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests bearing the Ark of the Covenant had stood; and they are there to this day. (NRSV 4:9)

And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests which bare the Ark of the Covenant stood: and they are there unto this day. (KJV 4:9)

The writers of Joshua make it absolutely essential that the reader understand that the past is connected to the present, which influences the future. In some ways, that's rather like the butterfly effect. Don't know what we're talking about? Check out A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury.

But Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, Joshua spared. Her family has lived in Israel ever since. For she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho. (NRSV 6:25)

And Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father's household, and all that she had; and she dwelleth in Israel even unto this day; because she hid the messengers, which Joshua sent to spy out Jericho. (KJV 6:25)

As a reward for Rahab helping the Israelites, Joshua spares her and her family. According to the book, Rahab's family still exists to this day with a direct tie to Jesus himself. Pretty nifty. Family legacies are just as important to history as any battle. Rahab's family was pretty lucky to have her.

Joshua said, "Why did you bring trouble on us? The LORD is bringing trouble on you today." And all Israel stoned him to death; they burned them with fire, cast stones on them, and raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the LORD turned from his burning anger. Therefore that place to this day is called the Valley of Achor. (NRSV 7:25-26)

And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones. And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the LORD turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day. (KJV 7:25-26)

Double double toil and trouble upon Achan. Because of his disobedience, Joshua slays him and his family, and names their death place the valley of Achor, which in Hebrew means trouble. Moral of the story: Even though you may muck up and die, you might still get a valley named after you.

So Joshua burned Ai, and made it forever a heap of ruins, as it is to this day. And he hanged the king of Ai on a tree until evening; and at sunset Joshua commanded, and they took his body down from the tree, threw it down at the entrance of the gate of the city, and raised over it a great heap of stones, which stands there to this day. (NRSV 8:28-29)

And Joshua burnt Ai, and made it a heap for ever, even a desolation unto this day. And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until eventide: and as soon as the sun was down, Joshua commanded that they should take his carcass down from the tree, and cast it at the entering of the gate of the city, and raise thereon a great heap of stones, that remaineth unto this day. (KJV 8:28-29)

Even though the Israelites are really into building altars and memorials, we see here that they also really like to destroy stuff. A lot. This is really how history gets swayed in a certain direction—when there is no evidence to support the other side. You know, because it's been destroyed.

But on that day Joshua made them hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of the LORD, to continue to this day, in the place that he should choose. (NRSV 9:27)

And Joshua made them that day hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation, and for the altar of the LORD, even unto this day, in the place which he should choose. (KJV 9:27)

When it comes to memorializing historical events, it's important to diversify what you make. This time, Joshua goes with water and wood. You know, those two things that will never disappear we say sarcastically.

Yet the Israelites did not drive out the Geshurites or the Maacathites; but Geshur and Maacath live within Israel to this day. (NRSV 13:13)

Nevertheless the children of Israel expelled not the Geshurites, nor the Maachathites: but the Geshurites and the Maachathites dwell among the Israelites until this day. (KJV 13:13)

Just like Rahab and her family, other communities in Canaan are allowed to live among the Israelites. This is mighty fine of Joshua. It's always important to preserve other peoples's history, as well as your own. Maybe they'll even write something nice about you in their history books.

Then Joshua blessed him, and gave Hebron to Caleb son of Jephunneh for an inheritance. So Hebron became the inheritance of Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day, because he wholeheartedly followed the LORD, the God of Israel. (NRSV 14:13-14)

And Joshua blessed him, and gave unto Caleb the son of Jephunneh Hebron for an inheritance. Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite unto this day, because that he wholly followed the LORD God of Israel. (KJV 14:13-14)

We know it may seem strange that a person (Hebron) becomes the inheritance to Caleb, but becoming a family is like creating a new history. Although it's an odd circumstance to get married, it's nice that Hebron and Caleb will always be remembered as one of the oddest pairings in the Bible.

But the people of Judah could not drive out the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem; so the Jebusites live with the people of Judah in Jerusalem to this day. (NRSV 15:63)

As for the Jebusites the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Judah could not drive them out: but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Judah at Jerusalem unto this day. (KJV 15:63)

We look back at the past to understand why things happen the way they do. In this case, the author explains why the Jebusites still live in Jerusalem. Since Jerusalem will eventually become the capital of Israel, the author is adding a nice touch of foreshadowing for us to munch on.

They did not, however, drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer: so the Canaanites have lived within Ephraim to this day but have been made to do forced labor. (NRSV 16:10)

And they drave not out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer: but the Canaanites dwell among the Ephraimites unto this day, and serve under tribute. (KJV 16:10)

Sometimes looking back at history means we have to explain away sticky situations. In this case, the author of Joshua is trying to explain why Canaanites were allowed to live in the Promised Land with the Israelites. The author settled on forced labor, which is rather ironic considering what the Israelites escaped from so long ago.

For the LORD has driven out before you great and strong nations; and as for you, no one has been able to withstand you to this day. (NRSV 23:9)

For the LORD hath driven out from before you great nations and strong: but as for you, no man hath been able to stand before you unto this day. (KJV 23:9)

The phrase "this day" is a constant in the Book of Joshua. Although there is always a great focus in history on large quantities of time, Joshua constantly reminds the reader to focus on one day at a time. In the hustle and bustle world we live in today, that's a pleasant piece of advice.

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