Today’s reading: Joshua 10-19, Psalm 31
“And the land had rest from war.”
So ends the eleventh chapter of Joshua today. In chapters 10-11, we witness quite an extraordinary military campaign, in which the Israelite army defeats all the great armies of the region.
Twice in these chapters, regional kings become afraid of what the presence of the Israelites will mean for their own territories and decide to join forces. They rally their troops to eliminate this new threat to their kingdoms. In both cases, things don’t turn out quite as they had planned. It appears that God really is with this upstart band of people that has come into the land to claim its inheritance. The annihilation is complete. Left with no viable rivals, the tribes of Israel then divide the spoils under the direction of Joshua son of Nun and Eleazar the priest.
The events in today’s reading can be unsettling in their depiction of ruthless destruction. Some might ask the question, “Couldn’t they have all found a way to get along?” Thousands of years later, I often find myself still asking the same question as nations, ethnic groups, and factions go to war with one another across the globe. What we see back then, as now, is that war is often precipitated by some kind of fear.
How might things be different if people and nations were able to view one another as gift rather than threat? Perhaps it’s pie-in-the-sky thinking, but I can’t help but believe that these words would finally ring true for all nations: “And the land had rest from war.”