I have finished reading the first eleven chapters of the Book of Joshua in my quest through the Bible. I am intrigued by the underlying current.
On the face of things, this first section of Joshua merely recounts a brutal, seven year campaign by the Israelites to subjugate the land God promised them years before. According to the text, the Israelites were an unstoppable merciless force whose reputation preceded them to every kingdom they attacked. No fortress lasted more than two days against their onslaught. Taken at face value the campaign seems unnecessarily malicious and cruel. In fact I have heard it called just that.
Here’s another place where we must take a step back and observe what is really going on. It’s a Big Picture moment. Succinctly put, it’s about God, not the particulars.
God is fulfilling His part of the Covenant He made with Abraham. He is delivering the land that He promised to give His descendants.
God even sent the Commander of His army to Joshua. As God’s representative, he is on no one’s side but God’s, though. This ought to be a flag for all readers. Joshua asks whether this being is a friend or foe and he responds, “No…” (Joshua 5: 14). This, I think, gives us a huge hint about what is really going on. God is demonstrating His power to the world spiritually as well as materially. There are evidently two battles going on and both armies are instruments of God and no one can stand in His way.
Remember, God chose the children of Israel to be His people in order to show the world that He is God and there is none that compares to Him. When He fights for a people, the battle is over before it begins and He doesn’t do anything halfway. It sounds harsh but this conquest is actually a purification of the land in which He will eventually build His temple. It’s to be Holy land and so must be purified of all wickedness. That includes people and their gods as well.
It’s all about God.