I am going to lump the next several books into one thread, starting with Joshua.
When I was 12 or so, I went to Sunday School for a couple of years with a neighbour’s family. I have memories of the stories of Moses and the stories of Joshua from that time. Some things I imagine were just ignored by my teachers.
During the forty years that the Israelites wandered through the desert there was no time to circumcise the male babies. Before crossing the Jordan, a mass circumcision takes place at a site aptly called the hill of the foreskins.
I also don’t remember that two spies had been sent ahead to check out the first city, the famous Jericho. They are noticed and hide in the house of a prostitute. The prostitute promises to keep their secret if her family is spared when the inevitable destruction of the city occurs.
And I also don’t recall (although this I’m sure was taught) that when crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land - just like the Red Sea - the Jordan parted so the people could cross on dry land.
The battle of Jericho I do recall although it is so famous that it might not be from Sunday School that I am remembering it. God has told them that they will win. All they have to do is circle the city once for six straight days. On the seventh day, after circling the city seven more times, trumpets will blare and the people will shout and the walls will come tumbling down. I have tried to avoid nitpicking, but I do have a problem with this. One of those days has to be the Sabbath. In Numbers, some poor guy gets stoned to death for picking up sticks, yet here, it’s perfectly ok to wage war.
Nonetheless, just as God promised the walls of Jericho collapse and everybody is put to the sword, except the prostitute and her family. “And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword.”
Next up is the city of Ai. A problem occurs when a group of Israelites are repelled. It turns out that God had warned the people not to take anything out of Jericho, that everything was accursed. When Joshua learns that some guy called Achan had disobeyed this order, he takes him and his entire family including livestock and “all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.”
They turn their attention back on Ai. The Israelites pretend to retreat and when the Aieans chase after them a hidden band of Israelites attack from the rear. They capture the king of Ai and “when Israel had made an end of slaying all the inhabitants of Ai in the field … the Israelites returned unto Ai, and smote it with the edge of the sword so it was, that all that fell that day, both of men and women, were twelve thousand.” Then they hang the king.
Next up is the city of Gibeon. But the Gibeonites are clever. They dress up like people who have been wandering around for a long time. They come to Joshua and ask for a peace treaty. God has told Joshua that all the nearby cities and their inhabitants must be destroyed, but Joshua doesn’t realize that these people are from Gibeon. Joshua agrees to the peace treaty, and when he learns that they are from Gibeon and that he cannot back out of his promise, Joshua asks why they fooled him. And the Gibeonites honestly answer “we were sore afraid of our lives.” Still, they become slaves for the Israelites. I wonder how many modern day Gibeonites can trace their existence back to the foresight of their ancestors?