Avraham ben Yaakov
KNOW YOUR BIBLE
JOSHUA CHAPTER 9
All the Canaanite kings throughout the land " gathered together to fight with Yoshua and with Israel WITH ONE MOUTH" (ch 9 v 2).
This was all out war not only against Israel but against the One God who had promised them the Land. "In three places we find the people of the world rebelling against the Holy One blessed be He: at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1), in the war of Gog and Magog (Psalms 2:2) and in the days of Joshua. Why does it say 'with ONE mouth'? Because they went against God, of whom it is said, 'Hear, O Israel, HaShem is ONE!'" (Tanchuma). Since many today are convinced that the world is in the throes of the war of Gog and Magog, this Midrash underlines the connection between many aspects of our present text about the war in the days of Joshua and the times we are living in now.
For Israel in the time of Joshua, the war for the conquest of the Land was a holy war. The decadent Canaanite star-worshippers, suddenly threatened with being driven out of their lovely homeland, doubtless saw the Israelites as a new breed of religious fanatics waging a dangerous Jihad that had to be thwarted at all costs. Yet after witnessing God's miracles on behalf of the Israelites, many of the Canaanites were already demoralized and fearful, and felt that "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em".
However, in the Torah God had strictly forbidden the Israelites to make any covenant with the Cananites and their gods or permit them to dwell in their Land "lest they make you sin against Me when you serve their gods, for they will be a snare for you" (Exodus 23:32-3).
The classic biblical commentator RaDaK (Rabbi David Kimche 1160-1235) in a lengthy comment on our text v. 7 explains exactly what the Israelite warriors were demanding of the Canaanites. They were not intending to kill them no matter what. The commandment to destroy the Canaanites applied only if "they make you sin". However, if they would agree to uproot idolatry from among them and accept the 7 Universal Commandments of the Children of Noah, they would be allowed to remain in the Land on condition that they agreed to serve and pay taxes to the Israelites - i.e. subordinate themselves to the Israelite national agenda of building God's Temple and spreading His light to the nations. Only if they refused these conditions and refused to evacuate would they be killed. The one difference between the Canaanites and any other nations against whom Israel made war was that if other nations refused to make peace and insisted on waging war, the Israelites would on defeating them kill only their males but keep their wives and children as slaves. However, if the Canaanites made war, the Israelites were commanded by God to kill them all, men, women and children.
For some this may raise agonizing ethical issues, which I cannot address except by saying that the biblical commandment to exterminate these nations is evidently founded on the premise that they were a thoroughly evil influence that had to be nullified completely for the sake of God's plan to reveal Himself to the entire world by replacing ancient idolatry with faith in the one God. It must be emphasized that nowhere in Judaism is there any justification whatever for the wholesale extermination of any nation excepting the Amalekites and the Canaanites, both of whom have now completely disappeared. If today some evil criminals and terrorists BEHAVE like Canaanites and Amalekites, then the individuals or gangs exhibiting such behavior should be brought to justice by the legitimate forces of law and order in order to neutralize their destructive influence.
Yerushalmi Shavuos 6:5 states that on entry to the Land, Joshua sent three written proclamations to the Canaanites. "Whoever wants to make peace can make peace; whoever wants to make war may make war, and whoever wants to evacuate may leave."
Some of the Canaanites departed voluntarily and went to N. Africa ( Carthage ) where they received a land as prosperous as the one they left. Some sources state that some of the Canaanites went to Europe ( Germany ).
Since the Gibeonites knew that they could save themselves without leaving if they agreed to the Israelite conditions, RaDaK (ibid.) asks why they resorted to the ruse described in our chapter, and answers that having seen how the Israelites had destroyed Jericho and Ai, they were afraid that the Israelites might not adhere to their conditions.
THE BITE OF THE SERPENT
The Gibeonites were actually Hivites (v. 7). Their deception of Joshua and the Children of Israel was a deep historical irony, as the Hivites had tried to "convert" and intermarry with Israel in the time of Jacob (Genesis ch 34) when Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite raped Dinah. Jacob's sons tricked the men of Shechem into circumcising, but "on the third day" when they were in great pain, Shimon and Levi entered the town and killed them all (for having failed to protest the rape of Dinah, which flouted the Noahide code.) Thus in our chapter, we read that "they ALSO acted with cunning" (v. 4). This was the cunning of the serpent - in Aramaic, a serpent is HIVIA, from the same root as the Hivites.
Students of Kabbalah will note that the fake old provisions, clothes and shoes the Gibeonites used included "crumbs" (NEKUDIM) alluding to the Kabbalistic World of Chaos, Nekudim, the root of evil (see 138 Openings of Wisdom, Opening 36ff). RaDaK, noting that moldy bread is covered in red, green and black spots, also relates NEKUDIM to Laban's SPOTTED flock (Genesis 30:32ff), likewise bound up with the mystery of the world of Nekudim.
Midrash Tanchuma shows the parallel between how the serpent tricked Adam and Eve into sinning in the hope of killing Adam and marrying Eve, and how the Gibeonites tricked the Israelites into making a forbidden covenant with them: "If they kill us they will violate their oath, while if they keep us alive they will violate God's commandment: either way they will be punished and will not inherit the land."
The Gibeonites were not true converts since they converted not because they wanted to serve the One God but out of fear (verse 24). It was "at the end of THREE DAYS" that the Israelites found out that they had been deceived: this is a hark-back to Shimon and Levi's deception of the men of Shechem "on the third day".. Despite the Gibeonites' deception, the Israelites, having publicly sworn to protect them, could not violate their oath as this would have been a HILUL HASHEM, desecration of God's Name (Gittin 46a).
Joshua therefore gave the Gibeonites the status of a caste of Temple laborers who were not permitted to intermarry with Israelites (in this respect they were similar to a MAMZER, a child born of an incestuous union). They appear on the stage of history again in the time of King Saul and King David, and after the destruction of the First Temple they went into exile to Babylon with the tribe of Judah , returning to Israel with Ezra. The Gibeonites are unknown today.
JOSHUA CHAPTER 10
"And when Adoni-Tzedek king of Jerusalem heard.." (ch 10 v 1). The Midrash comments on his name: "This place ( Jerusalem ) makes its inhabitants righteous - Malki-Tzedek (Genesis 14:18), Adoni-Tzedek. 'Righteousness (TZEDEK) will dwell in it' (Isaiah 1:21; Bereishis Rabba 23).
Since Jerusalem was to be the place of God's Temple , it is significant that the main war of the Canaanites against the Israelites was initiated by the king of that city. However, Adoni-Tzedek's "righteousness" was for the sake of appearances. Instead of confronting the Israelites directly, he devised a roundabout way to provoke them by following the classic Middle East method of staging an attack on the pro-Israeli "collaborators", the Gibeonites.
The Israelites were honor-bound to come to their aid, and God fought for Israel , raining down from heaven stones of ALGAVISH on the backs of their fleeing enemies (AL GAV ISH -- "on a man's back"). The giant stones littering the area of Beit Choron (ch 10 v 11) were visible in Talmudic times and are mentioned in Berachos 54b as a spectacle over which one should make a blessing for the miracles performed for our ancestors.
The truly outstanding miracle in our chapter is how Joshua caused the sun and the moon to stop in their tracks in order to give the Israelites more time to chase after and destroy their enemies (verses 12-14). "Then Joshua SPOKE" - his words were a prayer and a song (see RaDaK ad loc.). The Talmud states that the battle took place on a Friday, the eve of Shabbat, and Joshua was afraid lest the Israelites would come to violate the Shabbat (Avoda Zara 25a). Midrash Tanchuma states that from the time the sun rises until the time it sets, it sings a song of praise to God. Joshua commanded the sun to "BE SILENT in Giv'on" - for if the sun were to cease to sing, it would immediately stop in its tracks. The sun asked Joshua why it should stop singing since it was created on the fourth day while Joshua, a man, was created only on the sixth. Joshua replied that God had given Abraham possession of the heavens (Genesis 14:19), and moreover, the sun had bowed down to Joseph, Joshua's ancestor (Genesis 37:9). The sun said, 'If I don't sing to God, who will?' "THEN JOSHUA SPOKE", as if to say, "I WILL!!!" The "Book of Righteousness" (Joshua 10:13) in which this was already prophesied is the Torah, in which it is written that Jacob promised Joseph that the fame of the seed of Ephraim would "fill the nations" (Genesis 48:19; see Rashi on Joshua 10 v. 13).
No human can explain or understand how exactly Joshua succeeded in "bending time" to his will and extending the day by as much as 36 hours according to some rabbinic opinions. Pirkey d'Rabbi Eliezer states that Joshua saw that the Canaanite astrologers were planning an attack on the Israelites on the rapidly approaching Shabbat and this was why he prayed to extend the Friday. That God "listened to the voice of a man" (v. 14) indicates that the power of holy prayer is greater even than the influence of the stars and planets, which govern time, while prayer can elevate us beyond time.
BACK TO KNOW YOUR BIBLE HOMEPAGE
By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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