BIBLE STUDY SERIES #575, 576 and 577

1 December, 2002

Joshua 8 - GERIZIM AND EBAL TODAY

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our present series of Bible Studies, which have continued for a number of years sequentially from the Call of Abram in Genesis 12, had, on the last Study, arrived at the Scriptural record as found in Joshua 8. We had examined the records of the acts of the Israelites under orders of The Captain of the Host of The LORD, and the transmission of these through their military leader, Joshua, as they proceeded towards occupancy of the Land of Promise which God swore to give to Abraham's descendants. The Israelites had completed their initial tasks, and circled Jericho until the walls fell and the taking of the city was complete. They had not noticed that one of their number, Achan, had secreted booty in his tent which had belonged within the Treasury of the LORD or, in the case of the Babylonish garment, ought to have been burnt, and with that sin in their camp, God had allowed the forces of Ai to overcome them. Achan was revealed by God's procedure and they had dealt with that sin. Thereafter, Ai was taken and put to the sword, and the movement had again gone forward.

On the last Bible Study, we had read to the end of Joshua 8, and we had devoted attention particularly to verses thirty to thirty-five. Therein we had found the Israelites carrying out certain of the orders of The LORD, which were delivered to the nation of Israel by Moses back in Deuteronomy 11:16-32 and Deuteronomy 27:2-3. Perhaps we ought to read through the Deuteronomy 27 passage to see how the orders were given and carried out for this record will, in fact, describe for our imagination the features of the ceremony as it actually unfolded before all those present.

1 And Moses with the elders of Israel commanded the people, saying, Keep all the commandments which I command you this day.
2 And it shall be on the day when ye shall pass over Jordan unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, that thou shalt set thee up great stones, and plaister them with plaister:
3 And thou shalt write upon them all the words of this law, when thou art passed over, that thou mayest go in unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, a land that floweth with milk and honey; as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee.
4 Therefore it shall be when ye be gone over Jordan, that ye shall set up these stones, which I command you this day, in mount Ebal, and thou shalt plaister them with plaister.
5 And there shalt thou build an altar unto the LORD thy God, an altar of stones: thou shalt not lift up any iron tool upon them.
6 Thou shalt build the altar of the LORD thy God of whole stones: and thou shalt offer burnt offerings thereon unto the LORD thy God:
7 And thou shalt offer peace offerings, and shalt eat there, and rejoice before the LORD thy God.
8 And thou shalt write upon the stones all the words of this law very plainly.
9 And Moses and the priests the Levites spake unto all Israel, saying, Take heed, and hearken, O Israel; this day thou art become the people of the LORD thy God.
10 Thou shalt therefore obey the voice of the LORD thy God, and do his commandments and his statutes, which I command thee this day.
11 And Moses charged the people the same day, saying,
12 These shall stand upon mount Gerizim to bless the people, when ye are come over Jordan; Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Joseph, and Benjamin:
13 And these shall stand upon mount Ebal to curse; Reuben, Gad, and Asher, and Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali.
14 And the Levites shall speak, and say unto all the men of Israel with a loud voice,
15 Cursed be the man that maketh any graven or molten image, an abomination unto the LORD, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and putteth it in a secret place. And all the people shall answer and say, Amen.
16 Cursed be he that setteth light by his father or his mother. And all the people shall say, Amen.
17 Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour's landmark. And all the people shall say, Amen.
18 Cursed be he that maketh the blind to wander out of the way. And all the people shall say, Amen.
19 Cursed be he that perverteth the judgment of the stranger, fatherless, and widow. And all the people shall say, Amen.
20 Cursed be he that lieth with his father's wife; because he uncovereth his father's skirt. And all the people shall say, Amen.
21 Cursed be he that lieth with any manner of beast. And all the people shall say, Amen.
22 Cursed be he that lieth with his sister, the daughter of his father, or the daughter of his mother. And all the people shall say, Amen.
23 Cursed be he that lieth with his mother in law. And all the people shall say, Amen.
24 Cursed be he that smiteth his neighbour secretly. And all the people shall say, Amen.
25 Cursed be he that taketh reward to slay an innocent person. And all the people shall say, Amen.
26 Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen.

And thus we know how the whole event was enacted, for we have read from Joshua 8:30-35:

30. Then Joshua built an altar unto the LORD God of Israel in mount Ebal,
31. As Moses the servant of the LORD commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of whole stones, over which no man hath lift up any iron: and they offered thereon burnt offerings unto the LORD, and sacrificed peace offerings.
32. And he wrote there upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he wrote in the presence of the children of Israel.
33. And all Israel, and their elders, and officers, and their judges, stood on this side the ark and on that side before the priests the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, as well the stranger, as he that was born among them; half of them over against mount Gerizim, and half of them over against mount Ebal; as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel.
34. And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law.
35. There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them.

As The New Bible Commentary notes, under the heading "Renewal of the Covenant at Shechem": "In a religious act of the utmost significance Joshua now reminded the Israelites of the true nature of their conquest. Making a pilgrimage into the heart of enemy country, he led the people to Shechem, and there, in surroundings rendered sacred by association with the patriarchs, and in accordance with the express command of Moses, he called them to renew their allegiance to Jehovah and to hear the conditions on which they were to retain possession of the land. ... An altar of undressed stones was erected on mount Ebal, and solemn sacrifices were offered; a copy of the Law of Moses was written upon plastered stones and read aloud to the vast multitude, and public proclamation was made of its blessings and curses. Six tribes on Gerizim said 'Amen' to the blessings, and six on Ebal said 'Amen' to the curses. 'History can furnish few scenes so impressive in moral grandeur as that of a nation thus solemnly embracing God's law as the rule of its life and the condition of its prosperity.'" (That last sentence is a quotation from Fairweather, "From the Exodus to the Monarchy").

It is essential, when viewing our national purposes, to recall our fathers' national commitments concerning God's Laws, and the fact that we are to continue that undertaking and commitment in our own generation, even as they, for we are duty-bound so to do, not only as we of the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples are the generations so commanded, descended in the main from the House of Israel, but also because we are those who have inherited the tasks connected with the Christian commitments of our ancestors in centuries past. We must also note that it was commanded, not only of the actual racial descendants of Jacob, but also "as well the stranger, as he that was born among them." These things are not dry dust and archaeological curiosities. They are Living Law, for The LORD with whom these commitments were made is yet, even now in this our year, and in our own time marking the hours to the day of His appearing, in Judgment. We have a commitment, and Sin is the breaking of His Law. The question is, do we regard that commitment as dead, with a dead god of ages past, or a commitment which we are duty-bound to honour before our own living LORD?

It would seem that for the moment, Our Lord has granted time to consider what we ought to do. Will we bow, and honour His Commandments or not? On this may balance our own destiny. We, of the British-Israel-World Federation pray that the nations of modern Israel will choose to obey, and find the promised blessings connected therewith.

8 December, 2002

JOSHUA 9 - COVENANT BASED ON FALSEHOOD - PART I

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our present series of Bible Studies, which have continued for a number of years sequentially from the Call of Abram in Genesis 12, had, on the last Study, arrived at the Scriptural record as found in Joshua 8. As a brief introduction to today's portion for those new listeners who have not been previously following the series, I should, as has been my custom, review the recent studies.

We had examined the records of the acts of the Israelites under orders of The Captain of the Host of The LORD, and the transmission of these through their military leader, Joshua, as they proceeded towards occupancy of the Land of Promise which God swore to give to Abraham's descendants. The Israelites had completed their initial tasks, circling Jericho until the walls fell and the taking of the city was complete. They had not noticed that one of their number, Achan, had secreted booty in his tent which had belonged within the Treasury of the LORD or, in the case of the Babylonish garment which he took, ought to have been burnt, and with that sin in their camp, God had allowed the forces of Ai to overcome the three-thousand troops assigned to the task of taking that small city. Achan was revealed by God's procedure and Israel had dealt with that sin. Thereafter, Ai was taken and put to the sword, and the movement had again gone forward. Joshua had led Israel to the two mountains, Gerizim and Ebal where the Israelites carried out certain of the orders of The LORD, which were delivered to the nation of Israel by Moses back in Deuteronomy 11:16-32 and Deuteronomy 27:2-3. We had read through the description of the features of the ceremony as it actually unfolded before all those present. As The New Bible Commentary had noted, under the heading "Renewal of the Covenant at Shechem": "In a religious act of the utmost significance Joshua now reminded the Israelites of the true nature of their conquest."

We will now move ahead to today's Bible Study, which is found in Joshua 9 if you wish to follow the reading in your own Bible. This chapter deals with a new situation, and it yields to us an example of the sort of problem wherein even the Godly leadership of Joshua and the princes of Israel could stumble. By way of introducing this passage, before we read the Scripture portion, we might have regard to an applicable passage found in The New Bible Commentary, under the more extended heading "The second stage: the campaign in the south (ix. 1 - x. 43)." This reference begins the treatment of the contents of Joshua 9 with the sub-heading "i. Compromise with the Gibeonites (ix. 1-27)." It says:

"Israel's successes against Jericho and Ai had two contrasting consequences. On the one hand, opposition hardened and became more highly organized (ix. 1, 2, x. 1-43); on the other, some of the inhabitants of the land were prepared to make terms with the invaders (ix. 3-27). The central part of the country was thrown wide open to the invaders by the defection of the Gibeonite cities - Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth and Kirjath-jearim (17). They are called Hivites in verse 7 (cf. Jdg. iii. 3n.)"... [That reference mentions the continuing presence of those Canaanite.] .... "By pretending that they were ambassadors from a far country and therefore constituted no threat to Israel's advance, their representatives induced the Israelites to form an alliance with them and to guarantee that their lives would be spared." Let us begin our reading of the Scripture passage from Joshua 9, and then return to the commentary from that reference.

1. And it came to pass, when all the kings which were on this side Jordan, in the hills, and in the valleys, and in all the coasts of the great sea over against Lebanon, the Hittite, and the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, heard thereof;
2. That they gathered themselves together, to fight with Joshua and with Israel, with one accord.

The Hebrew word which is translated "accord" is, according to a note in The Companion Bible, "Mouth" ...[which stands]... "for what is said by it: i.e. one consent." That reference also mentions in regard to the word "inhabitants" used in the next sentence, "The Gibeonites were Hivites (v. 7), condemned to extermination as mixed with the descendants of the Nephilim... ."

3. And when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done unto Jericho and to Ai,
4. They did work wilily, and went and made as if they had been ambassadors, and took old sacks upon their asses, and wine bottles, old, and rent, and bound up;
5. And old shoes and clouted upon their feet, and old garments upon them; and all the bread of their provision was dry and mouldy.

Of this, The New Bible Commentary note continues: "Their worn clothes, patched (clouted) shoes, and obviously old provisions convinced the princes of Israel that they had indeed come from a far country, especially since they had apparently heard only of the exploits of Israel beyond Jordan and know nothing of Jericho and Ai (9, 10)." We find this as we continue with our Scripture passage:

6. And they went to Joshua unto the camp at Gilgal, and said unto him, and to the men of Israel, We be come from a far country: now therefore make ye a league with us.
7. And the men of Israel said unto the Hivites, Peradventure ye dwell among us; and how shall we make a league with you?
8. And they said unto Joshua, We are thy servants. And Joshua said unto them, Who are ye? and from whence come ye?
9. And they said unto him, From a very far country thy servants are come because of the name of the LORD thy God: for we have heard the fame of him, and all that he did in Egypt,
10. And all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites, that were beyond Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, which was at Ashtaroth.
11. Wherefore our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spake to us, saying, Take victuals with you for the journey, and go to meet them, and say unto them, We are your servants: therefore now make ye a league with us.
12. This our bread we took hot for our provision out of our houses on the day we came forth to go unto you; but now, behold, it is dry, and it is mouldy:
13. And these bottles of wine, which we filled, were new; and, behold, they be rent: and these our garments and our shoes are become old by reason of the very long journey.

At this stage, we might insert some thoughts which draw ourselves more clearly into the picture. Having made some agreement on the basis of human assurances, do we ever find ourselves in the same position as that which faced Joshua? We might even consider those commercial transactions of a dubious nature in which some signed contract is involved. What about the circumstance as it further involved the princes of the tribes? And how did the ordinary citizenry take the news that their leaders had been so taken in by these foreigners once the situation was revealed? Had not the people just reviewed the words of Moses not very long before at Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal? In Exodus 23:27-33, The LORD had stated through Moses "I will send my fear before thee, and will destroy all the people to whom thou shalt come, and I will make all thine enemies turn their backs unto thee." ... and further in that passage, had not The LORD most clearly told Israel that "Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor with their gods"?

Can we here see an example of leadership which has made an assumption of the identity of a people claiming one story in regard to their identity but who, in reality, are simply telling a convincing lie which appears to be the truth to those who have failed to "do their homework" in going directly to obtain the word of The LORD? The decision of Israel's governmental and ecclesiastical leadership had been based upon assurances of strangers backed up by fabricated appearance of evidence. Their mistake was made at the point at which they neglected to consult directly with The LORD's words. Instead, they had been influenced by their own examination of that which only purported to be evidence. Were some of the princes of those tribes also swayed by the firm decisive opinions of others of their number? Can we, even now find some of our religious leadership doing exactly the same thing? What might we say to those who are making a dreadful error in doing this? Are Christian leaders making any such covenant with those who have portrayed themselves as something which they are not? Does such an error rob people of the true doorway of Repentance and Salvation?

Our Commentary reference continues: "A treaty was concluded before the deception was discovered; the men of Israel took of their victuals, thereby pledging themselves to friendship, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord (14). We read this in the next verses and it is important to stress those words:

14. And the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the LORD.
15. And Joshua made peace with them, and made a league with them, to let them live: and the princes of the congregation sware unto them.
16. And it came to pass at the end of three days after they had made a league with them, that they heard that they were their neighbours, and that they dwelt among them.
17. And the children of Israel journeyed, and came unto their cities on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon, and Chephirah, and Beeroth, and Kirjathjearim.

We shall leave our Scripture study for today, but the questions raised may have an importance for ourselves, and for our nations and churches too. Next week we shall see how matters turned out for Israel in that example situation, in their own day, and consider more of our own situations in the light of what then transpired.

15 December, 2002

JOSHUA 9 - COVENANT BASED ON FALSEHOOD - PART II

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our present series of Bible Studies, which have continued for a number of years sequentially from the Call of Abram in Genesis 12, had, on the last Study, arrived at the Scriptural record as found in Joshua 9. As a brief introduction to today's portion for those new listeners who have not been previously following the series, I should, as has been my custom, review the recent studies.

We had examined the records of the acts of the Israelites under orders of The Captain of the Host of The LORD, and the transmission of these through their military leader, Joshua, as they proceeded towards occupancy of the Land of Promise which God swore to give to Abraham's descendants. The Israelites had completed their initial tasks, and circled Jericho until the walls fell and the taking of the city was complete. They had not noticed that one of their number, Achan, had secreted booty in his tent which had belonged within the Treasury of the LORD or, in the case of the Babylonish garment which he took, ought to have been burnt, and with that sin in their camp, God had allowed the forces of Ai to overcome the three-thousand troops assigned to the task of taking that small city. Achan was revealed by God's procedure and Israel had dealt with that sin. Thereafter, Ai was taken and put to the sword, and the movement had again gone forward. Joshua had led Israel to the two mountains, Gerizim and Ebal where the Israelites carried out certain of the orders of The LORD, which were delivered to the nation of Israel by Moses back in Deuteronomy 11:16-32 and Deuteronomy 27:2-3. We had read through the description of the features of the ceremony as it actually unfolded before all those present. As The New Bible Commentary had noted, under the heading "Renewal of the Covenant at Shechem": "In a religious act of the utmost significance Joshua now reminded the Israelites of the true nature of their conquest.

We will now move ahead to today's Bible Study, which is found in Joshua 9 if you wish to follow the reading in your own Bible. This chapter deals with a new situation, and it yields to us an example of the sort of problem wherein even the Godly leadership of Joshua and the princes of Israel could stumble. By way of introducing this passage, before we read the Scripture portion, we might have regard to a heading found in The New Bible Commentary, under the more extended heading "The second stage: the campaign in the south (ix. 1 - x. 43)." This reference begins the treatment of the contents of Joshua 9 with the sub-heading "i. Compromise with the Gibeonites (ix. 1-27)."

In the first part of this chapter, we had found that, while the other Canaanite peoples had banded together in a more organized front to offer resistance to the advancing Israelite forces who had taken the gateway cities of Jericho and Ai, one group, those who dwelt in four cities directly in the path of the Israelites had decided to approach Israel with a well-planned lie. They would show themselves as rather ragged and, in appearance, as people who had come from a great distance, so that they would appear to offer no threat to the leaders of Israel. These representatives of the Gibeonites must surely have been accomplished actors, and their preparations as convincing as anything in Hollywood, for they had to pass scrutiny by the suspicious and dangerous Israelite leadership, who knew a thing or two about travelling great distances in wilderness conditions. The lie worked, but that was because Joshua and the princes of the various tribes had accepted the lie at face value, neglecting to refer the matter to Their LORD for His direct approval. Thus the leaders of Israel had made a mistake, for they ate with those who approached them, thus, by the conventions of that day, sealing a covenant of peace by sharing that meal. Picking up our Scripture passage at verse 14, we read of these leaders of Israel that they accepted what had been told them.

14. And the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the LORD.
15. And Joshua made peace with them, and made a league with them, to let them live: and the princes of the congregation sware unto them.
16. And it came to pass at the end of three days after they had made a league with them, that they heard that they were their neighbours, and that they dwelt among them.
17. And the children of Israel journeyed, and came unto their cities on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon, and Chephirah, and Beeroth, and Kirjathjearim.

Can we not also see in the resulting situation the dismay of the leadership when it became obvious to the whole nation at the end of those three days that they had been taken in by the lie and had done so because they had not consulted the word of The LORD? What recourse was left to them? As the Commentary says: "The discovery of the fraud was made when Israel came to the cities of the Gibeonites; but the agreement was sacred and could not be annulled, despite the protests of some of the people." How important it is, then, that God's people be not easily swayed to give their pledged word in an agreement without seeking the permission and guidance of The LORD. Did not Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:33-37 tell His followers:

33. Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:
34. But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne:
35. Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.
36. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.
37. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

Here, then, the leadership had erred badly.

18. And the children of Israel smote them not, because the princes of the congregation had sworn unto them by the LORD God of Israel. And all the congregation murmured against the princes.
19. But all the princes said unto all the congregation, We have sworn unto them by the LORD God of Israel: now therefore we may not touch them.

Justice was done by reducing the Gibeonites to the position of slaves of the sanctuary. Cf. Dt. xxix. 11. Now therefore ye are cursed (23) are Joshua's words; not God's. For the curse that came upon them was a blessing. 'Blessed are they that dwell in thy house' (Ps. lxxxiv. 4). That was the curse that fell on the Gibeonites - to be attached for ever to the congregation and to the altar of the Lord, in the place that He should choose (27). Such is the grace of God. It was for the Gibeonites that He wrought the miracle of the battle of Bethhoron (x. 7-15); and it was among them afterwards that He pitched His tent (2 Ch. i. 3): and in still later days, when priests and Levites failed. He made them take their places (see Ezr. ii. 43n., viii. 20). The defection of the Gibeonites at this stage helped Joshua to drive a wedge still further into Central Palestine."

The New Bible Dictionary, item "Gibeon" makes an introductory statement thus, which forms a useful summary sentence: "Following the fall of Jericho and Ai, the Gibeonites tricked Joshua into making a treaty with them as vassals. They were reduced to menial service and cursed when their deceit was discovered." The scripture continues:

20. This we will do to them; we will even let them live, lest wrath be upon us, because of the oath which we sware unto them.
21. And the princes said unto them, Let them live; but let them be hewers of wood and drawers of water unto all the congregation; as the princes had promised them.
22. And Joshua called for them, and he spake unto them, saying, Wherefore have ye beguiled us, saying, We are very far from you; when ye dwell among us?
23. Now therefore ye are cursed, and there shall none of you be freed from being bondmen, and hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God.
24. And they answered Joshua, and said, Because it was certainly told thy servants, how that the LORD thy God commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land, and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you, therefore we were sore afraid of our lives because of you, and have done this thing.
25. And now, behold, we are in thine hand: as it seemeth good and right unto thee to do unto us, do.
26. And so did he unto them, and delivered them out of the hand of the children of Israel, that they slew them not.
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.

We should, perhaps, leave for our next Study the pursuit of this account to see what eventuated, in the ultimate Planning of God.

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