BIBLE STUDY SERIES #593, 594 and 595

6 April, 2003

JOSHUA 13: OCCUPIED AREAS - PART III

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our present series of Bible Studies, which has continued for a number of years sequentially from the Call of Abram in Genesis 12, had, on our last Bible Study, covered the Scriptural record to that which is found leading up to Joshua 13:12.

For new listeners, we need to give a preliminary review. We had previously examined the records of the entry into The Promised Land, by the Israelites under Joshua, as they proceeded towards occupancy of the Land of Promise. We had followed the Scriptural accounts of events at Jericho and Ai, and at the two mountains named Gerizim and Ebal, where Israel had nationally proclaimed acceptance of The LORD's Commandments.

In Joshua 9, we had learned of a treaty into which the unwary Israelite leadership had been trapped by the lies of the Gibeonites. However, once entered, the compromising agreement must be observed, so those Gibeonites were told that they would be hewers of wood and drawers of water to Israel as slaves of The Sanctuary.

The Southern Canaanites were infuriated with that surrender to Israel by the Gibeonites, and came out against them, causing the Gibeonites to appeal for help to Israel. Military aid was swiftly brought to them and the defeat of the five kings of the Southern Canaanite confederacy which had sought to slay the Gibeonites was thus the means of the taking of all the Southern portion of Canaan. The rout was completed by a terrible hail storm sent by The LORD. A somewhat bloody account of what followed is recorded in Joshua 10.

Joshua's successful campaign in the south aroused the alarm of the northern Canaanitish kings who formed a great confederacy against Israel, which included all the neighbouring peoples and the remnants of the defeated armies of the south. This ended in disaster for the enemies of Israel.

Having followed the Scriptural record through to the end of Joshua 12, which describes the taking of Northern Canaan, and which generally list the forces which Israel had defeated to this point, we had entered Joshua 13, to find a listing of those sections of Canaan yet remaining to be taken by Israel. You might wish to have your Bible open to Joshua 13, and a Bible map showing the Old Testament geography of the time, might be useful as well. Today, we continuing our approach the summary account listing the areas conquered thus far, and those not yet taken, but lying within the area God had assigned to Abraham's descendants. We had partially dealt with individual verses found in Joshua 13:1-12, and we had digress somewhat in order to consult The New Bible Commentary and the Commentary by Keil and Delitzsch which give overviews in greater or less detail, concerning the Book of Joshua from this point onward.

Following the general overview which we read previously, Keil and Delitzsch now proceed to take specific sections of the chapter up with more detail under their heading, "Vers. 1-14. Introduction to the Division of the Land." The sub-heading given reads: "- Vers.1-7. Command of the Lord to Joshua to distribute the land of Canaan by lot among the nine tribes and a half. Ver. 1 contains only the commencement of the divine command; the conclusion follows in ver. 7. Vers. 2-6 form a parenthesis of several clauses, defining the last clause of ver. 1 more fully. When Joshua had grown old, the Lord commanded him, as he was advanced in years, and there was still much land to be taken, to divide 'this land' i.e. the whole of the land of Canaan, for an inheritance to the nine tribes and a half, and promised him at the same time that He would drive out the Canaanites from those portions of the land that were not yet conquered (ver. 6). The words 'grown old and come into years' ... denote advanced age in its different stages up to the near approach of death ... . Joshua might be ninety or a hundred years old at this time. The allusion to Joshua's great age serves simply to explain the reason for the command of God. As he was already old, and there still remained much land to be taken, he was to proceed to the division of Canaan, that he might accomplish this work to which he was also called before his death; whereas he might very possibly suppose that, under existing circumstances, the time for allotting the land had not yet arrived. In ver. 2-6 the districts that were not yet conquered are enumerated separately. -Vers. 2, 3. All the circles of the Philistines (geliloth, circles of well-defined districts lying round the chief city). The reference is to the five towns of the Philistines, whose princes are mentioned in vers. 3. 'And all Geshuri:' not the district of Geshur in Peraea (vers. 11, 13, xii. 5; Deut. iii. 14), but the territory of the Geshurites, a small tribe in the south of Philistia, on the edge of the north-western portion of the Arabian desert which borders on Egypt; it is only mentioned again in I Sam. xxvii. 8. The land of the Philistines and Geshurites extended from the Sichor of Egypt (on the south) to the territory of Ekron (on the north). Sichor (Sihor), lit. the black river, is not the Nile, because this is always called ... (Heb.) (the river) in simple prose ... and was not 'before Egypt,' i.e. to the east of it, but flowed through the middle of the land. The Sichor before Egypt was the brook (nachal) of Egypt, the ... modern el Arish, which is mentioned in chap. xv. 4, 47, etc., as the southern border of Canaan towards Egypt. Ekron ... the most northerly of the five chief cities of the Philistines, was first of all allotted to the tribe of Judah (chap. xv. 11, 45), then on the further distribution it was given to Dan (chap. xix. 43); after Joshua's death it was conquered by Judah (Judg. i. 18), though it was not permanently occupied. It is the present Akir, a considerable village in the plain,... without ruins of any antiquity with the exception of two old wells walled round, which probably belong to the times of the Crusaders.

In like manner, Keil and Delitzsch move forward through about five pages of further details applying to those verses up to verse 14, but inserting at verse 8 the reminder that, along with the tribal allotments to the west of the River Jordan, the two and a half tribes to the east of that river also have their lands assigned, and the review then shifts to look again at those tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half of Manasseh which were now to reside across the river from their compatriots.

At this point, then, we might read the Scripture passage from Joshua 13:13, and some points will be inserted as short explanatory notes as we read. There will be some recapitulation as the tribal allotments are mentioned, for those to the east of the Jordan are reviewed along with those on the western side. We begin at verse 13:

13. Nevertheless the children of Israel expelled not the Geshurites, [Geshur or Geshurites = "proud beholder"; a people and a land in north Transjordania.]nor the Maachathites: ... [Maachathites apparently take their descent from one of the nine persons named Maacha in the Revell Bible Dictionary, of whom the dates range from 2050 BC to 950 BC. The name means "oppression." It should be noted that any of those listed might be connected, even though more recent than the invasion under Joshua's leadership, for, as this verse ends, those named are so listed from the time this record was written and included in our Scriptures. It could be the designation of this people as known to the writer and his readership in a later time, as we read the remainder of the verse:] ... but the Geshurites and the Maachathites dwell among the Israelites until this day.
14. Only unto the tribe of Levi he gave none inheritance; the sacrifices of the LORD God of Israel made by fire are their inheritance, as he said unto them.

[Here the whole tribe are given no separated tribal territory, for they were to become a priestly tribe, and, in effect, the governmental civil service for all of the tribes. One aspect of their service was to inhabit certain designated "cities of refuge" to which those who had been responsible for the death of another might flee, for assessment of their degree of guilt. Accidental death might draw a deadly retribution by a relative of the deceased, so protection was involved within those cities. However, while such people were free to leave that protection, (they were not guarded as we guard prisoners in jail cells, with all the expenses attendant thereon) they could not do so safely until the death of the High Priest living at the time of the slaying, when the term of their limitation of freedom expired. There the length of their term might be days or many years. The uncertainty would form an added psychological effect, both of optimism and of despair. There is great symbolism in this arrangement, as it projects forward to Christ's death and the release which is therein available.]

We are approaching the end of our time for today, so perhaps we ought to leave the verses from verse 15 onward for our next study in this series.

13 April, 2003

PALM SUNDAY THEME I

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our ongoing series of Bible Studies, began a number of years ago with God's call to Abram. We have followed the Scriptural account of Abraham's descendants through Isaac and Jacob (Israel) into Egypt and The Exodus under the leadership of Moses. At Mount Sinai, they had become a national wife to The Almighty God, and received sundry laws and regulations. We had followed them through the wilderness wanderings and lately under Joshua into The Promised Land.

In view of the celebration of Palm Sunday at this time in the calendar, I want to take a partial digression within that general topic, in order to accord our thoughts with that appropriate specific theme on this occasion. I shall recall passages from the broadcasts given on 23 March, 1997, and repeated several times since, for today's address, because it has much which is worth repeating, and has become a favourite sermon for the season.

On Palm Sunday Jesus, as the sinless Lamb of God, and being the culminating fulfilment of the prophetic aspects of the Passover ritual, mounted an ass, and also its foal, in succession as He rode into the city in full view of the massing crowds who were making their way towards Jerusalem and the temple, in order to observe the annual religious ritual called in Hebrew pesah, or, as we would call it, Passover.

We may visualise the scene as the multi-coloured robes of the massed throngs, - probably the most costly and least-worn of their entire wardrobe, mingled with the more orthodox finery of the devout and the tatters of beggars, to make a festive and colourful panorama in constant motion against the time-worn and weather-stained stone walls and gates of the great city of Jerusalem. At strategic points near gates and on the walls, the occasional glint of light, shining a spark of reflected sunlight from helmet, spear or armour, would draw attention to the robe of a centurion or a leather-and metal armoured squad of troopers, and would place a sharp reminder before us that this was a city under occupation, and its cultural and religious observances were permitted by sufferance of an austere alien empire. This was the fourth power in Daniel's prophetic vision which was to continue the Babylonian succession of government during the times of Israel's punishment for departing the worship of her God. The populace was constantly aware of their demeaned status, and heedless of the point that the oppressor was, in fact, God's scourge upon them, popularity awaited any leader of Israel who would arise to fulfil the prophetic expectations of the patriotic zealot and the religiously fervent alike.

Most had at least seen some glimpse of Jesus during His time of ministry, and many would now have turned to see the simply dressed prophet and teacher as He rode forward amidst the throng, accompanied by his followers and disciples. Doubtless they saw in Him the possible fulfilment of national aspirations, and a hint of the regal would be all that was needed to ignite a hope that the day had now come for national release. Robes and palm branches were flung down before him, in hope that some of the mystic glory yet to come might hallow these tokens of adulation for each who was thus moved. Christ rode on in lonely glory, but not as a military conqueror this day. He was the Passover-lamb being shown, according to The Law, that all might see a spotless character yet to fulfil His role as the Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). He alone saw the strain of His opposition to evil in the nation, His trial, the scourging, the bleeding and the pain which lay immediately before Him, and then the agony of The Cross whereon He was to hang, like the brasen (copper) serpent in the wilderness to heal all who might look towards Him (Numbers 21:9). He would within the week be despised and rejected, scorned and in the agony of death. His expression would doubtless have reflected that knowledge, and display the fortitude which would face all, and win the victory, even for those who would spurn or flee from Him in that dread hour. If we do not see this, we do not see what is truly afoot this day. It is the greatest love binding the greatest sin through submission to bondage and nails. We do well to contemplate it well, for our own future existence depends upon the blood to be shed in place of our blood.

According to The New Bible Dictionary item "Passover", the Hebrew word comes from a verb meaning "to pass over", in the sense of "to spare." The term is used both for the ordinance and for the sacrificial victim. Abib, later called Nisan, the month of the ripening ears and of the first Passover, was made in honour the first month of the Jewish year, according to that reference. [Here I believe the word "Israelitish" ought to have been used by the editors of The New Bible Dictionary for it seems much more appropriate in this context than the word "Jewish", the use of which term appears to be an unfortunate anachronism. I ought to explain that there were many Israelites in existence at The Exodus, but only the descendants of about one one-hundredth of those Israelites might, centuries later, belong to that tiny branch of Israel which returned from the Babylonian captivity, a remnant of a remnant of a remnant, to be known to subsequent generations as "Jews." (The very much larger Assyrian captivities were of Israelites who were not, and never have been, Jews. Most of these, we of the British-Israel-World Federation evidence to have developed into the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples of the world today.)]

The Dictionary mentions that no bone of the Passover victim was to be broken, a typological detail "fulfilled when it is reverently applied to the crucified One (Jn. xix. 36)."

That means of transport used by Our Lord, in contrast to use of a war-horse, would symbolise a peacefully intentioned entry to the city of Jerusalem. All this He did, in fulfilment of the prophetic aspects of the Passover as described in Exodus 12:2-6. That passage reads:

2. This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.
3. Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house:
4. And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.
5. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats:
6. And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.

Thus, the ritual required that the chosen Lamb which was to become the sacrifice a few days later might be inspected and watched, during the intervening days to see that it was indeed perfect, and without blemish. When Jesus got to the Temple (Herod's Temple, I might point out), he entered it, and began to cast out the money changers, and those that sold doves and other sacrificial animals for profitable gain on the monetary exchange which was imposed on those who came to worship.

In that regard we might profit by reading the account, taken from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 21:1-13.

1. And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples,
2. Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me.
3. And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them.
4. All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying,
5. Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.
6. And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them,
7. And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon.
8. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way.
9. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.
10. And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?
11. And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.
12. And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,
13. And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

Here we may point out that, in cleansing the Temple of all those who were making it a place of financial enrichment, and cheating the public through a monopoly on the traffic in sacrificial animals and birds, Jesus was clearly demonstrating His own fitness to be chosen as that perfect, and unblemished "Lamb of God" which "taketh away the sins of the world", and to become the Redeemer of His people, Israel, and The Saviour of the world.

Thus was the Old Testament prophetic enactment of the Passover blood to be played out in this subsequent event, the culminating focus of history as far as The First Advent was concerned. May your meditations this week reflect the understanding which appreciates that greatest of gifts which was at Christ's expense, and may none who understands neglect to receive the offering thus made. There is to be a sequel, at the Second Advent, when the joy, which has been long delayed, at last replaces the sorrow of that dread hour so long ago, yet so near to every contrite heart.

20 April, 2003

PALM SUNDAY THEME II

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our ongoing series of Bible Studies, which began several years ago with God's call to Abram has followed the Scriptural account of Abraham's descendants through Isaac and Jacob (Israel) into Egypt and bondage from which the Israelites were led out by the miracles of The Exodus under Moses. At Mount Sinai, they have become a national wife to The Almighty God, and received their National Law Code, becoming thus the nucleus of the Kingdom of God yet to develop upon the earth, together with sundry regulations and Ordinances. We had followed them through the wilderness wanderings and lately under Joshua into The Promised Land. As we are now in the season of Passover and Easter, and as a partial digression from another topic of recent days, I have chosen to digress from our regular course to examine some topical thoughts relating to the season of "Holy-week", or "Passion-week", as it is commonly termed in England according to Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary.

I believe today's study will be appropriate to the occasion, although it will not, perhaps, form the usual pattern of treatment for such a sermon. Last week we reviewed the Biblical passages which relate to the Palm Sunday observances and the cleansing of the Temple by Christ, a recapitulation in part, of the Study given on 30 March, 1997, and repeated several times since, for today's address, because it has much which is worth repeating, and has become a favourite sermon for the season, and although it might seem to offer a digression to the normal treatment of the story of the events of Holy-week, I now want to bring to our listeners passages from that talk, beginning with the words of Jesus in John 14:1-3. These words were spoken to His disciples during the hours of The Last Supper immediately prior to the Crucifixion. Christ spoke to the disciples regarding the house of His Father. Let us hear the words of the Biblical passage. It says:

1. Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
2. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
3. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
4. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.

Here, Thomas says "we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?" to which Jesus replies "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him."

Now what is the usual interpretation which the average church-goer or even minister of the Gospel places upon that passage? From the many hymns which speak in verse of a general departure of "the church", or "God's people" out of this earth to go to some heavenly country to occupy glorious palatial mansions allotted to each by way of regard for services rendered on earth, one might expect that Christ was not destined to return at all! Hymns which are introduced by lines such as "There Is A Blessed Home Beyond This World Of Woe..." (#615), "There Is No Night In Heaven; In That Blest World Above..." (#623), Around The Throne Of God In Heaven Shall Countless Children Stand..." (#706), "Jerusalem On High..." (#608) and "When The Trumpet Of The Lord Shall Sound", with its refrain, "When the Roll is called up yonder", are all apparently in large measure based upon this mistaken interpretation, and, while we may sing them in fellowship with our friends, I might question whether the theological thrust of the wording is in strict accord with Scripture. Let us see what our study reveals.

I would suggest that such a concept of a heavenly abode in some distant realm vaguely assumed to be "somewhere altogether parted from the earth" is a common misconception, to which the true meaning of that passage is quite startlingly at variance. I herewith offer an alternative interpretation of the true meaning of this passage, related to Scriptural cross-references; one which I believe will be consistent with Christ's intent when He uttered the words of this teaching.

Let us review the words and phrases in this teaching, and see if other scriptures will throw some light upon what Christ was actually stating to His followers. I will begin by asking the question "What constitutes that Father's House" wherein all those "places of abode" are located? The Companion Bible has a marginal notation which offers an alternative rendering of the term "many mansions." It reads "abiding places." That reference goes on, in the same note, to state the words "Gr. mone (from meno, a characteristic word in this Gospel). Occurs only here and in v. 23." Young's Concordance also agrees with the explanatory word "abode."

That marginal notation tips off the careful reader to look up the rendering of this word in Vine's "Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words" where we find under the term "Mansions" the following information: "MONE... primarily a staying, abiding (akin to meno, to abide), denotes an abode (Eng., manor, manse, etc.), translated 'mansions' in John 14:2; 'abode' in vers. 23. There is nothing in the word to indicate separate compartments in Heaven; neither does it suggest temporary resting-places on the road." I think, therefore, that it will repay us to consider carefully the indication that is made clear in that reference, to correct the vague misconception that there are many huge palaces being prepared by a divine carpenter for each person, somewhere "away beyond the blue" in some heaven far away, as so often superficially thought!

After I had presented the theme in 1997, I later discovered the same approach in Foxe's Book of Martyrs, for Foxe states that before his fiery martyrdom St. Lawrence faced an avaricious tyrant bent on acquiring church treasure. Indicating the poor Christians, St. Lawrence said "These are the precious treasure of the church; these are the treasure indeed, in whom the faith of Christ reigneth, in whom Jesus Christ hath his mansion-place. What more precious jewels can Christ have than those in whom he hath promised to dwell?"

Let us consult the words of St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are." In 1 Corinthians 6:19 Paul writes: "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" Again, in 2 Corinthians 6:16 Paul makes the point in the words: "And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

In Ephesians 2:19-21 St. Paul writes to the saints at Ephesus in these terms: They are "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." Paul makes it quite clear to those who read his words in all these Scriptures that "ye are the temple of God... ." So we are to be the "abodes" or "mansions" of God!

Revelation 3:12 confirms this interpretation in the words " Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name."

Let us note there also the fact that the whole design of this new Jerusalem is said to come down to earth from God Who dwells in heaven. It is Christ's "departure" through Crucifixion and death which is the pre-condition which, so to speak, "sets the stage" and by that means facilitates the building of those "mansions" in His followers!

Now another matter may be of interest. In Matthew 21:12 we read: "And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves." This was the second time that that had happened. In John 2:13-17, we read that Jesus had done the same thing at the beginning of His ministry, and on that occasion, it had led to a dispute wherein Christ stated "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up", to which the Jews who opposed Him argued: "Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?" The passage continues "But he spake of the temple of his body. When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said."

While we see that the opposition remembered the words Jesus had spoken, and repeated them with derision but without understanding their meaning in Matthew 26:61, Matthew 27:40, Mark 14:58 and Mark 15:29, let us place three or four scripture concepts together to observe a possible double meaning therein. The "temple" of His body was raised up in three days. Jesus' followers are, as we have seen, also "the temple" being built and, in II Peter 3:8 we read "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." It is therefore possible to construct a scenario in which, just as the Israelites followed the Ark of the Covenant towards Jordan as they were entering the Promised Land, but were to remain about two thousand cubits behind it (Joshua 3:4), so the "body of Christ", His "temple" of living stones, may likewise follow Him into the "Promised Land" of His Kingdom within three one-thousand-year "days" through a similar experience, so that Christ will be "the firstborn among many brethren" (Romans 8:29)! Revelation 21:22 states in the symbolism of that Book "And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it." As Christ is the head of His body of followers that combination would be just what Revelation describes. That may provide some food for thought and meditation during the coming week!

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