Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Monday, May 16, 2005

The Battle of Jericho

Daily Readings
Proverbs 23 + Joshua 6 + Jonah 1 + Ephesians 1

Quote of the Day
God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places…. Ephesians 1:20

Daily Text: Joshua 6:1-3, 7, 21, 26

Now Jericho was shut up inside and out because of the Israelites; no one came out and no one went in. 2The LORD said to Joshua, "See, I have handed Jericho over to you, along with its king and soldiers. 3You shall march around the city, all the warriors circling the city once. Thus you shall do for six days, 7To the people he said, "Go forward and march around the city; have the armed men pass on before the ark of the LORD." 21Then they devoted to destruction by the edge of the sword all in the city, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys. 26Joshua then pronounced this oath, saying, "Cursed before the LORD be anyone who tries to build this city--this Jericho! At the cost of his firstborn he shall lay its foundation, and at the cost of his youngest he shall set up its gates!"

The Battle of Jericho
The story of Jericho is the most famous of all the stories of Israelite capture, and it is the one most difficult to establish! Archaeologically it appears not to have occurred. Jericho at 840 feet below sea level is the lowest city on earth and at over 10,000 years of age is the oldest city on earth. One question is why did Joshua take this city if it was to be razed and cursed against rebuilding? This cursing of a captured city is unique in the bible.

One possibility is the discovery that schistosomiasis was found to be prevalent in the one water source at Jericho during the 13th century B.C. Its host, a species of snail (Bulinus truncatus) is known to thrive in water sources used by humans. Genito-urinary schistosomiasis causes dramatic signs of illness including symptoms of depression and reduced fertility [419:214]. Could it be that part of the intelligence carried by the two spies from Rahab included this information and Joshua wishing to eliminate any threat to his rearguard as he moved up the valley, determined to annihilate the city with all living creatures, and then cursed it to keep his own people from settling there?

Much of the description of the taking of the city seems more in line with a liturgical celebration than an actual military campaign. For example, all of the people took part (vs. 7), priests were involved, much blowing of shofars, rams horns, and the only things kept were the gold and silver, bronze and iron for the temple treasury. So this late description may well have incorporated a liturgical festival as the setting for remembering an original taking of the city. In addition to some ancient and major walls built for a larger city of some 8 acres, there was it appears a small city at the time of Joshua and they may have used an upper defensive wall made of brick. It could be that this is the wall that tumbled and it would explain why Rahab and her family who lived in the wall, the more ancient wall, were not killed when the ‘wall’ fell. Generally, speaking, the biblical tale has well-established historical roots. The fact that only Jericho is hard to verify is grounds for accepting its original destruction. That it was very important conceptually as the first city to be claimed in the promised land, gives us one of the reasons for its inclusion primarily as a liturgical recital. Regardless, it is endlessly fascinating.

Women of Jericho
Phyllis McGinley

Though seven times, or seventy times seven,
Your armies circle our beleaguered town,
Not with their clamor may our gates be riven;
O, not by trumpets shall the walls go down!
Send out your troops to trample the fresh grasses
With horns and banners! They shall find defeat.
These walls can bear the insolence of brasses
Sounded at noonday in the dust and heat.

It is the whisper, only, that we dread:
The hushed and delicate murmur like low weeping
Which shall assail us, when , as do the dead,
The warders sleep and all the town lies sleeping.
That holy word is whispered which can fell
These armored walls, and raze the citadel.


Anonymous Danny said...

Dear Fr. James,

This is a cool site, my first time to see a blog on scripture, a homily like comment and a poem.

I feel nostalgic reading your blog.

11:10 PM  

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