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.

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Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Nagging for Water

Daily Readings
Psalm 73 + Joshua 15 + Amos 3 + Philippians 4

Quote of the Day
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

Daily Text: Joshua 15:13-19, 63
13 According to the commandment of the LORD to Joshua, he gave to Caleb son of Jephunneh a portion among the people of Judah, Kiriath-arba, that is, Hebron (Arba was the father of Anak). 14And Caleb drove out from there the three sons of Anak: Sheshai, Ahiman, and Talmai, the descendants of Anak. 15From there he went up against the inhabitants of Debir; now the name of Debir formerly was Kiriath-sepher. 16And Caleb said, ‘Whoever attacks Kiriath-sepher and takes it, to him I will give my daughter Achsah as wife.’ 17Othniel son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb, took it; and he gave him his daughter Achsah as wife. 18When she came to him, she urged him to ask her father for a field. As she dismounted from her donkey, Caleb said to her, ‘What do you want?’ 19She said to him, ‘Give me a present; since you have set me in the land of the Negeb, give me springs of water as well.’ So Caleb gave her the upper springs and the lower springs.
63 But the people of Judah could not drive out the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem; so the Jebusites live with the people of Judah in Jerusalem to this day.

Nagging for Water
Suspicions are aroused in this Caleb passage that one is getting a birds eye view into some messy family triangle. Caleb was an eminent prince, one of two adults closely associated with Moses. To be closely allied to him would bring some prominence, so when Caleb offers his daughter Achsah to the man who takes Debir, Othniel, his brother’s son, takes up the challenge and wins the girl. But the aftermath creates the impression that Othniel may have succeeded economically only to be saddled with a woman who would not fulfill the image of a good wife in Proverbs 31! Could Achsah have been a woman with few marriage prospects without this economic benefit? Given to Othniel, either he nags her to request a piece of tillable land or she nags him to do so. Boling (419) suggests that Othniel nags Achsah and she asks her father. Most translators see it the other way, and Judges 1 suggests they are correct. Either way, it happens and Caleb gives them a poor piece of land that is very like the Negeb, that is dry land, ‘Hebron’s Southland, the hills falling away to the desert fringe[419:375], for their inheritance. Then Achsah comes [again?] to her father and her father simply seeing her ride up on her donkey knows something is wrong. He doesn’t hesitate ask what it is? One suspects that this daughter is so querulous that the father simply wants to be shed of her. She asks for a well, cisterns being of little use in such dry land, and gets two of them and we hear no more of her, though Othniel becomes the first and perhaps only judge of the southern tribes [cf. Judges 3:7-11]. This man was a warrior and had the ability to act when the need and opportunity arose. One way and another Caleb is getting his life in order, possessing his inheritance and settling family arrangements. His image is a little tarnished in this intimate glimpse of his family life as he moves from nomadic warrior to settled prince, but it also gives us an insight into God’s continued blessing in his life.

from The Dying Soldier of Joshua
Alexander S. Arnold

A veteran of Joshua was breathing out his last,
The crimson tide was flowing out and life was ebbing fast,
And yet upon his dying face a look exultant shone
As he heard shouts of victory upon the zephyrs blown;
For tho he lay all helpless there beneath the tenting sky,
His soul was filled with thankful joy suppressing every sigh.
An hour before in fierce assault his strokes had counted well,
His weapon wielding to the last; yea, fighting as he fell;
And now, as he lay dying there upon the bloody field,
His right hand clutched his weapon and the left his leathern shield.
But who approaches? Who bends o’er the dying soldier’s head?
Is it a vile idolator to mock and strip the dead?
No, no; but his dear soldier friend! Ah, this indeed is joy!
For they had come from Egypt’s land, when each was but a boy,
And through the sea together went and on the other side
Beheld their foul pursuers sink beneath the whelming tide;
For God’s winds swayed the Red Sea waves on that eventful morn,
And Israel trod the causeway safe and Liberty was born!
***
“Tell me, my comrade,” murmured he, “before my life be spent;
Yea, tell me how the contest raged and how the battle went.”
***
The Lord of hosts was with us and the God of Jacob’s aid
Gave us the glor’ous victory and sharpened spear and blade!
The land is ours! And nought can stay our march o’er the city wall!
Nor bow, nor spear, nor pagan hordes prevent their utter fall!
Yea, even those proud Jebusites shall fall beneath our rod,
And strong Jerusalem become the city of our God!
The splendor of our nation’s sheen what prophet’s tongue can tell?
The glory of our people and the God of Israel?
The stars above shall sparkle on, the pale moon shed her light,
The sun shall rise in majesty, dispelling darkest night;
Yea, earth and sky and all therein proclaim our Maker’s grace,
And glory, honor, power and praise shall come to Israel’s race!”
A veteran of Joshua was breathing out his last,
The crimson tide was flowing out and life was ebbing fast,
And yet upon his dying face a look exultant shone;
As shouts of victory arose upon the zephyrs borne;
And as his comrade kissed him there and closed his warrior tale
A glow of life’s departing flame lit up the face so pale:
‘Twas like the candle’s fitful glow, the last expiring gleam;
The soldier raised his broken blade ere crossing death’s cold stream:
“Fight on!” he said, “my comrade true, the God of battles trust!
The Lord of hosts be with you all, when I return to dust.
The gates are lifted high.” He ceased, his arm sank to his side.
And with a ling’ring look of joy the Hebrew soldier died.
411:127

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