Monday, 8 May 2006

the first book in the second section of the torah called 'the prophets' is the book of joshua. it is quite a straightforward book with 24 chapters. one can divide the book into two major portions - chaps. 1-12 are mainly on the conquest accounts while chaps. 13-24 are mainly on the division accounts.

what do we mean by these two words - 'conquest' and 'division'? put in a simple way, the first 12 chapters basically concern how the israelites under the new leadership of joshua made preparations to cross the river jordan to conquer the land. the next 12 chapters detail how joshua divided the land into the different portions for the 12 tribes (the tribe of levi not included because they were 'given' to the lord as a special people to serve him wholeheartedly and whose place was taken by one of the sons of joseph, whose share also incidentally went to his other son. thus, both sons, manasseh and ephraim took the place of joseph and levi. Why didn't joseph retain his share as one of the sons of jacob? I don't know! and i think the jews themselves don't know either but the idea was to make up the round number '12').

the book of joshua tells how the israelites were almost successful in conquering the whole land (except for the initial attempt at conquering ai in chap. 7 where 'mr. ah chan' [pun on achan!] jeopardized the conquest with his greed for some of the things that were 'banned' by the lord). incidentally, the 'ban' or 'herem' (where the arabic for 'haram' comes from the same root word) was that the things were 'entirelly devoted' to god and no one could take of it for himself. apart from the little blurb, the rest of the campaigns went on smoothly for the israelites.

the last 12 chapters detail how joshua divided the inheritance (hebrew 'nehala' - inherited land which was to be passed down the family through the eldest son and which was not meant to be sold - something similar to malay reserve land?) among the 12 tribes. the book ends with the covenant renewal service at shechem (pronounced as 'shehem') on the two mountains designated by moses, mt. gerizim and mt ebal. the people followed joshua's call for renewal 'as for me and my family, we will serve the lord'. so far so good!