Ever modest, Joshua hangs back as Moses leads him by the hand in this 15th-century stained-glass panel from the Church of St. Lawrence in Nuremberg, Germany. For Elie Wiesel, Joshua is a sad, troubled character despite his successes in battle and his unfailing devotion to Moses and God. Lacking experience in war, Joshua is sent by Moses to fight the Amalekites; when Joshua succeeds Moses, he leads the bloody conquest of Canaan. Yet this reluctant warrior retires to live out his days with only lonely memories, and when he dies, he is buried without the pomp and circumstance usually afforded a hero. Wiesel notes an immense sadness about Joshua in the Bible, a sadness caused perhaps by the noise and fury of Joshua’s life. Sonia Halliday.
Joshua, the perfect disciple. Obedient and humble. The man whose devotion to his master can serve as an example to all. God’s chosen, just as Moses had been. The servant become leader, whom God and Moses do not cease to encourage—so much so that we wonder why he had such a need. Is it because, in his humility, Joshua felt so inferior to Moses that he believed himself inadequate, unqualified and even unworthy to complete a task that only his master was capable of completing satisfactorily? Joshua will inherit political and religious authority from Moses but not his prophetic style. God accomplished miracles for Joshua. He went so far as to upset the laws of nature by ordering the sun to stand still, but Joshua’s speech lacks the magic that emanates from the words of the prophets.
A great melancholy emerges from his life story, a sadness that stays with him to the end of his days. Is it because his life unfolds in the midst of noise and fury?
In truth, Joshua makes me afraid. His personality is too dark, involved in too many battles, too many confrontations. The man of blood and glory, he is the one sought out when someone is needed to throw himself into the fray, to push back or attack the enemy. To read his book is to move forward into the ashes, among disfigured corpses.
In the Scriptures, his position is assured. The image he projects is always without fault. Admirable is his devotion to Moses: Always stationed at the entrance to his tent, Joshua is the guardian of the door. He is at Moses’ side only when he is called. Never would he disturb Moses in his solitude.