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Judges: Exploring A "Dark Age" in Jewish History
Video 2 of 6
Well, our initial impression is that oh, the people in Joshua’s time were very faithful to getting rid of the Canaanite influence, but we start seeing little hints of what we see in the book of Judges, already in the book of Joshua. We find that the tribe of Judah in the book of Joshua is fabulous. They, under Caleb’s leadership and Onthiel’s enthusiasm, everybody seems to be working out okay. So source number 5, we see Joshua chapter 15, verse 63, but the Judahites could not dispossess the Jebusites the inhabitants of Jerusalem. So the Judahites dwell with the Jebusites in Jerusalem to this day. Basically, the tribe of Judah did whatever it possibly could and unfortunately they were unable in Joshua’s lifetime to defeat Jerusalem itself.
We move over to the tribes of Joseph, Manasseh, and Ephraim, and we see in sources 6 and 7, however they fail to dispossess the Canaanites who dwelled in Gezer. So the Canaanites remained in the midst of a frame as it is still the case but they had to perform forced labor. This verse already indicates that even when Ephraim had the opportunity to vanquish the Canaanites and completely destroy their influence, they chose instead to allow the Canaanites to remain and just pay taxes and have forced labor. This already began to pave the way for the assimilation that came right afterwards. Similarly when describing the tribe of Manasseh, it says that the Manassites could not dispossess the inhabitants of these towns and the Canaanites stubbornly remained in this region and the Israelites became stronger, they imposed tribute on the Canaanites but they did not dispossess them. And even more shockingly the other 7 tribes on the west bank of the Jordan and source number 9, after the national battles were over and Joshua was giving out the tribal inheritance, Joshua has to turn to the people and say, ‘Go home already’ but there remained 7 tribes of the Israelites which had not yet received their portions. So Joshua said to the Israelites how long will you be slack about going and taking possession of the land which the lord, God of your fathers have assigned to you?
It’s amazing that already in the book of Joshua we see this tribe partite division. Tribe of Judah did everything that it could but unable to capture Jerusalem. Manasseh and Ephraim did some conquest but on the other hand allowed Canaanites to remain behind and pay tribute even when they were able to otherwise dispossess them and the other 7 tribes didn’t even seem very anxious or enthusiastic to go to their tribal inheritance in first place. When you read chapter one of the book of Judges, you find the exact same order. The tribe of Judah once again is faithful to the conquest after Joshua’s death and this time they capture Jerusalem, the one city that they were unable to conquer during Joshua’s lifetime. Menasseh and Ephraim then likewise allowed Canaanites to remain. If you look at source number 8, Manasseh did not dispossess the inhabitants of Beth-Shean and his dependencies, or of Taanach and his dependencies or the inhabitants of Dor and its dependencies or the inhabitants of Ibleam and its dependencies and so on and so forth. Verse 28, and when Israel gained the upper hand, they subjected the Canaanites to force labor but they did not dispossess them. Nor did Ephraim dispossess the Canaanites who inhabited Gezer. So the Canaanites dwelled in their midst at Gezer. We see here that the two tribes of Joseph captured just one city actually, Beth-El, and allowed a number of cities to remain unconquered and they kept the Canaanites culture there. As a result this paved the way for intermarriage and assimilation that followed and finally judges chapter one then has the 7 other tribes who captures 0 Canaanite cities and for the most part allowed the Canaanites to remain. Summarize the Laxity in conquest which seems to set the stage in the book of Judges Chapter 1, for all of the downfall that follows, all was already set up in the book of Joshua. So whereas you could have seen the book of Joshua as golden age and Judges as a dark age it happened only after Joshua’s death. A closer look makes us see that the author of the book of Joshua wanted us to see the roots of all of the failures in the book of Judges already occurring in Joshua’s lifetime.
This amazingly applies even to idolatry. You were thinking in Joshua’s lifetime the book starches that people were righteous all the days of Joshua and the others who followed him. That’s what it says at the very end of the book of Joshua in chapter 24, verse 31. However Joshua in his exportation, amazingly tells the people, now therefore, revere the lord and serve him with undivided loyalty. Put away the Gods that your forefathers served beyond the Euphrates and in Egypt and serve the lord. Joshua is telling the people of Israel in Joshua’s lifetime, please get rid of your idols. That’s incredible, did they have idols? The people in Joshua’s time, the most righteous generation, they had idols? Metzudat David followed by Yehudah Keel in the Daat Mikra were so shocked by the statement that they say this is just Joshua’s rederick. He is making a covenant with the people, there are no idols anywhere, don’t you worry. He just wants to drive home the point that they should always chose God. But Radak and Rabbah disagree. Radak and Rabbah say Joshua saying get rid of your idols, guess what folks? That means they had idols to get rid of. So even though we might have thought that the period of Joshua so pure and righteous and only one sin and that of Achan, who plundered the spoils of Jericho back in chapter 7, all of a sudden there’s indication that there are some real negative stuff going on during Joshua’s lifetime where he has to tell them to get rid of their idols. Of course that foreshadows the rampant idolatry in the period of Shoftim. No longer did they have a Joshua, a powerful righteous leader, standing the tide, now they are unshackled and as a result, idolatry becomes far more wide spread.
But just as laxity in conquest started in the period of Joshua. So two idolatries seems to have started in the period of Joshua. The only thing that kept things from completely falling apart was Joshua and his very strong leadership. Once you take him out of the equation, the period of Judges has rampant idolatry. In the next section, we are going to continue this discussion with regard to civil war that is evidenced at the Pilgesh B’Giveah story at the end of the Book of Judges.
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