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|LAYERED OLD JERICHO - ARCHAEOLOGIST'S PLAYGROUND & BATTLEGROUND
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A QUICK VIEW OF OLD JERICHO
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"Descending to the
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|THE CITY OF JERICHO IS UNDER THE JURISDICTION
OF THE PALESTINIAN NATIONAL AUTHORITY
|LUNCH AT AL-RAWDA
|COFFEE AT A
SHOP IN JERICHO
|ARE YOU GOING TO JERICHO?
AM I JOSHING?
JERICHO IN THE BOOK OF JOSHUA
On the seventh day they rose early, at dawn, and marched around the
city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they
marched around the city seven times. And at the seventh time, when
the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, ‘Shout!
For the Lord has given you the city. The city and all that is in it shall
be devoted to the Lord for destruction. Only Rahab the prostitute and
all who are with her in her house shall live, because she hid the
messengers we sent. As for you, keep away from the things devoted to
destruction, so as not to covet* and take any of the devoted things and
make the camp of Israel an object for destruction, bringing trouble
upon it. But all silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are
sacred to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord.’ So the
people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people
heard the sound of the trumpets, they raised a great shout, and the
wall fell down flat; so the people charged straight ahead into the city
and captured it. Then 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. Joshua 6:16-21.
THE HISTORICITY OF JOSHUA
Archaeologists do not agree on the evidence for the existence during
the Late Bronze Period (circa 1200 BCE) of a walled city at the Jericho
site (and Ai, location fo the sin of Achan, as well as for other minor
cities such as Dan, Heshbon, and Makkedah). On the other hand,
secondary cities such as Lachish, Hazor and Bethel are documented
by archaeology as being destroyed during the same period. However,
the American Albright school points to the Armana Letters, Merneptah
Stele and writings of the Medinet Habu Temple as literal evidence
which tend to corroborate the conquest claim made in Joshua (and
Judges) and to actually fix the date at 1200 BCE.
Beyond the instance of Jericho, there is no consensus in the Jewish
and Christian communities as to on how much historical truth is
contained in the Book of Joshua. Joshua, when juxtaposed with the
Book of Judges, succumb to a number of textual contradictions which
diminish the credibility of the books. An example of troublesome
inconsistency involves the city of Hazor which was claimed to have
been captured in Joshua , but when one examines Judges 4 and 5
(Deborah and Barak), it can be read that Hazor was still held by King
Jabin of Canaan. Another example involves the possession of
Jerusalem. Judges 1:8 claims that “the people of Judah fought against
Jerusalem and took it,” and per the injunction of herem, “they put it to
the sword and set the city on fire.“ A few paragraphs later, 1:21 states
that “[b]ut the Benjaminites did not drive the Jebusites who lived in
Jerusalem; so the Jebusites have lived in Jerusalem among the
Benjaminites to this day.” The latter account suggests a peaceful co-
existence where the city is shared between the Jebusites and the tribe
of Benjamin. Then at 2 Samuel 6:1 it is recorded that “King [David]
and his men marched to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the
inhabitants of the land.” and at 6:9, a triumphant announcement is
made that “David occupied the stronghold, and named it the City of
David.” The Davidic occupation does not recognize any presence of
Benjaminites living in Jerusalem. These plain textual contradictions
can be explained away as simple clerical error, but such an excuse
dilutes any assertion of absolute inerrancy. Then there remains the
JURY FOR JERICHO
A different dilemma, no less fundamental, is the ethics of the
application of herem as epitomized by the treatment of Jericho. The
Hebrew word herem is derived from a verb which means to consecrate
or devote. Any object so sacrificed or devoted to the LORD is given in
absolute and could not be redeemed. Leviticus 27:28 mandates that
“[n]othing that a person owns that has been devoted to destruction for
the LORD, be it human or animal, or inherited landholding, may be
sold or redeemed; every devoted thing is most holy to the LORD. 27:28
continues this line of command: “No human beings who have been
devoted to destruction can be ransomed; they shall be put to death."
Accordingly, the idea of unmitigated destruction became associated
with the word. Numbers 21 provide a pre-Jericho account of the herem
of the towns of the Canaanite, king of Arad. Before the attack on
Jericho, Joshua issued the order that “the city and all that is in it shall
be devoted to the LORD for destruction," with the only exception of the
prostitute Rahab and her family because she kept Joshua's spies safe
from the city guards. When the Israelites enter Jericho, “they devoted
to destruction by the edge of the sword all in the city, both men and
women, young and old, oxen, sheep, donkeys.” Even, arguendo, that
the narrative is fictitious, an imagined herem of an entire city raises
serious questions about the moral values of that time. The modern
word – genocide - in the context of the tragedies of the last century, is
generally understood as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in
whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group”
Accordingly, herem can be and should be understood as genocide.
A caveat is in order when venturing into a critique of the standards for
an ancient people from the contemporary vantage-point; it is difficult
to shoe-horn a society that lived around three thousand two hundred
years in the past into our present context and frame of values, and on
that discomforting basis pronounce judgment on a people and a
period long past. Nevertheless, this writer holds to the opinion that a
discussion on comparative ethics is productive, even for that limited
purpose of learning from the experiences of those who preceded us so
as to avoid the pitfalls that ensnared them. Another corollary
threshold ethical issue, no less fundamental, is the obligation to write
the unembellished historical truth, pen stroke for sword stroke as the
event actually happened (or did not happen). This is the criticism that
confronts the scribe or most likely, scribes with responsibility for
Joshua. Controversial, but relevant questions include:
o Did the Joshua writer(s) have access to the facts or did he simply
write from theological conviction (or even imagination)?
o Is Joshua a work of historical truth or political revisionism, literary
redaction, or theological license?
o Was the Joshua writer(s) preserving a Deuteronomic history of
salvation for ancient Judah/Israel than a history of facts?
o Was Joshua written (and Judges edited) to satisfy the political
desires of post-Davidic kings of Judah such as King Josiah or even an
earlier King Hezekiah?
o Could the writer(s) be living during the exile in Babylon and used
Joshua as a building block in his exegesis for the rise and fall of
Jerusalem in a mighty effort to conform reality to Deuteronomistic
theology? [Interestingly, Deuteronomy means Second Law or
Restating of the Law, a concept which is intrinsically revealing per se].
o Finally, was the author(s) of Joshua (and Judges) writing to please
his God, truly believing he was simply faithfully recording the
revelation of the LORD?
Whether Jericho was actually devoted or not, the Joshua account
comports squarely with the theology of the Deuteronomist vis-à-vis
herem: "When the LORD your God brings you into the land that you
are about to enter and occupy, and he clears away many nations
before you--the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites,
the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations mightier
and more numerous than you - and when the LORD your God gives
them over to you and you defeat them, then you must utterly destroy
them. Make no covenant with them and show them no mercy. Do not
intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking
their daughters for your sons, for that would turn away your children
from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the LORD
would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly.
Deuteronomy notwithstanding, and taking a quantum leap in time,
herem offends the letter of the Convention Against Genocide of the
United Nations. The Convention, albeit a secular document, is the
norm for all signatory nation-states. Few contemporary nations will
condone the practice of genocide as a matter of law or of religion.
The specter of genocide qua doctrine is per se repugnant to the
present understanding of morality, but there are always tragic actual
occurrences even now. Joshua killed one at the time with the edge
of the sword but Hitler had acquired the technology of chemical nerve
poisons deployed in gas chambers. The present norm, despite tragic
exceptions, is that genocide is a crime against humanity.
The standard apology for the herem of Joshua is that the Canaanites
became the object of God’s terrible wrath because of their idolatrous
propensities and abominations. Theologians wishing to defend herem
explain that the cultic worship of the pantheon of Baal by the
Canaanites encompassed sexual rites, cult prostitution, human
sacrifice, and idolatry, all of which are perversions so detestable that
they must be utterly destroyed by the followers of Yahweh Sabaoth,
lest they too became infected. This is less than persuasive - especially
when viewed under the light of the New Testament, Deuteronomic
herem must necessarily be consigned to careful safekeeping by good
people as a curiosity spawned by an extraordinary theological
reconstruction of the past. Charleston C. K. Wang, 5/20/2011.
To read the entire discussion in JOSHUA & JUDGES REVISITED: A
CRITICAL REEXAMINATION, click here.
|UPPER TERMINAL FOR THE CABLE CARS - WE DID NOT
HAVE TIME TO RIDE THIS TOURIST ATTRACTION - IT
WOULD HAVE PROVIDED A BIRD'S EYE VIEW OF ALL
THE JERICHO EXCAVATIONS
Jesus in Jericho & The Chief Tax Collector:
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named
Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax-collector and was rich. He was trying to see who
Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in
stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was
going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to
him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ So he
hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and
said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’ Zacchaeus stood there
and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and
if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’ Then
Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a
son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’
Gospel of Luke 19:1-10.
More on Tax Collectors:
You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your
enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on
the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.
For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax
collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more
are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect,
therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Gospel of Matthew 5:43-48.
|LOOKING FOR A WALLED CITY
DURING THE TIME OF JOSHUA?
|A LOT SEEMS TO BE BELOW THE SURFACE HERE
|JERICHO GOVERNORATE OFFICES
THOSE CABLE-CARS AGAIN - THEY GET AROUND
|"THIS IS VERY
CLICK ON ANY PHOTOGRAPH FOR LARGER IMAGE
THIS PHOTO SHOWS THE MOUNT OF TEMPTATION WITH THE GREEK ORTHODOX
MONASTERY ON THE LEFT AND MIDWAY UP THE MOUNTAIN (BUILT ON A 6TH
CENTURY SITE). ACCORDING TO TRADITION, THIS IS THE MOUNTAIN ON WHICH
SATAN TEMPTED JESUS DURING HIS TIME IN THE WILDERNESS. THE MOUNT OF
TEMPTATION, ALSO KNOWN AS GEBEL QUARANTAL (A REFERENCE TO THE FORTY
DAYS AND NIGHTS IN THE WILDERNESS), IS JUST TO THE WEST OF THE CITY OF
JERICHO AND IS PART OF THE CABLE CAR SYSTEM. A VIEW FROM THE PEAK
WOULD BE BREATH-TAKING AS IT WOULD HAVE BEEN IN THE TIME OF JESUS. ON
THIS MOUNTAIN TOP, THE GREAT TEMPTER SHOWED JESUS THE SPLENDOUR OF
ALL THE KINGDOMS OF THE WORLD AND OFFERED THEM TO THE SON OF MAN.
SEE, GOSPEL OF MATTHEW CHAPTER 4.
|ARCHAEOLOGISTS ESTIMATE JERICHO BEGAN AS
A SETTLEMENT OVER 11,000 YEARS AGO