Friday, October 22, 2010

The Abrahamic Covenant in the Book of Joshua

Don't forget to mouse over the verse references.

The Abrahamic Covenant enters as a theme in the book of Joshua early in chapter 1, when Yahweh encourages Joshua by reminding them that he is going to lead God’s people into the land that He swore He would give to their fathers (
Josh 1:6). Also, before the sons of Israel go into battle against Jericho, Yahweh commands that they be circumcised (Josh 5:2-3); that is, that they be given the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen 17:10-14). In the book of Joshua, we see the prospect of the fulfillment of the long-awaited promise to Abraham: “To your descendants I will give this land” (Gen 12:7).

And in Joshua, the Israelites do go into the land that Yahweh promised to give them in covenant with Abraham. It even seems to suggest that they conquered all of the land (
Josh 10:40; 11:16). Indeed, “So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that Yahweh had spoken to Moses, and Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their divisions by their tribes, Thus the land had rest from war” (Josh 11:23).

Though God spoke in this way, we also see that He says, “…very much of the land remains to be possessed” (Josh 13:1)
. Further, Israel’s failure to conquer all of the land does not remain morally neutral. In fact, an emphasis in Joshua – which will become an even greater emphasis in the book of Judges (cf. Jdg 1-2) – is that failure to conquer the land is disobedience to Yahweh. For though He commanded Israel to utterly destroy the nations that they might completely possess the land (cf. Josh 6:17-24; 7:11-15; 8:8, 26-28; 10:28-40; 11:8-15, 21-22), we are told repeatedly that they do not do so (Josh 15:63; 16:10; 17:12-13). Exasperated, Joshua chastises Israel in 18:3: “How long will you put off entering to take possession of the land which Yahweh, the God of your fathers, has given you?” So, notwithstanding Joshua 11:23, Israel did not take possession of the whole land.

And yet, in
21:43-45, it seems to suggest that the Abrahamic promise is fulfilled: "So Yahweh gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they possessed it and lived in it. And Yahweh gave them rest on every side, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers, and no one of all their enemies stood before them; Yahweh gave all their enemies into their hand. Not one of the good promises which Yahweh had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass."

Joshua says that Yahweh gave the land to
Israel as He had sworn to their fathers (thus emphasizing the covenant promise), gave them rest, and not one of the promises failed but came to pass. However, after that declaration, in 23:4-5, as Joshua is addressing Israel before his death he says, “Yahweh your God, He will thrust [these nations] out from before you and drive them from before you; and you will possess their land, just as Yahweh your God promised you.After saying that Yahweh gave them all the land and rest of every side according to the promise to the fathers, Joshua then speaks of the complete possession of the land according to the promise of Yahweh as an event that is yet future.

So what are we to conclude from this? Well, what we see in Joshua does indeed relate to the Abrahamic Covenant. Yahweh’s covenant faithfulness is put on display in how He constantly works and fights for Israel (Josh 1:9; 6:16; 8:7; 10:10-14; 11:20; 23:3; 24:1-13, 17-18)
to fulfill His promise to give them the land (cf. Gen 12:7; 15:7, 18). However, the disobedience of Israel (cf. Deut 19:8-10) despite even the steadfast faithfulness of Yahweh also is the theme of the Sinaitic/Mosaic Covenant, the administration of which is also present in Joshua (Josh 1:7-8; 8:31-35; 22:2-5; 23:6, 11, 15-16; 24:26).

Therefore, we should understand that Yahweh gave
Israel the land, demonstrating His unwavering faithfulness to His word. But Israel failed to completely possess the land, demonstrating their typical disobedience. The Abrahamic promise that His descendants would be given the land as an everlasting possession (Gen 17:8; cf. Gen 13:14) is not fulfilled in Joshua. As promised (cf. Num 33:55-56), this disobedience brought further disobedience until finally Israel and Judah were themselves dispossessed from the land in acts of Yahweh’s judgment (2Ki 17:6; 25:8-11).

Thus the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant remains a future event when Israel will be restored from captivity, gathered from where they are scattered, and brought back to the land with circumcised hearts (cf. Deut 30:1-6; Jer 30-33; Ezek 20:33-44; 36:22-38), where they will possess it as an everlasting possession (Gen 17:8; cf. Gen 13:14).

"As for you, O house of Israel," thus says the Lord Yahweh,
"Go, serve everyone his idols; but later you will surely listen to Me,
and My holy name you will profane no longer with your gifts and with your idols.
For on My holy mountain, on the high mountain of Israel," declares the Lord Yahweh,
"there the whole house of Israel, all of them, will serve Me in the land;
there I will accept them
and there I will seek your contributions and the choicest of your gifts,
with all your holy things.

As a soothing aroma I will accept you when I bring you out from the peoples
and gather you from the lands where you are scattered;
and I will prove Myself holy among you in the sight of the nations.

And you will know that I am Yahweh, when I bring you into the land of Israel,
into the land which I swore to give to your forefathers.

There you will remember your ways and all your deeds
with which you have defiled yourselves;
and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight
for all the evil things that you have done.

Then you will know that I am Yahweh
when I have dealt with you for My name's sake,
not according to your evil ways or according to your corrupt deeds,
O house of Israel," declares the Lord Yahweh.'"

- Ezekiel 20:39-44 -


daveliving4Him said...

Thanks, Mike! This is an area that I haven't studied much yet and your comments are very helpful in connection to my current hermeneutics class! Have a great weekend!

Mike Riccardi said...

Glad it can help in some way, Dave. Thanks for your continued encouragement, too!

You enjoy your weekend as well. We're over halfway through! Can you believe it?