Feb 23, 2024

The Pentateuch ends with the death and burial of Moses. At the beginning of the following book, the Lord speaks to Joshua, saying: “Moses my servant is dead. So now, you and the whole people with you, prepare to cross the Jordan to the land that I will give the Israelites. No one can withstand you as long as you live. As I was with Moses, I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Only be strong and steadfast, being careful to observe the entire law which Moses my servant enjoined on you. Do not swerve from it either to the right or to the left, that you may succeed wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:2, 5, and 7). Immediately, Joshua, trusting in the Lord’s word and being faithful to His Law, undertakes the conquest of the promised land and later organizes its distribution among the tribes. The book of Joshua speaks to us about this.

Among the many interesting stories found in its pages, we are told of the battle he fought against the Amorite kings in the valley of Aijalon. As the day was drawing to a close, Joshua spoke to the Lord, asking Him to prolong the day so he could complete his victory: “The sun halted halfway across the heavens; not for an entire day did it press on. Never before or since was there a day like this, when the LORD obeyed the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel!” (Joshua 10:13-14).

The Valley of Aijalon photo by Ori.

The Valley of Aijalon photo by Ori.

The Valley of Aijalon photo by Ori

The reading of this passage has provoked deep reflections in Christian meditation. Thus, for example, Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori says, “It is astonishing to hear that God obeyed Joshua when he ordered the sun to stop in its course (…). But it is even more astonishing to hear that with a few words from the priest, the same God obediently descends to the altars wherever he is called, as many times as he is called, and places Himself in their hands” (Dignity and Duties of a Priest, or Selva I,I,3).

The book of Joshua insists again and again on the unity of the people. Although some tribes had received their inheritance before crossing the Jordan into the promised land, they did not abandon their brothers in the task of taking possession of the land. The entire occupation of the country was carried out by all the people united under the single command of Joshua. In turn, this unified people recognizes that there is only one God, the Lord, who has aided them and whom they commit to serving exclusively.

The sacred text, which – like the integral history to which it belongs – was written in its definitive form when the people had been dispossessed of that land by the Babylonian troops, explains to those who have suffered the consequences of exile the reason why these misfortunes have taken place: repeated infidelity in response to so much goodness from God.

Joshua Commanding the Sun to Stand Still" by Gustave Dore, (d. 1883)

Joshua Commanding the Sun to Stand Still” by Gustave Dore. (d. 1883)

At the same time, it offers a breath of hope. The same God who gave them that land can give it back to them if they emulate the faithfulness of Joshua’s generation as narrated in this book. And with them, it teaches all men of good will who read these pages, to trust in God and to be faithful to Him, because the Lord is Almighty and never abandons His chosen ones.

By Father Francisco Varo Pineda


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