Joshua and Elie Wiesel

From Biblical Archaeologist:

In the book that bears his name, Joshua impresses us with his harshness: it depicts a violence, even a thirst for violence, that is found nowhere else. The conquest of the land of Canaan occurs with fire and blood. Too much destruction at every turn. The only moment of tenderness in this account is the story of Rahab in Jericho. The brave and generous prostitute saves Joshua’s spies. In exchange, legend gives her Joshua as bridegroom.

This story is not in his official biography, which, moreover, is very meager. It is only in the midrashic literature that there is interest in Joshua’s private life. His father was a just man, but childless. Nun passed his days praying to God for a son, and his prayer was answered. Moses was still alive, but very old, when Joshua was teaching the Law to the people. One day, Moses came to listen. He remained standing with the crowd. Joshua saw him and, overcome by remorse, cried out in distress. Then a celestial voice was heard: The time has come for the people to receive the teaching of Joshua. Brokenhearted, Joshua submitted. It is because he respected and venerated his Master; he loved him. Of all his qualities, it is his attachment to Moses that moves us the most.

According to the legend, Joshua was then married. He had children: only girls. Having fulfilled the mission that God and Moses had entrusted to him, Joshua retired and lived in the isolation of memory. He was old, the text tells us, and the country rested from the wars.

He died alone and was buried in a place called Har gaash—a kind of angry mountain, a sort of volcano. The Talmud comments that this illustrates the ingratitude of the people toward their leader. Why was the mountain angry? Because God, in his wrath, was ready to punish his people. Why the rage? Because no one took the trouble to come to Joshua’s funeral. Everyone was too busy. Some were cultivating their gardens, others their vineyards; still others watched over their fires.

Unbelievable, but how true: In war, Joshua had been their leader. Afterwards, the people no longer needed him, to the point that no one came to pay him their final respects, to which all mortal men are entitled, whoever they might be.

How can one not feel sadness when reading Joshua’s story?

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.


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