After 40 years of leading the people of Yahweh in the wilderness, Moses died. Yahweh chose Joshua to take his place. Just as Yahweh had led Israel out of Egypt through the Red Sea, so he led Israel through the Jordan River into Canaan (Joshua 3).
Joshua commanded one man from each tribe of Israel to carry a rock from the middle of the river as they passed through it on dry ground. He then had them make a pile of these water-worn rocks in their camp at Gilgal as a perpetual reminder of Yahweh’s freedom and love for them (Joshua 4).
In 1451 BC, forty years after their first Passover in Egypt, the people of Israel celebrated the Passover in Canaan at Gilgal on the banks of the Jordan near Jericho (Joshua 5:10-12).
Jericho was a fortified city. Like all cities, it expressed devotion to the Olympian gods rather than to Yahweh. It served as their alternative world to Yahweh’s good creation.
The king and people of Jericho devoted themselves to the Olympian gods, imagining them to be the unrivaled gods of power, but Yahweh overcame these gods just as he had in Egypt.
When Yahweh overcame the Olympian gods in Egypt, he didn't use Olympian means to do so. He didn’t have Moses organize the people of Israel into revolutionary cells and then overthrow Pharaoh’s government. He simply had Moses speak words of liberating truth to Pharaoh and then backed these up with miraculous signs of his presence.
When Yahweh overcame the Olympian gods in Jericho, he didn’t use Olympian means there either. He didn’t have Joshua lead Israel in a prolonged siege of the city. He didn’t have the Israelite army rushing the walls of the city and taking it by force. Yahweh collapsed the walls of Jericho, thereby revealing the vanity of trusting the gods, simply by having seven of his priests blow trumpets and his people shout (Joshua 6).
After destroying the city of Jericho, Joshua spoke a curse before Yahweh against the man who would rebuilt it (Joshua 6:26).
This curse against Jericho and the gods it represented last for almost 400 years.
In 918 BC, Ahab became king of Israel. Although ruler over the people of Yahweh, he devoted himself to the Olympian gods. He did evil in the sight of [Yhwh] more than all who were before him (1 Kings 16:30).
One of his more wicked acts was marrying the Sidonian princess Jezebel. She was the most enthusiastic evangelist for the Olympian gods to ever sit on the throne of Israel. She lavishly supported the prophets of Jupiter (whom she called Baal) and vigorously persecuted the prophets of Yahweh. At one point Yahweh's prophet Elijah felt like he was the last one standing (1 Kings 19:9-10).
It was in this Israel, an Israel enthusiastically devoted to the six Olympian gods, that an Israelite named Hiel rebuilt Jericho. It was in these dark days of disloyalty to Yahweh that the ruins of Jericho, witness to Yahweh’s triumph over the gods, were reconstructed. No doubt this was done for compelling Olympian reasons: apt symbol of an increasingly powerful state, strong fortified city on a contested border, and excellent center of trade. Hiel found all of this meaningful even though he laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of [Yahweh], which he spoke by Joshua son of Nun (1 Kings 16:34).
(Note: today we continued to follow reflections by Jacques Ellul in The Meaning of the City (pp. 27-30). Biblical quotes are from the New Revised Standard Version.)
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