Repeating Joshua, Sort of

Errors in Scripture drive people on two sides of a debate into a frenzy.  And since there’s nothing more fun than throwing a string of firecrackers into a massive catfight, here we go.  This entry wanders into the impassioned quagmire of a discussion, and fearlessly calls everyone involved on their obvious faults.  At least, from my point of view, where I’ve formed my opinion, these faults are obvious.  Perhaps, from the same position, my own faults aren’t as obvious to me.

Now it came about after the death of Joshua that the sons of Israel inquired of the LORD, saying, “Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?”  The LORD said, “Judah shall go up; behold, I have given the land into his hand.”  Then Judah said to Simeon his brother, “Come up with me into the territory allotted me, that we may fight against the Canaanites; and I in turn will go with you into the territory allotted you.” So Simeon went with him. (Judges 1:1-3 NASB)

The supposed error here is the timing of this chapter.  The first sentence places the events after the death of Joshua.  As we read further, all is well, until we hit Hebron, and the mention of three of her heroes.  Suddenly, the timing doesn’t work at all.

So Judah went against the Canaanites who lived in Hebron (now the name of Hebron formerly was Kiriath-arba); and they struck Sheshai and Ahiman and Talmai.  Then from there he went against the inhabitants of Debir (now the name of Debir formerly was Kiriath-sepher).  And Caleb said, “The one who attacks Kiriath-sepher and captures it, I will even give him my daughter Achsah for a wife.”  Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, captured it; so he gave him his daughter Achsah for a wife.  Then it came about when she came to him, that she persuaded him to ask her father for a field. Then she alighted from her donkey, and Caleb said to her, “What do you want?”  She said to him, “Give me a blessing, since you have given me the land of the Negev, give me also springs of water.” So Caleb gave her the upper springs and the lower springs. (Judges 1:10-15 NASB)

The attack on Hebron, the three heroes, and the description of Caleb giving his daughter to Othniel is the problem.  This has already happened, during the life of Joshua.

Now he gave to Caleb the son of Jephunneh a portion among the sons of Judah, according to the command of the LORD to Joshua, namely, Kiriath-arba, Arba being the father of Anak (that is, Hebron).  Caleb drove out from there the three sons of Anak: Sheshai and Ahiman and Talmai, the children of Anak.  Then he went up from there against the inhabitants of Debir; now the name of Debir formerly was Kiriath-sepher.  And Caleb said, “The one who attacks Kiriath-sepher and captures it, I will give him Achsah my daughter as a wife.”  Othniel the son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb, captured it; so he gave him Achsah his daughter as a wife.  It came about that when she came to him, she persuaded him to ask her father for a field. So she alighted from the donkey, and Caleb said to her, “What do you want?”  Then she said, “Give me a blessing; since you have given me the land of the Negev, give me also springs of water.” So he gave her the upper springs and the lower springs. (Joshua 15:13-19 NASB)

The “he” in verse 13 is Joshua.  So, you see the problem.  How can these things happen after the death of Joshua (Judges 1:1), and yet, have happened before the death of Joshua (Joshua 15:13-19)?  This is one of those errors, the likes of which fan opponents of faith to a finger-pointing frenzy, and fundamentalists to a fever pitch support of God’s perfection.  It’s a problem for both.  It’s obvious both can’t be true, so which one is?

Those who hold to an “inerrant” view of Scripture fall back on “original manuscripts” as their defensible position.  “Essentially, yes, it appears wrong here, but in the original manuscripts, inspired by the Holy Spirit, this error didn’t exist.”  We don’t have those manuscripts.  And we’re left wondering why, if inspiration was so important to God, didn’t He preserve what He had inspired?  And, if this error was such an issue to Him, why didn’t He, in His sovereign power, prevent such an editorial mistake, or at least preserve one early example of its absence?  Honestly, I don’t think God really cared whether it was “correct” in our estimation or not.

Think it through: the Person, having made all matter in the universe from nothing, is preserving a record of His revelation of Himself to His human creatures.  In that record, He includes everything they need to know to relate to Him, person-to-person.  It’s at this point my view diverges from the “warriors” on both sides of this issue.  Do you seriously think such a Person has any concern for our definition of “error”?  Keep in mind, such a definition is based in philosophy, not reality.  People can debate this until their blue in the face, and, ironically, fail to see that the very debate means what I just wrote is true.

Philosophy approaches reality from a distance, thinking about what we think about our experience in this life.  That’s why it’s so inaccessible to so many people.  They don’t have time or interest in evaluating themselves that much.  They don’t care, it isn’t important to them.  Other people need to realize that point of view isn’t a fault.  It is, itself, another philosophy.  People aren’t stupid, they’re pragmatic, and the debates are boring.

Pragmatic people say, as my wife does, “Get to the point!” with the understood corollary statement, “before I fall asleep listening to your jabbering”.  The point is this: Any Person, capable of creating this universe, won’t confine themselves to the rational definitions of created beings.  So, our definition of error is useless when getting to know such a Person.  That’s not a comfortable position, philosophically.  In fact, most people, whether they consider themselves philosophical or not, would find such a position uncomfortable.

Unfortunately for such people, uncomfortable with a God refusing to accommodate our rational ability, He pretty much states that right from the beginning.  Genesis 3 seems to be about who gets to evaluate right and wrong.  Read it again.  Death clearly means the knowledge of good and evil.  Think that through.  Be a philosopher.  Think about what we think about that.  If that’s true, then whenever we define for ourselves what is good and evil (i.e. evaluate God on the basis of what we think is good and evil), then we operate from the point of view of death.  And that is how this Creator of the universe defines the basic problem of His human creatures.

So, what have I done here? I’ve taken those battling over the error of timing, manuscripts that don’t exist, and the “perfection” of God, and basically said they are dead.  Hmmm. I may have overplayed that hand.  Perhaps it is more accurate to say they are both “eating from the same tree”.

An alternative view to applying our rational definition of truth and error might be to understand the inspired intent of the author.  What he or she did in preserving this record this way was to point out the success of one tribe in fulfilling the calling of their God, Yahweh.  His calling was possible, Judah had done it.  At least, they had right up until verse 19, where the wheels fell off the Judah-war-machine and they were run over by iron chariots.  From then on, the story is about failure to accomplish the calling of Yahweh, with the exception of Beth-El (verses 22-26). That’s the point.  Yahweh said to take the land, and, while they could have, they didn’t.  The timing problem doesn’t impede that point in the slightest.  In fact, bringing Caleb into the account only strengthens the point.  He was 85, and he did it.  “Get up, you young whippersnapper, and now you do it.”  But they didn’t. (mic drop) (whatever that means)

Well, that’s my view through the knothole this morning.  What do you see through the fence this morning?

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