Monday, October 25, 2004

Joshua 22

The theme of this chapter is maintaining loyalty to God even when separated from daily contact with the shrine. The tribes from the east of the Jordan return home, being admonished by Joshua remain faithful to all of the commandments of the Lord. But, arriving there, they build a shrine. The tribes from the west conclude that the eastern tribes are planning to secede, accuse them of plotting the "sin of Peor" (sexual immorality, miscegenation, and the worship of Baal; Numbers 25:1-3), and threaten war. The eastern tribes deny any intent to rebel, claim that the altar is a replica not intended for actual sacrifices, and swear loyalty to the Lord. War is averted.

This chapter casts light on contemporary religious attitudes in regard to collective punishment. Do the consequences of sin affect the sinner alone, or can the entire nation be held guilty? The former is the view presented predominantly in the New Testament, while the latter is found primarily in the Old Testament. The line of demarcation is not absolute, of course.

Phinehas, son of high priest Eleazar is sent to head the western delegation that threatens war. Phinehas is the man who ended the plague against the Israelites by murdering an Israelite and Moabite woman in the act of (or at least in preparation for the act of) intercourse (Numbers 25:7).

So Baal worship is connected to sexuality in a variety of forms, including fertility, ritual temple prostitition, and the metaphor of adultery used in the Prophets ( The over-emphasis on sexual morality, as opposed to charity and seeking to do justice that one finds in some Christian congregations probably correlates to an over-emphasis of the Old vs. New Testament.


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