Torah Study Notes 6-1-13

June 1, 2013
The Haftarah of Joshua. The Torah portion connection is that of sending spies into the land in Numbers.
p. 998
2:1 At the direction of Joshua two spies from Shittim explore the countryside and come to the house of a prostitute in Jericho. PG: So much is left out in this opening passage. We see here Joshua’s authority after the death of Moses.
2:2 The King discovers that two spies have come. The prostitute denies knowledge that they were spies. A massive group of Israelites are camped on the east side of the Jordon and an obvious reason for concern since they have laid waste to two other areas. Why did she protect them? JB: Joshua and this narrative seems like it could be part of the Torah, PG: An excellent observation. Joshua has six books and a number of scholars have observed the same thing. It is thought that Joshua is the culmination of what should have been Torah. It is essentially a continuation of the story in the Torah. But this is the account of the establishment of a nation – which was anathema to the Persians. A political decision was made to leave Joshua out, and perhaps private, so as not to invite retribution from the former captors.
The reality of the exile was that the people survived it intact and returned. The mythic history is the sojourn from Egypt and return. The reality was return from Babylonia after captivity there. One of the positive results was the change in focus from the Temple to the universality of God and the ability of the Israelites to relate to God regardless of where they might reside. Sacred texts are portable so become the new focus. There were likely a small group of individuals, led by Ezra, who initiated this shift – disconnecting the religious experience from a specific spot. By the year 1000 BCE there was a group living on the land that self-identified as Israelites. Even the two kingdoms of Israelites operated in a compatible fashion without armed conflict. Assyria wiped out the more populous Northern Kingdom but could not defeat the South. In any event the new focus had to be constructed in such a way so as not to offend the authorities – Babylonians – who had just let the people return. The scroll becomes a substitute for the altar.
2:8 The prostitute Rahab explains why she has agreed to hide the spies. She recognizes that an invasion is immanent and wants to protect her family.
2:14 They agree to preserve her and her family from the upcoming invasion. Note that the story of Sion and Og occur later in the Torah.
2:18 She must display the red cord from her window as a sign. This is reminiscent of the blood on the doors for Passover. It is a sign that they will be safe. Note that cities of this time were invariably walled – sometimes by the double casement method with a space between two layers – sometimes filled with rocks and. The system of wall building was used for an identifiable and discrete period of time – likely including the period of this account of Jerico. But Jericho proved not to be double walled. See the work of Herman Schleiman and Flinders Petrie both of whom did serious archeological work at Jericho. It is one of the two oldest cities on earth – the other being in northern Syria. Jericho contains a Neolithic stone age tower that dates to 8000 BCE. It is now part of the West Bank. See map on page 1034.


Neolithic Tower

Discovered and excavated by Kathleen Kenyon in her Trench I, the Neolithic tower was built and destroyed in Pre-Pottery Neolithic A, which Kenyon dated to 8000-7000 BC.  The 8m diameter tower stands 8m tall and was connected on the inside of a 4m thick wall. On the basis of this discovery, archaeologists have claimed that Jericho is the “oldest city in the world.”  Clearly such monumental construction reflects social organization and central authority, but there are good reasons to question both its dating to the 8th millennium BC. and its function as a defensive fortification.

2:22 The spies report to Joshua – the people are scared to death of us. Note that the injunction that “there is no before or after in the Torah” applies to the Haftarah as well – all of the sacred texts.

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