Warrior Prophets Chapter 32
Epilogue: The Death of Joshua
From the diary of Boaz the Bethlehemite:
Joshua’s death struck me hard. Although I did not feel that I had been particularly close to him, he had always watched over me, ever since we crossed the Jordan River all those decades ago. I felt as if the heavy weight of a runner’s baton had been thrust into my hand. I felt unworthy, unprepared and unsure. Unworthy of any of his attentions, unprepared to exercise any leadership, and unsure how to do so.
Joshua died shortly after the assembly at Shechem. Many turbulent thoughts went through my mind on that cold rainy day on the peak of Mount Ephraim. There were precious few of us that came to escort Joshua’s body to the lonely grave. What an embarrassment! The man who had commanded the legions ofIsrael, buried by a handful of his loved ones. Where were all the princes? The elders? The judges? The captains of hundreds and thousands? The people ofIsrael? How quickly you forget your leaders. I felt eerily that Joshua’s dark prophecies were already coming to fruition.
How much I shared with others on that day, how much I told myself and how much I remembered from snatches of conversations with Joshua, I do not recall. This quill and papyrus that I use to record events are poor substitutes for the images and memories of a racing and selective mind, but they are better than naught.
Joshua reached the age of one hundred and ten, the same as his illustrious ancestor, Joseph son of Jacob. It seemed to me that Joshua and Joseph bonded more in death than in the lives that were centuries apart.
Joseph, a prince and viceroy ofEgypt, had known wealth and luxury most of his life. In Egypt, Joseph had been the unofficial leader of his brothers, the future tribes. Always aloof though, always somewhat apart. He was the first of the brothers to die, prophesizing the Exodus from Egypt.
Joshua had been a prince of his tribe and the official leader of all of Israel. His whole life had been lived humbly, first as the servant of Moses, never leaving his side. Upon the death of Moses, Joshua resided in his simple campaign tent, until the conquest and division of Canaanwere complete. He was a man of the people, understanding them well, relating to their pain and frustration, perhaps even better than his master Moses had. Moses had been too close to God. How could a man who spoke directly with God, whose own face radiated the Divine glory, understand or appreciate the petty concerns of mere mortals? Joshua understood. Though divinely inspired, he was a step removed, a step closer to us humans.
Joseph had died in Egypt, yet his bones had been lovingly escorted by Moses himself throughout the sojourn of the Children of Israel through the desert.
Joshua had recounted to me once how Moses delivered Joseph’s bones, along with the mantle of leadership to Joshua. Moses was dressed in his old robe and carried his staff. Joshua was in battle gear, with light leather armor and a sword at his side. They stood on the dusty plains of Moab, looking into the land of Canaanfrom across the Jordan River. Moses entrusted the remains of Joseph to Joshua.
“Bury him in Shechem,” Moses had instructed Joshua. “Oh, that I would have the privilege,” Moses moaned quietly. “Oh, that I would tread the land of our forefathers, as you are about to, Joshua.”
“Is there no chance?” Joshua asked, knowing the answer.
“No. God will not change His mind. His decision is final. I must accept it.”
“Will we ever meet again?”
“In death, certainly; and at the resurrection.”
“You see it? You see The End?” Joshua asked, pushing his Master on this subject one last time.
“Yes, Joshua. But I cannot reveal it. Not even to you. It is too heavy a burden, and you shall have many a burden dealing with the present.”
“Will the sharing not make it lighter, even in your final hours?”
“Perhaps. But I take many things to the grave. You must be strong and of good courage, Joshua. God will be with you and guide you. You will defeat the kings ofCanaan. You will see the tribes victorious and settled – each family in their portion.”
“Yet I would know the future,” Joshua insisted.
“I will tell you a bit of your future.” Moses closed his eyes for a moment and opened them again, looking far away. “You will be buried in the allotment of your tribe, not far from your ancestor, Joseph. You will conquer all whom you attack and all the Kings of Canaan will fear you, though you will not attack all. Israel will not be worthy. I bequeath to you our stiff-necked brethren, and they shall not change. There will be the camaraderie of battle and camp life, but that will dissipate after you have inherited the land and each family and tribe takes matters into their own hands. You must keep them united while you live. United and dedicated. Idol-worshippers will surround you. Our people will become enamored by their corrupt ways. You must remain ever vigilant. Build up the barriers as strong as you can, for eventually they will fall. But do not be saddened. Your name shall be one of the greatest in the narrative of our people. All will recall you as The Conqueror. Your story shall be a pillar of our history. I am proud of you, Joshua. Of the man you have become and the destiny you will fulfill. You have been loyal, dedicated and courageous, and those traits will serve you well in your mission.”
“Is there more?” Joshua asked, sensing Moses’ pause.
“There is much more. God will reveal exactly what you need at the right time. He only shows the future when it serves a purpose. And congratulations on your marriage.”
“You jest, my Master? There is no one among the daughters of Israel that has agreed to marry me.”
“I do not jest. There is one who is not amongst us that will join our people. She is brave and beautiful, inside and out. You will meet her quite soon and the two of you will enjoy the rest of your life together.”
“Who is she? How will I know?”
“You will know her when you see her. If I close my eyes and concentrate, I can sense her aura shining like a beacon from across the river. All in its right time.”
“I will miss you greatly.”
“I shall miss you as well. But never doubt yourself or that this is your task. It has been decreed from heaven. If I have been compared to the sun, then you are the moon and after you many stars shall follow until the moon rises again.”
“I don’t understand.”
“It is not our task to understand, merely to accept.”
“I am in a unique position that will not be repeated in human history.”
“Is it better to understand?”
“It is both consoling and painful at the same time.”
“You speak in riddles.”
“I speak the truth, which is often a riddle that only time and experience will solve.”
“I am ready then,” Joshua stated.
“Of course you are.” Moses and Joshua embraced, tears streaming down both their eyes. Moses’ tears reached his long snow-white beard, while Joshua’s tears touched his own light blond beard.
So ended the account that I recall from Joshua.
There was a period of great tranquility after Joshua died. It lasted until the elders of that generation passed away. Slowly, rumors of Moabite strength emerged. Canaanite cities that Joshua had not attacked exhibited greater strength, greater independence. Some Canaanite cities, who had previously demonstrated their subservience by paying a yearly tax to Israelite tribes, now stopped doing so. With the growing strength of the idol-worshippers around us, more of our people conducted business with them. “What’s wrong with their money?” many would argue.
Israelites started buying products from the idol-worshippers: beautiful Philistine pottery and expert metalworking, distinctive Moabite rugs and fancy Amonite garments. Finally, Israelites started doing business with Canaanites. “They are right here,” the merchants explained. “Why do I need to go to the coast or cross the Jordan to get my goods? The fabrics from Megiddo are just as good – and cheaper!”
Israelite merchants met with their Canaanite counterparts in their taverns, though still careful not to drink their wines. Mead, however, they consumed together with them freely: “No one uses mead for idol libations. A friendly drink or two won’t hurt.”
Judges protested the growing friendship with Canaanites to no avail.
I knew that the situation had deteriorated into troublesome waters when I heard a young Judean farmhand curse as he walked into Bethlehem with a bull in tow: “By Baal, you lazy animal! I’ll have you slaughtered for your meat if you don’t move!”
Disturbed, I approached the young man.
“What did you say?”
“Nothing, sir,” the young man replied, startled. “I was just berating my bull for moving slowly. He is a strong animal. Are you interested? He can plow an entire field in half a day.”
“Did you just swear in the name of a false god?” I pressed.
“What? That? It’s just an expression. Everyone in my village says it.”
“Do you realize that it is prohibited? That the Law of Moses, that God himself commanded us not to use the names of the false gods?”
“Really? I’m sorry. I meant no harm. Have a good day.”
The young man moved along as quickly as he could. I wasn’t sure if he was embarrassed or just uncomfortable under my glare.
How quickly they forget! Joshua is gone just a handful of years and already the next generation is weak in the Law of Moses. Where are the Levites? Were they not charged with teaching the Law? But I digress. I wanted to write about Joshua. To remember him and what he accomplished, rather than harp on how matters worsened in the years that followed his death.
All of the prophecies regarding Joshua were fulfilled. He was buried not far from Joseph. He married the beautiful Rahav of Jericho and lived happily with her until the end of his days. He vanquished all that came in his path. The Kings of Canaan trembled at the mention of his name. Each of the twelve tribes was settled in their inheritance. The Levite cities and cities of refuge were established. The Children of Israel dwelt in the land promised to our forefathers. The land promised at the Exodus from Egypt. The land promised at Mount Sinai. The land promised throughout the forty years of desert wandering. The Children of Israel dwelt in the land in peace and security, prosperous and comfortable. Israel succeeded in abandoning the miraculous existence of the desert, the manna, the magical well, the protective clouds, the clothing that never wore out. We moved to an existence of working the land. Of waiting for the ground to give birth to its produce. Of gathering the sheaves and grinding the wheat. Of mixing and kneading and baking the dough. Of seeding the ground and rotating the crops. Of waiting upon the right fruit in the right season. Grapes, olives, figs, pomegranates, dates – a land blessed with abundance. Cows and goats and sheep roamed throughout our land.
Once, I chanced upon a particularly productive cow on the western bank of the Jordan River, where palm trees grow wild. It was at the crack of dawn when the sleepy farmer went to milk his cow. He was not paying attention as the milk from the cow overflowed his wooden pail. The milk trickled down the hill and flowed over ripe dates that had fallen from a palm tree. The milk mingled with the honey oozing from the dates. Then I knew we were indeed in a land flowing with milk and honey. As Moses had promised and Joshua fulfilled. We shall ever remember you, Joshua, Conqueror, Leader, Servant of God, Father, Friend.
End Book 1 of Warrior Prophets