Monday, May 24, 2010

OT Lesson #21 - God will honor those who honor Him

OT Gospel Doctrine Lesson #21 - God will honor those who honor Him
1 Samuel 2-3, 8

The Child Samuel hearkens to the Lord’s Voice

Hannah’s hymn
1 Sam 2:1-11

Hannah’s hymn was probably added later by scribes. In verse 12 it mentions that the Lord will give strength to “his king.” Given Israel would not have a king for many decades to come, it is probable that this hymn was written during the reign of Saul, David or even later. The hymn also has a masculine form to its writing, very different from the hymns sung by Miriam or Deborah. Anciently, many would have the scribes of the tabernacle/temple write a hymn for them to celebrate an event. It is possible that Hannah’s hymn was commissioned by her, but then later updated to include the blessings to the king of Israel.

Sons of Eli/Sons of Belial
1 Sam 1:12-36

“Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the Lord. “ Here we see an interesting play on words. The term “Eli” means “God” singular, or could mean “My God.” Eli the priest held the name of the Almighty. But his sons, who should not only have physically been sons of Eli, but spiritually should have been sons of El/God, were known as “sons of Belial.” Belial means “without worth” or “worthless”. Belial was one of the four crown princes of hell. So, instead of following God, they sought after the devil (

As sons of the high priest, their responsibility would include offering the various sacrifices in the Tabernacle at Shiloh. The Law of Moses clearly established which portion of the sacrifice went to the priests, and which part was solely the Lord’s. However, the sons of Eli used their position for extortion. Those who wished to worship the Lord were forced to give up the finer pieces of the sacrifice for the priests to eat, including the fat (all of which was to go to the Lord).

Imagine attending Church and the bishop were to force you to give a portion of your tithes for his livelihood. Imagine if you had to pay him extra to partake of the Sacrament, be baptized, or receive a temple recommend. This is what the sons of Eli were doing.

Such wickedness in high places often forces people away from good works, and can lead people to worshiping elsewhere. Why go to Shiloh and the Tabernacle to worship, when one can just as easily sacrifice directly to the Lord at a wilderness altar (as Lehi would later do)? Why follow evil men? It was easier to worship Baal or another god, rather than follow a corrupted worship of Jehovah.

Sadly, Eli knew his sons were desecrating the tabernacle. Yet did little about it. To make matters worse, they introduced pagan rites into the tabernacle. Just as Baal worship included sexual rites with harlots, so too “they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation” (2:22). In the days of Moses, these priests would have been slain for “offering up strange incense” to the Lord (Exodus 30:9).

Prophet of Doom

A prophet arrives and tells Eli that his sons would die in one day for their sins, and that Eli’s house would be left vacant. Another priest would be selected to take the place of Eli and his sons. Some surmise this is Samuel, but it is not completely clear from the text whether Samuel was a Levite or not. In the scripture, his father Elkanah is noted as both a Levite (1 Chron. 6:3-15) and also an Ephraimite/Ephrathite (1 Sam 1). It is possible that he was a Levite that served among the tribe of Ephraim.

Samuel’s Calling
1 Sam 3

There “was no open vision” in Israel. Due to their sins, Israel had lost the ability of having visions from God. There had not been a worthy Judge in Israel in decades. Revelation was almost dead, except for the occasional traveling prophet, such as the one who warned Eli. But these never proclaimed visions nor saw the Lord, as prophets of old had.

Samuel grew up in Eli’s house, arriving shortly after being weaned. He was very circumspect, and would have spent his days studying the word of God in preparation for his life as a priest in the Tabernacle. Finally, at age 13 he would have arrived at the age of maturity. It would have been at this time when the Lord called him. Still young and inexperienced, Samuel first thought it was Eli calling for him. On the third time, Eli directed him to answer the Lord, which Samuel did.

Samuel answered, “Speak; for thy servant heareth” (3:10). Imagine, of the many thousands of Israelites, including the high priest Eli and his sons, none else heard the voice of God but a 13 year old boy. Of course we can see the similarities in the 14 year old Joseph Smith, surrounded by men of religious knowledge, who had shut the heavens so that God’s voice could not be heard by them, either. Even today, Christians often miss out on the fullness of God’s word, because they are preoccupied by their worldliness or personal lifestyles. I would imagine that God calls out to each of us continually, but most of us are too distracted to hear.

“And all Israel from Dan even to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord” (3:20).

Israel had not had a prophet since Joshua. Among the Judges, there were few that spoke with God, and of those, even fewer who had much contact with God. Many of them were afraid (Gideon), rebellious (Samson), or rash (Jepthah). Only the prophetess Deborah seemed to be wholly in tune with the Lord. Now, Israel would have the last of the Judges and the first of the new prophets, Samuel. He would lead Israel out of bondage, and also be a mouthpiece for God.

The Fall of the House of Eli
1 Sam 4

The Philistines, a coastal Sea People originally from the islands near Greece, invaded Israel. They would be one of the strong warrior peoples in the area over the next several decades. After soundly defeating Israel in a battle, the Israelites felt they needed to return to battle with the ark of the covenant of God with them. Surely the ark’s power would allow them to destroy the Philistines.

The ark of the covenant sat inside the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle. Inside it were held Israel’s greatest treasures, including the stone tablets containing the 10 commandments, and Aaron’s budding rod. Upon the ark sat the mercy seat, where God would sit behind two golden cherubim in his holy house.

“5 And when the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang again.
6 And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, What meaneth the noise of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews? And they understood that the ark of the Lord was come into the camp.
7 And the Philistines were afraid, for they said, God is come into the camp. And they said, Woe unto us! for there hath not been such a thing heretofore.
8 Woe unto us! who shall deliver us out of the hand of these mighty Gods? these are the Gods that smote the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness.
9 Be strong, and quit yourselves like men, O ye Philistines, that ye be not servants unto the Hebrews, as they have been to you: quit yourselves like men, and fight.”

In winning the second battle, the Philistines had stolen Israel’s God! Or at least that is how the Philistines and many Israelites viewed it. With the invasion, Eli’s sons were slain. Eli knew his sons would die, as it was prophesied to him before. However, when he heard that the ark was taken, he fell backwards from his chair and died. Israel’s greatest artifact and holy shrine was gone.

One must consider the terminology in the event above. “these are the Gods that smote the Egyptians” tells us that according to the Philistines, Israel had more than one God! It is because Israel did worship more than one God. At this time Israel worshiped both Elohim and Jehovah, the Son of El.

Philistines get more than they bargain for
1 Sam 5

The Philistines take the Ark to Dagon’s Temple

Where else does one put the sacred treasures of another nation, but in the temple of your own god? The ark of the covenant was put in the temple of Dagon at Ashdod. Dagon was the god of agriculture, his name literally meaning, “grain.” He was a major member of the Philistine pantheon, and dates back to 2500 BC as a god of the Amorites. Samson destroyed a major temple of Dagon, and later King Saul’s head would be on display at another Dagon temple fortress. (

They set the ark in front of the statue of Dagon, so the idol could behold his conquest and the defeated God of Israel. Yet in the morning, the Philistines found Dagon’s statue fallen down, prostrating before the ark. The following morning after setting the idol back up, they again found him prostrate, only this time his head and palms had been cut off. The God of Israel may be captive, but he was still stronger than Dagon.

But it didn’t stop there. All the people of Ashdod began suffering from “emerods” or boils all over their skin. They sent away the ark to the larger city of Gath, but the people there were also struck with boils. They too attempted to send away the ark to the city of Ekron, but the Philistines there refused to take it. The lords of the Philistines gathered and decided to return the ark to Israel.

The Philistines restore the ark
1 Sam 6

The 5 lords of the Philistines return the ark with a trespass offering of golden emerods and mice. The ark was placed upon an oxen driven cart, and allowed to wander back into Israel’s lands.

The oxen went straight to the land of Bethshemesh in Israel. The people were glad to have the ark returned. They took the wood of the cart and offered up the oxen as a sacrifice. However, they attempted to look within it and more than 50 thousand were smitten.

Samuel restores Israel
1 Sam 7

The ark was taken to the larger city of Kirjath-Jearim, where a priest was ordained to minister before it. At this time, Israel now had two very holy places: Kirjath-Jearim where the ark of the covenant now rested, and Shiloh where the Tabernacle still offered sacrifice to God.

“Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the Lord, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.
Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the Lord only” (7:3-4).

Israel had long worshiped the Canaanite god Baal in his many aspects (Baalim is the plural form, “Lords”). Ashtaroth was Baal’s consort and wife, represented by fertility rituals in the Canaanite temples. Samuel was calling on Israel to live the 10 commandments, follow the law of Moses, and return to worshiping Jehovah as their only God. They were given a second chance at having God’s ark in their presence, but it would require their full commitment if they wished to force the Philistines out of their lands.

Israel conquered the Philistines, pushing them back to their prior lands. A stone is raised at the place of the battle. The stone would have been both a memorial and also an altar for worshiping God: “Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Eben-ezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us“ (1 Sam 7:12). One of the greatest hymns written contains the phrase, “here I raise my Ebenezer” which goes to this verse in scripture (”Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”, by Robert Robinson), Ebenezer means “Stone of Help” (

The Lord would be described as the “rock of salvation” (2 Sam 22:47, Psalms 62:2-7, 89:26, etc). It is only after the deliverance of Israel from the Philistines that the stone is set up as a memorial. And they were rescued from their conquerors because they set aside their idols and gods, cleansed themselves, and focused their affections only on the Lord. It was with this faith and dedication that God became their stone of help, their rock of salvation, their Ebenezer. So too, in our lives, when we are struggling and in captivity to the world, we can put away our worldly things and gods, and return to the Stone of Help, the Lord Jesus Christ.

“15 And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life.
16 And he went from year to year in circuit to Beth-el, and Gilgal, and Mizpeh, and judged Israel in all those places.
17 And his return was to Ramah; for there was his house; and there he judged Israel; and there he built an altar unto the Lord.”

Samuel was a circuit prophet, going to the three major Israelite cities to judge cases and to resolve problems. But he always returned to his own home, where he also judged Israel. Moreover, he built an altar to God, where he could worship, perform sacrifice, and ponder the things of the house of the Lord, for wilderness altars and pillars were personal temples (Genesis 28:22). For us, we have temples established with altars to perform modern rites. Our home can also be as the temple, if we build a quiet place in it that can allow us to meditate and focus on our worship of the Lord.

Israel forsakes their King
1 Sam 8

In order to continue the tradition of Judges, the elderly Samuel set apart his sons as judges. However, as with the sons of Eli, they quickly fell into wickedness. They sought bribes and power that was not befitting a Judge of Israel.

The elders of Israel, knowing the struggles they had previously because of apostate priests and judges, went to Samuel to ask for a king. With judges, the Israelites were constantly in flux. There often was little unity among the tribes, and often there were long spaces of time between judges. The people did not have continuity, often leading to apostasy and invasion.

With a king, they reasoned they could maintain a standing army, become a truly united people like they were in the days of Moses (who was more like a king than a judge). They could defend their borders, build mightier cities, and be strong in the eyes of the neighboring nations.

Samuel was not pleased, as he felt they rejected him. But the Lord told him to give them a king, for they had rejected God, not Samuel. God had been their king, and would always be their king if they would have him. Instead, as in the days of Moses, Israel wanted an intermediary between them and God. God allowed it, but it brought about some undesired effects: such as many constricting rules in the Law of Moses. Instead of judging themselves and being free, the people would be yoked to an earthly king. They would have massive taxation, standing armies that would draft their sons to war, and regulations that would limit their freedoms.

But the Lord would not force himself upon the people. Their faith was not sufficient for them to live with such freedom. In being free from a central government, they ended up choosing to follow other gods and lifestyles that led them away from Jehovah. In their apostasy, they lost his blessings of protection, and they became ripe for invasion and chastisement at the hands of their enemies.

History has shown, and John Adams noted that only a righteous people can live free (such as under the US Constitution). When people have moved away from righteous living, they seek for others to take care of their problems for them. They wish to be lavished in their idleness. They leave their responsibilities for others. Jesus would later warn of the vineyard, whose watch tower was not manned nor guarded day and night. Eventually the enemy came in, with no warning sounded to those below.

Choosing a king would be the first step in Israel’s unity, but also the first in their apostasy from the truth.

King Mosiah II encouraged his people to do the opposite, going from kings to judges. He noted that if one could always have a righteous king, it was a good thing. However, evil kings, such as King Noah, had caused much suffering to occur.

“13 if it were possible that you could have just men to be your kings, who would establish the laws of God, and judge this people according to his commandments, yea, if ye could have men for your kings who would do even as my father Benjamin did for this people—I say unto you, if this could always be the case then it would be expedient that ye should always have kings to rule over you....For behold, how much iniquity doth one wicked king cause to be committed, yea, and what great destruction!
18 Yea, remember king Noah, his wickedness and his abominations, and also the wickedness and abominations of his people. Behold what great destruction did come upon them; and also because of their iniquities they were brought into bondage.
19 And were it not for the interposition of their all-wise Creator, and this because of their sincere repentance, they must unavoidably remain in bondage until now.
20 But behold, he did deliver them because they did humble themselves before him; and because they cried mightily unto him he did deliver them out of bondage; and thus doth the Lord work with his power in all cases among the children of men, extending the arm of mercy towards them that put their trust in him.
21 And behold, now I say unto you, ye cannot dethrone an iniquitous king save it be through much contention, and the shedding of much blood” (Mosiah 29:13-21).

Note that King Noah lured his people into sin and then captivity under the Lamanites. It was the King Jehovah that rescued them from the Lamanites, once the Nephites repented and turned their focus and worship over to Christ. So would it be with Israel. They would occasionally have a righteous king, but many of the kings would lead them astray and into captivity, where only God as warrior king could rescue them.




What’s an Ebenezer?

Lyrics to the tune “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”, by Robert Robinson:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

OT Lesson #20 - All the City doth know thou art a Virtuous Woman

Lesson #20 - All the City...Doth Know Thou Art a Virtuous Woman
Ruth, 1 Samuel 1

Background: It is near the end of the reign of the judges. Samuel will be the last of the Judges, and perhaps the most powerful on Israel ever had. Israel has failed to conquer most of the land, and has spent centuries in a cycle of righteousness and freedom, and wickedness and captivity.

In this time of weakness, where no one better than slouching Samson can be found as a Judge against the Philistines, and where Gideon must test the Lord to increase his faith time and again; we find a few good women of faith that stand head and shoulders above the rest. The prophetess Deborah is the first of the virtuous women we learn about, who stands in as the righteous and inspired leader of the people in a time when the men failed God.

The Land of Moab
Ruth 1

The land of Moab was east of Israel just over the River Jordan. During this period, the Moabite lands were partially in the hands of the Tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh. It is possible that the land in which Naomi dwelt was actually among the Israelites! She personally was from Bethlehem, and dwelt with her husband, who could have been from the one of the tribes east of the Jordan.

During the reign of the Judges, the control of the lands switched often, and could have gone from being controlled by Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh to the Moabites for a time. The Moabites worshiped the god Chemosh, who was similar to Baal in certain ways. Some scholars consider Chemosh and the Ammonite god Molech to be the same being. According to ancient tradition, the Moabites did not worship Chemosh faithfully, and so he turned them over to the Israelites for several centuries, until King Solomon built a sanctuary to Chemosh in Jerusalem. Included in the worship of Chemosh was human sacrifice, which appeased the god. If Chemosh was also Molech, then the worship would also include passing children through the fire and child sacrifice. (

Naomi’s Plight

With the death of her husband and sons, Naomi had a particularly difficult problem. She did not have any men or family to take care of her. In ancient times, women without male support could easily find themselves on the road to complete destitution and starvation. She had no choice but to return to her homeland and her tribe of Judah, near the town of Bethlehem.

Being without a man, she could no longer afford to manage her daughters-in-law, either. The kindest thing she could do is to send them back to their own families, where they would have a chance to remarry and to be cared for by their own people.

While Orpah returned to her own family, Ruth insisted on staying with Naomi. She would abandon the Moabite family of her childhood, the culture and their god.

Ruth Gleans the Fields
Ruth 2

Settled in Bethlehem, there is only one way for two single women to survive: gleaning grain from the fields. In the Law of Moses, we find that one requirement is that farmers do not pick all the fruit/grain from their fields, but leave behind the grain in the corners of the field. “And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 23:22). This ensured the poor and needy had a way to feed themselves. It was the ancient welfare plan to provide for the poor.

Ruth found herself in the fields of Boaz. Boaz was a relative of Naomi, and when he found out who Ruth was, insisted she glean solely from his fields. In this manner he was able to ensure she could gather in sufficient grains to feed herself and the aging Naomi. When Naomi found out, she was pleased, and mentioned that Boaz was a “near kinsman” or a close relative. This fact will be very important to the story line.

Ruth Proposes Marriage
Ruth 3

Over time, Naomi determined to use the law of Levirate marriage to provide Ruth a husband and grandchildren for herself. She directs the girl to stealthily enter into Boaz’ bed chamber after dark, uncover his feet, and lay at his feet as a marriage proposal. Ruth does as she is told, and laid at Boaz’ feet until he discovered her at midnight. There is another possible thing that occurred here. In ancient Hebrew, to “cover one’s feet” or to uncover them also meant to cover/uncover one’s loins. So, when we read of seraphim with wings that cover their feet, it likely means they had a covering for their loins (Isaiah 6:2). It is possible that Ruth laid herself down on his lap, as a marriage proposal. At midnight, he awoke.

“9 And he (Boaz) said, Who art thou? And she answered, I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman.
10 And he said, Blessed be thou of the Lord, my daughter: for thou hast shewed more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning, inasmuch as thou followedst not young men, whether poor or rich.
11 And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest: for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman.”

To spread one’s skirt or cloak over another is to offer them protection. Nephi prayed, “O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness!” (2 Ne 4:33), a perfect request of one who knew he needed a protector. Ruth sought a great protector in Boaz, who could care for her as a husband and provider. Boaz was surprised that she sought the proper Levirate marriage of marrying the next of kin, and not chasing after a young man. However, there was another closer relative that would get the first opportunity to marry the young woman.

That Ruth was able to slip into his room late at night, sleep at his “feet” and be considered a virtuous woman shows that her intentions in all she did was good. She followed proper protocol, even if it is different than what we would do today. She was virtuous, meaning chaste, hard working, honest, and dependable.

Boaz Gets a Bride
Ruth 4

The city gate was where all the men went to discuss the news of the city. At the gate, one could talk to travelers and find out the news in other places near and far. And it was where much business was concluded. It would not be long after Boaz sat down at the gate until he would encounter the next of kin.

The discussion was made as a business proposition. Naomi had a piece of land for sale. However, to reclaim the property, one would also have to marry Ruth according to Levirate law, and provide descendants for the family. The next of kin turned down the offer, and allowed Boaz to buy the land and marry Ruth. Interestingly, while Boaz’ main goal was to marry Ruth, he brought her up as part of a business arrangement for property. Perhaps his method was to make the deal seem less appealing to the kinsman. Regardless, it worked for Boaz.

Boaz and Ruth would bear a son, Obed, who would be the grandfather of King David.

Hannah Prays for a Son
1 Samuel 1

Elkanah the Ephraimite was married, but had a problem. He and his wife, Hannah, were old and without a child. Having children to carry on the family line was very important. Even more important was the ability to have a son, to pass on the inheritance and blessings of the forefathers.

For Hannah, it was difficult to see the other women with sons, bragging on their children, and seeing them play in the streets. She mourned, even though Elkanah tried to cheer her up: “why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than ten sons? (1 Sam 1:8).

To try and help her, the couple prepared for the trip to Shiloh, where the Tabernacle of the Lord was. The Tabernacle is actually called the “temple of the Lord” in this story, even though a building was yet to be built. She prayed silently, expressing each word from her lips. The temple high priest, Eli, thought the woman was drunk, and sought to chastise her.

But Hannah explained her purpose. She was willing to give the child to God’s service, if she could just have her womb opened. Eli blessed her that her prayer would be answered, and the couple returned home. She did bear a son, Samuel.

Lent to the Lord

On bearing Samuel, Hannah cared for him for just a couple years. Once weaned, it was time to fulfill her promise: “For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him: Therefore also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord (1 Sam 1:27-28).

Have we pleaded with God for something, and when received, not thought to return it to God? What have we received that we were then willing to “lend to the Lord” and God’s service? When our children are born, do we dedicate them to God” Or do we keep them for ourself? When God blesses us in business, material possession, a talent, or anything else, what do we do with it? Do we use them solely for our own personal gain, or do we give back to God?

For LDS, this concept of lending back to the Lord includes tithing. God provides us with so much, that we covenant to return 10 percent tithe to God and his Church. We are also asked to share our time, talents, and resources to building up God’s church and work on the earth. This may include assisting in the Church, serving in our communities, caring for the poor and needy, or sharing a talent to make the world a better place.

Hannah’s devotion would bring to Israel their greatest Judge and the beginning of the united kingdom of Israel. He would be a Seer, a Prophet, and a Priest. In lending her son to God, she opened the door for the entire nation to be blessed. Imagine the continued struggles Israel would have suffered had she kept Samuel to herself. Imagine the suffering that happens in the world around us, because we do not share our blessings, gifts and talents with others.


The god Chemosh:

Levirate Marriage:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Gospel Doctrine Lesson #19 - The Reign of the Judges

Gospel Doctrine Lesson #19 - The Reign of the Judges
Judges 2; 4; 6–7; 13–16

Samson - Destroying the Philistine Temple

Background: Joshua led the children of Israel in their first forays and battles in the Promised Land. After several years of fighting, some land had been conquered, but it was far short of the lands God had promised Israel. The lands intended for Israel stretched to the river Euphrates, beyond the Hittite empire and into Assyria. However, at the death of Joshua, very little of the land had been conquered by Israel (see Joshua 13). Prior to Joshua’s death, much of the nearby land had been divided by lot to the Tribes of Israel, and those tribes were expected to drive out the inhabitants prior to inhabiting the lands. Joshua’s last warning and counsel was for Israel to choose God and follow him, and in doing so they would successfully conquer the land before them.

Israel Ignores Joshua’s Counsel
Judges 1

While some Israelites, such as Caleb were faithful in driving out the wicked inhabitants of the land, and possessing the inheritance completely, most of Israel failed to obey God’s command.

Presumably through the chief priest’s Urim and Thummim, Israel asks who should go against the Canaanites first to obtain their land. Judah is told to go to battle. Judah took the warriors of Simeon along. They slaughtered the Canaanites and Perizzites in the area, killing ten thousand men in the city of Bezek alone. In a Shakespearean irony, we find Judah capturing the local king, they cut off his thumbs and big toes, something this king was renowned for doing previously to 70 kings he had captured in battle. The story notes they brought him to Jerusalem, where he died. According to Judges, Judah had taken the city and set it on fire. While the city was in Judah’s area, the tribe of Benjamin seems to have taken the city, allowing the Jebusites to remain therein (1:21). This differs from Joshua 15:63 that states Judah dwelt at Jerusalem with the Jebusites, whom they could not dislodge from the area.

Next, the house of Joseph, made of Ephraim and half the tribe of Manasseh, went into the mountains to gain their lands. They first went to claim the city of Bethel (House of God), where Abraham and Jacob both offered sacrifice, and Jacob built an outdoor temple to God.

Once the tribes had obtained some choice possession in their lands, they seemed content to stop and farm the land:
27 Neither did Manasseh drive out the inhabitants ....but the Canaanites would dwell in that land.
28 And it came to pass, when Israel was strong, that they put the Canaanites to tribute, and did not utterly drive them out.
29 Neither did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer; but the Canaanites dwelt in Gezer among them.
30 Neither did Zebulun drive out the inhabitants...but the Canaanites dwelt among them, and became tributaries.
31 Neither did Asher drive out the inhabitants ...:
32 But the Asherites dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land: for they did not drive them out.
33 Neither did Naphtali drive out the inhabitants.... became tributaries unto them.
34 And the Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountain: for they would not suffer them to come down to the valley:
35 But the Amorites would dwell in mount Heres in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim: yet the hand of the house of Joseph prevailed, so that they became tributaries.

Why slay the people you conquer, when you can collect tributary taxes from them? Israel was expected to work the land for themselves, alone, and reap the harvest given of God. Instead, they chose to allow the Canaanites and others to dwell among them in order to enrich themselves from slave labor.

No sooner was Joshua dead, and Israel was already ignoring the path God commanded them. It seemed easier to make peace and accept the tribute from people who now feared them, than to make continual war for several years. Yet this would soon show to be short-sighted, as the enemy within is worse than the enemy without.

The Party’s Over
Judges 2

It took less than a generation for the problems to occur.

1 And an angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you.
2 And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars: but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this?
3 Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you.
4 And it came to pass, when the angel of the Lord spake these words unto all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voice, and wept.
5 And they called the name of that place Bochim: and they sacrificed there unto the Lord.

Here we have an angel, not descending from heaven, but coming up from Gilgal! The word “angel” means messenger, and can equally mean a heavenly messenger as well as a mortal messenger. It seems that God sent a prophet to Israel to tell them they were now going to suffer the consequences of their poor choices.

The word, “Bochim” comes from the Hebrew “to weep”. Because they did not listen to God and destroy the inhabitants of the land, they would now suffer under the hands of those inhabitants.

The generation of Israel that entered into the land, who remembered Moses and Joshua, eventually died. The covenants that were made in crossing Jordan were now well in the past, and soon forgotten:

The Canaanite gods - Baalim
Judges 2

10 And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.
11 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim.

Baalim is the plural form of the word Ba’al, which means Master or Lord. So Israel served the gods of the land. Ba’al was the main Canaanite god, who had various versions, depending on the locality. Previously, the Israelites struggled with Baal-Peor and went after the harlots at his temple. Now, well within Canaanite lands, they will discover the many faces of Ba’al, and find there is an enticing version for each Israelite to chase after.

Ba’al was originally a Phoenician god. The Phoenicians were believed to be Sea People that came to the area from the islands around Greece. By the time Israel showed up, Ba’al took upon himself other abilities. In previous lessons, we discussed the ancient Semitic belief that the chief god, El Elyon/Elohim had 70 divine sons, each given a land and people to rule over. Jehovah was given Israel as the most important kingdom. The Canaanites were originally ruled by a god named Yam. He was the god of oceans and rivers. However, Yam was eventually eliminated as a local god when the Phoenicians showed up and the worship of Ba’al replaced Yam. Later, Jehovah would note this radical change in gods among the Canaanites by stating:

9 Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and shew us former things? let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say, It is truth.
10 Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.
11 I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour. (Isaiah 43)

It isn’t that there are no other gods, but that Jehovah is Israel’s one and only God. Never was there a God before him in Israel, and he would never be replaced, as we see in the case of Yam and Ba’al.

One key form Ba’al takes is that of the Canaanite god Hadad. Hadad was a son of El Elyon. According to Canaanite tradition, Hadad was the “the lord over the assembly of gods on the holy mount of Heaven” or in El Elyon’s divine council. He was to Canaan what Jehovah was to Israel - the chiefest and divine son of God, given the most important people on earth to lead and bless. In the book of Judges, we see the battle that goes on between the two gods, as each seems to gain strength from the devotion of their followers. Jehovah will not bless Israel when they sin. If they are worshiping Ba’al, then let Ba’al bless them! Instead, we find that their worship of Ba’al strips them of Jehovah’s blessings, and in the end Israel becomes enslaved not only to Ba’al but Baal’s people, as well.

Who is our Lord, Master, Baal?

Today with our modern outlook, we can sometimes think how stupid Israel was forgetting their own God, who provided such huge miracles as in Egypt, the Red Sea, and in providing them water and manna in the desert for forty years. Yet we often are as blind to the gods around us, who entice us to forget our God and his previous miracles in our lives.

I received my patriarchal blessing, a special personal revelation given by a patriarch of the LDS Church in 1976. The patriarchs give blessings, even as Jacob blessed his children, and as Moses blessed the tribes of Israel. In talking with my patriarch, prior to the blessing, he shared with me a life changing experience he had had as a young man. He was recently married and very strong. He reasoned that with his health, he could easily work two 8 hour a day jobs, make lots of money, and have a happy life. One night, as he slept, he said an angel came to him and told the young man to follow him. They walked through the wall, and into a land where all the homes were elegant and white. Everything was perfect, and (in his own words) “there was nothing out of place.” They entered a building and into a large room, where he noted several deceased people he knew in the background. The angel motioned towards two individuals standing on pedestals, and told him to choose between Jesus and Satan. At first, he thought it would be an easy thing to do. But as he looked, he saw they were indistinguishable. The more he looked, the less he was sure of himself. He heard someone in the background exclaim, “He doesn’t even know who Jesus is!” He sank to the floor, and awoke in his own bed. He was so weak from the experience that he did not get out of bed for several days. Immediately he changed his plans, and spent his life serving God.

The Baal or god in our life is whatever becomes our “Master.” Is Jesus Christ first in our lives, or is he secondary? What comes before Jesus in our lives? The same things that precedence in our lives instead of God, are the things that become “thorns” in our own sides. We are conquered from within, just as the Israelites were. Our little weaknesses start as tributaries to us, but eventually become the Master/Lord/Baal over us. Whether it is addiction to alcohol, tobacco, drugs, sex, sports or video games, most of these began as something people could control - only to find they eventually were the slave. It isn’t that having a Canaanite living in one’s backyard is necessarily evil, but allowing the Canaanite to then entice us to forget God and follow the lusts of the heart becomes the crime. We leave behind God in our search for other gods to satisfy the flesh. And those gods become our masters.

The Judges Introduced
Judges 2:16-20

God explains that Israel would receive Judges, people called of God to act in His stead to deliver Israel. The Judges symbolized the future Jesus Christ, who seeks to deliver us from our captivity. Each time we are rescued and fall again, Christ is in the wings, waiting for us to again be chastened and humbled, so he can step in and rescue us once more.

Israel’s First Trial and Judge
Judges 3

Intermarriage is a big problem for Israel. It won’t go away anytime soon, either. The same curse falling on Israel now will affect King Solomon centuries later. This is also the same danger that affected the sons of Adam prior to the Flood. When the sons of Adam married the daughters of men, the women led the men astray into worshiping other gods. In the New Testament, it is Salome, dancing before her step-father King Herod Agrippa that will lead to the beheading of John the Baptist. It makes me wonder how many young LDS men have chosen not to serve on missions, because they didn’t want to leave their girlfriends behind. The problem is not necessarily the women, but the weakness of the men, who did not seek to convert the daughters of men first to the worship of Jehovah, but rather indulged with them in following Baal and other gods.

In Judges 3, we find Othniel as the first of the Judges to deliver Israel from their own sin and stupidity. Not long afterward, though, they returned to sinning and God placed them in slavery for another 18 years under the Moabites.

Ehud is the second Judge sent by Jehovah. He is noteworthy because he is left-handed. Ehud goes before the Moabite king, Eglon, who is a very fat person. In meeting with the king alone, he takes a dagger and runs it into Eglon’s stomach. The king’s fat stomach engulfed the dagger so it could not be taken out. Ehud escaped and brought forth his army to slay a Moabite army of 10,000. Israel was free for eighty years.

Deborah, the Prophetess
Judges 4

The Prophetess Deborah

Upon Ehud’s death, Israel sinned again, falling this time into the hands of the Canaanite king, Jabin. Sadly, there seems to have been no men in Israel righteous enough to be a Judge, and God called Deborah as a prophetess and Judge over Israel. Judging from where she dwelt near Bethel, Deborah was probably from the tribe of Ephraim. She called forth Barak, a major military leader in israel, and told him that God commanded him to free Israel.

But Barak would not go without Deborah to fight the Canaanite general Sisera. He understood the importance of her being present in the war. She was the Judge of God. She was a prophetess, who could foresee what needed to be done in the battle. The people looked up to her for guidance and deliverance.

Sisera was confident in the ability of his many chariots. He would be able to route any foot soldiers easily on the plains. However, we read that God disrupted the chariots, perhaps bogging them down so they were unable to continue, and the Canaanites were forced to fight on foot. The Canaanites were quickly slain by Barak’s army.

Yet Sisera escaped on foot. He had a colleague nearby, and asked Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite to hide him. She offered to do so, had him lay down to rest, and while he slept, ran a nail through his temple. Jael clearly saw that the battle was on the Lord’s side, and to assist Sisera was to embrace ruin for her husband and household.

In Judges 5, Deborah and Barak compose and sing a battle song for Israel. Even as Moses and Miriam sang at the Red Sea to celebrate the defeat of the Egyptians, so we receive another memorial psalm or hymn that was suited for Israelite festivals and holy days.

The land had 40 years more of rest for Israel.

Judges 6-8

Israel fell captive to the Midianites. The Midianites constantly destroyed the Israelite crops in order to keep them poor and stricken down, unable to rise up against their oppressors.

The Church lesson focuses on Gideon’s faith. Yet it may be better to discuss Gideon’s struggle with faith. For many of us, if an angel came to us and told us to perform a work for God, we would have enough faith to accomplish it. Gideon is full of doubt, but willing to serve God if he is able to do so in stealth. Gideon took ten men and destroyed the idol of Baal that his father built in the city, yet “because he feared his father’s household, and the men of the city, that he could not do it by day, that he did it by night. “

As Gideon later went forward to gather an army, he still feared. Even after seeing an angel, he insisted on proof. Laying a fleece of wool on the ground outside his tent, he first asked that the fleece be wet with dew and the ground dry. The next night, he switched the situation, dry fleece and wet ground, in order to verify God was really with him.

This is not a sign of strong faith. God normally did not have to prove himself to his prophets on such a tall order. Gideon was not like Deborah. However, God works with those who are available, as we’ll see again in the story of Samson. Gideon was the best God could get in Israel in this time period, and patiently worked to strengthen his faith. Often, God will work with us to strengthen our faith, prior to giving us a great task to accomplish. Eventually, though, the Lord expects us to obey and not require signs and proofs continually.

The Lord, wishing to prove He would deliver Israel and not the army of Gideon, had Gideon reduce his army down to 300 men. Given the thousands in the Midianite army, it was obvious they could not accomplish it alone. Seeking another sign, Gideon slipped quietly into the Midianite tent at night to listen in on conversations. Hearing the soldiers fearing the Israelite army and Jehovah’s power, he knew he could safely go to battle. Fear was the tactic used by God to discomfit the Midianite army, as trumpets and lanterns turned the area into mayhem. Midianites began fighting among one another, as others fled, leaving the field to Gideon in victory.

More Apostasy and Chaos
Judges 9-12

After Gideon’s death, his son Abimelech became king. However, it was done through treachery, as he slew his 70 brothers and installed himself as king in wickedness.
Abimelech sought to control more territory and had a series of battles with the people of Shechem. Eventually, in storming a tower, a woman dropped a millstone upon Abimelech’s head and slew him. Abimelech’s people stopped warring and returned to their own homes, tired of war.

Then came judges to rescue Israel from its continuing sins and captivity: Tola, Jair, and others. Yet Israel continued to sin, worshiping gods from many of the nations. Finally, the Lord said ‘enough’ and sent several nations to afflict various portions of Israel. When the nation cried to God for deliverance, the Lord responded, “Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation” (10:14).

Israel put away its gods, and brought its armies against the Ammonite army. Yet, they were uncertain what to do, as God had not chosen a Judge to lead them. The Lord chooses Jepthah to lead the armies of Israel in their battle against the Ammonites east of the river Jordan. Jepthah makes a rash vow, that if God will allow him to defeat the Ammonites, he will sacrifice to god the first living thing that he sees on his return home.

The Ammonites are thwarted, and on returning home, Jepthah sees his only daughter running and dancing to celebrate her father. Jepthah allowed his daughter two months of mourning, as she would die a virgin. The story ends there, with the anticipation that Jepthah fulfilled the grisly human sacrifice, and that Israel’s virgin daughters grieved her annually (Judges 11).

Judges 12 begins with a civil war among Israelites. Jepthah was from the 1/2 tribe of Manasseh on the east side of the river Jordan. When Ephraim found out that Manasseh had gone to war without the rest of Israel, they determined that Manasseh had seceded from the house of Israel. War fell between Ephraim and Manasseh. Jepthah and the men of Gilead slew many of the Ephraimites. As Ephraim attempted to flee, Gilead was able to determine who in the wilderness were from Ephraim from the dialect. Ephraimites could not say “shibboleth”, but said “sibboleth” instead. Those who failed the test were slain. 42,000 Ephraimites were slain in the civil war.

So Jepthah and a few others judged Israel.

Samson and Delilah
Judges 13-16

In Judges 13, we find Israel falling into sin again. This time the Philistines conquered Israel. The Philistines were a Sea People related to the Phoenicians. They originally came from the Greek Isles, and were known for their pottery and art of the period. They were culturally and aesthetically more advanced than Israel. Samson would prove to be a bigger “philistine” than the Philistines.

Manoah’s barren wife was told by an angel that she would bare a son to be a judge in Israel. This son would be a Nazarite: one set apart to God’s service, who was not to drink alcohol, eat unclean things, cut his hair, or touch the dead. Samson would disobey virtually all the Ten Commandments of God. As mentioned before, God used what was available in Israel to deliver Israel. Samson was the best available, but was not that great.

For Samson, his purpose was not to serve God, but was to fight the Philistines because they annoyed him. He sought to marry a Philistine woman. When riddles and bets with the Philistines were rigged, he destroyed their crops by sending hundreds of foxes with firebrands tied to their tails through the land. An army of Philistines attempt to stop Samson, and he slew them with the jawbone (Lehi) of an ass.

He slew a lion, and later found in the dead lion (unclean and dead) that bees made a honeycomb within it. Instead of avoid the dead, he ate of the honeycomb and took some home to his parents.

As with Israel, so it was with Samson. Things went well for them, and they fell into sin. Samson met Delilah, a beautiful Philistine woman. Once again, Samson was engaged with women outside of Israel. And the woman became his downfall. She continually went from enticing him to be with her, to enticing him to reveal the secret of his strength. Eventually, he revealed his secret, and lost the power of his great strength. As the Philistines blinded him, and made him work as an ox grinding the grain in the prison house.

At length, his hair grew back. The Philistines were celebrating a great festival of one of their gods, and wanted to bring in Samson to mock as a display of Israel’s failure. Samson now had his power restored, or part of it. In grasping two pillars to bring down the building and slay the princes of Philistia, he did not have God’s work in mind: “O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes” (16:28). Samson doesn’t want to rescue Israel, he wants revenge for being blind. Of all the sloppy and poor judges of Israel, he was the worst. Samson probably had the greatest ability to free Israel, but wasted his great strength on his own lusts instead.

The Levite Stories
Judges 17-21

In Midian, an Israelite man with wealth spent a large portion of his money (200 shekels) on creating idols, and tabernacle-like statues (ephod, teraphim) for his house. In the time of the Judges, a shekel was a weight, probably somewhere between 9 and 17 grams or about 1/2 an ounce. In today’s (2010) value, 100 ounces of bulk silver equals about two thousand ($2000) dollars. That amount in silver coins would be worth almost $3000 today. It seems creating a center for worship in one’s home was all the rage. He consecrated one of his sons to be priest over the idols. It is possible this also became a local shrine, where he could charge others to worship the gods he created, and giving him a nice income on the side.

A young Levite came into the area, and Micah knew that he needed a priest of Jehovah, to ensure he covered all the bases in worshiping all the gods in the area. Offering to pay and maintain the Levite at a decent wage, he consecrated him as his priest for the Lord. “Then said Micah, Now know I that the Lord will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to my priest” (17:13).

In Judges 18, we find that the tribe of Dan still has not obtained an inheritance for themselves. Many dwelt along the coastline with the Phoenicians, and it is supposed by some scholars that most of the tribe of Dan disappeared, or was absorbed by the Phoenicians. They came and appropriated Micah’s ephod, teraphim and idols for themselves. The Levite priest was offered the job to be priest for a whole tribe, rather than just priest for one household. With the power of Jehovah’s Levite and symbols of the tabernacle, they took the coastline city of Laish for themselves. They set up the sacred items for their tribe in Laish/Dan, even though the Tabernacle was in the city of Shiloh.

The Desolation of Benjamin

The second story (Judges 19-21) tells of a Levite who found himself a concubine (a slave wife) in Bethlehem. After a short time, his wife was unfaithful and then ran away back to her father’s home. The Levite returned, spending several days with her father. Finally one evening, it was time to leave. They approached Jebus/Jerusalem, a few miles down the road, where his servants suggested they stop for the night. The Levite, however, would not rest in a city of the Jebusites, and so went on to Gibeah, a city of the tribe of Benjamin. For quite some time they waited in the streets to ask someone to lodge them. In finding an older man in the street, the Levite stated, “I am now going to the house of the Lord; and there is no man that receiveth me to house”. The Levite was on his way to Shiloh and the Tabernacle, and no one yet had opened their home to him. But the old man took him in and was a gracious host.

As the night progressed, many of the local men who worshiped Belial, known as one of the four crowned princes of hell, came to the old man’s house. As the men did at Sodom for Lot’s guests, the men of Benjamin insisted the Levite be sent out so they could “know him.” Instead, the concubine was sent outside. She was gang-raped until she died at dawn on the porch of the old man’s house.

.The Levite took the torn corpse with him. Cutting her into twelve pieces, he sent part of her to the princes of each of the twelve tribes. Incensed, Israel demanded that Benjamin turn over the men of Gibeah for punishment. The tribe of Benjamin refused. Once again, a civil war began in Israel. There were about 32, 000 men for Benjamin against 400,000 for the rest of Israel.

When they asked the Lord who should go first to battle, the Lord sent Judah went against Benjamin, but they were sorely defeated. Israel wept and then asked the Lord if they should go against Benjamin, and were told to go. Again they were defeated. 40,000 Israelite soldiers now were dead after two battles - one tenth of their armies! Benjamin still stood very strong with few dead on their side.

26 Then all the children of Israel, and all the people, went up, and came unto the house of God, and wept, and sat there before the Lord, and fasted that day until even, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord.
27 And the children of Israel enquired of the Lord, (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days,
28 And Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, stood before it in those days,) saying, Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother, or shall I cease? And the Lord said, Go up; for to morrow I will deliver them into thine hand.

On the third try, Israel realized that it took more than just asking God to have God go with them into battle. It required going to the Tabernacle/Temple, fasting, praying, and offering sacrifices, prior to the Lord going with them in strength.

The next day, Israel defeated Benjamin soundly. All of its cities were burned, and the inhabitants destroyed. Six hundred men escaped and hid in nearby caves. When the fighting stopped, Israel realized they had virtually wiped out one of the tribes of God. With the desolation of Benjamin, they entreated the 600 men to rebuild the tribe, each of the other tribes giving them their daughters for wives.

In this second story, we see that even God’s people can become as evil as Sodom and Gomorrah. The devil gives great power to the wicked, and it often takes more than just asking God to be able to defeat evil. Often it takes weeping, prayer, fasting, temple attendance, and sacrifice of one’s heart and soul, in order to then go forth with God’s power. One man complained to Jesus that the apostles were unable to heal his child from demonic possession. After healing the child, the Savior told his disciples that some of these “But this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21).



The God Yam:

For more on the Divine Council, El Elyon/Elohim, Jehovah as king/God of Israel competing against other divine sons, etc, see my previous Old Testament Lessons (use key search word El Elyon):

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Gospel Doctrine Lesson #18 - Be Strong and of a Good Courage

Lesson #18 Be Strong & of a Good Courage
Joshua 1-6, 23-24

Background: Moses was the Lawgiver and Prophet over Israel for 40 years. Due to rebellion and sin of the former slaves, only the younger generation survived to enter the Promised Land. With the exception of Joshua and Caleb, all of Israel is under 60 years of age.

With Moses' death, the children of Israel now looked to Joshua as their leader. "And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him: and the children of Israel hearkened unto him and did as thc Lord commanded Moses" (Deut 34:9).

Preparing to Enter the Promised Land
Joshua 1

Upon the death of Moses and the requisite month of mourning, God immediately calls Joshua to take Israel over the Jordan River into the Promised Land. The Lord describes the land, "Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you" (1:3). This land would stretch from the southern Canaanite lands (near the beginning of the Sinai Peninsula) to the River Euphrates in Assyria!

Interestingly, God sees it necessary to tell Joshua three times to "Be strong and of a good courage" (1:6-9). As a condition of being strong and courageous is the reminder to keep the commandments faithfully, in order to have God's power and strength with Israel in their conquests. I wonder how often we need to be reminded of our duty and faith, as we go through our daily routines and struggles.

Joshua tells the 2 1/2 tribes remaining east of the River Jordan (Reuben, Gad and 1/2 of Manasseh) to prepare to keep their promise to assist Israel in gaining the land of promise. It isn't enough for each tribe to get what they want, and then abandon the work. They are no longer a bunch of confederated tribes, but are one nation and people. For the entire House of Israel to prosper means all must do their part. In building Zion today, it does not help if some wards excel, while others struggle to survive. Often it means we must step up and assist those who have not been well established yet.

Spies in Jericho
Joshua 2

Joshua sent two spies to find the weak places of the city Jericho. The city was not far from the banks of the Jordan River. Jericho had heard of the great miracles that Jehovah performed in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in defeating the Amorites and others. Jericho feared the Israelites. There was tension in the air, as the city knew the Israelites would soon be crossing over to invade. When the king heard there were spies afoot, he sent soldiers to kill them. However, the spies found sanctuary in the home of a harlot, Rahab. She promises to assist them and Israel in taking the city in exchange for protection for her family.

On their return, the spies told Joshua, " Truly the Lord hath delivered into our hands all the land; for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us (2:24)." These are the same peoples that Israel feared forty years before. They could not imagine how God could help them conquer the people of the Promised Land, and ignored the pleas of Joshua and Caleb regarding faith in God's power. Here, God has instilled fear in Israel's enemies. The war is essentially over before it has even begun.

We can also learn that we can't always tell who our friends are. For Israel, their friend in Jericho turned out to be a harlot. Many would have rejected her assistance, simply because her life was distasteful and against God's law. But in accepting the gifts offered by a sinner, Israel was even more blessed. Perhaps we can learn to focus more on the things we have in common with others, than on division, as the spies found with Rahab. In working with Rahab, Israel was blessed, and perhaps it allowed Rahab to receive the blessings of Israel, as well.

Crossing Jordan
Joshua 3

Joshua organizes Israel in crossing the Jordan River. First, the priests carry the Ark of the Covenant, which symbolized the Presence of God, into the water. Where their feet touched the water, the river stopped moving forward. Israel crossed over on dry land, just as they did at the Red Sea.

In the Ancient Near East, tradition had it that God created the earth from chaos. Part of God's creation effort included slaying or controlling the Chaos Monster, Rahab the serpent. Isaiah looked back and noted, "Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon?" (Is 51:9). The Psalmist proclaimed, "Thou hast broken Rahab in pieces, as one that is slain; thou hast scattered thine enemies with thy strong arm."

The serpent was connected with the darkness and waters at the Creation; the darkness and waters representing Chaos being controlled and allowing God to order the land to be formed and separated from the waters, the light and darkness divided, etc. Interestingly, we see that the serpent's name is Rahab, which ties directly to Joshua's experience at Jericho. Joshua must drive the evil chaos out of the Promised Land.

This Creation story repeats itself as Moses causes darkness to fall upon the land of Egypt, causes the Nile to turn to blood, and finally in dividing or bringing order to the chaos of the Red Sea, in order to allow Israel to cross, escaping the chaos which is Egypt.

Again, we shall see the Creation theme occur, as Joshua leads Israel over the Jordan River. Israel leaves the chaos of the world and enters into its Promised Land. This is a land prepared and ordered by God, a land of milk and honey, a place where Israelite slaves can raise their children in Zion.

Paul will later note that each of us also experiences a passage through the chaos into an ordered life, as we are baptized.

1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;
2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat;
4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.(1 Corinthians 10).

The primeval chaos of water is overcome by the resurrection of Christ, who we follow in baptism. We also renew this action of moving from chaos into holy order when we partake of the Sacrament, as well. For Latter-day Saints, the story of Creation from chaos and moving from chaos in our own lives to holy and ordered lives is also a key theme of the temple experience.

In modern revelation, we read: "Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God" (D&C 88:119). This is our call today to bring the world around us out of chaos, and assist God in bringing it into order. While much of the world does lay in chaos and disaster, the temple and hopefully our homes, become a place of order and light.

A Temple-Altar of Remembrance
Joshua 4

Upon crossing into the Promised Land, Israel's first object was to commemorate the event for future generations to remember. Israel did as the early Patriarchs did to establish a place to remember and honor. They built a temple in the wilderness. Anciently, temples were not always built with four walls. Israel carried the Tabernacle, a portable temple, with them in their journeys. Altars in the wilderness became solitary temples or places to worship God. Not all altars were built for sacrifice. Some were built as a memorial of a special experience or occasion, such as when Jacob saw God on his throne. Jacob saw the ladder or staircase leading to heaven with its many levels and steps. After his great theophany (seeing God), Jacob stated, "And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house" (Genesis 28:22).

Israel's first action in the Promised Land was to build a temple, a place for God's house.

The New Covenant of Circumcision
Joshua 5

Now that Israel was inside the land of promise, the men were circumcised. Circumcision was a necessary step to separate Israel from the rest of the land. Canaanites, Hittites and Philistines were not circumcised. They were now considered savage. In fact, the term "philistine" would come to be considered a term to call someone who was unclean, unkempt, uncouth. A philistine was someone who was not ordered by Jehovah, but who followed chaos.

Those born in the wilderness had not been circumcised. Entering into the land of promise, after being symbolically baptized by crossing the Jordan River, meant entering into a new covenant with God. This covenant would be one that would follow every Israelite male his entire life. Unlike the Canaanites, whose worship often included sexual rites, Israel would be pure. Sex would be limited to one's spouse and guided by rules given by Moses. Anything else was considered unclean and impure, threatening Israel with losing God's power.

We no longer require circumcision to enter the covenant. But covenants and rites are still as important in Christianity today as it ever was. We have baptism, Sacramental bread and water/wine, prayer, scripture study, marriage, and temple rites.

With the new covenant and being in the Promised Land, the manna and miracles that kept shoes from rotting in the wilderness ended. Israel would now still be blessed, but would have to provide and work in their own lands now.

Captain of Lord's Host
Joshua 5

13 And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?
14 And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?
15 And the captain of the Lord’s host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.

The "Captain of the host of the Lord" is Jehovah. This is an equivalent term to the "Angel of the Lord's Presence" or the "Lord of Hosts (of the armies of God)". Joshua sees God, and has an experience similar to Moses on Sinai. Joshua is on sacred ground, a temple in the wilderness.

This experience was to show Joshua that Jehovah was indeed the Lord of the Promised Land, and that his heavenly armies would support the earthly army of Israel.

Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho
Joshua 6

Here is one place where archaeology/history and the Bible do not exactly match. The story of Joshua at Jericho has Joshua causing the walls to crumble in a large earthquake, after which the city is easy pickings for Israel. Jericho may have been easy pickings for Israel, but according to archaeology, the walls did not come down for Joshua.

"Archaeological evidence indicates that in the latter half of the Middle Bronze Age (circa 1700 BCE), the city enjoyed some prosperity, its walls having been strengthened and expanded. The Canaanite city (Jericho City IV) was destroyed c.1550 BCE, and the site remained uninhabited until the city was refounded in the 9th century BCE."

Most scholars believe Joshua entered the area about the 12th century BC. This means Jericho's walls were destroyed about 250 years before Israel showed up. Why archaeology and the Bible are not in sync on such dates is unknown. Possible options include that another city with walls was indeed destroyed, and later stories combined the later invasion of Jericho with this other attack.

What is important is that Joshua and Israel did take over much of the land. Archaeology does show the beginnings of Israel in the land with pottery and 4 roomed houses that are uniquely of Israelite origin.

Israel, Jericho and the Commandments of God
Joshua 6-7

Jehovah commanded Israel that everything in Jericho would be destroyed, including the women, children, and animals. " And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword" (6:21). Some wonder why God would create the Ten Commandments, including the law "Thou Shalt Not Kill." We find the same conundrum in the story of Nephi being commanded to slay Laban. There is no contradiction, however. God gives a foundational commandment, which is to be obeyed except when God commands otherwise. They are God's commandments. He can choose at any time to change them, or give an exception to them.

Yes, it can seem cruel in our modern view to destroy even the small children and animals. However, Israel was creating a new and Promised Land. It had to be started with clean everything. It had to be purified. Anything that could possibly turn Israel from God would prevent them from receiving his blessings and from being a "nation of priests" and a "peculiar people."

In Joshua 7, we see this problem occur immediately. Israel goes forth to fight the people of Ai (Heap of Ruins). Israel is defeated. They cannot understand how God could suddenly reject them. In seeking God's will, Joshua finds that Israel has sinned: someone has taken treasure from Jericho. Achan and his household are brought forth with the booty. Greed overtook them. There is no choice. Israel must be purified if it seeks to continue into the Promised Land. Achan and his entire household are slain and the booty destroyed and buried as a memorial for Israel to remember to be exact in their covenants with God.

Israel Defeats Its Enemies
Joshua 8-22

In these chapters, we see Israel defeat the people of Ai. (Joshua 8)

The Gibeonites have seen Israel's power and seek to survive by deceit. They put on worn clothing, take rancid food with them, and walk to the camp of Israel, seeking their assistance. They claim to be from afar off, and were wandering in the land, poor and destitute. Israel allows them to stay with them, promising to give them protection. Later, upon finding they were deceived, Israel has no choice but to let them live. However, they enslave them. The Gibeonites decide that slavery to Israel was better than complete annhilation. (Joshua 9)

Israel fight the Amorites, who create a confederation of five nations to fight Israel together. As the battle draws on, Israel continues to win. The Amorites flee, but God pelts them with huge hailstones. However, the daylight began to wane. Joshua stood forth and commanded the Sun to stand still, as Israel finished destroying the Amorite army. The five kings hid in a cave, but were discovered. Joshua had them brought forth, where he obeyed God's command and slew all of them.

Israel destroyed Lachish and Gezer, Hebron and Debir. "So Joshua smote all the country of the hills, and of the south, and of the vale, and of the springs, and all their kings: he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the Lord God of Israel commanded" (Joshua 10).

In Joshua 13, we find that there is still land to be conquered, and many of the original inhabitants remain in the land. We must remember, Israel was to encompass the land going all the way to the River Euphrates. This did not occur. Even in King David's reign, when Israel expanded its lands, it still only achieved a small portion of the promised land God intended for them.

The land that has been achieved in Joshua's time was divided by lot among the tribes of Israel. Caleb received the city of Hebron as an additional blessing to his family, due to his faithfulness (Joshua 14). Ephraim receives the hill country, where they must still drive out many Canaanites. The Tabernacle is set up at the place Shiloh (Joshua 18).

Finally, six more cities of refuge are set up. As explained in a previous lesson, these are cities for people to flee to, who have committed manslaughter. As long as the person remained inside the city, he could not be stoned to death for his actions. However, if he ever left the city, he was fair game for revenge by the family of the victim.

Joshua's Last Testament
Joshua 23

Joshua is now old. He would not lead Israel into any more battles. It was now time for him to give his last counsel and leave the guidance of Israel to the high priest, elders and judges of the people.

"Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left" (23:6).

This is similar to the words God gave Joshua at the beginning of the conquest. We find that God's teachings usually do not change much, but must be repeated over and over, as we tend to forget. A key teaching of Moses and the Book of Mormon is but one word, "Remember." Remember the commandments. Remember what happened to your ancestors at the Red Sea and Sinai. Remember the covenants with God.

Joshua again warns Israel to not mix and marry with the Canaanites. Israel has already shown a taste for other gods: those in Egypt with the flesh pots, and with Baal-Peor and his religious harlots. Such actions will cause Israel to forget the covenants, to forget the commandments, to forget Jehovah. And in forgetting comes sin, rebellion, and the loss of God's blessing and power. Israel could just as easily be swept off the land as were the peoples before them.

11 Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the Lord your God.
12 Else if ye do in any wise go back, and cleave unto the remnant of these nations, even these that remain among you, and shall make marriages with them, and go in unto them, and they to you:
13 Know for a certainty that the Lord your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the Lord your God hath given you (Joshua 23).

Here is where we see just how much we love God. Do we fully follow him, or only insofar as it is convenient? The Nephites also were given such warnings. If they were faithful they would be blessed. However, they would be "scourged" by those unbelievers around them. And if they did not repent, they would eventually be destroyed.

Choose You This Day
Joshua 24

Joshua concluded his last testament to Israel:

14Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord.
15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
16 And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the Lord, to serve other gods.
17 For the Lord our God, he it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed:
18 And the Lord drave out from before us all the people, even the Amorites which dwelt in the land: therefore will we also serve the Lord; for he is our God.

Israel covenanted again to follow God. They would not follow the gods which evil men worshiped prior to the Flood. They would not follow the gods and flesh pots of Egypt. They would not worship the gods of the Amorites, whom they recently conquered. They would follow God.

21 And the people said unto Joshua, Nay; but we will serve the Lord.
22 And Joshua said unto the people, Ye are witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen you the Lord, to serve him. And they said, We are witnesses.
23 Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the Lord God of Israel.
24 And the people said unto Joshua, The Lord our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey.

The importance of witnesses is important to God, especially concerning covenants. To covenant to put away other gods and to follow Jehovah is as important today as it was back then. Whatever we place as most important in our lives is our god. If that is not the Lord, then we have taken upon us strange gods to follow, whether it be money, work, family, celebrities, material goods, or sin. We cannot serve God and riches at the same time. Each of us must choose for ourselves whom we shall serve. Most of us like dealing in the gray areas of life, allowing for time with God, but also allowing for time with other gods and idols in our lives.

Eventually, it comes down to where we will place our entire heart, might, mind and soul.