The Judges Facing the Battle

(By Padre José Lobatón, OFM)

The last book of the Pentateuch is called Deuteronomy or “second law”. It corresponds to the narrative work “DEUTERONOMIST” which is a block that goes from the BOOK OF JOSHUA to the 2nd book of Kings.

For the Jews, this block is called the previous prophets. It is accepted that the Deuteronomist work was completed and updated in the exile. The editor of this book wanted to indoctrinate about the real meaning of Israel’s history from the conquest of the land to the disappearance of the old State.

This real meaning is summarized by him in the recognition that God has acted manifestly in this history, responding with exhortations and punishments to the constant and growing deficiencies; and finally, when those were ineffective, with total destruction.

From the reality of the exile when Judah has lost everything (earth, temple, king, freedom), the Deuteronomist work is laconic and cutting. All of this is the consequence of their sins and only God’s punishment can be accepted. There is no hope for the future.

In this book, the discourses are very important to understand the mentality of the Deuteronomist author or authors. Looking carefully at the beginning and at the end of the book, it is a discourse from God to Joshua (1:1-9), and the farewell of Joshua (23) encouraging the people to serve God and not to associate with pagan nations.

In the Jordan’s passage, noted by a series of confusions by the diverse traditions that have been accumulating, from mainly those of priestly origin (ark, Levites). The conquest of Canaan (6-11) follows a very simple outline: first, the center is conquered. Partly conquered through a military campaign, (Jericho, Ay), and the other part by an agreement with the Gibeonites. Then, the conquest of the south continues (10).

God saw Moses raising his hands with the cane within them. What a great encouragement it was for the troops under his charge, and for Joshua who was leading these troops to see Moses reaching heaven in his favor! They were reminded of what was the source of their strength, and their faith in the battle was revived.

At the beginning, we see Joshua as a young man. He is learning how to get involved in the battle. The day will come when he will become a leader, and he will be the one to give the instructions. He needs everything he has learned to this point, to prepare for that day, for the next few years when he becomes a leader, and then for his last years of life when he has to leave a legacy.

An interesting text about an incident in Joshua’s life is Exodus 17:8: “Then Amalek came and fought against Israel at Rephidim.”

The children of Israel had just left Egypt. They had crossed the Red Sea. God had provided them with manna. God had provided them with water in the desert. God was guiding his children with His presence and taking them to the promised land. The children of Israel are following God, and in the middle of this, the enemy comes and attacks them.

In Verse 9 “Moses said to Joshua,” now Moses is the leader. Moses is the older man. Moses is the man that God has placed as leader for His people, and Moses told Joshua - until this moment we have not heard from Joshua.

Moses said to Joshua, “Choose men, and go out to fight against Amalek.” The word choose, “choose men,” is a word that means, “to make a careful choice, well thought out.” In other words, make sure you get the right men. Choose men carefully. They were only eleven days away from the promised land.

The result or outcome of this battle was determined by the presence, power, and protection of Israel’s God. Because his trust was in Yahweh, Moses was able to delegate this important responsibility to a young man whom at that time had not inexperience, and who was not a proven leader for this task.

This was an opportunity for Israel to learn that the Lord was going to fight their battles. It was not Moses who was great for this task. It was God who was excellent, and they were going to win only with His strength and not with theirs.

In the verse of Exodus 17:10: “Joshua did as Moses told him.” This is the first recorded statement we see from Joshua, and I think this phrase reveals a lot about the character and heart of Joshua. And Joshua did as Moses told him.

“It came to pass that while Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and when he let his hand fall, Amalek prevailed” (vv.10-11). Joshua led the troops in the battle against the Amalekites, but he is not left alone.

When Moses raised his hand, Israel prevailed. When he dropped his hand, Amalek prevailed. The battle apparently had many ups and downs, but this had nothing to do with what Joshua was doing in the valley.

Joshua learned that the victory would not be gained by his own wisdom, his own power, his own strength, but by the power of God; and as long as he lived, he could not take any credit for overcoming the Amalekites, because it had been clear that every time Moses raised his hand, the Israelites prevailed, and every time their forces fell, and their hands came down, the Amalekites prevailed.

“I will lift my eyes to the mountains: where will my help come from? My Help comes from the Lord, who made the heavens and the earth” (Ps. 121: 1-2). Remember that the name of Joshua (Yehoshua, Yahweh saves) is the same name that will take the Savior of Nazareth.

Interview of Cardinal Toribio Ticona

“And the Word Was Made Flesh and Dwelt Among Us” (John 1:14)