Friday, March 25, 2011

The Skinny On the Holy Land (Josh. 1-4)

SEAN - Israel is said to have spied out the Holy Land from a local brothel. We're spying out Israel's acquired home, too. Here's the skinny on Canaan's land. The picture up top is a photo of long-time Israeli capital Jerusalem (though, officially, the capital right now is Tel Aviv), a literal city on a hill within the old borders of the Judah's territory. That bulbous thing in the picture is a giant mosque, right where the old Jewish Temple used to be. Jews still pray on the west-facing wall of the temple mount - that big structure that the aforementioned bulbous object is perched upon.

Based on's Chronological Bible In a Year schedule. If anyone would like to join in, this blog's comments sections would be a good forum in which to share insights from the text.

A Land of Hills and Valleys
1. Back in Deut. 11.10-12, God had described the land of Canaan: "the land you are going over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, a land that Yahweh your God cares for." The geography of the place can be drastic and extreme - the changes in the terrain are enormous, even over the space of just a small number of miles. The conditions range from desert sands to ice-capped mountains, from hills and mountains 7,297 feet above sea level to the Dead Sea at -1,368 below sea level (the lowest place on earth). Check out Wikipedia's entry on Israeli geography for a taste of the layout of the land: It is really quite beautiful.

From the Wikipedia article:
"The inland area is dominated by the Judean Hills of the West Bank, whilst the central and northern coastline consists of the flat and fertile Israeli Coastal Plain. Inland, the northern region contains the Mount Carmel mountain range, which is followed inland by the fertile Jezreel Valley, and then the hilly Galilee region. The Sea of Galilee is located beyond this, and is bordered to the East by the Golan heights... which contains a peak in Mt. Hermon... the highest point in Israel's recognized territory is Mt. Meron."
A Mostly Agricultural Community
2. Ancient Israel/Canaan was set up on an important trade route, which gave them some other ways besides selling crops to pull in cash. The natural resources of the land were limited (see here). But mostly, the way of life in Israel involved agriculture - according to the impressive online Jewish Encyclopedia, "it is chiefly owing to this feature that we find agricultural life so extensively treated of in the Mishnah, the whole first section, Zera'im (except the first treatise), being devoted to it."

From their article on agriculture:
"That the Israelites practised Agriculture with success is learned from the statement that Solomon sent to Hiram annually 40,000 kor (about 440,000 bushels) of wheat and barley and 40,000 baths (340,000 gallons) of oil (I Chron. ii. 9). In Ezekiel's time Judah traded extensively with Tyre, sending wheat, honey, oil, and balm (Ezek. xxvii. 17)... the great stride forward during the reign of Solomon indicates a very large class of the Canaanite population must have been subjugated to perform the main labor of farming."
The Take-Away Lesson
3. The point in Deut. 11.10-12, which Joshua's men would have learned about while spying out the land, is that Israel wasn't near a large body of water like Egypt was to its Nile - the Promised Land relied on rain, on God coming through and providing showers in their seasons to water the crops. The takeaway lesson is that we need to trust in God. This is not by foolishly doing things in order to make God come to our rescue -as Jesus showed us by refusing to jump off of the Temple and thereby test God- but by trusting God to provide in our seasons of work, and retirement, and in singleness and marriage and kids, in youth and old age. God will provide our rain in its season, our sustenance. Our part is to trust in Him.

Other comments and observations can be found in the comments section! Join in!

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