Monday, April 12, 2010

Preparing for the Promised Land

Before we examine the conquest of the promised land as it is described in the book of Joshua, let me offer a few brief words about the 3 biblical books between Exodus and Joshua, namely Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The book of Leviticus is very difficult for the modern reader to understand, because it describes specific rituals concerning purity and personal holiness, which are foreign to the modern reader. The primary aim of the book of Leviticus is to describe what it means to be the holy people of a holy God. Moving along to the book of Numbers, we return to the narrative structure that we found in the book of Exodus. In fact, the narrative of Numbers parallels, in many ways, that of Exodus and continues the story of the people of Israel as they travel through the wilderness of Sinai. In chapter 27 of the book of Numbers, Joshua is commissioned as the successor to Moses. Finally, a word about the book of Deuteronomy. In some ways, the book of Deuteronomy functions as the sequel to the book of Numbers. Moses offers words of instruction and exhortation to the people of Israel as they prepare to enter the promised land. The book of Deuteronomy is a "bridge" book; it summarizes many of the themes and promises found in Genesis - Numbers and sets the stage for the next phase in the history of God's people. In fact, the theology of the book of Deuteronomy undergirds the narrative structure found in the historical books of Joshua -Second Kings; therefore, this series of books is often referred to by scholars as the deuteronomistic history. The book of Deuteronomy ends with the death of Moses, thus setting the stage for the rise of Joshua, who will lead the people into the promised land.

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