Joshua, Judges, and Ruth
The three historical Books of Joshua, Judges, and Ruth describe the history of the Chosen People in the Promised Land of Canaan–from the death of Moses to the brink of the monarchy. Joshua was the leader of the Israelites after Moses died, and it was he who led them across the River Jordan into Canaan. Judges were the rulers of Israel after the death of Joshua. They were tribal leaders, or chieftains. Ruth was the great-grandmother of King David and the book given her name is a story of family loyalty and fidelity to God.
Joshua and the Battle of Jericho
Before the famous battle of Jericho–during which Joshua conquered the city–Joshua enlisted the assistance of two spies, who sought help from a prostitute named Rahab. She gave them sanctuary and hid them while the king unsuccessfully scoured the town, looking for these two spies. During the battle of Jericho, Rahab dangled a red cord down the wall from her window so that the Israelites would know to spare those inside.
Joshua was memorialized as a great military leader, but his success came mainly because of his obedience to the Lord–unlike many of his own countrymen, who continued to dabble more and more in idolatry, temple prostitution, and all kinds of debauchery.
Jericho was protected by fortified walls, which were almost impregnable. Joshua had no rocket propelled grenades, no Patriot missiles, and not even a decent catapult to help him conquer the city. The Israelites first crossed the Jordan after the priests carried the Ark of the Covenant in front of them, which separated the waters of the mighty river to give them passage. Once on the other side, Joshua's soldiers marched around Jericho once every day for six days in a row while the priests blew their trumpets. On the last and seventh day, they went seven times around the city and the trumpets blasted and the people shouted. Then, miraculously, the walls of Jericho came tumbling down.
The Judges of Israel were not court judges as people see on television today. They were men and women of Israel whom God appointed to rule and govern the people. If anything, their role was more like a governor of a region who was only consulted in time of dispute. Once deceased, his or her office became vacant and was not inherited by their offspring–as would be the case in aristocracy and monarchy. Deborah the Judge was one of the most astonishing women in the Bible. She was a judge, prophetess, and military leader all in one.
The last judge, Samson, was an incredible hulk, who had enormous strength since he was under a Nazirite vow even while in the womb. The word Nazirite (or Nazarite) comes from the Hebrew word nazir meaning “consecrated” or “dedicated.” However, Samson lost his strength when the vixen Delilah tricked him into cutting his hair. When the Philistines captured him, they gouged out his eyes. Samson was made a human beast of burden until his hair grew back. Once that happened, he regained enough strength to push two pillars of a building, which collapsed on more than 3,000 Philistines.
The Philistines were members of the Aegean Sea people, who settled Philistia (ancient region of southwestern Palestine) in the twelfth century B.C. It is now considered a great insult to be called a Philistine, since the name denoted a boorish, vulgar, smug middle-class person who disdained art and culture.
According to the Book of Ruth in the Old Testament, Naomi, Naomi's husband, and their two sons were Israelites, who migrated to Moab (located within the Kingdom of Jordan) in time of famine in Palestine. While there, the boys found Moabite wives for themselves. One of them was called Ruth. Within ten years, however, all three men died, leaving their wives childless. Naomi heard that the situation was better back in Palestine and tried to send her daughters-in-law away so they could create new lives for themselves. Ruth refused to go and uttered the famous line, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). Ruth later married Boaz of Bethlehem and became the mother of Obed, whose son was Jesse, the father of King David.