Joshua and Zionism – from trouble to hope

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1882 is considered the year in that started the Zionist movement. In this year, the first Zionist settlement was established.

The village was founded in a swamp area in the Sharon and was called Petah-Tikva.

Joshua leads the sons of Israel into Canaan

The Taking of Jericho

When the people of Israel entered Canaan from the east, they were not considered Zionists. Zion at that time was a place that they did not hear about yet.

They were commanded to conquer the country from the seven Canaanite nations that inhabited the land.

The first city they conquer and destroy was Jericho. Two spies were sent to the house of Rahab who hidden them. Then the people of Israel marched around the city during seven days and in the seventh day they blew the trumpets and the walls fell down. No doubt that God was with the people of Israel!

Joshua warns the people not to take anything from the city as it is under a ban.

Then, they went on to conquer the second city – Ai, But they fail badly… Something went wrong. Joshua cried to the Lord and asked – Why is that Lord? and the answer came clearly:

Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff. 12 Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they have become doomed to destruction (Joshua 7:11-12)

The Lord instructed Joshua how to find the person that did wrong. It came out that it was Achan from the tribe of Judah.

Interestingly, in Chronicles, the name changes from Achan to Achar:

The son of Carmi was Achar, the troubler of Israel, who transgressed in the accursed thing (1 Chronicles 2:7)

This is interesting, because the Hebrew word for “trouler” in the Bible is “Ocher” which is from the same root of the name “Achar” and literally means “bring trouble or darkness“.

Achan with all his family were sentenced to be stoned. Where did that happen? let’s read:

Then they raised over him a great heap of stones, still there to this day. So the Lord turned from the fierceness of His anger. Therefore the name of that place has been called the Valley of Achor to this day (Joshua 7:26)

The Hebrew root A.Ch.R. appears three times in our story:

  • Achar (or Achan) – the name of the sinner
  • Ocher – adjective that means troubler or literally “darkens”
  • Achor – the valley where he was stoned.  Near Jericho.

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A prophecy of hope

Let’s move to another book in the Bible. Hosea.

Hosea, speaks about the restoration of Israel.

In the second chapter of the book he compares Israel to a treacherous wife. He describes all her harlotry and unfaithful ways.

But then the Lord takes her to the desert, and there, after all her lovers have left her, the Lord restores Israel. Then Hosea prophesies:

Then I will give her her vineyards from there,
And the valley of Achor as a door of hope (Hosea 2:15)

This verse takes us back to the story of Achan in the valley of Achor.

The Zionist movement begins

In the year of 1872, a few families from Jerusalem tried to buy a land in Jericho and to build a new agricultural village. The name they wanted to give to the village is Petah-Tikva – which means “Door of hope” to fulfill the prophecy of Hosea.

They were not successful in buying the land in Jericho, but ended up buying a swamp area in the Sharon from an Arab family in Jaffa.

The life was too hard in the swamp, and after three years the village was abandoned.

Seven years later, in 1882, the village was restored by new settlers. This year marks the beginning of the first wave of Zionists moving to Israel and building new settlements.

The location of Petah Tikva in the Sharon instead of Jericho is a fulfillment of another prophecy:

Sharon will be a pasture land for flocks,
And the valley of Achor a resting place for herds (Isaiah 65:10)

The Zionist movement, just like Joshua, brought the people of Israel back to their land.

And the city of Petah Tikva is a symbol of the restoration of Israel.

The Red mountains of Edom

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When you drive in The Arava road down the road toward Eilat, you can see the towering mountains of Edom. Those mountains are made of granite and are notable red.

When you read the Bible in Hebrew, it is no surprise that the mountains of Edom are red: the word Edom in Hebrew (אֱדוֹם) is derived from the word red (Adomאדוֹם).

The Edomites, the ancient people who lived in Edom were the descendants of Esau, the brother of Jacob.

And this is the genealogy of Esau the father of the Edomites in Mount Seir. (Genesis 36:9)

Here we see that there is another name for Edom and this is Seir. The name Edom and Seir are interchangeable in the Bible.

For example:

You shall be desolate, O Mount Seir, as well as all of Edom. (Ezekiel 35:15)

The Hairy and Red Esau

The name Seir in Hebrew means “hairy” (שֵׂעִיר). So the mountains of Edom have two names, each has an attribute: Edom – “red” and Seir – “hairy

When Esau was born, as the firstborn twin brother of Jacob, we read that he was “red” and “hairy“. We also hear that he was called Esau because he was hairy

And the first came out red. He was like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau. (Genesis 25:25)

Those two characters of Esau: Red and Hairy play critical roles in his life and his struggles with his twin brother Jacob.

As we remember, Jacob deceived Esau twice:

First time, Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a red stew:

And Esau said to Jacob, “Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary.” Therefore his name was called Edom. (Genesis 25:30)

Second time, Jacob steals the blessing of Esau. In order to do so, his mother put fur on his body, so Isaac, whose eyes were dim, would think that this is the “hairy” son – Esau:

And she put the skins of the kids of the goats on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck (Genesis 27:16)

Reconciliation

The story goes on, and after the double deceiving, Jacob has to run away from Esau to Aram. When they meet after many years, Jacob is still afraid that Esau will kill him.

But Esau is happy to meet him!

But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept (Genesis 33:4)

The reconciliation, between Israel (Jacob) that deceived his brother and the deceived brother has special meaning in the future and restoration of Israel.

Who is this who comes from Edom,
With dyed garments from Bozrah,
This One who is glorious in His apparel,
Traveling in the greatness of His strength?—

“I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.”

Why is Your apparel red,
And Your garments like one who treads in the winepress?

“I have trodden the winepress alone,
And from the peoples no one was with Me.
For I have trodden them in My anger,
And trampled them in My fury;
Their blood is sprinkled upon My garments,
And I have stained all My robes.
For the day of vengeance is in My heart,
And the year of My redeemed has come.

(Isaiah 63:1-4)

This beautiful prophecy of Isaiah speaks about the year of redemption.

The redeemer will come from Edom (perhaps a symbol of a betrayed brother?) and will be red like one who treads in the winepress. But the red color is in fact blood!

 

 

Judea and Samaria – The heart of the land of Israel

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So the Lord gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it. (Joshua 21:43)

The book of Joshua tells us, in chapter 21,  how the sons of Israel conquered the whole of the land of Canaan.

But then in chapter 23, Joshua says:

See, I have divided to you by lot these nations that remain, to be an inheritance for your tribes, from the Jordan, with all the nations that I have cut off, as far as the Great Sea westward. And the Lord your God will expel them from before you and drive them out of your sight. So you shall possess their land, as the Lord your God promised you.  (Joshua 23:4-5)

This is not clear. Did Israel conquer the whole of Canaan or are there still Canaanites in the land?

In the book of Judges we get the picture: Although the whole of the land was divided between the tribes, there are still many big cities that remain to be conquered:

27 However, Manasseh did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth Shean and its villages, or Taanach and its villages, or the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, or the inhabitants of Ibleam and its villages, or the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages; for the Canaanites were determined to dwell in that land … 29 Nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites who dwelt in Gezer … 30 Nor did Zebulun drive out the inhabitants of Kitron or the inhabitants of Nahalol … 31 Nor did Asher drive out the inhabitants of Acco or the inhabitants of Sidon, or of Ahlab, Achzib, Helbah, Aphik, or Rehob… 33 Nor did Naphtali drive out the inhabitants of Beth Shemesh or the inhabitants of Beth Anath (Joshua 1:27-36)

The map below shows the borders at the end of the book of Joshua.

The pink areas were taken by the sons of Israel, and the green is the remaining land:

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Look carefully at the shape of the conquered land – Does this shape looks familiar?

Now look at the map of Israel in the years between 1948 – 1967 and compare to the map of the conquest:

The conquest of Joshua                                                 Borders of Israel between 1948-1967

compare conquests of joshua with israel

You will find, surprisingly, that the two maps are mirrors for each other!

In the time of Joshua, Judea and Samaria were the main land (in pink), while the rest (in green) is the remaining land.

But in modern Israel, the remaining land of Joshua is the state of Israel, and Judea and Samaria are the “remaining land”!

As much as Judea and Samaria are not considered part of Israel by most of the international community, It is in fact the heart of the land from which the sons of Israel started their conquest.

Anyone who supports the historical right of Israel and the Jews of their historical land, cannot take Judea ans Samaria out of it as it is the “Heart of the Country”.

Roots of Antisemitism in The Bible

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The word Antisemitism is a modern word that literally means “Hostility to the Semite people”. But from its origin in the 19 century in Germany, the real meaning was “Hate and prejudice against the Jews”.

Although the word is modern, its roots are very old.

Wars and prejudice against people is not something special. In fact, this is something that is common to all the human race in all history and pre-history.

But with the Jews there is something unique, and the fact that there is a special word, that is known internationally, shows that there is something different about hating the Jews.

What is so special? Historically, we can say that in the last 2000 thousand years, Jews were persecuted everywhere they lived, while not having a land of their own (until 1948). This is a very ancient nation that suffers prejudice in every place it is found.

Is there a reason for that?

Let’s open our Bible and check what it has to say about it.

The suffering of the Jews was permitted by the Lord

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him. And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?” (Zechariah 3:1-2)

This prophecy was given by Zechariah, according to the Bible scholars, around the year 520 BC (more than 2500 years ago).

Note that the Lord rebukes Satan and explains that He chose Jerusalem. Why does he need to rebuke?

We know that Satan cannot do anything without direct permission from the Lord. (See Job 1:12). So the Lord rebukes Satan for what he does to the Jews, but it was done with the Lord’s permission.

Prophecies about antisemitism

And it shall come to pass
That just as you were a curse among the nations,
O house of Judah and house of Israel... (Zechariah 8:13)

Zechariah says that Jews are  “a curse among the nations”.

therefore prophesy, and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Because they made you desolate and swallowed you up on every side, so that you became the possession of the rest of the nations, and you are taken up by the lips of talkers and slandered by the people”

‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I have spoken in My jealousy and My fury, because you have borne the shame of the nations.”

(Ezekiel 36:3, 6)

Judea and Israel are “the possession of the nations” and are “taken up by the lips and slanders” of those nations. They become “the shame of the nations“.

Those prophecies predict what we know today: Jews became scattered among all nations, and suffer from mocking, slander and persecutions.

Until when?

If the Lord chose Israel as his people, why does the nation need to suffer so much and until when?

For the first question: why – all the Biblical prophets gave the answer: for neglecting the Lord and following the idolatry of the nations.

For the second question – until when – the Bible is very clear:

22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. 23 And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord,” says the Lord God, “when I am hallowed in you before their eyes. 24 For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. 25 Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. 28 Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God. (Ezekiel 36:22-28)

Ezekiel wrote more than 2500 years ago exactly what is going to happen:

After the people of Judea and Israel “profaned the name of the Lord” among the nations, The lord will restore them and will bring them back to their land. After that He will clean them from their filthiness. He then will give them a new heart and a new spirit within them.

We can see the restoration of the people of Judea in the land of Israel.

Could this be the beginning of the fulfillment of the prophecy?

Today my son found a quail in school

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Today my son found an exhausted quail in the schoolyard. He took the bird in his hand. The bird was calm, then it spread its wings and flew away.

The quail is a bird from the family of the pheasants. It is wild migratory bird  in our area. They migrate in the autumn from Africa to Europe, and the other way around in the spring. They fly at night, and because their wings are relatively small to carry their weight, they are very exhausted in the morning and are very easy to catch.

When the sons of Israel were in the desert, around 3200 years ago, a big flock of quails stopped near them and provided them some good meat.

Now a wind went out from the Lord, and it brought quail from the sea and left them fluttering near the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and about a day’s journey on the other side, all around the camp, and about two cubits above the surface of the ground. (Numbers 11, 31)

The almond Tree

11 Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see a branch of an almond tree.” 12 Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am ready to perform My word.” (Jeremiah 1, 11-12)

In the first chapter of Jeremiah, Jeremiah tells us about a vision in which he sees a branch of almond tree.

In Hebrew, the word is not just a ‘branch (Anaf – עָנָף) as translated here, but a ‘dry branch’ (Makel -מַקֵּל).

dry_almonds

The almond tree, during fall, has no leaves. In this season it is difficult to distinguish between a dry branch of an almond tree and a dry branch of any other tree.

Jeremiah can make the distinction. And therefore the Lord compliments him and says: “You have seen well”!

And the Lord continues: “for I am ready to perform My word”.

If you read it in Hebrew, there is a special meaning: “ready to perform my Word” or in better translation: be diligent to perform my Word.

Be diligent is: “shoqed” – שֹׁקֵד.

Almond in Hebrew is “shaqed” – שָׁקֵד.

So the vision of the almond – “shaqed” tells Jeremiah that the Lord is being diligent “shoqed” to perform his Word.

There are other verses in which the Lord uses the word “shoqed” with the same meaning. For example:

28 And it shall come to pass, that as I have watched over them to pluck up, to break down, to throw down, to destroy, and to afflict, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the Lord. (Jeremiah 31, 28)

Here again, the expression “watch over” that is used twice, is derived from the word  “shoqed” in Hebrew.

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Other almonds in the Bible

In the story of the rod of Aaron in the desert, the rod becomes a branch of an almond tree:

Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses went into the tabernacle of witness, and behold, the rod of Aaron, of the house of Levi, had sprouted and put forth buds, had produced blossoms and yielded ripe almonds. (Numbers 17, 8)

The Menorah (lamp) in the tabernacle has also almond shapes in it:

33 Three bowls shall be made like almond blossoms on one branch, with an ornamental knob and a flower, and three bowls made like almond blossoms on the other branch, with an ornamental knob and a flower—and so for the six branches that come out of the lampstand. (Exodus 25, 33)

Literal meaning of ‘Almond’ in Hebrew

Why is the almond tree called ‘shaqed’? is it related to the verb ‘shoqed’?

A common explanation for the connection between almond (shaqed) and ‘being diligent’ (shoqed) is the special way that the almond tree blossoms.

During February, when most trees in the mountains of Israel are without leaves, the almond tree blossoms with beautiful white flowers. This is the first sign for the coming spring.

This magnificent blossom in the middle of the winter might have brought our fathers to call the tree ‘shaqed’ for its hard and diligent work.

almonds

Almond in the modern Israeli feast

In February, we celebrate in Israel the feast of “Tu-Bishvat”. This is also known as the “New year of the trees”. This feast is not mentioned in the Bible. Jews started to celebrate it not before 200 hundred years ago.

In the modern state of Israel, this is the day that is dedicated to planting new trees in the land. And the symbol of this day is the almond tree that blossoms in this time of the year.

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The first Martyrs

 

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In the book of Judges, Gideon is called to defeat the Midianites. His army is too big for that, so he is told to send many soldiers home:

And the Lord said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ Now therefore, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him turn and depart at once from Mount Gilead.’” And twenty-two thousand of the people returned, and ten thousand remained. (Judges 7, 2-3)

This event happened near the spring of Harod, in the Jezreel valey. This place is more than 25 KM (15 miles) from Mount Gilead.

But the origin in Hebrew says something a little different. It is said to the people that are afraid to ‘go and watch from Mount Gilead’. In Hebrew the verb is “Yitzpor” (יִצְפֹּר) which means to ‘watch as a bird’.

So the people that were afraid were instructed to watch the battle from the mountain. Going 15 miles away may be too far to watch.

Moreover, Mount Gilead is where the Midianites came from. It does not make sense to send the people that are afraid out of their land to the land of the enemy.

How can we explain this?

The Hebrew meaning of Gilead

The Hebrew language in the Biblical times did not have vowel points. The vowel points were introduced into Hebrew only during the middle ages.

So if we take the Hebrew word ‘גלעד’ – Gil’ad, we can also pronounce it Gal’ed.

Both of those appear in the Bible with different meanings: Gil’ad is the name of the mountain ridge east to the Jordan river, whereas Gal’ed means a heap of stones.

Up on mount Gilboa – this is the mountain beneath which Spring of Harod flows – up on the mountain was found an ancient heap of stones – Gal’ed. Can this be the place where the people who were afraid were sent to watch? It is quite probable…

pile-of-stones

 

Another heap of stones

The word Gal’ed means a heap of stones, but literally it means a “heap of stones as witness”. ‘Gal’ is a heap of stones, ‘Ed’ is a witness.

This word is used in the bible when Jacob and Laban set a covenant:

44 “Now therefore, come, let us make a covenant, you and I, and let it be a witness between you and me”. 45 So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. 46 Then Jacob said to his brethren, “Gather stones.” And they took stones and made a heap, and they ate there on the heap. 47 Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, but Jacob called it Gal’ed48 And Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me this day.” Therefore its name was called Gal’ed, 49 also Mizpah, because he said, “May the Lord watch between you and me when we are absent one from another. (Genesis 31, 44-49)

Let’s read these verses carefully:

Laban and Jacob want to make a covenant. They need to make some physical witness for their covenant. What do they do?

  1. So first they put a pillar from a stone.
  2. Then they gather stones and build a heap of them
  3. Then they eat on the heap.
  4. Laban calls the heap: “Jegar Sahadutha” and Jacob calls it: “Gal’ed“.
  5. They proclaim that the heap is a witness between them
  6. They give it another name “Mizpah“, which means a point of watching.

One interesting point here is that the heap of stones is used as a witness for covenant, but also a place for watching. This is very much like our story with Gideon: The people that were afraid were sent to the place of watching which is also the witness heap of stones.

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What is Jegar Sahadutha ?

Laban and Jacob call the heap the same name but each in his language. Jacob use Hebrew, therefore he calls it Gal’ed. Laban is Aramaic, and uses the Aramaic Language. Jegar Sahadutha in Aramaic is the same as Gal’ed in Hebrew: Jegar: heap of stones, Sahadutha – witness.

The Aramaic Language is very close to the Hebrew Language. Some parts in the Bible are written in Aramaic (chapters in Daniel and Ezra) and for the Hebrew reader are not very difficult to understand. Those two languages are Semitic languages.

Arabic is also a Semitic Language, but in a way not as close to Aramaic as Hebrew.

Still here, we find a word that is common to Aramaic and Arabic but not to Hebrew:

The word is ‘Sahaduta.

In Islam, the Arabic word Shahada is the testimony of a believer in his belief, that is said by each Muslim every day. From it was derived the word ‘Shahid‘ which means a person that manifests his belief. Today, Shahid means a person that kills himself with heretics to manifest his belief, but this is not the original meaning.

This concept is probably taken from Christianity, where the term Martyr, a Greek word that means the same thing, was used by the first christian believers much before Islam was founded.

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Summary

We saw here that the physical witness  – a heap of stones – was very important in the ancient Biblical times.

The Arabic word Shahid, is close to the word Sahadutha from the Bible and has the same meaning: Witness. The concept of Shahid was not invented by Islam but existed in early Christianity as Martyr.

Many ideas that we see in Islam, were originated from the Bible and from Christianity,  But Islam gave them some twist.