It is a story of military conquest and includes the well known tale about the taking of Jericho.
The Book of Joshua is very unsympathetic towards the Canaanites, the original inhabitants of the land, who are for the most part murdered. Some modern scholars have compared the ethics of the Book to old fashioned Cowboy and Indian films.
Some scholars believe that the Book was written around 800 years after Joshua’s time, and that it is part of the wider scriptural narrative warning of the consequences of faithfulness and faithlessness. In the context of the story the Canaanites may have had such a hard deal because they worshipped many gods and were not faithful to the one God.
Reading Joshua I am called to reflect on the different ways in which we Christians use the Bible to shape who we are.
There is a Christianity that is very much “oh we’re God’s faithful and conquest is legitimate in God’s name.” We only have to look at the history of the British Empire to see that. It’s a hard faced and stomping faith when viewed from the outside.
It’s perhaps hardly surprising that in the 1960s, as Britain took its first steps into post-Imperialism, many young thinkers became fascinated by Buddhism and Hinduism. In Britain the two belief systems have the popular reputation of being rather gentle and in touch with Creation. They’re not stompy conquesty religions.
As a Hedgerow Anglican Chicken Priest I can see that there is a great and gentle song to Creation in the Christian faith too. I can’t see it in the ancient scriptural tales of military conquest, but when I talk to God I know it’s there. I’m only a chicken but God loves me!
Our faith is part Bible, part prayer, part thinking about things alone and in groups (otherwise known as church!) part action (often through church) and part looking for God in the world. We need all those activities to have a balanced faith life.