A Prayer
of Jesus
I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise
and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will

The Promise

Chapter 3
Claiming the Promise
Joshua, Judges and Ruth

By Edgar Jones


Chapter 1 introduced the Patriarchs of Israel and the Covenant, with its integral Promise, which God made to them beginning with Abraham. Then Isaac and Jacob successively inherited the Promise by which God granted Israel the Land of Canaan for an inheritance.  Continual blessings on Israel were also assured, but from a very early time we learned that not only was Israel to be blessed, but that the Promise was, through Israel, to extend to all the nations of the earth.

In a later announcement of the Promise to Jacob, God expanded it to include this brief phrase, and kings shall spring from you.  Finally, the aged Jacob transferred this aspect of the promise, not to all twelve sons, but to Judah alone when he spoke to Judah and blessed him and said, in the course of the blessing, "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples." ( Gen. 49:10)  It was a long story, as we are seeing but we will learn, as we go, that this portion of the Promise points directly to Jesus of Nazareth, who has become King of kings and Lord of lords and, as Jacob told Judah, "to him shall be the obedience of the peoples (the nations)."

Chapter II continued the Promise, leaving Genesis and tracing it through Exodus and the other books of the Pentateuch, where the person of Moses dominates every page.  Like a golden chain, the Promise links and binds together, as a single story, the history of God's faithfulness to his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in spite of the often faithlessness of the People of the Promise.  Also please be reminded that we have highlighted references to the Promise in purple.

Now with Chapter III we continue this Old Testament survey with the focus on the divine Promise to Israel of a land, a people and a kingdom.  We will survey the OT books of Joshua, Judges and Ruth that describe the occupation of the Promised Land and the period of the Judges following.  These documents have only minimum direct references to the Promise and concentrate on the claiming of the land that was promised, and then the early centuries of occupation.  Therefore the Golden Chain lies mostly hidden and submerged in these centuries.  Abraham, to whom the Promise first was given, finds mention only once in Joshua (25:2,3) and not once in Judges.  Even so, these documents remind us of it in other ways than directly.  Israel is claiming the Promised Land; God's people are conquering and occupying the Land.

If we take
the Thirteenth Century BC as a probable date for Moses and the Exodus from Egypt, we have a starting point for the conquest of the Transjordan and Canaan.  The conquest of Transjordan (the land east of the Jordan River) was swift and followed immediately by that of Canaan.  According to The Book of Joshua, the conquest of Canaan was also completed in a brief period, about five years.  However, the following Book of Judges suggests a very long period of conquest that was always messy and never complete.

How long was the period of the Judges?  You can list and add up the years for each judge and the intervening periods and find that the total is more than four hundred years, which is far too long to fit into this period of Israelite history.  The probability is that the numbers given refer to overlapping periods during which one judge ruled some portion of Israel while another ruled others -- or else the numbers are simply inflated by the scribes, much as they inflated the numerical life spans of the Patriarchs.  In any case, the final conquest of Canaan was not completed until David took Jerusalem in the mid Tenth Century BC.  The Book of Ruth is a short story, a narrative that has its setting during the period of the Judges (Ruth 1:1).

We do not know when these documents were composed in current form, but Ruth was written sometime after the rise of David, for his genealogy is contained therein.  It was probably written during David's reign, otherwise the genealogy would have continued on to include Solomon.  Now we turn to our survey of Joshua.


This document is not an accurate history of the conquest of Canaan.  Some simple facts require that we introduce two disclaimers here by noting some of it's prime deficiencies.

First, the miracles are not real events in history.  They may pertain to real events, but are mythological overlays that early storytellers saw fit to introduce so as to dramatize their relationship with YHWH, their God, by whose power the miracles were said to have occurred.  For example, the story of the conquest of Jericho, that includes encompassing it once a day for six days, then seven times on the seventh day with trumpets and loud shouts following, which caused the city wall to crumble and admit the Israelites (Joshua 6:20), cannot be factual because modern archaeology has determined that Jericho was not walled at that time.  Another example is the staying of the Sun in mid heaven for about a whole day (Joshua 10:13).  Doubtless that seemed to be a reasonable miracle to the ancient scribe, who thought the earth to be stationary with the Sun rotating about it.  Now we know that, to accomplish this effect, the Lord would have needed to stop the rotation of the earth suddenly and for a whole day.  Had there been such an event, a further miracle would have needed to be performed to hold the oceans and other unattached material things stationary on the globe.  Otherwise, the momentum of the ocean waters would have rolled them over the land at the sudden rate of approximately 1000 miles per hour at the equator, and unattached human beings would have suddenly been transported across the land at that same speed (at the equator).  All persons who were not killed by impact with attached objects, such as buildings, hills and mountains, would have been overridden by the ocean waters and drowned.  You suggest that a God who could part the waters of the Red Sea for the Exodus and stay the flow of the Jordan for the entry into Canaan could stay the oceans also?  Yes, of course -- except that those miracles are also surely mythical. 

The second disclaimer arises from the character of God.  We have learned enough from Jesus to know that God is merciful to perfection, and he said as much:

[36] Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

That describes the essence of the character of our Father in heaven, from the lips of our Lord Jesus. If one seeks to surmise that perhaps God is not always merciful, or that his mercy can be selective, then we have to acknowledge a changeable God who is sometimes merciful, sometimes not.  Jesus further informs us that his mercy is not selective in that he does not discriminate between the evil and the good when dispensing of his blessings on the earth:

[44] But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
[45] so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

With this in mind, we must conclude that our merciful God and Father in heaven did not command Moses and Joshua to exterminate the Canaanites as recorded in both Deuteronomy and Joshua:

[16] But in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God gives you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes,
[17] but you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Per'izzites, the Hivites and the Jeb'usites, as the LORD your God has commanded;
[18] that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices which they have done in the service of their gods, and so to sin against the LORD your God.

Joshua took this command most literally and proceeded to obey it.  On entering Canaan, the first city to be taken was Jericho and we read this:

[21] Then they utterly destroyed all in the city, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and asses, with the edge of the sword.

It was the same with most of the Canaanite cities.  They left nothing alive that breathed, but utterly destroyed men, women and children -- even the livestock! 

If you wish to read of violent, unprovoked slaughter of thousands and thousands of people of all ages, just sit down with Joshua for a while.  We cannot say how many people the Israelites slaughtered in this way because the document does not number them.  It only states, repeatedly, that they utterly destroyed all of them.

This, if true, was genocide pure and simple according to which a foreign, vagabond people entered a land not their own and butchered every man, woman and child already in place so as to make way for themselves.  The European settlers did something similar to the indigenous nations in the Americas, but even they did not conduct genocide as a matter of policy. The Jewish Holocaust conducted by the Nazis during WW2 compares well with the genocidal campaign of Joshua.

This very day we have a repetition in a Jewish campaign to possess Canaan that has been proceeding since the establishment of the state of Israel.  When they first entered they created a flood of refuges who fled to neighboring states to escape.  Those who did not flee, who remain in the Palestinian Territories to this day, are a constant hassle to the Jews of Israel and the Jews to them.  How many Israelis must have read the Book of Joshua and considered the slaughter of the Palestinians -- man, woman and child -- as the final solution to their problem?  Now just imagine that they did such a thing and consider the brutality, the suffering, the blood and gore that would flow in Palestine -- that is precisely what we find in the Book of Joshua.  No, the Father is merciful; what Joshua and the Israelites did in Canaan, if as recorded, was utterly abhorrent to Him. 

Yahweh purportedly gave a reason for commanding the slaughter of the Canaanites.  We repeat it here from Deuteronomy 20:18 above:

. . .that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices which they have done in the service of their gods, and so to sin against the LORD your God.

Does this make sense?  A righteous, just and merciful God commands his righteous servants to slaughter a whole people, including the infants and the innocents, so as to preserve the righteousness of those who do the killing?

This is a weighty issue for us here, because the scriptures bear witness that the God who is the Father of the Lord Jesus -- and our Father -- and who sent the Lord Jesus to command love for everyone -- even our enemies -- such that we do not even resist one who is evil, is the very same as He who initiated a covenant and the Promise to Abraham. It is this very promise that we are now tracing and the apparent contradiction between the God who initiated the covenant with Abraham and who brought it to completion in Jesus renders the whole thing very questionable unless we can find a reasonable explanation. 

No one can certify an explanation for this; besides, we are speaking of things that are primarily matters of faith apart from knowledge.  Yet if a reasonable explanation, made in the light of faith and facts, cannot be produced, we are in a quandary.  Having pondered this for some time I came to the conclusion that a reasonable explanation is a follows.

1. God has not changed.  He is and has always been just, righteous and merciful.

2. Man has changed.  It has been very slow and arduous, and he will never arrive, but he is a somewhat more moral creature now than when God spoke to Abraham.

3. God has always known what is in man.

4. Man has not always known God but has tended to project his own character onto God rather than conforming to the character of God.  He continues this practice to this day by claiming God's support for his modern wars during which he prays to God to give victory. If victory comes, then he thanks God for it.

5. God chose to make himself known to man progressively, beginning with a man
(Abraham) in his primitive state and patiently guiding his successors through later stages.

6. Moses and Joshua were primitive thinkers of 3300 years past who justified their slaughter of the Canaanites by the fiction that God had commanded it, believing this to be in the character of God to promote the destiny of his people.

7. After two thousand years of nurturing from Abraham to Jesus, God considered that there were men who were capable of knowing him as he is, and at that time he sent Jesus to provide a full revelation of his character and purpose for man.

8. After another two thousand, one hundred years, the Father in his merciful patience continues to reveal his real character to individual women and men as they are able to receive it.

9. Thus, God continues to promote the ultimate fulfillment of his Promise, working now through the disciples of Jesus as he once did through the descendants of Abraham, to the end that he might procure a family of his own children to abide with Him in Glory.

So the problem does not involve questioning the righteousness of God -- only that of man.  Should our readers have a better explanation, I urge them to present it for future consideration on these pages.

The Book begins with the Promise repeated to Joshua, just as it had been repeated to every Patriarch and prophet from Abraham.  But thereafter, we find only oblique references to it.  It appears that Joshua and the children of Israel are too busy slaughtering people to be concerned about the Promise.  We do read twelve more times in the book where "The Lord said" to Joshua, but mostly it is words of assurance as Joshua contemplates attacking another city or army.  Here from the First Chapter is the one repetition of the Promise to Joshua:
[1] After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister,
[2] "Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land which I am giving to them, to the people of Israel.
[3] Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, as I promised to Moses.
[4] From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphra'tes, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory.
[5] No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.
[6] Be strong and of good courage; for you shall cause this people to inherit the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.
[7] Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law which Moses my servant commanded you; turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.
[8] This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success.
[9] Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; be not frightened, neither be dismayed; for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."
Later references to the Promise include the following, which is commentary of the scribe on the occasion of the circumcision of the generation that possessed the Promised Land:

[6] For the people of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the nation, the men of war that came forth out of Egypt, perished, because they did not hearken to the voice of the LORD; to them the LORD swore that he would not let them see the land which the LORD had sworn to their fathers to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey.
[7] So it was their children, whom he raised up in their stead, that Joshua circumcised; for they were uncircumcised, because they had not been circumcised on the way.

After many battles and much slaughter, we learn in the following that Joshua had taken the whole land:

[23] So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD had spoken to Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal allotments. And the land had rest from war.

The aged Joshua "summoned all Israel" and said to them:

[4] Behold, I have allotted to you as an inheritance for your tribes those nations that remain, along with all the nations that I have already cut off, from the Jordan to the Great Sea in the west.
[5] The LORD your God will push them back before you, and drive them out of your sight; and you shall possess their land, as the LORD your God promised you.

He continued his speech, and then closed it with these words:

[14] "And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the LORD your God promised concerning you; all have come to pass for you, not one of them has failed.
[15] But just as all the good things which the LORD your God promised concerning you have been fulfilled for you, so the LORD will bring upon you all the evil things, until he have destroyed you from off this good land which the LORD your God has given you,
[16] if you transgress the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them. Then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from off the good land which he has given to you."

The Promise continues to be conditional.  It is not certain of fulfillment, but depends on the continuing faithfulness of the people. The people will perish quickly should they transgress the covenant of the Lord and serve other gods.

There was one more speech by Joshua at Shechem, urging the people of Israel to fear the Lord and never forsake him.  The scribe then closes the story of Joshua:

[29] After these things Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being a hundred and ten years old.
[30] And they buried him in his own inheritance at Tim'nath-se'rah, which is in the hill country of E'phraim, north of the mountain of Ga'ash.

The Judges

If you wish to understand the Judges of Israel during this period following the occupation of Canaan, go to Somalia or Afghanistan.  The Judges were warlords pure and simple who led the people to many victorious battles over the Canaanites. This document relates the frequent repetition of a pattern of events that consisted, first, of the Israelites sinning and falling away from God and transgressing the covenant by worshipping the gods of the Canaanites in the midst of which they dwelt. God withheld His blessing and protection from them, and they would suffer for a while from the oppression of the neighbor tribes.  Then the Lord would see their suffering and have mercy on them by raising up a strong leader, a "judge" who would restore the people to the pure worship of Yahweh their God, then initiate military campaigns against their oppressors.  Israel was then victorious and restored to favor with the Lord, after which the land had rest from war until the next falling away.

Judges, in contrast with Joshua, lists the numbers of the slain in many of the battles between the Israelites, led by one of the Judges, and the other nations that persisted in the land.  For example, when Joshua defeated a Midianite army and the Midianite generals, Zeba and Zalmunna escaped the battle with a small remnant, we read this:

[10] Now Zebah and Zalmun'na were in Karkor with their army, about fifteen thousand men, all who were left of all the army of the people of the East; for there had fallen a hundred and twenty thousand men who drew the sword.

We suspect another inflation of the numbers here because the slain alone number almost as many as were in the United States army that defeated Saddam Hussein and occupied Iraq in 2003.  We can estimate the total of those slain by Israel by adding the numbers listed after the major battles, as above, which comes to almost three hundred thousand!  In every case, we are once again confronted with a merciless deity that leads the Israelites in the slaughter. 

There is something amiss here also in that the Book of Judges presents Israel as dwelling in the midst of the Canaanites whom they had been commanded to exterminate.  Clearly this was not the case (that they had exterminated them), even though we read this in the Book of Joshua, after the conquest of Canaan:

[43] Thus the LORD gave to Israel all the land which he swore to give to their fathers; and having taken possession of it, they settled there.
[44] And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers; not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands.
[45] Not one of all the good promises which the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.

The very first chapter of Judges specifically designates many different cities where the Israelites did neither drive out nor slay the inhabitants.  The Lord did not leave this situation without notice, but sent his angel to the Israelites with this message that is highly pertinent to the Promise.

[1] Now the angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, "I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you into the land which I swore to give to your fathers. I said, `I will never break my covenant with you,
[2] and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their altars.' But you have not obeyed my command. What is this you have done?
[3] So now I say, I will not drive them out before you; but they shall become adversaries to you, and their gods shall be a snare to you."

Later, after the times of the Judges, we have this description of the cycle and the Lord's commentary:

[16] Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the power of those who plundered them.
[17] And yet they did not listen to their judges; for they played the harlot after other gods and bowed down to them; they soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the LORD, and they did not do so.
[18] Whenever the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them.
[19] But whenever the judge died, they turned back and behaved worse than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them; they did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways.
[20] So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel; and he said, "Because this people have transgressed my covenant which I commanded their fathers, and have not obeyed my voice,
[21] I will not henceforth drive out before them any of the nations that Joshua left when he died,
[22] that by them I may test Israel, whether they will take care to walk in the way of the LORD as their fathers did, or not."
[23] So the LORD left those nations, not driving them out at once, and he did not give them into the power of Joshua.

in Genesis, we pointed to the Promise of a king when Jacob was blessing the twelve sons:

[10] The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler's staff from between his feet,
until he comes to whom it belongs;
and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

A king was to come from Judah, but through the six or seven centuries that followed prior to the time of the judges no king arose, no scepter appeared.  After the victory of Gideon over the Midianites, the Israelites must have considered it was time for the King to arise and they appealed to Gideon to rule over them.  But Gideon, who was the tribe of Manesseh and not of Judah, rejected their appeal saying,

[23] Gideon said to them, "I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the LORD will rule over you."

Gideon's son, Abimelech was more ambitious.  After the death of Gideon, he proceeded to slay his seventy brothers after which the men of Shechem came together and made him their king.  His kingship was short lived.  After a reign of three years, he was killed when a woman threw down a large stone on his head from a high, fortified tower he was attacking.  No one sought to succeed him as king, so the sequence of Judges resumed.  Still, the scribe surely had the kingship in mind as he continued the story of Judges, where we read this:

[6] In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.
[1] In those days there was no king in Israel. And in those days the tribe of the Danites was seeking for itself an inheritance to dwell in; for until then no inheritance among the tribes of Israel had fallen to them.
[1] In those days, when there was no king in Israel, a certain Levite was sojourning in the remote parts of the hill country of E'phraim, who took to himself a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah.
[25] In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.

The last verse sets the tone for what is to follow, for it is the final verse in this document.  God had promised that a ruler would arise. One man sought to make himself the king, but he was not the one.  So, as I stated earlier, those people were too busy slaughtering their foes to give much attention to the Promise that God had first issued to Abraham and repeated with every generation that followed.  This last verse and those like it also tell us something else about the time of writing of the document.  It was clearly long years after the events described, after the initiation of the Monarchy under Saul and, later, David.  In those days there was no king in Israel strongly infers that there was a king during the time of composing the Book of Judges.


This document was composed sometime after the ascension of David to the throne of Israel, as I indicated above.1  I also specified markers above that set the same limitation on the date of composition of Judges.2 It is a well composed short story, beautiful to read and containing some of the most gripping text in all the Old Testament.  Yet it has not a single reference to the Promise such that it was a temptation to omit it from consideration here.  It contains no theology, no revelations from Yahweh and makes no contribution to the timeline of Israelite history, being set within the period of the Judges.  The Lord does not speak to anyone.

What purpose does it serve, and why was it included in the Bible?

We can see at least two purposes, very important, that justify its inclusion in the canon.  Both of these are vital to the continuity of the Golden Chain of Promise.  The purpose appears with the last six verses of the document:

[17] And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, "A son has been born to Na'omi." They named him Obed; he was the father of Jesse, the father of David.
[18] Now these are the descendants of Perez: Perez was the father of Hezron,
[19] Hezron of Ram, Ram of Ammin'adab,
[20] Ammin'adab of Nahshon, Nahshon of Salmon,
[21] Salmon of Bo'az, Bo'az of Obed,
[22] Obed of Jesse, and Jesse of David.

This genealogy of David ties him to his ancestor Perez, who was the son of Judah (Genesis 38).  Thus, the first hints of a ruler to come from Judah, spoken by Jacob during the blessings of his sons, stands before us in the final verses of Ruth.  Here, again, is the blessing:

[10] The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler's staff from between his feet,
until he comes to whom it belongs;
and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

David was soon to come, the first ruler from the line of Judah but not the last.  This document also serves to incorporate a Gentile (Ruth, the Moabitess) into the ancestry of David, and thus also of Jesus.  This suggests that God has not forgotten the very first statement of the Promise to Abraham:

[3] "I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves."

Is it not through Jesus, who is become King of kings and Lord of lords, that all the families of the earth are even now being blessed?  And is it not fitting that he, through whom all the families of the earth are being blessed, should be shown to have both Gentile and Jewish ancestors?

The Golden Chain of Promise continues to wind it's way through the pages of the Old Testament.

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