May 012010

I finished up Deuteronomy and the death of Moses this morning and pushed on into Joshua through the well-loved story of Rahab the harlot and the cautionary tale of Achan, the poor guy who stole from the plunder at Jericho and ended up stoned and burned in the Valley of Achor. There’s a great scene in which Joshua gets him to confess by calling him “My son.”  When I was a kid we used to sing the old Negro spiritual (that is what they used to call them–what do they call them now? African American spirituals?) “Joshua fit the battle of Jericho” with hand actions. No doubt this set the stage for my later writing career. Here is Mahalia Jackson singing the song. I love the verb “fit” and the way you have to drop syllables in Joshua’s name to make the song work.

Excellent elucidation of the narrative structure of Deuteronomy in The Literary Guide to the Bible: First person narrator quoting Moses quoting God who is sometimes quoting himself (nested quotations technique). Also the time dance. Moses speaks of that time (in the Wilderness, on Mt. Horeb) and this time (now, when is addressing the Israelites beside the Jordan), while so-called Deuteronomist talks about that time (the time of Moses) and this time (the Israelites in exile in Babylon). The book is full of prophecy because Moses seems to know ahead of time that the Israelites will eventually transgress and God will abandon them and they will be conquered and enslaved and long to return to the Promised Land and he knows this just at the moment when they are about to enter the Promised Land the first time.

Great curses, lovely reference to arrows drunk with blood, also the well-named “hill of the foreskins” (this was after the mass circumcision on the banks of the Jordan–imagine it! or maybe not).

In haste, I am doing packets!


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