Tuesday, August 31, 2010
The Destruction of Ai and the Lynching of a King (Joshua 8): What started out as an intriguing spy story is becoming a tale of genocide, written by its perpetrators. Chapter 8 is about how the Israelites ambushed the Ai army; slaughtered them; slaughtered the inhabitants of the city; hung their king on a tree; and then killed a bunch of livestock as an animal sacrifice.
I remember seeing a Facebook page, now long deleted by FB, of a Hispanic group of teens and young adults that mutilated dogs and cats just for the heck of it. They'd pose with the dismembered carcasses of dogs and cats in the background. The Book of Joshua reminds me of that. Except, I don't think the Israelites were responsible for the demise of Ai.
Most archaeologists would say that Ai was a pile of ruins even before the Israelites existed. So, that would make this horrific tale only the yarns spun from the imaginations of a group desert barbarians in the Bronze Age, which makes sense. When the Israelites did arise as an actual distinguishable society, they were using stories like this one, the Exodus, and Genesis to make sense of the world around them. It was the science of the day. Of course, it was bad science but it did serve the same function - an explanation of phenomena.
"Why is there an abandoned city over there?"
The desert priests did not know the answer, so they made it up. After all, to them and to the Israelites the ruins had to have something to do with the great mythic heroes of their own past.