Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Self-Harmony of the Bible - 3 (Part Eight)

How Many Men Were Set as an Ambush Against Ai?
            Joshua 8 records the destruction of Ai. In verse 3 and 4 (NASB) it reads: “Joshua chose 30,000 men, valiant warriors, and sent them out at night. He commanded them, saying, “See, you are going to ambush the city from behind it. Do not go very far from the city, but all of you be ready.” However, a seemingly contradictory report is given in verse 12 where 5,000 men were said to be sent as an ambush for the city, but is this really a contradiction?
            The most probable solution, as I see it, is that which is put forward by The Pulpit Commentary, namely: “[5,000] must be the true reading [for verse 3].” It is worth reading the relevant section in The Pulpit Commentary, for that work reviews many put forth harmonization’s which I will not. He, however, dismisses them in favor of the simplest solution – 30,000 was a scribal error. It is not inconceivable, for he argues “Thirty thousand men could hardly have been posted, without detection, in the ravines around Ai, whereas we are informed by travellers [sic] that there would have been no difficulty in concealing 5,000 men there.” Barnes’ Notes on the Bible agrees. Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary suggests that “Out of [the 30,000 men] a detachment of five thousand was sent forward to conceal themselves in the immediate precincts of the town.”
            Perhaps there can be no certainty as to what exactly happened, but we see that declaring that these verses contradict each other is a undue leap. In fact, these are part of one account and it is perfectly possible that, while the OT as received today has some slight errors (predominately in numbers or spellings), the original did not have such mistakes. Therefore, it is possible that the present manuscripts contradict each themselves, yet the Bible does not.

Were Joshua’s Stones Removed?
            As the river Jordan was held back, “Joshua also set up 12 stones in the middle of the Jordan at the place where the feet of the priests who carried the ark of the covenant stood, and the stones are there to this day.” (Joshua 4:9 NWT) However, the skeptic argues that they were removed according to verse 20 of that same chapter. Joshua 4:20 (NWT) says: “As for the 12 stones that they had taken out of the Jordan, Joshua set these up at Gilgal.” How do we solve this?
            Turn to Joshua 4:8 (NIV) which reads: “So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the LORD had told Joshua; and they carried them over with them to their camp, where they put them down.” Now, we see what the meaning of “Joshua also set up 12 stones in the middle of the Jordan” is.[1] There were two monuments, one in the Jordan and the other at Gilgal where the people camped after crossing the Jordan. (Joshua 4:19) The one at Gilgal was made of stones taken from the river, not from the other monument.
            We see, therefore, that there is no contradiction. The closest thing to such was derived from an awkward and unnatural way of reading, taken out of immediate context.

[1] The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges also notes that “The expression “midst of the Jordan” does not necessarily imply that the priests stood, and that the stones were built up, in the middle channel; but only that they were in the midst of the water when it flowed as it did before the occurrence of the miracle.” So, they did not build the monument at the center of the span of the Jordan’s width per se.

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