If Yehoshua was looking for a way out of the conundrum created in chapter 9, he seems to receive the perfect opportunity in chapter 10. The Givonim, who had lied their way to a covenantal alliance with the Israelites, were now being threatened by their neighbors for that act of betrayal. To abandon them to face the consequences of their actions seems to be justice so poetic that it could be ascribed to a גivine guiding hand.
This possibility is raised by Yehoshua in a midrashic conversation with God, and it receives a forceful answer.
“At that hour Yehoshua said: Will I bother the congregation for the sake of these strangers?” Endanger my own people to protect people who should be my enemy? Who tricked us? Why bother?
“God responded to him: Yehoshua, if you distance those who are distant from you, in the end you will distance those who are close to you. Go learn your own roots- aren’t they from strangers? As it says: Joseph had two sons…who Osnat, daughter of Poti-Phera, priest of On gave birth to…” (Bamidbar Rabba 8:4)
When we start redrawing lines of who’s in and who’s out, where does it stop, Yehoshua? Are you so sure you’ll be in? You, too, have problematic lineage…
But when you act to bring closer those who are distant, when you go to the rescue of the Givonim, you merit what is arguably the greatest Divine intervention in history. “There was never a day like this before or after, that God listened to a man’s voice, for God fights for Israel.” (Yehoshua 10:14)
What is more, you achieve the destiny predicted for Ephraim by Yaakov. “Lo, this is written in the ‘Book of the Upright'” (Yehoshua 10:13). Ephraim, the child whose birth signified prosperity among the nations (“For God has made me fruitful in the land of my oppression” Breishit 41:52), has a future described along similar lines in Yaakov’s blessing: “and his children will fill the nations” (Breishit 49:19). When did this happen? When Yehoshua sanctified God’s name by standing by those strangers, the Givonim, and God responded by performing a miracle whose grandeur was the talk of all the nations.
When circumstances invite us to circle the wagons, worry about our own, and let “those strangers” around us fend for themselves, regardless of our commitments to them, chapter 11 reminds us that to ‘bring closer those who are distant’ is both our responsibility, and the key to realizing our ultimate destiny.
This blog offers short, English reflections on the 929 project’s daily chapter of Tanach. Learn more (in Hebrew) about 929 at 929.org.il.