Sunday, March 4, 2018

Joshua's Left Foot

Do you notice the subtle difference between these two verses?

Exo 3:5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”
Joshua 5:15 And the Prince of Jehovah's host said unto Joshua, 'Cast off thy shoe from off thy foot, for the place on which thou art standing is holy;' and Joshua did so;

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It's perhaps easier to draw parallels than differences. Moses was Joshua's mentor, and Joshua was groomed for decades to take over for Moses. And look, they both receive the same instruction about removing their sandals because they are standing in a holy place, a sure sign that God approves of Moses choice of Joshua. But both instructions aren't quite the same. Rabbi Hayyim Angel [1] points out that Moses was told to remove both sandals, but Joshua was told to remove one. I looked it up in the Hebrew, it really is plural in Exodus and singular in Joshua - QBible [2]. Many translations do show the plural in Joshua 5:15. It could be a simple matter of linguistic variation, and there is certainly scholarly debate over it, or maybe it means something. Let's dig further into Rabbi Angel's observation and his theory over the possible meaning of one shoe or two.

Starting with the symbolism of the shoe, it was most likely a sandal in ancient Biblical times. Sandals picture involvement with the physical world. Think how they protect our feet from the dirt and abrasions of walking in the physical world. And on the other hand, Levicital priests were NOT to wear sandals while serving in the Tabernacle or Temple Wikipedia(High_Priest_Of_Israel) [3] . In other words, barefoot is equated to the spiritual world. Some say that the shoe is to the foot as the body is to the soul, that is a soul fits into a body to navigate the physical realm similar to the way a foot slips into a shoe to navigate the path - Jews And Shoes [4]. Maybe. Maybe not.

So why would Joshua have one foot in the physical and one foot in the spiritual? Moses clearly had both feet in the spiritual realm. The people of Israel clearly had both feet in the physical realm. But Joshua wasn't really like Moses. The Babylonian Jewish Commentary describes Moses and Joshua like this "The elders of that generation said: The countenance of Moses was like that of the sun; the countenance of Joshua was like that of the moon." - Bava Batrah [5]. That is to say Joshua's glory was inferior to Moses.

Rabbi Angel cites a few examples to show the gap between Moses and Joshua. The most telling was the testimony of the twelve spies. After spying out the land of Canaan, ten spies gave a bad report, that the people of the land were giants, and they felt like grasshoppers in comparison. Caleb spoke up and insisted that Israel could take the land, but Joshua was silent. THE NEXT DAY, Joshua spoke up, echoing the fears of the people, but ultimately the faith and confidence of Moses.

6 Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, of those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; 7 and they spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, “The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the Lord is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us—a land which flows with milk and honey. 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.”

Rabbi Angel argues that Joshua's ability to feel the people's fears coupled with the faith of Moses actually make him a good leader, a man of the people, if you will. Maybe the first day Joshua did feel intimidated by the Amalekites, and intimidated by the ten other spies (looking at the physical), but in the end he argues from faith, "the Lord is with us" (looking at the spiritual).

Moses appears strong and confident from the start, but Joshua had to be told to be strong and courageous. He was told that twice by Moses - Deut 31:7, 23. He was told that three times by God Himself  - Josh 1:6, 7, 9. And he was even told that by the people he was leading - Josh 1:18. It seems he was in touch with the fears of the people.

Joshua reminds me of someone. Someone with almost exactly the same name. Someone who was divine, yet human. Someone who had a foot in this world and a foot in the spiritual world. Yes, I'm talking about Jesus. Joshua's given name was Hoshea (Salvation), but Moses changed it to Jehoshua (YHVH aka Yah is Salvation), contracted to Joshua - Hans Bodlaender [6]. Jesus' Hebrew name is also Jehoshua or Yashua or Yeshua.  It's the same name. Joshua is to Moses as Jesus is to God the Father, remember the sun/moon analogy above. And to be clear, Jesus was in touch with the people without the doubts that Joshua had. With one foot in this world, Jesus can relate to the human condition, which makes Him the ideal High Priest, "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin." - Heb 4:15. Jesus often referred to Himself as "Son of Man". Normally the expression that someone has one foot in the world and one foot in heaven/church is a negative, implying the person can't make up their mind. In the cases of Joshua and Jesus, I'm arguing that it is a good thing, that they can relate to both worlds. There are other parallels between Joshua and Jesus, see The Two Joshuas [7].

Is it true that Joshua only removed one sandal? If Hebrew scholars disagree on it, I'm not going to be able to settle the argument one way or another. If he did remove one sandal, it would have been his right sandal, in the Bible right is associated with spiritual, left with physical - In Two Worlds [8]. But if Joshua were told to remove a sandal because the place was holy, logically he would have to remove both unless he was at the edge of the holy area or he stood like a stork, both of which seem unlikely. However, the parallels between Joshua and Jesus ARE real, whether Joshua had his left sandal on or not.




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