Narratives of Identity: Gibeonites and Choctaws -- By: Catherine Schmid
ATJ vol 44 p. 1
Narratives of Identity: Gibeonites and Choctaws
In the book of Joshua, chapter nine is a surprising change of course for this narrative of conquest. Flush from early successes, Joshua had just gathered the people together to hear “all the words of the law, blessings and curses, according to all that is written in the book of the law” (8:34 NRSV1; cf. 1:8). Immediately then to encounter yet another story of deceit, disobedience, and self-determination concerning this same assembly (who were ostensibly so well-informed) is at best unexpected and alarming. Had not Israel already learned the lesson of obedience the hard way? A Canaanite harlot and her family had been absorbed into Israel because of a covenant-breaking oath made by Joshua’s spies (2:14; 6:22; cf. Deut. 7:2). Israel had witnessed first-hand that consequences of breaking faith with Yahweh (Josh. 7:1, 5) were only reversed as Achan’s deceit was uncovered (7:25–26). The ensuing rout at Ai confirmed the LORD’s restored presence and Israel’s dependence upon Yahweh for victory (7:26; 8:7–8, 26). Surely now the conquest of the Promised Land would proceed as planned (1:5–6).
But the implied author of Joshua injects yet one more interruption into his account that calls into question the identities of both Israel and Israel’s ‘enemies’. It seems that there are additional lessons to be learned in the taking of the land, and it will be through the indigenous people of Canaan that Israel will learn them. Who are ‘outsiders’, and who belong to the people of God? To whom do the Israelites owe their loyalty? And what role does Yahweh play in the formation of God’s people? In many ways Joshua 9:1–27 serves as a rhetorical ‘wake-up call’ for its readers2—a ‘reality check’ that speaks hard truths to a triumphalism which extols universal “obedience and integrity.”3 And if it is true that “narratives encode our convictions, validate our beliefs, voice our anxieties, and assemble the events of our l...
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