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But for the natives in these parts, God hath so pursued them, as for 300 miles space the greatest part of them are swept away by smallpox which still continues among them. So as God hath thereby cleared our title to this place, those who remain in these parts, being in all not 50, have put themselves under our protection. — Governor John Winthrop of Massachusetts, 1634
After the Israelites passed over the River Jordan, at the end of their long journey in the desert, they proceeded to conquer Canaan. This workshop tells the story of how the Israelites conquered the walled city of Jericho, a story celebrated in song and story to this day. In this familiar story, they marched around the city walls, the priests sounding the ram's horns, and walls came tumbling down when the Hebrew people shouted in unison.
It is a mixed story, morally, and retelling it offers opportunities for all ages to engage with some of the moral dilemmas presented by the text. The story is inspirational: Modern protest movements are inspired by the story of a mighty city being defeated by marching people and thunderous chants. On the other hand, the story is very troubling: Joshua is told that the city of Jericho and everything in it belongs to God, and through God, to them. Although the city is taken by apparently non-violent means, Joshua's troops put almost all the people and all the livestock in the city to death following the conquest.
The workshop asks participants to consider why a story like this is included in the Bible. Key questions include: What was the purpose of this narrative in the minds of those who first recorded it? What would it mean if this story were true? What would it mean if this story were false? What do we learn about God—or about people's perceptions of God—from this story? What insight and wisdom does it offer us today? What are examples in modern times of God depicted as a mighty battle God, bringing victory to those he favors and justifying war?
This workshop continues a pattern of activities that frame all of the workshops in this program. Congregations may wish to establish their own patterns for this series of workshops, perhaps arranging for refreshments or a meal to precede or follow each workshop. Before leading this workshop, review the Accessibility Guidelines for Workshop Presenters found in the program Introduction and make any accommodations necessary for your group.
This workshop will:
- Present the story of the battle of Jericho and invite participants to deepen their understanding of the story
- Consider the moral dilemmas presented by the story and how those dilemmas are present in today's world.
- Better understand the battle of Jericho story by exploring it from the perspectives of characters in the narrative
- Consider the motivation and goals of those who retold and recorded this story
- Identify the moral dilemmas and questions in the story and explore the implications for today's world
- Experience connection with people of all ages and be enriched by the variety of different perspectives offered.