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Yehoshua Reflections

Chapter 8, Verses 1-2


"And Hashem said to Yehoshua, "Do not fear or be broken hearted take with you all the people of war and go up to Ay. Behold I delivered into your hands the king of Ay, his people, city and land."


"And do unto Ay and her king as you did to Yericho and her king but, take the spoils and animals to yourself; place an ambush behind the city."

The Jewish people repented in full over their remote involvement in Achan's act of trespass and were now worthy of Hashem's favor and protection. We would have expected things to revert to their original position with Hashem leading their wars with open miracles. Yet, we discover a serious shift in the program, and instead of supernatural feats Hashem ordered a strategic ambush for Ay. All of Ay's warriors were ensnared in this trap and the Jewish people conquered the entire city without difficulty. This time they were rewarded the spoils of their conquest.

Surprisingly, Scriptures devote an entire chapter to the detailed account of this ambush. This obviously indicates that Ay's ambush served a greater purpose than a military maneuver. In addition we are troubled by the suspense that permeates the air throughout this war. If Hashem promised Ay's delivery, would we anticipate anything short of overwhelming success?

We begin approaching this subject by analyzing Hashem's opening words to Yehoshua not to worry and not to fear. Here again we wonder why words of encouragement were necessary after Hashem promised total success. Our attention is also drawn to Hashem's order to bring into the battle all the people of war. This seems to refer to all Jewish males between the ages of twenty and sixty - a total of six hundred thousand men. Why were so many people called to battle the small city of Ay whose population did not even exceed twelve thousand?

Let us consider for a moment the broader picture. The Jewish people recently captured the fortified city of Yericho by blowing their shofars and encircling it. Yet they now resorted to capturing Ay through major strategic moves. What image did this project amongst the nations? Is Hashem forsaking His people during their time of need? Was He still amongst them at all?

The apparent answer to these questions is that Hashem does not limit His involvement to open miracles. On the contrary, Hashem generally prefers not to interfere with His natural order of the world. Capturing the land of Canaan, however, required somewhat of a different posture. The original spies sent by Moshe Rabbeinu informed the Jewish people of the Canaanite's towering stature. The forgone conclusion was that without Hashem's ongoing assistance it would be virtually impossible to conquer the land. Hashem therefore sent an unequivocal statement about His upcoming conquest. He announced through His miracles at the Jordan and Yericho His intent of reclaiming the land for His people. This produced a petrified feeling amongst Canaan's inhabitants who felt helpless in defending themselves from Hashem. If this feeling had continued there would have been little difficulty capturing the land. Even the natural order of war called for success when fighting against nations lacking any confidence or courage.

However, Achan's grave offense significantly altered the picture. The Jewish nation's unexpected defeat gave the Canaanites a feeling of confidence and security. Although the casualties were limited and only one small brigade retreated the Ay experience left its mark. The big question now was what role, if any, would Hashem play in these wars? The Canaanites followed their road signals and regained most of their confidence. This changed the natural order of war and rendered the conquest of Canaan a much more difficult process.

The Jewish people were nonetheless worthy of Hashem's assistance in full. However, unlike the previous battles, the present climate called for a much softer role. Hashem would undoubtedly lead His people to perfect success but in a somewhat concealed fashion. This is where perfect faith in Hashem was essential. Ay's upcoming victory had the potential to reveal Hashem's total involvement in the Jewish people's wars. Although, it was cloaked in military strategy its perfect results told the full truth. We will soon discover the incredible degree of precision used throughout the maneuver. Its results were that not one person remained behind to defend the city and not one inhabitant defended himself against the full scale ambush. This was undoubtedly the result of Hashem's involvement behind the scenes securing a perfect victory for His people.

This form of assistance demanded tremendous levels of faith. It is one thing to fight a mighty enemy with full anticipation of an open miracle. But it is another thing to confront him face to face while retaining perfect faith in Hashem. We can therefore suggest that this is why Yehoshua received warm words of encouragement. Hashem expected Yehoshua to conduct a natural war against the mighty enemy trusting at all times that Hashem was fully involved behind the scenes. In this situation it was essential to remember that all military strategy was but a disguise for Hashem's involvement in their war. But, this involvement was totally dependent on their attitude. If they gave serious value to their military ability they would receive little assistance from Above. But, if got beyond this and placed their trust in Hashem's concealed involvement He would be there for them.

To be continued...

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