Joshua 24.1-13; Ps 135; Matthew 19.3-12
Today’s first reading takes us by a long leap to the close of the book Joshua and the death of Joshua [24.29, read tomorrow]. On his deathbed, speaking in the name of the lord, Joshua recites the history of God’s chosen people from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to the exodus from Egypt, and from the years of wandering in the wilderness to the crossing of the Jordan into a land whose inhabitants God had put into their power. I gave you a land where you never toiled, you live in towns you never built; you eat now from vineyards and olive groves you never planted.
In fact, the conquest of the land wasn’t quite so straightforward; the following canonical book, Judges, begins with the question ‘Which of us shall march up first against the Canaanites to attack them?’ [Judges 1.1] In other words, the conquest of the promised land of Canaan was far from complete at Joshua’s death. Moses had commanded that the Canaanites be conquered, and yet, he added ‘You must lay them under the ban. You must make no covenant with them nor show them any pity.’ [Deuteronomy 7.2] Indeed, there continued to be a considerable population of ‘Canaanites’ (in the Bible this term is a catch-all term for a great variety of indigenous peoples in the land Israel came to inhabit) alongside the Israelites.
[cf Matthew 15.22-28] Learning to live alongside those of differing faith, without being assimilated to them, is a major theme throughout the Old Testament.