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God had clearly promised Joshua that he will vanquish all his enemies and divide the land

KJV Joshua 1 : 5 - 6

There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. 6 Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them.

But after their defeat by the amorites Joshua somehow seems to question God's word

KJV Joshua 7 : 7

And Joshua said, Alas, O Lord GOD, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan!

Did Joshua doubt God's word in this instance?

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  • His faith wavered - he was human!
    – Dottard
    Commented Dec 12, 2021 at 11:37

1 Answer 1

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Did Joshua doubt God's word in Joshua 7:7?

On the surface, it may look that way, but let's look at the context and sequence of events.

In chapter 6, we see the events of the destruction of Jericho and the marvelous victory that Jehovah God gives to the Israelites.

Chapter 7 vs 1 gives the reader background information that was not known to Joshua; Achan's taking of things devoted to the Jehovah or to destruction. (Joshua 6:18, 19)

Verses 2-5 describes how Joshua's faith in Jehovah continued and commands that only 200-300 men go up to take the city of Ai. But because of the unknown events in verse 1, the attacking Israelites are defeated because Jehovah is not providing support due to Israel's disobedience.

Now we see, in verse 6, Joshua's reaction to the defeat. He rips his garments and falls, or prostrates himself, with his face to the ground. Even the elders of Israel begin to throw dust on their heads. What is meant by Joshua and the elders' actions?

The topic "Ripping of Garments" in the Insight of the Scriptures explains the meaning:

A common sign of grief among the Jews, as well as among other Orientals, particularly upon hearing of the death of a near relative. In many cases such ripping consisted of a rending of the garment in front just sufficient to lay open the breast, thus not necessarily a complete ripping of the garment so as to make it unfit for wearing. . . . Many other instances of such expression of grief are found: . . . Joshua, after the defeat at Ai (Jos 7:6);

Under the topic "Attitudes and Gestures", the subheading "Prayer and Homage" has a subsection for "Sitting and prostrating". The paragraph gives information on the meaning of 'falling on one's face':

Sitting and prostrating. Sitting was another posture employed in prayer, the petitioner evidently kneeling and then sitting back upon his heels. (1Ch 17:16) From this position he could bow his head or rest it on his bosom. Or, as Elijah did, he might crouch to the earth and put his face between his knees. (1Ki 18:42) ‘Falling down’ or ‘falling on one’s face’ is often the way the Scriptures express a person’s prostrating himself. This was usually done by falling on the knees and bowing forward, resting on the hands or, more often, the elbows, with the head touching the ground. (Ge 24:26, 48; Ne 8:6; Nu 16:22, 45; Mt 26:39)

The same topic "Attitudes and Gestures" has a later section "Grief, Shame" that gives the explanation for the throwing of dust:

Throwing dust on the head; ripping garments; wearing sackcloth. Grief was usually accompanied by weeping (Ge 50:1-3; Joh 11:35), often by bowing the head sadly (Isa 58:5), by throwing dust on one’s head (Jos 7:6), or by sitting on the ground (Job 2:13; Isa 3:26). Grief was often expressed by the ripping of garments (1Sa 4:12; Job 2:12; see RIPPING OF GARMENTS) and sometimes by putting ashes on the head. (2Sa 13:19)

So we can see that Joshua and the elders' actions were all signs of grief and distress at the defeat of the Israelites against the city of Ai. Joshua's exclamation is one of grief and distress not in a lack of faith. In fact, towards the end of his exclamation he faithfully asks Jehovah "what will you do about your great name?" (Joshua 7:9)

After Achan's actions are brought to light, Joshua puts the blame for Israel's defeat squarely on Achan:

Joshua said: “Why have you brought disaster upon us? Jehovah will bring disaster upon you on this day." (Joshua 7:25)

So Joshua's words are not a lack of faith but grief and distress at the defeat caused by one Israelite's family.

[All scripture quotations from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)]

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