Thursday, April 06, 2006

Yehoshua, chapter 8

A couple of observations on Yehoshua ch. 8:

1) The drastic change between the first attack on Ha-ai and the second. We are told that the population of Ha-Ai was 12,000, male and female, which means roughly 2,000-3,000 adult males of military age (as per the 1/5 ratio often invoked by y'tzias Mitzrayim). In the first battle, the scouts advised using this number to fight. In the second, 30,000 soldiers constituted the ambush alone - both by force of numbers and by use of a strategy, this battle should have been a decisive victory for the Jews even through natural means - why did HaShem command that it be done this way?

2) Although instructions for the battle with Yericho included a ban on all of its property, no such instructions were given for the battle with Ha-ai. To the contrary, even after the execution of Achan, the opposite command was given, i.e., that all of the spoils be plundered. It seems that the Jews had lost an opportunity of some sort when Achan took from the spoils of Yericho, as I don't believe we ever find a similar ban at a later time in Tanach (with the exception of the war of Esther).
(Rashi says on the words "and like this and like this I have done" in the confession of Achan in the previous chapter that Achan was confessing additionally to taking from the spoils of previous battles during the time of Moshe in which a ban was placed on all plundering (I don't recall when this was the case) - one can, perhaps, say that the z'chus of Moshe over that of Yehoshua caused that the Jews were not punished until now - but despite the fact that the sin was the same both here and there, it is interesting that it was only now that the Jews lost this extra command).

3) If Ha-ai was so small (see the scouts' report at the beginning of chapter 7), why did it merit the name Ha-ai, with the definite article in front? In two places, there is a k'ri/k'siv that takes out a terminal reish, which may mean that "ai" is a truncation of "ir" (does a precedent exist?) - but perhaps this is not the case, but rather "ai" and "ir" are just a case where the proper and common nouns look similar? Could "ai" mean something else? Unless it was a city that had once been great, but had seen better days? Such could possibly be said about Yericho, also, as per the rule (mentioned by Rashi in P' Sh'lach) that strong cities don't need such solid walls - if so, perhaps HaShem chose these two cities to start the invasion of K'na'an to make it more derech ha-teva? (Unless Yericho is known from elsewhere to be a powerful city - in which case I don't know how to explain the choice of these two cities as the beginning of the invasion).



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