Joshua Bin Nun, the Successor to Moses
By Avi Lazerson
Joshua Bin Nun, the successor to Moses, never seemed to reach the fame-success ratings that Moses enjoyed. The book of Joshua, the sixth book of the Bible, which follows the five books of Moses, is not the best seller that the first five are. Never the less, there are scholars who believe that Joshua was a better leader of the Jewish people than Moses was.
Whereas most people recall Joshua with miraculously taking the Jewish people across the Jordan River into the land of Israel and also the miraculous crumbling of the walls of the fortified city of Jericho, few people realize that Joshua was a man of extraordinary personality.
Joshua was first mentioned in the Bible as the dedicated attendant of Moses. He completely nullified his personality to insure that his master, Moses, was well taken care of and able to perform his important public and spiritual functions. Moses in turn selected him while in the desert to lead a delegation of twelve representatives of the Jewish nation to ascertain the feasibility and true benefits of the divinely promised land of Israel. Of the twelve spies, only Joshua and Caleb returned with a positive report; the other ten told of the difficulties that the "new" land has for them - thereby turning the hearts of the people from G-d and incurring divine wrath and punishment.
Joshua was divinely chosen to lead the Jewish people into the Promised Land. He led in successfully fighting against the inhabitants who had to be destroyed or driven out, and he divided up the land of Israel for the various tribes. All of this with out any rebellion and with only one incident of sinning (Achan) as opposed to Moses' very difficult period of leadership. This led Rabbis' to comment that although Moses was likened to the sun and Joshua to the moon, because of Joshua's "closeness" to the people, as opposed to Moses' closeness to G-d, Joshua enjoyed far greater popular appreciation from the masses. Joshua had a closer understanding of the people, hence developed a more dedicated and a more disciplined people who came into the land of Israel.
One of the most amazing stories of Joshua is not the famous battle in which the sun stood still in the heavens until the battle was won, but that of Rachav, the prostitute.
Rachav, a non-Jew, lived in Jericho. Prior to the Jews entering Israel, Joshua sent two spies to seek out the land. They came to Rachav's house to seek shelter from the king of Jericho. Rachav risked her own life and hid the Jewish spies from the king's soldiers. In return, they promised to spare her life and her family's lives in return for her saving their lives.
The Talmud describes at length the attractiveness and sexual powers that Rachav possessed. The Rabbis of the Talmud said that all the important ministers and rulers of the world would come to visit her in order to experience her charms. The Talmud goes so far to state that in Rachav's time, if a man were to utter her name aloud he would come to have a seminal ejaculation - such was the beauty and sexual powers of Rachav.
But there is more:
The Talmud also relates that Joshua married her! Can you imagine today (with the exception of Bill Clinton) a distinguished head of state, or even more so, a major religious leader marrying the most famous prostitute in the history of the Bible?? Well Joshua married her! Plus it is related that many great men were descendent from her.
Our question is obvious: How could the number one Jewish leader, the successor to Moses, the representative of G-d on earth pick a gentile, the number one prostitute in the world to marry? Couldn't he find a nice Jewish girl?? Plus, we do not see any mention of revulsion from the Rabbis!
In this perhaps signifies Joshua's unique inherent strength and character.
Perhaps outward dress and actions may deceive us. We tend to give honor to those who dress and act in manners to elicit from us honor with out really knowing if this person is indeed worthy of the honor that we give him. We can't real see who is really true on the inside, we can't see behind every facade.
Many people can fool us into believing that they are truly G-d fearing, when perhaps they are lacking in this area. We can be deceived into thinking some one is a friend when in reality he has an ulterior motive for his friendship.
Joshua saw from Rachav's actions that she was really deeply G-d fearing. Instead of turning these two Jews over to the king's soldiers and garnished a reward, as any normal person would have done, she risked her life because of her belief in G-d, to save them. She believed with a deep conviction that G-d was leading the Jews back into the Promised Land. She believed deeply in the G-d of the Hebrews and that He would fulfil His promise to give the land of Canaan to the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. She entertained no doubts of this and she desired to be a part of it.
That she was a prostitute perhaps was not the most desirous trait one looks for in a wife, yet, circumstances can cause many to seek living in a manner that seems unforgivable. Yet she robbed no one, killed no one. When she had the opportunity to join G-d's chosen people, even if it meant a possible life as a status-less individual, she was willing to accept the unknown. She asked for nothing, like Ruth, yet she merited the best.
All of this for being willing to sacrifice one's life for the benefit of others!
Perhaps this is the message that this story brings to us: to be willing to give of ourselves to G-d's master plan of the world.
from the August 2001 Edition of the Jewish Magazine