Irony in Translation: Joshua 1.17a

My month of December is being spent translating Joshua (as a consultant) and I was struck by Joshua 1.17a which I have translated:

In the same way we obeyed Moses, we’ll obey you.

These are the words of Israel to Joshua.

The irony of a stiff-necked and rebellious people (just give a reread of Numbers and Deuteronomy) who seemed to question Moses and his decisions at every turn…now saying to Joshua they will obey him in the same fashion.

Either they actually believed they had been obedient or they intended to be just as “faithful” as they had been previously. Perhaps this is precisely the reason Joshua resists their appeals to faithfulness in Joshua 24.19-28, until he ratifies their commitment in writing (with a stone to boot) as a witness against them for when they “obeyed” just as they had for Moses.

These are the kinds of ironies I laugh at while working through the texts of Scripture. I imagine the twinkle in the eye of the author who writes such things knowing they could be read in several ways, but knowing also just how such has played out in the life of Israel (where the author has the insight of one writing after the events). Such things are a constant reminder of the artistry of the Scriptures and of the humorous wit of God’s revelation through Israel and her texts. And also a cogent reminder to not overestimate our own obedience (past, present, or future), but to rely always on his faithfulness.

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