I skipped a Friday post for a Saturday post this week because today (June 13th) is the last consecutive reading from the book of Joshua in Morning Prayer. After today we skip from chapter 10 to chapter 14, and after that jump all the way to chapter 22 to finish the book from there on. That’s a lot of skipped material, what’s going on?
The book of Joshua contains a lot of writing that is stereotyped and repetitive, as well as lengthy portions that are essentially maps in prose form. Think of the first half Joshua as a train: it starts moving very slowly (conquering one town at a time, with specific stories at each encounter), then it speeds up bit by bit as it gives an account of the conquest of the Promise Land in larger and larger pieces. It is obvious that there is a lot of history that isn’t being handed down here; we get a few specific stories in the beginning and the rest of the territory is basically assumed under Israelite control, with very little description of how things went.
Then in the second half of the book you get some very lengthy descriptions of tribal boundaries. This is incredibly boring reading for most people, wading through geographic references (mountains, rivers, hills, fortifications) that most of us know little about – and many of which are not even identified with certainty by archaeologists anymore. But most Bibles today have maps in the back… if you look closely at the one(s) with the early tribal borders then you’re basically looking at a best-guess depiction of what the second half of Joshua is trying to describe.
So yes, all Scripture is God-breathed and useful for instruction, edification, and so forth, but some parts are going to be more useful than other parts. For the Old Covenant Jew, this was extremely important, outlining when their tribes and families were to inhabit and dwell. To the Christian, this is almost completely relegated to historical interest. There are Gospel overtones, of course: the intricate detail God goes into as he “makes a place” for his people in Palestine is a reminder of the intricate detail he goes into now as Jesus “makes a place for us” in the heavenly Jerusalem.
And so, most daily lectionaries omit almost half of the book of Joshua; it’s a lot of reading for very little unique benefit. But if you do want to take the time to read through the omitted chapters, consider using this Customary’s Midday Prayer Lectionary, which picks up with chapter 11 today and continues through the ten omitted chapters one day at a time.