Joshua 8 - The Lord prepares the Israelites to take the city of Ai (the name of which actually means “ruin” according to Eerdman’s) and this time allows them to take booty. He sends 30,000 men to lay in ambush to the west of Ai and then approaches the city with the rest of his force. When they attack him, he pretends to flee and they pursue, leaving ambushers in position to attack from the west and burn the city. When the main army sees the smoke, the turn and attack too. The entire population of Ai, twelve thousand, are killed that day.
At a ceremony at which a stone altar is dedicated on Mount Ebal, Joshua has the law read to the people out loud. Half of the people stand in front of Mount Gerizim and half in front of Mount Ebal—one the mount of blessing, the other the mount of curses for disobedience (See Deut. 27]
Reflection: These stories of conquest and slaughter, how are we to reflect upon them? What can they mean for our faith. In the time of shadows, we must see the emblematic meaning of the story. Though the history is real and the plan of God real in it, what we are to “see” in it is the mighty power to overcome enemies. At one time, the enemies of the Lord were all those who stood in the way of establishing the chosen people in the land God promised them. At the time, this was not the way even the most enlightened viewed matters. It was a struggle for survival, a struggle to find a homeland where people could be gathered around the principle of loyalty and obedience to the Creator God of the universe. Nothing else was more important and to put worldly wisdom ahead of acceptance of the terms of the narrative would be to lose the sense of the meaning of what was happening over the long term.
Origen (185-254 AD)
De Principiis (First Principles)
Book II - On Christ
12 – Now Origen goes into the “working of the power of God.” “It is a sort of vigor. . .by which God operates either in creation, or in providence, or in judgment, or in the disposal and arrangement of individual things, each in its season. For as the image formed in a mirror unerringly reflects all the acts and movements of him who gazes on it, so would Wisdom have herself to be understood when she is called the stainless mirror of the power and working of the Father.”
John says of Christ, “’The works which the Father doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.’ And again He says, that the Son cannot do anything of Himself, save what He sees the Father do. As therefore the Son in no respect differs from the Father in the power of His works, and the work of the Son is not a different thing from that of the Father, but one and the same movement. . .”
13 – The last phrase Origen explores is “’the image of His goodness’ and here, I think we must understand the same thing which we expressed . . . in speaking of the image formed by the mirror.” Jesus says in Luke 18:19 that “There is none good save one only, God the Father,’” and Origen thinks he says this because “the Son is not of a different goodness, but of that only which exists in the Father, of whom He is rightly termed the image, because He proceeds from no other source but from that primal goodness . . .”; and both Son and Holy Spirit are rooted in that same goodness.