Joshua 11 (Anakim)
And welcome back to the Internet’s greatest Bible commentary, in which Yours Truly reads through the Bible and explains its many mysteries as best my limited education allows. I encourage you to read the Good Book along with me, because my time’s too valuable to write summaries. Here we go!
11:1. And it was, when Jabin king of Hazor heard, he sent to Jobab king of Madon, and to the king of Shimron, to the king of Achshaph.
11:2. And to the kings that were on the north of the mountains, and of the plains south of Chinnaroth, and in the valley, and in the regions of Dor on the west.
By the end of Chapter 10, Joshua has successfully conquered and obliterated all the cities in the southern half of Israel. Now Israel has to reckon with the major cities to the north, which it does.
5:18. Joshua made war a long time with all these kings.
This verse is the subject of one of Rashi's many entertainingly preposterous notes. According to the venerated sage, this verse is actually a rebuke to Joshua, because the Israelite leader, aware of his divinely ordination to parcel out the Promised Land to the tribes of Israel, took his sweet time killing the Canaanites in order to extend his lifespan.
5:21. And at that time, Joshua came and cut off the 'Anakim from the mountains, from Hebron, from Debir, from 'Anab, and from all the mountains of Judah, and from all the mountains of Israel; Joshua destroyed them completely with their cities.
Here we have mention of the Anakim, or "the descendants of Anak", a small ethnic minority that are physically intimidating to their neighbors because of their great height. Oddly enough, traditional Jewish sources tend to prefer a down-to-earth interpretation of passages involving these people, while some Christians still link them with the nephilim of Genesis and conclude they were demon-human hybrids of astonishing size.
The Anakim could well have been nephilim - giants - but remember how relative that word is. People in the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age were far shorter than the average man or woman is today. Goliath's height of six feet and seven inches (200cm) was considered awe-inspiring at the time it was recorded, but today I have a cousin that tall.
In his book The Greek Myths, Robert Graves suggests that the Anakites' mighty ancestor Anak is the same mythic figure whom the ancient Greeks knew as Anax. There are undeniable parallels - like Anak, Anax was said to be the giant leader of a tall people named after him, the Anactorians - and both legends existed in the same time period, in two lands known to have been in contact. It's a neat thought, so I hope it's true.
OK, then. Since Chapter 12 is a major gear change from the type of stuff we've been reading so far, I'm going to end today's entry here.
NEXT TIME: As any policeman or military officer can tell you, behind every successful mission lies a mountain of paperwork. Join Joshua as he gets down to the less sexy, bureaucratic side of leading an invasion.
Bible Translation: Judaica Press's Tanach with Rashi's commentary, courtesy of Chabad.org.
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