All Human Life is Infused with Divinity
“And the king of Ai was impaled on a stake until the evening. At sunset, Joshua had the corpse taken down from the stake and it was left lying at the entrance to the city gate. They raised a great heap of stones over it, which is there to this day.”
“If a man is guilty of a capital offense and is put to death, and you impale him on a stake, you must not let his corpse remain on the stake overnight, but must bury him the same day. For an impaled body is an affront to God: you shall not defile the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess.”
The “fog of war” is a common expression to denote the sheer chaos of military conflict. Chaos is peppered all throughout chapter 8 in the book of Joshua (Yehoshua). The Israelite soldiers that approached the city of Ai and then retreated into the desert with the hopes of luring the troops away from the city create a scene of panic and confusion in one direction. The other Israelites that sneak their way into Ai to set fire to the city create another scene of chaos in the other direction.
It says in Joshua 8:20 “The men of Ai looked back and saw the smoke of the city rising to the sky; they had no room for flight in any direction. The [Israelites] who had been fleeing to the wilderness now became the pursuers.” The king is captured during the frenzy, and he is hung.
When the dust settles, nothing is left intact. There is only ruin and destruction. The Israelites were able to conquer Ai successfully after a failed attempt one chapter earlier.
Such pandemonium recalls the scenes of war in stories of conquest by infamous armies such as the Mongolians or the Romans. In those scenes, heads are placed on stakes or bodies hung up on crosses to scare away any would-be fighters. The Israelite army also has the desire to put forth a show of force as they hang up the King of Ai. But the Torah says “enough!”
As completely absent of goodness and holiness as war is, afterward, we must remember that all humans are infused with divinity. All sides are the children of God. As Deuteronomy teaches, the bodies of the deceased must be taken down and buried – in this case, an upright burial with stones. After the chaos, the time for being human begins once again.
The reflection on this chapter is part of the broader 929 project where you read a chapter-a-day (weekends excluded – so only 5 chapters per week) of the Tanakh/Hebrew Bible.
We are working our way towards February 2, 2022.
Where do you hope to be in your spiritual journey by then?