Joshua 14 makes a statement I wish meant more than it actually does: “After this, the land had rest from war” (Joshua 14:15). The rest was short lived, and I wish it wasn’t. Scripture does this—it stirs in us a longing for a more complete and satisfying resolution than the one we’re often given in the moment. And then it promises that one day that resolution will come.
The Steven Spielberg / Tom Hanks mini-series Band of Brothers tells the story of the 101st Airborne’s Easy Company, some of the first paratroopers in history. The series follows them through World War 2—from basic training, through D-Day, Bastogne, Market Garden, and all the way to taking Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest.
By the time we make it to the end of the ten-hour series—when the allies have secured victory in Europe—Easy Company (and all the other soldiers, and seemingly the land itself) is depleted and weary from war. Victory is theirs, but the cost is never far from view.
Reading through Joshua wearies my heart like that. It is a tale of war. It is unsettling. It would be too simplistic to take a “good guys vs. bad guys” view of this book, since God’s people were not always good, and since their opponents were certainly not all war-mongering barbarians. The conquest of Canaan presents us with a world that was groaning under the weight of the fall. It comes across—to me, anyway—as a hostile, dangerous, unwelcoming place. A war-weary place.
The end of Joshua 14 includes what scholars refer to as one of Joshua’s four “land-grant narratives,” in which a portion of land was given to an individual person (Joshua 14:6-15; 15:13-19; 17:3-6; 19:49-50). In this passage, Caleb reminded Joshua that Moses promised Caleb would be given an inheritance of his own (Deuteronomy 1:36). In that exchange between Caleb and Joshua, Caleb insisted that even though he was now 85 years old, he was still strong enough to defeat the Anakim—a formidable group who still lived in the land he would inherit. Caleb said the Lord would be with him as he drove out his foes.
Joshua gave the land to Caleb. And the result, apparently, was that Caleb did drive out the Anakim, since all we’re told is that he settled Hebron, and then the land had rest from war (Joshua 14:15).
When we read that the land had rest from war, we know from history that the rest did not last. Still, for the people of Israel, the ability to rest from war even for a little while must have come as a needed, though bittersweet, relief. They had defeated their enemies, but they were never far removed from the cost.
This mention of rest from war at the end of Joshua 14 is a perfect example of how Scripture stirs a hunger in us for a world that is not broken. There will come a day when our world will rest from war. When people will live at peace. When we will be at peace. That day may not be now, but it is coming. As sure as Christ sits at the right hand of God as the Lord of Heaven and Earth, rest will come. The land, and all who live upon it, will rest from war. Forever. Amen.
Written by Russ Ramsey