Now that we have finished reading from the Torah or Pentateuch, we turn now to the first three historical books of the Hebrew Scriptures – Joshua, Judges and Ruth.
There is a deliberate parallelism between the narratives of the crossing of the Jordan and entry into Canaan and the narrative of the Exodus from Egypt. The editor himself calls attention to it (3:7) as we God addresses Joshua "Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know I am with you, as I was with Moses.”
The water miracle that saved the Israelites from the army of Pharaoh is duplicated as the Israelites make ready to enter the Promised Land. Yahweh halts the Jordan just as he dried up the Sea of Reeds; the Ark of Yahweh leads the Israelites as did the pillar of cloud or of fire; Joshua plays the part that Moses played in the Exodus. The parallelism between the events at the beginning and the end of the Exodus produces at the departure from Egypt a water miracle analogous to the water miracles at the crossing of the Jordan.
As the Passion and Resurrection of Christ spiritually renew the events of the Exodus, so Joshua, who gave the events of the Exodus their physical fulfilment, was regarded by some Fathers as an ante-type of Jesus, who has the same name. (Joshua is another form of the name Jesus and means ‘God saves’.)
The Ark of the Covenant plays the part of the presence of God in the midst of the people. God is at the head of an army that takes possession of the land promised by God. This sign of God’s presence in their midst reassures them that God has appointed Joshua as leader to succeed Moses, that God has led them from the desert to the Promised Land, and that God is taking possession of the land for the people.
The two water miracles are proleptic moments in the Hebrew Scriptures that remind us that we too have passed through water in baptism. God has saved us by leading us through the waters of death, the death of Jesus, and by bringing us up out of the waters of death to share the bread of life that awaits us at the table of the Lord. God continues to work in the midst of the people and continues to save.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator