The Legends of the Jews— Volume 4: From Joshua to Esther

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Author: Louis Ginzberg

The Servant of Moses

The early history of the first Jewish conqueror (1) in some respects is like the early history of the first Jewish legislator. Moses was rescued from a watery grave, and raised at the court of Egypt. Joshua, in infancy, was swallowed by a whale, and , wonderful to relate, did not perish. At a distant point of the sea-coast the monster spewed him forth unharmed. He was found by compassionate passers-by, and grew up ignorant of his descent. The government appointed him to the office of hangman. As luck would have it, he had to execute his own father. By the law of the land the wife of the dead man fell to the share of his executioner, and Joshua was on the point of adding to parricide another crime equally heinous. He was saved by a miraculous sign. When he approached his mother, milk flowed from her breasts. His suspicions were aroused, and through the inquiries he set a foot regarding his origin, the truth was made manifest. (2)

Later Joshua, who was so ignorant that he was called a fool, became the minister of Moses, and God rewarded his faithful service by making him the successor to Moses. (3) He was designated as such to Moses when, at the bidding of his master, he was carrying on war with the Amalekites. (4) In this campaign God’s care of Joshua was plainly seen. Joshua had condemned a portion of the Amalekites to death by lot, and the heavenly sword picked them out for extermination. (5) Yet there was as great a difference between Moses and Joshua as between the sun and the moon. (6) God did not withdraw His help from Joshua, but He was by no means so close to him as to Moses. This appeared immediately after Moses had passed away. At the moment when the Israelitish leader was setting out on his journey to the great beyond, he summoned his successor and bade him put questions upon all points about which he felt uncertain. Conscious of his own industry and devotion, Joshua replied that he had no questions to ask, seeing that he had carefully studied the teachings of Moses. Straightway he forgot three hundred Halakot, and doubts assailed him concerning seven hundred others. The people threatened Joshua’s life, because he was not able to resolve their difficulties in the law. It was vain to turn to God, for the Torah once revealed was subject to human, not to heavenly, authority. (7) Directly after Moses’ death, God commanded Joshua to go to war, so that the people might forget its grievance against him. (8) But it is false to think that the great conqueror was nothing more than a military hero. When God appeared to him, to give him instructions concerning the war, He found him with the Book of Deuteronomy in his hand, whereupon God called to him: "Be strong and of good courage; the book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth." (9)

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Chicago: Louis Ginzberg, "The Servant of Moses," The Legends of the Jews— Volume 4: From Joshua to Esther, trans. Rodwell, J. M. in The Legends of the Jews—Volume 4: From Joshua to Esther Original Sources, accessed July 1, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=H6JQ8IZDC6C1ZBV.

MLA: Ginzberg, Louis. "The Servant of Moses." The Legends of the Jews— Volume 4: From Joshua to Esther, translted by Rodwell, J. M., in The Legends of the Jews—Volume 4: From Joshua to Esther, Original Sources. 1 Jul. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=H6JQ8IZDC6C1ZBV.

Harvard: Ginzberg, L, 'The Servant of Moses' in The Legends of the Jews— Volume 4: From Joshua to Esther, trans. . cited in , The Legends of the Jews—Volume 4: From Joshua to Esther. Original Sources, retrieved 1 July 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=H6JQ8IZDC6C1ZBV.