Biblical Stories about the Field of Joshua and their Meanings

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My wife grew up on a kibbutz, an Israeli communal farming settlement, and the name of the kibbutz was Tzora. Kibbutz Tzora was named after the biblical settlement of the tribe of Dan in the same place called Tzora (Judges 13:2). Biblically, this area was on a major North-South route in the Shephela that stretched from the biblical settlements of Beth Shemesh and Lachish. Along this route were major cities such as Beth Shemesh, Tzora, Azekah, Shaarayim, Moresheth Gath, Moresha, lachish, and Bet Guvrin with the valleys of Sorek, Elah, and Lachish. This past February I was guidng my friend Bruce Coble’s group at Tel Beth Shemesh and telling two major Bible stories, one from Judges 13 and the other from 1 Samuel 6, when the Holy Spirit gave me a major download on connecting both stories.

The North-South Route between Beth Shemesh and Lachish is in White. The Shephealh hill country in beige. The Judean Mountains to the East in Orange. The Mediterranean plain in green.
The North-South Route between Beth Shemesh and Lachish is in White. The Shephealh hill country in beige. The Judean Mountains to the East in Orange. The Mediterranean plain in green.

Two Stories One Field

Our two stories take place in a field in the Sorek valley which is in between Beth Shemesh to the East and Tzora to the West. They are basically two large hills with a valley in between them.

We start our story in Judges 13 where the barren wife of Monoah was in the field and an angel of the Lord appeared to her. He promised to miraculously give her a son who was to take a Nazarite vow, observe the restrictions given to Nazarites, and he would deliver the people of Israel from the hand of the Philistines. She returned to her husband Monoah and told him, and he responded by praying that he could also see this same angel.

One day while Monoah’s wife was in the same field, the angel of the Lord appeared to her again and she called for her husband. The angel of the Lord told Monoah of the lifestyle the boy must live. While offering hospitality and food to the angel of the Lord, the angel only asked to make a burnt offering to the Lord. In order to honour the angel, who Monoah then did not yet understand him to be an angel, he asked the angel of the Lord his name. The angel of the Lord responded, “Why do you ask me my name, knowing that it is wonderful.” (v.18). Then Monoah made an altar to the Lord and marvelled as they saw the angel of the Lord go up into heaven with the flames of the sacrifice on the altar. They fell on their faces to the ground in worship.

After this Monoah told his wife that they would surely die for they have seen God. Monoah’s wife responded that if the Lord wanted to kill them, he would have done it already when they were receiving the message about their son’s life, and would not have received their offering. Later, Monoah’s wife gave birth to Samson who became a judge in Israel.

Altar in Sorek Valley Believed to Be Monoah's Altar
Altar in Sorek Valley Believed to Be Monoah’s Altar

The Story of the Ark

Our second story is from 1 Samuel 6. In the chapter’s prior to the chapter six, we see that the ark of the covenant is captured when Eli’s two corrupt sons take the ark from Shiloh into the battle at Afek against the Philistines. They lose the battle, their lives, and the ark because of their wickedness and using the ark as a good luck charm. The ark is taken by the Philistines into the temple of Dagan in Ashdod where the idols are later found decapitated and plagues break out in the Philistine camp. The Philistines decide to put the ark onto two milk cows that were still with young and send it towards Beth Shemesh and the Israelites to see if it was chance or if God brought upon these plagues and put gifts on the ark. The ark came straight towards the city of Beth Shemesh, and the people of Beth Shemesh who were in the wheat fields saw the ark coming and started rejoicing. The ark of the Covenant was then taken off the cart at the “field of Joshua” by a very large stone (v. 14). It was here that the milk cows were taken and slaughtered, and the cart was made into wood for a joyful festival and sacrifice to the Lord. In the end, 70 (according to Josephus Flavius and other commentators) or 50,070 men (according to the direct Hebrew translation) were killed that day because they looked into the ark of the covenant. For the sake of the story, lets go with the 70 men died that day figure.

The Field of Joshua or the Field of Yeshua?

If we take these stories and compare them we can see many similarities, but different outcomes. Both stories took place in the same field, possibly in the same plot of land (field of Joshua). Both stories had miraculous events (milk cows leaving their young to return the ark on their own, a barren woman giving birth). Both stories had sacrifices involved. Last of all, both stories looked into the face of God. However, their differences tell the WHOLE STORY.

Most Christian and Messianic commentators agree that the story of the birth of Samson is a type and shadow of Jesus, and many also agree that the angel of the Lord is a theophany, or a pre-incarnate appearance of Yeshua. You have signs such as a miraculous birth announced by a messanger of the Lord, the angel declaring that his name is wonderful (the same name used for the divine Messiah later in Isaiah 9), Monoah bowed down and worshiped this angel, and last of all Monoah claimed that he had “seen the face of God.”

In the second story, they also looked into the “face of God”, because the glory of God dwelt between the cherubim. Three layers of lenin were used to cover the ark so the people would not accidentally look into it, and the law of the Lord stated to keep at least 1,000 yards away from the ark (Num 4:5-6, 15, 18-20; Josh 3:4). So what happened in Beth Shemesh was an intentional disobedient act from biblical protocol spurn from curiosity to look into the face of God. As a result, 70 men of Beth Shemesh died that day.

The question begs to be asked with both stories looking at the face of God in the field of Joshua, with two strikingly different outcomes. One led to new life with Samson’s birth and the life of Monoah and his wife spared even when they looked into the face of God, and one led to death of seventy very jubilant and curious men of Bet Shemesh. What happened in the field of Joshua?

Protocol

I had always read the story of 1 Samuel 6 with many questions. Why did looking into the ark cause the death of these men? Why was God so harsh? I know these men broke biblical protocol, but they were probably curious, and even hungry to see the glory of the Lord. There were other situations where being jubilant and excited for the things of the Lord, but doing it the wrong way and outside biblical protocol, did not lead to God’s wrath, but instead led to God’s pleasure. 2 Chronicles 30 is one such example where God heard the festivity and prayers of the people even though they celebrated Passover in the wrong month, did it two weeks instead of one, and put the wrong priests in place for the festival. Protocol was truly broken there, but God heard them and their prayers reached heaven (vs. 26-27). So I believe this had to be a deeper situation than just breaking biblical protocol, and God being a super-perfectionist. Especially since it appears that these people in the story of the Ark broke protocol with the right heart in festive jubilee to the Lord. Monoah and his wife also believed they broke protocol and were curious why they were not killed in Judges 13 knowing they saw the face of God and lived.

Aha Moment!!!

I was guiding a tour this past February when I finally had my Aha! moment of divine revelation or Rhema Word from God with the question.

It had to do with the theophany, the pre-incarnate Yeshua, going up in the flames of the fire of the sacrifice Monoah and his wife made for the Lord. There it was! A beautiful picture of the sacrifice of Yeshua. Yeshua, our High Priest, and divine sacrifice. In this story, the messanger, the angel of the Lord, Yeshua Himself, went up into the flames of the sacrifice AS THE SACRIFICE.

Monoah and his wife saw the face of God and lived because they saw the sacrificial Lamb, the divine sacrificed Messiah. Just as those who saw the staff that Moses lifted up in the wilderness and lived, so did Monoah and his wife see the divine sacrifice and were able to see the face of God and live.

The Biblical Protocol to See the Face of God is The Sacrifice of Yeshua!

Those who looked into the ark died, even though they looked with good intentions and godly curiosity (not a bad thing). They did not go through true protocol. This is why there had to be three linen linings, and then in the temple there was a veil. One can only look at the face of God through the sacrifice of Yeshua. All our good intentions, morals, godly curiosity, spirituality, and works mean nothing without Yeshua’s sacrifice. We see the face of God only through the face of Yeshua’s divine sacrifice. That is protocol. Let the stone in Joshua’s field be a reminder that the TRUE PROTOCOL to approach our Father and Our King is only through the sacrifice of Yeshua.

Let’s pray to remove any ways we try to approach God outside the finished work of Yeshua on the cross.