Homilies on Joshua

Homilies on Joshua

by Origen

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Catholic University of America Press
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Fathers of the Church Series
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5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)

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ISBN: 978-0-8132-0105-4

Chapter One


God gave the name that is above every name" to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. For this "name that is above every name" is Jesus. Because this is the "name that is above every name, at the name of Jesus, every knee is bowed of those in heaven and on earth and beneath the earth." And because this is "the name above every name," for many generations it was given to no one.

Moses wrote the book of Genesis, where we read of Abraham and of those who were begotten by him. As many as possible of these persons were upright, but none deserved to be called Jesus. Abel was not named Jesus, nor the one who "began to call upon the name of the Lord God." Not the one who "pleased God and was translated," whose corpse "was not found"; nor Noah, the one who alone "in his generation" was found righteous before God. Not even Abraham himself, who had received the promises of the covenant, nor Isaac, who was born from him. Not Jacob the supplanter, nor any one of his sons. "Moses was faithful in all of God's house," and yet not even he was called Jesus.

But in the book of Exodus I find the name Jesus for the first time, and I want to consider closely when it was first given.

Scripture says, "Amalek came and was fighting against Israel, and Moses spoke to Jesus in Raphidim." This is the first mention of the name Jesus. Moses said, "Choose mighty men for yourself from among all the sons of Israel, and go out and fight tomorrow with Amalek." Moses acknowledges that he cannot lead the army; he acknowledges that he cannot even gather it, although "he led the people out of the land of Egypt." Therefore he called Jesus and said, "Choose men for yourself and go out." You see whom [Moses] allowed to carry on the war against Amalek.

Thus we first become acquainted with the name Jesus when we see him as the leader of the army; not as one with whom Moses joined his leadership, but the one to whom Moses granted primacy. Moses was not able to choose mighty men. "You," he says, "choose mighty men for yourself from among the sons of Israel." Therefore, when I become acquainted with the name Jesus for the first time, I also immediately see the symbol of a mystery. Indeed, Jesus leads the army.

2. "And it happened that when Moses lifted up his hands, Israel prevailed; but when he put his hands down, Amalek prevailed." So, too, Jesus grows stronger and conquers when Moses raises up his hands. When Moses, however, did not lift up his hands but let them sink downwards, the people were conquered by Amalek. Such people are those to whom Jesus said, "If you believed Moses, you would certainly believe me," and, "Behold, do you seek to kill me, you who do not keep the Law?" Since the Law and the works of the Law are meaningless among those who "seek to establish their own righteousness and are not submissive to the righteousness of God," the hands of Moses were lowered, disbelief prevailed, and the people were conquered.

Nadab, Abihu, and Eleazar are left behind in the camp to judge the people. Jethro, too, is left to judge the people with them. But Jesus is not left behind; he follows Moses into the mountain. The addition of a marvelous word reveals that "he was assisting Moses." How was he assisting him? Not as a follower; not as an inferior; but as a minister and defender.

But why is it that when Jesus is first mentioned, the name of his father is not indicated, even in the second or third time? But when his father, Nun, is mentioned, Jesus is not called Jesus, but Hoshea. For his name is written as Hoshea among the list of those who were sent to spy out the land. It seems to me that possibly for the purpose of his office of spying, he is called Hoshea, not Jesus, and he is named the son of Nun. But when he returns after that work is completed and all the people are terrified, and when he alone encourages the people who stumbled and raises up their despair, then he was named Jesus by Moses. Not the son of Nun, but the one to whom Moses had said, "Lead the army and fight with Amalek."

We see his greatness even more when we consider that, during the transfiguration Moses' face so weakened the vision of the sons of Israel that no one could look at his face, Jesus, however, not only looks directly at his face but even stays inside the tabernacle as a sharer of the mysteries.

3. To what then do all these things lead us? Obviously to this, that the book does not so much indicate to us the deeds of the son of Nun, as it represents for us the mysteries of Jesus my Lord. For he himself is the one who assumes power after the death of Moses; he is the one who leads the army and fights against Amalek. What was foreshadowed there on the mountain by lifted hands was the time when "he attaches [them] to his cross, triumphing over the principalities and powers on it."

Thus Moses is dead; for the Law has ceased, because "the Law and the Prophets extend only up to John." Do you want me to bring forth proofs from the Scriptures that the Law is called Moses? Hear what he says in the Gospel: "They have Moses and the Prophets, let them listen to them." Here, without any doubt, he calls the Law Moses.

Therefore "Moses, the servant of God, is dead"; for the Law is dead, and the legal precepts are now invalid. Or, if what I propose does not hold enough authority for you, follow the authority of the Apostle, who says, "A woman, so long as her husband lives, is bound by the Law; and she will be called an adulteress, if she should be with another man. If her husband dies, however, she is released from the law of the husband and is not an adulteress if she should be with another man." The word "woman" doubtless stands for the soul that was held fast by the Law of Moses, and about which it is said, "so long as her husband lives, she is bound by the Law." But if her husband, doubtless, the Law, has died, he calls her soul, which seems to be bound, "released." Therefore it is necessary for the Law to die so that those who believe in Jesus should not commit the sin of adultery.

4. Thus Jesus, my Lord and Savior, assumed the leadership. If it seems fitting, let us compare the deeds of Moses with the leadership of Jesus.

When Moses led the people out of the land of Egypt, there was no discipline among the people, no ritual order among the priests. They passed through the water of the sea, a salty water with no sweetness at all in it, and "there was for them a wall of water to the right and to the left." We know these are the deeds of Moses when he was the leader.

But when my Lord leads the army, let us see what things were already foreshadowed at that time. "The priests precede, and the ark of the covenant is carried on the shoulders of the priests." Nowhere now is the sea, nowhere does the salty billow roll; but with my Lord Jesus as the leader I come to the Jordan, not in the confusion of flight and not terrified by fear, but with the priests who carry on their necks and shoulders the ark of the covenant of the Lord in which the Law of God and the divine letters are kept. I enter the Jordan, not in furtive silence, but with the sound of trumpets blaring something mystical and divine, so that I may step to the proclamation of the heavenly trumpet. There it was said that "the water was divided into two parts, and one part became a wall on the right, the other on the left." But here "the one who comes to destroy the center wall of the partition makes both one." Indeed, on one side, the water was straight up; but the other side flowed into the sea.

Hence Jesus says, "Prepare food for yourself for the journey." And today, if you are listening, Jesus says to you, "If you will follow me, prepare food for yourself for the journey." For these foods are the works that accompany us like a trusty satchel on the journey to come. Since it is not fitting to read the divine message carelessly and as if in passing, let us consider from what source he orders those who have no provisions to acquire food; for manna used to be their food. But when we have crossed over the banks of the river, "the manna ceases," and so anyone who has not prepared food for himself will not be able to follow Jesus as he enters the land of promise.

But consider what fruit he took first in the land of promise: "At that time," Scripture says, "they first ate the fruits of the region of palms, and they first ate unleavened bread." You see, therefore, that to us who first depart from the way of this world, if we rightly follow Jesus, the first palm of victory is presented, and when "the yeast of malice and wickedness" are rejected "the unleavened bread of integrity and truth" are prepared for us.

Nevertheless, our Jesus sends spies to the king of Jericho, and they are received hospitably by a prostitute. But the prostitute who received the spies sent by Jesus was no longer a prostitute since she received them. Indeed, every one of us was a prostitute in his heart as long as he lived according to the desires and lusts of the flesh. But she received the spies of Jesus, "messengers whom he sent before his face to prepare his way." If any soul receives such messengers in faith, it must not lodge them in low or inferior places, but in lofty and high ones. For we did not receive the Lord Jesus from low and earthly places, but as proceeding from the Father and coming from heaven.

5. But I do not interpret the flax straw in which the spies hid themselves apart from symbols. For flax is used for priestly garments. This means either that a priestly stalk was offered to those who were to have been invited, as the apostle Peter says, "You are a holy people, a priestly kingdom," or else that there was a secret summoning of this people who are "from the nations" hidden in the symbol of the Law, where something is said about priests.

Immediately, therefore, the prostitute came under the wrath of the king of Jericho. Why was this, if not because "the flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh"? Again Scripture says, "The world hates you because it hated me before you." There is therefore a certain king, the enemy of this prostitute, who is "prince of this world." He pursues and wants to seize the spies of Jesus, but he cannot accomplish that, for they make their journey through the mountains. They do not go through low places, nor are they charmed by valleys, but they eagerly pursue the highest hills and mountain peaks. Indeed, our prostitute says, "I have lifted up my eyes to the mountains. From where will help come to me?" "The prince of this world" is not able to ascend to that place, nor can he reach Jesus by the highest road. On the contrary, if, to tempt him, he should place him in the heights, he says, "Cast yourself down," because he always loves low and fallen things. It is among these things that he reigns, it is among these things that he establishes his throne, and among them he would descend into hell.

Moses did not say, "Let the sun stand still." Nor did he command the greatest elements as Jesus did. Jesus says, "Let the sun stand still over Gibeon and the moon over the valley of Aijalon." Scripture adds to this and says, "Never in this way did God listen to a man."

Not at that time only did my Jesus make the sun to stand, but also, and in a much greater way, at his coming. When we wage war against our enemies and "fight against principalities and powers and rulers of these dark things, against the spirits of wickedness in the heavens," "the sun of our righteousness" constantly stands by and never, at any time, deserts us or hastens to go down. For he himself said, "Behold, I am with you for all days." He is not only with us for a doubled day, but "he is with us for all days until the end of the age," until we prevail over our adversaries.

6. But let us also see what it is that Jesus promises to his soldiers. He says, "Every place you have set the soles of your feet will be yours." He had said this to those living at that time concerning the territories of the Canaanites, of the Perizzites, of the Jebusites, and of the rest of the people whose territories they seized as an inheritance after expelling the unworthy inhabitants. But let us consider what is promised to us in these words.

There are certain diabolical races of powerful adversaries against whom we wage a battle and against whom we struggle in this life. However many of these races we set under our feet, however many we conquer in battle, we shall seize their territories, their provinces, and their realms, as Jesus our Lord apportions them to us. For they were once angels; they were glorified in the kingdom of God. Or do we not read that Isaiah says of one of them, "How did Lucifer fall, the one who rose in the morning?" That Lucifer, without a doubt, had a throne in the heavens until he became a fugitive angel. If I should conquer him and set him under my feet, if I should deserve that the Lord Jesus "crush Satan under my feet," I shall deserve as a consequence to receive the place of Lucifer in heaven.

Thus we understand the promise to us from our Lord Jesus that "every place we set the soles of our feet" will be ours. But let us not imagine that we may be able to enter into this inheritance yawning and drowsy, through ease and negligence. The wrath of his own race possesses the angel [Lucifer]. Unless you vanquish this [wrath] in yourself and cut off all violent impulses of anger and rage, you will not be able to claim as an inheritance the place that angel once had. For you will not expel him from the land of promise by your slothfulness. In like manner, some angels incite pride, jealousy, greed, and lust and instigate these evil things. Unless you gain the mastery over their vices in yourself and exterminate them from your land-which now through the grace of baptism has been sanctified-you will not receive the fullness of the promised inheritance.

7. In the time of Moses it was not said, as it is in Jesus' time, that "the land rested from wars." It is certain that also this land of ours, in which we have struggles and endure contests, will be able to rest from battles by the strength of the Lord Jesus alone. Within us, indeed, are all those breeds of vices that continually and incessantly attack the soul. Within us are the Canaanites; within us are the Perizzites; here are the Jebusites. In what way must we exert ourselves, how vigilant must we be or for how long must we persevere, so that when all these breeds of vices have been forced to flee, "our land may rest from wars" at last? It is for this purpose that the prophet urges that we meditate on the Law of the Lord day and night." This continual meditation on the divine word is like some trumpet rousing your souls for battle, so that you do not sleep while the enemy is awake. Since the day is not sufficient for meditation, night is also added.

But what will you do, you who not only sleep at night but also devote the entire day to worldly occupations or carnal delights, and hardly even come to church on appointed days? Indeed, some of you, even when you come, do not come, because you spend time coming for gossip, not for the word of God.

On account of this, the divine word says to you, "Arise, you who sleep, arise from the dead, so that you may take hold of Christ." "Rise from the dead" is said to those who continue in the works of death, persisting in their filthiness and heinous ways that, although they are not evident to human beings, are known to God. Repent of this and turn back to the Lord with your whole heart. Spend time in prayers. Spend time in the Word of God. What good is it if we fast for our sins and then commit them again? What good is it to wash and then wallow again in the mire? Have you fasted for some time? This is just as if you have marched away from Egypt for a while. You have crossed the Red Sea, and you have followed Moses by observing the precepts and commandments of the Law. But now Jesus receives you from Moses and even circumcises you a second time in the place that is called "the hill of foreskins." It is not only the worship of idols that you cast away in the beginning that needs to be circumcised, but greed, which is a more subtle worship of idols, you must circumcise anew.

Therefore Jesus, circumcising the people with a second circumcision, says, "Today I have taken away from you the reproach of Egypt." As long as we sin, as long as the vices of the passions reign in us (even if by forsaking images we may seem to have departed from Egypt), "nevertheless, the reproach of Egypt" has not been taken away from us.


Excerpted from HOMILIES ON JOSHUA Copyright © 2002 by THE CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF AMERICA PRESS. Excerpted by permission.
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