Sunday, October 18, 2020

Joshua 3.7-17: Armed

God makes it clear that Joshua is the chosen leader: The LORD said to Joshua, "This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, so that they may know that I will be with you as I was with Moses." (Joshua 3:7) In his series of Bible etchings, Marc Chagall created "Joshua Armed by God" to fall between Moses' blessing over Joshua and crossing the Jordan. 
(Left) Assyrian Archers. c. 700-692 BCE. Southwest Palace, Nineveh. 
(Right) Marc Chagall. Joshua Armed by God. 1956. Etching. 

The title of the print highlights Joshua's attire and weaponry. He wears a semi-conical helmet and textured garment that falls just below his knees. He appears to have wrist-length sleeves on the garment's top. He is barefoot. He holds a knife and wears a scabbard. 

These garments are not unlike those in the relief panel showing Assyrian archers. The helmet shapes are the same as are the textures of the garment. The cross-body belt (perhaps for the scabbard) is also similar. 

Of course, Chagall is working in the mid-20th century, the panel is from more than 2500 years earlier, and the text refers to a still-earlier period. An artist works with the information available, so Chagall appears to have found ancient warriors (there are a variety of relief panels from around ancient Mesopotamia in museums to which Chagall would have had access) and armed Joshua as their equal. 

The fact that Joshua was also accompanied by the presence of God in the form of the Ark was an advantage that all the swords and bows in the world couldn't overcome. 

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