Book of Joshua

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The Book of Joshua<ref>According to the Catholic Encyclopedia: "In the Fathers, the book is often called "Jesus Nave". The name dates from the time of Origen, who translated the Hebrew "son of Nun" by uìòs Nauê and insisted upon the Nave as a type of a ship; hence in the name Jesus Nave many of the Fathers see the type of Jesus, the Ship wherin the world is saved." </ref> (Hebrew: Sefer Y'hoshua ספר יהושע) is the sixth book in both the Hebrew Tanakh and the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. This book stands as the first in the Former (or First) Prophets covering the history of Israel from the possession of the Promised Land to the Babylonian Captivity.


[edit] Authorship

Jewish tradition ascribes authorship of the book to Joshua, and consequently places its origin at the time of the supposed Israelite invasion (which biblical chronology places in either the 15th or 13th centuries BC). Some opinions presented in the Talmud state that the book was written by Joshua except for the last verses (24:29-33) which were added by Phinehas the priest; other Classical Rabbinical writers took a different stance (see below).

Certainly, the author presents himself as an eyewitness to the accounts described, occasionally using first person pronouns (for instance, in Joshua 5:1), although Joshua himself is usually described in the third person. Some sections (eg. 5:9, 7:26, 24:29-33), even according to Jewish tradition, could however only have been added after Joshua's death; tradition normally ascribes these sections to Eleazar or Phinehas (Eleazar's son). Also problematic is the frequently used phrase to this day, suggesting a substantial amount of time between the events and the account being written.<ref>Abravanel, Commentary on the Earlier Prophets</ref>

Despite there being a Jewish tradition of authorship, in Christian circles, both Catholic and Protestant, the authorship has been considered dubious since ancient times. Theodoret proposed that it was written by a later author who had access to documents from Joshua's time,<ref>Theodoret, In search of Joshua</ref> while Athanasius argued that the ascription to Joshua was merely indicative of the main hero of the text.<ref>Athanasius, Synopsis of Holy Scripture</ref> Alphonsus Tostat (1613) argued that Solomon was the real author,<ref>Alphonsus Tostat, collected works, 1613 cologne</ref> and Maes (1574) claimed that it might have been Ezra, particularly since he had access to Hebrew archives.<ref>Maes, The Imperial History of Joshua, 1574 Antwerp</ref>

In modern times, religiously conservative Jewish scholars continue to generally adhere to the traditional view, arguing that the book was written by a contemporary of Joshua, and their view has also been adopted by conservative American Protestants. However, with the advent of source criticism, a majority of scholars now reject claims of authorship by Joshua or his contemporaries. There appear to be several story doublets, with seemingly contradictory narratives; in Joshua 3:1 the crossing is set for the next day but in 3:2 there is a period of three days intervening, and in 3:5 the crossing is again delayed by one day; in 11:21 the Anakim are expelled by Joshua, but in 15:13 Caleb is reported as having performed this feat; double and variant explanations are given for the name of Gilgal (compare 5:9, 14:6+ with 15:13+).

Instead of the traditional Jewish view, most modern scholars have suggested a number of alternative and related possibilities, arguing that the Book of Joshua must be regarded as a compilation. An analysis of its contents makes it certain, in the eyes of scholars, that its sources are of the same character as those of the Pentateuch. Despite the Jewish tradition of authorship, the view of modern scholars was also the impression of classical Rabbis, to a certain degree; according to Mak. 11a, the chapter concerning the cities of refuge (Joshua 20) was taken from the Pentateuch. Classical Rabbinical writings refer to Joshua as having been written in the light of the Deuteronomic legislation (Genesis Rashi 6:14).

Scholars now believe that Joshua is a continuation of the JE version of the torah, and thus two of the main spliced-together narrative sources within it - Jahwist (J), and Elohist (E) - or at least deriving from sources from the same schools of thought as these. The Deuteronomist is considered to have detached the Joshua section of this at some later point and embedded it within the Deuteronomic history, making a number of minor edits and framing additions (mainly Joshua 1, 21:43-22:6, and 23). Thus the work would be mainly the work of writers from the 8th and 7th century, but with retouchings from the exilic period.

The form of this modern theory that argues for the sources being J and E, rather than from similar schools, is known as the hexateuch theory, since the first six books would have been the original narrative unit). Although, given their narrative, it is probable that J, E, and P (the Priestly source), continued their narrative as far as the conquest of the land, the books of Ezra and of Nehemiah give no intimation of the existence of a hexateuch. Nevertheless, a number of scholars have argued that Hosea, Amos, and Micah, were aware of a hexateuch-like JE source, due to passages such as Micah 6:5+, Hosea 9:10, 12:4+, and Amos 2:10, 5:25, 7:4.<ref>Jewish Encyclopedia</ref>

[edit] Relationship with the Book of Judges

The presence of certain incidents mentioned by later biblical texts, particularly the Book of Judges, is often considered to drastically conflict with the situation presented by the Book of Joshua. For instance, Jericho, represented in Joshua as completely overthrown and upon the rebuilding of which a solemn curse is invoked, is mentioned as existing at a later date, when it appears as a holy, rather than cursed, city.<ref>compare Joshua 6:2-27, 7:1, with Judges 3:12-30, 2 Samuel 10:5, 2 Kings 2:5, 15, and 1 Chronicles 19:5</ref> While Joshua concludes with a nearly all-out victory, the narrative of Judges begins by portraying Canaan as hardly conquered, with disparate rather than united Israelite tribes. Judges portrays several battles against the Canaanites that could hardly be considered as just minor skirmishes, with several of the tribes often acting against the Canaanites quite independently and without any sort of overarching military plan; in Judges the conquest appears to be a matter that took several decades rather than a brief time under one central leader.

[edit] Contents and structure

The book of Joshua contains a history of the Israelites from the death of Moses to that of Joshua. After Moses' death, Joshua, by virtue of his previous appointment as Moses' successor, receives from God the command to cross the Jordan. In execution of this order Joshua issues the requisite instructions to the stewards of the people for the crossing of the Jordan; and he reminds the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half of Manasseh of their pledge given to Moses to help their brethren.

The book essentially consists of three parts:

  1. The history of the conquest of the land (1-12).
  2. The allotment of the land to the different tribes, with the appointment of cities of refuge, the provision for the Levites (13-22), and the dismissal of the eastern tribes to their homes. This section has been compared to the Domesday Book of the Norman Conquest (though significantly shorter, and not the work of one man; i.e. not comparable in impressiveness).
  3. The farewell addresses of Joshua, with an account of his death (23, 24).
The section concerning the conquest of the land involves
  • Rahab (2). Joshua sends out two spies from Shittim to explore the city of Jericho. They are saved from falling into the hands of the king by the shrewd tactics of Rahab, in return for promising not to attack her when they later invade.
Image:Dore joshua crossing.jpg
Joshua and the Israelites crossing the Jordan
  • The Crossing of the Jordan (1, and 3-4). Having re-iterated the duty to follow the mitzvah, Joshua orders the Israelites to set forth, and they leave Shittim. When they reach the Jordan river, Joshua predicts that the Ark will miraculously cross the Jordan. As soon as the Ark reaches the river, a miracle duly occurs, and the river stops flowing and rapidly dries up, so the priests carrying it halt, allowing the rest of the Israelites to cross as well. In commemoration of the event, Joshua orders two monuments to be erected: one in the river-bed itself; the other on the western bank, at Gilgal (which does not yet have its name), where the Israelites encamp.
  • The Circumcision of the Israelites (5:1-12). The Israelites are circumcised at Gibeath-Haaraloth (translating as hill of foreskins). This is then explained as owing to those being born in the desert as not having been circumcised. The people are therefore circumcised and the area is named Gilgal in memory (Gilgal sounds like Gallothi - I have removed, but is more likely to translate as circle of standing stones).
  • The Captain of the Lord's host (5:13-15). In a somewhat obscure passage, a captain of the host of the LORD arrives, with drawn sword, and orders Joshua to remove his sandals (which he does) as the land he stands upon is holy.
  • The Battle of Jericho (6) - Placing Jericho under siege, the Israelites circle it once a day for six days, and on the seventh make seven circuits, each time loudly blowing horns and shouting. On the final circuit, the walls cave in, and the inhabitants, except Rahab and her family, are slaughtered. A curse is pronounced against rebuilding the city.
  • The First Battle of Ai (7) - Ai is surveyed and pronounced weak, so the Israelite army sends only a small group to attack them but they are defeated, causing Joshua and the people to the verge of despair. But God announces that the people have sinned, as someone has stolen some of the spoils from Jericho which are meant to be for the temple. Consequently the Israelites set out to discover the sinner by casting lots (Urim and Thummim), whittling them down first by tribe (Judah), then clan (Zarhites), then sept (Zabdi), then finally detecting it as Achan. Achan admits having taken a costly Babylonian garment, besides silver and gold, and his confession is verified by the finding of the treasure buried in his tent, so Achan is taken into the valley of Achor, where he is stoned and burned to death. Philosopher Robert Ingersoll describes this encounter in his About the Holy Bible:
Joshua took the City of Jericho. Before the fall of the city he declared that all the spoil taken should be given to the Lord. In spite of this order Achan secreted a garment, some silver and gold. Afterward Joshua tried to take the city of Ai. He failed and many of his soldiers were slain. Joshua sought for the cause of his defeat and he found that Achan had secreted a garment, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold. To this Achan confessed. And thereupon Joshua took Achan, his sons and his daughters, his oxen and his sheep — stoned them all to death and burned their bodies. There is nothing to show that the sons and daughters had committed any crime. Certainly, the oxen and sheep should not have been stoned to death for the crime of their owner. This was the justice, the mercy, of Jehovah! After Joshua had committed this crime, with the help of Jehovah he captured the city of Ai. <ref> About the Holy Bible, Robert Ingersoll. </ref>
  • The Second Battle of Ai (8:1-29) - 30,000 Israelites set an ambush of Ai overnight, and in the morning another Israelite force attack and then feign retreat, drawing the forces of Ai far away from the city. When Joshua raises his lance, the 30,000 men preparing the ambush strike, while Joshua start attacking again, thus surrounding Ai's forces. The entire city is burned and its inhabitants slaughtered, the king of Ai being hung on a tree, and his body being thrown into a pit.
  • The Ritual of Ebal and Gerizim (8:30-35) - Joshua erects an altar on Mount Ebal and makes offerings upon it, and carving into it the law of Moses. The people are arranged into two sections, with one facing Ebal and the other facing Gerizim. They each read the blessings and curses specified in Deuteronomy as appropriate.
  • The Hivite Treaty (9) - The Hivites fool the Israelites into thinking them foreigners, and gain a non-aggression treaty from the Israelites. Even after its detection, the fraud is not abrogated, though the Hivites are punished by being treated as the lowest social class (referred to via the Hebrew idiom "hewers of wood and drawers of water for the altar of Yhwh").
Image:Dore joshua sun.jpg
Joshua commands the sun to stand still in the sky
  • The five kings of the Amorites (10) - Adonizedek, king of Jerusalem, brings about an alliance of the "five kings of the Amorites" (himself, and the kings of Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon), and they besiege the Hivites in Gibeon, whom they perceive as traitors. The Hivites implore Joshua's help, and so he launches a surprise night attack, causing the Amorites to panic and flee as far as Beth-horon. Although a night attack, a poem is quoted from the Book of Jasher, which states that the sun stood still at Gibeon, and the moon in the valley of Ajalon, in order that Joshua could complete the battle. The five kings hide in a cave, but are discovered and trapped there until their army has been completely obliterated, at which point they are then hanged.
  • The battle against Hazor (11:1-20, 23). Jabin, King of Hazor, his army, and those of his vassels, rendezvous at Merom. Joshua, however, executes a swift attack and is able to defeat them. Pursuing them to a great distance, he hamstrings their horses, burns their chariots, captures Hazor, slaughters its inhabitants, and burns it to the ground. Lesser royal residences are also captured and their inhabitants slaughtered, although the cities on the hill remain.
  • The Anakim (11:21-22). The sons of Anak are driven away from the mountains and Hebron by Joshua, somewhat contradicting the accounts later in the Book of Judges which says that it was Caleb who did this.
The section concerning the division of Canaan contains brief narrative portions and long lists of places, interweaving
  • The framing narrative, describing the process by which the land was divided (12:1-6, 13:1-14, 13:21b-22, 13:32-14:3, 15:63, 16:10-17:6, 17:12-18:10, 19:51, and 22:1-9). First a description is given of the domains east of the Jordan which were conquered and given to Reuben, Gad, and Machir (half of Manasseh). After God gives Joshua a gloss concerning the unconquered region, he reminds him about Reuben, Gad, and Machir (half of Manasseh), already having been allocated land by Moses, and about the Levites not being given territory, only cities. The territory is handed out by lot, Judah gaining the first lot, although they fail to drive out the Canaanites living in Jerusalem. Then the house of Joseph gets its territory, Ephraim failing to drive out the Canaanites of Gezer, and it is pointed out that the daughters of Zelophehad, part of the tribe of Manasseh, are also given territory of their own. The house of Joseph is given the mountain region, including the forest, and is told that they will be able to drive out the Canaanites living there despite the presence of iron chariots. The Israelites then assemble at Shiloh, and Joshua sends out a survey team. When the survey is complete, the remaining land is divided amongst the lesser tribes. Finally, the tribes whose lands are east of the Jordan are allowed to go to their lands.
  • The Joshua King List (12:7-24). A list of 31 cities which were conquered and had kings.
  • A description of the boundaries of the Israelite Tribes. The description of the boundaries of Judah (15:1-12) and of Benjamin (18:11-20) is quite distinct from the list of their cities, unlike the descriptions of the borders of the other tribes. The boundaries of Ephraim (16:4-9) and (half of) Manasseh (17:7-11) are unusual in that they also include enclaves in some of the territory of the surrounding tribes, the boundaries of them as a whole are also given (16:1-3). Descriptions of the boundaries of the other tribes are also given - Reuben (13:15-16, 20, 23a), Gad (13:24-27), Machir (half of Manasseh) (13:29-31), Zebulon (10-14), Issachar (22a), Asher (24, and 26b-29a), and Naphtali (19:32-34) - except for those of Levi (who only have cities), Dan, and Simeon, for whom only cities are listed.
  • The lists of cities of the Israelites by tribe. The lists for Judah (15:20-62) and Benjamin (18:21-28) are extremely extensive, leading many to suspect it was originally derived from an administrative document. The lists for the other territorial tribes - Reuben (13:16-21a and 13:23b), Gad (13:24-28), Simeon (19:1-9), Zebulon (19:10-16), Issachar (19:17-23), Asher (19:25-31), Naphtali (19:32-39), Dan (19:40-46) - are each partly mixed with the descriptions of their boundaries, though other parts stand unfettered. The list for the tribe of Levi (21:1-45) is broken into its three clans, and is somewhat more verbose. Conversely, there isn't really a list at all for either Ephraim or Manasseh.
  • The Anakim (14:6-15, and 15:13-14). Caleb reminds Joshua of his loyalty and requests Hebron as his personal portion. The request is granted, and Caleb drives out the sons of Anak which are residing there.
  • The story of Othniel (15:15-19). Caleb marches against Kiriath-sepher, promising to give his daughter, Achsah, in marriage to whoever conquers it. His nephew, Othniel, takes up the challenge and so gains her hand in marriage. Achsah asks for a greater dowry from her father, and so is given the upper and lower pools in addition to the land in the Negev she has already been allocated.
  • The attack on Leshem (19:47-48). The territory of the tribe of Dan is too small for them so they attack Leshem, slaughtering its inhabitants, and refounding it under the name Dan.
  • Joshua's portion (19:49-50). Joshua himself is given Timnah-serah, which he has requested, in the territory of Ephraim.
  • The appointment of cities of refuge (20) also including a brief list naming the cities.
  • The altar of Ed (22:10-34) When they return to their lands, Reuben, Gad, and Machir (half of Manasseh) build a conspicuously large altar. The other tribes take offense at this, since they believe it suggests that they are claiming their altar is the main one, so they prepare for war. However, they first send Phinehas and princes from each of the tribes, to admonish them. Reuben, Gad, and Machir, respond to this by stating that the altar is only a symbol of their loyalty, and not something to be used, so Phinehas and his party are relieved, and abandon their plans for war. The altar is named Ed (which translates as witness) in memory.
The section concerning Joshua's final words involves
  • Joshua's final speech (23-24). Joshua, now old, calls an assembly, and when it meets, he admonishes the people to remain loyal to the Torah of Moses. Joshua then gathers all the tribes together at Shechem, where he admonishes people to remain loyal to the Torah of Moses, recounting certain prior events. Joshua then sets up a large stone beneath a tree, within the holy ground at Shechem, in witness to a promise of the people to be faithful. Joshua then dies, as shortly thereafter does Eleazar. The Bones of Joseph are also buried there by the tree and stone pillar, on a piece of ground that Jacob had purchased for 100 pieces of money.

[edit] Historicity

Excavations of several Canaanite cities have provided contradictory evidence for establishing the historicity of the Book of Joshua. Although early excavations seemed to support the narrative, for example by finding destruction layers in a number of Tells (the archaeological remains) of prominent sites mentioned by the narrative, such as Jericho, the conclusion that such destruction must have been due to Joshua has since been criticised as Bible and Spade - using the Bible to interpret the remains, rather than using the scientific method to see what the remains mean and thus whether they support or deny the Biblical account.

More recent re-assessment of the remains from the era, especially in places such as Jericho, have reversed the earlier conclusions - the destruction layers of various cities date from wildly different times, and thus rather than a unified short military campaign, the remains are more suggestive of a series of isolated disasters/attacks over a period of centuries. In the particular case of Jericho, it was already abandoned during the time of the Israelite conquest - the conquest of Jericho by Israelites would have been the conquest and destruction of an empty ruin. The Tells of Lachish and Hazor were both Canaanite cities in the Late Bronze Age, and between the thirteenth and twelfth centuries BC both cities were destroyed; they were later resettled by Israelites. Ai, on the other hand, appears to have been abandoned during the Early Bronze Age and didn't become reoccupied until well after the 12th century BC. Even if one of these sets of cities was destroyed by an Israelite conquest, the other must have been destroyed at some point that was over a century later or earlier, contradicting the biblical account of a short period in which both sets were destroyed; in addition Ai is a particularly odd name for a town to have before its destruction, since it means ruin; meanwhile in the case of Hazor, a number of Egyptian inscriptions claim that it was destroyed by Seti I (circa 1300 BC) rather than the Israelites themselves.

The time periods involved in the destruction layers of the cities overlap the campaigns of the Sea Peoples (who consistently burnt rich cities to the ground, even if they intended to later settle on the ruins), and the currently unexplained general late Bronze Age collapse of civilisation in the whole eastern Mediterranian; it is far more plausible, from the point of view of an increasing majority of archaeologists, for these causes to have been responsible for the destruction of the cities, rather than an invasion of Israelites lasting only about 20 or so years.<ref>Israel Finkelstein, The Bible Unearthed</ref> In addition, since archaeological remains show a smooth cultural continuity in this period, rather than the destruction of one culture (Canaanite) and replacement by another (Israelite), a growing majority of archaeologists believe that the Israelites were simply an emergent subculture within Canaanite society - i.e. that an Israelite conquest would be a logical nonsense - it would have involved the Canaanites invading themselves, from Canaan.<ref>ibid</ref> From the point of view of Biblical scholars, it is more plausible that the author(s) of Joshua combined a series of independent traditions about battles and destruction of various cities at differing times, in order to create a nationalistic narrative that could dovetail neatly with the tradition of an exodus from Egypt.<ref>Matthew Sturgis, It aint necessarily so</ref>

[edit] The ethical problem of war and genocide

One difficulty in this book arises out of the command given by God to completely exterminate "anything that breathes" in the cities in the land to be inherited. (Deuteronomy 20:16-18)

Liberal theologians see this as an ethically unjustifiable order to commit genocide, which is inconsistent with the overall view in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures of God as a loving, compassionate Creator. They see it as a theological polemic, with the majority of events invented during or after the Babylonian captivity, to encourage faithfulness to the Jewish creed at a time when it was being threatened. For instance, Morton (pp. 324-325) says that Joshua "should be understood as a rite of ancient peoples (Israel among them) whereby within the context of their times, they attempted to please God (or the gods)".

Conservative theologians, who see the book as a historically accurate account written during or soon after the life of Joshua, give one of the following explanations to this problem:

  1. War was an essential part of the history of the Near East in the fifteenth century BCE. Although it is still sinful, some commentators argue that the book shows God using sinful activities in order to accomplish his just purposes. This does not mean that God supports war, simply that he works with humans as they are. [citation needed] These commentators emphasise what they see as the depraved nature of Canaanite society, pointing to archaeological evidence of practices such as child sacrifice (burning the infant victims alive). For instance, Hallam, who takes this view, lists a number of pieces of archaeological evidence to support this thesis: "Just a few steps from this temple was a cemetery, where many jars were found, containing remains of infants who had been sacrificed in this temple . . . Prophets of Baal and Ashtoreth were official murderers of little children." "Another horrible practice was [what] they called `foundation sacrifices.' When a house was to be built, a child would be sacrificed, and its body built into the wall. . . . The worship of Baal, Ashtoreth, and other Canaanite gods consisted in the most extravagant orgies; their temples were centers of vice. . . . Canaanites worshiped, by immoral indulgence, . . . and then, by murdering their first-born children, as a sacrifice to these same gods." However, some of this evidence is disputed, with others arguing that it may have been invented at a later date in order to justify the act of extermination. Also, according to biblical text, God commanded in many cases the slaughter of every child, as well as the adults, of a defeated people.
  2. Christian theologians have tended to emphasise what they see as the progressive nature of revelation in the Bible. As the Bible progresses, God is seen to reveal himself in ways that are fuller, clearer and more accurate, culminating in the ultimate revelation of God in Jesus Christ. God's command through Joshua to take possession of the land by force of arms is viewed in the context of God's command through the second Joshua, Jesus Christ, to bring about his kingdom through the peaceful application of his teaching.

[edit] References and Notes

<references />

[edit] Bibliography

  • Morton, William H. Joshua. The Broadman Bible Commentary, Vol. 2. Ed. Clifton J. Allen, et al. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1970.
  • Halley, Henry H. Halley's Bible Handbook. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1927, 1965.
  • Mazar, Amihai. The Archaeology of the land of the Bible. New York: Doubleday, 1990.

[edit] External links

Online translations of the Book of Joshua:

Related articles:

This entry incorporates text from the public domain Easton's Bible Dictionary, originally published in 1897. This article incorporates text from the 1901–1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, a publication now in the public domain.ast:Xosué zh-min-nan:Iok-su-a-kì bg:Книга на Исус Навиев ca:Llibre de Josuè da:Josvabogen de:Buch Josua et:Joosua raamat es:Libro de Josué eo:Josuo (libro) fa:کتاب یوشع fr:Livre de Josué ko:여호수아 (성경) hr:Jošua (knjiga) id:Yosua it:Libro di Giosuè he:ספר יהושע jv:Yosua nl:Jozua (boek) ja:ヨシュア記 no:Josvas bok pl:Księga Jozuego pt:Livro de Josué ru:Книга Иисуса Навина scn:Giosuè (libbru) fi:Joosuan kirja sv:Josua zh:約書亞記

Book of Joshua

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