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Information on Joshua

Walter E. Rast writes: "New ground was broken in the literary study of Joshua when the German scholar Martin Noth proposed that the book of Joshua was part of a large historical work from Deuteronomy through 2 Kings. Noth termed this work the 'Deuteronomic History,' since he held that its point of view was often identical with that of the book of Deuteronomy. According to a widely accepted interpretation, Deuteronomy was the product of a movement in the latter third of the seventh century B.C. Influenced as this so-called Deuteronomic movement was by the prophets of Israel, the purpose of the great historical work that sprang from it was to trace the downfall of the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel to the people's growing unfaithfulness to the covenant, which finally called forth the divine judgment upon both kingdoms. The Deuteronomistic History was thus very different in style and theology from the J (Jahwist), E (Elohist), and P (Priestly) accounts, which make up the bulk of the Pentateuch. According to most scholars, the Deuteronomistic History was produced by several historians either around the time of Josiah's reform in Judah in the late seventh century B.C. or during the Exile, after 587 B.C." (Harper's Bible Commentary, p. 235)

Peter J. Kearney writes (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 1, pp. 123-124) :

The oldest literary complex is chs. 2-11, excluding principally 8:30-35. It comprises a series of etiologies (2-9; 10:16-39) and battle narratives (10:1-15; 11:1-14) combined into a flowing account by an author called the "Compiler" (Sammler, M. Noth), ca. 900 BC (although Solomon rebuilt Hazor, 1 Kgs 9:15, the memory of its previous abandonment is preserved, 11:11). The etiologies (except ch. 7 and 10:16-39) take place within Benjamin territory and (except, perhaps, 10:16-39) had probably been preserved at Gilgal. Next, the editor (referred to as the Deuteronomist, the D editor, or sometimes simply as D) of the Deuteronomic, or D, History (Jos, Jgs, Sm, Kgs) edited this section and incorporated it into his great historical work. He added ch. 1 as an introduction and probably added 11:21-22 and 14:6-15 to the Compiler's conclusion, forming the sequence: 11:21-23a, 14:6-15, 11:23b. This new conclusion clarified several gaps in the conquest—a point of interest to D, because it is the presence of the Canaanites that will imperil Israelite fidelity to God. This same interest is reflected in 13:2-6, probably also added by D; the conclusion also told of Caleb's reward (14:6-15), another special interest of D (Dt 1:36). He added the list of conquered kings (12), noted the dismissal of the Transjordan tribes (22:1-6), and closed with Joshua's farewell address, again warning about the remaining Canaanites (23). The original D edition included, therefore, 1-12 (except 8:30-35), 13:2-6, 14:6-15, 22:1-6, and 23.

Sometime after the Compiler had composed his narrative of the conquests, another author called the "Editor" (Bearbeiter, M. Noth) composed a document of tribal possessions. It was a geographical survey rather than a narrative, composed principally of a boundary list dating from the early monarchy or premonarchical period, joined with a province list of Judah, dating from the divided monarchy (reflecting a more complex organization than Solomons, 1 Kgs 4:19b). Here the Israelites, not Joshua, distributed the land, and Joshua was among the recipients (19:49-50); this document included chs. 14-21:42 (except 14:6-15; 15:13-19; 17:14-18; and 18:2-10), and also 13:16-21 and 25-27. It now underwent D editing, with a view to its incorporation into the Jos-Kgs history, which had already appeared without it. This second editor, working probably during the Exile, made the survey more like a narrative, in which Joshua allotted the territory. He removed 14:6-15 from its earlier setting (after 11:23a) and complemented it with another Caleb tradition, 15:13-19. He added also 17:14-18 and 18:2-10; all four of these narratives concern the initiative of the Judahite and Josephite tribes in taking possession of their territory. The inclusion of this new material probably accounts for these groups being treated first among the western tribes.

The Transjordan tribes now stand outside the original framework of the survey document, but most likely some eastern territory was in the original. Because of his special interest in these tribes, the editor has placed them in first position, in ch. 13. He has taken what appears to be a single block of territory (perhaps originally "Gad"; Reuben may have already practically vanished), one which does not even appear to contain genuine boundaries; this he divided between Reuben and Gad, then creating a kind of list for half Manasseh. This document (including 13:2-6 from the original edition) was now inserted into the D history by means of 13:1, anticipating 23:1. This procedure brought with it, however, the inconvenience of making the distribution appear to be the final words of Joshua; it also postponed the dismissal of the Transjordan tribes (22:1-6), even though they had already received their territory and the fighting was long since over. This long section was also given its own D conclusion in 21:43-45, constructed largely from earlier material in ch. 23. The large insertion demanded some editing in Dt, which originally spoke of only three asylum cities. Now, because of Jos 20:7-8, Dt 19:8-9 was added. The introduction of the Levitical cities in Jos 21, however, was given no preparatory text in Dt (there can be no doubt that Levitical cities in Jos 21, however, were given no preparatory text in Dt (there can be no doubt that Levitical cities were listed in the original survey document: the Israelites, not Joshua, designate them, 21:3).

The D editing accounts for other small changes throughout Jos, as does the next major stage, the work of the P school. The principal P contributions to the second half of the book are the introduction of Eleazar (14:1; 19:51; 21:1) and Shiloh (cf. 18:1-10), extensive reworking of ch. 21, and the insertion of 22:7-34. A final editor, heir of both the D and P schools, added 8:30-35 and concluded his new edition of the Hexateuch by adding ch. 24.

J. Alberto Soggin writes: "The problem of the authorship of Joshua does not seem to be very different from the problem of the authorship of the Pentateuch, which we have just been considering, with the exception that here there is no tradition about the author. Apart from the untenable Talmudic attribution, Joshua is anonymous. The person of Joshua is only the protagonist of the book. The expression 'until this day' appears often (4.9; 5.9, etc), which is the sign of a later revision; we often have cross-references to the Pentateuch, whose promises are 'fulfilled' in Joshua, especially between Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic passages, 8.30-35 and ch. 24; moreover, the narrative of the conquest is the obvious conclusion not only of the journey through the wilderness after the exodus, but also of the many indications scattered through the Pentateuch. It is thus quite understandable that in the past, as today, from Wellhausen onwards, the book of Joshua has been seen as the logical conclusion of the Pentateuch, which has thus been expanded into a Hexateuch. However, the situation seems more complex because the presence of numerous Dueteronomistic texts, whereas in the Pentateuch, outside Deuteronomy, as we have seen, these are reduced to a very small number. Even for those who do not admite the hypothesis of Dtr, the problem of Joshua when examined thoroughly seems substantially different from that of the Pentateuch. In any case, the final Deuteronomistic revision has not completely concelaed the presence of sources which could be connected closely with the Pentateuchal sources even by those who accept the Deuteronomistic hypothesis. Chapter 2 (leaving aside some of the dialogues, where we have a good deal of Deuteronomistic material); 6.25; 11.13; 15.13-19, 63; 16.10; 17.12f., 14-18; 19.42, some of which has an obvious parallel in Judg. 1 (see §3 below), appear similar to J (and Noth himself accepts the existence of this kind of material which he attirbutes to a 'collector', German Sammler). The non-Deuteronomistic part of ch. 24 is usually attriubted to E, while a few scattered verses, 14.1a; 17.4 and 19.51, seem to belong to P. At all events, the tone of the book is now determined by the Dueteronmistic insertions, chs. 1 and 23, which virtually form the beginning and the end of the book. The second of these chapters is important because it often speaks of divine judgment and of exile, should the people not accept and observe certain obligations towards Yahweh. Here, then, we seem to have the reason why the whole book has been trasmitted." (Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 164-165)

James King West writes: "No less than the books of Torah, the Former Prophets offer a theological approach to history. Their concern is not to report the 'bare facts' of national and international happenings, but to penetrate the meanings of the events and expose their religious significance. It is precisely at this level that the unity inherent in these books is most apparent. Utilizing a variety of older sources, an historian (or historians) of the Deuteronomic school combined the traditions pertaining to several historical eras—Conquest, Amphictyony, United and Divided Monarchies—into a framework consistent with the philosophy set forth in the book of Deuteronomy. Regardless of the unique patterns which characterize the separate books, the basic theological perspective remains unchanged: Israel's fortunes rise or fall depending upon her faithfulness to the covenant with Yahweh. A comparison with Deuteronomy is enough to convince the reader that in style and vocabulary, as well as viewpoint, these books are closely related." (Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 161-162)

Walter E. Rast writes: "The Deuteronomistic History is more interested in interpreting the past than in giving a chronicle of events exactly as they happened. Some of the difficulties of historicity in the book of Joshua are: Joshua's eminent role in chaps. 1-11 and 22-24, but his virtual absence in 12-21, raising the problem of the specific place of this leader in Israel; the highly embellished story of the conquest of Jericho in chaps. 5-6; the frequent use of the formula 'unto this day' in the book (4:9; 5:9; 6:25; 8:29), indicating a later explanation of older material; the mixture of different types of lists in chaps. 13-21; and the contrasting presentations of a swift conquest of the land by Israel in this book as against the more gradual settlement indicated by Judges 1." (Harper's Bible Commentary, p. 236)

John H. Walton writes: "There are two popular misconceptions about the book of Joshua. One is that it is just the story of a courageous and godly person; the ohter, it is a military record of the conquest. Both must be passed over in identifying the reason why the book was written. Regarding the first, the lack of biographical details and a dearth of expressions of approval or disapproval of Joshua's actions suggest that Joshua is not really the focus of the material, though he certainly plays a central role in the events of the book. As to the second, a close examination reveals that there is actually very little given of the details of military strategy and achievement—only the barest sketch of an outline." (A Survey of the Old Testament, p. 167)

J. Alberto Soggin writes: "What is the aim of Dtr? The most adequate answer has recently been given by Perlitt in these terms: 'The authors of hte Deuteronomistic history work were not moved by a passion for writing history but by the need to give a theological explanation of the fall of the two kingdoms.' Beginning from the Babylonian exile (the last date given in II Kings 25.27-30 // Jer. 52.31-34 is that of the pardon given to Jehoiachin about 561 by Evil-Merodach [Amel-Marduk], king of Babylon), the school thus sought to give the people of Israel a series of retrospective historical reasons, beginning from the conquest of Palestine and going down to the exile, to explain how the politcal destruction of the people was the result not of the weakness but of the power of Yahweh. He had warned the people for many centuries through the prophets, exhorting them to conversion. Failure to respond to this appeal had brought divine judgment upon the people, and oracles announcing judgment through the prophets were strictly fulfilled: the north had fallen between 722 and 720 BC (II Kings 17); the south suffered two exiles, one in 597 and the other, which was definitive, in 587. In other words, Dtr recalls this prophetic preaching, if only implicitly, though we also note in it a tendency to give a legalistic aspect to what the prophets had presented as a possibility." (Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 162-163)

Samuel Sandmel writes: "The feeling of the Book of Joshua towards the Canaanites is neither generous nor, by any respectable standards, admirable. It calls to mind the attitudes of the American colonists, especially of those who pressed westward, toward the Indians. The sentiment 'there is no good Injun but a dead Injun' was deeply ingrained in our American mentality. A recognition of this blemish in ourselves may possibly give us some perspective towards evaluating the equally bloodthirsty and equally deplorable, attitude attributed to the immigrant Israelite tribes. The attitude cannot be condoned, but the intent of the biblical authors needs to be understood. They were relating what they believed to be the history of God's people doing God's will. The Canaanites, in their view, had never done anything but oppose God's will. It was the Canaanites' misdeeds that brought about their downfall, for Yahve was punishing them and Israel was Yahve's agent. To Yahve the Canaanites had become justly hateful, and hence Israel must also hate them." (The Hebrew Scriptures, p. 429)

Jay G. Williams writes: "There are many who are angered or upset by the Yahweh of Joshua who turns out to be a rather blood-thirsty and highly biased God. Who could worship a God like this? Surely such questioning is justified if the book is read on a purely historical plane. The story, however, is not just history, but is the retelling of a myth and as such functions in much the same capacity as those many movies in which the good cowboys get the bad Indians. In the world we live in, things don't happen quite that way, for there is too much evil in the best of us and too much good in the worst of us to make any human battle a war between good and evil. Still, we watch the late-late show, not because we believe the story is factually accurate, but because we believe, very deeply believe, that this is the way things ought to be. Not now, but perhaps on the last day, the honest cowboy will root the varmints out." (Understanding the Old Testament, pp. 150-151)

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