As we’ve made our way through this series on Joshua 10 & 11 we’ve come across a number of extra-biblical texts that look like ancient war reports. But as we’ve looked deeper we’ve found that they contain some pretty odd features: Continue reading
Over the course of the last few posts we’ve considered a number of aspects of Joshua 10 and 11 that mark them out as not being ordinary history writing. The final feature we’re going to look at is the chapters’ focus on Joshua, the divinely appointed leader of the conquest of Canaan. Continue reading
Annihilation. In the genre of sports journalism it means a group of short-wearing men kicking a leather bag of air through a wooden frame many more times than the opposite group of short-wearing men kicking the same leather bag of air in the opposite direction: Continue reading
In a previous post in the series on Joshua 10 and 11 I pointed out that it’s difficult to reconcile the conquest accounts in Joshua with other parts of scripture. Examples of irreconcilable passages were given, one of them being the first couple of verses of the book of Judges which read:
After the death of Joshua, the Israelites inquired of the LORD, “Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?” The LORD said, “Judah shall go up. I hereby give the land into his hand.” Jdg 1:1–2 (NRSV)
I pointed out that this passage implies that the Israelite conquest of Canaan began only after Joshua died, flatly contradicting most of what we read in the book of Joshua in which he led the campaign.
A few people have taken issue with this interpretation of Judges 1:1. Here’s an example of the sort of pushback I’ve received: Continue reading
No day out to the British Museum is complete without an aimless wander around the Enlightenment Gallery. Artefacts from antiquity fill the shelves, tourists stoop over treasure-filled display cabinets, and books centuries old bare their fading, waxy spines behind glass. The opulent setting transports the weary tourist to the glory days of empire, exploration, and advancement (/waves hands furiously over horrors perpetuated in this era). Continue reading
In Jos 11:4 the northern coalition of Canaanites came to fight the Israelites with “a great army, in number like the sand on the seashore.“1 Now, pretty much no one on earth would take that description at face value. According to a group of researchers at the University of Hawaii2, there are roughly 7.5×10^18 grains of sand on all the beaches of the earth. That’s 75,000,000,000,000,000,000, or, seventy-five quintrillion grains. Even if we restrict ourselves to just the beaches of Canaan, taking that phrase at face value would demand a Canaanite army of billions upon billions. Continue reading
In the previous post we saw how the language of annihilation in Joshua 10 and 11, far from being something unexpected, was actually a common feature across ancient Near Eastern conquest accounts. This time we’re going to look at another feature we noticed a couple of posts ago: the text’s repetition and redundancy in the way it records the Israelite conquest of Canaan. We’ll see how it too is a common feature in ancient conquest accounts. Continue reading
Biblical literature has two dimensions: historical intentionality, in which the author assumes certain shared information with the original readers; and literary intentionality, in which he encodes a message in his text. Authors either address (prophetic and epistolary literature with a present historical thrust) or describe (historical narrative with a past historical thrust) background situations. In both of these cases there are “shared assumptions” between the author and the original readers, information not found in the text, data that they knew but we do not. While semantic research and syntactical analysis can unlock the literary dimension, background study is necessary in order to uncover that deeper level of meaning behind the text as well as within it.Grant R. Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation (Rev. and expanded, 2nd ed.; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 158–159.
In the previous post we looked at some features that we saw were common to both Joshua 10 and 11. We concluded that those features mark the chapters out as being something quite different to ordinary war reports or historical narrative. Instead of military history we found two highly formulaic accounts that follow a definite and distinct pattern. In the next few posts we’ll look at what these features tell us about the genre of these chapters by investigating comparative literature. Continue reading