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Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings

Outline

Major Sections · Chapters

Joshua: Flexible nature of the text

Joshua 5.30–35 is likely a late addition to the book, since it is placed in different parts of the story in different scrolls. A Dead Sea Scroll text places it after the second circumcisions in 5.2. The Septuagint places it after the gathering of kings in 9.2. Josephus, in The Antiquities of the Jews places it after the division of land. R. Ishmael places it at the end of the book. This is concrete evidence that some edits were being made to the text after it was written. In this case, the addition makes sense since it fills in a “hole” in the story—without this passage Deuteronomy 27.3–8 is not fulfilled.

Genocide and the Incomplete Conquest

God wanted his people to be separated from the Canaanites who were in the land. Leviticus 18 says that these people were sexually immoral and defiled the land. Deuteronomy 12 says they sacrificed their children to their gods.

There are two textual difficulties with the conquest of Canaan. First, it is genocidal. Second, it seems like it was not as complete as it was meant to be.

The archaeological record discredits the historicity of Joshua.

Here are a few verses about demonstrating that the conquests were meant to completely eliminate those present in the land:

And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout! For the LORD has given you the city. The city and all that is in it shall be devoted to the LORD for destruction. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live because she hid the messengers we sent. As for you, keep away from the things devoted to destruction, so as not to covet and take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel an object for destruction, bringing trouble upon it. But all silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are sacred to the LORD; they shall go into the treasury of the LORD.” So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpets, they raised a great shout, and the wall fell down flat; so the people charged straight ahead into the city and captured it. Then they devoted to destruction by the edge of the sword all in the city, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys. (Joshua 6.16–21)

When Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city and that the smoke of the city was rising, then they turned back and struck down the men of Ai. And the others came out from the city against them; so they were surrounded by Israelites, some on one side, and some on the other; and Israel struck them down until no one was left who survived or escaped. But the king of Ai was taken alive and brought to Joshua.

When Israel had finished slaughtering all the inhabitants of Ai in the open wilderness where they pursued them, and when all of them to the very last had fallen by the edge of the sword, all Israel returned to Ai, and attacked it with the edge of the sword. The total of those who fell that day, both men and women, was twelve thousand—all the people of Ai. For Joshua did not draw back his hand, with which he stretched out the sword, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai. Only the livestock and the spoil of that city Israel took as their booty, according to the word of the LORD that he had issued to Joshua. So Joshua burned Ai, and made it forever a heap of ruins, as it is to this day. And he hanged the king of Ai on a tree until evening; and at sunset Joshua commanded, and they took his body down from the tree, threw it down at the entrance of the gate of the city, and raised over it a great heap of stones, which stands there to this day. (Joshua 8.21–9)

So Joshua took all that land: the hill country and all the Negeb and all the land of Goshen and the lowland and the Arabah and the hill country of Israel and its lowland, from Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir, as far as Baal-gad in the valley of Lebanon below Mount Hermon. He took all their kings, struck them down, and put them to death. Joshua made war a long time with all those kings. There was not a town that made peace with the Israelites, except the Hivites, the inhabitants of Gibeon; all were taken in battle. For it was the LORD’s doing to harden their hearts so that they would come against Israel in battle, in order that they might be utterly destroyed, and might receive no mercy, but be exterminated, just as the LORD had commanded Moses. (Joshua 11.16–20)

The conquest of the land, however, was not complete. This is difficult to explain, since if God promised something, and God is all-powerful, then how did it not come to pass? There are a few explanations for this reaching as far back as Deuteronomy.

Do not be terrified by them, for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a great and awesome God. The LORD your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you. But the LORD your God will deliver them over to you, throwing them into great confusion until they are destroyed. He will give their kings into your hand, and you will wipe out their names from under heaven. No one will be able to stand up against you; you will destroy them. (Deuteronomy 7.21–4)

Joshua 9 explains how the Gibeonites tricked the Israelites. They made it look like they came from far away, and asked to make a treaty.

So the leaders partook of their provisions, and did not ask direction from the LORD. And Joshua made peace with them, guaranteeing their lives by a treaty; and the leaders of the congregation swore an oath to them. (Joshua 9.14–5)

Joshua then discovers they had been tricked, and summons them, saying:

“Why did you deceive us, saying, ‘We are very far from you,’ while in fact you are living among us? Now therefore you are cursed, and some of you shall always be slaves, hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God.” They answered Joshua, “Because it was told to your servants for a certainty that the LORD your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land, and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land before you; so we were in great fear for our lives because of you, and did this thing. And now we are in your hand: do as it seems good and right in your sight to do to us.” This is what he did for them: he saved them from the Israelites; and they did not kill them. But on that day Joshua made them hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of the LORD, to continue to this day, in the place that he should choose.” (Joshua 9.22–27)

In the second half of Joshua, the tribes are blamed for not driving out the inhabitants:

They did not, however, drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer: so the Canaanites have lived within Ephraim to this day but have been made to do forced labor. (Joshua 16.10)

But the people of Judah could not drive out the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem; so the Jebusites live with the people of Judah in Jerusalem to this day. (Joshua 16.63)

Yet the Manassites could not take possession of those towns; but the Canaanites continued to live in that land. But when the Israelites grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not utterly drive them out. (Joshau 17.12–13)

The tribe of Joseph said, “The hill country is not enough for us; yet all the Canaanites who live in the plain have chariots of iron, both those in Beth-shean and its villages and those in the Valley of Jezreel.” Then Joshua said to the house of Joseph, to Ephraim and Manasseh, “You are indeed a numerous people, and have great power; you shall not have one lot only, but the hill country shall be yours, for though it is a forest, you shall clear it and possess it to its farthest borders; for you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong.” (Joshau 17.16–18)

There remained among the Israelites seven tribes whose inheritance had not yet been apportioned. So Joshua said to the Israelites, “How long will you be slack about going in and taking possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you? (Joshua 18.2–3)

So now I say, I will not drive them out before you; but they shall become adversaries to you, and their gods shall be a snare to you.” (Judges 2.3)

So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel; and he said, “Because this people have transgressed my covenant that I commanded their ancestors, and have not obeyed my voice, I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations that Joshua left when he died.” (Judges 2.20–1)

Now these are the nations that the Lord left to test all those in Israel who had no experience of any war in Canaan (it was only that successive generations of Israelites might know war, to teach those who had no experience of it before): the five lords of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites who lived on Mount Lebanon, from Mount Baal-hermon as far as Lebo-hamath. (Judges 3.1–3)

These statements appear to conflict with other statements in Joshua:

Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to their ancestors that he would give them; and having taken possession of it, they settled there. And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their ancestors; not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.

(Joshua 21.43–45)