We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more
Select Bible Use this Lookup to open a specific Bible and passage. Start here to select a Bible.
Make selected Bible the default for Lookup tool.
Book: Ch.V. Select book from A-Z list, enter chapter and verse number, and click "Go."
:
OR
  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result

The Oxford History of the Biblical World An in-depth chaptered work by leading scholars providing a chronological overview of the history of biblical times.

The Conquest Narratives

The literary sources for the biblical account of the conquest of Canaan by twelve tribes under the command of Joshua are embedded in the great work of the Deuteronomic Historian(s) (DH), writing some six hundred years after the event he purports to describe. From the perspective of DH, the conquest of Canaan was a unified, lightning-fast event that swept from east to west—from Ammon and Moab, across the Jordan River to the hill country of central Canaan, and then north to Galilee. It was a conquest of the indigenous “Canaanites” by “outsiders,” namely, the “Israelites,” under the protection and guidance of their deity Yahweh. Although DH's theological perspective is incompatible with modern historiographic methods, he can by ancient standards be considered among the “first historians,” as Baruch Halpern has phrased it, every much a historian of ancient Israel as Herodotus was of ancient Greece.

DH tells a coherent story from entry into the Promised Land to the end of the monarchy. He creates dialogue for his leading characters. At the same time, however, DH makes use of the limited sources available to him. These include a variety of earlier oral traditions and written documents, the only survivals of which are now in the Bible. They range in date and genre from early poetry of the twelfth century, such as Judges 5 , to boundary lists of the seventh century, such as Joshua 15 .

DH sometimes weaves multiple accounts of the same event into his narrative, even when they are at variance or are contradictory. The most obvious example is the prose account of the battle of Kishon (Judg. 4 ), in which two tribes battle the Canaanites. This is followed in the next chapter by the poetic account, the Song of Deborah, in which at least six tribes fight. All scholars agree that the prose account is later and dependent on the poetic version. Nevertheless, perhaps wishing to preserve a variety of traditions, DH chose to present both versions of the same event.

This same concern for sources leads to the tension between the monolithic conquest of Canaan as presented in the book of Joshua and the partial takeover that introduces the book of Judges. In his use of sources DH differs radically from another ancient Israelite historian, the Chronicler, writing more than a century later. The Chronicler has winnowed his sources and constructed a narrative into a unified whole that does not allow for variant or multiple accounts of a single event.

Nevertheless, for all the care that DH lavished on his sources, most of them derive from the period of the monarchy, several centuries later than the purported era of Joshua and the conquest of Canaan. As Nadav Na'aman has observed, many of the conquest narratives were modeled on later battles, such as those of David against the Philistines or the Arameans, or Sennacherib's campaign against Judah. Thus it is extremely difficult for the modern historian to disentangle the many strands of DH's braided narrative, composed as it is from a very particular historiographic perspective, and including invented dialogue and limited sources presumed to be contemporary with the era of conquest but mostly dating much later.

  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result
Oxford University Press

© 2021. All Rights Reserved. Cookie Policy | Privacy Policy | Legal Notice