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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

Joshua and History.

The classic view of Joshua is that it narrates the ‘conquest’ of Canaan by the Israelites. Where this is accepted as a broadly historical picture, the event is normally dated to the thirteenth century BCE. Early excavators of Jericho thought they had discovered evidence that verified the story of its capture by Joshua, but subsequent investigations have produced at best a mixed picture (contrast Jericho and Hazor below; 5:13–6:27 and 11:1–23 ). In modern scholarship, a form of the ‘conquest’ model is favoured principally by the so-called Albright school, who think that the destruction patterns at a number of sites is best explained by an Israelite invasion about the time of Joshua (Bright 1981 ). Others have suggested a gradual process of peaceful settlement (Noth 1960 ), or the emergence of ‘Israel’ within the population of Canaan (Gottwald 1979 ). Some even question whether Israel as a separate entity can be discerned at all in the Late Bronze–Early Iron Age archaeological levels (Thompson 1992; Whitelam 1996 ). The issues in this kind of study are complex, and there are no unambiguous data. The view taken in the present commentary is that the the book preserves real memories of Israel's early days in Canaan. The principal general reason is the prominence in the narrative of places that play little part in the periods of the late monarchy, the Exile, and after (Gilgal, Shechem, Shiloh). Furthermore, a close reading of Joshua itself shows that it is not offering a simple conquest model, but rather a mixed picture of success and failure, sudden victory and slow, compromising progress.

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