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

Date and Place of Composition.

1.

Theories of the composition of Joshua are closely connected with those concerning the history of Israel. Scholars who are sceptical about the historical picture given in the book suppose a late (exilic or after), theologically contrived composition, with few ancient sources if any. Others have postulated ancient sources behind the present form of the book, as a means of connecting it to the events that it purports to relate. Formerly, such sources were sought in the four documents of Pentateuchal source-analysis. The prevailing view in modern scholarship thinks rather in terms of a variety of sources available to a Deuteronomic, or Deuteronomistic, author or authors, who composed the whole history from Joshua to Kings, prefaced by Deuteronomy, in the time of Josiah, or the Exile, or both (Noth 1981; Cross 1973 ).

2.

The Deuteronomic theory has always encountered problems in Joshua. This is because of its strong continuities with story-lines in Exodus–Numbers (as noted in B above). Furthermore, commentators have often felt unable to attribute large parts of the book to the Deuteronomist(s), and find various degrees of Priestly reworking, for example, in the strong Priestly elements in Josh 3–4 . There are signs of a modern trend towards a different view of the composition of the historical books, that postulates the various books' independent growth and editing (Westermann 1993). The present commentary takes such a view. It allows for the preservation of ancient material within a ‘Joshua’ tradition that maintains its special themes and concerns. This explains, for example, the prominence of the ark of the covenant and the centrality of Shiloh, topics which, incidentally, put the book closer to 1 Samuel than to other historical books. It also enables Joshua to be read on its own terms, and not principally typologically, as sometimes happens in the Deuteronomic theory, where Joshua himself becomes a kind of cipher for Josiah. The mediators of the Joshua tradition may well have been the priests at Shiloh. The book of Joshua, in its present form, however, has been carefully shaped theologically. The narrative of the taking of Jericho, for example, is a stylized liturgical composition (see on Josh 5:13–6:27 ).

3.

It is impossible, in my view, to trace the growth of the book into its present shape in any detail. For example, a key Deuteronomic text such as Josh 24 is capable of widely varying dates, and language that can be thought Deuteronomic may be much earlier (Koopmans 1990 ). However, the book was utimately edited together with the other historical books (Judges–Kings) to form a continuous narrative from the occupation of the land to the Exile. The perception of the unity of the whole story may be seen in the tacit designation of Shiloh as the ‘chosen place’ (Josh 9:27 ), in terms recalling Deut 12:5 , and pointing forward to the identification of this ‘place’ with Jerusalem in 1 Kings 8:29; 2 Kings 21:4 . This final stage of the composition probably took place during the Exile in Babylon.

F. Outline

Entry to the Land ( 1:1–5:12 )

Taking the Land ( 5:13–12:24 )

Dividing the Land ( 13:1–21:45 )

Serving YHWH in the Land ( 22:1–24:33 )

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