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The Book of Joshua and Judges

The Deuteronomistic Historian (Joshua-2 Kings)

  • Theory formulated by Martin Noth based on the consistent language, linking speeches (e.g. Joshua 1, 23; 1 Samuel 12; 1 Kings 8:14-61), and summaries (e.g. Joshua 12; Judges 2:11-19; 2 Kings 17).
  • The narrative was shaped by the theological worldview of Deuteronomy and interprets the Assyrian conquest of Israel and the Babylonian conquest of Judah as punishment for covenant disobedience (cf. Deuteronomy 30:19-20).

The Book of Joshua: Introduction

  • Named after the central character.
  • Chiastic structure: A1 entering the land (1:1-5:15), B1 taking the land (5:13-12:24), B2 dividing the land (13:1-21:45), A2 retaining the land (22:1-24:33)
  • Historicity: Traditional Conquest Model (Albright), Peaceful Infiltration (Alt), or Internal Peasant Revolt (Gottwald). See the larger debate between “maximalists” and “minimalists” about the historicity of Israel’s origins narrative.
  • Archaeological data: see Eric H. Cline “1177 BC: The Collapse of Civilizations and the Rise of Ancient Israel and PhilistiaThe Bible and Interpretation.
  • Textual data: full conquest (11:16-23; 12:1-24; 21:43-45) or lengthy battles (11:18) with territory still to be possessed (13:1-7; 18:3; cf. Exodus 23:29-30; Judges 1).

The Ideology of the Text of Joshua

  • Herem or the “ban”: not keeping plunder but devoting everything in the city to destruction as a sacrificial offering. See the Mesha Stele.
  • Yahweh as a warrior (i.e. the Jordan crossing, the commander of Yahweh’s army, the fall of Jericho’s walls).
  • Viewed as divine judgment (Genesis 15:16; Deuteronomy 9:5; Joshua 11:10), just as the Assyria and Babylon were instruments of judgment against Israel and Judah.
  • Exclusive covenant loyalty against adopting cultural and religious practices of the “Other.” Note that Rahab the Canaanite is assimilated into Israel while the Israelite Achan is put under the “ban.”
  • The ethical and theological problem of divinely mandated genocide. Should it be read as “negative revelation” in contrast to ideals of non-violence and social justice in other parts of the biblical canon?

Judges: Introduction

  • Structure: prologue (1:1-2:5), the Judges (2:6-16:31), and the epilogue (17:1-21:25). There is debate whether Judges 5 reflects early oral tradition (cf. Serge Frolov “How Old is the Song of Deborah“).
  • Clan leaders or deliverers who organize an informal militia from the tribes to fight oppressors. Some famous ones are Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson.
  • Cycle of sin, oppression, distress, deliverance, and rest before the pattern repeats.
  • Anticipating the monarchy: “In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 17:6; 21:25). This is exemplified in a horrific story of the Levite’s concubine (19:1-21:25), which also portrays Judah positively (tribe of king David) and Benjamin negatively (tribe of king Saul).


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