Book of Joshua
It describes the Israelite conquest of Canaan by its eponymous hero and takes place after Moses freed the Hebrews from Egyptian bondage and led them through the wilderness for 40 years. The book ends with Joshua's dividing up the territories between the 12 tribes and his subsequent death.
|“||the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. And the people passed over opposite Jericho. Now the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firmly on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, and all Israel was passing over on dry ground until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan.||”|
Some have considered it one the more troubling books of the Bible due to its apparently unambiguous exhortations to the murder of civilians - for example, after Joshua has put the entire population of Jericho to the sword (Joshua 6:20), God instructs him to 'Do to Ai what you did to Jericho' וְעָשִׂיתָ לָעַי וּלְמַלְכָּהּ כַּאֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתָ לִֽירִיחֹו(Joshua 8:1).
However, one should be careful to distinguish between murder for murder's sake, and being an instrument of God's wrath - the Canaanites at the time were practitioners of child sacrifice and other abominations and God told the children of Israel to wipe them out lest they be corrupted. They failed to carry out his instructions, and corruption away from God was a constant problem in their history.
Overview and Dating
The Book of Joshua describes the leadership of Israel under Joshua, and Israel's expansion in the holy land, taking numerous cities including the complete destruction of Jericho, Ai and Hazor. Joshua continues the invasion of Canaan after they cross over the Jordan into the promised land, shortly after the death of Moses. The book is traditionally ascribed to Joshua himself, around 1400 BC.
Evidence for the dating of the authorship of the Book of Joshua must consist of analysis regarding when the events it describes took place (which will be examined later on), as well as other internal clues. An internal clue that could solve the dating of the Book of Joshua is in Joshua 5:1, which uses the phrase "kings of the Canaanites". This phrase is only duplicated in an extra-biblical source in the corpus of the Amarna Tablets (specifically EA 8, 109), and the dating of the Amarna Letters goes to ca. 1375-1350 BC. This may suggest that the usage of the similar phrase "kings of the Canaanites" in the Book of Joshua and the Amarna Tablets corpus could indicate that both documents were composed in the same time period, precisely the early to mid-14th century BC.
The battle at Jericho is mainly documented in Joshua 6. The Israelite's under Joshua advance their army to the city of Jericho, causing Jericho in response to heavily fortify themselves. God assures the Israelite's that they will defeat Jericho, and commands the Israelite's to encircle the city of Jericho once, every day, for six days straight, and then seven times on the seventh day. The Ark of the Covenant was also encircled around the city of Jericho, whilst horns were being blown throughout the event. Once the final encirclement on the seventh day was complete, a shout was made and the walls of Jericho collapsed, followed by the invasion of Jericho by the army of Joshua. Joshua sent spies ahead to rescue Rahab and her family from amongst the people of Jericho, for she had hid two of Joshua's spies earlier from the king of Jericho in exchange for that the coming Israelite army may spare her and her family when they come to invade the city. Aside from Rahab and her family, the people of Jericho and the city was entirely destroyed, as God has promised the Israelite's, and Rahab went on to live with her family in Israel.
Historicity of Jericho's Conquest
Jericho was found and excavated in the beginning of the 20th century, in modern day Tell es-Sultan. In perfect correlation with the biblical account, the city was completely destroyed in an immediate invasion. The destroyed city of Jericho included collapsed walls and everything that the biblical account described. The first man to date the destruction of Jericho was John Garstang, whom put its destruction at about 1400 BC, paralleling and confirming the chronological placement in history where the destruction of Jericho would be put. Later excavations by Kathleen Kenyon challenged Garstang's dating, and re-placed the destruction at about 1550 BC, which placed doubt on the biblical narrative. The third contribution to the dating of Jericho's destruction was made by the prominent scholar Bryant Wood, whom argued that the destruction of Jericho should be placed back to 1400 BC, in coordination with the initial conclusions of John Garstang. Wood argued this because he believed the pottery at Jericho dates to the LB I, as well as the scarab evidence for dating the sites destruction. In Jericho, several scarabs were found that post-date 1550 BC, including a scarab from the reign of Hatshepsut, a scarab from the reign of Thutmose III, and two from the reign of Amenhotep III, suggesting continuous occupation after 1550 BC. The only aspect of Jericho that seems to contradict a destruction at 1400 BC is the radiocarbon dates derived from Jericho, which place its destruction around 1550 BC. There may exist a problem with radiocarbon dates however, as radiocarbon dates before 1400 BC in Egyptian locations are known to have offsets of about 150 years on average early. Taking the radiometric offset of 150 years into account, and applying a 150-year offset to the 1550 BC radiometric dating of Jericho's destruction, the destruction of Jericho conveniently returns to about 1400 BC, in confirmation that the biblical book of Joshua was penned during the early to mid-14th century BC, few years after the city of Jericho came to its fiery destruction.
- Quotations are to the ESV version.
- Waterhouse, S. Douglas. "Who are the Habiru of the Amarna Letters?." Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 12.1 (2001), p. 35
- Albright, William Foxwell. Amarna Letters from Palestine, Syria, the Philistines and Phoenicia. CUP Archive, 2003, p. 5
- Garstang, John. "The Story of Jericho: Further Light on the Biblical Narrative." The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures 58.4 (1941): 368-372.
- Wright, G. Ernest. "The First Campaign at Tell Balâtah (Shechem)." Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (1956): 9-20.
- Wood, Bryant G. "Did the Israelites conquer Jericho? A new look at the archaeological evidence." The Biblical archaeology review 16.2 (1990): 44-59.
- Garstang and Garstang, The Story of Jericho, p. 126.
- Bietak, Manfred. "Radiocarbon and the date of the Thera eruption." Antiquity 88.339 (2014): 277-282.
- Bietak, Manfred, et al. High and low chronology. Vol. 37. Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2007, p. 2