Joshua, Book of

views updated May 08 2018


JOSHUA, BOOK OF , the first book of the Former Prophets, which relates the conquest of *Canaan and its early settlement from the death of *Moses to the death of *Joshua. The Book of Joshua is divided into three main sections: the conquest of the land (chs. 1–12); the division of the land among the tribes and the establishment of cities of refuge for the levites (chs. 13–21); and the final chapters, which include the negotiations with the tribes dwelling east of the Jordan and the covenant at Shechem (chs. 22–24). (See Table: Book of Joshua – Contents.)

1:1–12:24The Conquest of Canaan
1:1–5:12Crossing the Jordan.
5:13–8.35First conquests (Jericho, Ai).
9:1–10:27Success in south-central Canaan.
10:28–43Southern campaign.
11:1–15Northern campaign.
11:16–12:24Summary of conquest.
13:1–21:43Allotment of the land
13:1–6Land still unconquered.
13:7–33Inheritance of Transjordanian tribes.
14:1–19:51Allotment of Canaan.
20:1–9Cities of refuge.
21:1–43Levitical cities.
22:1–34Departure of Transjordanian tribes
23:1–24:33Joshua's last days
23:1–16Joshua's farewell address.
24:1–28Covenant at Shechem.
24:29–31Death and burial of Joshua.
24:32–33Two burial traditions: Joseph's at Shechem, Eleazar's at Gibeah.

the composition of the book

According to talmudic tradition, "Joshua wrote his own book" (bb 14b), although the talmudic sages found it necessary to add the qualification that Joshua's death was recorded by *Eleazar son of Aaron, and the latter's death by his son *Phinehas (bb 15a). No mention of the author is made in the book itself, and the statement that "Joshua wrote these things in a record of divine teaching" (24:26) does not refer to the book in its entirety but only to the last section concerning the covenant. Both the date and the editing of the book are subjects of controversy.

The traditional exegetes (Rashi, 15:14–16; Rashi and David Kimhi, 19:47; Levi b. Gershom, Judg. 1:10) held that most of the book is from the time of Joshua, but mentioned additional details from a later period, which were added in subsequent generations, such as the Danites' wanderings northward (19:37) and the conquest by Caleb and Othniel (15:14–19), who also lived after the time of Joshua (Judg. 1:10–13). Abrabanel rejected this view. According to him the statement "until this day" which recurs throughout the book (Josh. 4:9; 5:9; 7:26; 8:28; 9:27; 13:13; 14:14; 15:63; 16:10) reflects a distinct lapse between the events themselves and their description in the book. An additional important proof, according to him, is provided by the mention of the Book of Jashar (10:13), which is not very early since it contains David's lament over Saul and Jonathan (ii Sam. 1:18). For this reason, Abrabanel held that the author of the book was probably the prophet Samuel; "and if you desire … to agree with the words of the sages, you would have to say that Jeremiah … or Samuel collected these sayings, arranged them in a book, and added to them with God's benevolent aid" (Introduction to commentary to Former Prophets). There are significant differences between the Hebrew and Greek texts of Joshua. Fragments of Joshua have been found at Qumran (see in Ahituv, 28–37). These demonstrate that the text of Joshua was somewhat fluid as late as the Hasmonean period and perhaps even later.

A group of scholars suggest that the Book of Joshua be considered, together with the Five Books of Moses, as part of a six-book literary creation, or Hexateuch. There is no consensus concerning the p, d, e and j sources found in the book (see *Pentateuch). Some scholars hold that not all of the conjectured Pentateuchal sources are represented here. Beatrice Goff thinks that the bulk of the j source for the story of Joshua's conquest of the land has been lost. W. Rudolph denies the existence of the e source in Joshua. A. Alt and M. Noth assume that the first part consists of stories of various origins edited about 900 b.c.e. by one editor, while the second part consists of two separate geopolitical documents, one dating from the end of the period of the Judges, the other from Josiah's time, both of which were combined and edited near the end of the pre-Exilic period. Then during the Babylonian Exile, the Deuteronomist combined these disparate sources and added a historical framework. Finally, some sections were added from the p source, while other small additions were made before the book assumed its present form. For an updated summary of scholarly opinions on Joshua see Auld in Bibliography.

Y. Kaufmann disagrees with all these theories and maintains the unity and antiquity of the Book of Joshua. He is of the opinion that the Book of Joshua correctly reflects the historical events of the conquest and early settlement of Canaan and was written soon after these events took place. The geographical chapters also belong to the period of early conquest; they are partially a realistic description and partly a utopian ideal – a plan that was only partially realized. The current consensus based on extensive excavation of biblical Israel is that the conquest is unhistorical (see *History: Beginning until the Monarchy). As such Kaufmann's views cannot be sustained. Other solutions must be sought for the differing "maps" in the book. The commentary by Ahituv is extremely helpful in identifying the many geographic sites in Joshua.

[Yohanan Aharoni /

S. David Sperling (2nd ed.)]

the content of the book

The Conquest of the Land of *Canaan (chs. 1–12)

The book introduces Joshua as continuing the work of Moses (1:1–9), beginning preparations for crossing the *Jordan, and calling upon the tribes who settled east of the Jordan to participate in the war of conquest (1:10–18). After sending the spies to *Jericho (ch. 2), the crossing of the Jordan is described (chs. 3–4). It is followed by the description of the circumcision of the people at Gibeath ha-Araloth and the Passover festival in *Gilgal (ch. 5). Then stories are told about the miraculous conquest of Jericho (ch. 6) and the destruction of *Ai, after the punishment of *Achan in the valley of Achor (ch. 7; 8:1–29); the construction of the altar on Mt. *Ebal (8:30–35); the covenant with the cities of *Gibeon (Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kiriath-Jearim, ch. 9); the victory over the alliance of the five *Amorite kings of the Judean hills and the lowland (Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, *Lachish, and *Eglon), and their flight from Gibeon, through Beth-Horon, to the valley of Aijalon, Azekah, and Makkedah; the conquest of Makkedah, Libnah, Lachish (despite the help of the king of Gezer), Eglon, and *Debir (ch. 10); and finally the victory at the waters of Merom over the alliance of the northern kings (*Hazor, Madon, Shimron, and Achshaph) and the capture of Hazor (11:1–15). The description of the wars concludes with a summary of the battles, the conquered areas (11:16–12:6), and a listing of the vanquished Canaanite kings.

In this section, the editor wove several battle stories into a geographical and contextual unit in order to depict a single campaign of conquest under Joshua's leadership. It would appear that this is actually a selection of stories about the conquest, as is apparent from the concluding catalog of vanquished Canaanite kings (12:9–24). This list includes the cities mentioned in the stories of the conquest, such as Jericho and Ai; the alliances of southern and northern cities; cities which do not appear in the biblical stories, such as Geder (Gerar?), Hormah, *Arad, and Adullam in the south, *Beth-El, Tappuah, Hepher, Aphek in the Sharon (according to lxx), Tirzah in the central area, and Taanach, *Megiddo, Kedesh, Jokneam, and Dor in the north; and finally the king of Goiim in Gilgal (according to the lxx in Galilee: i.e., king of the region [Heb. galil] of Goiim). There undoubtedly were stories about the conquest of these cities which were not handed down.

Most scholars believe that the stories of the battles originally were related to individual tribes and were only associated with Joshua, and with Israel as a whole, at a later period. Such earlier sources are preserved mainly in Judges 1 and in a few sections in the Book of Joshua, e.g., the conquest of Hebron and Debir which is attributed to Caleb and Othniel (Josh. 15:13–19; 21:12–15), to Judah (Judg. 1:10–11), and finally to Joshua and all of Israel (Josh. 10:36–39). Other cities appearing in the concluding list (ch. 12) were captured, according to Judges (1:16–17, 22–26), by individual tribes: Arad by the Kenites, Hormah by Simeon, and Beth-El by the house of Joseph. Judges 1:4ff. describes a separate campaign launched by Judah against Jerusalem via Bezek and from there to the Judean hills, which concludes with the words "and he drove out the inhabitants of the hill-country; for he could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron" (1:19).

Among the modern scholars, G.E. Wright prefers the tradition in the Book of Joshua because it presents a total viewpoint in comparison with the fragmentary contradictory data of Judges 1; the progress of the conquest is logical both circumstantially and topographically, and archaeological investigations, particularly in the mounds of the plains, have disclosed ruins dating from the 13th century b.c.e., i.e., the period of Joshua. However, it is impossible to deduce from the ruins of a city whether the destruction was accomplished by individual tribes or as part of a unified campaign of conquest. Nor can the ruins be dated with absolute certainty, so that one cannot rule out the possibility that some towns, such as Lachish, continued to exist until the beginning of the 12th century b.c.e. While it is clear that the editor of the Book of Joshua organized the chapters in logical topographical fashion, this does not necessarily indicate that the events themselves occurred in this same order. Other scholars, such as W.F. Albright, associate the stories of the conquest with the various waves of immigration by different tribes; in his opinion archaeological findings prove the basic historicity of the stories. While the date of Jericho's destruction has not been established with certainty, it is clear that its great decline preceded the period of Joshua. A more complicated problem has arisen in the excavation of *Ai (et-Tell); it is clear that a large city existed there in the early Canaanite period and was destroyed about 1,000 years before Joshua's time. Albright assumes that there was a confusion between the stories of Ai and Beth-El (Josh. 8:17; cf. 8:9, 12). A. Vincent conjectures that the men of *Beth-El temporarily defended themselves in the destroyed city of Ai; others doubt the identification of Ai with et-Tell – but all these are tenuous guesses. Only the destruction of Beth-El, Lachish, Eglon (Tell el-Hesi), Debir (Tell Beit Mirsim?), and Hazor can be dated approximately to the 13th century b.c.e.

Various scholars assume that some of the stories in the Book of Joshua are only etiological legends created in order to explain the existence of outstanding objects in the landscape, as is evident in the emphatic reference to the existence of these objects "unto this very day" at the end of each section, e.g., the stones in the midst of the Jordan (4:9), the house of *Rahab in Jericho (6:25), the heap of stones in the valley of *Achor (7:26), the mound of ruins known as Ai (8:2–8), the heap of stones at the conjectured gate of the city (8:29), the inferior condition of the Gibeonites (9:27), and the great stones by the mouth of the cave in Makkedah (10:27). A. Alt and M. Noth view most of these stories as purely etiological legends and believe that only the stories about the wars of Gibeon and the waters of Merom have an historical basis. The Gibeonite war was apparently associated with Joshua, since he became, in the course of time, the central figure in the stories of the conquest, a result of this decisive victory in the center of the country. In the light of archaeological excavations, one cannot doubt the conquest of the southern cities. Libnah, Lachish, Eglon, and Makkedah were neighboring cities on the plain which evidently fell to the families of Judah at the end of the 13th or the beginning of the 12th century b.c.e. Hebron and Debir were conquered at about the same time by the families of Caleb and Kenaz. The battle of the waters of Merom undoubtedly reflects an historical event, but it should be associated only with the tribes of Galilee.

The Division of the Land Among the Tribes and the Establishment of Cities of Refuge and the Cities of the Levites (chs. 13–21)

These chapters constitute the richest collection of geographical source material in the Bible. They include "the remaining land" which was not conquered by the Israelite tribes (13:1–6); a description of the portions of Reuben and Gad, whose lands lay east of the Jordan (13:7–32); and after an introduction (ch. 14), a description of the lands of Judah (ch. 15), Ephraim (ch. 16), and Manasseh (ch. 17), with introductory and closing remarks which pertain exclusively to the households of Joseph (17:1–4; 14–18). The last seven tribes are apportioned their lands by casting lots at Shiloh before the Lord (18:1–10; 19:51): Benjamin (18:11–28), Simeon (19:1–9), Zebulun (19:10–16), Issachar (19:17–23), Asher (19:24–31), Naphtali (19:32–39), and Dan (19:40–48). The catalog ends with an enumeration of the cities of refuge (ch. 20) and of the 48 cities of the Levites, which were given to them as an inheritance by the 12 tribes of Israel (ch. 21).

Most scholars now generally agree that this is a collection of geographical and administrative documents dating from various periods which were gathered together in order to describe the inheritances of the tribes. One can differentiate among the following documents:

a description of the "remaining land" (13:1–6)

The editor made use of the document in order to introduce the subject of the land which is to be inherited and divided among the tribes. In fact, this is a document completing the boundaries of the tribes and describing those regions of the land of Canaan (cf. Num. 34) which "remained" and were not settled by the Israelite tribes, e.g., all the Philistine provinces from the Egyptian border to north of Ekron; the Phoenician-Sidonian coastal area, from Misrephoth (-Maim, or reading Misrephoth-Miyyam) on the west to the Amorite border in the northern area of Lebanon; and all of Lebanon and the valley of the Lebanese from Baal-Gad at the foot of Mount Hermon to the Lebo-Hamath at the northern limit of Canaan (cf. Num. 34:8; Judg. 3:3).

the boundaries of the *tribes

A. Alt distinguished two separate documents, different in type and in date, describing the territories of the tribes, the tribal boundaries, and the lists of towns. The boundary descriptions consist of a series of consecutive border points on the four corners of the tribal territory. M. Noth showed, through a comparison of parallel sections in the documents, that the original document only enumerated the border points, the connecting verbs between points being added at a later period. The list of boundaries includes the following sections: Judah (15:1–12), the house of Joseph (16:1–3), Ephraim (16:5–8), Manasseh (17:7–10), Benjamin (18:12–20), Zebulun (19:10–14), Asher (19:25–29), and Naphtali (19:33–34). The document therefore contains only the boundaries of seven tribes (Ephraim and Manasseh are included in the house of Joseph); the others – Simeon, Issachar, Dan, and the tribes east of the Jordan – are missing. Noth attempted to prove that the lists of towns belonging to Issachar, Reuben, and Gad are the original boundary descriptions in which the connecting verbs are missing; but there would not seem to be any basis for this theory. The descriptions vary in detail; they are more specific in the case of the southern tribes and briefer for the northern tribes. The most detailed description is that of the boundary between Judah and Benjamin in the area of Jebus (= Jerusalem; 15:8; 18:16), which ran south of the city, an integral part of the area of Benjamin.

On the basis of the detailed description of the border in the Jerusalem area, Albright and others hold that the list does not predate the time of David, who captured Jerusalem. Alt surmises that the list predates the monarchy and comprises both the actual situation and the theoretical Israelite claims to territories still held by the Canaanites (similarly to Judg. 1:27–35). S. Mowinckel, on the other hand, claims that one cannot conceive of a union of tribes, which would include both Israel and Judah, in the period of the Judges. None of these hypotheses has taken the connection between the list of tribal boundaries and the borders of the land of Canaan into consideration (Num. 34) – the southern border of Judah is none other than the southern border of Canaan (Josh. 15:2–4; Num. 34:3–5), and as the Jordan is the eastern border of Canaan, it serves as the boundary of the tribes which have no portion east of the Jordan. It therefore seems that the list did not include Judah (its northern boundary is the southern boundary of Benjamin, and its remaining – theoretical – boundaries are the borders of Canaan) and that it originated in the alliance of the six tribes of the hill-country of Ephraim and Galilee (cf. Judg. 1:27–35; 5:14–18; 6:35). These, then, are the tribes of Israel (as opposed to Judah) as they appear at the beginning of the monarchial period. It would seem that these boundaries were established by the league of tribes whose center was Shiloh (18:8; 19:51) and that the original document included detailed descriptions of the boundary points. It was the Judahite editor who shortened them to their present form. Therefore, no chronological and substantive conclusions can be drawn from the more detailed bits of boundary description.

the town lists

Alt was the first to identify the list of the Judean cities in chapter 15 as a list of the 12 regions of the kingdom of Judah. In his opinion the list included the Judahite cities (15:21–62), arranged in geographical groupings in the south, the lowland, the hill region, and the wilderness, together with the district of *Beth-Lehem, which is preserved only in the Septuagint (v. 59), and the towns of Benjamin (18:21–28) and of Dan (19:41–46). In view of the enlarged territory of the kingdom as reflected in this regional list, Alt dated it to the reign of Josiah. Alt's basic assumption has been accepted by many scholars, but with some modifications. F.M. Cross and G.E. Wright are opposed to the inclusion of the towns of Dan in the list; they believe that the list dates from the time of *Jehoshaphat (ii Chron. 17:2) and includes the region of Beth-El, which was conquered in the time of his grandfather, *Abijah (ii Chron. 13:19). However, from the days of Abijah to those of Jehoshaphat territorial changes occurred in the boundaries of Judah and Israel (i Kings 15:17–22). It therefore appears that only the southern group of Benjaminite cities (18:25–28) belongs to the list of the regions of Judah, while the northern group (18:21–24) comprises the towns of Benjamin, which belonged to the kingdom of Israel. In this form, a description of Judah does, in fact, reflect the age of Jehoshaphat or Uzziah rather than that of Josiah. The remainder of the town lists are apparently associated with the regional division of the northern kingdom of Israel as it crystallized from the time of *Solomon (i Kings 4:7–12). The absence of city lists for the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh suggested to Alt that the lists of the cities of the tribes of Galilee are derived from a description of the Assyrian province of *Megiddo, which was formed in the days of *Tiglath-Pileseriii and comprised these regions.

cities of refuge (ch. 20)

The list of the cities of refuge is associated with the ancient law of blood vengeance and the establishment of places of sanctuary for the accidental man-slayer (Deut. 4:41–43; 19:1–13). Three cities of refuge were established east of the Jordan River (Bezer, Ramoth-Gilead, and Golan; cf. Deut. 4:43) and three west of the Jordan (Kedesh, Shechem, and Hebron). The formulation of the law apparently belongs to the conjectured d source with additions from the p document, but there is no evidence for the establishment of these sacred sites during the period of Josiah or the Babylonian Exile. More likely is the view of I. Lohr and Y. Kaufmann that the list is early and belongs to the period of the Judges or of the united kingdom.

The Levite Cities (ch. 21)

The list of the *levitical cities concludes the collection of geographical documents in the Book of Joshua. S. Klein and Albright have shown that the composition of the list indicates that it dates from the united kingdom. Based on the parallel version in i Chronicles 6:39–66, Albright reconstructed an original version consisting of 48 cities – four in each tribe (see Num. 35:1–8; Josh. 21:41). Alt showed that the list consists mainly of cities in the border areas and the Canaanite regions; B. Mazar suggested the identification of them as centers of administration to which levite families from Judah, loyal to the house of David, were appointed "for all the business of the Lord and for the service of the king" (i Chron. 26:30–32). It is thus understandable why the levite families were expelled from their towns in the kingdom of Israel during the reign of Jeroboam and were resettled in Judah by Rehoboam (ii Chron. 11:13–14).

The Concluding Chapters (22–24)

These chapters include the negotiations with the Transjordanian tribes concerning the altar in the region of the Jordan (ch. 22), Joshua's concluding address (ch. 23), the covenant in Shechem (24:1–20), the death of Joshua and of Eleazar the Priest, and the transfer of Joseph's bones and their burial in Shechem (24:29–33).

Construction of the Altar in the Region of the Jordan

The introduction (22:1–8), which evidently belongs mainly to the supposed d source, associates the construction of the altar with the period of the return of the Transjordanian tribes from the wars of conquest in the land of Canaan. The story itself (22:9–34) belongs mainly to the p source. The Transjordanian tribes – apparently, at first only Reuben and Gad (22:25, 33, 34) – build an altar "in the forefront of the land of Canaan, in the region about the Jordan, on the side that pertains to the children of Israel" (22:11). This arouses the suspicions of the Israelites gathered at Shiloh who consequently send a delegation to Gilead. In response, the Transjordanian tribes state that it is not their intent to rebel against the Lord, but rather that the altar was constructed as a witness to the tie between them and the remaining tribes; they feared that future generations should say that they had no part in the worship of the Lord since they did not dwell in the land of Canaan. There is hardly a basis for the theory that this is a later tradition which belongs to the period of the unification of the cult. It refers rather to the fear of the Transjordanian tribes, who live outside the land of Canaan (Num. 34), and to the boundaries of the tribes (see above).

joshua's final address and the signing of the convenant in shechem

Most scholars see a redundancy in chapters 23–24; they associate chapter 23 with the d source and the Shechem covenant (ch. 24) with an earlier source (according to some, the e document). Alt and Noth hold that the covenant of Shechem was connected from the beginning with the historical figure of Joshua, through whom the Sinai covenant was extended to include the tribes who lived in Canaan and had not originally participated in it. The covenant of Shechem is the appropriate conclusion to the Book of Joshua and the zenith of Joshua's accomplishments. It is therefore possible to assume, according to Alt, that "the victor in battle against the Canaanites, and the judge of disputes among the tribes, is also the man who, in the dawn of Israel's existence, set it upon the firm foundation of its history by uniting it about a new sanctuary of the Lord in the heart of the land."

[Yohanan Aharoni]


commentaries: H.W. Hertzberg (Ger., 19592); G.A. Cooke (Eng., 1913); M. Noth (Ger., 19532); R.P. Fourmond and J. Steinmann (Fr., 1960); J.J. de Vault (Eng., 1960); Y. Kaufmann (Heb., 1964); general: O. Eissfeldt, The Old Testament, an Introduction (1965), 248–57 (incl. bibl.); em, 3 (1965), 543–63 (incl. bibl.); J. Garstang, Joshua, Judges (1931); C. Rabin et al. (eds.), Iyyunim be-Sefer Yehoshu'a (1960); special treatments: Alt, Kl Schr. 1 (1953), 176–202; Y. Kaufmann, The Biblical Account of the Conquest of Palestine (1953); K. Moehlenbrink, in: zaw, 56 (1938), 238–68; S. Mowinckel, Zur Frage nach dokumentarischen Quellen in Joshua xiiixix (1946); Noth, in: F. Noetscher Festschrift (1950), 152–67; Dornseiff, in: zdmg, 93 (1939), 296–305; Goff, in: jbl, 53 (1934), 241–9; Wright, in: jnes, 5 (1946), 105–14; Mendenhall, in: ba, 25 (1962), 66–86; Aharoni, Land, 73–83, 174–239. add. bibliography: R. Boling, in abd, 3, 1002–15; A.G. Auld, in: dbi, 1:625–32 (history of interpretation with extensive bibliography); W. Koopmans, Joshua 24 as Poetic Narrative (1990); S. Ahituv, Joshua (1995); M. Anbar, Joshua and the Covenant at Shechem (1999).

Joshua, Book of

views updated May 23 2018


The first book of the Bible after the Pentateuch; it stands at the beginning of the collection that the classical division of the Hebrew Bible calls the Earlier Prophets (see prophetic books of the old testament). It is named after the man who figures most prominently in its pages. The overriding theme of the book, namely, the idea that the land of Canaan had been won by the Israelites

ultimately because of Yahweh's promise to the Patriarchs and His special help to Joshua, determined its structure and its literary forms. The theme of conquest by Yahweh's will and power also points to the period of the 13th12th centuries b.c. as the time during which the traditions that make up the material of the book began to form.

Structure. The Book of Joshua falls naturally into three parts. Chapters 112 are concerned with the conquest of Canaan, and ch. 1321 with the partitioning of the land among the Israelite tribes, while ch. 2224 contain certain supplements. Although the differences that set off these three sections are such as to suggest that they were at one time independent literary units, a final editor has connected them into a further unity that must be read as a whole. The following summary of the three parts will provide a concise view of the content of the whole book.

First Part (ch. 112). Chapter 1 introduces the theme of conquest by linking Joshua to Moses and by describing the Israelite tribes in Transjordan on the verge of attempting entry into Canaan. Chapter 2 shows the scouts sent by Joshua gathering information about the land around Jericho to assess its strength and weakness, so that plans may be laid for an attack in that area as soon as the crossing of the Jordan has been managed. In ch. 3 the crossing of the river is made by the special help of Yahweh, who dries up its waters when the priests who carry the ark wade in. In ch. 4 after memorializing the wonderful event by two sets of 12 stones. Joshua camps at Galgal east of Jericho, where he sets up a third group of 12 stones. Chapter 5 says that, in preparation for the holy war in the offing. Joshua, at Yahweh's command, took care of the matter of circumcision, which the Israelites had neglected during the desert years. The climax of this alert is the celebration of the Passover at Galgal and Joshua's vision of a mysterious captain of the host of Yahweh.

Chapter 6 tells about the capture of jericho as the result of special help from Yahweh through the relentless marching and trumpeting of the priests. In the general destruction of the city the harlot Rahab's house and family are spared because of the help she had given earlier to the Israelite scouts. Chapter 7 tells about the disastrous defeat suffered by the Israelites at ai and accounts for it by pointing to the disobedience of Achan, who had kept part of Jericho's doomed property for himself. When Achan, his family, and all his possessions are destroyed as a punishment for this crime, Ai falls easily to Joshua's strategy (8.129). The high point of this first phase of the conquest that carried the Israelites into central Canaan comes at Mt. Ebal, where a sacrifice is offered and the law is proclaimed in the form of blessings and curses (8.3035).

Chapter 9 is an account of Israel's agreement with the clever Gibeonites, natives who trick Joshua into sparing their lives by pretending to be travelers from a distant land who had heard of the power of Joshua's God and want to join up with God's people. Because this agreement is sealed by oath, it has to be honored even when the trick is discovered. So the Gibeonites are spared, but they are forced to become slaves. Chapter 10 tells of a coalition of five Canaanite chieftains and their defeat by Joshua at gideon. This victory is accomplished, like those at Jericho and Ai, by the special help of Yahweh. Chapter 10 concludes with a description of Joshua's conquests in Canaan's southland. Chapter 11 tells about another coalition, this time among the northern Canaanites, to oppose Joshua's march, and about his victory over them at Hazor and other northern cities. Chapter 12 sums up the whole work of the conquest by listing the kings whose cities had been invaded and taken by Joshua.

Second Part (ch. 1321). These chapters are for the most part a description of the way in which the conquered land was partitioned among the Israelite tribes. This unit of the book contrasts sharply with the first 12 chapters. In the first part of the book, Joshua is in the full vigor of his military power, and all opposition seems to crumble beneath his march. In this second part he is an old man, and a very large part of Canaan remains unconquered.

Chapter 13 tells of the settling of the tribes of reu ben, Gad, and half of Manasseh in Transjordan. In ch. 14 attention is given to the problems of the tribes attempting to settle west of the Jordan, with a special note about Caleb, who had been Joshua's fellow scout in the earlier years when Moses was still leading the Israelites (Nm 14.57). Caleb receives the hilly land around Hebron, which still remains to be taken from the native Anakim. Chapter 15 details the boundaries of judah. Then, after a further note about Caleb's victory over the Anakim at Hebron and about his daughter's successful request for some property of her own, a list of Judean cities is given, which shows the writer's close knowledge of that area. In ch. 1617 the settling of the Joseph tribes, ephraim and the other half of Manasseh, west of the Jordan, is recounted. In ch. 18 the work of conquest is said to be complete, and Joshua sets up headquarters at Shiloh to direct the work of settling the remaining seven Israelite tribes. Land is assigned to the tribes of benjamin, simeon, zebulun, issachar, asher, naphtali, and dan. Chapter 20 lists the cities of asylum, or refuge, throughout Canaan, where a person may find safety if he has committed unintended homicide. Chapter 21 lists the cities allotted to members of the priestly tribe of Levi, who had not received a special territory of their own.

Third Part (ch. 2224). The supplements are among the most important parts of the whole book (their place in the book's general teaching will be considered later). Chapter 22 tells about Joshua's blessing on the members of the Transjordanian Israelite tribes who helped in conquering Canaan west of Jordan. Chapter 23 gives Joshua's final exhortation to his people. Chapter 24 continues this appeal in more detail. At shechem he reviews the salvation history of the Israelites since Abraham, and they renew their covenant with yahweh, who has been the author of these great saving events in their past. The book concludes with a note about Joshua's death and burial and another about the reburial of the bones of Joseph, which had been brought along when the Israelites escaped from Egypt, and a final word about the death and burial of the priest Eleazer.

Literary Forms. The wide variety of the materials that entered into the Book of Joshua points to a variety of literary forms in which that material is cast. The Book of Joshua belongs to the category of historical narrative. But the sense in which it is a history has to be carefully qualified.

Etiological. After ch. 1, which has the form of an introduction to the whole book, the literary form that has been operative in the writing of much of ch. 29 is that of the etiological story. see etiology (in the bible). The etiological story is a special kind of narrative about a person or place. It is not simply a record of what happened at a certain place or to a certain person. It is a narrative built up in such a way as to explain the reason (or cause, α'ιτία) why a place or person has such and such a name, or why certain objects are found in a certain place. The ultimate purpose of the etiological story is, of course, deeper. The etiological story of Adam's being taken from the 'ădāmâ (farm land) in Gn 2.7 is not so much interested in explaining the first man's name as in saying something about his God-given task of working the land. The strictly historical value of the etiological story varies from one such story to the next, depending on the nearness of the storyteller to the event he is describing. In the case of the Book of Joshua there are good reasons for holding that the traditions about Jericho, Ai, Gibeon, etc., began to form at a time not far removed from the actual period of the conquest of Canaan in the 13th12th centuries b.c. The narratives in Jos 4.3, 59, 2024; 5.9;6.2526; 7.26: 8.2829; 9.27 show the characteristics of the etiological story as it appears elsewhere in the Bible. The passage in 4.19 invites the Israelites of a later, more settled period to connect the big stones of the Jordan Valley with Joshua's crossing of the Jordan by the power of Yahweh at a critical point in their earlier history. This function of the story in the text is more important than the information about the actual reason why the stones are there at all.

Epical. The literary form characteristic of ch. 1011 is the epic, or saga, in which the central figure, Joshua, is presented in heroic proportions. The whole work of the conquest is attributed to him in such a way as to put into almost complete obscurity the contributions of any other men. The work of the conquest is presented as coming off without any great difficulty. This triumphalism and the centering of attention so predominantly on Joshua is certainly the result of the hyperbolizing and simplifying tendencies proper to the saga. The battle of Gibeon in ch. 10, where at Joshua's command the sun and moon "stop" while he gains a total victory over the enemy, is perhaps the clearest instance of the epic form in the book. The poetic quality of 10.1213 and the enthusiastic conclusion in 10.14"Never before or since was there a day like this"heightens the impression that the writer is consciously hyperbolizing his hero. If we are dealing here with the epic form, the problem of the so-called miracle of the sun and moon may be an unreal problem. see sun miracles (in the bible). The passage in 10.2843, in its account of the campaign in southern Canaan, shows Joshua moving easily from one triumph to another. The whole thing comes off without a hitch because it is all happening at the command of Yahweh and by His help. This would seem to be the theological point of the epic story in this case. The picture presented in other parts of the book from ch. 13 through 21 shows that Joshua had far from finished the work of conquest. Such a picture points up the epic nature of these narratives in ch. 1011 by way of contrast. In 11.23 it is stated: "Thus Joshua captured the whole country, just as the Lord had foretold to Moses. Joshua gave it to Israel as their heritage, apportioning it among the tribes. And the land enjoyed peace." Yet, a little further on in the book (13.1) God says to Joshua, "Though now you are old and advanced in years, a very large part of the land still remains to be conquered."

Geographical. Chapters 1321 are heavily geographical. These long lists of place names can be boring to the modern reader, although they have not ceased to stimulate and challenge the archeologist and the cartographer. Whether or not one may speak of a special geographical form, it seems that these accounts were not set down merely for the sake of mapping out the story of the conquest and partitioning of Canaan. The repeated mention of these cities serves, like the memorial stones in the Jordan Valley, to remind the Israelites of Yahweh's favor and protection during the critical days when they were struggling to get a firm grip on the land He had promised them. In the more settled period of the Israelite monarchy and during the sad years of exile when the land had been lost, the believing Israelite could reflect on these long lists of cities and recall how dear his land really was. In some ways this section of the book, e.g., in 13.1, counteracts by its realism some of the exaggerations proper to the heroic stories in ch. 212. In other ways, the picture of Israel's possession of Canaan is also exaggerated in ch. 1321. According to 13.17 Yahweh tells Joshua to portion out lands of which some, for instance those in the far north, probably never belonged to the Israelites at any time. These chapters were intended to give the Israelites who would read them not only a picture of what had happened but also a hope for the future that was nourished by the loving recital of the names of these cities. Yahweh had given them the land, so their faith convinced them; it must be a good land, fertile and spacious.

Deuteronomic. The supplementary ch. 2224 that close the Book of Joshua are written in the style of Deuteronomy. The farewell discourse of Joshua in ch. 23 is similar in form to that of Moses in Dt 31.2629. Joshua, in his old age, reviews the history of his people and promises that Yahweh will continue to protect them if they obey Him faithfully. He warns of terrible punishment in the event of disobedience. Characteristic of this discourse form is its tone of serious exhortation. It is addressed to the hearts of its readers and makes its appeal over and over. The plea to "remember" what Yahweh has done in the past and to be aware "today" of what He will do in the future is a part of this style. Chapter 24 duplicates ch. 23 to a large extent. It may well be that ch. 24, with its specific reference to Shechem, is the older of the two accounts of Joshua's farewell address. In ch. 24, too, the style of Deuteronomy can be felt in the review of salvation history, the reminder of Yahweh's faithful love, the exhortation to fear and obey Him, the warning against disobedience. Chapter 24 differs from ch. 23 mainly by being more specific geographically; it places the discourse at Shechem. It also leads more explicitly than ch. 23 to the renewal of the covenant. Chapter 24 is written in the style of Deuteronomy ch. 2930. Because of the detail about Shechem, between Mt. garizim and Mt. Ebal, Jos 24.115 may be an expansion by the deuter onomists of the material in Jos 8.3035, which already speaks of the sacrifice and the renewal of the covenant at those mountains in central Canaan in the early stages of the conquest.

Origin. The ancient Jewish and early Christian tradition that Joshua himself wrote this book has been universally abandoned. In Jos 24.26 the recording of laws in a book of the Law of the Lord is indeed attributed to Joshua, and in 5.1 (in the Hebrew text but not in translations) the writer speaks of "our crossing" the Jordan River; also, the "us" in 5.6 might imply that the writer was there. But these texts, in view of the tendency of the Israelites to identify themselves with the corporate personality of their ancestors, cannot be read as clear indications that Joshua wrote the book. The variety of literary elements that make up its contents shows that it was not written by one author but by many compilers. If Joshua wrote any of it, today it would seem impossible to isolate what he may have written. Rather, a rough history of the compilation of these materials can be sketched over a long period of time from the events that lie at the book's source (c. 1200 b.c.) to the time of the exile (c. 550 b.c.). The frequent repetition of the statement that some situation or other has continued "until this day" (4.9; 5.9;6.25; etc.) heightens the impression that much of the material in this book took written shape long after the events described.

The idea was put forward for a while in recent times that the Book of Joshua formed the sixth book of a hexa teuch and that its contents could be analyzed in the same way as the pentateuch into the four classical documents or traditions (Yahwist, Elohist, Deuteronomist, Priestly). But studies, by M. Noth especially, gave a new direction to this question. He developed the idea that the Book of Joshua belongs, not to the Pentateuch, but to a Deuteronomic corpus of writings running from Deuteronomy through Kings. The analysis of the formation of this book is now commonly made within the larger framework of the whole Deuteronomic corpus. Centering the attention here on the part of this corpus that is the Book of Joshua, the following reconstruction of its formation can be suggested.

Benjaminite traditions preserved at Galgal, along with scattered traditions from other parts of Palestine, were collected and organized in written form by a Judean about 900 b.c. to produce much of what is now in ch. 212. Chapters 1321, which deal with the partitioning of the land, present a geography of Palestine that reflects various periods of Israelite history from David (d. 970 b.c.) to Josia (d. 609 b.c.). The merging of these materials into the actual unit that is ch. 1321 took place about 600 b.c. The Deuteronomist editors who did this work in the process of incorporating the Book of Joshua within the whole Deuteronomic corpus left traces of their editorial activity in ch. 1, which consciously connects the Book of Joshua with Deuteronomy. Also in Jos 8.3035 such traces are to be found in repeated references to the Law and in the writer's concern to link the position of Joshua with that of Moses. Chapter 23 is best read as a Deuteronomist's reworking of the more detailed account in ch. 24.

Doctrine. If the Book of Joshua is a history, it is above all a religious history. Events are narrated in such a way as to make a point. The writer is concerned to present a teaching about Yahweh's action in Israel's life. A summary of this teaching can be given as follows.

The conquest of Canaan was due to Yahweh's power and His special guidance of Joshua, rather than to any purely human effort. Israel's possession of the land was the manifestation of Yahweh's loving fidelity to the Patriarchs, who had received His promise that their children would in fact one day possess this land. Continued possession of the land would depend on Israel's fidelity to Yahweh through obedience to the law of Sinai. Chapter 23 sums up the doctrine of the whole book with a special emphasis on its moral lesson: "If you transgress the covenant of the Lord, your God, which he enjoined on you, and serve other gods and worship them, the anger of the Lord will flare up against you and you will quickly perish from the good land which he has given you" (23.16).

From the standpoint of its doctrine, as well as that of its relevance for the modern world, the Book of Joshua poses some problems that seem far more troublesome than the historical problem raised by the archeology of Jericho and Ai. A major one is the book's attitude toward the wars of extermination that the writer attributes to the command of Yahweh. In what sense did Yahweh will and command the killing of the men, women, and children of Canaan? Joshua's way of waging war was of a piece with the customs of warfare in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Moab, and Europe. Yahweh manifests and accomplishes His will in a wide variety of ways, sometimes through the sinful actions of men in war. According to the Bible's way of speaking, what later theologians call God's permissive will is spoken of in terms of divine commands. Against this background one may understand the "divine commands" underlying Joshua's wars of extermination. Yahweh permitted Joshua's objectively immoral killings in order to accomplish His purpose of punishing the Canaanites for their idolatry, fulfilling His promise to give Canaan to the Israelites, and removing from them some of the danger of idolatrous worship. The author of the book, precisely in order to insist on the fact that these divine purposes were being accomplished in the actions of Joshua, expressed Yahweh's permissive will as divine command. The author neither denied nor affirmed the guilt of Joshua for these massacres; possibly because such a judgment would not have served his purpose in writing the book, possibly because the writer simply did not know what judgment to make. It has been said that know what judgment to make. It has been said that modern men must not too quickly point an accusing finger at Joshua or at the writer of the book that bears his name, since men have developed or allowed to develop ways of making war that have proved far more destructive of human life than anything known in the ancient world. This is true. But it does not remove the problem of the link between Joshua's wars of extermination and the will of God. Perhaps one of the greatest values of the book for the modern world is precisely its function in stimulating thought about this intense modern problem.

Bibliography: Commentaries. f. m. abel, Le Livre de Josué (Bible de Jérusalem 6; 1950). d. baldi, Giosuè (Turin 1952). f. nÖstscher, Das Buch Josue (Echter Bibel: Die Hl. Schrift in deutscher Ubersetzung Würzburg 1947). m. noth, Das Buch Josua (2d ed. Handbuch Zum Alten Testament 1:7; 1953). Articles. p. auvray, Dictionnaire de la Bible, supplement ed. l. pirot, et al. (Paris 1928) 4:113141. j. scharbert, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 5:114546. Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, translated and adapted by l. hartman (New York, 1963) 121822. l. rost and w. werbeck, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 7 v. (3d ed. Tübingen 195765) 3:873874.

[m. strange]


views updated May 08 2018


JOSHUA (Heb. יְהוֹשֻׁעַ; "yhwh is salvation"), son of Nun of the tribe of Ephraim and leader of the Israelites in the conquest and apportionment of the land of Canaan; his name was originally Hosea (Num. 13:8, 16; Deut. 32:44). Joshua, who appears in the Bible as a commander and as *Moses' attendant, led Israel against *Amalek in the battle of Rephidim (Ex. 17:9–14). He accompanied Moses during his ascent and descent of Mt. Sinai (24:13; 32:17–18), and was placed in charge of security at the tent of meeting (33:11). One of the 12 spies sent from Kadesh, Joshua, together with Caleb, opposed the negative report of the other ten (Num. 13:8; 14:6–9). Because of their trust in the Lord, they were the only two privileged to enter Canaan (14:30). Moses appointed Joshua as his successor (27:15–23; Deut. 1:38) with the duty to conquer and apportion the land among the Israelites (Num. 34:17; Deut. 31:7, 14, 23). He himself received Timnath-Serah in the hills of Ephraim as his lot (Josh. 19:50). On his death at the age of 110, he was buried there (ibid. 24:30; cf. Judg. 2:9, as Timnath-Heres). Joshua is portrayed in the Bible as combining the qualities of a military leader and a prophet. His major function lay in the conquest and settlement of Canaan (Deut. 3:21; 31:3–8; Josh. 13:22), but he "was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands upon him" (Num. 27:18–20; Deut. 34:9). Like Moses, he is called "servant of the Lord" (Josh. 24:29), and it is also said of him: "And the Lord spoke unto Joshua saying" (20:1) – the form of address used for Moses. He begins his farewell address to Israel: "Thus says the Lord" (24:2). The event of Mt. Ebal (Josh. 8:30–35; cf. Deut. 27) is a kind of act of prophetic leadership continued from Moses to Joshua. In his parting words of chapter 23 and those at Shechem (24), the Bible attributes to him the character of a prophet-legislator in the style of Moses (24:1–28). (For fuller details see *Joshua, Book of.)

The historical role of Joshua has been variously evaluated. There is a general consensus that the Joshua traditions in the Pentateuch are secondary. He appears to have been inserted into the spy story of Numbers 13–14; Deut. 1:34–7, which in an earlier form included only Caleb. As to his historicity E. Meyer and G. Hoelscher deny his existence as a historical reality and surmise that he is the legendary hero of a Josephite clan. Others, especially Y. Kaufmann, accept the biblical tradition in essence and view him as the historical leader of an alliance of tribes during the conquest of Canaan. Before the extensive archaeological excavations of the recent decades demonstrated that the Bible's account of the conquest of the land are unhistorical, most modern scholars did not doubt his historicity, but suggested that he was the leader of only part of the Israelite conquerors, and that he became a national hero associated with Moses only after the passage of time, when numerous stories and traditions accumulated about him. W.F. Albright, T. Meek, B. Mazar, and others held that Joshua was only the leader of the house of Joseph and that he conquered Jericho, Ai, and Beth-El, and won the battle of Gibeon. In the opinion of Alt and Noth, Joshua won only the battle of Gibeon, and following this victory he became the first judge, consolidating the tribes of Israel around their religious center in Shechem, in the center of the hills of Ephraim (Josh. 24). In the present circumstances it seems best to conclude that if there is a historical person ultimately behind the Joshua legends, he cannot be recovered.

[Yohanan Aharoni /

S. David Sperling (2nd ed.)]

In the Aggadah

Joshua received the Torah from Moses (Avot 1:1). He was worthy to succeed him and to receive the gift of prophecy because of his faithful service to him both by day and night (Num. R. 12:9). That his inspiration was derived from Moses is indicated in the statement "the face of Moses was as the face of the sun, the face of Joshua as the face of the moon" (bb 75a). Joshua was designated as the "first of the conquerors" at the time of the creation of the world (Esth. R., Proem 10). The rabbis solve the moral problem that Joshua had taken by conquest a land which was occupied by another nation by maintaining that it was divinely designated for the children of Israel, and the Canaanites were merely acting as caretakers of the land until their arrival (Sifra 7:9). The identical plea was used by the Spartans to justify their right to Sparta and Messene, namely, that Heracleus conquered Sparta with his own hands and ordered it to be preserved for his descendants (Diodorus 4:33, 5). Before attacking a city Joshua issued an edict wherein was written, "Whosoever desires to go, let him go; and whosoever desires to make peace, let him make peace; and whosoever desires to make war, let him do so. The Girgashites departed, and so were given a land as good as their own … Africa [Carthage]. The Gibeonites made peace. The 31 kings waged war and were defeated" (Deut. R. 5:14; Lev. R. 17:6). Joshua's dedication of the spoils of Jericho to God was done of his own accord, Joshua reasoning that since it was captured on the holy Sabbath, then all that was taken should be holy to the Lord. Moreover, as the first city to be captured, it was to be regarded as the first of the produce, which belongs to God (Tanḥ B., Num. 42; Jos., Ant., 5:26). When the Gibeonites appealed to Joshua to save them (Josh. 10:6), his first thought was that he should not put the congregation to trouble for the sake of these proselytes, but God pointed out that Joshua himself was a descendant of proselytes (Num. R. 8:4), since he was descended from Ephraim, son of Joseph and Asenath, daughter of Poti-Phera. Joshua succeeded where Moses did not. He allotted and apportioned the land and was vouchsafed the wholehearted cooperation of the entire people which Moses had failed to achieve (Tanḥ B., Lev. 23). He was one of the three for whom the sun stood still (Ta'an. 20a). Joshua married *Rahab after she became a proselyte (Meg. 14b).

[Elimelech Epstein Halevy]

In Christianity

The similarity of the names Yehoshua and Yeshua brought about an early identification, in Christian symbolism, of Joshua as a "type" or prefiguration of Jesus. The typology is first mentioned in the Epistle to the Hebrews (4:8–9), where Joshua, who brought the children of Israel to an imperfect rest only, is contrasted with Jesus who brought his believers to the true and perfect rest. Other events of Joshua's life are similarly interpreted as prophetic anticipations of the life of Jesus. Thus Joshua fights with Amalek, the symbol of the Devil, with whom Jesus too must fight, and he leads the Israelites in battle while Moses folds his arms in the "crossed" position. According to the Church Father Irenaeus, Joshua, who leads the people into the Holy Land, succeeds Moses, the symbol of the superseded Law.

In Islam

When the people of Israel refused to enter Ereẓ Israel out of fear of the people of Anak (see Num. 13–14), they were encouraged by two men who feared Allah and who said to them: "Verily, we shall be victorious and upon God do ye rely if ye be believers" (Sura 5:23–26). The commentators explain that these two were Yūshaʿ (Joshua) ibn Nūn and Kalāb (Caleb) ibn Yūfannā (Jephunneh). Ṭabarī (Taʾrīkh, p. 306) mentions that there were divergences of opinion among the earlier authorities (cf. Kisāʾī, 240) as to whether the conquest of Jericho occurred during the lifetime of Moses, and that Joshua commanded the vanguard of the army in this campaign, or whether it occurred after the death of Moses, solely at the hands of Joshua. Ṭabarī (Taʾrīkh, p. 311), however, was familiar with the order of the events of the conquest as they are described in the Bible: Joshua conquered more than 30 towns (cf. Josh. 12). In the traditions of Ṭabarī (Taʾrīkh, p. 312) the tale of Joshua is connected with that of the Amalekites who were driven out of *Yemen by Shamīr, the first of the *Ḥimyar kings and the same person who was at first the viceroy of the king of Persia in Yemen. The remnants of the Canaanites, who remained after the wars of Joshua, headed by Ifrīqis, a descendant of the Ḥimyarite kings, went to Africa – which they conquered – put its king Jarjīr (or Jarjaṣ – the Girgasite) to death and settled there; these people are the *Berbers. Ibn Khaldūn, the celebrated Arabic-Maghribi historian (late 14th–early 15th century), objected to this genealogy. These confused legends are an echo of the tale of Procopius (sixth century c.e.), and of the Jewish legends – which go back to the period of the tannaim – on the expulsion of the Canaanites by "Joshua the Robber" to Africa, or their voluntary departure. They later appear in Arabic literature as the expulsion of the Philistines from Canaan and are connected with the Jālūt (see *Goliath).

[Haïm Z'ew Hirschberg]

In the Arts

Among writers, artists, and musicians the siege and capture of Jericho was the most popular episode in Joshua's career. In literature, Joshua drew little attention during the Middle Ages. One of the earliest works on the subject was a late Elizabethan play by the English writer S. Rowley, whose Joshua – though the text has not survived – is known to have been staged in 1602. The theme became more popular in the 18th century, with works beginning with García Aznar Vélez's Spanish drama El sol obediente al hombre (Seville, 1720?2). Thomas Morell's Joshua. A Sacred Drama (1748), enhanced by the music of Handel, was one of the oratorios on Old Testament themes which appealed to the patriotism of a British public unable to see biblical plays on the stage because of rigid censorship. There were also strong patriotic undertones to The Conquest of Canaan (1785), an epic poem by the theocratic U.S. writer and preacher Timothy Dwight. Dwight, one of the leading "Connecticut wits," injected references to the American War of Independence into his allegorical account of the Israelite The Battles of Joshua (1843), an anonymous American ballad – generally attributed to Samuel B.H. *Judah – portraying the Israelite leader as a cruel invader. Works on the subject by two other 19th-century Jewish writers were less controversial: Yehoshu'a; Sar Ẓeva'ot Yisrael (1853), a Hebrew epic in ten cantos by Benjamin Kewall (1806–1880), and Joshua (1890; Joshua: A Story of Biblical Times, 1890) by the German Egyptologist Georg Moritz *Ebers, who was raised as a Christian. The subject has retained its popularity in the 20th century, and a three-act drama Rahab by the U.S. literary critic Richard Burton appeared in 1906. Another work of the same period was "Josuas Landtag" (composed 1906), a poem by the Prague-born Austrian writer Rainer Maria Rilke. Other works on the theme by modern writers include Tadeusz Breza's Polish novel, Mury Jerycha ("The Walls of Jericho," 1946); The Seven Days of Jericho (1944), a poem by Patrick Dickinson; a drama, Das rote Seil (1952), by the Swiss-German writer Gerhard Wipf; and Frank G. Slaughter's The Scarlet Cord: a Novel of the Woman of Jericho (1956). Among treatments by Jewish authors are Saul Saphire's Yiddish novel, Moyshe Rabeynes Nakhfolger, Yehoshue (1935), and Israel Isaac Taslitt's At the Walls of Jericho (1961). There have also been several works for Jewish children, such as Shlomo Skulsky's Aggadot Yehoshu'abin Nun (1958; Legends of Joshua, 1961).

In art, Joshua was regarded as the type of Jesus (Yehoshu'ah = Yeshu'a), both because of his name and because of the symbolic meaning attached to his actions. The crossing of the Jordan, like the crossing of the Red Sea, was regarded as foreshadowing the baptism of Jesus and was therefore represented on baptismal fonts. Joshua also owed much of his popularity in the medieval Christian world to the miracle he performed in arresting the course of the sun in the heavens (Josh. 10:12). He was regarded as one of the Nine Worthies, and was represented in this role in sculpture, painting, and tapestries. The cycles of episodes drawn from the Book of Joshua comprise the fourth-century mosaics from the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome; the tenth-century Greek Joshua Roll (Vatican Library); the bronze doors by Ghiberti for the Baptistery at Florence; and a series of 16th-century Brussels tapestries (Vienna Museum). In the mosaics of Santa Maria Maggiore, the scene of the crossing of the Jordan is based on the triumph over the fall of Jerusalem from the Arch of Titus. There is a statue of Joshua by Donatello at the Campanile, Florence, and scenes from his life are found in Byzantine and western manuscripts, including the 12th-century Admont Bible (British Museum); the 13th-century St. Louis Psalter (Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris), in which the priests are shown wearing the pointed hats of medieval Jewry; the 14th-century Queen Mary Psalter (British Museum); and the 16th-century Hours of Henry ii (Bibliothèque Nationale). Similar scenes are also found in medieval frescoes and sculpture. Among other notable representations are an illustration of the fall of Jericho by Jean Fouquet (1415–1480) in his famous manuscript of Josephus (Bibliothèque Nationale); frescoes by the school of Raphael in the loggie of the Vatican; and a painting by Tiepolo (1696–1770; Poldi-Pezzoli Museum, Milan) showing Joshua arresting the course of the sun, a subject also treated by Italian artists of the 17th century.

in music

Joshua has also inspired a comparatively large number of compositions. The sudden appearance of several oratorios on the subject – mainly about the fall of Jericho – beginning with G.M. Bononcini's Il Giosuè (1688) is no doubt directly linked with political events of the time, particularly the victories of Charles of Lorraine over the Turks at Mohács, and of Prince Eugene of Savoy and the Duke of Marlborough. Some early 18th-century works of note are M.-A. Charpentier's Josué (c. 1700); the oratorio-pasticcio I trionfi di Giosuè (1703), jointly written in Florence by more than ten composers (including Veracini and Bononcini); and other oratorios by Veracini (c. 1715), Logroscino (1743), and Hasse (1743). Handel's oratorio Joshua has been mentioned above. The subject was taken up by some relatively undistinguished composers in France. The only noteworthy – or notorious – example there is of slightly later date, La Prise de Jéricho, an opera put together from various sources (chiefly Mozart) by Lachnith and Kalkbrenner (1805). Of the very few works on the subject written during the 19th century only Moussorgsky's retains significance. His Jesus Navin ("Joshua, the Son of Nun"), for baritone, alto, mixed choir, and piano, is based on melodies which he heard from Jewish neighbors in St. Petersburg in about 1864. Moussorgsky first utilized some of the material in 1866 for the "Chorus of the Libyan Warriors" in his projected opera Salammbô. Between 1874 and 1877 he reworked and completed it as a choral scene on the battle of Gibeon, adapting the text himself from the Bible. The work was first performed and published in 1883 by Rimsky-Korsakov, who had arranged the piano accompaniment for orchestra. The opening theme of the main chorus, "Thus saith the Lord of Hosts," is engraved on Moussorgsky's tombstone. It was translated into Hebrew by Saul *Tchernichovsky for the Lider-Zamlbuch (1911) published by Z. Kisselgov, A. Zhitomirski, and P. Lwow for the *Society for Jewish Folk Music.

Later works about Joshua include C. Franckenstein's opera Rahab (première in Hamburg, 1911), Franz Waxman's oratorio Joshua (première in Dallas, 1959), and Ben-Zion *Orgad's The Story of the Spies for chorus and orchestra (1953). The Afro-American spiritual "Joshua fit de battle of Jericho" is among the most famous of its type.

[Bathja Bayer]


in the bible: A.Moehlenbrink, in: zaw, 59 (1943), 14–58; T.J. Meek, Hebrew Origins (19502), 1–48. For further bibliography see Book of *Joshua. in the aggadah: Ginzberg, Legends, 4 (19475), 3–17; 6 (19463), 169–80; A.A. Halevi, Sha'arei ha-Aggadah (1963), 68–70, 109–11. in christianity: J. Daniélou, Sacramentum Futuri (1950), 203–17; Dictionnaire de théologie catholique (1925). in islam: Ṭabarī, Tafsīr, 10 (1327 a.h.), 112–4; Ṭabarī, Taʾrīkh, 1 (1357 a.h.), 306–12; ʿUmāra ibn Wathīma, Qiṣaṣ Vatican Library, Borgia Ms. 165; Thaʿlabi, Qiṣaṣ (1356 a.h.), 202–4, 207–11; Kisāʾī, Qiṣaṣ, ed. by I. Eisenberg (1922), 240–3; Ibn Khaldūn ʿAbd al Raḥsmān, The Muqaddimah trans. by F. Rosenthal (1958), index s.v.Berber; 3 vols.; Hirschberg, Afrikah, 1 (1965), 23–25, bibl. 337, no. 38–40; H.A.R. Gibb and J.H. Kramers, Shorter Encyclopaedia of Islam (1953), s.v.Yūshaʿ b. Nūn, incl. bibl. add. bibliography: "Yūshaʿ," in: eis2, 11 (2002), 351 (incl. bibl.); J. van Seters, In Search of History (1997; repr. of 1983), 322–53; S.D. Sperling, in, huca, 58 (1987), 119–36; reprinted with comments in G. Knoppers and G. McConville (eds.), Reconsidering Israel and Judah (2000), 204–58; G. Ramsey, in: abd, 3:999–1000.


views updated May 23 2018


JOSHUA , or, in Hebrew, Yehoshuaʿ, was an Israelite leader who flourished, according to tradition, in the thirteenth century bce. The Book of Joshua tells how its namesake led the twelve tribes of Israel in a concerted military invasion and conquest of the land of Canaan, whose territory was divided among the tribes. Joshua attributes the success of the campaign to the direct involvement of YHVH, Israel's God (see Jos. 10:14, 23:3, 23:10)a claim underscored by the miraculous nature of the defeats of the cities of Jericho (whose wall is toppled by the shouts of the Israelites) and Gibeon (where the sun stands still until the Israelites are victorious). After the conquest is completed, Joshua assembles the Israelites at Shechem to renew the covenant with YHVH made in the preceding generation through the mediation of Moses. He exhorts the people to remain devoted to YHVH and to keep his law.

Joshua's role as leader of the conquest is anticipated in the biblical narrative by his introduction as the field commander in the battle against Amalek (Ex. 17:813) and as a spy sent by Moses to reconnoiter Canaan (Nm. 13). Moses elevates Joshua's status by changing his name from Hosheaʿ to Yehoshuaʿ (YHVH is salvation) and by appointing Joshua as his successor. Indeed, the Book of Joshua frequently refers to Moses' tutelage of Joshua and shapes many aspects of Joshua's career to parallel similar aspects of the career of Moses. For example, Joshua's splitting of the Jordan River recalls Moses' splitting of the Sea of Reeds; Joshua's theophany (Jos. 5:1315) specifically evokes that of Moses at the burning bush (Ex. 34); the image of Joshua holding out his spear until the city of Ai is taken (Jos. 8:26) recalls the image of Moses extending his arms until the Amalekites are routed (Ex. 17:12); and Joshua, like Moses, dispatches spies ahead of his army (Jos. 2). As though to highlight the parallel even further, in Joshua 12 a summary of Joshua's triumphs over Canaanite kings (Jos. 12:724) is juxtaposed with a summary of Moses' earlier triumphs over kings in the Transjordan (Jos. 12:16).

Because most of Joshua's military activities took place in what became the tribal territory of Benjamin and Ephraim, and because he is said to have been buried in an Ephraimite estate in Timnath-serah (Jos. 19:50), modern scholars surmise that Joshua was a legendary leader of the north-central Israelites. However, the Book of Joshua 's description of a massive takeover of Canaan by an army of invading Israelites is contradicted by a number of biblical passages (such as Jos. 13:15 and Jgs. 1). It is further contradicted by an increasingly clearer archaeological record, in view of which only some of the sites said to have been destroyed by Joshua were in fact destroyed in the late Bronze Age (thirteenth through twelfth centuries bce), and those were destroyed over an extended period. The stories of Joshua's conquests, which were apparently written during the Judean monarchy (ninth through seventh centuries bce), as well as the division of the land among the premonarchic tribes, tend to be regarded by historians as ideologically motivated. The clearance of Canaanite people and culture from the land of Canaan, as related in the Book of Joshua, is understood as a mythical expression of Israel's own self-definition (we are entirely distinct from them), and Joshua's military leadership is often interpreted as a projection or reflex of Judean imperial aspirations, such as those of Hezekiah (late eighth century) or Josiah (late seventh century).

When the compilers of the Book of Joshua combined traditions of the Exodus with traditions of the conquest, they cast Joshua as the lieutenant and successor of Moses. Thus they forged these once-disparate traditions into a unified narrative.

See Also

Canaanite Religion; Moses.


For a summary and discussion of the scholarly issues concerning the nature of the Israelite occupation of Canaan and of Joshua's role in it, see Manfred Weippert, The Settlement of the Israelite Tribes in Palestine, translated by James D. Martin (Naperville, Ill., 1971). For a summary of the pertinent archaeological evidence, see William G. Dever, Who Were the Early Israelites, and Where Did They Come From? (Grand Rapids, Mich., 2003). For a notable effort to trace the origins of the conquest tradition, see Nadav Naʾaman, "The 'Conquest of Canaan' in the Book of Joshua and in History," in From Nomadism to Monarchy: Archaeological and Historical Aspects of Early Israel, edited by Israel Finkelstein and Nadav Naʾaman, pp. 218281 (Jerusalem and Washington, D.C., 1994). For a model analysis of Joshua as a type of a Judean king, see Richard D. Nelson, "Josiah in the Book of Joshua," Journal of Biblical Literature 100 (1981): 531540. A close literary reading of the Book of Joshua is Robert Polzin's Moses and the Deuteronomist, pp. 73145 (New York, 1980); and an ideologically oriented commentary is L. Daniel Hawk's Joshua, Berit Olam series (Collegeville, Minn., 2000).

Edward L. Greenstein (1987 and 2005)


views updated Jun 27 2018


JOSHUA (mid-second century c.e.), tanna, son of *Akiva. It is told that he stipulated in his marriage contract that his wife had to support him so that he could devote himself to study. Later, during a famine, she contested the validity of the stipulation but under the extraordinary conditions of the time the court upheld the original agreement (Tosef., Ket. 4:6). It is possible that he and his wife are also mentioned in the Midrash Tehillim (ed. Buber (1959), p. 302). Joshua is once mentioned as asking his father a halakhic rule (Tosef., Neg. 1:1), and it is also related that his father charged him with seven rules of behavior (Pes. 112a). Some rishonim, among them Rashi (Bek. 58a), identify Joshua with *Joshua b. Korha. It can be assumed that he perished during the persecutions at the time of *Hadrian. The Talmud mentions that Akiva mourned for the loss of his sons (mk 21b).


Bacher, Trad, 89; Hyman, Toledot, 647.


views updated May 17 2018

Joshua (fl. c.13th century bc), the Israelite leader who succeeded Moses; he led his people into the Promised Land, and captured Jericho. Also, the sixth book of the Bible, named for him, telling of the conquest of Canaan and its division among the twelve tribes of Israel.
Joshua tree a yucca which grows as a tree and has clusters of spiky leaves, native to arid regions of south-western North America. The name apparently comes (in the mid 19th century) from the plant's being likened to a man brandishing a spear, with reference to Joshua 8:18 (‘and Joshua stretched out his hand with the spear towards the city’).


views updated May 11 2018


JOSHUA , early liturgical poet of unknown period. Joshua, who apparently lived in Palestine, is mentioned by *Saadiah in his introduction to the Iggaron, in conjunction with Eleazar (i.e., *Kallir) and *Phinehas, as one of the first composers of piyyutim. Some liturgical compositions by Joshua, who bore the surname "ha-Kohen," were recently found among Genizah fragments. Only a few of these texts have been published. In Zulay's opinion, Joshua could have been the father of the well-known poet Johanan ha-Kohen. Joshua is not to be confused with poets of similar name of a later period.


A. Harkavy, Zikkaron la-Rishonim ve-gam la-Aḥaronim, 1 no. 5 (1891), 110–2; M. Zulay, in: ymḥsi, 5 (1939), 155–7; idem, in: Alei Ayin, S. Schocken Jubilee Volume (1952), 89f.

[Jefim (Hayyim) Schirmann]


views updated May 21 2018

Joshua. Son of Nun, Hebrew/Israelite leader at the time of the conquest of Canaan. The fact that his name is that of (the Gk.) Jesus made Joshua a type of Christ in early Christian exegesis (e.g. Hebrews 4. 8 f.). In Islam, al-Tabarī records traditions about Yushaʿ/Joshua.


views updated May 29 2018

Joshua Heroic figure among the Israelites, who became their commander after the death of Moses and led them into Canaan following their exodus from Egypt. His subsequent exploits and campaigns are recorded in the Book of Joshua.

Joshua, Book of

views updated May 18 2018

Joshua, Book of. The book in the Hebrew scriptures and Christian Old Testament which describes the conquest and settlement of the land of Canaan.

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