1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Joshua, Book of

JOSHUA, BOOK OF, the sixth book of the Old Testament, and the first of the group known as the “Former Prophets.” It takes its name from Joshua[1] the son of Nūn, an Ephraimite who, on the death of Moses, assumed the leadership to which he had previously been designated by his chief (Deut. xxxi. 14 seq., 23), and proceeded to the conquest of the land of Canaan. The book differs from the Pentateuch or Torah in the absence of legal matter, and in its intimate connexion with the narrative in the books which follow. It is, however, the proper sequel to the origins of the people as related in Genesis, to the exodus of the Israelite tribes from Egypt, and their journeyings in the wilderness. On these and also on literary grounds it is often convenient to class the first six books of the Bible as a unit under the term “Hexateuch.” For an exhaustive detailed study has revealed many signs of diversity of authorship which combine to show that the book is due to the incorporation of older material in two main redactions; one deeply imbued with the language and thought of Deuteronomy itself (D), the other of the post-exilic priestly circle (P) which gave the Pentateuch its present form. That the older sources (which often prove to be composite) are actually identical with the Yahwist or Judaean (J) and the Elohist or Ephraimite (E) narratives (on which see Genesis) is not improbable, though, especially as regards the former, still very uncertain. In general the literary problems are exceedingly intricate, and no attempt can be made here to deal with them as fully as they deserve.

The Invasion.—The book falls naturally into two main parts, of which the first, the crossing of the Jordan and the conquest of Palestine (i.–xii.) is mainly due to Deuteronomic compilers. It opens with the preparations for the crossing of the Jordan and the capture of the powerful city Jericho. Ai, near Bethel, is taken after a temporary repulse, and Joshua proceeds to erect an altar upon Mt Ebal (north of Shechem). For the fullness with which the events are recorded the writers were probably indebted to local stories.

The Israelites are at Abel-Shittim (already reached in Num. xxv. 1). Moses is dead, and Joshua enters upon his task with the help of the Transjordanic tribes who have already received their territory (i). The narrative is of the later prophetic stamp (D; cf. Deut. iii. 18–22, xi. 24, where Moses is the speaker; xxxi. 1–8), but may be based upon an earlier and shorter record (E; vv. 1 seq., 10, 11a). Of the mission of the spies to Jericho, two versions were current (duplicates ii. 3, 12, 18; v. 15 seq. breaks the connexion between vv. 13 and 18, but is resumed in vv. 22–24); D’s addition is to be recognized in ii. 9b–11. The incident occupies at least four days, but the main narrative reckons three days between i. 11 and iii. 2. Next follow the passage of the Jordan (commemorated by the erection of twelve stones), the encampment at Gilgal, and the observance of the rite of circumcision and of the passover (iii.–v.). The complicated narrative in iii.–iv. is of composite origin (contrast iii. 17 with iv. 10 seq., 19; iv. 3, 8 with vv. 9, 20; and cf. iii. 12 with the superfluous iv. 2, &c.). As in ii., D has amplified (iii. 4b, 7, 10b, iv. 9–10a, 12, 14; more prominently in iv. 21–v. 1, v. 4–8), and subsequently P (or a hand akin to P) has worked over the whole (iii. 4, note the number and the prohibition, cf. Num. i. 51; iii. 8, 15 seq.; iv. 13, 19; v. 10–12). Circumcision, already familiar from Exod. iv. 26, Deut. x. 16, is here regarded as a new rite (v. 2, 9, supplemented by vv. 1, 4–8), but the conflicting views have been harmonized by the words “the second time” (v. 2). Gilgal is thus named from the “rolling away” of the “reproach of Egypt” (v. 9), but iv. 20 suggests a different origin, viz. the sacred stone-circle (cf. Judges iii. 19, R.V. marg.). An older account of the divine commission to Joshua appears in the archaic passage v. 13–15 (cf. Moses in Exod. iii.). Fusion of sources is obvious in the story of the fall of Jericho (contrast vi. 5 and v. 10, vv. 21 and 24, vv. 22 and 25); according to one (E?) the people march seven times round the city on one day, the ark and the priests occupying a prominent position (vi. 4–6, 7b–9, 12 seq., 16a, 20 [part], 22–24); but in the other they march every day for seven days. Both here and in the preceding chapters the Septuagint has several variations and omissions, due either to an (unsuccessful) attempt to simplify the present difficulties, or to the use of another recension. The curse pronounced by Joshua upon the destroyed city of Jericho (vi. 26) should be associated with an incident in the reign of Ahab which is acquainted with the story (1 Kings xvi. 34); the city, however, reappears in Joshua xviii. 21; 2 Sam. x. 5. Achan’s sacrilege, the cause of the repulse at Ai and of the naming of the valley of Achor (vii.), is introduced by vi. 18 seq., 24b, and, as its spirit shows, is of relatively later date. It contains some probable traces of D (in vii. 5, 7, 11 seq., 15, 25) and P (in vv. 1, 18, 24 seq.). The capture of Ai has marks of the same dual origin as the preceding chapters (cf. viii. 3a with 10, and contrast viii. 3–9 with v. 12; vv. 5–7 with 18, 26; v. 19 with 28). The general resemblance between chs. vii.–viii. and the war with Benjamin (Judges xx.) should be noticed.

Conquests in Palestine.—The erection of the altar, not at the scene of battle (cf. 1 Sam. xiv. 35) but on Mt Ebal (viii. 30–35, D), presupposes the conquest of central Palestine and the removal of the ark from Gilgal. These, however, are not narrated, and, unless some account of them has been replaced by the present passage, this portion of the conquest was ignored. Possibly the passage is not in its original position: in the Septuagint it appears after ix. 2, while Josephus (Ant. v. 1, 19) and the Samaritan book of Joshua read it before ch. xiii.; Dillmann, however, would place it after xi. 23. The capture of Jericho and Ai is followed by the successful stratagem of the Gibeonites to make peace with Israel (ix.). This involves them in a war with the southern Canaanites; Joshua intervenes and obtains a crowning victory (x.). The camp is still at Gilgal. A similar conquest of the northern Canaanites follows (xi.), and the first part of the book concludes with a summary of the results of the Israelite invasion (xii.).

No satisfactory explanation of viii. 30–35 has been found, yet ix. 1 seq. seems to show that it was the prelude to the Canaanite wars. In contrast to the absence of any reference to the occupation of central Palestine, the conquest of the south was current in several divergent traditions. Two records are blended in ix.; one narrates the covenant with the Gibeonites, the other that with the Hivites (properly Hivvites); and in the latter Joshua has no place (vv. 4 seq., 6b, 7, 11–14, &c.). The former has additions by D (vv. 9b, 10, 24 seq.) and by P (v. 15 last clause, 17–21); the latter, in accordance with the legislation of its day (posterior to Ezek. xliv. 6 sqq.), does not allow the Gibeonites to minister to the temple or altar, but merely to the “congregation,” a characteristic post-exilic term (contrast vv. 21 and 23; and on 27 see Sept. and commentaries). The story of the covenant conflicts with the notice that Gibeon was still an independent Canaanite city in David’s time (2 Sam. xxi. 2). The defeat of the southern coalition is based, as the doublets show, upon two sources; the war arises from two causes (vengeance upon the Gibeonites, and the attempt to overthrow Israel), and concludes with a twofold victory: in x. 16–24 the kings are pursued to Makkedah and slain, in v. 11 they are smitten by a great hailstorm in their flight to Azekah (cf. 1 Sam. vii. 10, xiv. 15, in the same district). Redactional links have been added, apparently by D, to whom is possibly due the stanza quoted from the book of Jashar (v. 12 seq.), a poetical address to the sun and moon, of the nature of a prayer or spell for their aid (cf. Judges v. 20, and see Ecclus. xlvi. 4). The literal interpretation of this picturesque quotation has been influenced by the prosaic comments at the end of v. 13 and beginning of v. 14. Verse 15, which closes the account, anticipates v. 43; the Septuagint omits both. The generalizing narrative (x. 28–43), which is due to D in its present form, is partly based upon old matter (e.g. the capture of Makkedah), but is inconsistent with what precedes (v. 37, see v. 23 sqq.) and follows (capture of Debir, v. 38 seq., see xv. 15; Judges i. 11). The description of the conquest of the northern Canaanites is very similar to that of the south. The main part is from an older source (xi. 1, 4–9; see Deborah), the amplifications (v. 2 seq.) are due to D, as also are the summary (vv. 10–23, cf. style of x. 28–43), and the enumeration of the total results of the invasion (xii.), which includes names not previously mentioned.

Division of the Land.—The result of the events narrated in the first part of the book is to ascribe the entire subjugation of Canaan to Joshua, whose centre was at Gilgal (x. 15, 43). He is now “old and advanced in years,” and although much outlying land remained to be possessed, he is instructed to divide the conquered districts among the western tribes (xiii. 1 sqq.). This is detailed at length in the second part of the book. With the completion of the division his mission is accomplished. The main body of this part (xiii. 15–xiv. 5; xv.–xvii.; xviii. 11–xxi. 42; xxii. 7–34) is in its present form almost entirely due to P.

In regard to details, xiii. 2–6 (now D) expresses the view that the conquest was incomplete, and numbers districts chiefly in the south-west and in the Lebanon. Two sources deal with the inheritance of the east Jordan tribes in terms which are—(a) general (xiii. 8–12, D), and (b) precise (vv. 15–32, P). The latter stands between the duplicate passages xiii. 14 and 32 seq. (see the Sept.). With the interest taken in these tribes, cf. for (a) i. 12–18; Deut. iii. 12–22, and the sequel in Joshua xxii. 1–6; and for (b) xxii. 9 seq.; Num. xxxii. P’s account of the division opens with an introductory notice of the manner in which Eleazar the priest and Joshua (note the order) prepare to complete the work which Moses had begun (xiv. 1–5). It opens with Judah, its borders (xv. 1–12) and cities (vv. 20–62), and continues with the two Joseph tribes, Ephraim (xvi. 4–9, contrast details in vv. 1–3) and Manasseh (xvii. 1–10, cf. Num. xxvi. 30–32, xxvii. 1–11; P). There is now a break in the narrative (xviii. 2–10, source uncertain); seven tribes have not yet received an inheritance, and Joshua (alone) encourages them to send three men from each tribe to walk through the land—excluding the territory of Judah and Joseph—and to bring a description of it to him, after which he divides it among them by lot. P[2] now resumes with an account of the borders and cities of Benjamin (xviii. 11–28), Simeon, Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, Naphtali and Dan (xix.; on v. 47, see below); and, after the subscription (xix. 51), concludes with the institution of the cities of refuge (xx., cf. Num. xxxv.), and of the Levitical cities (xxi., contrast the earlier brief notice, xiii. 14, 33). Chapter xx., belonging to the Predaction, has certain points of contact with Deut. xix. which, it is very important to observe, are wanting in the Septuagint; and xxi. 43–45 closes D’s account of the division, and in the Septuagint contains matter most of which is now given by P in xix. 49 seq. Two narratives describe the dismissal of the trans-Jordanic tribes after their co-operation in the conquest, viz. xxii. 1–6 (D), and xxii. 9 seq. (P); cf. above, on xiii. 8 seq. P, with the description of the erection of the altar (v. 34, Gilead?; cf. Gen. xxxi. 47 seq.), is apparently a late re-writing of some now obscure incident to emphasize the unity of worship. P’s account of the distribution of land among the nine and a half tribes by Eleazar and Joshua (from xiv. 1–5 to xix. 51) appears to have been on the lines laid down in Num. xxxiv. (P). The scene, according to xviii. 1, is Shiloh, and this verse, which does not belong to the context, should apparently precede P’s narrative in xiv. 1. But of the occupation of Shiloh, the famous Ephraimite sanctuary and the seat of the ark, we have no information. The older source, however, presupposes that Judah and the two Joseph tribes have acquired their territory; the remaining seven are blamed for their indifference (xviii. 2–10, see above), and receive their lot conjointly at the camp at Shiloh. But if the location is an attempt to harmonize with xviii. 1, Gilgal should probably be restored. The section xviii. 2–10 is followed by xxi. 43 seq. (above), and may have been preceded originally by xiii. 1, 7 (where read: inheritance for the seven tribes); in its present form it appears to be due to D. Another account of the exploits of Judah and Joseph can be traced here and there; e.g. in xiv. 6–15 (where Caleb receives Hebron as his inheritance and the “land had rest from war”), and xvii. 14–18 (where Joseph receives an additional lot); but where these traditions have not been worked into later narratives, they exist only in fragmentary form and are chiefly recognizable by their standpoint. They are characterized by the view that the conquest was only a partial one, and one which was neither the work of a single man nor at his instigation, but due entirely to individual or tribal achievements. This view can be traced in xiii. 13, xv. 63 (cf. the parallel Judges i. 21 in contrast to v. 8), xvi. 10 (Judges i. 29), xvii. 11–13 (Judges i. 27 seq.), and in the references to separate tribal or family exploits: xv. 13–19, xix. 47 (cf. Judges i. 34 seq., xviii.).

Two closing addresses are ascribed to Joshua, one an exhortation similar to the homilies in secondary portions of Deuteronomy (xxiii.; cf. Moses in Deut. xxviii. seq., and Samuel’s last address in 1 Sam. xii.), which virtually excludes the other (xxiv.), where Joshua assembles the tribes at Shechem (Shiloh, in the Septuagint) and passes under review the history of Israel from the days of heathenism (before Abraham was brought into Canaan) down through the oppression in Egypt, the exodus, the conquest in East Jordan and the occupation of Canaan. A few otherwise unknown details are to be found (xxiv. 2, 11 seq. 14). The address (which is extremely important for its representation of the religious conditions) is made the occasion for a solemn covenant whereby the people agree to cleave to Yahweh alone. This is commemorated by the erection of a stone under the oak by the sanctuary of Yahweh (for the tree with its sacred pillar, see Gen. xxxv. 4; Judges ix. 6). The people are then dismissed, and the book closes in ordinary narrative style with the death of Joshua and his burial in his inheritance at Timnath-serah in Mt Ephraim (cf. xix. 49 seq.); the burial of Joseph in Shechem; and the death and burial of Eleazar the son of Aaron in the “hill of Phinehas.”

Chapter xxiv. presupposes the complete subjection of the Canaanites and is of a late prophetic stamp. Some signs of amplification (e.g. vv. 11b, 13, 31) suggest that it was inserted by a Deuteronomic hand, evidently distinct from the author of xxiii. But elsewhere there are traces of secondary Deuteronomic expansion and of internal incongruities in Deuteronomic narratives; contrast xiv. 6–15 with Joshua’s extermination of the “Anakim” in xi. 21 seq.; the use of this name with the “Philistines” of xiii. 2 (see Philistines), or the conquests in xi. 16–22 with the names in x. 36–43. All these passages are now due to D; but not only is Deuteronomy itself composite, a twofold redaction can be traced in Judges, Samuel and Kings, thus involving the deeper literary problems of Joshua with the historical books generally.[3] Both Joshua xxiii. and xxiv. are closely connected with the very complicated introduction to the era of the “judges” in Judges ii. 6 sqq., and ii. 6–9 actually resume Joshua xxiv. 28 sqq., while the Septuagint appends to the close of Joshua the beginning of the story of Ehud (Judges iii. 12 seq.). Both Judges i.–ii. 5 and chap. xvii.–xxi. are of post-Deuteronomic insertion, and they represent conditions analogous to the older notices imbedded in the later work of P (Judges i. 21, xix. 10–12, cf. Joshua xv. 63; see Judges ad fin.). Moreover, P in its turn shows elsewhere definite indications of different periods and standpoints, and the fluid state of the book at a late age is shown by the presence of Deuteronomic elements in Joshua xx., not found in the Septuagint, and by the numerous and often striking readings which the latter recension presents.

Value of the Book.—The value of the book of Joshua is primarily religious; its fervency, its conviction of the destiny of Israel and its inculcation of the unity and greatness of the God of Israel give expression to the philosophy of Israelite historians. As an historical record its value must depend upon a careful criticism of its contents in the light of biblical history and external information. Its description of the conquest of Canaan comes from an age when the event was a shadow of the past. It is an ideal view of the manner in which a divinely appointed leader guided a united people into the promised land of their ancestors, and, after a few brief wars of extermination (x.–xii.), died leaving the people in quiet possession of their new inheritance (xi. 23; xxi. 44 seq.; xxiii. 1).[4] On the other hand, the earlier inhabitants were not finally subjugated until Solomon’s reign (1 Kings ix. 20); Jerusalem was taken by David from the Jebusites (2 Sam. v.); and several sites in its neighbourhood, together with important fortresses like Gezer, Megiddo and Taanach, were not held by Israel at the first. There are traces of other conflicting traditions representing independent tribal efforts which were not successful, and the Israelites are even said to live in the midst of Canaanites, intermarrying with them and adopting their cult (Judges i.–iii. 6). From a careful consideration of all the evidence, both internal and external, biblical scholars are now almost unanimous that the more finished picture of the Israelite invasion and settlement cannot be accepted as a historical record for the age. It accords with this that the elaborate tribal-lists and boundaries prove to be of greater value for the geography than for the history of Palestine, and the attempts to use them as evidence for the early history of Israel have involved numerous additional difficulties and confusion.[5]

The book of Joshua has ascribed to one man conquests which are not confirmed by subsequent history. The capture of Bethel, implied rather than described in Joshua viii., is elsewhere the work of the Joseph tribes (Judges i. 22 sqq., cf. features in the conquest of Jericho, Joshua vi. 25). Joshua’s victory in north Palestine has its parallel in Judges iv. at another period (see Deborah), and Adoni-zedek of Jerusalem (Joshua x.) can scarcely be severed from the Adoni-bezek taken by the tribes of Judah and Simeon (Judges i. 5–7). The prominence of Joshua as military and religious leader, and especially his connexion with Shechem and Shiloh, have suggested that he was a hero of the Joseph tribes of central Palestine (viz. Ephraim and Manasseh). Moreover, the traditions in Joshua viii. 30–ix. 2, and Deut. xxvii. 1–8 seem to place the arrival at Mt Ebal immediately after the crossing of the Jordan. This implies that Israel (like Jacob in Gen. xxxii.) crossed by the Jabbok, and in fact the Wadi Fariʽā provides an easy road to Shechem, to the south-east of which lies Juleijil; and while this is the Gilgal of Deut. xi. 30, the battles at Jericho and Ai (Joshua ii. seq.) occur naturally after the encampment at the southern Gilgal (near Jericho). The alternative view (see especially Stade, Gesch. Isr. 1. 133 sqq.) connects itself partly with the ancestor of all the tribes (Jacob, i.e. Israel), and partly with the eponym of the Joseph tribes whose early days were spent around Shechem, the removal of whose bones from Egypt must have found a prominent place in the traditions of the tribes concerned (Gen. l. 25; Exod. xiii. 19; Joshua xxiv. 32). According to one view (Stade, Wellhausen, Guthe, &c.) only the Joseph tribes were in Egypt, and separate tribal movements (see Judah) have been incorporated in the growth of the tradition; the probability that the specific traditions of the Joseph tribes have been excised or subordinated finds support in the manner in which the Judaean P has abridged and confused the tribal lists of Ephraim and Manasseh.

The serious character of the problems of early Israelite history can be perceived from the renewed endeavours to present an adequate outline of the course of events; for a criticism of the most prominent hypotheses see Cheyne, Ency. Bib. art. “Tribes” (col. 5209 seq.); a new theory has been more recently advanced by E. Meyer (Die Israeliten u. ihre Nachbarstämme, 1906). But Joshua as a tribal hero does not belong to the earliest phase in the surviving traditions. He has no place in the oldest surviving narratives of the exodus (Wellhausen, Steuernagel); and only later sources add him to Caleb (Num. xiv. 30; the reference in Deut. i. 38 is part of an insertion), or regard him as the leader of all the tribes (Deut. iii. 21, 28). As an attendant of Moses at the tent of meeting he appears in quite secondary passages (Exod. xxxiii. 7–11; Num. xi. 28). His defeat of the Amalekites is in a narrative (Exod. xvii. 8–16) which belongs more naturally to the wilderness of Shur, and it associates him with traditions of a movement direct into south Palestine which finds its counterpart when the clan Caleb (q.v.) is artificially treated as possessing its seats with Joshua’s permission. But points of resemblance between Joshua the invader and Saul the founder of the (north) Israelite monarchy gain in weight when the traditions of both recognize the inclusion or possession of Judah, and thus stand upon quite another plane as compared with those of David the founder of the Judaean dynasty. Instead of rejecting the older stories of Joshua’s conquests it may be preferable to infer that there were radical divergences in the historical views of the past. Consequently, the parallels between Joshua and Jacob (see Steuernagel’s Commentary, p. 150) are more significant when the occupation of central Palestine, already implied in the book of Joshua, is viewed in the light of Gen. xlviii. 22, where Jacob as conqueror (cf. the very late form of the tradition in Jubilees xxxiv.) agrees with features in the patriarchal narratives which, in implying a settlement in Palestine, are entirely distinct from those which belong to the descent into Egypt (see especially, Meyer, op. cit. pp. 227 seq., 414 seq., 433; Luther, ib. 108 seq.). The elaborate account of the exodus gives the prevailing views which supersede other traditions of the origin both of the Israelites and of the worship of Yahweh (Gen. iv. 26). Several motives have influenced its growth,[6] and the kernel—the revelation of Yahweh to Moses—has been developed until all the tribes of Israel are included and their history as a people now begins. The old traditions of conquest in central Palestine have similarly been extended, and have been adapted to the now familiar view of Israelite origins. It is this subordination of earlier tradition to other and more predominating representations which probably explains the intricacy of a book whose present text may not have been finally fixed until, as Dillmann held, as late as about 200 B.C.

Bibliography.—See the commentaries of Dillmann, Steuernagel Holzinger (German), or the concise edition by H. W. Robinson in the Century Bible; also articles on “Joshua” by G. A. Smith, Hastings’s D. B., and G. F. Moore, Ency. Bib.; Kittel in Hist. of the Hebrews, i. 262 sqq.; W. H. Bennett, in Haupt’s Sacred Books of the Old Testament; Carpenter and Harford-Battersby, Comp. of Hexateuch, ch. xvii; S. R. Driver, Lit. of the O. T. (8th ed., 1909). These give further bibliographical information, for which see also the articles on the books of the Pentateuch.  (S. A. C.) 

  1. Heb. Jĕhōshūa; later Jēshūa; Gr. Ἰησοῦς, whence “Jesus” in the A.V. of Heb. iv. 8; another form of the name is Hoshea (Num. xiii. 8, 16). The name may mean “Yah(weh) is wealth, or is (our) war-cry, or saves.” The only extra-biblical notice of Joshua is the inscription of more than doubtful genuineness given by Procopius (Vand. ii. 20), and mentioned also by Moses of Chorene (Hist. Arm. i. 18). It is said to have stood at Tingis in Mauretania, and to have borne that those who erected it had fled before Ἰησοῦς ὁ ληστής. For the medieval Samaritan Book of Joshua, see T. Juynboll, Chronicum Samaritanum (1846); J. A. Montgomery, The Samaritans (1907), pp. 301 sqq.
  2. Traces of composite material may be recognized—(a) where, in place of boundaries, P has given lists of cities which appear to be taken from other sources (cf. the instructions in xviii. 9), and (b) in the double headings (see Addis, The Hexateuch, i. 230, note 1, and the commentaries).
  3. The close relation between what may be called the Deuteronomic history (Joshua-Kings) and its introduction (the legal book of Deuteronomy) independently show the difficulty of supporting the traditional date ascribed to the latter.
  4. G. F. Moore (Ency. Bib., col. 2608, note 2) draws attention to the instructive parallel furnished by the Greek legends of the Dorian invasion of the Peloponnesus (the “return” of the Heracleidae, the partition of the land by lot, &c.).
  5. The historical problems are noticed in all biblical histories, and in the commentaries on Joshua and Judges. Against the ordinary critical view, see J. Orr, Problem of the O.T. (1905) pp. 240 seq. This writer (on whom see A. S. Peake, The Interpreter, 1908, pp. 252 seq.) takes the book as a whole, allowance being made for “the generalizing tendency peculiar to all summaries.” His argument that “the circumstantiality, local knowledge and evidently full recollection of the narratives (in Joshua) give confidence in the truth of their statements” is one which historical criticism in no field would regard as conclusive, and his contention that a redactor would hardly incorporate conflicting traditions in his narrative “if he believed they contradicted it” begs the question and ignores Oriental literature.
  6. E.g. the vicissitudes of Levitical families, other migrations into Palestine, &c. The story of Joseph has probably been used as a link (see Luther, op. cit. pp. 142 seq.).