Conquest Confusion At Yale -- By: Bryant G. Wood

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 26:4 (Fall 2013)
Article: Conquest Confusion At Yale
Author: Bryant G. Wood

Conquest Confusion At Yale

Bryant G. Wood

We recently received an email from a website visitor concerning the Conquest of Canaan, responding to our article on the ABR website, Extra-Biblical Evidence for the Conquest. He sent us an excerpt from an undergraduate course at Yale, outlining standard liberal views on the chronology and historicity of the book of Joshua. Dr. Bryant Wood responded. The comments are in italics, and Dr. Wood’s answers are in normal text.

“What is your take on the following? Why didn’t you discuss these credible arguments in the article?”

The purpose of my article was to report on evidence outside the Bible that supports the historicity of the Israelite conquest of Canaan as recorded in the Hebrew Bible, not to delve into the various scholarly interpretations of the biblical record of the Conquest.

The quotation you sent is part of a course in the Religious Studies department of Yale University. The course, RLST 145, Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible), is an undergraduate course taught by Prof. Christine Hayes, whose field is Talmudic-Midrashic studies. The quotation is a portion of Lecture 12, The Deuteronomic History: Life in the Land (Joshua and Judges), In it Prof. Hayes presents the standard view of the Conquest advocated by liberal scholarship. I will comment on Prof. Hayes’ statements in the order in which they were presented in her lecture.

This is a very neat picture of the rapid conquest of Canaan, but it’s at odds with statements elsewhere in Joshua and in the book of Judges.

There is no biblical text that suggests the Conquest happened quickly. Exodus 23:29-30, Deuteronomy 7:22 and Joshua 11:18 all indicate that the occupation of the land took place gradually over a protracted period of time. The perception of a rapid conquest is due to the presentation of the key events in a series of narratives in the book of Joshua, giving the reader the impression that the events transpired in rapid succession. A careful reading of the biblical account reveals that the conquest of Cisjordan by the unified tribes occurred over a duration of about 6 ½ years. Caleb was 40 years old when the spies were sent out from Kadesh Barnea (Jos 14:6) and 85 at the end of the Conquest (Jos 14:10). Since the spies were sent out approximately a year and a half after the Israelites left Egypt (Nm 10:11 plus events...

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