West Semitic Texts and the Book of Joshua -- By: Richard S. Hess

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 07:1 (NA 1997)
Article: West Semitic Texts and the Book of Joshua
Author: Richard S. Hess


West Semitic Texts and the Book of Joshua

Richard S. Hess

Denver Seminary

Archaeologists often examine the book of Joshua in the light of questions that it raises concerning its context in the material culture. This essay proposes to consider the context of the book in light of the ancient world of texts. Conquest accounts, boundary descriptions, treaties and other forms of texts are common to both the Hebrew book of Joshua and written documents of the West Semitic world. Archives of Alalakh, Ugarit and neighboring Egyptian and Anatolian sources are surveyed for their contribution to the understanding of texts found in Joshua. Specific items of vocabulary and onomastics, as well as larger forms of literature, are consulted with the goal of placing various portions of the book in their literary context as documents whose heritage lies in the West Semitic scribal tradition.

Key Words: Joshua, Ugarit, onomastics, geography, West Semitic

I. Introduction

The purpose of this study is to consider the contribution of other ancient Near Eastern literary sources for the purpose of understanding the original context of the book of Joshua. Often much is made of the archaeological issues in this book. Thus the question of material culture evidence for Jericho’s fallen walls or Ai’s pre-Israelite settlement dominate discussion of the first part of Joshua.1 In the second half, historical geographers focus on issues regarding the identification of sites and the date of settlement patterns that might relate to the detailed town lists of Joshua 15, 21 and elsewhere.2 Although these are

useful and important questions, placing sole emphasis upon them creates a danger that the important contribution of ancient Near Eastern texts to the study of the book of Joshua may pass by unnoticed. This essay will survey recent research in extrabiblical texts where it touches upon and illuminates the historical and cultural context of the book of Joshua.

Some recent studies of Joshua accept a date before the Monarchy for the composition of most or all of the book of Joshua.3 Others reflect attempts to date the whole Old Testament later, even in the Hellenistic period. An example of this may be found in a recent contribution by John Strange. He advocates a second century bc date for the book of Joshua.4 He argues this on the basis of ...

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