“What Do These Stones Mean?”: Biblical Theology and a Motif in Joshua -- By: Robert L. Hubbard, Jr.

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 11:1 (NA 2001)
Article: “What Do These Stones Mean?”: Biblical Theology and a Motif in Joshua
Author: Robert L. Hubbard, Jr.

“What Do These Stones Mean?”:
Biblical Theology and
a Motif in Joshua

Robert L. Hubbard, Jr.

North Park Theological Seminary
Chicago, Illinois

The book of Joshua seems to contradict itself, praising Israel’s complete conquest of Canaan while reporting the survival of Rahab and the Gibeonites. This paper responds to the problem by studying a recurrent motif in Joshua 3-10: a stone structure that memorializes past events “to this day” (used four times). The stones motif contributes to the literary coherence of the context around the theme of Yahweh’s conquest of his enemies. More important, the stone structure at Gilgal (chaps. 3-4) hints that Canaanites besides Rahab might receive divine favor, while Achan’s burial heap (chap. 7) suggests that Yahweh values obedience over ethnicity and welcomes religiously responsive foreigners. Similarly, the Gibeonite episode (chaps. 9-10) demonstrates divine acceptance of Israel’s arrangement with Gibeon as an exception to the herem mandate. Thus, Joshua 3-10 not only reports the survival of foreigners but also quietly advocates divinely-sanctioned exceptions to the mandate in certain cases. In this way, the perceived tension between the mandate and the survival of foreigners lessens. This article also explores the theological themes that the motif sounds and the model of biblical theology that underlies it.

Key Words: Joshua 3-4; Joshua 7; Joshua 10; Deut 7:1-2; Deut 20:1618; stones, monuments, non-Israelites, biblical theology

Author’s note: This paper was presented as the Annual Lecture of the Institute for Biblical Research on November 20, 1999, at the annual SBL meeting in Boston. I dedicate it to the memory of two of my teachers, Professors William Sanford LaSor and David Allan Hubbard, each of whom presented the IBR Annual Lecture in years past. I also wish to express sincere thanks to my teaching assistant, Mr. Liang Her Wu, for his invaluable research assistance.

The book of Joshua … is an enigma… . The book teases the reader with affirmations of coherence and then dismantles the coherence it has rendered. The reader is caught within the tension. How do the pieces fit?1

With these words, L. D. Hawk voices the consensus that internal tensions deny the book of Joshua a sense of literary coherence. For example, 11:16-17 claims, “S...

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