Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 09:2 (Spring 1992)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous


Book Reviews

Biblical Studies

Every Promise Fulfilled: Contesting Plots in Joshua by L. Daniel Hawk. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991. 158 pp. + bibliography and indexes. $14.95.

This volume by Daniel Hawk treats the book of Joshua from the perspective of its plot, its movement from beginning through middle to end or ends. The “weasel words” end or ends point to what Hawk’s subtitle denominates the “contesting plots in Joshua.” As readers make their way through the book, they stumble over inconcinnities which demand an evaluative judgment: Does this “make sense” as a procession of what has already been narrated or not? If readers conclude that a given twist, turn, or narrative switchback, does “make sense” they move ahead in their reading. If they conclude that it does not “make sense,” they are faced with a new choice: either they move ahead on the hypothesis that the text they are reading can only be “made sense of’ by dividing it against itself, or they re-process the preceding narrative in light of the incongruity which treatens to derail their sense of the narrative’s unity.

Hawk is able to find quite a few “contesting plots” in this stretch of narrative. Indeed, though he eschews historical questions, familiarity with the scholarly literature on Joshua makes it obvious that the very same sorts of tensions which generate historical critical hypotheses (multiple sources in the book, earlier and later layers of tradition, and redactional proposals) are the same forces which drive literary interpreters to speak of “contesting plots.” For example, the end of the book of Joshua poses questions concerning “all Israel” divided into tribes “in the land” and tribes “beyond the Jordan” (chap 22). It also poses questions concerning Israel’s obedience and what it means for the God of Israel to fulfill “every promise” (chap 23). Finally, it poses questions concerning possibilities for covenant renewal, presence of foreign gods in Israel, and possibilities to serve the jealous God of Israel (chap 24). A major challenge for the diligent reader of the book of Joshua is how one can answer these questions (and others) in ways which do not degenerate into obscurantism and special pleading.

Hawk’s answer speaks to the way in which the book “mirrors the difficulty of applying dogma to the experience of life” (i3. 145). This echoes the concluding remarks of his introduction where he writes, “The reader attuned to its [Joshua’s] rhetoric will discover a remarkable story that exemplifies the tension between the structuring operations of dogma and the circumstances of experience” (p. 20). This insight is reminiscent of Robert Polzin’s ground breaking literary study of Deuteronomy throug...

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