Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JETS 61:1 (March 2018) p. 153
The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest. By John H. Walton and J. Harvey Walton. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2017, 269 pp., $20.00.
What began as a conversation between two theologians (who happen to be father and son) over the conquest of Canaan by Israel and the issue of genocide developed into this book-length study that has been incorporated into John Walton’s Lost World series. Following the structure of that series, it builds on “a close reading of the Hebrew text” combined with “perspectives and information from the ancient cultural context of the Old Testament” (p. 23). The book consists of a series of 21 propositions divided into six units. The result is a thoughtful, provocative presentation, challenging both those who defend the conquest and those who disdain it as genocide. Three appendices on the IVP website give more technical explanations of aspects of the conquest accounts; these should be read along with the book.
Much could be addressed, but space restrictions limit discussion to noting three key premises and suggesting four areas for further consideration. In terms of premises, first, propositions 4–11 argue after careful analysis of the Hebrew text that the Canaanites were not guilty of sin or violating God’s covenant. Second, propositions 12–14 suggest that the portrayal of the Canaanites is a literary device, not an actual indictment. Third, propositions 15–19 argue that ḥerem is mistranslated, which gives a wrong impression of exactly what Israel was to do. The remaining propositions cover introductory matters and application. Each premise is carefully developed and initially seems broadly valid, but important nuances merit further evaluation.
That the Canaanites were not guilty of violating God’s covenant argues that since they were not in a covenant relationship with God, they could not violate it. That they might not be guilty of sin is more complicated. The authors note several factors pointing in this direction, most specifically the lack of both a formal indictment and textual indicators of divine retribution such as technical terms like dyn (pronouncing a verdict) or ysr (discipline) (42–43). Given prophetic declarations to Israel such as the oracles in Isaiah 13–20, further evaluation of whether specific warnings are needed for God to judge pagan nations is warranted. Likewise, Paul seems to argue in Romans 2–3 that all humans should be aware of their guilt before God.
Addressing the same premise, the issue of holiness (qdš), presented both as a proposition and an extensive appendix online, could use further evalua...
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