Lord of All the Earth: Yahweh and Baal in Joshua 3 -- By: J. Michael Thigpen

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 27:2 (Fall 2006)
Article: Lord of All the Earth: Yahweh and Baal in Joshua 3
Author: J. Michael Thigpen

Lord of All the Earth: Yahweh and Baal in Joshua 3

J. Michael Thigpen

J. Michael Thigpen is Assistant Professor of Bible at Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio.

I. Introduction

Standard treatments of the Jordan crossing in Joshua 3 interpret the miraculous event as a restatement and extension of the exodus theme of Yahweh’s sovereignty.1 Specifically, the Jordan miracle signifies Yahweh’s sovereignty over the land of Canaan and therefore his right to grant the land to the nation of Israel.2 This theme together with other elements, most notably the designations used for Yahweh in ch. 3, is treated as a general attack upon idolatry.3

Israel’s crossing of the Jordan is much more than a statement of God’s ownership of Canaan and a generic attack on the futility of false gods. Rather, as this article will argue, the crossing of the Jordan is best read as a blatant polemic against Baal in particular. Working with literary images from the Baal Cycle, we will seek to demonstrate that the Jordan crossing narrative was intended to extol Yahweh as the Lord of the earth, not Baal. The narrative uses literary allusions to Baal’s titles and to his mythic role in the seasonal rains to promote the idea of Yahweh as Lord of all the earth.

Three lines of evidence will be pursued as we consider the possibility of the Jordan crossing as an anti-Baal polemic. First, two significant and unique designations for Yahweh, “living God” and “Lord of all the earth,” will be considered. Then the highlighted setting element of the Jordan flood stage will be discussed. Finally, literary resonances with the Baal Epic will be explored.

II. Significant Terms For Yahweh In The Crossing Account

Prior to Joshua 3, the titles and terms used for God are rather generic in nature. The personal name of God, יהוה “Yahweh,” is used first and most frequently throughout chs. 1 and 2. Second to the personal name is the phrase יְהוָה אֱלֹיךָ “Yahweh your God.” The only other title or appellative prior to the Jordan crossing is found in 2:11 where Rahab affirms that Yahweh is “God in the heav...

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