The Conquest And Early Hebrew Poetry -- By: Peter C. Craigie

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 020:1 (NA 1969)
Article: The Conquest And Early Hebrew Poetry
Author: Peter C. Craigie

The Conquest And Early Hebrew Poetry

P. C. Craigie

A. Statement Of Purpose

In the reconstruction of an historical event such as the Conquest, there are a variety of sources which may be drawn upon. The two main types for this particular event are the Biblical literary records and the material provided by archaeological research. The former may be subdivided into prose and poetry. The value of both prose and poetry as historical source material will be determined in the light of certain critical questions. Normally, poetry would be less valuable as historical source material than prose. Whilst both are the work of writers who interpret events and necessarily express value judgments, prose is usually informative and evaluative whereas poetry is primarily emotive and aesthetic. This is not to say that poetry will not contain historical information, but rather that the historical information will be incidental to the main purpose of the poetry. To take an example, the Song of Deborah contains information about a war against a Canaanite confederation, but there is not enough information here alone to provide a coherent picture of the course of events, for the primary purpose of the Song is to praise Yahweh for the victory which had been won. Thus in poetry, the historical material is usually secondary, and the primary purpose may be emotive or else religious (e.g. the poetry of worship or liturgy).

This study will be confined to the poetic sources for the Conquest. The term ‘Conquest’ is taken broadly; a brief survey of events from the Exodus to the early period of the Judges will be undertaken. The Conquest is set within this general period, but by allowing wide scope, the events preceding it and following it may add to our knowledge of the Conquest.

Thus the poetry to be considered will consist of the following: the ‘Song of the Sea’ (Ex. 15), the ‘Balaam Oracles’ (in Nu. 23-24), the ‘Blessing of Moses’ (Dt. 33), and the ‘Song of Deborah’ (Jdg. 5). In other words, the majority of the Old Testament material of the period will be subject to scrutiny. The main omissions will be firstly the ‘Song of Moses’ (Dt. 32) which is of a general nature and will not be examined in detail, secondly certain very short passages,1 thirdly an Amorite Victory Song,2 and finally some passages from the Psalms which may be very early.3 The poetry under examinat...

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