Complete V. Incomplete Conquest: A Re-Examination Of Three Passages In Joshua -- By: T. A. Clarke

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 61:1 (NA 2010)
Article: Complete V. Incomplete Conquest: A Re-Examination Of Three Passages In Joshua
Author: T. A. Clarke

Complete V. Incomplete Conquest:
A Re-Examination Of Three Passages In Joshua

T. A. Clarke


Most commentaries and articles regarding the book of Joshua take as a starting point an apparent contradiction between a complete and an incomplete conquest. Surprisingly, as Kitchen observes, there has not been a ‘careful and close’ reading of the passages taken as evidence of a complete conquest (i.e. Josh. 10:40-43; 11:16-23; 21:43-45). This article seeks to fill that gap in the literature. A close reading of these passages suggests that the author carefully describes the extent of the conquest. It seems the apparent contradiction regarding these passages has been overstated.

1. Introduction

Joshua apparently speaks of a complete conquest in three summary statements within the book (Josh. 10:40-43; 11:16-23; 21:43-45). Then in the immediate context the reader finds statements regarding an incomplete conquest (cf. 11:19, 22; 13:1-7 etc.). Given the scholarly consensus on this issue, the only thing that remains is how one deals with this tension if not outright contradiction. Weinfeld, among others, explains the tension along diachronic lines. Statements of complete conquest represent the idealistic language of a Deuteronomistic editor, who recounts events that never happened.1 Recent synchronic studies take a more nuanced approach to the issue. Polzin says of the conquest

summary in 21:41-43, ‘The book of Joshua is scarcely intelligible if [it] is not read in an ironic sense.’2 Mitchell believes that the statements of complete conquest refer to nations, while the statements of incomplete conquest deal with the ‘isolated groups which are no longer part of a united opposition’.3 Hawk, however, abandons all hope and declares that if coherence is to be made of this tension then it must happen in the mind of the reader since it is not inherent in the text.4

Others seem unwilling to acknowledge the majority position based upon irreconcilable sources. Still, Howard and Woudstra state as fact that some passages speak of a complete conquest and others report the unfinished conquest and settlem...

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