Joshua and Deuteronomy (3)

Intro

I have already posted two writings about “Joshua and Deuteronomy.” The primary concerns of the posts were that ① Deuteronomy is different from the first four books (Gen – Num) of the Pentateuch, and ② Joshua, as a part of the Deuteronomistic History(DH), is related to Deuteronomy.

There is one last item that I want to add here, but the general direction of this post is different because I am going to talk about Joshua’s connection with the four books (Gen – Num), not just Deuteronomy. Martin Noth understood Joshua, along with Judges, Samuel, and Kings, as “Deuteronomistic,” and many scholars still use the term “Deuteronomistic History” though they criticize or modify Noth’s ideas in a variety of ways. Consequently, the term “Deuteronomistic” or “Deuteronomistic History” can mislead you to think Joshua and other DH books are exclusively related to Deuteronomy. But that is not true. The books of DH are not homophonic but polyphonic. To understand Joshua (or the books of DH) properly, therefore, we must try to see a larger picture of the text instead of seeing its immediate context. Let me give you three simple examples of Joshua’s connection with Gen – Num.

First to think: Passing Deuteronomy

Deuteronomy is a book about a story in which Moses delivered his final speeches to the Israelites in the land of Moab right before they crossed the Jordan river to occupy the land of Canaan. It seems evident that the narrative in Joshua follows that in Deuteronomy. But it might also be true that Joshua’s story picked up the baton from Numbers instead of Deuteronomy. Here is why. Already in Numbers, specifically from Num 21 to the end, the Israelites arrived at the land of Moab and were getting ready to cross the river. They conquered the Transjordan region and distributed the territory to the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. The book of Numbers tells us the borders of Canaan in which the Israelites have to settle, the population of the second generation after the forty years of wandering in the desert, who are responsible for distributing each tribe’s portion in Canaan, where Levites should reside, what laws or Torah they should observe in the promised land, and so on. So there is no problem with skipping the book of Deuteronomy. Joshua can appear immediately after Numbers.

It is also true that Deuteronomy does not give us an impression that the text interrupts between Numbers and Joshua. However, the uniqueness of Deuteronomy does create problems. Except for Genesis, the first book, the subsequent books start with a Hebrew conjunction (Vav), so the latter books’ narratives directly follow the former books’. However, the pattern ends with Numbers. Deuteronomy 1:1 does not begin with the conjunction Vav; in other words, the text seems independent from the previous books. Moreover, as many scholars along with Noth observed, Deuteronomy contains laws or theological elements not compatible with the earlier books in the Pentateuch. So, to an extent, it is possible to say that Deuteronomy does interfere with the narrative/theological flow in the Pentateuch.

Nevertheless, it is not necessary to skip Deuteronomy entirely as we also understand the close connection between Deuteronomy and Joshua. We just need to realize that Joshua is not exclusively related to Deuteronomy but also to the first four books of the Pentateuch.

The fact that Joshua is connected not only to Deuteronomy but to the first four books compels us to accept the concept, “Hexateuch,” not just Pentateuch. Now, let’s talk about Joshua’s connection with the four books with three examples. 

1

The book of Joshua ends with the story of Joseph’s burial. This story first appears in Genesis. Specifically, in Gen 50:25, Joseph told the Israelites to bring his bones to the promised land, and Moses brought up the bones when he led the Israelites out of Egypt (Ex 13:19). Then, in the book of Joshua, Joseph’s last words are finally fulfilled. Especially noticeable are Joshua 24:32, which mentions specifics of the burial ground for Joseph.

Josh 24:32  The bones of Joseph, which the Israelites had brought up from Egypt, were buried at Shechem, in the portion of ground that Jacob had bought from the children of Hamor, the father of Shechem, for one hundred pieces of money; it became an inheritance of the descendants of Joseph.

Gen 33:18  Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, on his way from Paddan-aram; and he camped before the city. 19 And from the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, he bought for one hundred pieces of money the plot of land on which he had pitched his tent. 20 There he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel.

NRSV

Interestingly, Josh 24:32 repeats Gen 33:19 almost verbatim. If the book of Joshua is related exclusively to Deuteronomy, this specific repetition cannot occur.

2

The second example is about the laws and theology attested in Joshua. If the book of Joshua is purely “deuteronomistic” history, Joshua’s contents should strictly follow the perspectives of Deuteronomy, especially when Deuteronomy and the rest of the Pentateuchal books disagree. However, Joshua does agree with other than Deuteronomy. For example, Duet 20:16 commands the Israelites not to leave anything that breathes remain alive. But this command is not carried out as it is in the book of Joshua. The Israelites let Rahab and all her people live when they entered Jericho, the very first city that the Israelites entered. The book of Joshua even describes Rahab as an icon of the fear of YHWH (Josh 2). This attitude is dissonant with Deuteronomy, which holds a hostile attitude against the Canaanites, and consonant with other pentateuchal texts, which have a friendly attitude towards others in general.

Josh 2:9 and said to the men: “I know that the LORD has given you the land,…… 

10 For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites that were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. 

11 …… The LORD your God is indeed God in heaven above and on earth below. 

12 Now then, since I have dealt kindly with you, swear to me by the LORD that you in turn will deal kindly with my family. Give me a sign of good faith 

13 that you will spare my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.”

NRSV

The passage above describes how Rahab came to fear YHWH and her confession that YHWH is the real god. The words of Rahab, “since I have dealt kindly with you, swear to me by the LORD that you in turn will deal kindly with my family” remind the reader of God’s words in Genesis, “I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Unlike this blessing, however, Deuteronomy commands the Israelites to kill all Canaanites without showing them mercy.

3

Lastly, I want to mention briefly that the conquest war and the distribution of the land in the book of Joshua fulfill the covenant that YHWH made with Abraham. God commanded Abraham to leave Ur of the Chaldeans, and he arrived at the land of Canaan. His descendants had lived there for a while. But Jacob had to leave the land to live in Egypt with Joseph. So Abraham’s descendants lost the promised land for a time, but God helped the Israelites return to the land. The promise that God gave Abraham is finally fulfilled in the book of Joshua. So Joshua is not exclusively related to Deuteronomy but also to the other four books of the Pentateuch.

Closing words

I briefly discussed the connection between the entire Pentateuch and the book of Joshua. Though the title of this post might give you an impression that I deal only with the connection between Joshua and Deuteronomy, I thought that it is necessary to inform my reader the fact that Joshua is not purely deuteronomistic and “Joshua and Deuteronomy” should not imply that Joshua and the four books of the Pentateuch are not related.

One thought on “Joshua and Deuteronomy (3)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s