previous chapter
6— The Conquest and Settlement According to the Different Accounts
next chapter

The Conquest and Settlement According to the Different Accounts

The book of Joshua as we now know it is the product of a protracted process of literary composition and consolidation. Many scholars and exegetes have dealt with this process in detail. The book certainly preserves tribal and local traditions, but editing has transformed the traditions to present events as all-encompassing, and from a later historical perspective. The present form of Joshua has been shaped by a later editor, who was influenced in his language and ideology by the book of Deuteronomy.[1] This editor collected the fragmentary source material, arranged it, and provided summaries and a framework that agreed with his viewpoint, thereby creating a portrayal of a lightning conquest in the time of Joshua. As we will see below, this editor used cycles of several traditions available to him after passing through the hands of earlier collectors, such as the cycle of stories connected with the tribe of Benjamin (Josh. 2–9).

The collection of traditions and their arrangement in the book of Joshua parallels Judg. 1 to a certain extent, where we also find various traditions relating to the conquest of the land,


as gathered and arranged tendentiously by an editor. Because the editor of Judg. 1 worked in an earlier period, his product is shorter and less discursive than the book of Joshua. The antiquity of the tradition in Judg. 1:1–2:5 has tended to grant it extensive credibility among scholars, who have gone so far as to try to reconstruct from it the events of the settlement.[2] But there is no justification for this. As we will try to demonstrate, the tradition in Judg. 1:1–2:5 is no less tendentious than that in Joshua, though it is more reliable than that in the layer of Deuteronomistic editing in the book of Joshua. But the stories about the conquest themselves, as opposed to their framework, are no less reliable in Joshua than in Judg. 1. As for the short lists referring to the capture of cities and not driving out their inhabitants, the lists in Judg. 1, as we will see, below, are less reliable than their parallels in Joshua.

The Conquest under the Leadership of the House of Judah (Judges 1:1–2:5)

The introduction to this section


(Judg. 1:1–4)—excluding the initial clause "After the death of Joshua," which belongs to a later author and which already presupposes the existence of the book of Joshua according to the received division of the books[3] (cf. "After the death of Moses" at the beginning of the book of Joshua)—serves as a heading for the conquest enterprise at the front of which marched the tribe of Judah. We learn in these verses that an ancient oracle of God commissioned this tribe with the task of initiating the war against the Canaanites: "The Israelites inquired of YHWH, saying: 'Who will go up for us first against the Canaanites to fight them?' YHWH said: 'Judah shall go up'" (vv. 1–2). This story contradicts the traditions in the books of Joshua, Numbers (27:15–23), and Deuteronomy (chaps. 1–3; 31:1–8), according to which Joshua initiated the war of conquest at God's command. Moreover, like the inquiry of YHWH in Judges before Judah goes forth to war,[4] the priestly tradition informs us in Num. 27:15–23 that after Joshua is appointed leader of the community, he will need to inquire of God, through the decision of the Urim by means of Eleazar the priest, with respect to


his "going out" and "coming in," i.e., concerning the wars he will fight (cf. Josh. 14:11: "As my strength was then, so it is now, to undertake battle and to go out and to come in ").[5] According to this tradition, which is based in northern Israel (see below), the conquest of the land was begun by a leader from the house of Joseph who inquired of God through a priest associated with Shiloh in the hill country of Ephraim (see Chapter 2). In Judg. 1, however, the conquest was initiated not by a leader from the tribe of Ephraim but by the tribe of Judah.

A similar inclination to show the prominence of Judah over the other tribes is found in Judg. 20:18, in connection with the war against the Benjaminites: "They inquired of God . . . 'Who will go up for us first in battle against the Benjaminites.' YHWH said: 'Judah first.'" This language is identical to that in Judg. 1:1ab , b.[6] Scholars have analyzed how Judg. 20:18 reflects the anti-Saul attitude of its Judean writer, who wanted to portray a prominent role for his tribe in the war against the Benjaminites at Gibeah, the city of Saul.[7] It appears, furthermore, that the passage in Judg. 1 was written with the desire to glorify the tribe of Judah against a background of disgrace


suffered by the other tribes especially the tribe of Benjamin (the tribe of Saul), which did not succeed in driving out the foreign inhabitants of Jerusalem, after the city had been conquered for Benjamin by the Judahites (see below).

According to the description in Judg. 1, Judah, together with Simeon his brother,[8] whose inheritance was integrated into the inheritance of Judah (cf. Josh. 19:1), went out against the Canaanites in battle, and smote them: "And YHWH delivered the Canaanites and Perizzites into their power" (Judg. 1:4). The "Canaanites and Perizzites" in the ancient biblical sources identify the early inhabitants of the land (see Gen. 13:7; 34:30; and the LXX of Josh. 16:10). There is a tendency to generalize from this expression and say that Judah actually smote all the inhabitants of the land of Canaan (cf. Gen. 34:30). The place of the battle, Bezek, perhaps as a reflection of the Judean editor's tendentiousness, locates the struggle in the place from which Saul went out to fight his first war against the Ammonites (1 Sam. 11:8). Against Bezek as the starting point for the first war of Saul, the Benjaminite, king of Israel, the editor of our chapter sets Bezek as the starting point for the wars of Judah against the Canaanites when the tribe begins to undertake settlement.

It might be argued that all the attempts to determine the actual geographic location of this Bezek are pursuits after wind: the writer has used here a well-known historical fact to advance a partisan goal, to denigrate Benjamin and praise Judah. One cannot identify Bezek here with Khirbet 'Ibziq[*] , which is near Beth-Shean, and hypothesize that Judah went up into the passes of the hill country of Ephraim, because Judg. 1:1–2:5 is based on a tradition in which Israelite tribes ascended from across the Jordan around the area of Gilgal (2:1). In Judg. 1 we are dealing with literary motifs, as further


evidenced by the anecdote that follows about the seventy kings whose thumbs and big toes were cut off and who gathered crumbs under Adoni-Bezek's table (in vv. 6–7). This little story serves the author by showing that Adoni-Bezek, king of Jerusalem, was punished measure for measure with the same cruelty he dealt out to the kings in subjugation to him. One wonders also if this story might invoke the Ammonite king Nahash who, before Saul went to war with him, was about to put out the right eye of all the people of Jabesh-Gilead (1 Sam. 11:2) for breach of treaty.[9] As a consequence, Saul went to war with him, but while no act to avenge the cruelty of Nahash the Ammonite is reported, the author in Judg. 1 was interested in emphasizing that when Adoni-Bezek behaved cruelly,[10] the Judahites meted out his just desserts.

According to all indications, Adoni-Bezek is a king of Jerusalem and is to be identified with Adoni-Zedek, king of Jerusalem (Josh. 10:1 ff.).[11] The story in Judg. 1 about the war with Adoni-Bezek and about bringing him to Jerusalem depends on an ancient tradition of an Israelite battle with a king of Jerusa-


lem at the time of the conquest, a war that also stands behind the story in Josh. 10,[12] though the two stories differ geographically. The tradition in Josh. 10 is anchored in the cycle of stories of the tribe of Benjamin (Saul's tribe), whose scenes of battle are Gilgal, Jericho, Ai, and Gibeon—all in the inheritance of Benjamin (see above, pp. 94 ff.). Jerusalem was outside the area of war, and thus no attempts were made to capture it.[13] The editor of Judg. 1, in contrast, transferred the scene of battle to Jerusalem and even told of the city's capture.[14]

Actually, there is no hint of a capture of Jerusalem before the days of David. This account of such a capture in Judg. 1, the reliability of which is doubtful, has the aim of attributing to the tribe of Judah not only the conquest of the land but also the capture of the first capital of the Israelite kingdom. As we will see, the editor knew that the Jebusites lived in Jerusalem at that time, but he blames the Benjaminites for that (v. 21). Judah, therefore, is credited with the conquest of Jerusalem, while Benjamin is faulted for failing to expel the Jebusites—in explicit contradiction to Josh. 15:63 where the Judahites were the tribe incapable of driving out the Jebusites from Jerusalem.

From a perspective of historical trustworthiness, there is no difference between the events of conquest enumerated in the pre-Deuteronomistic portion of the book of Joshua (see below) and the events enumerated in Judg. 1. The two sources use popular folkloristic traditions and historical lists available


to them in order to exalt their respective houses in whose names they speak. The narrator in Josh. 2–10 is interested in crediting the house of Joseph and Benjamin with the conquest, while the author of Judg. 1 wants to bestow the title of conqueror on Judah. The editor of the traditions in the (pre-Deuteronomistic) book of Joshua praises the roles of Joseph and Benjamin in the conquest: Joshua, through posterity of Ephraim, is the actor in the area of Benjamin, from Gilgal to Gibeon (Josh. 2–9), and in the Aijalon area he is the hero who subjugates the five Amorite kings (10:1–15), thereby becoming indeed the conqueror of Canaan. In contrast, the author of Judg. 1 praises Judah for its part in the conquest of Jerusalem and the entire southern district (Hebron and Debir; Arad and Hormah; Gaza, Ashkelon, and Ekron), thus making Judah the element responsible for taking possession of the "Canaanites and Perizzites" on behalf of all the Israelites. Therefore, the chapter begins with inquiring of YHWH regarding going up to battle against the Canaanites and concludes by marking off the southern boundary of the conquered land ("the territory . . . from the Scorpion Descent," v. 36; cf. Josh. 15:3 where this line appears as the southern boundary of Judah's inheritance; see also Num. 34:4). To be sure, the chapter leaves room for the activity of the house of Joseph in seizing Bethel (Judg. 1:22–26), but apart from this one achievement, which is actually accomplished by deceit and not by direct military confrontation such as the Judahites used in taking Jerusalem, the chapter does not ascribe anything to the merit of the house of Joseph and speaks disparagingly of him and the tribes associated with him, who did not drive out the Canaanites and the inhabitants of their cities and the cities' dependencies (vv. 27–28).

The Conquest of Hebron and Debir (verses 9–15)

After recounting the conquest of Jerusalem, the editor of Judg. 1 describes Judah's success in war in the south: the Judahites fought there against the Canaanites dwelling in "the mountain


country, in the Negev, and the lowland" (v. 9), an all-inclusive expression also used in the context of the conquests of Joshua in Josh. 10:40 (cf. Deut. 1:7: "in the mountain country, the lowland, and the Negev"). The list of Judah's conquests includes Hebron and Debir: Judah came to Hebron and smote the three kings of the Anakim there: Sheshai, Ahiman, and Talmai (Judg. 1:10).

This assertion stands in contradiction to what is reported in Josh. 14:6–15 and 15:13–17, where it is Caleb who conquers Hebron and expels the Anakim, and also contradicts what follows in Judg. 1 itself (see below). There is no doubt that the tradition concerning Caleb's conquest is ancient and more reliable, because the area of Hebron belonged to Caleb, a matter reflected also in the tradition of Num. 13–14. Indeed, only when the tribe of Judah became established in the south were the inheritances of Caleb and the Kenizzites swallowed up in the realm of Judah (as was the case with Simeon). At the end of the description of Judah's conquests in Judg. 1 we actually find mention, as we have already hinted, of the ancient tradition that Caleb expelled the "three Anakites" (v. 20). It is difficult to decide if the author of the chapter had reason to introduce this correction himself or if it was a corrective supplied by a later writer. It is clear, however, that at the beginning of his story about the conquest of the south, the writer was interested in showing that the Anakim were driven out by "Judah"; he used the ancient tradition that appears in Josh. 15:13 ff., but changed the subject: Caleb did not "go up" or "go,"[15] as in Josh. 15:15; rather, Judah did. Concerning Debir, the author leaves the episode as it is found in Josh. 15:16–19.

In the Deuteronomistic description of the national conquest under the leadership of Joshua, the conquest of Hebron and Debir, as is known, is attributed to Joshua in a campaign with


all of Israel (Josh. 10:29–37). Thus, we find three different traditions dealing with this conquest, which reflect three different eras. The most ancient and reliable attributes the victory at Hebron to Caleb (Josh. 14:6–15; 15:14). A later tradition, in Judg. 1 attributes the conquest of the city to the Judahites (v. 10), followed by a description of giving the city to Caleb (v. 20). The latest tradition, the Deuteronomist's, ascribes the conquest of Hebron to Joshua in his campaign with all the Israelites (Josh. 10:36–37).

Arad and Hormah (verses 16–17)

After presenting the traditions of settling Hebron and Debir, the text in Judg. 1 offers traditions about settling the area of Arad and Hormah, south of the mountain country of Hebron. Just as the traditions about settling in Hebron and Debir are tied originally to autochthonous clans, i.e., the Calebites and Kenizzites, the tradition here concerning Arad and Hormah is connected originally to the Kenites and Jerahmeelites who lived in the south.[16]

Based on what we have learned from archaeological excavations, there were no Canaanite cities in the area of Arad and Hormah at the time of the conquest and settlement (the thirteenth century B.C.E. );[17] the tradition about a war with Israel by a Canaanite king of Arad, adduced in Num. 21:1, and the tradition about the defeat of the Israelites in a war with the Canaanites-Amorites at Hormah (Num. 14:44–45; 33:40; Deut. 1:44) must be considered anachronistic.[18] Actually, the


Kenites and Jerahmeelites began settling there at the end of the thirteenth century B.C.E.[19] paralleling the settlement of the Calebites and Kenizzites in the hill country of Hebron; only later were the Judahites and Simeonites joined to them. As for Arad, Judg. 1:16 testifies that the Kenites went to settle there with the Judahites; as for Hormah, Judah again took for himself the conqueror's crown, telling us that he went with Simeon his brother and smote the Canaanites dwelling in the place (v. 17).

But we have noted that there were no Canaanite cities in this area at this period, only nomadic settlements of the Simeonites, Kenites, and Jerahmeelites (1 Sam. 30:29–30). If so, these passages, too, are anachronistic. The phenomenon here is actually similar to that in the case of Hebron: just as the author of Judg. 1 attributed to Judah the conquest really accomplished by the Calebites, so he attributed to Judah the capture of Hormah actually accomplished first by nomads in the area. With respect to Arad and Hormah, then, we see redactional development as with the stories of Hebron and Debir: just as the conquest of Hebron and Debir were attributed in the later stages of tradition to all the Israelites on a campaign led by Joshua (Josh. 10:36–37), the conquests of Arad and Hormah were attributed in the end to all the Israelites under the leadership of Moses (Num. 21:1–3).[20] As with Hebron, the author represents Judah as the tribe that stood at the head of the conquests in Arad and Hormah; in order to glorify the conquests of Judah, the author attributed to Judah and Simeon ancient traditions about the settlement of the Calebites, Kenizzites, and Kenites.


The Conquest of Gaza, Ashkelon, and Ekron (verses 18–19)

As a conclusion to the accounts of conquests of the south, we find a notice about the conquest of southern coastal cities: Gaza, Ashkelon, and Ekron (v. 18). This event has no historical basis.[21] The LXX reads: "And Judah did not capture Gaza . . ." instead of the language in the MT, "And Judah captured Gaza. . . ." The next phrase, "because the inhabitants of the valley were not expelled" (v. 19) was apparently understood to be in contradiction to v. 18 and led to the correction in the LXX.[22] Nevertheless, according to what appears in the MT, Judah did succeed in capturing the coastal cities but, as was the case with Jerusalem, was not able to expel their inhabitants. One must note that the verse does not directly say that Judah "did not expel" (welo' horis'[*] ), as is said of other tribes in what follows, but says, rather, ki lo' lehoris[*] , a formulation using an infinitive without specifying the agent of the verb—because it was impossible to relate failure and lack of success explicitly to Judah.

Caleb Expels the Three Anakites (verse 20)

Verse 20 is a sort of corrective footnote that darkens somewhat the bright picture at the beginning of Judg. 1 of the success of Judah's conquest. According to this verse it is Caleb, not Judah, who expels the three Anakites (see above, section 2). As we have noted, this verse represents a well-known fact that could not be contradicted and thus had to be brought in at the end as a miscellaneous note. The verse may be a later addition to the original text.


The Benjaminites and the Jebusites Who Dwelt at Jerusalem (verse 21)

The Benjaminites did not expel the Jebusites that dwelt at Jerusalem, and the mention of Benjamin thereby calls to mind other northern tribes that did not drive out the Canaanites from their cities (vv. 27 ff.). As we remarked earlier, v. 21 contradicts Josh. 15:63, which says that the Judahites were not able to expel the Jebusites from Jerusalem, a discrepancy leading inescapably to the conclusion that Judg. 1:21 seeks tendentiously to glorify Judah at the expense of Benjamin.[23]

It is difficult to determine if this verse is attached as a conclusion to the preceding section about Judah's achievements, or if it is attached to the following list of failures of the house of Joseph to drive out the people of the land.[24] Admittedly, the episode in vv. 22–26 interrupts the report of failure by Benjamin and the other northern tribes, but if the author had followed a geographical order in his presentation[25] it would make sense to discuss Benjamin immediately after Judah. It is possible, too, that the author wanted to begin his listing with the most important failure, the failure to drive the Jebusites out of Jerusalem, which in the future would become "the chosen city."

The House of Joseph and Its Conquests (verses 22–26)

Verses 22–26, which tell of the conquest of Bethel by the house of Joseph and which undoubtedly reflect an ancient tradition, may be considered an introduction to an account of the settlement of the northern tribes. The house of Joseph indeed con-


quered Bethel, not, like Judah in its conquests, by methods of warfare, but by deceit: they penetrated the city through a secret entrance and then smote the inhabitants. But the tribes of the house of Joseph did not succeed in driving out the inhabitants of the other large cities that were Joseph's lot, such as Beth-Shean, Taanach, Dor, Ibleam, Megiddo, and Gezer (vv. 27–29). And even when the house of Joseph grew strong, instead of driving the inhabitants out, they put them under forced labor (v. 28).

The author drew these details about the tribes' failures to dispossess the people of the land from sources available to him.[26] We find the same details in the lists of inheritances in Josh. 14–19 (15:63; 16:10; 17:12–13). But the author of Judg. 1 gathered these details together to impress the reader with the failures of the northern tribes vis-à-vis the achievements of the Judahites, and he similarly adduced a list of failures related to the Galilean tribes: Zebulon did not drive out the inhabitants of Kitron and Nahalol (v. 30), and Asher not only did not succeed in driving out "the inhabitants of Akko, the inhabitants of Sidon, and Ahlab, Achzib, Helbah, Aphek, and Rehob," but even dwelt in the midst of the Canaanites (v. 32), who apparently prevailed over Asher in this region of strong Phoenician cities.[27] Naphtali, too, did not succeed in driving out the inhabitants of Beth-Shemesh and Beth-Anath (v. 33). And Issachar is not mentioned at all, because, as we learn from Gen. 49:14–15, he was himself enslaved by Canaanites in the area (whence, it seems, comes the name of Issachar: 'is sakar[*] : "and he bent his shoulder to bear and became a slave laborer").[28]


The Danites were also pushed into the hill country by the Amorites (v. 34), and, as we know from Josh. 19:47 and Judg. 18, they were finally forced to seek an inheritance in the north. Hence, they appear in Judg. 1 next to Naphtali in the north, which indicates that the author knew that Dan was now living in the north.

In comparison with the achievements of Judah in the south, the tribes of Israel in the north did not succeed in driving out the Canaanites, and even when they had the power to expel them they instead put the Canaanites under forced labor (v. 28). As we will see, they were considered to have sinned by doing this.

There is no doubt that the document in Judg. 1 serves to glorify the tribe of Judah and to lessen the stature of "Israel" in the north. This prejudice, which is interlocked, as we will see, with criticism of Benjamin, apparently derives from circles in the house of David who sought to show that not the tribes of the north but Judah, David's tribe, was that which stood behind the conquest of the land. The other tribes did not drive out the Canaanites from their cities, and only in the time of David did they prevail over them. Moreover, the tribes of the north sinned when they had it in their power to drive out the Canaanites from their cities but did not do so (v. 28), as is evident in the rebuke of the angel in Judg. 2:1–5. Because of this sin, the troubles of the period of the judges came about.

Joshua 2–11:
The Conquest under the Leadership of the House of Joseph

Joshua does not appear in the description of the conquest in Judg. 1,[29] but in the block of stories in Josh. 2–11 he appears as the leader from the tribe of Ephraim[30] who is


responsible for the entire conquest. Whereas the Judean tradition in Judg. 1 was interested in relating the entire conquest to Judah, the writer of Josh. 2–11 is interested in relating the conquest to the house of Joseph and to its leader Joshua. The house of Joseph, which dwelt in the center of the land of Israel, was numerous and powerful (see Deut. 33:17), so it is not surprising that their leader succeeded in being transformed into the central hero of the conquest, even though his actual sphere of activity is concentrated in the region of the Ephraimite hill country. In an early tribal tradition, Josh. 17:17–18, it is Joshua who acquired an inheritance for the house of Joseph and, through victory in the Aijalon Valley (Josh. 10:9–14), secured authority over the hill country of Ephraim as far as Azekah in the Elah Valley (see below). Moreover, Josh. 19:50 preserves a very ancient tradition about a personal act of Joshua that was tied to the hill country of Ephraim: the building of the city Timnath Serah/Heres[*] in this region. As Y. Kaufmann perceived,[31] we have here a reliable historical event that may serve as evidence that Joshua actually founded a city in the hill country of Ephraim,[32] a city remembered because his grave was preserved there (Josh. 24:30; cf. Judg. 2:9), a suggestion of the great importance attached to graves of leaders who established settlements and headed cities.[33] Timnath Serah/Heres was a habitation apparently located in Mount Heres[*] ,[34] where accord-


ing to Judg. 1:35 Amorites dwelt in early times; later, it was ruled by the house of Joseph. Joshua's expulsion of the Amorite kings from the Ephraimite hill country leads us to postulate that his victory is at the bottom of this notice of how the house of Joseph seized power in the area (and see Chapter 2).

Northern priestly traditions also connect Joshua to a particular holy place in the hill country of Ephraim, that is, Shiloh. According to these traditions, Joshua divided the land into inheritances for the tribes at Shiloh, in partnership with Eleazar the priest.[35] Similarly, he sought Eleazar's counsel before going forth to battle (Num. 27:19–23; and see Chapter 2). Joshua, the leader from the house of Joseph, received prophetic legitimation for his activities at the Shiloh sanctuary in the hill country of Ephraim. It is worth noting that alongside the tradition about the tomb of Joshua in Timnath Serah/Heres[*] (Josh. 19:50; 24:30; Judg. 2:9), we find another tradition concerning a grave in the Ephraimite hill country, that of Eleazar, son of Aaron, the priest, in Gibeah of Phinehas. (Josh. 24:33). Interestingly, we also find a tradition in Greece about the grave of a founder that is near the grave of the prophetic priest who aided him (see Chapter 2). The Israelite traditions apparently can be traced to Shiloh, because the tabernacle of Shiloh was understood in the priestly tradition as the place where Joshua and Eleazar the priest divided up the land by lot "before YHWH" (Josh. 18:1–10; 19:51); According to these traditions, Phinehas, son of Eleazar, continued to serve as priest in the Shiloh sanctuary after the death of Joshua (Josh. 22:9–34)


and served before the ark of the covenant at Bethel (Judg. 20:28), which was also in the Ephraimite hill country.[36]

These priestly traditions, which are interested not in descriptions of war but rather in description of parceling out and dividing the land, constitute an important link in the history of the tribes' settlement in the land of Israel. They recount matters that are not reported at all in the other traditions about the conquest, such as the role of prophecy in the settlement, the determination of the central sacral site, and the division of the land by lot for the various tribes. These matters are also known from the world of Greek colonization (see Chapter 2).

The Greek parallels indicate that the priestly traditions about the settlement in the Pentateuch and book of Joshua are not late theological speculations but are anchored in and bound to the reality of the actual process of making new settlements in antiquity, particularly in the eastern basin of the Mediterranean after the collapse of the kingdoms at the end of the thirteenth century B.C.E. As we saw above, (Chapter 2), the Sea peoples who sought to settle in the area operated by methods similar to those employed by the Israelite tribes in their settlement of the land of Canaan.

Other traditions in the book of Joshua connect the tribe of Ephraim, and its leader Joshua, to Shechem in the Ephraimite hill country (Josh. 21:21).[37] According to Josh. 24:25, Joshua made a covenant with the people in Shechem and set for them "statutes and ordinances" (hoq umispat[*] ), and according to the tradition of the Deuteronomistic stratum in Josh. 8:30–35 Joshua built an altar to YHWH there (on Mt. Ebal) and conducted the ceremony of blessing and cursing. It should be noted that Shechem controlled all the mountain area from the


Jezreel Valley to the lowland of Judah in the period before the settlement of the Israelites.[38] Thus, if Joshua seized power over the hill country of Ephraim, it is possible that he entered Shechem, too, though it should be admitted that we do not know when or how the Israelites penetrated Shechem because the Bible does not preserve a tradition about a battle in this city.[39] It seems that the Israelites succeeded in making a treaty with the inhabitants of the place,[40] similar to the treaty they made with the Gibeonites. As we have indicated above (Chapter 2), the tradition about the penetration of the Hebrews into Shechem appears to be ancient.

Next to Shechem was an ancient sacred site at which the tribes of Israel would gather for religious ceremonies. Joshua, who achieved such great victories in the hill country of Ephraim, conducted these assemblies, according to the tradition, a role that made him like a "judge," who acquired a central position after his victory in battle (Judg. 8:27 ff.; 11:6). In any event, it seems that the descriptions of Joshua's activity at Shechem in Josh. 8:30–35; 24 are motivated by the late national tradition about Shechem's place in the history of Israel (cf., for example, Gen. 12:6–7; 33:18–20), and that their origin is in a desire to connect Joshua to an important city that was, in the words of A. Alt, "the uncrowned queen of the land of Israel."[41] The Deuteronomist attributed to Joshua the setting up of an altar at Mt. Ebal and the writing of a "copy of the instruction of Moses" on stones there, in agreement with Deut. 27:1–8, whereas the tradition in Josh. 24:1–28, presupposing that he stood at the head of a federation of twelve


tribes, attributed to him the making of a covenant with the people of Shechem. Actually, the covenant at Shechem and the setting up of an altar and stones there represent the entrance to the promised land, analogous to the setting up of the stone at Gilgal in Josh. 3–4. The erection of stones at Gilgal by Joshua is actually a tradition that rivals that of setting up an altar of stones at Mt. Ebal.[42]

From a typological perspective, the traditions of Shechem and Gilgal are foundation legends (Greek ktisis ),[43] which recount the establishment of Israel in its land as accompanied by impressive religious ceremonies.[44] The Pentateuchal literature deals with the establishment of the people before they came to the land of Israel, at Sinai and the Plain of Moab, so we find similar accompanying ceremonies there.[45] However, as Bin-Gorion recognized in his book,[46] the Sinai covenant and that of Shechem traditions compete with one another. The tradition in Josh. 24 is totally ignorant of the Sinai covenant made by Moses (Exod. 24), and sets up in its place the covenant at Shechem made by Joshua (v. 25). Joshua established "statutes and ordinances" in Shechem and wrote down a "book of God's instruction" (spr twrt 'lhym[*] ; v. 26), much as Moses did at Sinai (Exod. 24:3–7; and see above, p. 110).


The block of chapters 2–10 in the book of Joshua tells us about the tradition of the sanctuary at Gilgal and its connection with Joshua. The scene of the wars in this section is the inheritance of Benjamin (Gilgal, Jericho, Ai, and Gibeon). The place that served there as the deployment site for war was Gilgal (9:6; 10:6, 15, 43; cf. 14:6). Scholars have assumed that the sanctuary at Gilgal is the place where the stories in this group of chapters were created,[47] a reasonable assumption. The upper boundary chronologically for the formation of this sort of string of stories is the period of King Saul, and we might note a number of indications that link this block of stories with Saul or the time of Saul. (1) Saul, of Benjaminite origin, was made a king in the sanctuary of Gilgal (1 Sam. 11:14–15) and operated mainly at this sanctuary (13:12–18; 15:12). (2) Only when the Israelite tribes were unified politically for royal rule was it likely that a desire arose to concretize in written tradition the national epic of the conquest of the land by one leader. (3) The zeal of king Saul, who, "by his zeal for the Israelites and Judah" (2 Sam. 21:2 ff.), plotted against the Amorites inhabiting the land, corresponds to the idea of herem[*] ("ban") expressed vigorously in the story about the conquest of Jericho and the deed of Achan. The type of herem used against Jericho in Josh.—"men and women, young and old, and cattle, flock animals, asses, by the sword" (v. 21)—brings to mind the herem that Saul was commanded to carry out in 1 Sam. 15:3 and in Saul's ban against Nob, the priestly city, in 1 Sam. 22:19: "men and women, children and infants, cattle, asses, and flock animals, by the sword" (see Chapter 4). (4) The description of presenting the tribes in order to determine the guilty party by lot (Urim and Thummin) is congruent with the description of inquiring of YHWH in 1 Sam. 14:40 ff. in connection with Saul and Jonathan. (5) The central place of the ark of the covenant in Josh. 3, 4, and 6 indicates that these stories were


crystalized in a period when the ark of the covenant of YHWH was used to accompany warriors to battle. (6) Is it possible to suppose that the description of the Gibeonites, who tricked Israel by their request to make a treaty (Josh. 9:3–18), has its source in the house of Saul and seeks to justify Saul's breach of the treaty (2 Sam. 21)?

Even if the consolidation of these stories in Joshua cannot be attributed to the period of Saul, the events described therein clearly occurred in the region of the land of Benjamin and have a special connection with Gilgal. If so, their place of creation is likely in the land of Benjamin. The fact that Achan, the troubler of Israel, is from the tribe of Judah probably testifies to the antagonism toward Judah in these stories (Josh. 7:1, 18).

We will try now to track traditions of the conquest in Josh. 2–11. Chapter 2, which opens with the description of Joshua sending out spies, probably reflects a reliable historical event. Sending out men for reconnaissance was a widespread phenomenon in the east.[48] Moreover, a prostitute's or innkeeper's house was the accustomed place for meeting with spies, conspirators, and the like. Thus, for example, we read in Hammurabi Code: "If scoundrels plot together [in conspiratorial relationships][49] in an innkeeper's house, and she does not seize them and bring them to the palace, that innkeeper shall be put to death" (law § 109). In a Mari letter we read about two men who sow fear and panic and cause rebellion in an army.[50] Also, the pattern of a three-day stay in an area when pursuing escapees has support in ancient eastern sources; for example, the


instructions to the Hittite tower commanders specify that if an enemy invades a place he must be pursued for three days. In the same collection of instructions we find that it is forbidden to build an inn (arzana )[51] in which prostitutes live near the fortress wall, apparently because of the kind of danger described in Josh. 2. Rahab's method of hiding the spies has a parallel in the story of hiding Jonathan and Ahimaaz in 2 Sam. 17:19–20. Moreover, we find that letting down an endangered person through a window, in the story about David and Michal in 1 Sam. 19:12, is similar to the story in Joshua 2. In ancient Greek literature we read about a whore in whose memory a sanctuary of Aphrodite was dedicated, after she helped an enemy escape outside a wall.[52] All these bits of evidence indicate that the story about Rahab has a firm foundation in reality, that the city was conquered by stratagem,[53] much as in Judg. 1:22–26, and that the continuation of the story about the real conquest of Jericho was cut short, to make room for a miraculous and supernatural story (Josh. 6). There is some tension between the story in chapter 2 and the legendary description of the conquest of Jericho in chapter 6. According to 2:15, Rahab is dwelling in the wall structure, whereas 6:20 says that despite the wall having fallen, Rahab was removed from her house (v. 22 ff.). Similarly, it is difficult to understand the reason for sending the spies to Jericho if the


walls were simply going to fall down miraculously anyway. And Josh. 24:11 says that the nobles of Jericho fought with Israel, a datum that does not fit with the story in chapter 6.

In light of all this, it is reasonable to think that at one time the story about the spies at Jericho existed by itself, like the story about the reconnaissance mission of the Josephites at Bethel (Judg. 1:22–26), and that only later the spy story was tied to Joshua and all of Israel, and the tradition about the miraculous conquest of the city came into being. Encircling the city with the ark of the Covenant accompanied by horn blasts came from a liturgical ceremony that was customary at Gilgal.[54]

The conquest of Ai and the story about the herem[*] of Achan (chaps. 7–8) have some basis in reality, but archaeological discoveries make clear that in the period of the Israelite conquest there was no Canaanite settlement in Ai and that it remained desolate for hundreds of years before the period of the conquest. The Israelite settlement began only in the second half of the twelfth century B.C.E. It is possible, then, that the story reflects a local battle of Israelites with a weak Canaanite settlement (cf. Josh. 7:3), and that later the battle was attached to the wars of conquest.[55]

The story about the pact with the Gibeonites and the war with the five Amorite kings (chaps. 9–10) reflects one of the important events in the period of the conquest. The area north of Jerusalem as far as Beth-Horon belonged to the land of Jerusalem, as we learn from letter #290 from el-Amarna, which says that Bit Ninurta = Beth-Horon, "the city of the land of Jerusalem," joined with the Habiru[*] people, that is, it


rebelled against Jerusalem.[56] In view of this, the Gibeonite treaty with the Israelites, which was formed later in the period of the conquest, must have further endangered the position of the king of Jerusalem; he therefore organized a coalition of five Amorite kings and went out to fight against the Gibeonites and the Israelites. The battle in the Aijalon Valley brought a crushing defeat for the king of Jerusalem and those who had made a pact with him (Josh. 10:8–14). Through this battle, dominion over the hill country of Ephraim was assured by the Israelites. We can imagine that over the years, the victory in the Aijalon Valley magnified Joshua's reputation among the Israelite tribes and transformed him into the conqueror of the land of Canaan (see above).

The pericope about the covenant with the Gibeonites undoubtedly reflects a real event, as we learn from the story in 2 Sam. 21:1–6, but whether Joshua actually participated in making this treaty is in doubt. A priestly tradition inserted in Josh. 9 says that the chieftains of the congregation (nsy'y h'dh[*] ), not Joshua, made the treaty.[57] (vv. 15, 21). Also, we need to remember that Gibeon belonged to the tribe of Benjamin, not Ephraim.

In contrast to the story about the battle in the Aijalon Valley, which reflects an actual event, the story about the conquest of Makkedah, Libnah, Lachish, Eglon, Hebron, and Debir (Josh. 10:28–39) belongs to a later editorial stratum; its description is stereotypical[58] and full of Deuteronomistic for-


mulas, and it contradicts the early traditions about the conquest of Hebron and Debir by Caleb and Othniel ben-Kenaz (see above, p. 128 f.). If authentic information has been preserved in the story,[59] it reflects later battles of the tribe of Judah with the cities of the region,[60] and not Joshua's campaign at Aijalon. Needless to say, Josh. 10:40–43 is an editorial summary, which extrapolated from the battle in the Aijalon Valley the conquest of the entire south.

As for the story about the war at the Waters of Merom and the conquest of Hazor in Josh. 11, one must note that archaeological excavations at Hazor lead to the unambiguous conclusion that the city was destroyed at the end of the thirteenth century B.C.E. , the period of the Israelite settlement.[61] Nevertheless when the passage about the war at the Waters of Merom is compared to the story of the war of Deborah and Barak (Judg. 4–5), many difficulties are apparent. Some scholars claim that the war with Sisera preceded that of the Waters of Merom,[62] and that Hazor fell only after the break-


down of the Canaanite military order in the Jezreel Valley. The association of Hazor's destruction with Joshua is then a tendentious creation of the writer of chapters 2–11 in the book of Joshua.[63]

In light of all this, it would appear that the settlement of the tribes in the land of Israel took quite a long time, and that only after they became numerous and powerful did they succeed in exercising dominion over most of the area. The Canaanite cities on the coast and in the valleys maintained their status as independent cities until the time of David. The block of traditions in Josh. 2–11 came into being, then, out of a desire to ascribe to Joshua all the wars of conquest, even though in terms of actual historical development these wars occurred over the period of many generations.

As we already hinted, the aim of these stories was to immortalize the impressive national experience of the conquest of the land of Canaan under Joshua's leadership, which in actuality had constituted the beginnings of the establishment of Israel in its land. The wonders and miracles adduced here echo the events of the exodus from Egypt: crossing the Jordan on dry ground (chaps. 3–4); the revelation of the chief of YHWH's army to Joshua (5:13–15); and the victory when Joshua stretches out the javelin in his hand toward the city and does not draw his hand back, which brings to mind the victory when Moses holds up his hands (8:18, 26; cf. Exod. 17:11). Like Moses, Joshua sends out spies, performs a Passover (Josh.


5:2–12), organizes covenant ceremonies (8:30–35; cf. 24:26, where Joshua writes in a book of God's Torah), and more. The ark of the covenant plays an honored part in these stories: it passes before the Israelites when they cross the Jordan (chaps. 3–4) and accompanies them when they encircle the walls of Jericho (chap. 7). These data show that the entrance of the Israelites into the promised land was performed according to all the rules of holiness, and that God was with them in their battles (10:14). As we suggested above, it seems that in the days of Saul all these events were identified with the sanctuary at Gilgal, with the liturgical ceremonies that appear in these chapters serving to tie the exodus from Egypt to the conquest of the promised land.

The stories, religio-educational in character, were made concrete in the eyes of the reader by an etiological motif that accompanied each of them. The stories at Gilgal are put forth "for a memorial to the Israelites forever" (Josh. 4:7), since it was here that the Israelites crossed the Jordan. The circumcision that enabled the people to celebrate the passover (cf. Exod. 12:43–48) explains the name Gilgal (Josh. 5:9); the conquest of Jericho is immortalized by the sight of destroyed walls, and the breach of herem[*] , by the pile of stones in the valley of Achor (7:24–26). The treaty with the Gibeonites is rendered concrete by the existence of hewers of wood and drawers of water at the sanctuary (9:27), and the cave at Makkedah and the trees near it bring to mind the war with the Amorite kings (10:26–28). This invocation of etiology does not imply that the stories were invented for the purpose of etiological explanation, as a few scholars have claimed, because it is merely secondary, used only to add extra power to a tradition that already exists.[64] The goal of the stories was to


make the religious experience tangible and real, and to make it a didactic tool of great power, as is expressed clearly in the "children's question" ("and when your children ask") in Josh. 4:6–7, 21–24. Indeed, the "children's question" appears in a similar form in stories of the exodus from Egypt in the Torah (Exod. 12:26;[65] 13:14), the goal of which is to impart national education by means of the Passover ceremony. The exodus from Egypt and the entrance to the promised land were, then, a basis for educating the younger generation, and the two events together were actualized in rites: the first by the Passover offering and the second by the procession of the ark at Gilgal.

The Last Editor of the Conquest Stories

The Deuteronomistic editor who gathered the traditions in Josh. 2–12 and gave them a framework was more interested in the historiosophic perspective than in supernatural events, social institutions, and cultic customs.[66] The principal feature of his orientation was the fulfillment in tangible terms of YHWH's word to the patriarchs giving the promised land to Israel. This orientation is clear in the discourse at the beginning of the book of Joshua in which God promises the leader that he will be with him in conquering the land in its ideal boundaries: "from the wilderness . . . to the large river, the Euphrates river" (1:4); it is also evident in the summary words of the editor, in Josh. 21:41–43: "And YHWH gave Israel all the land that he swore to give their fathers . . ."; and it is expressed in the farewell speech put in the mouth of Joshua in chapter 23.


The editor was familiar with the fact that Joshua did not conquer the land in its promised boundaries, i.e., to the Euphrates; therefore, he put in Joshua's mouth the promise that "the remaining land" would be conquered by the coming generations as long as they walk in YHWH's paths and observe his commandments. Nevertheless, according to the editor's description, all the land was captured in its real borders, "from Mt. Halak that ascends to Seir, to Baal Gad in the Lebanon Valley," by Joshua (11:17; 12:7), and it was given to the Israelites and they settled it (21:41).

The historical traditions that the editor adduced, however, present an entirely imperfect picture of the conquest. The specific wars discussed in these traditions are few and quite sporadic: the conquest of Jericho and Ai, the war with the five Amorite kings in the south (10:1–27), and the war at the Waters of Merom in the north (11:1–10). We find nothing in these traditions about battles and wars in the great political centers in Canaan, such as Megiddo, Taanach, Jokneam, Tirzah, Bethel, Shechem, Beth-Shean, Jerusalem, Gezer, and so forth. In order to describe an all-inclusive and one-time conquest of the land of Canaan, the editor of the material in Josh. 1–12 used several separate conquest traditions that were available to him, as well as a schematic list of Canaanite cities and their kings (Josh. 12).[67] If he had had access to traditions about the conquest of great Canaanite centers his work would have been easier, but because such traditions were unavailable to help him, he was forced to arrange such traditions as he had in a way that would leave the impression of the conquest as a systematic national operation: a battle in the central region (Jericho, Ai, and the Aijalon Valley), a campaign to the south and a battle in the north (Hazor).

Thus the battle against all the land of Canaan was made to


appear decisive. But the truth of the matter is, as we have emphasized, that these wars do not describe the conquest of the land. The battle in the center was not directed at conquering the Canaanite cities—in fact, Jerusalem, which stood at the head of the Amorite coalition, did not fall. The goal of this engagement was to fend off the attack against the Ephraimites, Benjaminites, and Gibeonites, who had made a treaty with the others. The southern campaign is unaccompanied by descriptions of wars, though the editor did include a list of conquered cities (Josh. 10:28 ff.). It is an artificial list, the details of which contradict what we know from the book of Joshua (see above with regard to Hebron and Debir). The story of the battle in the north, also, describes only the destruction of Hazor, not the conquest of the cities in the Galilee.

In order to portray a general conquest, the editor used, as we have said, a literary strategy: he represented the battles in the Aijalon Valley and at the Waters of Merom as decisive encounters resulting in the conquest of the whole land. His summary of what followed from the battle at Aijalon is merely a generalization: "And Joshua smote all the hill country, the Negev, the lowland and the foothills, and all their kings. He did not leave anyone alive and every living thing he put under ban. Joshua smote them from Kadesh-Barnea to Gaza, and all the land of Goshen to Gibeon" (Josh. 10:40–41).[68] His summary after the battle in the north is similar: "Joshua took all this land, the hill country, the whole Negev, all the land of Goshen, the lowland and the Arabah, and the hill country of Israel and its lowland. From Mount Halak which ascends to Seir, and to Baal-Gad in the valley of the Lebanon" (11:16–17).


The available traditions about these events provided no details about these total conquests.

The generalizing and inclusive manner of the Deuteronomistic editor's presentation is also expressed in the matter of the ban on the Canaanites. According to Judg. 1 and parallel verses in Josh. 15:63; 16:10; 17:11–13, the Israelites did not succeed in driving out the Canaanites from most parts of the land. Canaanites remained in Jerusalem, Beth-Shean, Taanach, Dor, Ibleam, Megiddo, Gezer, Beth-Shemesh, Aijalon, Shaalbim, Akko, Sidon, and other places, in the midst of the tribes who are held accountable for the continuing Canaanite presence. But this description conflicts with the all-inclusive presentation of the editor, as reflected in Josh. 1–12, in which Joshua conquered all the land of Canaan, captured the Canaanite cities and their kings (chap. 12), and put all the land's inhabitants under ban (10:40; 11:14–15, 20). In his description of total herem[*] , the Deuteronomist relies on the herem law in Deuteronomy (Deut. 20:10–18), according to which it is forbidden to keep any Canaanite alive. Because Joshua was responsible, in the opinion of the editor, for the conquest operation, it was impossible for him not to act in accordance with the commandments given to Moses, his master; indeed, the editor makes this point explicitly: "They smote every human with the sword until they were destroyed. They did not spare any soul. What YHWH commanded Moses his servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and thus Joshua did. He did not deviate at all from all that which YHWH commanded Moses" (Josh. 11:14–15). The Deuteronomic conception of herem as a decree that applied automatically to all the inhabitants of the land of Canaan, whether a war was being waged or not, has a utopian character that made it unacceptable even to the Sages.[69] In reality, herem was the result of a vow declared at the


time of war, as we find in the cases of Arad (Num. 21:1–3) and Jericho (Josh. 6:17), and not an automatic decree (see above, Chapter 4). Herem[*] was also decreed when going out to war against non-Canaanite peoples, such as Amalek (1 Sam. 15:3). We know that the Canaanites, however, remained in the land, and that the Israelites were not able to put them under ban. Only Solomon put them to forced labor (1 Kings 9:21).

If we summarize the transformations of traditions in the Bible in relation to the conquest of the land, we arrive at an overall picture. An all-inclusive war of the Israelite tribes with the Canaanites could have occurred only at the end of the settlement period, not at the beginning, and indeed we find such a national war in the days of Deborah, which was directed against central cities, such as Megiddo and Taanach. Tribes from the Galilee (Naphtali, Zebulun), from the Jezreel Valley (Issachar), and from the hills (Ephraim, Machir, and Benjamin) participated in this war. In contrast, earlier wars were defensive in character and restricted to particular areas. Joshua's greatness is rooted not in the conquest of Canaanite cities, but in his success in withstanding the pressure of the king of Jerusalem in the south and the Amorites in the lowland. As we have seen, the description in Josh. 10:28 ff. about cities such as Lachish, Hebron, and Debir is artificial and not reliable, and the ascription of the destruction of Hazor to Joshua is also doubtful. Joshua himself confessed that he was not capable of competing with the Canaanites in the valleys, who had iron chariots (Josh. 17:14–18).

Against this background, Joshua acquired fame in the war at Aijalon (Josh. 10:12–14) and following his victory there became the leading figure in the conquest of the land.[70] When the epic about the national Israelite conquest began to be formed


(not before the period of Saul), Joshua was cast as the warrior who conquered the land of Israel for the people of Israel. According to the traditions that apparently began at the Gilgal sanctuary, Joshua's battle sorties from his base at Gilgal conquered all the area of Benjamin. Thus, he was considered a distinguished spiritual leader who performed wonders and miracles like Moses and performed impressive religious ceremonies. In priestly traditions that came together, it seems, at Shiloh, the figure of Joshua became defined as a religious leader who would ask the counsel of YHWH by means of Eleazar the priest and who, along with this priest, divided the land among the tribes before YHWH at Shiloh (Josh. 18:1–10).

The north Israelite traditions from the period of the monarchy connect Joshua to the capital city, Shechem. According to these traditions, Joshua built an altar with inscribed stones in Shechem, a tradition that parallels the setting up of stones at Gilgal. Also, according to another early tradition he made a covenant with the people of Shechem and placed "statutes and ordinances" there (Josh. 24:25–26).

These traditions, which set Joshua at the head of the conquest, were created at the sanctuaries of Gilgal, Shiloh, and Shechem—in other words, at centers in the north. In Judah, a contrasting picture of the conquest of the land was formed during the united monarchy, in which Joshua is missing altogether. Judg. 1, which in geographical background reflects the period of the unified kingdom,[71] does not attribute any conquest to Joshua but rather sets up Caleb (vv. 12–15, 20), the chieftain of the tribe of Judah (Num. 13:6; 34:19), as the leader in the area of Hebron and Debir. As discussed above, Judg. 1 is characterized by a strong polemical prejudice against the northern tribes. Yet, just as Judg. 1 tendentiously omits Joshua from the conquest operation, the northern traditions in Josh. 2–11 omit Caleb from the campaign. In fact, not only is Caleb not mentioned in these traditions, but his conquests of cities in Judah, which are credited to him by the tribal tradi-


tions in Josh. 14–19, are attributed instead, in Josh. 10:28 ff., to Joshua.

In the Pentateuchal literature we find Joshua mentioned alongside Caleb, though according to the evidence the two figures were joined at a later stage (Num. 14:6, 30, 38; 32:12; Deut. 1:36–38).[72]

The version in Judg. 1 was not taken up by the Deuteronomistic editor of the Former Prophets but was inserted later as an appendix. The Deuteronomist, like the book of Deuteronomy that functions as a source for him, constructs his composition on northern foundations[73] and ignores the Judean version of things. He gives Shechem a place of honor and attributes to Joshua the performance of a rite at Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal, a rite that functions as a sort of inclusio to the book of Deuteronomy (Deut. 11:26–30; 27:11–13). Writers from the period of Josiah, in whose time this Deuteronomic school began to function, paradoxically ignored the tendentious Judean tradition in order to make way for a north Israelite legacy about Joshua as the conqueror of the land. By this time, there was no longer need to compete with the northern tribes, and Judah saw itself as an inheritor of Israel's position; in Joshua, Judah claimed a warrior who belonged to them no less than to the Josephites, who saw in him a great warrior belonging to them before the destruction of Samaria. Moreover, Shechem was rehabilitated, whether in the tradition of Deuteronomy (chapter 27) or the later Deuteronomistic tradition (Josh. 8:30–35). According to the Deuteronomistic school, Jerusalem assumed the role of Shechem after the building of the temple in the days of Solomon, but in the days of Joshua, Shechem had been the chosen place.


previous chapter
6— The Conquest and Settlement According to the Different Accounts
next chapter