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Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary Keil & Delitzsch
by Karl Keil and Franz Delitzsch
The Book of Joshua
Contents, Date, and Character of the Book
The book of Joshua derives its name, יהושע , Ἰησοῦς Ναυή or υἱὸς Ναυή (lxx), not from its author, but from its contents, viz., the history of the guidance of Israel into the land of Canaan, the land promised to the fathers, by Joshua the son of Nun. It commences immediately after the death of Moses, with the command addressed by the Lord to Joshua, to lead the children of Israel over the Jordan into Canaan, and not only to take possession of this land, but to divide it among the tribes of Israel (Joshua 1:1-9), and closes with the death and burial of Joshua and his contemporary, the high priest Eleazar (Joshua 24:29-33). The contents may be divided into two parts of nearly equal length-the conquest of Canaan (Josh 1-12), and the division of it among the tribes of Israel (Josh 12-24); Joshua 1:1-9 forming the introductory notice, that when Moses was dead the Lord commanded Joshua, who had been called to be the leader of Israel in his stead, to carry out the work entrusted to him, and encouraged him by the promise of His omnipotent help in the completion of it (Joshua 1:1-9), the history opens in the first part, (1) with the preparations made by Joshua for advancing into Canaan; viz., ( a) the command of Joshua to the people to prepare for crossing the Jordan, the summons to the two tribes and a half to help their brethren to conquer Canaan (Joshua 1:10-18), and the despatch of spies to Jericho (Josh 2); ( b) the crossing of the river, which had been laid dry by a divine miracle (Josh 3 and 4); and ( c) the preparation of Israel for the conquest of the land, by the performance of circumcision and the passover at Gilgal (Joshua 5:1-12). Then follow (2) the conquest and subjugation of Canaan; viz., ( a) the commencement of it by the miraculous fall of Jericho (Josh 5:13-6:27), the attack upon Ai, and capture of that town, after the expiation of the guilt that had been brought upon the congregation through the sin of Achan against the ban (Josh 7-8:29), and the solemn act of setting up the law in the land on Ebal and Gerizim (Joshua 8:30-35); ( b) the further conquest of the land through the subjugation of the Gibeonites, who had succeeded surreptitiously in obtaining a treaty from Israel which guaranteed their safety (Josh 9); the two great victories over the allied kings of Canaan in the south (Josh 10) and north (Josh 11), with the capture of the fortified towns of the land; and lastly, at the close of the first part, the list of the conquered kings (Josh 12). - The second part commences with the command of God to Joshua to divide the whole land among the nine tribes and a half for a possession, although several parts of it still remained unconquered; as two tribes and a half had already received from Moses their inheritance on the eastern side of the Jordan, the boundaries and towns of which are then described (Josh 13). Accordingly Joshua, with the heads of the people appointed for the purpose, proceeded to the distribution of the land, first of all ( a) in the camp at Gilgal, where Caleb was the first to receive his inheritance (Joshua 14:1-15), and then, according to the lot, the tribes of Judah (Josh 15) and Joseph, i.e., Ephraim and (half) Manasseh (Joshua 16:1-10 and 17); and afterwards ( b) at Shiloh, where the tabernacle was first of all erected, and a description of the land to be divided written down (Joshua 18:1-10), and then the rest of the tribes-Benjamin (Josh 18:11-28), Simeon, Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, Naphtali, and Dan (Josh 19), - received their inheritance, after which the cities of refuge were selected (Joshua 20:1-9), and forty-eight cities were given up by the twelve tribes for the Levites to occupy (Josh 21); and finally, ( c) the warriors belonging to the tribes beyond Jordan were sent back by Joshua to their own inheritance (Josh 22). To this there is appended, in the next place, an account of what Joshua did towards the end of his life to establish the tribes of Israel securely in their inheritance: viz., ( a) an exhortation to the heads of the tribes, who were gathered round him, to carry out their calling with fidelity (Josh 23); and ( b) the renewal of the covenant at the diet at Shechem (Josh 24:1-28). This is followed by an account of the close of Joshua's life, and the conclusion of the whole book (Joshua 24:29-33). Thus the two parts or halves of the book correspond exactly to one another, both in form and in contents. As the events described in Josh 1:10-5:12 were preparatory to the conquest of Canaan, so the diets held by Joshua after the distribution of the land by lot (Josh 23-24:28) had no other object than to establish the covenant people firmly in the inheritance bestowed upon them by God, by exhorting them to be faithful to the Lord. And just as Josh 12 rounds off the first part, as a kind of appendix which completes the history of the conquest of the land, so Josh 22 is obviously an appendix to the distribution of the land among the tribes, which brings to a close the dismission of the people to the separate portions of their inheritance.
The book of Joshua is not intended merely as a continuation of the history of Israel from the death of Moses to the death of Joshua, still less as a description of the acts of Joshua only. The purpose of the book is rather to show how, after the death of Moses, the faithful covenant God fulfilled to the children of Israel, whom He had adopted as His people of possession through the mediation of His servant, the promise which He had made to the patriarchs; how the Canaanites were destroyed, and their land given to the tribes of Israel for an hereditary possession through the medium of Joshua, the servant of Moses, whom he had consecrated as leader of the people through the laying on of hands and by putting some of his honour upon him. As the servant of Moses treading in his footsteps, Joshua finished the work which Moses was not allowed to bring to a conclusion on account of his sin at the water of strife, viz., the planting and establishment of Israel in Canaan, the land of its inheritance, which the Lord had selected for His dwelling (Exodus 15:17) and chosen as the nursery ground of His kingdom. As Joshua simply carried on in this respect, and brought to completion, the work which Moses had begun, arranged, and set on foot, the book of Joshua is naturally connected very closely with the books of Moses, though without forming an integral part, or the last portion of it, and without being written by Joshua himself.
The origin of the book of Joshua is involved in obscurity, as we can neither find out its author, nor determine with certainty the date of its composition. Whereas, on the one hand, the historical account bears throughout the mark of having been written by an eye-witness, and even by one who had taken part in the events described, and the description given of the possessions allotted to the different tribes according to their respective boundaries and the cities which they contained is unquestionably founded upon contemporaneous writings, and in one passage the writer actually classes himself with those who crossed over Jordan into Canaan under the guidance of Joshua (Joshua 5:1, “until we were passed over”); on the other hand we find a number of historical statements in the book, which point beyond the life of Joshua and are opposed to the idea that it was written by Joshua himself. We do not include in these either the closing accounts of the death of Joshua and Eleazar (Joshua 24:29, Joshua 24:33), or the allusion to the “book of the righteous” (Joshua 10:13): for these accounts might have been appended to a writing of Joshua's by a later hand, just as in the case of the Pentateuch; and the book of the righteous is not a work that was composed after the time of Joshua, but a collection of odes in praise of the acts of the Lord in Israel, which were composed by pious minstrels during the conquest of the land, and were added one by one to this collection. Even the frequent repetition of the statement that this or the other has continued “to this day,” furnishes no certain proof that the book was not written in the closing years of Joshua's life, when we consider the purely relative signification of the formula, which is sometimes used in connection with things that only lasted a few years. Apart from such passages as Joshua 22:3, Joshua 22:17, and Joshua 23:8-9, in which no one has discovered any allusion to a later time than that of Joshua, we find the formula “to this day” in Joshua 4:9; Joshua 5:9; Joshua 6:25; Joshua 7:26; Joshua 8:28-29; Joshua 9:27; Joshua 13:13; Joshua 14:14; Joshua 15:63, and Joshua 16:10. But if the remark made in Joshua 6:25 with regard to Rahab, “she dwelleth in Israel unto this day,” was certainly written during her lifetime, such statements as that the first encampment of Israel in Canaan “is called Gilgal unto this day,” on account of the circumcision of the people that took place there, and that the valley in which Achan was stoned is called Achor “unto this day” (Joshua 5:9; Joshua 7:26), or that the memorial stones set up in the bed of the Jordan (Joshua 4:9), and the heaps of stones raised upon the bodies of Achan and the king of Ai (Joshua 7:26; Joshua 8:29), remain “unto this day;” that “unto this day” Ai remains an heap (Joshua 8:28), the Gibeonites are hewers of wood and drawers of water to the congregation (Joshua 9:27), and Hebron is the inheritance of Caleb (Joshua 14:14); that the Geshurites and Maachathites have not been expelled (Joshua 13:13), nor the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Gezer (Joshua 15:63; Joshua 16:10), but dwell among and by the side of Israel “unto this day,” may be just as easily understood, if they were made ten of fifteen years after the conquest and division of Canaan, as if they were made after an interval of eighty or a hundred years. For even in giving names, the remark that the new name has remained to this day is of greater significance at the end of ten years than after an interval of a century, since its permanence would be fully secured if it made its way to general adoption during the first ten years. The formula “to this day” proves nothing more than that the written record was not quite contemporaneous with the events; but it does not warrant us in concluding that the book itself was written several generations, or even centuries, after the settlement of Israel in Canaan.
It is different with the accounts of the conquest of Hebron by Caleb, Debir by Othniel, and Leshem by the Danites (Joshua 15:13-19 and Joshua 19:47). Considered by themselves, these conquests could no doubt have taken place before the death of Joshua, as he lived for some time after the distribution of the land and the settlement of the different tribes in the possessions allotted to them (compare Joshua 19:50 and Joshua 23:1, with Joshua 22:4 and Joshua 21:43-44). But if we compare these accounts with the parallel accounts of the same conquests in Judges 1:10-16 and Judges 1:18, there can be no doubt that it was after Joshua's death that the places mentioned were taken permanently from the Canaanites, came into the actual and permanent possession of the Israelites. For, according to Judges 1:1-15, the Israelites inquired of the Lord, after the death of Joshua, who should begin the war with the Canaanites, i.e., with those who had not yet been destroyed, and received this reply, “Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his hand;” whereupon Judah and Simeon smote the Canaanites at Bezek, then advanced against Jerusalem, took this city and set it on fire, and “afterward” (Judges 1:9) proceeded against the Canaanites on the mountains and in the south, and took Hebron and Debir. From this account it is evident at once that even the capture of Jerusalem did not take place till after the death of Joshua, and that even then the Jebusites were not driven out of Jerusalem, but continued to dwell there by the side of the Benjamites (Judges 1:21), so that the same statement in Joshua 15:63 also points beyond the death of Joshua. It is equally evident from Judg 18 that the Danites of Zorah and Eshtaol did not enter upon the expedition against Leshem or Laish till after Joshua's death. This also applies to the other statements concerning the failure to expel the Canaanite out of different districts and towns, which are common to this book and the book of Judges (compare Joshua 13:2-5; Joshua 16:10, and Joshua 17:11-12, with Judges 3:3; Judges 1:29, and Judges 1:27-28), so that we might infer from every one of these passages that this book of Joshua was not written till after Joshua's death, and therefore that the closing accounts of his death in Joshua 24:29-33 formed a part of the original work.
If we endeavour to determine the date of composition more exactly, we have first of all to bear in mind the fact, that the wars and conquests just referred to cannot have occurred a very long time after Joshua's death; for, in the first place, it was in the very nature of things, that when the different tribes of Israel proceeded into their different possessions, even if they did not commence the attack upon the remaining Canaanites immediately, they would certainly do so very soon, in order that they might obtain complete and undisputed possession of the land. Moreover, when the division of the land by lot took place, Caleb was eighty-five years old; and yet he lived to see the capture of Hebron and Debir, and even took part in it, inasmuch as he not only promised but was able to give his daughter to the conqueror of Debir for a wife (Joshua 15:13-19; Judges 1:11.). It was no doubt shortly after these wars, in which Judah took possession of the mountains, but was unable to destroy the Canaanites who dwelt in the valley, because of their possessing iron chariots (Judges 1:19), that the Danites felt obliged to go northwards to conquer Leshem, and take it for a possession, on account of the inheritance assigned them by lot between Judah and Ephraim being too small for them, because the Canaanites had not been expelled. And whilst all these occurrences, which are mentioned in the book of Joshua, fell within the period immediately succeeding the death of Joshua, we can find distinct evidence in the book itself that it was not written after, but before, the establishment of the monarchy in Israel. According to Joshua 16:10, the Canaanites were still dwelling in Gezer; yet they were destroyed at the close of David's reign, or the commencement of that of Solomon, when Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, conquered the town (1 Kings 9:16). According to Joshua 15:63, the Jebusites had not yet been driven out of Jerusalem; but this was accomplished by David at the beginning of his reign over all the tribes of Israel (2 Samuel 5:3, 2 Samuel 5:6-9). According to Joshua 9:27, the place for the temple had not yet been chosen, but this was done in the time of David (2 Samuel 24:8.; 1 Chronicles 21:16.). And the Gibeonites were still hewers of wood and drawers of water to the congregation for the altar of the Lord, by virtue of the treaty which Joshua and the elders had made with them; whereas this treaty was violated by Saul, who endeavoured to destroy the Gibeonites (2 Samuel 21:1.). If we add to this, that our book shows no traces whatever of later times and circumstances either in its style or contents, but that it is closely connected with the Pentateuch in the language as well as in its peculiar stand-point-for example, when the only Phoenicians mentioned are the Sidonians, and they are reckoned as belonging to the Canaanites who were to be destroyed (Joshua 13:4-6), whereas in the time of David we find the circumstances entirely changed (2 Samuel 5:11; 1 Kings 5:15; 1 Chronicles 14:1); and again when Sidon is referred to as the chief city of Phoenicia, and the epithet “great” is applied to it (Joshua 11:8; Joshua 19:28), whereas Tyre had outstripped Sidon even in the days of David, - the conclusion becomes an extremely probable one, that the book was written not later than twenty or twenty-five years after the death of Joshua, in all probability by one of the elders who crossed the Jordan with Joshua, and had taken part in the conquest of Canaan (vid., Joshua 5:1, Joshua 5:6), but who survived Joshua a considerable time (Joshua 24:31; Judges 2:7).
But even if the book of Joshua was not composed till some time after the events recorded (and the authorship cannot be determined with certainty), this does not affect its historico-prophetic character; for both the contents and form of the book show it to be an independent and simple work composed with historical fidelity, and a work which is as thoroughly pervaded with the spirit of the Old Testament revelation as the Pentateuch itself. However closely it is connected with the Pentateuch both in language and contents, there is no tenable ground for the hypothesis set up in various forms by modern critics, that it has arisen, just like the Pentateuch, from the fusion of two or three earlier writings, and was composed by the so-called “Deuteronomist.” For, even if we leave altogether out of sight the fact that this hypothesis is unfounded and untenable in the case of the Pentateuch, the supposed community of authorship between the book of Joshua and that of Deuteronomy, as well as the rest of the Pentateuch, in the revised from in which it has come down to us, is founded chiefly upon the opinion that the death of Moses, with which the Pentateuch closes, “does not form a fitting conclusion for a work which commenced with the creation, and treated the earlier history in the manner in which this is done in the Pentateuch;” because “it is hardly conceivable that a historical work, which was written at any rate some time after the conquest of the land of Canaan by the Israelites, should describe all the preparations that were made for the conquest of the land, and then break off without including either the capture of the land, or the division of it among the remaining tribes” ( Bleek's Einleitung, Stähelin, and others). But, in the first place, it is to be observed that the Pentateuch was not written “some time after the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites,” and is not to be regarded as a historical work in the sense intended by these critics. It is the law book of the Old Testament, to which, as even Bleek admits, the book of Deuteronomy forms an appropriate close. And, in the second place, although the book of Joshua is closely connected with the Pentateuch, and carries on the history to the conquest of the promised land by the Israelites, there is evidence that it is an independent work, in the fact that it repeats the account of the conquest of the land on the east of Jordan, and its distribution by Moses among the two tribes and a half, and also of the cities of refuge which Moses had already appointed in that part of the land, for the purpose of giving a full and complete account of the fulfilment of the promise made by God to the patriarchs, that their seed should receive the land of Canaan for a possession; and still more in the peculiarities of language by which it is obviously distinguished from the books of Moses. In the book of Joshua not only do we find none of the archaisms which run pretty uniformly through all the books of the Pentateuch, such as הוּא for היא , נער for נערה , האל for האלּה , and other words which are peculiar to the Pentateuch; but we find, on the other hand, words and expressions which never occur in the Pentateuch, e.g., the constant form יריחי (Joshua 2:1-3, etc., in all twenty-six times) instead of the form ירחי , which is quite as uniformly adopted in the Pentateuch (Numbers 22:1; Numbers 26:3, etc., in all eleven times): also ממלכוּת , for the kingdom of Sihon and Og (Joshua 13:12, Joshua 13:21, Joshua 13:27, Joshua 13:30-31), instead of ממלכת (Numbers 32:33; Deuteronomy 3:4, Deuteronomy 3:10, etc.); קנּוא (Joshua 24:19) instead of קנּא (Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24; Deuteronomy 5:9, etc.); שׁמע , fama (Joshua 6:27; Joshua 9:9), for שׁמע (Genesis 29:13, etc.); ירא (Joshua 22:25) for יראה (Deuteronomy 4:10; Deuteronomy 5:26, etc.); and lastly, החיל גּבּורי (Joshua 1:14; Joshua 6:2; Joshua 8:3; Joshua 10:7) for חיל בּני (Deuteronomy 3:18); נאד , a bottle (Joshua 9:4, Joshua 9:13), for חמת (Genesis 21:14-15, Genesis 21:19); hitsiyt, to set on fire or burn (Joshua 8:8, Joshua 8:19); צנח , to spring down (Joshua 15:18); קצין , a prince or leader (Joshua 10:24); שׁקט , to rest (Joshua 11:23; Joshua 14:15); and other words besides, which you seek for in vain in the Pentateuch, whereas they frequently occur in the later books.
(Note: How completely the hypothesis that the book of Joshua was written by the Deuteronomist is wrecked on these differences in language, is evident even from the attempts which have been made to set them aside. For example, when Stähelin observes that the later editor retained the form ירחי in the Pentateuch as he found it in the original work, whereas in the book of Joshua he altered the original work into the form he commonly used, this assumption is just as incredible as the hitherto unheard of assertion that the archaistic use of הוּא as a feminine instead of היא is traceable to a later form. What can have induced the later editor, then, to alter the form ממלכת , which he so commonly uses in Deuteronomy, into ממלכוּת in Joshua? The “reliable” Bleek prefers, therefore, to take no notice of these differences, or at least to express no opinion about them.)
Whilst the independence of the book of Joshua is thus placed beyond all doubt, its internal unity, or the singleness of the authorship, is evident in general from the arrangement and connection of the contents, as shown above, and in particular from the fact, that in the different parts of the book we neither meet with material differences or discrepancies, nor are able to detect two different styles. The attempt which was formerly made by De Wette, Hauff, and others, to show that there were material discrepancies in the different parts, has been almost entirely given up by Bleek and Stähelin in their introductions. What Bleek still notices in this respect, in chs. 3 and 4, Josh 8:1-29 and other passages, will be examined in our exposition of the chapters in question, along with the arguments which Knobel employs against the unity of the book. The many traces of different modes of thought which were adduced by Stähelin in 1843, have been dropped in his special introduction (1862): the only one that he insists upon now is the fact, that the way in which Joshua acts in Joshua 18:1-10 is very different from Joshua 14:1-15 ff.; and that in the historical sections, as a rule, Joshua is described as acting very differently from what would be expected from Numbers 27:21, inasmuch as he acts quite independently, and never asks the high priest to give him an answer through the Urim and Thummim. This remark is so far correct, that throughout the whole book, and not merely in the historical sections, Joshua is never said to have inquired the will of the Lord through the medium of the Urim and Thummim of the high priest, and Eleazar is not mentioned at all in the historical portions. But it does not follow from this that there is any such difference in the mode of thought as would point to a difference of authorship. For, on the one hand, Joshua is blamed in Joshua 14:14 for having made a treaty with the Gibeonites, without asking at the mouth of Jehovah, and in this there is evidently a gentle allusion to Numbers 27:21; and on the other hand, even Numbers 27:21 by no means implies that God would only make known His will to Joshua through the Urim and Thummim: so that when Joshua is there referred to the high priest for instructions, all other communications, such as those which he received directly from the Lord with regard to the conquest and division of Canaan, are thereby precluded. If the Lord made known to him what he was to do in this respect, partly by the direct communication of His will, and partly by His angel (Joshua 5:13.), there was no occasion at all for Eleazar to be mentioned in the historical portion of the book, since the direction of the army to fight battles and conquer towns did not form part of the official functions of the high priest, even if he did accompany Joshua in his campaigns. In the geographical portion, however, Eleazar is only mentioned in connection with the committee of heads of the nation appointed according to the law in Numbers 34:17. for the distribution of the land (Joshua 14:1; Joshua 19:51; Joshua 21:1); and even here he does not stand out with any peculiar prominence, as Joshua was still at the head of the whole nation when this was performed (Joshua 13:1, Joshua 13:7). Consequently, not only did Caleb apply to Joshua with the request for the inheritance promised him by the Lord (Joshua 14:6.); but even in other cases, where there was no reason for enumerating the different members of the commission for dividing the land, Joshua is mentioned as appointing and superintending the casting of the lots (Joshua 18:3-10; Joshua 20:1).
The proofs adduced of the “double style” of the book are equally weak. The principal ones are the fact, that the word generally used for tribe in the historical sections is shebet, whereas matteh is the word employed in the geographical sections, and that in the latter the word machaloketh is altogether wanting (Joshua 11:23; Joshua 12:7). But the interchange of shebet and matteh may be fully explained from the difference in the meaning of these two words, shebet denoting the tribe as a political corporation, possessing independence and power, and matteh having simple regard to its genealogical aspect-a distinction which is not overthrown by the assurance, that “in Joshua 7:14, Joshua 7:16, Joshua 7:18, and Joshua 22:1, as compared with Joshua 13:29, and in Joshua 3:12, as compared with Numbers 34:18, the charge is perfectly arbitrary.” But whether it be involuntary or carefully considered, there is no ground for inferring that there have been two writers engaged upon the work, for the simple reason that both words occur in the historical as well as the geographical sections-sometimes, in fact, in the very same verse, e.g., Joshua 13:29 and Numbers 18:2, where we cannot possibly imagine a fusion of different documents to have taken place. (For further remarks, see at Joshua 7:1.) The word machaloketh, however, is not synonymous with mishpachah, as Stähelin supposes, but denotes the various subdivisions of the tribes into families, fathers' houses and families; and this also not only occurs in Joshua 11:23 and Joshua 12:7, but in the geographical portion also, in Joshua 18:10. The other remark, viz., that “in the place of the אבות ראשׁי , who are the leading actors in the geographical sections, we find the elders, judges, heads ראשׁים and שׁטרים in the historical, or else simply the shoterim (Joshua 1:10; Joshua 3:2; Joshua 8:33; Joshua 23:2; Joshua 24:1), or the elders,” is neither quite correct, nor in the least degree conclusive. It is incorrect, inasmuch as even in the geographical portion, namely Joshua 17:4, the נשׂיאים are mentioned instead of the raa'sheey 'aabowt, along with Eleazar and Joshua. But the notion upon which this argument is founded is still more erroneous, viz., that “the נשׂיאים , אבות ראשׁי , זקנים , שׁפטים and שׁטרים are all the same, as we may clearly see from Deuteronomy 1:15;” for the identity of the terms elders and heads with the terms judges and officers ( shoterim ) cannot possibly be inferred from this passage, in which the judges and shoterim are said to have been chosen from the elders of the nation. Even the “heads of the fathers' houses” (see at Exodus 6:14) were only a section of the princes and heads of the nation, and those mentioned in the book of Joshua are simply those who were elected as members of the distribution committee, and who are naturally referred to in connection with the division of the land by lot; whereas the judges and shoterim had nothing to do with it, and for this very reason are not mentioned at all in the geographical sections. - And if, instead of confining ourselves to the words, we turn our attention to the facts, all the peculiarities that we meet with in the different parts of the book may be explained in this way, and the seeming differences brought into harmony. In a work which embraces two such different subjects as the forcible conquest and the peaceable distribution of the land of Canaan, the same ideas and expression cannot possibly be constantly recurring, if the words are to be at all in conformity with the actual contents. And not the smallest conclusion can be drawn from such differences as these with regard to the composition of the book; much less can they be adduced as proofs of diversity of authorship. Moreover, the unity of authorship is not to be overthrown by proving, or showing it to be probable, that the author made use of written documents for some of the sections, - such, for example, as the official records prepared for the distribution of the land by lot, - in his description of the possession of the different tribes.
Lastly, the historical fidelity of the book of Joshua cannot justly be called in question; and so far as all the narratives and descriptions are concerned, which lie within the sphere of the ordinary laws of nature, this is generally admitted. This applies not only to the description oft he possessions of the different tribes according to their boundaries and towns, which are almost universally acknowledged to have been derived from authentic records, but to such historical passages as the words of Caleb (Joshua 14:6.), the address of Phinehas, and the reply of the two tribes and a half (Josh 22), the complaint of the children of Joseph on account of the smallness of the possessions that had fallen to their lot, and Joshua's answer (Joshua 17:14.), which are so thoroughly original, and so perfectly appropriate to the persons and circumstances, that their historical credibility cannot be disputed.
(Note: Even Eichhorn, for example, says in his Introduction, “The words of Caleb, in Joshua 14:1., in which he asks for the inheritance that had been promised him, bear too strongly the characteristics of an appeal from the mouth of an old man of eighty years of age, and breathe too thoroughly in every word his spirit, and age, and peculiar situation, for it to be possible that it should be merely the composition of a later writer, who placed himself in imagination in his situation, and put the words into his mouth.”)
It is chiefly at the miraculous occurrences that the opponents of the biblical revelation have taken offence: partly therefore because of the miracles themselves, and partly because the statement that God commanded the destruction of the Canaanites is irreconcilable with correct (?) views of the Godhead, they deny the historical character of the whole book. But the miracles recorded in this book do not stand alone; on the contrary, they are most intimately connected with the great work of divine revelation, and the redemption of the human race; so that it is only through unscriptural assumptions as to the character of God, and His operations in nature and the world of men, that they can be pronounced unreal, or altogether denied.
And the objection, that the destruction of the Canaanites, as an act commanded by God, “cannot be reconciled even with only half correct notions of the Deity,” as Eichhorn maintains, rests upon totally unscriptural and irrational views of God and the divine government, which deny a priori all living influence on the part of the “Deity” upon the earth and its inhabitants. But the true God is not a Deity who can neither help nor injure men (Jeremiah 10:5); He is the almighty creator, preserver, and governor of the world. This God was Jehovah, who chose Israel for His own people, “a living God, an everlasting King” (Jeremiah 10:10); who not only fixed for the nations the bounds of their habitations, but their appointed times as well, that they should seek Him, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him (Deuteronomy 32:8; Acts 17:26-27); who, because He has given to every nation upon earth life and being, property and land, to be rightly used, and to promote their own happiness through the glorification of the name of God, possesses both the power and the right to deprive them of all their possessions, and wipe out every trace of them from the earth, if they dishonour and disgrace the name of God by an obstinate abuse of the blessings and gifts entrusted to them. Thus the only true God, who judges the earth in eternally unchangeable wisdom and righteousness, and manifests His wrath in great judgments, as well as His mercy in innumerable blessings to all the children of men, had promised to Abraham that He would give him the land of Canaan for a possession for his seed the children of Israel, when the iniquity of the Amorites, who possessed it at that time, was full, i.e., had reached its full measure (Genesis 12:7; Genesis 15:13-16). The expulsion of the Canaanites, therefore, from possessions which they had no doubt rightfully held, but to which they had forfeited their right through the misuse they had made of them, is to be regarded quite as decidedly as an act of penal justice on the part of God, as the presentation of this land to Israel was an act of His free grace; and the destruction of the Canaanites by the Israelites, as well as their capture of the possession which the Canaanites had forfeited through their sins (vid., Leviticus 18:24-28; Deuteronomy 12:29-31), was perfectly justifiable, if, as our book affirms, the Israelites were only acting as instruments in the hands of the Lord. It is true they were not warranted in carrying on a war of extermination against the Canaanites simply because the land had been given them by God, any more than David was warranted in putting Saul to death and wresting the kingdom from him, although he had been rejected by the Lord, simply because Samuel had promised him the kingdom by the command of God, and had even anointed him king over Israel. But the Israelites did not proceed from Egypt to Canaan of their own accord, or by their own power; they were brought out of this land of their bondage by the God of their fathers with a mighty arm, and led by Him through the wilderness into the promised land. Joshua acted, as Moses had done before him, by the immediate command of God; and the fact that this command was real and well-founded, and not a mere fancy, is proved by the miraculous signs through which God accredited the armies of Israel as the servants of His judicial righteousness, who were fighting in His name and by His command, when the Lord of the whole earth divided the waters of Jordan before them, threw down the walls of Jericho, filled the Canaanites with fear and despair, killed them with hailstones at Gibeon, and brought to nought all their plans and endeavours to resist the advance of Israel, so that Joshua smote great and mighty nations, and no one could stand before him. Hence the Psalmist was able to write, “Thou didst drive out the heathen with Thy hand, and plantedst them (the Israelites); Thou hast destroyed nations, and cast them out. For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm help them; but Thy right hand, and Thine arm, and the light of Thy countenance, because Thou hadst a favour unto them” (Psalms 44:2-3). - And whilst the Israelites were thus proved to be the executors of the penal judgments of God, they acted in perfect accordance with this vocation by the manner in which they carried out the judgment entrusted to them. They submitted cheerfully and obediently to all the appointments of Joshua; they sanctified themselves by the circumcision of all who had remained uncircumcised in the desert and by keeping the passover at Gilgal; they set up the law of the Lord upon Ebal and Gerizim; they executed the ban upon the Canaanites, as the Lord had commanded, and punished Achan and his house for transgressing this ban, that they might expunge the sin from their midst; they vowed, in the most solemn manner, that when they had come into peaceable possession of the promised inheritance, they would renounce all idolatry, would serve Jehovah their God alone, and would hearken to His voice, to renew the covenant with the Lord; and they served the Lord as long as Joshua lived, and the elders after him, who knew all the works of the Lord which He had done for Israel. - (For further remarks upon this subject, see Hengstenberg's Dissertations on the Pentateuch, vol. ii. pp. 387-417, Eng. trans., Art. “On the Right of the Israelites to Palestine.”)
Thus the contents of the book have their higher unity and their truth in the idea of the justice, holiness, and grace of God, as they were manifested in the most glorious manner in the great historical event which forms the subject of the whole. Whilst justice was revealed in the case of the Canaanites, and grace in that of the Israelites, the holiness of the Almighty God was manifested in both, - in the Canaanites, who were liable to judgment, through their destruction; and in the Israelites, who were chosen to fellowship with the Lord, through the sanctification of their lives to the faithful performance of the duties of their vocation, both to the honour of God and the glory of His name.
The different views that have been expressed as to the time when the book was written are given more fully in Keil's Commentary on Joshua (1847, Eng. trans. 1857), where the exegetical aids are also given.