Early Israelite campaigns
According to the Bible, after the Exodus from Egypt, the Israelites moved into Canaan, the land promised to them by God. The Book of Joshua, describing the early Israelite campaigns, relates how they entered Canaan with two fierce battles (Jericho and Ai) and gained control of the land through their campaigns against the Canaanite kings of north and south.
This picture has been dramatically revised as a result of the archaeological evidence, as Jericho and Ai were not occupied in the Near Eastern Late Bronze Age, and the destruction of other cities as recounted in Joshua cannot be assigned to the Israelites. As a result there is general agreement among scholars that the Book of Joshua holds little historical value. The story of the conquest represents the nationalist propaganda of the 8th century kings of Judah and their claims to the territory of the Kingdom of Israel; incorporated into an early form of Joshua written late in the reign of king Josiah (reigned 640–609 BCE). The book was revised and completed after the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 586, and possibly after the return from the Babylonian exile in 538.
According to the Biblical narrative, the Israelites successfully attack the Canaanites at such locations as Jericho and Ai. In the south, Joshua honors the treaty with Gibeon and defeats the kings of five cities — Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon (ch.10). Soon, a coalition of Canaanites and other northern city-states of Canaan send a force to halt the Israelite invasions of their country. However, an Israelite counterattack catches their enemies by surprise at the Waters of Merom and routs them (ch.11). In chapter 12, Joshua lists 32 cities reportedly conquered by the Israelite army. Afterwards, the Israelites become established in their "Promised Land".
However, scholars have also raised concerns about inconsistencies in the Biblical representation of how the Israelites emerged in Canaan, especially between the books of Joshua and Judges.
In early 20th century academic scholarship, the historicity of the early Israelite campaigns was taken for granted (e.g., Paton). However, by the 1930s Martin Noth issued what Albricht termed "a sweeping criticism of the legitimacy of using biblical data in Joshua as material for history." Noth was a student of Alt, who emphasized form criticism and the importance of etiology. Alt and Noth posited a peaceful movement of the Israelites into various areas of Canaan, contra the Biblical account.
Albricht himself questioned the "tenacity" of etiologies, which were key to Noth's analysis of the campaigns in Joshua. Archaeological evidence in the 1930s showed that the city of Ai, an early battled in the putative Joshua account, had existed and been destroyed, but in 22nd century BCE. Kathleen Kenyon showed that Jericho was from the Middle not the Late Bronze Age Hence, it was argued that the early Israelite campaign could not be historically corroborated, but rather explained as an etiology of the location and a representation of the Israelite settlement.
In 1955, Wright discusses the correlation of archaeological data to the early Israelite campaigns, which he divides into three phases per the Book of Joshua. He points to two sets of archaeological findings that "seem to suggest that the biblical account is in general correct regarding the nature of the late thirteenth and twelfth-eleventh centuries in the country" (i.e., "a period of tremendous violence"). He gives particular weight to what were recent digs at Hazor by Yigael Yadin.
As an alternative to both the military conquest and uncontested infiltration hypotheses, Mendenhall and Gottwald suggested that the Israelites emerged through a kind of peasant revolt against their Canaanite lords. However, as explained by Rendsburg (p.510f.), archaeological findings (presented by Israel Finkelstein in 1986) undermined this idea because the Israelites first settled areas not held by Canaanites, whose cities were sustained alongside Israelite areas.
In later years of the 20th century, academic analysis tended to be increasingly skeptical of the historicity of the early Israelite military campaigns as described in Joshua. To be sure, scholarship remained somewhat divided with some more deferential to the Biblical account. For example, Kennedy argues that "a vast amount of archaeological evidence indicates that the sites of Jericho, Hazor, Shechem, and Dan were occupied, destroyed, and resettled at the specific times and in the manner consistent with the records from the books of Joshua and Judges."
On the other hand, the work of Dever and Van Seters, among others, pulls back considerably from the presuppositions of early scholars.
Moral and political interpretations
With the Zionist struggle for a Jewish state, the early Israelite campaigns have undergone renewed attention and interpretation. The early Zionists, according to Rachel Havrelock, "read the book of Joshua as explaining their times and justifying their wars. From this perspective, God fought on behalf of manifest Israel.... Joshua’s vocabulary informed the lexicon of Jewish nationalism."
Later, in 1958, David Ben-Gurion "saw the biblical war narrative as constituting an ideal basis for a unifying myth of national identity." This was a unity that was framed against a common enemy, Arabs beyond Israel's borders. Ben-Gurion met with politicians and scholars, such as Bible scholar Shemaryahu Talmon, to discuss the conquests in Joshua. He later published a book of the meeting transcripts. In a lecture at Ben-Gurion's home, archaeologist Yigael Yadin argued for the historicity of the Israelite military campaign and remarked on how much easier it was for military experts to appreciate the plausibility of the Joshua narrative. Yadin specifically pointed to the conquests of Hazor, Bethel, and Lachish. Conversely, archaeologist Yohanan Aharoni argued against the historicity of the early Israelite campaigns, instead favoring a migration model.
By the same token, the Biblical narrative of conquest has been used as an apparatus of critique against Zionism. For example, Michael Prior criticizes the use of the campaign in Joshua to favor "colonial enterprises" (in general, not only Zionism) and have been interpreted as validating ethnic cleansing. He asserts that the Bible was used to make the treatment of Palestinians more palatable morally. A related moral condemnation can be seen in "The political sacralization of imperial genocide: contextualizing Timothy Dwight's The Conquest of Canaan" by Bill Templer. This kind of critique is not new; Jonathan Boyarin notes how Frederick W. Turner blamed Israel's monotheism for the very idea of genocide, which Boyarin found "simplistic" yet with precedents.
- Rogerson & Lieu 2006, p. 63.
- Killebrew, p. 152.
- Coote 2000, p. 275.
- Creach 2003, p. 10–11.
- See Kennedy's discussion and attempted resolution, p.3., and Japhet p.206ff.
- Albricht, April 1939, p.12
- Abricht, ibid. Kennedy (p.2) cites later scholarship behind this model, e.g., Noort 1998: 127-28.
- Rendburg, p.510
- Albricht, p.16
- see Kennedy, p.11
- Wright, p.107
- Wright, p.107
- For a review, see Kennedy, among others.
- Havrelock, Rachel (2013). "The Joshua Generation: Conquest and the Promised Land". Critical research on religion. 1 (3): 309. doi:10.1177/2050303213506473.
- Havrelock, p.309
- Havrelock, p.310f.
- Havrelock, p.310
- Prior, Michael (2002). "Ethnic Cleansing and the Bible: A Moral Critique". Journal of Holy Land and Palestine Studies. 1 (1): 37–59.
- Templer, Bill (1 December 2006). "The political sacralization of imperial genocide: contextualizing Timothy Dwight's The Conquest of Canaan". Postcolonial Studies: Culture, Politics, Economy. 9 (4): 358–391. doi:10.1080/13688790600993230.
- Boyarin p.525
- Coote, Robert B. (2000). "Conquest: Biblical narrative". In Freedman, David Noel; Myers, Allen C. Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Eerdmans.
- Creach, Jerome F.D (2003). Joshua. Westminster John Knox Press.
- Dever, William G. (2006). Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From?. Eerdmans.
- Jacobs, Paul F. (2000). "Jericho". In Freedman, David Noel; Myers, Allen C. Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Eerdmans.
- Killebrew, Ann E. (2005). Biblical Peoples and Ethnicity: An Archaeological Study of Egyptians, Canaanites, and Early Israel, 1300–1100 B.C.E. Society of Biblical Literature.
- Laffey, Alice L. (2007). "Deuteronomistic history". In Espín, Orlando O.; Nickoloff, James B. An introductory dictionary of theology and religious studies. Liturgical Press.
- Moore, Megan Bishop; Kelle, Brad E. (2011). Biblical History and Israel's Past. Eerdmans.
- Bruins, Hendrik J.; Van Der Plicht, Johannes (1995). "Tell Es-Sultan (Jericho): Radiocarbon Results..." (PDF). Radiocarbon. Proceedings of the 15th International 14C Conference. 37, no.2: 213–220.
- Albright, William F. "The Israelite conquest of Canaan in the light of archaeology." Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (1939): 11-23.
- Briggs, Peter. "Testing the Factuality of the Conquest of Ai Narrative in the Book of Joshua." Beyond the Jordan: Studies in Honor of W. Harold Mare (2005): 157-96.
- Dever, William G. Who were the early Israelites, and where did they come from?. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2003.
- Hess, Richard S. "The Jericho and Ai of the Book of Joshua." Critical Issues in Early Israelite History (2008): 29-30.
- Kennedy, Titus Michael. "The Israelite conquest: history or myth?: an achaeological evaluation of the Israelite conquest during the periods of Joshua and the Judges." (2011). http://uir.unisa.ac.za/handle/10500/5727
- Kenyon, Kathleen. “Some Notes on the History of Jericho in the Second Millennium. B.C.,” Palestine Exploration Quarterly 83 (1951)
- Mendenhall, George E. 1962. “The Hebrew Conquest of Palestine,” The Biblical Archaeologist, 25:3 (1962): 66-87
- Noort, Ed. 1998. "4QJOSH and the History of Tradition in the Book of Joshua," Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages, 24:2 (1998): 127-44
- Rendsburg, Gary A. "The Date of the Exodus and the Conquest/Settlement: The Case for the 1100s." Vetus Testamentum (1992): 510-527.
- Van Seters, John. "Joshua's campaign of Canaan and near eastern historiography." Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament 4.2 (1990): 1-12.
- Wenham, Gordon J. "The Deuteronomic Theology of the Book of Joshua." Journal of Biblical Literature (1971): 140-148.
- Wright, G. Ernest. "Archaeological News and Views: Hazor and the Conquest of Canaan." The Biblical Archaeologist 18.4 (1955): 106-108.
- Zevit, Ziony. "Archaeological and Literary Stratigraphy in Joshua 7-8." Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (1983): 23-35.
Other academic writings
- Bayles Paton, Lewis. Israel's Conquest of Canaan: Presidential Address at the Annual Meeting, Dec. 27, 1912. Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 32, No. 1 (Apr., 1913), pp. 1–53
- Billauer, Barbara P. "Joshua's Battle of Jericho: Scientific Statecraft in Warfare-Lessons in Military Innovation and Scientific Tactical Initiative."Available at SSRN 2219488 (2013).
- Boyarin, Jonathan. "Reading exodus into history." New Literary History (1992): 523-554.
- den Braber, Marieke, and Jan-Wim Wesselius. "The Unity of Joshua 1-8, its Relation to the Story of King Keret, and the Literary Background to the Exodus and Conquest Stories." Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament 22.2 (2008): 253-274.
- Havrelock, Rachel. "The Joshua Generation: Conquest and the Promised Land." Critical Research on Religion 1, no. 3 (2013): 308-326.
- Hawk, L. Daniel. "The Truth about Conquest: Joshua as History, Narrative, and Scripture." Interpretation 66.2 (2012): 129-140.
- Gyémánt, Ladislau. "Historiographic Views on the Settlement of the Jewish Tribes in Canaan." Sacra Scripta 1 (2003): 26-30.
- Japhet, Sara. "Conquest and Settlement in Chronicles." Journal of Biblical Literature (1979): 205-218.
- Pienaar, Daan. "Some observations on conquest reports in the Book of Joshua." Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages 30.1 (2004): 151-164.
- Prior, Michael. "Ethnic Cleansing and the Bible: A Moral Critique." Holy Land Studies 1.1 (2002): 37-59.
- Thompson, Leonard L. "The Jordan Crossing: Ṣidqot Yahweh and World Building." Journal of Biblical Literature (1981): 343-358.
- Wazana, Nili. "Everything Was Fulfilled” versus “The Land That Yet Remains."The Gift of the Land and the Fate of the Canaanites in Jewish Thought (2014): 13.
- Wood, W. Carleton. "The Religion of Canaan: From the Earliest Times to the Hebrew Conquest (Concluded)." Journal of Biblical literature (1916): 163-279.