Book of Joshua is epic

What type of literature is the Book of Joshua?
The book of Joshua is an epic. It contains traditions about Joshua’s leadership and conquest of the Promised Land, but these stories are told in epic proportions.

How does the Book of Joshua coincide with what we know from history and archeology?
The history of ancient times is difficult to determine; “history” in our sense of organizing and telling unbiased, objective, facts is unknown until fairly recent times. Even in our times, “history” is quite often colored by the person who writes it! Only the victors write “history,” you never hear from the losers or from the “little people.”
Nevertheless, we do know that in the thirteenth century before Christ, the land of Palestine was conquered by Hebrews or Israelites. We know that several cities show destruction at that time. The archeology of some of these cities coincides well with what the book of Joshua tells us.
But there are some great exceptions: For example, the vivid destruction of Jericho (Joshua 6) is not confirmed by archeology. Archeology shows that Jericho was violently destroyed long before the time of Joshua. Perhaps the author of Joshua knew this and wanted to attribute this great feat to his great hero, Joshua. All in all, however, there is good correspondence between the “epic” Joshua and what we know from sources outside the Bible.

How is Joshua described?
Joshua seems to do everything that Moses had done; he is shown as a true successor of Moses. He leads the Israelites dry-shod across the Jordan River (as Moses led them across the Reed Sea.) He has all the males circumcised (as Moses had done.) He erects an altar at Mt. Ebal as Moses had at Mt. Sinai. (Incidentally, this is the biblical basis for the later Samaritans, who would worship on Mt. Gerizim. See Joshua 8:33.)
He gains victories (such as Jericho and Ai) with a few people to show that God is the one who grants the victories. He is opposed, as Moses had been opposed. He renews the covenant (Chapter 24), just as Moses had enacted the covenant. The Israelites in 24:24 say almost the same thing that they had said at the foot of Mt. Sinai in Exodus 24:3.

What is the sociology of the Israelites at the time of Joshua?
The Israelites were divided into independent (and sometimes fiercely independent) tribes. These tribes took their names from the sons of Jacob. Some of the tribes were settled on the eastern side of the Jordan river. There is a constant worry that the tribes will fight against each other or go their own independent way. The book of Joshua seems to look forward to a time when their will be a national consciousness. This, of course, would not come until 200 years later. The independent tribal spirit would again show itself after the death of Solomon, three hundred years later.

Which tribe had no territory?
Each of the tribes was allotted a certain territory (chapter 13) except the tribe of Levi. The tribe of Levi was dedicated entirely to the priesthood and to liturgy; therefore it received no territory, but designated offerings were prescribed to support the Levites and priests.

What is a “judge” in the sense of the Book of Judges?
A judge was certainly not a person who wore black robes and presided over a court room. A judge in the biblical sense was a charismatic leader, raised up in time of crisis, to deliver God’s people from an enemy. Charismatic means “gifted” especially by the Holy Spirit; the judge usually received a call from God to do something special.

What is the time period covered by the book of judges?
The period of the Judges is roughly from 1250 to 1000 B.C. It is a period of about two hundred or so years, from the time of the conquest of Canaan to the time of the kings.

The Book of Joshua is named after the successor of Moses and is primarily about his deeds. The book was written to show God’s fidelity to the Israelites in giving the land he had promised them for an inheritance.
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