Session 7: The Deuteronomistic History Part 2
By the end of this session you should be able to:
understand the significance of the figure of Joshua in the Old Testament;
describe the structure of the books of Joshua & Judges and how they continue the themes of the Deuteronomistic History;
identify the geographical areas key to the Old Testament and its stories and to understand its significance
understand and explain the concept of violence in the Hebrew Bible
Blessed are you Lord our God,
for you come to us and seek to make your home in us.
As we study now,
let our eyes and our ears be open to you
let our hearts find their rest and their joy in you
that we may grow in grace and live to your glory.
Blessed are you, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.
In this session we will explore the books of Joshua & Judges. It takes us to approximately 1100 BCE and the end of the period of Israel's histroy without a monarchy. Watch the videos below and note down in your learning journal anything that strikes you. The corresponding videos for the book of Judges can be found in the Resources secction if you would like to watch them when you arrive at that part of the session but this is optional.
The book of Joshua begins the story of the conquest of the land of Canaan by the Israelite tribes - a small strip of land, control and habitation of which, as Hayes notes, has been the cause of more wars and battles over the last 4000 years than any other (2012, p188).
Make a note of the structure of the the book of Joshua and the three possible theories for the emergence of Israel in the land of Canaan.
Why do you think this particular piece of land has been so fought over and desired?
The ending of the book of Joshua with its call to remember the Covenant, to hold fast to it, to serve Yahweh and not to intermarry is an important moment as the Israelites settle into the land that God has promised them.
As Wenham notes, the wars in the Old Testament conflict with the concern to preserve human life written into the Law (p137) . There are other problems too. Consider the story of Rahab in the light of Joshua's insistence on keeping the laws of the Torah. Rahab outrightly defies one of the the ten commandments and yet in doing so she saves her people and helps to secure the nation's future. God blesses her for this. This raises some interesting moral questions and dilemmas, for instance, in what situations do you think that it is OK to lie (for example, those who hid Jews in the second world war)? Make notes of your thoughts for discussion on the Study Day.
Violence in the Hebrew Bible
In this section we will begin to explore one of the most violent books of the Old Testament, Judges. The Deuteronomistic History is replete with wars and bloodshed as the Israelites struggle to forge their identity and keep the land they have conquered. We begin with a look at the tribal system of Judges which will eventually give rise to the idea of monarchy as a means of stability. Watch the "Why Study Violence in the Hebrew Bible" clip.
The book of Judges is replete with terrible deeds that are carried out in the name of God by some very dubious characters. The Judges are not 'heroes' in the way we would use the term. Jephthah sacrifices his daughter, Samson is deceived by a prostitute – the list goes on. The stories have all the components of a lurid TV drama – we might be forgiven for thinking the writers of 'East Enders' have used Judges as an inspiration for their story lines! So where does all this fit into the story of a people who have a Covenant with a loving God?
There is a repeating pattern to the stories in the book of Judges:
- Israel disobeys God
- Israel falls to enemies
- Israel cries out to God
- God raises up a Judge
- Israel defeats the Canaanites.
What do you think this pattern is emphasizing? Do you think all the violence in these stories is necessary?
Make a note for discussion on the Study Day
As noted above, Violence in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament is one of the things modern readers find very difficult so it is necessary to consider why it is there. One explanation for this is known as Hagiographic (the writing of holy history) Hyperbole (exaggeration):
Download a summary of the theology of the book of Judges from the Resources section below.
You may also like to watch the Bibledex Introduction to the book and the Bible Project Overview, but this is optional.
Spotlight on Doctrine
The themes of law and the importance of keeping it continue in the book of Joshua. How does this idea of law sit with the doctrine of grace? Think back to Hayes' view of the law from session 5 as you ponder this question.
Spotlight on Spirituality
Joshua believed God's promises and was able to lead the Israelites into the promised land. Can you think of times in your own life when you have held fast to God's promises to you and it has helped you through a difficult situation – even if the outcome wasn't necessarily what you thought it would be?
Spend some time prayerfully thinking about what you have discovered in this session.
Blessed are you, Lord our God,
all things come from you:
from you come our life,
this world and all that we have and are.
May we love and respect all that you have created
and give glory to you.
Blessed are you,
Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. Amen