How would the book of Joshua have impacted the original audience of the book?

High Definition Video Standard Definition Video

(Right click this link to download video.)


Well, the original audience of Joshua would have been impacted by the materials in a number of ways, but it's not just the original audience. There is a timelessness to what Joshua teaches, the book. But the original audience, of course, is tied to the time of writing, the composition question. So, of course, some people would throw that all during the Babylonian period or even later, exilic/post-exilic period. I think it makes a lot more sense to have an audience to the book of Joshua that is connected to the time, first the account by Joshua himself, maybe the editorial hand during the early monarchy. This seems to be the best way of looking at this text because it's a statement of Yahweh's faithfulness. And it's also an exhortation to finish the job that even Joshua himself could not finish. The conquest is incomplete and certainly Judges alludes to that all over. And so, when you put the context during the time of the early Iron Age, at the time of the transition to the monarchy, early monarchy, the exhortation is, "Look what Yahweh as done. He was faithful to his promise." Joshua 23—where it says very clearly that Yahweh was faithful to all the promises made to Abraham, that he gave them the land, but the people were unfaithful. They were kind of sleeping on the job and not fulfilling what Yahweh said they should do. So, it's an exhortation to finish the job to the audience, and I think maybe to the early kings, you know, it might not have been lost. We don't know that, but David certainly took that to heart because what's the conquest of the land if you can't conquer the place of Yahweh's inheritance, like Exodus 15 says? And the place of Yahweh, where he is going to dwell with his people in this sacred space, the Holy Land, is the hill of Jerusalem—not Mount Sinai; it's Mount Zion. And so, here you have all this conquest of the land, but the prize is not taken. So, I think Joshua, the book, really serves to the Yahwists, the precious few during the time of the Judges, to say, "Hey, we've got to finish the job." And then of course, the whole covenantal faithfulness—"As for me and my house we will serve the Lord"—that's the ongoing challenge that Joshua presents to all the Yahwists, including the New Testament Yahwists, that we ought to put Yahweh first, Jesus first—covenantal loyalty.

Answer by Dr. Thomas Petter

Dr. Thomas Petter is Associate Professor of Old Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.