Gordon McConville and Stephen Williams interpret the book of Joshua in relation to Christian theology, providing exegetical commentary and reflection on an often troubling book that nonetheless plays a key role in the biblical drama of salvation. McConville and Williams address significant theological themes in Joshua, such as land, covenant, law, miracle, judgment, and idolatry. They posit that the theological topics engaged in Joshua are not limited to the horizons of the author and first readers of the book, but that Joshua is part of a much larger testimony that concerns readers yet today.
“However, vv. 6–8 make a point that is fundamental to Joshua, namely that possession of the land, though legitimated first of all by God’s gift, can continue to be legitimate only when it is held according to God’s law. God’s writ will run in the land that he gives to his people.” (Page 14)
“Such incidents are known in the ancient Near East also, where gods encourage kings to go to war with a promise of victory.23 The effect of this encounter is to show Joshua that the issues that are about to be contended for are Yahweh’s and that he will undertake for the outcome. The pointer to the presence and holiness of Yahweh is tantamount to an assurance of victory. Yet at the same time it shows that Joshua himself, in carrying out his mission, is only a servant of God.” (Page 30)
“Deuteronomy gives us the reason for what is enacted in Joshua. It is all about idolatry, understood not just as a narrowly religious practice but as a spring of moral and social practice as well.” (Page 113)
“In its conflict between Israel and Canaan, the book of Joshua portrays a conflict between cultures, a way of life in obedience to Yahweh God of Israel and regulated by his Torah and another way that is characterized as idolatrous. This is the issue that is really at stake in the midst of the violence of the events narrated.” (Page 11)
“In the logic of the book of Joshua, this death of all living creatures in Jericho is the terrible symbolism of Yahweh’s ownership of the land and his intention to make it a place of his presence, together with a covenant people bound into a relationship of loyalty to him.” (Page 34)
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J. Gordon McConville is professor of Old Testament studies at the University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham, England.
Stephen N. Williams is professor of systematic theology at Union Theological College, Belfast, Northern Ireland.