Works on Old Testament historiography, the “Conquest,” and the origins of Israel have burgeoned in recent days. But while others have been issuing new reconstructions, this novel work presents a close reading of the biblical text. The focus is on the literary techniques that ancient writers employed in narrating stories of conquest, and the aim is to pinpoint their communicative intentions in their own contexts. This reading is enhanced by engagement with the important discipline of the philosophy of history. Ancient Conquest Accounts, replete with extensive quotations from Assyrian, Hittite, and Egyptian conquest accounts, is a learned and methodologically sensitive study of a wide range of ancient Near Eastern texts as well as of Joshua 9–12.
“To sum up: essentialist generic approaches fail because they see genre as a determinate category made up of fixed constituents. Many scholars who follow this type of approach feel that they can distinguish historiography from fiction simply by form. But this is very fallacious because of the variability of literary conventions employed in both.29 Such approaches to genre cannot succeed in helping to solve the difficulties confronted in the study of ancient Near Eastern and biblical historiography.” (Pages 30–31)
“That these are figurative is clear from numerous ancient Near Eastern texts. For example,” (Page 227)
“The use in the biblical narrative of such stereotyped syntagms as ‘YHWH gave the city into Israel’s hand’, ‘Joshua put the city and everyone in it to the sword’, ‘he left no survivors’, or ‘he conquered all the land’ does not invalidate them any more than the use of such syntagms as ‘a great slaughter was made’ or ‘his majesty dispatched’ invalidates the Egyptian accounts. The fact that there are figurative and ideological underpins to the accounts should not make us call them into question per se—it should only force us to be cautious!” (Page 266)
“It is, however, important that this ‘real’ or ‘true’ (rather than ‘imaginary’) narrative be understood culturally. For instance, the mentioning of a deity or deities may be the result of cultural or religious encoding, and should not, therefore, be taken as evidence per se that the narrative deals with ‘imaginary’ or fabricated events. One must allow for the possibility of cultural encoding of the narrative. This is especially true in ancient Near Eastern history writing.” (Page 36)
K. Lawson Younger, Jr. (PhD, University of Sheffield) is professor of Old Testament, Semitic languages, and ancient near eastern history at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He is the author, associate editor, and co-editor of several books, and has contributed to numerous collections of essays, dictionaries, and periodicals.