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What does Joshua hold to be the essential marks of Israelite identity? What distinguishes “Israel” from all other peoples? In tracking these themes, L. Daniel Hawk reveals a profound struggle to define the people of the God of Israel.

Hawk shows that the themes surrounding Joshua express fundamental markers of national identity: religious practice (obedience to the commandments of Moses), ethnic separation (extermination of the peoples of Canaan), and possession of land (“the land that YHWH gives”). Through the medium of narrative, Joshua tests each of these markers and demonstrates that none clearly characterize the people of God. Instead, Joshua presents Israel as a nation fundamentally constituted by choosing: YHWH’s choosing of Israel and Israel’s choosing of YHWH.

In the present day in which ideologies of religion, race, and territorial possession have given rise to countless expressions of violence, Hawk expresses the particular value of reading Joshua. The Joshua story holds a mirror up to all who regard themselves as the people of God. The reflection is both repelling and inspiring but until we confront it, what it truly means to be the chosen people of God will remain elusive.

Author Bio

Dr. L. Daniel Hawk (PhD, Emory University; MDiv, Asbury Theological Seminary) is professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Ashland Theological Seminary and an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church. Much of his writing focuses on the literary analysis of biblical narratives, with attention to the ways that narrative texts construct corporate identities and grapple with the problem of human and divine violence. These concerns converge in several books on the book of Joshua, including Joshua (Berit Olam, Liturgical Press, 2000) and Joshua in 3-D (Cascade, 2010), as well as in his collaboration on Postcolonial Evangelical Conversations (InterVarsity, 2014). His scholarship finds traction through an active speaking schedule and participation in justice and reconciliation initiatives.