Contradictions in Joshua?

We now have a look at an item titled THE CONTRADICTORY BOOK OF JOSHUA. The author does not name himself in the article, but seems to be (based on site links) named Brent Herbert. So we will address him as such until we receive other information.

Herbert's focus here is to claim points of contradition between Joshua and the book of Judges. To find these he advises the following method:

Any interested reader could compare the account contained in the book of Joshua with that related in the book of Judges. This sort of 'research' is not hard to do. Take a concordance (a type of dictionary of the Bible listing the passages where a given word occurs). Look up each word and compare passages.

And that's it -- no recourse to scholarly works; just Herbert and his concordance. You may think by now that this sort of methodology will produce problematic results. And you are right:

The book of Joshua portrays the conquest of Canaan as a single event that took place in one campaign divided into a number of stages. The end result was that the inhabitants of the land were all slaughtered.
"He left not a single survivor" (Joshua 11:8) and, "the land was now at peace," (Joshua 14:15) for, "the country now lay subdued at their feet." (Joshua 18:1)

Herbert is trying to support a contention that "all" inhabitants of the land were killed. But Josh. 11:8 is only about Hazor (one city) and the defenders of Hazor. Josh. 14:15 says nothing about the condition of the inhabitants; it only indicates that the official practice of war had ceased. Josh. 18:1 at most indicates land around the area of Shiloh is subdued.

Herbert slips in the premise that the dividing of land by lots "presupposes a unitary conquest, victory, peace, and possession of the land" but that is simply false: It only presupposes sufficient conquest, power, and ability to make the designation. Just as American, British and Russian diplomats did not have to wait until after Nazi Germany was fully defeated to decide how they would "divvy up" that land in a post-war scenario, so likewise Joshua and the Israelites hardly needed to wait until every enemy was dispatched to cast lots for the land which they were confident would be theirs.

Herbert's readings of the texts are simply unreasonable, and further on tend towards the literalist extreme, thus:

If you were to continue to read on into the book of Judges the first thing you would notice is that a break in the continuity of the narrative takes place. The first line of Judges reads:
"After the death of Joshua the Israelites enquired of YAHWEH, 'which tribe should be the first to attack the Canaanites?'" (Judges 1:1)
Notice the language used ('first to attack the Canaanites'). The premise here is that no war of conquest took place in Joshua's time, and the Israelites then proceed to a series of battles, all of which the book of Joshua relates as taking place in his lifetime.

But "first" does not mean "first ever in history" but "first in the present campaign" -- contextually, with Joshua the military leader gone, the question is asked in terms of who will have the honor to provide the first blow. Careful readers will also note that what Herbert needs to prove is that there is "overlap" between what is said to be conquered in Joshua, and what is said to be conquered in Judges. But this he fails to do completely. Note:

Now here is a really interesting example of a compounding series of contradictions. The book of Joshua tells us that he conquered Jerusalem (Joshua 12:10). The land was
"assigned to the Israelites." (Joshua 12:7)
The book contains internal inconsistencies for we are also told that,
"the men of Judah failed to drive out the Jebusites living in Jerusalem." (Joshua 15:63)

But here, Herbert confuses assignment yet again with possession and conquest. And it gets worse as Herbert continues to wrest single phrases from context to create problems:

The passage is repeated again in (Judges 1:21) , with the difference that this time it is the Benjamites who failed in the conquest. You can compare this with the account in the 11th chapter of Joshua , where we are told that Jebusites were among a listing of other peoples whom Joshua,
"cut down until they had not a single survivor." (Joshua 11:8) "Their cities were destroyed," (Joshua 11:12)

But 11:8, 12 is about Hazor and what was aligned with Hazor -- it is NOT about "Jebusites" in the sense of the whole of the people.

Herbert simply continues in this vein, parsing out single phrases while completely ignoring to what particular locales they refer. And more:

"Jericho fought against you, as did the Jebusites, but I delivered them into your hands. I drove them out before you." (Joshua 24:11)

Is that what this says? No:

And ye went over Jordan, and came unto Jericho: and the men of Jericho fought against you, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and I delivered them into your hand.

Herbert seems to have forgotten to mention the other tribes in this passage. What this makes clear is that Jericho was inhabited by members of each of these tribes, and the verse is all about Jericho -- not the Jebusites as Herbert makes it out to be.

Herbert then offers a standard argument about 1 Sam. 17:54, which we have once answered: How could David have brought the head [of Goliath] to Jerusalem when he had not conquered it yet, as he did in 2 Sam. 5:6-7? In the political background of the ANE, cities changed hands quite often during military conflicts, and it is not inconceivable that the Israelites possessed Jerusalem, then lost it, then got it back -- many times over. This may also refer to a portion of the city that the Israelites shared with the Jebusites.

Herbert also creates the following "problem":

David did take the city, by sneaking under the walls via the water conduit to the center of town. The only problem with this scenario is that it was King Hezekiah who constructed the water conduit, centuries after David's death. (2 Kings 20:20) I just bring all this to your attention to point out the mind numbing complications, the compounding contradictions that begin to develop once you start pulling on some of these Biblical threads by looking up a word in a concordance. It is not a matter of pulling out a loose thread here or there, rather the whole garment unravels.

Herbert has simply made the error of supposing that there could only be one water conduit like this for the whole of the city in its history of thousands of years. In fact, as shown here there were at least three major projects for diverting water from the springs, one of which some identify with the one used by David (see also here; while an academic site here argues that David's and Hezekiah's shaft are the same; but in David's day the shaft was natural limestone caves, which Hezekiah later expanded). Appeals to "multiple traditions" as an explanation is unnecessary.

It also becomes apparent that Herbert did not bother to check to see whether citations came from different times or situations before he declared an error. Thus:

"Moses allotted to the Gadites half of the country of the Ammonites as far as Aroer, which is east of Rabbah." (Joshua 13:24) "Moses allotted to the tribe of Mannessah as their holding the lowlands of Moab east of the Jordan." (Joshua 13:31)
We find that after all this assignment of territory, that the battles were finished, and,
"the land was now a peace." (Joshua 14:15)
In the book of Deuteronomy, we find that Moses said,
"when you reach the territory of the Ammonites you must not harass them or provoke them to battle for I will not give you any Ammonite land as a possession." (Deuteronomy 2:19) "You avoided the territory of the Ammonites, thus fulfilling all that YAHWEH God had commanded." (Deuteronomy 2:37) "Do not harass Moab or contend with them in battle, for I will not give you any of their land for a possession." (Deuteronomy 2:9)
So either Moses parceled out the territory of the Ammonites and Moabites or he did not.

Aside from the abuse of Josh. 11:45 we already noted, the use of Josh. 13:24 in disturbing, for here is what it actually says:

And Moses gave inheritance unto the tribe of Gad, even unto the children of Gad according to their families. 25And their coast was Jazer, and all the cities of Gilead, and half the land of the children of Ammon, unto Aroer that is before Rabbah;

Note that this does not say that the Gadites are given Ammonite land as a possession, but that their coast, or border, extended along half the land of the Ammonites; in other words, it is like saying, "the border of Florida is 1/3 Alabama, 2/3 Georgia."

Please note that Herbert ommitted any reference to the "coast" or "border" in his quotation. There is no such problem is 13:31, because there Herbert's quote does not resemble 13:31 at all: And half Gilead, and Ashtaroth, and Edrei, cities of the kingdom of Og in Bashan, were pertaining unto the children of Machir the son of Manasseh, even to the one half of the children of Machir by their families.

Moab is not even mentioned. So there is nothing to say any part of Ammon or Moab was ever invaded. Thus indeed Herbert's comparison of Joshua and Judges to an unravelled thread is indeed ironic, for it is his case that unravels when tugged on.

Then we have this:

Continue pulling on this thread and other books start to unravel as well. In the 11th Chapter of Judges, Jephthah quarreled over land with the Ammonites. The Ammonites said,
"when the Israelites came up out of Egypt, they seized our land all the way from Arnon to the Jabbok and the Jordan. Now return these lands peacefully." (Judges 11:13)
Jephthah replied,
"Israel took neither Moabite or Ammonite land. They sent envoys to the King of Edom asking him to grant them passage through his country but he would not consent. The king of Moab would also not agree, so Israel journeyed through the wilderness and skirted the territories of Edom and Moab." (Judges 11:15)

What the problem is here is hard to say. This is a claim by the Ammonites, and a denial by Jepthah of the charge. Based on the record of the OT, Jephthah is in the right, and Herbert failed to show otherwise. It is far more likely that Ammon was trying to provoke a conflict or get some more land of their own. (War resulted between Israel and Ammon, and Israel won.)

Herbert's next effort is no more profitable:

Yank on this thread and another rip appears in another book. Moses is portrayed as speaking in Deuteronomy, and directly contradicts Jephthah.
"Edom granted us passage, and so did the Moabites in Ar." (Deuteronomy 2:29)

Of course, it might not occur to Herbert that 1) Jephthah is merely quoted and is a bad historian; or 2) Moses himself is quoted doing a diplomatic "fudge" to his own people. But the issue is actually resolved by Numbers 21:15: And at the stream of the brooks that goeth down to the dwelling of Ar, and lieth upon the border of Moab. Ar was a "border city" inhabited by Moabites, and it was they -- not the king of Moab -- who granted passage, in essence allowing Israel to follow the border without harrassing them.

Herbert continues in the erroneous vein of assumptions about conquest of Ammonite land being taken, based on the error he created. Herbert then claims:

If we continue with account of what took place after Joshua died, as it is given in Judges, we find that after taking Jerusalem, Judah conquered the Negeb, the Shephelah, Hebron, Sheshai, Ahiman, and Talmai, and Debir. Of course, it turns out that the Negev, the Shephalah, Hebron, and Debir were all attacked by Joshua during his lifetime. (Joshua 10:36-40)

Unfortunately, Herbert provides no citations from Judges showing that Judah did any of this, and the cite he provides from Joshua only mentions ONE of the locations he notes:

36 And Joshua went up from Eglon, and all Israel with him, unto Hebron; and they fought against it: 37And they took it, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and the king thereof, and all the cities thereof, and all the souls that were therein; he left none remaining, according to all that he had done to Eglon; but destroyed it utterly, and all the souls that were therein. 38And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to Debir; and fought against it: 39And he took it, and the king thereof, and all the cities thereof; and they smote them with the edge of the sword, and utterly destroyed all the souls that were therein; he left none remaining: as he had done to Hebron, so he did to Debir, and to the king thereof; as he had done also to Libnah, and to her king. 40So Joshua smote all the country of the hills, and of the south, and of the vale, and of the springs, and all their kings: he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the LORD God of Israel commanded.

The only issue we really have is with Judges 1:10:

9And afterward the children of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites, that dwelt in the mountain, and in the south, and in the valley. 10And Judah went against the Canaanites that dwelt in Hebron: (now the name of Hebron before was Kirjatharba:) and they slew Sheshai, and Ahiman, and Talmai.

However, it is clear that Judges 1:10-20 include "flash back" material, so that 1:9 is the end of a section that began with 1:1. In other words, Judg. 1:10-20 is merely reporting the same events as Josh. 10:36-40 where Hebron is concerned (notice Judg. 1:1, Joshua is deceased; but in Judg. 2:6, we are back to a time when he is alive). Thus again Herbert is simply decontextualizing, and this erases a block of his objections.

And on it goes, with Herbert continuing to mistake conquest of specific cities with tribal residents for conquest of the whole of the tribes (as in Josh. 12:7), as well as an appeal to the standard Judges 1:19 issue. This last one Herbert also comments on thusly:

"The sons of Joseph said, "The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who live in the valley land have chariots of iron."" (Joshua 17:16)
Joshua replied,
"you shall drive out the Canaanites, even though they have chariots of iron and though they are strong." (Joshua 17:18)
In the book of Judges we are told that they could not defeat those iron chariots, and indeed, as you read along into the fourth chapter you find that the Israelites were being cruelly oppressed for decades by an enemy who were are told had 900 iron chariots. As has been demonstrated the book of Joshua is itself contradictory and it certainly conflicts with the book of Judges in this case.

It never occurs to Herbert that Joshua was simply offering misplaced hopes for what he thought would happen. Does Herbert think that just because someone says "X will happen," it will happen? Herbert offers a "false prophet" comment, but nowhere is Joshua ever said to be a prophet; much less is Josh. 17:18 prefaced with, "This is what the Lord says...." Joshua was not a false prophet here by any means, but at worst, an inaccurate estimator of his army's capabilities.

We close with Herbert alleging contradiction within Judges:

"As a means of testing all the Israelites who had not taken part in any battles for Canaan, God left all these nations. God's purpose was to train future generations of Israelites in the art of warfare, that is all those who had not learnt it before." (Judges 2:21)

Herbert sarcastically says this was "darned thoughtful" of God, and it was -- if he had any appreciation of how tenuous life was for an ANE society, he'd know that this was indeed agood thing for God to do. But:

However, God, it would seem, had second thoughts. A few chapters ahead we find that God told Gideon that there would be no training of future generations of Israelites in the art of war, because,
"Israel might claim the glory for themselves and say that their own strength has given them the victory." (Judges 7:2) "Send the army home." (Judges 7:7)

Judges 7 is about one specific battle (Gideon's lead against the Midianites) many years and battles after Judges 2! Thus the purpose of "training for war," if not fulfilled, is hardly abrogated by this single unusual instance/ It should be obvious here that Herbert's commentary about these being "theological statements" comes rather of his refusal to read the text in a contextual manner.