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Our focus is the article "Yahweh's Failed Land Promise" in which it was argued that the Biblical "land promises" to Abraham and his descendants were not fulfilled by God in the Israelite conquest. As formulated the article addressed only the internal consistency of the Biblical record on this subject. Questions of the historicity of the Conquest, or the propriety of driving out and/or killing the inhabitants of Canaan, were not addressed at all, and will not be addressed here.
In Deuteronomy 7:17-24, for example, Yahweh presumably made this emphatic promise:
For the first time, after several sentences of superfluous commentary, our opponent at last delves into a reading of the text. We see a snide "presumably" added in order to subtly instill doubt and take a swipe at the authors of the OT by suggesting that they simply made this word of Yahweh up out of thin air -- a pertinent example of the sort of non-subject distraction we refer to (i.e., the subject is no longer consistency of the Biblical record as has already been stated, but now, historical authenticity of the contents). Being that this is the case, it is not necessary to quote this in a reply, and our opponent cannot, and never will be able to, explain why such superfluous commentary requires quotation and/or reference from a respondent, other than that he wishes to insert the wedge of doubt on another issue which is of no relevance to the topic at hand, thereby attempting to gain debate points illicitly.
The ASV is quoted thusly:
If thou shalt say in thy heart, These nations are more than I; how can I dispossess them? Thou shalt not be afraid of them: thou shalt well remember what Yahweh thy God did unto Pharaoh, and unto all Egypt; the great trials which thine eyes saw, and the signs, and the wonders, and the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm, whereby Yahweh thy God brought thee out: so shall Yahweh thy God do unto all the peoples of whom thou art afraid. Moreover Yahweh thy God will send the hornet among them, until they that are left, and hide themselves, perish from before thee. Thou shalt not be affrighted at them; for Yahweh thy God is in the midst of thee, a great God and a terrible. And Yahweh thy God will cast out those nations before thee by little and little: thou mayest not consume them at once, lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee. But Yahweh thy God will deliver them up before thee, and will discomfit them with a great discomfiture, until they be destroyed. And he will deliver their kings unto thy hand, and thou shalt make their name to perish from under heaven: there shall no man be able to stand before thee, until thou have destroyed them," (ASV with Yahweh substituted for Jehovah).
Joshua 1:1-6 is also quoted from the ASV:
Now it came to pass after the death of Moses the servant of Yahweh that Yahweh spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister, saying, Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, to you have I given it, as I spake unto Moses. From the wilderness, and this Lebanon, even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your border. There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee; I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and of good courage; for thou shalt cause this people to inherit the land which I sware unto their fathers to give them, (Joshua 1:1-6, ASV, Yahweh substituted).
And Joshua 3:9-11 is quoted from the ASV:
And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, Come hither, and hear the words of Yahweh your God. And Joshua said, Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you, and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Hivite, and the Perizzite, and the Girgashite, and the Amorite, and the Jebusite. Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before you into the Jordan," (Joshua 3:9-11).
The conclusion reached:
To circumvent obvious contradictions that result when Yahweh's promises are compared to biblical history recorded later, inerrantists contend that the land promises made to the Israelites were conditional on their good behavior, but there is no support for that dodge in the Bible.
Here we find the first substantive attempt at argument, and where we deem it first necessary to make any substantive reply. We shall return after an extended explanation.
We begin with consideration of the original land promise, given in Genesis 12:7 and 13:15 (cf. 28:13):
And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.
For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.
Abraham and his descendants are "given" the land, but what does that mean? It does not connote any modern sense of property ownership. What it does mean for Abraham to have been "given" the land is made most clear within the Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity.
According to ancient conceptions, deities were associated with certain spheres, usually of a geographic nature, but also of a social nature. In Greek thought, this worked out with the assigning of the realm of earth to Zeus, that of the sea to Poseidon, and that of the underworld to Hades. In an Old Babylonian text the same spheres were divided among Anu, Enlil, and Enki. In both the OT and in extrabiblical sources the nature of this relationship is expressed in such phrases as "the god of Moab", "the gods of Byblos" or "the God of Israel." Other phrases identify the people as being of a particular deity: "the god of the sons of Ammon"; "God of the Hebrews." The division was not always clear-cut, and nations with multiple deities would assign various places within their land to certain deities, and gods may have been associated with specific tribal groups or households. Nevertheless it is beyond dispute that land belonged to the gods.
The Israelites understood matters somewhat differently in light of Yahwism, for they understood Yahweh to be the owner of all of the land, rather than other deities being in charge of it. In Deut. 32:8-9 we read:
When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. For the LORD'S portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.
Certain manuscript traditions read "sons of God" (angels) in place of "children of Israel" but the result the same. It is the Most High who has allotted the inheritance for each nation. Yahweh declares the bounds of territory for the various peoples:
Deut. 2:5 Meddle not with them; for I will not give you of their land, no, not so much as a foot breadth; because I have given mount Seir unto Esau for a possession.
Deut. 2:9 And the LORD said unto me, Distress not the Moabites, neither contend with them in battle: for I will not give thee of their land for a possession; because I have given Ar unto the children of Lot for a possession.
Deut. 2:19 And when thou comest nigh over against the children of Ammon, distress them not, nor meddle with them: for I will not give thee of the land of the children of Ammon any possession; because I have given it unto the children of Lot for a possession.
It should be noted in all three cases that the words for "give" is the same Hebrew word as used in Gen. 12:7, 13;15 (nathan), and that the word for "possession" is a form of the word yarash (see below). We can clarify the nature of the land-people-deity relationship with some illustrative Bible passages. Moving from one land to another, or becoming part of another people, meant a change of gods for a person:
Ruth 1:16 And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.
This concept also makes sense of a passage some people find strange:
2 Kings 5:17 And Naaman said, Shall there not then, I pray thee, be given to thy servant two mules' burden of earth? for thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the LORD.
By Namaan's thinking, the only way one could worship a deity properly was to have a piece of the dirt that deity owned. That the land of Israel was not owned by the people, but by Yahweh, is made most clear in this verse:
Lev. 25:23 The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me.
On the other hand, we may see easily that the role of the people was that of a tenant in the land. This relationship of people to land and deity is clearly expressed here:
Judges 11:24 Wilt not thou possess that which Chemosh thy god giveth thee to possess? So whomsoever the LORD our God shall drive out from before us, them will we possess.
Judges 11:24 expresses in a microcosm the concpetual relationship between deity, land, and persons. The god is the one that gives and owns the land; the people possess it. The word "possess" here is the Hebew yarash, which we may now explain in more detail. It is used about 230 times in the OT; here are some samples:
Gen. 15:3 And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.
Gen. 24:60 And they blessed Rebekah, and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them.
Lev. 20:24 But I have said unto you, Ye shall inherit their land, and I will give it unto you to possess it, a land that floweth with milk and honey: I am the LORD your God, which have separated you from other people.
Judges 18:9 And they said, Arise, that we may go up against them: for we have seen the land, and, behold, it is very good: and are ye still? be not slothful to go, and to enter to possess the land.
The last cite is most relevant. Yarash represents the human activity of transfer of property or territory, including in war. But it is quite clear that this transfer did not involve legal ownership as we understand it, but possession. Evidence from ANE documents and the OT further clarify the nature of the relationship between a deity and its people as that of a feudal landlord and his tenants. Under such an arrangement the land was owned by a deity and granted for the use of the people; the "landlord" had certain obligations, and the people had certain responsibilities:
2 Kings 18:33-35 Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered at all his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath, and of Arpad? where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah? have they delivered Samaria out of mine hand? Who are they among all the gods of the countries, that have delivered their country out of mine hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of mine hand?
The comments of this Assyrian official reflect an expectation that at such time as a nation is attacked, it is expected that their god will come to their defense. Otherwise, as the territory of the land extends, so does the territory of the deity whose side wins, as indicated in this boast of the Assyrian king Sargon:
Over [Ashur's] entire broad land and his numerous population I installed my nobles as officials, and thus extended the territory of Ashur, king of the gods.
It was usually believed by the ancients that a god's power only extended as far as national borders, as here:
1 Kings 20:23 And the servants of the king of Syria said unto him, Their gods are gods of the hills; therefore they were stronger than we; but let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they.
The patron deity also had the prerogative of selecting the leader of the people. The Sumerians believed that the office of the kingship was lowered from the heavens. The Assyrians appealed to the divine election of their kings. Cyrus' conquest of Babylon was legitimized by the pronouncement of the Babylonian god Marduk. And of course, when the time came for Israel to select a king, Yahweh was called upon to make the choice, and at various times thereafter the OT states that Yahweh took some part in selecting a king for the nation (cf. 1 Kings 11:14) and even foreign kings (1 Kings 11:23).
In terms of the obligations of the "tenants," it is obvious that within any feudal structure, the occupants of a land were subject to the lord of the land, and that lack of fulfillment of obligations brought about penalties. The Moabite inscription speaks of the Moabite deity Chemosh being angry with "his land" and delivering judgment, though the cause of the anger is not specified. The Assyrian king Esarhaddon authorized a record noting that ethical and cultic offenses by the Babylonian people provoked the wrath of the Baylonian god Marduk, resulting in the cursing and desolation of Babylon. In the OT we read of Yahweh's complaint that the Israelites have "defiled my land" (Jer. 2:7, 16:18) with their iniquity and of impending judgment for sins.
In terms of our topic at hand, the relevance of this data is that even the original promise of Genesis, by the thinking of the ancients, was not a matter of "here it is with no strings attached." Abraham would have expected the grant of land to be accompanied by conditions; one did not merely occupy land without some sort of nod to the landlord, and with no expectation that one could do as one pleased.
We would consider now in this context numerous cites which speak of the land in terms of a yarash:
Gen. 15:7 And he said unto him, I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give (nathan) thee this land to inherit it.
Gen. 17:7-11 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give (nathan) unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.
Two words here deserve special attention. The word "everlasting" is the Hebrew 'olam, a word that is often taken to mean "forever" but actually means "in perpetuity". It is used to indicate a state intended to be permanent within the context offered, as in 1 Samuel 1:22:
But Hannah went not up; for she said unto her husband, I will not go up until the child be weaned, and then I will bring him, that he may appear before the LORD, and there abide for ever.
Verse 28 says, "Therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD. And he worshipped the LORD there." Therefore "everlasting" does not connote a "forever" state without any conditions. (However, as we will see later, "forever" is nevertheless the term under which Israel does "possess" the land, so that the meaning is, "as long as there are Jews to take part in the covenant".)
The word "possession" is not yarash but 'achuzzah, something seized. It is essentially synonymous with yarash and is used in Lev. 25:24:
The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me. And in all the land of your possession ye shall grant a redemption for the land.
Once again, "possession" does not equate with property ownership in the modern sense. Note further that we see the first full expression of the future landlord-tenant relationship in which it is indicated that having the land as a "possession" requires following certain rules. Here, that covenant is symbolized by circumcision, the entry ritual into the covenant relationship. (As a side note, let it not be argued that this passage may be taken to indicate that circumcision was the sole element of human obedience within the covenant. Circumcision as the entry ritual is the part representing the whole, and would have been understood as such.)
Exod. 19:5-6 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.
Though no word for possession is used here, the clear implication is that if the people keep the covenant, then Yahweh will execute His privilege and right as owner of all the earth to provide the people with the means to be a nation.
Deut. 1:8 Behold, I have set (nathan) the land before you: go in and possess (yarash) the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give (nathan) unto them and to their seed after them.
Deut. 1:21 Behold, the LORD thy God hath set the land before thee: go up and possess (yarash) it, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged. (cf. Deut. 1:39, 2:31,
Deut. 3:18-20 And I commanded you at that time, saying, The LORD your God hath given you this land to possess (yarash) it: ye shall pass over armed before your brethren the children of Israel, all that are meet for the war. But your wives, and your little ones, and your cattle, (for I know that ye have much cattle,) shall abide in your cities which I have given you; Until the LORD have given rest unto your brethren, as well as unto you, and until they also possess (yarash) the land which the LORD your God hath given them beyond Jordan: and then shall ye return every man unto his possession (yerushshah), which I have given you.
Deut. 4:1-6 Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess (yarash) the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth (nathan) you. Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. Your eyes have seen what the LORD did because of Baalpeor: for all the men that followed Baalpeor, the LORD thy God hath destroyed them from among you. But ye that did cleave unto the LORD your God are alive every one of you this day. Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it. Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.
Here a direct link is made between obeying the laws and keeping possession of the land Yahweh has given. Even more concise, and describing the "everlasting" nature of the covenant, is Deut. 4:25-31:
When thou shalt beget children, and children's children, and ye shall have remained long in the land, and shall corrupt yourselves, and make a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, and shall do evil in the sight of the LORD thy God, to provoke him to anger: I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over Jordan to possess it; ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed. And the LORD shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the LORD shall lead you. And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men's hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul. When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice; (For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.
Deut. 6:17-18 Ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he hath commanded thee. And thou shalt do that which is right and good in the sight of the LORD: that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest go in and possess (yarash) the good land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers,
Deut. 7:1-4 When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them: Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.
Deut. 7:12 Wherefore it shall come to pass, if ye hearken to these judgments, and keep, and do them, that the LORD thy God shall keep unto thee the covenant and the mercy which he sware unto thy fathers:
Deut. 8:1 All the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live, and multiply, and go in and possess (yarash) the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers.
Deut. 10:11-13 And the LORD said unto me, Arise, take thy journey before the people, that they may go in and possess the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give unto them. And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?
Deut. 11:8-9 Therefore shall ye keep all the commandments which I command you this day, that ye may be strong, and go in and possess the land, whither ye go to possess (yarash) it; And that ye may prolong your days in the land, which the LORD sware unto your fathers to give (nathan) unto them and to their seed, a land that floweth with milk and honey.
Deut. 11:22-25 For if ye shall diligently keep all these commandments which I command you, to do them, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, and to cleave unto him; Then will the LORD drive out all these nations from before you, and ye shall possess (yarash) greater nations and mightier than yourselves. Every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread shall be yours: from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the river Euphrates, even unto the uttermost sea shall your coast be. There shall no man be able to stand before you: for the LORD your God shall lay the fear of you and the dread of you upon all the land that ye shall tread upon, as he hath said unto you.
Time and again, possession of the land is linked with keeping of the covenant rules -- in exact correspondence with the ancient deity-nation, landlord-tenant relationship. At the close of the Deuteronomic treaty, the terms are most explicitly spelled out:
28:15, 25, 63-4 But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee...The LORD shall cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies: thou shalt go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them: and shalt be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth...And it shall come to pass, that as the LORD rejoiced over you to do you good, and to multiply you; so the LORD will rejoice over you to destroy you, and to bring you to nought; and ye shall be plucked from off the land whither thou goest to possess it. And the LORD shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone...
Such are the promises for disobedience. And yet it is also clear in the blessings portion of the treaty that the land remains as something given to Israel to have as a possession when they return to right behavior:
Deut. 30:1-5 And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee, And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess (yarash) it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers.
Now note some of the passages cited earlier. The notice in Ex. 23:20-33 briefly spells out obligations upon the tenants and the provision of the landlord; note especially 24-25: Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works: but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images. And ye shall serve the LORD your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee. This section of Exodus is itself a covenant made with the initial generation coming out of Egypt.
Joshua 1:1-6, another such promise, is followed by a reminder of obligation in Joshua 1:7 hearkening back to the entire law. ("Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.") Joshua 3:9-11 emphasizes the presence of the Ark of the Covenant, a symbol of the contractual agreement between Israel and Yahweh which holds the tables of the covenant.
The book of Deuteronomy, where most of the relevant promises are found (4:33-39; 7:1-2, 17-24; 9:3-7; 31:1-8), is in the form of an ancient suzerainty treaty between a king and his vassals. It is, if you will, a lease. It spells out the obligations of the tenants (the various laws and codes of conduct) and the duties of the landlord, as well as outlining the penalties for disobedience. It is illicit to take verses or passages from Deuteronomy in isolation; the text must be considered, as a whole, just like one cannot simply pick out or ignore the parts of a lease or contract one desires.
Returning to objections:
In Deuteronomy 9:3-7, another prophetic passage relating to the land promise, specific notice was taken of the fact that the Israelites of the then present generation were themselves undeserving of the land but that it would be given to them for the sake of the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob:
And the quote:
Know therefore this day, that Yahweh thy God is he who goeth over before thee as a devouring fire; he will destroy them, and he will bring them down before thee: so shalt thou drive them out, and make them to perish quickly, as Yahweh hath spoken unto thee. Speak not thou in thy heart, after that Yahweh thy God hath thrust them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness Yahweh hath brought me in to possess this land; whereas for the wickedness of these nations Yahweh doth drive them out from before thee. Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thy heart, dost thou go in to possess their land; but for the wickedness of these nations Yahweh thy God doth drive them out from before thee, AND THAT HE MAY ESTABLISH THE WORD WHICH YAHWEH SWARE UNTO THY FATHERS, TO ABRAHAM, TO ISAAC, AND TO JACOB. Know therefore, that Yahweh thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiff-necked people.
God was not giving the land to the Israelites because of their righteousness; in fact, he considered them a stiff-necked, undeserving people. (See also Exodus 33:1-6.)
He was giving the land to them because of the unconditional promise that he had made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Unless he did this, he would have reneged on a promise made to the patriarchs with no strings attached, (Gen. 12:7; 13:14-16).
With reference to Deut. 9:3-7: this has nothing to do with whether the Israelites would continue to be able to possess the land; that will depend on their fulfillment of their obligations as tenants, as stated in the Deuteronomic contract. The stress here is that the ability to enter the land is the result of an act of unmerited grace with respect to those present. They are riding in, as it were, on Abraham's coattails; but this has nothing to do with whether they will be able to stay in the land as tenants.
Lev. 26:42-5 Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob; and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land. The land also shall be left by them, and shall enjoy its sabbaths, while it lieth desolate without them: and they shall accept of the punishment of their iniquity; because, even because they rejected mine ordinances, and their soul abhorred my statutes. And yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them; for I am Yahweh their God; but I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am Yahweh.
So time and time again, it was specifically said that the Israelites would be given the land of Canaan, REGARDLESS OF THEIR OWN CONDUCT, so that Yahweh could fulfill the promise that he made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
This reading is incorrect. The passage indicates that the punishment for Israelites misbehavior is not loss of what was "given" to them (for they did not own the land, but were tenants) but loss of possession. The covenant will be remembered, and the land was reserved for them once their punishment (for the sort of offenses described earlier in Lev. 26, but not quoted by our opponent) was complete. That is what was promised to Abraham: land reserved and given for the use and possession of his descendants -- even in their absence due to punishment.
As proof that the land promise was dependent on the good behavior of the Israelites, inerrantists like to cite Exodus 23:20-33 where a conditional suggestion was attached to the promise: "But if thou shalt indeed hearken unto his voice (the angel that was to go before them) and do all that he speak, then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies and an adversary unto thine adversaries."
The claim, in fact, was that Joshua thoroughly and completely subdued the land:
So Joshua smote ALL the land, the hill-country, and the South, and the lowland, and the slopes, and all their kings: he left none remaining, but he utterly destroyed all that breathed, AS YAHWEH, THE GOD OF ISRAEL, COMMANDED. And Joshua smote them from Kadesh-barnea even unto Gaza, and all the country of Goshen, even unto Gibeon. And all these kings and their land did Joshua take at one time, because Yahweh, the God of Israel, fought for Israel. And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, unto the camp to Gilgal, (Joshua 10:40-43, ASV, Yahweh for Jehovah).
And Yahweh said unto Joshua, Be not afraid because of them (the armies of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, and Hivites poised for battle against the Israelites, FT); for tomorrow at this time will I deliver them up ALL slain before Israel: thou shalt hock their horses, and burn their chariots with fire. So Joshua came, and all the people of war with him, against them by the waters of Merom suddenly, and fell upon them. And Yahweh delivered them into the hand of Israel, and they smote them, and chased them unto great Sidon, and unto Misrephothmaim, and unto the valley of Mizpeh eastward; and they smote them, until they left them none remaining. And Joshua did unto them as Yahweh bade him: he hocked their horses, and burnt their chariots with fire. And Joshua turned back at that time, and took Hazor, and smote the king thereof with the sword: for Hazor before time was the head of all those kingdoms. And they smote all the souls that were therein with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them; THERE WERE NONE LEFT THAT BREATHED: and he burnt Hazor with fire. And all the cities of those kings, and all the kings of them, did Joshua take, and he smote them with the edge of the sword, and utterly destroyed them; as Moses the servant of Yahweh commanded. But as for the cities that stood on their mounds, Israel burned none of them, save Hazor only; that did Joshua burn. And all the spoil of these cities, and the cattle, the children of Israel took for a prey unto themselves; but every man they smote with the edge of the sword, until they had destroyed them, neither left they any that breathed. As Yahweh commanded Moses his servant, so did Moses command Joshua: and so did Joshua; he left nothing undone of all that Yahweh commanded Moses, (Joshua 11:6-15, Yahweh substituted).
So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that Yahweh spake unto Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance unto Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. And the land had rest from war, (Joshua 11:23, Yahweh substituted).
So Yahweh gave unto Israel ALL the land which he sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein. And Yahweh gave them rest round about, according to all that he sware unto their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; Yahweh delivered all their enemies into their hand. THERE FAILED NOT AUGHT OF ANY GOOD THING WHICH YAHWEH HAD SPOKEN UNTO THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL. ALL CAME TO PASS,(Joshua 21:43-45, Yahweh substituted).
Thus it is said:
Yahweh gave unto Israel ALL the land that he swore to give to their fathers, and the dimensions of that land were clearly laid out in such passages as Exodus 23:20-33 and Joshua 1:1-6.
A reply is warranted here, of two types.
Re Josh. 10:40-43, 11:6-15, and 11:23 versus Joshua 13:1, which says there was "yet very much land to be possessed": In context these refer to the "whole land" of the particular nations being attacked in each section. Josh. 10:40-43 refers only to the land of the specific kings and cities being battled in Josh. 10, whose territory comprised a specific swath of land west of the northern half of the Dead Sea. Josh. 11:23 also refers to a specific parcel of land, much larger, but not the entirety of the land in the grant. What remains to be taken is specified in 13:2-6. The word "land" ('erets) is a common word used over 2500 times in the OT to refer to large parcels of land of varying size with delineations that are specific ("land of Egypt"). In Josh. 10 it is "these kings and their land", i.e., just the land of these kings mentioned previously, which does not encompass all of the grant. In Josh. 11 it is the land of a specifically named set of kings and peoples with their territories, which also does not encompass all of the grant, and is never said to encompass all of the grant.
Re Joshua 21:43-45:
Critics with a fundamentalist hermeneutical past tend to keep their preoccupation with the idea that an inerrancy doctrine means that the Bible dropped out of heaven complete. That is a naive view held over only by the most primitive of inerrantists. Others recognize that certain blocks of the text had their origins as oral units of tradition, formulated and designed for a specific purpose. Josh. 21:43-45 comes at the end of an extended accounting of the assigning of territories to the Israelite tribes, and before several other independent units. 21:43-45 sits by itself, and for a specific purpose. It is a formulaic summary of previous events, with the emphasis on God's faithfulness to His promises.
As a formulaic composition, 21:43-45 contains several elements designed for easy oral memory: the repetitive "and" which is typical of Semitic literature; the forceful central chiasm using the phrase "all their enemies" as a core (not apparent in the English translation: the Hebrew order is, "And not stood ['amad] a man before them all of their enemies; all their enemies gave Yahweh into their hand [yad]"); the reuse of the phrase "sware to their fathers"; the use of exclusive language (all, any, not -- notably, not applied to the word possessed).
In short, it is designed to be memorized and repeated, and as such is not concerned with reporting the niggling "exception" details about which critics complain. These details are assumed to be known by the hearers, who are to use this summary formula to encourage themselves to continue on the same path, as Yahweh has proven to be faithful in all of his promises up to the time that this formula is inserted in the text. Apparently such critics expect the ancients to adhere to their own modernist expectations and have the passage read as follows:
And the LORD gave unto Israel all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed all except the parts they had yet to conquer (see previous passage) and a few areas where they could or did not drive the people out, and dwelt therein. And the LORD gave them rest round about, though there were still some battles to come in the future, according to all that he sware unto their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them, other than those few holdouts like the Jebusites; the LORD delivered all their enemies into their hand, with the exception of those yet to be conquered and those few he left to help keep the wild animals under control (see previous passage). There failed not ought of any good thing which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass, at least so far, wasn't that nice?
Those critics who insist upon the inclusion of such niggling details are guilty of what certain authorities on communication issues call graphocentrism -- an inherent bias in which writing is privileged over speech. Speech and writing are different forms of media with highly differing functions, and we should not demand that those people whose primary "media outlet" was speech conform to our demands as those who primary "media outlet" is writing. Nor should we expect God to have inspired persons in an oral culture (and it is in that type of culture in which the overwhelming majority of people even today are immersed) to write things down in a way that would have been far less effective for them. We have hindsight to help us make the interpretive analysis. The ancients did not have such hindsight.
Certain cites used by critics to answer may categorized in two ways:
- Places where it is said that the Israelites did not drive out the inhabitants, but reduced them to forced labor. (Josh. 16:10, 17:12-15; Judges 1:21; 1:27-35) Critics may note these as a violation and is right to do so. Yet because of the landlord-tenant relationship described above, such instances as these can hardly be taken to account against Yahweh's promise to drive out the nations, since it reflects the choice of the Israelities to not drive them out. By that accounting it was a specific violation of the covenant terms by the Israelites, and there was indeed a punishment for this:
Judges 2:1-3 And an angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you. And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars: but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this? Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you.
Once Israel broke the terms of the lease, all bets were off and Yahweh was "out" of His obligation as landlord to do His part in driving out the peoples.
- Places where it is said that the Israelites could not drive out the inhabitants, but that they remained in place. These may be divided into two types: Places where a reason is given why the Israelites could not drive the people out, and places where no reason is given why the Isrealites could not drive the people out.
Places where a reason is given why the Israelites could not drive the people out -- as it happens there is but one example of this, in Judges 1:19, where the cause is said to be iron chariots owned by the enemy. Is this a case of God's promise failing? There are two reasons to say it is not. First, there is a certain proviso within the Deuteronomic contract:
Deut. 7:22 And the LORD thy God will put out those nations before thee by little and little: thou mayest not consume them at once, lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee.
Given this proviso, it is manifest that there would be a certain point at which the Israelites would no longer achieve victory in battle, until such time as Yahweh determined that they were secure enough to gain control of more land. This is sound military and social principle -- don't overextend yourself. In this case the enemy is the "beasts of the field"; but should anyone doubt the threat of being overwhelmed by such creatures, let them take up an agricultural/pastoral form of living surrounded by unmanaged wilderness and find out for themselves where the danger lies. This proviso does well enough to answer a place like Judges 1:19 where the enemy possessed superior technology and could not be beaten. It may be noted that although Judah was out to get the Canaanites (1:10), the locales they conquered were Philistine territory (1:18). This has all the bearings of an overextension of viable influence, and it is therefore likely that the proviso of 7:22 was kicking into effect.
Places where no reason is given why the Israelites could not drive the people out -- Here there are actually only two cites: Josh. 15:63 and 17:12 (though Judges 1:27 may also be an example). Strictly speaking this provides no contradiction to the promises unless it is specifically said that the Israelites could not drive out the people in spite of being loyal to the covenant. At worst this is a matter with no resolution. However, viable inferences allow us resolution enough for satisfaction. The sin of even one of the people is enough to guarantee military non-success. The sin of one man, Achan (Josh. 7), nearly ruined the campaign against Ai. It may be argued that no sin is specified in these texts; to which we reply, it is not needed -- once again, we cannot assume our graphocentric prejudices upon an oral culture. The example of Achan was enough to show that violation of the rules of war laid down by Yahweh was sufficient to ensure military failure. And as such instances grew, it is within the expectation of human behavior that rather than determine the guilty parties and make things right, it would be decided rather to just "skip it" and move on, living with the results. Any who dare deny the likelihood of disobedience needs only to look at the history recorded in Kings, and at human history as a whole, to know better.
Replies to objections from an opponent.
Using the word "give". Our opponent cited several passages using the word "give" (as was used to say that God would "give" the land to the Israelites). It is not exactly clear what intent was behind the cites, but it was apparently to establish that "give" implied some relationship which would not allow for a conditional covenant in which the Jews could be booted out of the land for misbehavior.
"Give" is the Hebrew nathan, and any lexicon or concordance will show that this word has a great variety of applications: add, apply, appoint, ascribe, assign, avenge, bestow, bring forth, bring hither, cast, cause, charge, come, commit consider, count, cry, deliver up, direct, distribute do, without fail, fasten, frame, get, give forth, giveover, give up, grant, hang up, have, lay unto charge, lay up, give leave, lend, let out, lie, lift up, make, occupy, offer, ordain, pay, perform, place, pour, print, pull, put forth, recompense, render, requite, restore, send out, set forth, shew, shoot forth up, strike, submit, suffer, surely, take, thrust, trade, turn, utter, weep, willingly, withdraw, would to God, yield. These and cites that follow are apparently intended by our opponent suggest some meaning of nathan congenial to a modern concept of property ownership.
However, the great variety of applications, as well as the Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity, must be considered together; to merely focus on nathan and what meaning it may or may not have in other verses is not enough. In terms of nathan itself, like our modern word "give" it clearly denotes transfer, with no specification in terms of the method or permanence or nature of the "giving". One may "give" someone a back rub, a hard time, a house, or an apartment; the things "given" are different in terms of tangible possession and the idea of ownership, and so "give" only connotes transfer without making any statement in terms of the nature or permanence of the transfer. So likewise nathan.
Now to the cites our opponent used as examples:
Exodus 2:9 And Pharaoh's daughter said unto her, Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages. And the woman took the child, and nursed it.
Ex. 2:9 does not concern land, and especially not land "given" from a deity to a people, so it is not a parallel for any passages relevant to "Yahweh's Land Promise." But we would note that it does concern earned wages. What if the nurse later bungled or fuddled on her job? Would she still be "given" wages? If it was later discovered she was a slacker, and rather than nursing, was out playing stick hockey, would not the wages be demanded back? Rather than countering our case that the land promises were conditional, Ex. 2:9 only supports our contention that they were conditional, and shows that nathan does not offer any sense, by itself, of permanent transference that our opponent's argument requires. (Judges 17:10 was used the same way of a hired Levite priest.)
Numbers 3:47 Thou shalt even take five shekels apiece by the poll, after the shekel of the sanctuary shalt thou take them: (the shekel is twenty gerahs:) And thou shalt give the money, wherewith the odd number of them is to be redeemed, unto Aaron and to his sons.
Our opponent apparently means Numbers 3:47-8 and not merely 3:47. Once again nathan does clearly connote transfer, but Aaron and his sons were not the owners of the money; they were stewards of the money. This does not contradict our point, and does not have any relevance, as it does not concern transfer of land from deity to people, nor does it show that nathan indicates permanent, unconditional transference as our opponent requires.
Judges 14:12 And Samson said unto them, I will now put forth a riddle unto you: if ye can certainly declare it me within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty sheets and thirty change of garments: But if ye cannot declare it me, then shall ye give me thirty sheets and thirty change of garments. And they said unto him, Put forth thy riddle, that we may hear it.
Here nathan is used in what is arguably a transfer of property rights, but again, that is only established because of the context (a wager -- we may note, with conditions), not because of nathan itself. This does not contradict our point, and does not have any relevance, as it does not concern transfer of land from deity to people, nor does it show that nathan indicates permanent, unconditional transference as our opponent requires.
Rebutting Ruth. Our opponent also tried several methods of undermining the land-people-deity relationship in the ancient world. Ruth 1:16 ("And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.") is merley waved off as coincidental in context. But the verse demonstrates the intimate connection between land ("whither thou lodgest"), people ("my people") and deity ("my God") that we have shown to be an essential context for understanding the land promises. The three are intimately, inextricably linked. We agree that in agreeing to go with Naomi, Ruth was saying that she accepted Naomi's god. This is precisely because of the land-people-deity relationship we have described. Our opponent has not refuted this connection; he has merely waved it off as if to suggest that Ruth's travel with Naomi is entirely coincidental to the acceptance of Naomi's god. Given the relationship clearly expressed in Ruth 1:16, the corresponding data from the Ancient Near Eastern parallels, and a complete lack of evidence from our opponent that such relations were merely coincidental, and not the result of an intimate link, he has utterly failed to relieve himself of the burden placed on him by Ruth 1:16.
Ruth 1:17 is also appealed to as evidence that "Ruth had already accepted Yahweh as her god, even though she was still living in Moab at the time." This is utterly beside the point, as it does not address the intimate link expressed between land, deity, and people in Ruth 1:16. It is also irrelevant because it is from Ruth 1:17, and is said in light of the certain knowledge that the ultimate destination is Israel, and that that Yahweh was indeed God there. Far from contadicting our point about the he context of the Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity, Ruth 1:17 only confirms it, for it shows further that Ruth recognized that the move to Israel would mean, for her, a change in deity to whom she owed primary loyalty as the "owner" of the land in which she would now be a tenant.
Our opponent also appeals to Balaam, who lived in Pethor in Mesopotamia, as "a believer in the Hebrew god Yahweh." Whether one was a "believer" in a given god was not at issue. The nations readily recognized the existence of the gods of the other nations, or even worshipped the gods of other nations (although often as a local manifestation) even within their own nations, and we have never argued that they did not do so.
What is at issue is the god to whom the person owed supreme loyalty, as the god who was "owner" and landlord of the land, and it is in that context that the Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity comes into play. Balaam certainly believed in Yahweh and recognized his power. However, there is no evidence that he gave supreme loyalty to Yahweh over any other deity.
The Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity would suggest that Balaam gave supreme loyalty to whatever deity was associated with Pethor in Mesopotamia, if indeed that was his normative place of residence. However, there is no evidence at all in terms of which deity Balaam gave most allegiance to, and thus also no evidence at all that contradicts (or supports) our premise concerning the association of land, people, and deity in the Ancient Near East.
Also appealed to is Jacob, who went to Paddan-aram but didn’t change his god while he was living in Paddan-aram. Jacob certainly did not change his gods, and that is because, as we have clearly stressed, but as our opponent has missed in terms of application, the Israelites understood matters somewhat differently in light of Yahwism, for they understood Yahweh to be the owner of all of the land, even foreign lands, rather than other deities being in charge of it. So likewise we would expect Jacob to recognize that the usual paradigm of changing gods with lands would not apply where Yahweh was concerned. Our opponent clearly misses this application.
Finally as an example it is noted that "Solomon married foreign wives who worshiped other gods and enticed Solomon to worship them, but Solomon and his wives lived on Yahweh’s turf." This does not in any sense refute our point about the Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity, for it does not specify whether Solomon or his wives gave any of these other gods supreme loyalty over Yahweh or any of the other gods, and if they did, why they did (i.e., did they think Yahweh was not supreme in Israel and owner of the land?). It does not give any specific information about how they ranked the deities in a hierarchy; it does not explain their relationship with Yahweh, or whether there was any to speak of. Thus this point neither contradicts nor supports our premise concerning the association of land, people, and deity in the Ancient Near East. We have nowhere stated that recognition of a god as supreme in a new land, and as the owner and "landlord" in that land, meant that other gods could not be recognized or worshipped.
About Yarash. Our opponent misses the point that we agree that yarash has a wide variety of meanings. Indeed it does; it means an "heir" in Gen. 15:3. But this is inapplicable to the land promise issue, since Yahweh is not a person who is dying and leaving the land to anyone, and is not relevant to the Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity, in which the people were "renters" under contract and had certain obligations which allowed them to continue to live in the land. We may add that by any token an "heir" would also never be a permanent, unconditional possessor of the land, since any human heir would eventually die and thereby the land would be "possessed" by someone else, or else some other condition (invasion, taxation) could strip the person of possession of the land. Yarash does not connote any unconditional, permanent sense of transference as our opponent requires for his case.
Next our opponent cited Lev. 20:22-24:
Leviticus 20:22 Ye shall therefore keep all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: that the land, whither I bring you to dwell therein, spue you not out.
23 And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation, which I cast out before you: for they committed all these things, and therefore I abhorred them.
24 But I have said unto you, Ye shall inherit their land, and I will give it unto you to possess it, a land that floweth with milk and honey: I am Yahweh your God, which have separated you from other people.
Our opponent has unerringly refuted his own case, as he has quoted a passage (20:22) that verifies our points concerning the context of the Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity, in which the people were "renters" under contract and had certain obligations ("keep all my statutes...") which allowed them to continue to live in the land. Our opponent does not refute us here, but merely verifies what we have been saying all along.
On Feudalism. Our opponent says:
If a feudal lord told a family that they would be given permanent tenancy on property from sea A to river B and from mountain C to valley D, but later the feudal lord gave them tenancy on just a fraction of that land, the feudal lord would have reneged on his promise, wouldn’t he? If not, why not?
The point which continues to escape our opponent, and will evade him further on in his reply in spite of quoting verses that refute his very position, is that the tenancy was not, and never is, expressed as permanent or unconditional, but is expressed in terms of adherence to the contractual obligations laid out throughout the OT and especially in the contractual form of Deuteronomy. The issue moreover, is that the Israelites violated these obligations even before they could physically move into the entirety of the land grant. By analogy, a renter who steps into his apartment and immediately, at the front door, rips wallpaper off the wall and starts a fire, has already technically violated his lease (if it prohibits such acts, which may not be prohibited in certain collegiate rentals) and could readily be evicted by the landlord. It does not matter that he never got to the bedroom, or the bathroom, which the lease gave him implicit leave to occupy. Once the contract is violated, the "jig is up" and he is eligible for expulsion.
Moreover, would our opponent suggest that Yahweh or any landlord would allow a loophole in which the Israelites could leave even one square inch of land "unpossessed" and do as they please, violating laws willy-nilly, having orgies, food fests, and idolatry as they pleased, always leaving that one square inch or yard or mile of land untouched and techincially unconqured, and Yahweh (or any landlord) would just say, "They still have that tiny parcel left; I can't touch them until then." Is there any such agreement in real life?
Bringing in Omniscience. Marginally related, as a matter of consistency of the Biblical record, is our opponent's question, about "why an omniscient, omnipotent deity made a land promise that he couldn’t keep?" As we noted clearly, and explain in more detail throughout our essay, the Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity is such that the people were "renters" under contract and had certain obligations which allowed them to continue to live in the land, and under which the patron deity had obligations as well. Yahweh's omniscience and omnipotence have no bearing upon the freewill decision of His people to violate the obligations of their contract and therefore suffer the consequences clearly laid out for such violations in the OT and especially in the contractual document, Deuteronomy.
Our opponent's only substantive attempt to argue against Abraham receiving the covenant as conditional, in light of the land-people-deity relationship (and in other contexts, Moses taking similar promises as unconditional), rather than as a "no strings" deal, is this sentence: "So [Holding] is even able to read Abraham’s mind?" This snide comment is merely a distraction from the point that the overwhelming evidence of the Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity, places the burden of proof upon any respondent claiming that such was not, or would not have been, known to Abraham when Yahweh appraoched him with the land promise.
Everlasting. We made some points about 'olam, agreeing that while it implied an everlasting covenant (for the land would always be there for the Israelites, even in Exile), it in no way implied that there were no limitations or conditions (they could be exiled if they violated the covenant strictures). Our opponent wastes a great deal of time thinking we are either a) arguing that the word does not mean "eternal" or b) wondering if we will argue that "there are no longer any Jews to take part in the covenant or perhaps that there were no Jews in the time of Joshua to take part in the covenant." We have not argued either of these things. We have argued that the covenant is "conditional" and that 'olam does not refute any contention that the promises were conditional. 'Olam allows that things may change to affect the status of the covenant. It is a time-marker that does not specify that everything will remain the same; thus my facetious example of the Jews ceasing to exist meaning an end to the covenant, in spite of the 'olam.
Sole Owner. Our opponent tries to defuse the whole "land belonged to Yahweh" thesis by arguing that there are various verses that show that the Israelites bought and sold property. No one disagrees with this. The point is shown by Lev. 25:23: "The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me. And in all the land of your possession ye shall grant a redemption for the land." That the land could not be sold among the Israelites, or that they could perform functions like establishing boundary markers or redeeming property, does not in the least contradict or address our point that the land was owned by Yahweh, as clearly stated in Lev. 25:23. The relationship does not equate with any modern sense of property ownership, since we moderns regard ultimate ownership of the land as resting with ourselves, not with a deity, whereas Leviticus clearly states that the land was ultimately owned by Yahweh, and remaining evidence we have cited, notably the conditional terms and the Deuteronomic contract, show that the Israelites were tenants in a "conditional" landlord-tenant relationship.
We have never argued that Yahweh's ultimate ownership precluded the ability of humans to transact business with the land; we have rather argued that Yahweh holds ultimate jurisdiction with respect to Israelite occupation and use of the land, including the ability to transact business associated with the land. This point our opponent has not in any sense refuted. Moroever, even granting (as we do) such conceptions of personal property, how does this disprove or detract from that Yahweh set conditions upon continuing to live in the land?
Making the Cut. Noting our comments on circumcision as the entry ritual into the covenant, our opponent writes:
If the Israelites obeyed Yahweh’s voice and kept Yahweh’s covenant, he would, by implication, give them the land he had promised to the patriarchs, but if circumcision was the “entry rite” into the covenant, the Israelites to whom Yahweh promised the land in Deuteronomy 9 had not kept the covenant at all, because they had not kept the rite of circumcision while they were in the wilderness.
That is correct, and that is why we have the need for the event described in Joshua 5 in which all the male Israelites of the generation entering Palestine were circumcised. Our opponent thinks it an issue that the "Israelites to whom [Yahweh] made this promise hadn’t even kept the covenant entry ritual of circumcision," and supposes that their disobedience should have kept them out. Why is this the case? The ritual was done. The Israelites who underwent the ritual obeyed the command to have it done. How could they have it done before they were told to have it done? For this to be a problem, our opponent must show that in the time prior to Josh. 5, the people were told to undergo ritual circumcision and disobeyed the command to do so. As this is not shown, and as the text records no such command and refusal by the addressed generation of Israelites, this is a non-answer in context.
So what does it mean? If our opponent denies the ancient land-people-deity relationship, he has an obligation to provide an alternate understanding of the texts, and in light of Lev. 25:23 especially where Yahweh says the land is "mine." Here are his objections and re-analysis beyond what we have already addressed in concept:
This feudal-landlord concept would have made the Israelites serfs, who simply tended the land, but serfs could not buy and sell land, whereas the Israelites could and did buy and sell land.
Our opponent has here, without any justification at all, imposed a concept (serfdom) and one of its attendant features (inability to buy and sell land) upon the text. However, he is nevertheless shooting himself in the foot, since indeed the Israelites were forbidden to sell the land permanently (Lev. 25:23), as he admits it shows. He is also, nevertheless, assuming that Yahweh's feudal landlord-tenant relationship included every single aspect of what he has perceived to be essential elements of a human feudal landlord-tenant relationship, which may or may not even apply in the Ancient Near East. Here is his "positive" analysis:
I think the ancient view of land ownership would be somewhat like referring to United States territory. The territory referred to “belongs” to the United States, but within that territory are parcels owned by Jones, Brown, Williams, Smith, etc., etc., etc.
The analogy, adjusted for our status as a republic, is in one sense not far off, and in fact to that extent only supports what we have been saying all along. The United States has laws that we must follow to keep our freedoms. If we break the laws, there are penalties, though expulsion from land is seldom used as such a penalty, if at all. The parallel breaks down ultimately because the US does not own the land, and our opponent cannot show any example (other than parklands) where it is said that the land is the USA's land in any possessive sense, or in the same sense, that Yahweh declares that the entire land "is mine" in Leviticus (and in spite of permission thereafter to conduct land transactions of the "personal property" sort), nor can he find a place where it is said that the USA is the Creator of the land of the United States (cf. Gen. 14:19), or of US citizens thinking they need to take dirt from the USA with them to be patriotic in a foreign country and loyal to the US government, or any example of anyone thinking that US troops become powerless when they step on foreign soil.
The USA is a nation, with a long history of individualism and Western property rights and a view of God as more remote; it is not a Deity like Yahweh, Chemosh, or the gods of Babylon and Assyria, and the history is one of Eastern collectivism and a view of gods as deeply involved in judgment and the ownership of the land and its occupants. The parklands themselves provide a slightly closer analogy that only proves our point. The parklands have rules that occupants must follow, or they will be expelled from the parklands; though the analogy breaks down because no one in parklands occupies the land: they do sometimes temporarily occupy it (campgrounds) but cannot sell it amongst themselves (though they could conceivably barter "off the record" for the rights to certain plots).
Our opponent has only furthered our own case with his analogy; but as a whole, his analogy is contrary to the data of the Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity, and does not rest on any positive evidence from Ancient Near Eastern contracts, documents, or inscriptions.
Our opponent replied with some direct questions. Only one is not answered by what we have offered above:
Could Yahweh have withheld the land from the Israelites and still X kept his promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?
No. Yahweh would only have broken his promise had He never given the Israelites the chance to occupy the land at all.
We noted Joshua 1:1-6, a land promise followed by a reminder of obligation in Joshua 1:7 hearkening back to the entire law. ("Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.") Our opponent said, "One can possess property without necessarily prospering, so this admonition would not prove anything." If the "prospering" is not in relation to what has just been spoken of -- going in and taking the land -- then what is it referring to?
Deut. 9. Our opponent brings up Deut. 9 some 30 times in his argument -- mostly prior to our own examination of it. We earlier noted that Deut. 9:3-7 has nothing to do with whether the Israelites would continue to be able to possess the land; that will depend on their fulfillment of their obligations as tenants, as stated in the Deuteronomic contract. The stress here is that the ability to enter the land is the result of an act of unmerited grace with respect to those present. They are riding in, as it were, on Abraham's coattails; but this has nothing to do with whether they will be able to stay in the land as tenants.
9:1-3 Hear, O Israel: Thou art to pass over Jordan this day, to go in to possess nations greater and mightier than thyself, cities great and fenced up to heaven, A people great and tall, the children of the Anakims, whom thou knowest, and of whom thou hast heard say, Who can stand before the children of Anak! Understand therefore this day, that the LORD thy God is he which goeth over before thee; as a consuming fire he shall destroy them, and he shall bring them down before thy face: so shalt thou drive them out, and destroy them quickly, as the LORD hath said unto thee.
If no other "land promise" appeared in the Bible, and if Deut. 9:1-3 were all we had, the most we could conclude is that there is no evidence, pro or con, of any conditions attached to the promise. But there is more, much more:
9:4 Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the LORD thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the LORD hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD doth drive them out from before thee.
Our opponent says of this verse, "Notice that the verse above did not say if Yahweh thrusts out these nations; it said when Yahweh thrusts them out." The use of "when" as opposed to "if" does not affect in any way the fact that Deuteronomy is an ancient legal contract spelling out obligations of landlord and tenant, and that to extract any passage from Deuteronomy without respect to this fact is illicit. Our opponent also would need to explain why, in light of this overwhelming context surrounding 9:4, this is not best understood (even under the "when" implication) as a conditional based on assumption of success in adhering to the covenant, as is clearly spelled out throughout the OT and particularly Deuteronomy. Note as well that Yahweh is speaking to these people of a time after they cast the others out, warning them of what not to say after they have cast them out:
9:5 Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
It is not for righteouness that they go to possess the land. GO to. They GO. They are not there yet. They will GO. Not STAY, or CONTINUE, but GO. Our opponent fails to recognize this distinction.
9:6-7 Understand therefore, that the LORD thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiffnecked people. Remember, and forget not, how thou provokedst the LORD thy God to wrath in the wilderness: from the day that thou didst depart out of the land of Egypt, until ye came unto this place, ye have been rebellious against the LORD.
From here through verse 26 we are given a catalog if Israel's past sins in the wilderness. Now if there were no conditions attached to keeping occupation of the land, then what on earth is the purpose of cataloging all these sins? One obvious purpose is to show that the Israelites indeed had no righteousness and that they needed this act of grace merely to enter the land. But more than that, and in light of the fact that it is clearly said that the other nations are being driven out because of their wickedness, how on earth can it be denied that they serve as reminders that any future wickedness by the Israelites would result in the same penalty of expulsion?
Note that this is so even if every part of the OT were to vanish other than Deut. 9, and we did not have boucoups of conditional statements, to say nothing of the Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity, offering is support. It does not take an inference to suppose that if the other nations got thrown out for bad behavior, and if it is specifically said that it is not because of righteousness that they GO (not STAY or CONTINUE) into the land, then the Israelites will be just as subject to the conditions of continued occupation, beyond the act of entry grace, as anyone else.
Joshua 10. Our reply here was that Joshua 10, when it refers to ALL the land, refers only to ALL the land taken in Ch. 10, not the whole grant. Our opponent replied:
Joshua 10:41 says that the strike went from Kadesh-barnea “even to Gaza and all the country of Goshen,” so this would take the extent of the claimed attack to the Mediterranean Sea.
This is false. If the attack was to Gaza it does not include Gaza, on the sea, which was Philistine territory.
The same verse says that the strike extended “unto Gibeon,” which was a town located about 5 miles north of Jerusalem, so if Joshua had routed all the kings of this region and utterly destroyed all that breathed (v:40), he would have driven out and destroyed the Jebusites, who lived in and around Jerusalem, and this would have happened early in Joshua’s invasion of Canaan, yet texts describing events after this time specifically noted that the Israelites were unable to drive out the Jebusites.
This is false. Gibeon is actually approximately five miles northwest of Jerusalem, at 35 degrees, 14'30 east, while Jerusalem itself is at 35 degrees, 19'56 east. The map also shows it separated from Jerusalem by a river, a natural barrier. Our opponent wishes to erase these five miles in a different direction, as well as disregard any issue of delineating georgraphical features, which would clearly exclude Jerusalem from the range between Kadesh-Barnea and Gibeon, but that geographical equivocation will not float in this ocean. To this we would add that our opponent has also assumed, even if he were correct, that the delineation in Joshua 10 would be a straight line, when it would more likely be drawn, in this era before maps, along natural barriers like rivers, mountains, and wilderness. This needs to be taken into account before our opponent can even begin an argument.
We may add a pertinent observation. Our opponent here has argued that Joshua 10 offers an inconsistency with reference to Jerusalem only. In his original article, he clearly indicated that he believed that Joshua 10 offered an inconsistency with reference to all the land in the grant, including the "not yet taken" land in Joshua 13. So what happened? Is it just Jerusualem? If so, why did our opponent in his original article indicate that it was ALL the land in the grant that was at issue with reference to Joshua 10? He cannot backpedal and say that he only would have intended to reference Jerusalem intentionally. He never specifies this and he juxtaposes the Joshua 10 quotes, along with the others and with no differentiation specified, in a section ending with the words, "Yahweh gave unto Israel ALL the land that he swore to give to their fathers, and the dimensions of that land were clearly laid out in such passages as Exodus 23:20-33 and Joshua 1:1-6." Why is our opponent not being honest about his backpedalling?
Our opponent also noted that the king of Jerusalem had been captured in Joshua 10, and compares this to later cites showing the city still X in Jebusite hands:
Notice above that Joshua 12:10 listed “the king of Jerusalem” as one of the kings that Joshua “smote” in his conquest of the land. If, however, Joshua had defeated the king of Jerusalem and “utterly destroyed” its inhabitants, that would have been the end of the Jebusites. How then could biblical texts later say that the Israelites were unable to drive out the Jebusites?
We have addressed this above, and it is asburd to suggest that the mere capture of a king spelled the end of his city (of which, it is never said that its inhabitants are "utterly destroyed"). This is like arguing that if someone captures the President, that is the end of the USA. We are a republic of course with a succession of power, but the analogy holds unless our opponent can show that the capture of a king, separate from a specific military conquest of his city, automatically resulted in the capture of his city be default. By this reckoning Nebuchadnezzar wasted time trying to capture any city in Judah other than Jerusalem, since all he had to do to win the war is get the king, and immediately all of Judah would have capitulated.
Our opponent has yet to prove that there is any overlap between the lands captured in Josh. 10-11 and the lands yet to be captured in Josh. 13, or that Josh. 10-11 claim that the entirety of the land grant was taken. The king of Jerusalem took part in battle against Iarael, and he along with other kings was captured and slain at Makkedah (Josh. 10:23), a location some 20 miles southwest of Jerusalem. Despite the capture, Jerusalem remained an eminently defensible city; the mere capture of a king who had gone on a sortie would not have resulted in the Jebusites throwing up their hands and surrendering to the Israelites.
Joshua 11. Our reply here was also that Joshua 11, when it refers to ALL the land, refers only to ALL the land taken in Ch. 11, not the whole grant. Our opponent replied with a list of places where Joshua 11 records conquest. But none of the indicated territory overlaps with that specified as "not yet taken" in Joshua 13. The description does not bring the conquests to the northern borders of the land grant. The grant went as far as the Euphrates River (Gen. 15:18), and Josh. 13:5 specifies as yet untaken, "And the land of the Giblites, and all Lebanon, toward the sunrising, from Baalgad under mount Hermon unto the entering into Hamath." From Baalgad unto the entering of Hamath, and all Lebanon, up to the Euphrates, is a portion of land that is farther north than what our opponent claims is the "northern borders" of the land grant (which he places at Sidon to Baalgad). The Joshua 11 excursion does not finish the job, and Josh. 11:23 does not say anything about the fathers and what was sworn to them; it says, "So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD said unto Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance unto Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. And the land rested from war."
Gaza. Here's another unique shot at showing overlap:
In listing the “much land” that remained to be conquered, Joshua 13:2 listed “all the regions of the Philistines,” but Gaza was on the Mediterranean coast, right smack in the middle of Philistine territory, and Joshua 10:40-41 claimed that Joshua “smote” all the land of the southern hill-country and lowlands and all of their kings, from Kadesh-barnea and all the country of Goshen, where Gaza was located. Gaza was listed as one of the towns allotted to Judah (Josh. 15:47).
Josh. 10:41 first mentions Gaza: "And Joshua smote them from Kadeshbarnea even unto Gaza, and all the country of Goshen, even unto Gibeon." This says only that Joshua smote the kings referenced in Josh. 10 unto Gaza. This does include Gaza itself, and Gaza itself was neither attacked nor captured here. This verse speaks of a geographic range within which Joshua smote the forces in retreat. Gaza is next mentioned in 11:22: "There was none of the Anakims left in the land of the children of Israel: only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod, there remained." This specifically lays out three cities, including Gaza, where the Anakim remained, and as yet there is no mention of attack or conquest of the city. (Our opponent also cites Ashdod as well; our answer here also applies. Ashdod is not mentioned otherwise except in 13:3.) Finally indeed there is 15:47 where Gaza is allotted to Judah. To which we say: And this means? It means nothing that helps our opponent. The allotting of Gaza was pre-emptive, but it does not require that the city be conquered before it can be decided which tribe should get it. Does our opponent expect the Israelites to simply wait until Gaza was captured before they decided which tribe would get it or that a tribe would get it? That is not required, and Josh. 15:47, because it says nothing about a conquest of Gaza, does not thereby stand against Josh. 13:3, which says it had yet to be taken.
Into Kings. Our opponent notes as late as 1 Kings 9 some of the Canaanite people sSkeptic X lived among the Israelites. We do not disagree, and attribute this to the Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity is such that the people were "renters" under contract and had certain obligations which allowed them to continue to live in the land. The Israelites violated these obligations even before they could physically move into the entirety of the land grant, and as we show below, were punished with military failure, from which they never covered.
Oral Arguments. Our opponent rejected with prejudice our points about Josh. 21:43-45. We will expose his replies as fallacious via an analogy. To begin, compare these two passages:
Exodus 14:21 And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.
Exodus 15:8 And with the blast of thy nostrils the waters were gathered together, the floods stood upright as an heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea.
Our opponent has produced some absurd charges of contradiction and inconsistency in the Bible over the years, but we are quite sure that not even he would find inconsistency between these two verses. Why not? Because everyone (other than perhaps a few Mormons) will recognize that Ex. 15:8 is an anthropomorphism relating the same information as Ex. 14:21. No one thinks that Ex. 15:8 envisions God literally exhaling through physical nostrils, blowing away the water of the Red Sea, with nose hairs and other unmentionables flying everywhere. Our opponent almost certainly does not read Ex. 15:8 this way either. He recognizes 15:8 within a "genre envelope" (the metaphor itself, plus the genre of Ex. 15 as a song) in which he recognizes, "This does not mean that Yahweh had physical nostrils be blew through. This is not read as literal or as giving the whole story as it happened."
By the same token, it is our point that Joshua 21:43-45, as shown by the elements described above (chaism, repetition), is in a "genre envelope" that tells us, "This does not mean that the land is fully taken to the extent of the land grant." We will say more of this below and send back our opponent's objections to this thesis, using Exodus 14:21 and 15:8 as a basis and playing the role of a hyper-critic asking our opponent to defend his view that these two verses do not present us with an inconsistency. Thus:
Exodus 15:8 is an anthropomorphic metaphor designed to illustrate the historical event related in the narrative at 14:21.
HYPER: This all sounds like excuse-making for what he realizes are obvious inconsistencies in the biblical record. What is he trying to say?
Is he arguing that the omni-one, when “inspiring” whoever wrote this text, allowed him to inject error into his historical report because it would be easier to repeat from memory?
We are arguing that indeed the idea was to make memorization easier, and by the same token, because this was the purpose of the passage, there is no "error" at all, except by the preconceived standards of an entirely different culture (ours) which has not signed on to the same semantic contract, and upon whom we cannot merely impose our own ideas as though they are "better" or more "correct." An Israelite or ancient reading this text would not have looked back and said, "But wait -- we still X don't have all the land!" They would recognize and accept the formulaic nature of the text and realize it was not telling the whole story, and was not intended to, and would not expect it to. The oral structure offers a semantic contract in which it is known and expected that not all details have been reported. This is the sort of concept that I refer to as being unknown by critics with a fundamentalist hermeneutical past who tend to keep their preoccupation with the idea that an inerrancy doctrine means that the Bible dropped out of heaven complete, and in a way that was designed to be read according to their own preconceptions and judgments.
HYPER: Why didn’t the writer just give an accurate statement of what had happened and say something like he did in Ex. 14:21? Is there something wrong with factual reporting?
No flapdoodle about “figures of speech” designed to make the statement easier to memorize and more colorful can explain away an obvious inconsistency.
HYPER: Accuracy is accuracy and inaccuracy is inaccuracy whether literal or figirative. No “figures of speech” can make inaccuracies accurate. An inconsistent statement, whether figurative or not, is an inconsistent statement.
The OT history of Yahweh’s “chosen people” was presumably an inspired record for all mankind throughout history or--excuse the expression--forever. The omni-one should have realized that (1) reporting exactly what had happened could have been understood by Hebrew readers, (2) inspiring written records without inconsistencies in them would have commanded much more respect from future generations whose concepts of logic and truth would be more advanced than the “millions in the past,” and (3) inspiring accuracy in the written records of a culture that used so many figures of speech would have prevented discussions like this one.
HYPER: Inconsistency is inconsistency whether it is literal or figurative. If Skeptic X thinks that inconsistency is not inconsistency in figuratively transmitted accounts, he needs to explain why it isn’t.
And how would our opponent answer?
Note that we are not saying that consistency is impossible in an oral culture. It is my position that consistency is possible, but that no inconsistency exists in this text, for "inconsistency" implies error, and there is no error unless the intent was to tell the whole story. Oral cultures compose formulations such as these that are not intended to tell the whole story. They work under a diferent semantic contract than our own, and we have no justification for imposing our own semantic contract upon them. Nor should we expect God to have inspired persons in an oral culture (and it is in that type of culture in which the overwhelming majority of people even today are immersed) to write things down in a way that would have been far less effective for them. We have hindsight to help us make the interpretive analysis. The ancients did not have such hindsight.
Furthermore, once an oral tradition was written down, it became a written account, so Holding cannot find an excuse for inconsistency in the book of Joshua on the grounds that these were just accounts of what had once been transmitted orally.
Our opponent forgets that in spite of Joshua being written down, anywhere from 95-99 percent of the population remained illterate; the text would be read to such people, and it is absurd and prejudiced to demand that Yahweh produce an anachronistic relic for the sake of our opponent's graphocentric prejudices, especially when he has the hindsight and the ability to grasp the differences, and does not do so only because he thinks himself too fine to soil his hands with in-depth study of, and respect for, oral ("primitive") cultures.
Drive Out. Now we get to where our opponent registered objections about the various places where Israel failed to fulfill their duties. I began with places where it is said that the Israelites did not drive out the inhabitants, but reduced them to forced labor. I agreed that these were violations, yet because of the landlord-tenant relationship described above, such instances as these can hardly be taken to account against Yahweh's promise to drive out the nations, since it reflects the choice of the Israelities to not drive them out. By that accounting it was a specific violation of the covenant terms by the Israelites, and there was indeed a punishment for this in Judges 2.
As for putting the Canaanites into “forced labor,” if the Israelites were able to enslave them, then why were they not able to drive them out or utterly destroy them?
We do not argue anywhere below that the Israelites put the people to forced labor because of an inability to drive them out. We argue that they chose to put them to forced labor -- or of there was inability, it was due to sin (see below).
Judges 2:1-3 And an angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you. And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars: but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this? Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you.
Once Israel broke the terms of the lease, all bets were off and Yahweh was "out" of His obligation as landlord to do His part in driving out the peoples. In reply to this our opponent said:
Furthermore, the passage that Holding quoted can at best explain only why Hivites were sSkeptic X in the land after Joshua’s conquests were apparently over; it cannot explain why Canaanites, Perizzites, Hittites, Amorites, and Jebusites were still in the land. Unless there is another inconsistency in the biblical text, what the “angel of the Lord” had to have been referring to in Judges 2:1-3 was the “covenant” that the Israelites had made with the Hivites in Gibeon, who in Joshua 9:3-27 fooled the Israelites into thinking that they were men from a “far country” who had come to make a covenant with them. According to the story, the Israelites fell for the ruse and made the covenant, but according to Joshua 11:19, these Hivites were the only people in the land that the Israelites “made peace with.”
Our opponent is clearly unaware that a "covenant" refers to any contract, league, or agreement between parties and is not a term exclusive to what was done between Israel and the Gibeonites. The word for "covenant" is used 286 times in the OT and refers as well to God's dealings with Noah (Gen. 6:18), between Jonathan and David (1 Sam. 23:18), between kings (1 Kings 15:19), and between God and Israel (all through Deuteronomy). In context of Judges 2 it refers to the agreements that obviously had to be established when they Israelites put the people noted in Judges 1 under forced labor or tribute, for of course the Israelites did not simply walk up to the people, say, "Hey, want to be forced laborers?" and then sit back after the people said, "OK, that's a good deal." A "forced labor" or tribute situation among peoples implies (or should imply, to any person of sense) previous encounters, engagement (negotiation and/or battles), stalemate, more negotiation if needed, surrender, and agreement to terms -- i.e., a "covenant.".
When we come to Holding’s claim that “the sin of even one of the people” would have kept Yahweh from keeping his land promise, everyone should keep in mind that the text I just quoted claims that “the people worshiped Yahweh all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua,” so that shoots a big hole in his theory, coming up, that the sin of just one person could have caused failure of the land promise.
This is an error of reading. What I actually said was, with reference to Achan and the loss at Ai, "The sin of even one of the people is enough to guarantee military non-success." This is not the same as saying that the sin of even one of the people is sufficient to withhold the land promises as a whole. Technically it may be sufficient, but most landlords (and we say that Yahweh was no exception) do not take advantage of the first offense to evict a tenant, and the contractual document (Deuteronomy) does lay out a progression of offenses and punishments beyond this, with total eviction from the land as a final resort. There will be more misuse of this quote by our opponent below.
Furthermore, verse [Judges 2] six in the text said that “all went to their own inheritances to take possession of the land.” Hence, going to their own inheritances constituted taking possession of the land.
Our opponent does not explain the reason for making this point, but it apparently does not occur to him (and would not, since he has prejudicially declared himself to have no respect for an oral culture) that Judges 2:6 begins a new storytelling unit. Judges 1:1 begins after the death of Joshua and until 2:5 we have a summary of conquests (or lack thereof) by the Israelites, and the consequences of their choice to not drive out some of the people. 2:6 begins a new unit of tradition that overlaps a period from late in the book of Joshua (at the time when the territories were designated for the tribes, when they went to possess the land, with no comment about success or lack thereof, or why), through Joshua's death (Judges 2:8) and on into further generations.
All Holding has done is point out another inconsistency, because the promise was that Yahweh would drive the nations out quickly.
Deuteronomy 9:3 Know then today that Yahweh your God is the one who crosses over before you as a devouring fire; he will defeat them and subdue them before you, so that you may dispossess and destroy them quickly, as Yahweh has promised you.
Notice that it said that Yahweh would drive out the nations quickly, as he had promised the Israelites, so this text is not just saying that the nations would be driven out quickly but that the quickness with which the nations would be driven out was part of the promise.
Now we ask our opponent this question. If Llerraf the Gorilla is swinging on a tree in the jungle and has a bunch of bananas, and he says, "I will eat these bananas quickly," what does he mean? Does he mean, he will eat them all at once and do so quickly; i.e., will he inhale them in one session in less than ten seconds flat? Or does he mean, he will eat each one quickly, i.e., as he eats them, over an extended period of time, each banana going down in a few microseconds flat, with the total sum of bananas in the bunch eaten over a period of several days?
We don't know either, and we will not know until we ask for some clarification, or else see him start eating the bananas. Now we tell the reader, look at the Biblical text. Did the Israelites eat their bananas all at once quickly? No. Did they eat each individual banana quickly? Yes, barring failures to obey such as the ones we record above, and items we say (below) reveal such instances implicitly. So unless our opponent can prove that the text of 9:3 was intended to apply to eating the whole bunch of bananas en masse -- and the context offers no help for that, whereas the historical record of Joshua provides contextual evidence that the "one at a time" meaning is in view.
Lions and Tigers. We noted that Judges 1:19 fits as an example of a proviso in Deut. noting that the Israelites would not be allowed to take land too quickly, lest they be endangered by beasts. Noting that a parallel in Exodus 23:29 says, "I will not drive them out from before you in one year, or the land would become desolate and the wild animals would multiply against you," our opponent writes:
This version of the promise said that an expulsion of the other nations in the land would not be done in one year so that the wild beasts wouldn’t take over the land, so delay in driving out all the nations would have had to go beyond one year. Ten or 20 years, of course, would be more than one year, but the fact that “not in one year” was stated as the minimal duration of the expulsion certainly suggests that Yahweh didn’t have in mind taking 20 or 30 years to get the job done. For one thing, 20 or 30 years would have hardly been “quickly.”
None of this is disagreeable; of course the one year would not suggest 20 or 30, but why would it not suggest three, four, or five, or even ten? Our opponent is positing extremes while ignoring a reasonable middle. At the same time, the "one year" comment hardly means anything more than that Yahweh is informing the Israelites that they are not to expect instant success. None of this contradicts anything we have written. The "one year" comment does not mean that there will not be a maximum number of years -- even 20 or 30, though we would not suspect that would be the plan either. More in a moment.
From the Negev, which was the southern extreme of the area that the book of Joshua mentioned as places that the Israelites captured, to Mount Hermon in Lebanon, which was the northern extreme of the conquest areas described, was a distance of about 150 miles. From the Jordan River, where Joshua crossed and launched the attack against Jericho, to the Mediterranean coast was a distance of about 50 miles. If the Israelites had advanced just five miles per day, they could have reached the sea in 10 days. Traveling at the same rate from the Negev to Lebanon would have taken just 30 days. Five miles per day is only about one fourth of the biblical day’s journey, but I want to give [Holding] ever advantage conceivable, so I‘ll suggest an advancement of only five miles per day. Heck, let’s just make the rate of advancement one mile per day. At that rate the Israelites could have gone from the Jordan to the Sea in 50 days or less than two months. From the Negev to Lebanon would have taken just five months at an advancement rate of one mile per day.
This is setup for an argument, but it is entirely misguided, since the "one year" comment hardly means anything more than that Yahweh is informing the Israelites that they are not to expect instant success. None of this contradicts anything we have written. In fact, we would not care if our opponent gave us travel of one inch per year. It is irrelevant. Apparently our opponent thinks that the "one year" comment means that Yahweh is also saying, "But I would drive out these people for you in one year and one day; then you'd have no problem with the beasts at all." In order to make a decent argument out of this, our opponent needs to figure out just how much time would actually be needed for the Israelites to take all the land and not endure the threat of beasts; but as he does not and cannot produce wildlife population figures, nor produce any such statistics correlated with geography, climate, and Israelites livestock holdings, this is nothing more than a misguided and manipulative attempt to wrestle a text into a light favorable to his case.
He is also breezing by the fact that settling a land is more than just walking into it, and not asking whether the delay might not have something to do with the Israelites dragging their feet of their own accord.
Just how fast could populations of wild animals have exploded? After all, animals have gestation periods, and I doubt that the gestation periods of dangerous beasts like lions and bears would have been much shorter than the time it would have taken the Israelites to go through the land at the snail’s pace suggested above and occupy it. Where, then, would have been the danger of “wild beasts” taking over the land?
Animals certainly do have gestation periods, but the danger can only be calculated based upon original animal populations, and as he does not and cannot produce wildlife population figures, nor produce any such statistics correlated with geography, climate, and Israelites livestock holdings, this is nothing more than a misguided and manipulative attempt to wrestle a text into a light favorable to his case. As the ancients were in a far better position to estimate the dangers of wildlife in their own time and place, why should we accept the word of our opponent, a modern living in a comfortable, air-conditioned and heated home in a modern, industrial nation, with shotguns, tranquilizer darts, and animal control agencies, and fresh meat and animal products available at every Wal-Mart?
The ancients possessed few weapons (usually reserved for the wealthy or for royalty and their associates, and the military) and depended upon their livestock for basic survival needs. The loss of a single sheep or goat to a bear, or a lion, or faster-gestating predators like wolves (and our opponent also needs to consider these things in light of a full catalog of predatory animals in the Near East, including any now extinct and/or no longer in the area, and any that prey on livestock animals, not necessarily humans) could be disastrous to a poor family (which constituted the vast majority of persons living in the ancient world) possessing only a few livestock, or even just the one, and depending upon that animal for milk, wool, or other support. And then we haven't even started to consider the effect of really fast "gestators" like rabbits, mice, and rats (who carry disease; also bats) and agri-pests like crows and insects, all of which, though perhaps not "wild beasts" as the term is used, would come under the same general principle of critters that could easily get out of control without enough resources.
Note as well: The threat is not worded, in either account, as wild beasts "taking over the land." The threat is, "and the beast of the field multiply against thee." It does not even need to be a takeover.
Keep in mind too that the army driving out the Jebusites, Hittites, Canaanites, etc., etc., etc., had 601,730 soldiers (Num. 26:51), so as the Canaanite nations were being driven out and “utterly destroyed,” several hundred thousand soldiers would be moving into the vacated land. If there were 601,730 soldiers (who were 20 years old and up), then surely the total population of Israel would have exceeded two million. Two million people in a land area of about 7500 square miles, which would have been about 266 people per square mile, could surely have kept the “wild beasts” under control.
This is yet more temporal provincialism. We would like to see about sending our opponent into the wilderness, far from any urban center, with no population checks on wild animals, armed with no modern weapons, and assigning him to guard a set number of livestock from predators. Two million? I suppose the children could fight off the cockroaches who were trying to eat the sheep, or stick their tongues out at the bears. The women did not bother with such things; that was not their accepted societal role. But it is not clear our opponent expects women and children to take such a role anyway. So let's run with that major number.
601,730 soldiers? Indeed, 601,730 soldiers, in a time when health was precarious, when teeth were rotted away by age 30, when internal parasites wracked the body, when finding or producing food, shelter, and fresh water were paramount to survival and not a matter of just visiting the 7-11, and the average lifespan (despite odd exceptions like Moses, Aaron and Joshua, who as leaders of the people had and were given advantages of food, water, protection, and shelter 99.9% of the people didn't get) was about 35. These 601,730 men "could surely have kept the 'wild beasts' under control"? Said like a true modern, who has likely faced no wilder beast in his life than a French poodle!
An over extension? An army of 601,730 soldiers had overextended themselves in a land area that was only about 50 miles wide and 130 miles long? On D-Day, allied forces used only 150,000 troops in the invasion of France, 130,00 on the beach assaults and 20,000 in parachute and glider drops.
Given the comparison, we would ask our opponent where he supposes the ancient Israelites got the advanced weapons (including parachutes and gliders), excellent health care, supplies (food, water, clothing), professional training, and loss of fear from living in a comfortable world, that the soliders on D-Day had.
Finally we looked at places where no reason is given for the Israelites not driving people out. Our opponent first tries to add Judges 3:1ff to the mix, failing to account for the fact that it is after the Judges 2 declaration on which it was said that there would be no more help in driving out the nations. He also adds 1 Kings 9:20, and a piece of 2 Samuel, both of whuich we answer with the same argument above on 1 Kings 9. Then we get back to a misuse of our point about Achan:
I have pointed out several times that despite the unrighteousness and disobedience of an entire nation, Yahweh promised to give them the land anyway in order to fulfill a promise made to Abraham, so what [Holding] is now asking us to believe is that just before the entry into Canaan, Yahweh wouldn’t allow the general depravity and rebelliousness of an entire nation to keep him from giving the land to the Israelites, but after the crossing into Canaan if just one person sinned that was sufficient for Yahweh to begin withholding his land promise.
Again, this is based on a misreading of our point: "The sin of even one of the people is enough to guarantee military non-success." This is not the same as saying that the sin of even one of the people is sufficient to withhold the promises as a whole. More in a moment. Here our opponent tries a counter-example:
...as the story was related in Judges 18, when the Danites came by Micah’s house on the way to take Laish, they stole the molten image and persuaded the Levite to go with them and be a priest for them (vs:18-26). Verses 27-29 related the success of the Danites in taking Laish, killing the people there, and burning it...They had success in battle despite their theft and idolatry, which continued after their victory...stealing by not just one Danite but several and then the practice of idolatry didn’t cause Yahweh to keep them from victory at Laish.
Since we would actually say that Yahweh could, if He so desired, see the sin of just one person in an entire nation as sufficient reason to punish the whole nation by denying them victory in battle, Judges 18 is not a disproving example, for we maintain that He could also choose to be merciful and longsuffering as circumstances deem it the best option in the long-term. By no means would I say that this is always the case, and I never do, but our opponent now goes on to put this argument in my mouth anyway. We would also add this: The sin of Achan came at a very early stage in Israel's history in the land when it would be fair warning to be obedient to the covenant. After many repetitions of such failures, however, Yahweh gave the people the freedom they evidently desired -- and no longer provided quick and decisive acts of judgment. By the times of Judges 18, the people no longer cared for Yahweh -- not until they were up to their necks in problems.
God is perfectly consistent in His approach to men -- who when happy, or wishing to do as they please, say that God means nothing to them; but let their toe get stubbed, and watch them cry out and ask why God does not do something to stop it. Skeptics regularly ask questions of this sort, and there is a very simple answer: God does not take the high hand in these things, beyond what is needed to introduce Himself as an option and accomplish His will, because, first, it is coercive, and true love does not rely on coercion; second, and most importantly, we have shown every time we sin that we do not want God's personal guidance in such high-handed fashion. Skeptics and critics who believe that the God of the Bible, rather than punishing sin justly, ought to simply say, "Well, golly," pick us up, dust us off, and pat us on the head like a senile grandpa, show thereby exactly the God they want.
Another problem in Holding’s the-sin-of-even-one-of-the people scenario is that if this had really been a principle that Yahweh practiced, then he would have given the Israelites absolutely nothing, because in a population of more than two million people, there never would have been a time when no one was doing anything wrong. Their advancement into Canaan would have stopped right at the Jordan River if everyone at every moment had to have been doing only the things that pleased their god.
This is a misdirected argument; though I did not say so specifically here, but I do say so specifically later, it remains that we are not talking just ANY sin (and neither did I say "any sin," though our opponent takes advantage of my lack of specificity to insert that argument into my mouth), but a sin related to direct orders in terms of the battles. Achan's sin was a violation of the specific command of Josh. 6:19, "But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the LORD: they shall come into the treasury of the LORD." This was a special command with relation to Jericho, but there were other commands with broader application: destroy their altars, break down their images, cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire; do not make marriages with them; do not make covenants with them. Judges 2:2 specifies not destroying the altars and not making covenants as sins for which Yahweh's support was being withdrawn. Given the poor record of the Israelites in terms of idolatry and signing covenants, is it that hard to argue that this was the unspecified reason lying behind the lack of success in the three key texts?
Further Objections Answered
In Frank Moore Cross' book chapter, "Kinship and Covenant in Ancient Israel," there is a subheader titled "Elements of Confusion in the Understanding of Israel's Ancient Covenant," and a footnote in that section:
There are, to be sure, some interesting parallels between two types of "dynastic promise to David" and two types of dynastic clauses of suzerainty treaties of the second millennium. Certain elements are common to both types: The suzerain secures the vassal on the throne, secures the land in his possession, and lists land boundaries. Sometimes "sonship" is granted.
But two types of promise are found in regard to the future of the dynasty. The usual is to promise that a king's heirs will remain on the throne under the protection of the suzerain so long as they are obedient to the stipulations of the covenant. The treaty makes the perpetuation of the dynasty conditional. In the second type, the promise of the land and promise of the dynastic succession are unconditional. This type is found in pure form in the Treaty of Tudkhaliyas IV and Ulmi-Teshup of Dattassa. It is said that if Ulmi-Teshup is faithful to his covenant with his suzerain, it is the obligation of the suzerain to preserve his heirs on the throne of Dattassa, and to preserve the land in the heirs' possession. If a future son sins (rebels), he may be punished or removed, but kingship and land must pass to another heir of Ulmi-Teshup, in theory thereby creating an eternal dynasty. Put another way, it can be said that permanence of dynasty and possession of land rests on the "reservoir of grace" filled by the obedience of Ulmi-Teshup alone, and therefore is not dependent on the fidelity of each succeeding heir--presumably intensifying Ulmi-Teshup's motivation to obedience. The analogy with the "high" or unconditional royal ideology of the Davidids is obvious. Thanks to the piety of David, the throne is eternally promised to the house of David; thanks to the fidelity of Abraham, the land is promised perpetually to his seed. One suspects that in this unconditional promise to heirs, archaic kinship ideology is at work: the family of the faithful covenant partner is bound forever in kinship bonds with the suzerain, and his family.
All what Cross says is very rue, of course, but does nothing to address or refute our case, and in fact, only helps it. Cross says that the land is promised perpetually to Abraham's seed. Well, we agree with that. As we have noted, the land is always reserved for Abraham's seed, even if they are being punished in exile. But this does not mean that perpetual "residency" in or use of the land is also guaranteed, and does not in the least take away from our point that under the ancient relationship between land, people, and deity, those who lived in the land had to obey the deity's rules or suffer consequences of some sort -- and that Abraham would not have thought of the promise given to him any differently (see more on this in part 3).
Cross does not say anything along the lines of, "...and this also means that they could live in the land unconditionally, behaving as they liked, thumbing their nose at the local deity and whatever rules he had." In fact, the last sentence of the section where the critic cites his note from says, "There are no 'unilateral' covenants in a kinship-based society." "Unilateral" seems to be the same as "no strings attached" as critics think the Genesis covenant was.
Note well: We have said that the land will still be theirs, even if, or as, they are exiled. They may and shall go back to it after their punishment is completed, as Deuteronomy clearly states. In fact, we would parallel Cross' phraseology: "If a future set of Israelites sins (rebels), they may be punished or removed, but the land must pass to another set of descendants of the Israelites, in theory thereby creating an eternal possession. Put another way, it can be said that permanence of possession of land rests on the 'reservoir of grace' filled by the obedience of Abraham alone, and therefore is not dependent on the fidelity of each succeeding heir--presumably intensifying Abraham's motivation to obedience..." Cross' analysis here agrees with ours, not with the critic's, who still fails to differentiate between he land being reserved for Israelite use at all times (which is "possession", just as something you drop on the floor does not stop being yours just because you no longer have hold on it, or because someone else picks it up), and their ability to live in it at all times (just as the item is not just yours when you are using it, which in this context is what we parallel with active tenancy).
- The behavior of rulers was indeed a condition in these other treaties, but in Deuteronomy the behavior of the people is laid out time and time again as the condition. It is not as though by extension the treaties that Cross refers to somehow apply to Deuteronomy and turn it something it isn't, a treaty where only the behavior of rulers apply. Sorry, It might help to remember that Israel, to begin, was NOT a monarchy.
- It is a continued misrepresentation to say that we argued that "the behavior of one Israelite" was a condition in the way this is implied. Here is what was actually said: "....with reference to Achan and the loss at Ai, 'The sin of even one of the people is enough to guarantee military non-success.' This is not the same as saying that the sin of even one of the people is sufficient to withhold the promises as a whole. Technically it may be sufficient, but most landlords (and we say that Yahweh was no exception) do not take advantage of the first offense to evict a tenant, and the contractual document (Deuteronomy) does lay out a progression of offenses and punishments beyond this, with total eviction from the land as a final resort.
The critic continues to confuse the issue of military success in singular battles with the entirety of the land promise.
And I have shown that this so-called "suzerainty treaty" with which Holding and other biblicists have tried to compare Deuteronomy granted land unconditionally to the people living in clearly defined land borders and imposed behavior conditions only on the kings or rulers of this land. No suzerain that I ever heard of actually took the land away from the people living there, because the land would have been of no use to the suzerain without people to tend it to make it possible for the suzerain to collect tribute.
This is the same attempt to fallaciously argue by association we have already noted (i.e., if other suzerainty treaties never took land away for misbehavior, then in spite of the stated conditions saying so, Deuteronomy as a suzerainty treaty could never do so either), but it might occur to a critic that Yahweh as a suzerain would not need to collect any tribute and didn't need to leave any occupants (though some poor folk were left behind, and the enemies of Judah and Israel did move other people in). What's He buying with it? Yahweh's treaty would have no problem taking land away from the people if they misbehaved, and that's exactly what Deuteronomy promises.
I have certainly shown that the ancient Hebrews had concepts of personal ownership of property that entitled them to sell or barter their property, so all of Holding's talk about nathan proves exactly nothing.
This we already answered, even in the very words above: There is nothing that contradicts our point that the land was ultimately owned by Yahweh, as clearly stated in Lev. 25:23, and that the Israelites were tenants in a "conditional" landlord-tenant relationship in which we do not doubt they would be permitted to perform exchanges of property rights on a human level. As we have noted, we agree that Israel was "given" the land for always, but this does not in any way prove that their relationship to the land will always be the same. The critic does not offer anything about nathan that demonstrates otherwise.
If someone says, "He gave me a back rub," the context tells what the word gave meant. If someone says, "He gave me a hard time," the context tells what the word meant. Holding doesn't even attempt to explain why the Hebrew context of a statement in which nathan was used would not have told Hebrew readers how this word, which had "several applications," was being used.
We gave all of the context that was needed: the ancient relationship between land, deity and people, combined with the clearly conditional nature of the Deuteronomic treaty. That context shows that nathan carried here no sense of the same condition of possession at all times, or of the same relationship to the land at all times, and that was the point we were making.
Whether one was a "believer" in a given god was not at issue. The nations readily recognized the existence of the gods of the other nations, or even worshipped the gods of other nations (although often as a local manifestation) even within their own nations, and we have never argued that they did not do so. What is at issue is the god to whom the person owed supreme loyalty, as the god who was "owner" and landlord of the land, and it is in that context that the Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity comes into play. Balaam certainly believed in Yahweh and recognized his power. However, there is no evidence that he gave supreme loyalty to Yahweh over any other deity. The Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity would suggest that Balaam gave supreme loyalty to whatever deity was associated with Pethor in Mesopotamia, if indeed that was his normative place of residence. However, there is no evidence at all in terms of which deity Balaam gave most allegiance to, and thus also no evidence at all that contradicts (or supports) our premise concerning the association of land, people, and deity in the Ancient Near East.
The critic offered several cites of persons like Balaam and Solomon's wives in which he tried to fill the silence of the texts with his own assumptions, and in response to our pinpointing of unanswered questions which make the texts of no help to him (or to us, for that matter), states, "In a society in which belief that Yahweh owned all the land and reigned supreme over his realm was woven tightly into its cultural fabric, worship of Yahweh and Yahweh only would have been the norm, wouldn't it?"
Yes, it would have, and that is why there are so many punishments stated and meted out for idolatry in the OT. We know that Baal, et al were worshipped in Israel, and it was in part because of this idolatry that the Jews were punished and run out of their land. The critic cites many cases of Jews in the OT worshipping false gods, and supposes that this defuses the idea that someone was expected to switch religious loyalties to the god of the land they were in, but if anything, in light of consistent admonitions against idolatry and the declared punishments for it in Deuteronomy, these are only examples of people who are breaking the rules. One may as well argue that we must not have any laws in America because we have so much crime.
In any event, in not one of the cites given is it shown that what happened contradicts our case. As we say of Solomon's wives, so we say of every example given in reply to Ruth 1:16.
The critic tries to explain away Ruth's words as an example of "social influence," but this does not explain why Ruth intimately connected land, deity and people as she did. Moreover, if "social influence" was all there was to it, if it was a matter of Naomi's love for Ruth, then Ruth would have expressed primary loyalty to Yahweh long before this, under Naomi's influence.
Re Ruth 1:17: a critic says he'd "like to see [us] prove that Ruth had not already made her religious choice because of her marriage into a family of Yahweh worshipers for whom she obviously had a deep affection." The text as it is bespeaks what is needed:
1:15-16 And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law. And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:
Naomi tells Ruth to go back to Moab, as her sister in law has also gone back to her people, and her gods. Ruth says, no, I will go with you, to where you lodge (land), to YOUR people, to YOUR God. Now if this was not a reflection of a religious choice, what was it? This was indeed a reflection of primary loyalty in religious choice -- Ruth may or may not have believed in Yahweh before (she probably did) but regardless of what she believed before this account, she clearly recognized in this statement that once she was in Yahweh's territory, that was the deity she owed primary loyalty to, and it was all connected: land, people, deity.
Note as well that believers in Yahweh would not necessarily follow the paradigm the same way, since they regarded Yahweh as supreme over ALL lands in spite of what the pagans said -- so that, i.e., Naomi would not necessarily have proclaimed allegiance to Chemosh while in Moab. This is not able to be refuted with an argument for a coincidental expression that just happens to meld with all of our other data, just as they were on their way, and his various examples of idolatry that offer no specifics.
As a side note, the critic misstates our case on this: "If Ruth changed her allegiance to Yahweh upon going into the land of Israel, then there existed at this time an 'Ancient Near Eastern' belief that keeping the use of land was conditional to one's obedience to the god who owned the land."
No, that skips a step: "If Ruth changed her allegiance to Yahweh upon going into the land of Israel, then there existed at this time an 'Ancient Near Eastern' belief that land belonged ultimately to the gods, and that therefore, based on this belief, it is obvious that keeping the use of land was conditional to one's obedience to demands of the god who owned the land."
Regarding Balaam: The critic tries to impose a false dilemma of excess, stating of the recognition of other gods, "Why would they have done this at a time when this 'ancient concept' of land-deity-people was so deeply ingrained? The only reasonable conclusion is that it was not nearly so ingrained as Holding is claiming. It was a concept that apparently took a back seat to other factors, such as social contacts..." (as given in his Ruth example).
This is not an answer, it is a smokescreen. My argument does not depend on the concept of land-deity-people being "deeply ingrained" to a certain level that excluded any recognition or worship of other gods. It is not a black-and-white matter as this puts it: "If the people of the time felt that they 'owed supreme loyalty' to the gods who were the 'owners and landlords' of the land, then why were there so many examples recorded of times when people worshiped the gods of other lands?"
I doubt if the critic wants to argue that some ancient person could do his greatest service to, say, Chemosh, but not still recognize a god from another land and give that deity secondary loyalty, and another tertiary loyalty, or serve otherwise as occasions demanded. In other words, if Chemosh is your number one deity, and Dagon your #2 deity, and Dagon says "jump" and Chemosh says "stay seated," who will you listen to? Pointing to places where people worshipped other gods does not in any sense counter that they would rank these gods in a hierarchy, recognizing one as supreme or as most important, either overall or to their own perceptions or on some basis, and in their own lands. That the ancients did so rank the gods is certainly beyond question. Is the critic suggesting that these peoples regarded all gods as exactly equal and all as deserving of the same level of loyalty, and all as having the same responsibilities? Is he suggesting they could not worship other gods unless they regarded all gods as equal in rank, power, and responsibility? Whatever he is arguing, and he never says what he is actually arguing, this is not answering the argument, and does not at all address the matter of certain gods being regarded as supreme in certain lands, and/or as owning the lands.
Let it be noted as well that I nowhere use the words "deeply ingrained," much less in a way that suggests that to be so ingrained meant that other gods could not be in the picture somehow, or that the paradigm was in any sense "instinctive," or that people could not of their own will disregard the pattern somehow, or rework the hierarchy illicitly [as in idolatry condemned in the OT]. This is not an answer to what I have said; it is an excessive straw-man of what I have said.
When I saw this, I wondered if Holding had ever bothered to read Balaam's story as recorded in Numbers 22-25...In all of his dealings with Balak and the emissaries of Balak, Balaam never referred to any deity but Yahweh, and he repeatedly told Balak and his emissaries that he would speak nothing against Israel but would say only what Yahweh would tell him. Balaam spoke of Yahweh only in terms of sincere acceptance and devotion, and the way this story was recorded, Balaam's devotion to Yahweh was about as "supreme" as possible.
Not one word of these chapters indicates that Balaam regarded Yahweh as the deity to whom he owed supreme loyalty. Nothing is said about what other gods Balaam may or may not have believed in, how he ranked them or regarded them, or where Yahweh was in the hierarchy he held. All it tells us is that Balaam recognized Yahweh as a deity that had power -- not a word is said that suggests he thought that Yahweh was supreme over all other gods, or that he thought Yahweh was supreme in his land as well as others, or that he gave Yahweh loyalty over some other god in the local pantheon. The only reason Yahweh comes up at all is because Israel is involved in the story. We do not need to quote specific language showing Balaam gave supreme loyalty to whatever deity was in his locale, for that is something we never claimed to prove, we only noted that that was what the case would be under the land-deity-people paradigm.
Re 2 Kings 5:17, Namaan's taking of Israelite dirt for the purpose of worshipping Yahweh back in his homeland, and the retort that "the text doesn't specifically say that Naaman took the dirt back with him so that he would have in his possession land that Yahweh owned on which Naaman could then worship him": 2 Kings 5:17 has Naaman asking for the earth, and then saying, "for thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the LORD." If taking the dirt wasn't specifically for worship, what was it for? We have provided extensive, converging lines of evidence for the land-deity-people relationship. It is not enough to reply with alternative explanations for every scenario which are not supported by the silence in the texts, or by making up something completely anachronistic. Here, the critic offers as a suggestion that idea that "Naaman could have done this for no more reason than to have a talisman with him that he superstitiously believed would bring him good fortune. In other words, this dirt from Israel could have easily been Naaman's 'rosary' to use in assisting him to worship Yahweh back in Syria."
Practically speaking this is not much different from what we have said. The difference is only very subtle; but if this is true, the text would say, "And Naaman said, Shall there not then, I pray thee, be given to thy servant two mules' burden of earth? for thy servant wishes to make a talisman out of this earth." Is that what Namaan said? No, he said, "for thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the LORD." He needed the earth as a place to make sacrifices upon or to make an altar out of, which was an appropriate adjustment for worshipping a deity not worshipped via idols.
Notice that Holding said that to Naaman's thinking, the only way "one could worship a deity properly was to have a piece of the dirt that deity owned." Obviously, that thinking wasn't shared by everyone in biblical times, because I have cited examples of people who worshiped foreign gods while living somewhere besides on the land that the deities "owned." I doubt that they thought that they were not worshiping their gods "properly."
When these people worshipped their foreign gods, what was the idol that they worshipped made of? Yes, wood or earth or stone. And where did they get these idols made of wood, earth and stone from? The idols were made of natural materials from the land that the deity came from. They had their piece of dirt or piece of property au natural which belonged to the deity, and they worshipped properly. Of course a critic may suggest that maybe the idols were made in Israel, but the likelihood is much greater that people like the foreign wives brought their idols with them -- or else, as would be par for idolatry, the people decided the Yahweh wasn't the exclusive owner of Israel after all and actually shared parcels with the other deities, as they did in other lands.
In the introduction of the Deuteronomist to the Book of Deuteronomy and to the entire Deuteronomistic history (Deuteronomy 1:6-3:29) the speech of Moses focuses attention on a new departure (Dt. 1:8,39; 3:18-22, 28]. Moses and his generation had violated the covenant and were appointed to death in the desert before Israel could enter "the good land" promised in Yahweh's oath to the fathers. The oath was unconditional, however, and Yahweh would give the land sworn to the fathers to the new generation of Israel led by Joshua. In speeches in Joshua 1:10-15 and 23:2-10, 14, the commission of Joshua was begun and ended fulfilling the oath to the fathers, establishing Israel in the land (emphasis added).
Not one word of this disagrees with anything we have said. As noted above, the oath was unconditional, and the land was Israel's even when they were being punished, even if they were in exile, and even if they never finished conquering all of it.
The pattern of covenant violation followed by punishment (the curses of the covenant) and then by the emergence of new hope, a new departure initiated by Yahweh's call of a new leader, was repeated after Joshua's death. This pattern or movement became the very dialectic of history in the Deuteronomistic work. The gift of the land was qualified by Israel's apostasy according to Judges 2. Remnants of the nations were left in the land: Yahweh refused to drive them out. They were to be snares or stumbling blocks trying Israel's fidelity. Yet Yahweh (or his angel) states flatly in 2:1 "I have brought you into the land which I swore to your fathers and I said, "Never will I break my covenant with you..."(pp. 249-250, emphasis added).
Is this a big deal? No, it isn't. First of all, while Cross apparently does believe that these passages are later insertions, there is nothing in this quote that says that he considers these insertions to be contradictory to the Genesis land promise, as opposed to being complimentary as we argue, and there is nothing else I could find in this book that said so, either, though Cross may have thought so anyway.
Second, even if he did believe that they were contradictory, Cross' words do not address any argument we have presented. They are not a response to what we have said any more than a theoretical explanation of why the alleged discrepancy exists is an actual argument that the discrepancy exists in the first place. Cross may well argue that Josh. 23:11-16 is a redactive expansion (though what this has to do with anything in this debate, we do not know; Josh. 23 has yet to be brought up) but none of this, nor anything else quoted from Cross here, is an actual reply to any argument we have made.
"If a feudal lord told a family that they would be given permanent tenancy on property from sea A to river B and from mountain C to valley D, but later the feudal lord gave them tenancy on just a fraction of that land, the feudal lord would have reneged on his promise, wouldn't he? If not, why not?"
The exposition is wrong to begin with; here is what we actually have:
"A feudal lord told a family that they would be given permanent possession of property from sea A to river B and from mountain C to valley D. It was the rule of the land that when a lord gave such possession, he had certain rules, and if they did not follow his rules, they would be punished, and if they were bad enough, kicked out of the land entirely, though he would allow their descendants to return to the same land, because he did give it to them permanently. But the tenants didn't even finish building houses on the property from sea A to river B and from mountain C to valley D before they started acting up. The feudal lord immediately kept his promise to punish the tenants for not adhering to his rules and kept them from building houses on the rest of the land. But they still acted up, and he ended up kicking them out altogether. Later, when the descendants on the people had been away for a while, in accord with his promise he let those descendants move back into the land which was theirs."
We offered this similar analogy:
By analogy, a rentor who steps into his apartment and immediately, at the front door, rips wallpaper off the wall and starts a fire, has already technically violated his lease (if it prohibits such acts, which may not be prohibited in certain collegiate rentals) and could readily be evicted by the landlord.
The reply: "What if the landlord signed an agreement with the "rentor that simply said, 'I give John Doe and his descendants after him permanent tenancy forever to Apartment 102 at 430 East Elm Street, Canton, IL'? The owner of the apartment would be in a spot to remove him later, wouldn't he?"
If he used the word "tenancy," yes -- if he used the word "possession," as God did with Abraham, no. That's X once again not keeping in mind the difference between legal possession and active tenancy.
Objection is then made that the promise was based only on Abraham's conduct, and that we "would have to hypothesize a landlord who issued a contract granting permanent possession of an apartment to the descendants of a specific person in which the contract stipulated that the permanent use of the apartment was being granted because of their ancestor's faithful service." Actually we never said the analogy stretched that far, but here's how it would shape up, though such circumstances in the real world of apartment leasing would be unlikely:
By analogy, if a man does a landlord a favor, the landlord may promise that one of the man's descendants can have an apartment to rent anytime he wants one. At a later time, the man's great-greatgrandson needs a place to live, and he gets the apartment. He steps into his apartment and immediately, at the front door, rips wallpaper off the wall and starts a fire, has already technically violated his lease (if it prohibits such acts, which may not be prohibited in certain collegiate rentals) and could readily be evicted by the landlord. However, because of his promise to the first man, the landlord would be obliged to give the grandson back his residency if he shaped up; or, to one of the grandson's descendants.
It sounds a lot like the passage from Cross, doesn't it?
2 Kings 18:33-35 Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered at all his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath, and of Arpad? where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah? have they delivered Samaria out of mine hand? Who are they among all the gods of the countries, that have delivered their country out of mine hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of mine hand?
We noted in service to the paradigm of the land-people-deity relationship that the comments of the Assyrian official reflect an expectation that at such time as a nation is attacked, it is expected that their god will come to their defense. Otherwise, as the territory of the land extends, so does the territory of the deity whose side wins, as was indicated in a boast of the Assyrian king Sargon.
It is no reply to say: "Rather than teaching that gods owned certain territories and gave these lands to the people they chose to live therein, the Syrian official was actually saying that gods, including even Yahweh, were powerless to deliver their people from the great Assyrian king [Sennacherib]." This does not change or contradict what we have said. The Assyrian is boasting that the gods failed their people in their appointed defense. It isn't teaching that the gods owned the territories? "Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered at all his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria?" This doesn't mean ownership by the gods of their land? If not, then what was the relationship of these gods to their physical lands? Does the critic now want to say the gods laid no claim on the land at all?
He doesn't tell us what, under his response, the relationship would be; he offers no alternative to the ownership paradigm, which is ironic because he seemed to agree before that the ancients believed that the gods owned the land. Note well, though, that I brought up this example to show not that the gods owned the land -- that was shown via other cites -- but to demonstrate one aspect of the deity-land-people relationship showing an example of the sort of obligations the "owner" deity had: to defend his people and the land from invasion. If this is not an "owner" role, what role is it, and how is that contention supported?
I noted: "The Moabite inscription speaks of the Moabite deity Chemosh being angry with 'his land' and delivering judgment, though the cause of the anger is not specified." The reply:
But the Moabite inscription did not say that because Chemosh was angry with his land he was taking the land from its inhabitants. This statement was made to "explain" why Omri, the king of Israel, had been able to "oppress" the land of Moab, so Mesha's reference to the anger of Chemosh was an expression of superstitious belief that when calamity befell a nation, the gods were angry.
So what if the Moabite inscription doesn't say this? The point is: The god owned the land; the god exacted penalties when angered. Now if the Moabites were driven from their land, you think they would have thought Chemosh was in a good mood towards them? It's not unreasonable to suppose that like Deuteronomy, the Moabites figured there may have been stages of punishment: getting oppressed first, later getting kicked out, etc. Or maybe Chemosh was a bit more unpredictable and they figured they could be kicked out anytime without warning. If an invading army took them into exile, do you think Mesha would have thought Chemosh was happy with the Moabites?
We don't have a version of Deuteronomy from Moab, but that's hardly an unreasonable supposition and I doubt if even a critic would dispute it. The point remains: We brought this up to show that it was believed (whether it is a "superstition" merely believed by the people, or a reality, makes no difference here, since the reactions of the people are the same regardless) that the land belonged to the gods, so that the people could only be tenants and renters, not owners in the full sense that we believe.
Even if we accept, his "Ancient Near Eastern concept," he must explain why the land promise did not succeed even in the "context" of that ancient understanding. The words "give" and "possess" had meaning, so in the different versions of the promise in Genesis where Yahweh said that he would "give" the land to Abraham's descendants as an "everlasting possession," the terms "give" and "everlasting possession" were intended to convey some kind of meaning. [Holding] says that they were used in a "feudal-landlord" sense in which the Israelites were to be "rentors [sic]," so I have asked him to explain to us when all the land within the defined borders of the promise was ever given to the Israelites even in this "feudal-landlord" sense of "tenancy."
It did succeed, for the meanings of "give" and "possess" carried no inherent meaning with respect to any permanence in terms of the nature of the relationship between the land and the people. The land was, is, and would always be theirs -- whether they lived it, were in exile, or went to outer space. As we also showed, the penalties kicked in even before Israel could finish the conquest job. We have more on this later, including on what exactly a "feudal" relationship entails.
Holding claims that the "Ancient Near Eastern" concept of land, people, and deity meant that conditions were attached to the promise and that the behavior of Abraham's descendants was a condition. In reply to this, I have noted that (1) no conditions were stated or implied anywhere in any of the versions of the promise recorded in Genesis, (2) the restatement of the promise in Deuteronomy 9:3ff declared that [a] Yahweh was giving the land to the Israelites even though they had been rebellious and unrighteous from the day they had come out of Egypt, and that [b] Yahweh was going to give them the land despite their unrighteousness so that he could keep a promise made to Abraham.
(1) The land-deity-people concept provides all the context showing conditions that is needed, and the critic has not offered any reply other than confusing possession with active tenancy and accusing us of "mind-reading" (which is to come in order).
I noted that Deut. was "shot through with 'ifs' and conditions [like these] that cannot simply and arbitrarily jerked from the larger context of Deuteronomy as a contractual document." The critic replied by noting the highlighted phrases and saying, "...notice that Yahweh was saying only that the people would perish if they forgot 'the LORD' and worshiped other gods. He did not say that he would keep the land from them if they worshiped other gods. The fact is that the passages in Deuteronomy that Holding thinks stipulated conditions for receiving the land actually taught that longevity of life and prosperity in the land were conditional to their behavior. I have reviewed the relevant passages and don't find that they threatened to keep the land from the Israelites if they didn't toe the line. Perhaps this is an issue that [Holding] would care to discuss."
Oh? Let's lay this out, and we have a new factor to add: We would think longevity, etc was conditional, too, yes. But so was use and tenancy of the land. That's most clear from Deut. 28-30 where the "utmost" curses for disobedience are laid out, namely, exile, and exactly where we expect the full range of blessings in curses in a treaty form. General threats to longevity and prosperity (if that is all that is in mind, which we will now dispute) come before that, and are interspersed throughout the text as even the critic obviously knows and shows us (4:1, 4:25-6, 4:40, on through Chs. 5-7, 11, etc. -- all of these repeat a general threat that the people will "perish" if they misbehave or a promise that they will have "long life" if they do behave) but if the critic expects every warning to come with a complete recounting of curses as is found in the latter of chapters in Deuteronomy, we'd like to know where he gets this expectation and why the summary warnings/promises don't point forward to the delineation of the more complete set of punishments/blessings at the end of the contract, which were against the nation of Israel as a whole rather than to individuals as the "perish" warnings were. Is there anything obtuse about the idea that the specific outworkings of the general promises/threats were made in a specific section of the total document, or one sort of warning being made to individuals, and another sort being made to the nation as a whole and through time?
As a side note, though, we would also recommend that critics very carefully look at the word "perish" as it is used in the OT. I have noted that the "perish" warnings tend to be a certain Hebrew word, 'abad. Here is one verse where the same word is used: "And as for thine asses that were lost three days ago, set not thy mind on them; for they are found. And on whom is all the desire of Israel? Is it not on thee, and on all thy father's house?" (1 Sam. 9:20) Even if these are warnings to collective Israel as the blessings and curses are, the definitions "wander away" and "lose oneself" match rather nicely with the premise of an exile in which the people lose their identity-association with the land, in line with the land-people-deity relationship. The "perish" warnings fit my paradigm just fine.
The critic quotes Deut. 9:6:
Know, then, that Yahweh your God is not giving you this good land to occupy because of your righteousness; for you are a stubborn people.
At this it is said, "Yahweh was giving these Israelites the land to occupy, yet they were a stubborn, rebellious, unrighteous people at this time." Yes they were. Yes, Yahweh "gives" (nathan) the land to "possess" (yarash). Why? Because of Abraham. That is not the word "keep" by any stretch. Further:
If Holding wants to quibble about occupying the land as opposed to 'keeping' the land, let him answer a question that he has now evaded more times than I can remember. If the moral behavior of the Israelites at this time, just before they entered Canaan, was not a condition for receiving the land promised to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, why did it suddenly become a condition right after they had entered the land?
Quibble? The word "keep" just isn't there. There's no word here that denotes permanent occupation/tenancy. Not a word in Deut. 9 says so. Tigay agrees with me. The answer to the question is that the grace extended to Abraham meant Israel had their "shot" at occupying the land -- and the chance to keep tenancy in it. And the second question: "If not giving the land to these reprobate Israelites would have caused Yahweh to break his promise to Abraham, why wouldn't withholding the land from them later have also caused him to break the promise to Abraham?" Because the land was still theirs even if they never occupied it. It was still theirs, and was their eternal possession, even if they misbehaved and were kicked out and did not possess (verb sense) their possession (noun sense). They could come back later after they straightened up.
There's a bit more. We said:
...but would add now that this only confirms our thesis that the promises were conditional, for otherwise, what is the point of reminding the Israelites of their rebellious behavior in the past? If there were no conditions, what difference did behavior make and why is this a relevant example?
Oh, that one is too easy to answer. How about the possibility that the cataloging of the Israelite sins in a context in which Yahweh was saying he was going to give them the land despite their complete unworthiness was a way of emphasizing the faithfulness of Yahweh to the promise he had made to Abraham?
My answer to this was already given: From here through verse 26 we are given a catalog if Israel's past sins in the wilderness. Now if there were no conditions attached to keeping occupation of the land, then what on earth is the purpose of cataloging all these sins? One obvious purpose is to show that the Israelites indeed had no righteousness and that they needed this act of grace merely to enter the land. But more than that, and in light of the fact that it is clearly said that the other nations are being driven out because of their wickedness, how on earth can it be denied that they serve as reminders that any future wickedness by the Israelites would result in the same penalty of expulsion? Note that this is so even if every part of the OT were to vanish other than Deut. 9, and we did not have boucoups of conditional statements, to say nothing of the Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity, offering is support. It does not take an inference to suppose that if the other nations got thrown out for bad behavior, and if it is specifically said that it is not because of righteousness that they GO (not STAY or CONTINUE) into the land, then the Israelites will be just as subject to the conditions of continued occupation, beyond the act of entry grace, as anyone else.
Holding may as well have asked why "Moses" constantly raved about the rebellious behavior of the Israelites even when the land issue was not the subject.
Moses didn't OWN the land, did he? He wasn't the one being sinned against, was he? Then quoted is Deut. 30:1-6:
Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where Yahweh your God drives you, and you return to Yahweh your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, that Yahweh your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where Yahweh your God has scattered you. If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under heaven, from there Yahweh your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you. Then Yahweh your God will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it. He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. and Yahweh your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live."
We are told, "Notice that verse 5 said that the 'fathers' of the dispersed Israelites had possessed the land and that the repatriates would also possess it as the 'fathers' had done, so even these after-the-fact references to dispersion and captivity were claiming that Yahweh would not be unfaithful to his promise to Abraham."
Yes, and, the point is what? Apparently the critic wants to argue that the "fathers" refs make it post-exilic, under the assumption that only a post-exilic writer could speak of past generations so retrospectively. Well, no. Deut. 30 comes after a long list of curses (28-29) that would take a little while to implement in order. It's fairly obvious that a few generations would have to pass -- all of them offering enough bad behavior -- before "exile stage" of the punishment kicked in, and then exile usually takes a little while to get over until you get a nicer king in charge who will let you go home.
That means that the reference to the "fathers" is 100% apporpos in the mouth of someone addressing the "entering" generation. The Israelites could be bad boys, but they had plenty of warnings laid out and they couldn't possibly happen all in a few generations.
The critic says he's going to "defy" us "to produce a passage that says anything about a 'grace period' that expired when the Israelites entered the land." If he wants the words "grace period" it isn't needed -- it's manifest in that the Israelites rode into the land on Abraham's coattails, and the idea, "the moment you enter the land, the grace accorded you through Abraham's fidelity will end," is manifest in the very "signing" of the Deuteronomic contract. No, not quite -- we wouldn't put it that way, because the grace accorded to Abraham DID continue in that Israel always had the land to go back to. The contract was for occupation and use of the land; it was always theirs, an everlasting possession, just no everlasting usage guaranteed -- that, again, was contingent on behavior.
Recognizing the problem that this passage posed to his position that the land promise was conditional, Holding began to take a new track. He modified his position to make the giving of the land unconditional but the retention of the land conditional. In other words, he began to argue that the giving of the land to the Israelites was an unconditional act of "unmerited grace" (an anachronistic application of a New Testament principle), which enabled the Israelites to ride into the land of Canaan on "Abraham's coattails," but, so Holding suddenly began to claim, retaining the land would be conditional to their obedience to the commandments of Yahweh.
I took a "new track", did I? New with reference to what? The specific phrases "unmerited grace" and "Abraham's coattails" that the critic quotes did appear in our article, but they and the arguments associated with them first appeared earlier. We stated from the very beginning that entry into the land by the post-Exodus generation was without conditions, based on the Abrahamic promise, which amounted to a "by grace" entry from the perspective of the Conquest-era Israelites. Now how in the world can we "take a new track" while we are still riding on the first one? No position was "modified" here; we have from the very beginning stated that retention (though we used the word "possession") of the land was conditional. We said clearly that the land was reserved for the Israelites to use even as they were in Exile: "That is what was promised to Abraham: land reserved and given for the use and possession of his descendants -- even in their absence due to punishment."
Beyond that, re "grace":-- as if "unmerited grace" did not exist prior to the NT? Grace means receiving that which you could not otherwise receive without favor from another. The OT term "favor" (translated in the KJV as "grace" as in Gen. 6:8, for example) is nothing different. Pilch and Malina in the Handbook of Biblical Social Values note that grace in the ancient world always involved a debt of gratitude -- all gifts had strings attached. This fits right in with what we have saying all along about the offer to Abraham never being "with no strings attached".
Basically yaras means "to inherit." The verb can connote the state of being designated as an heir. Abram said to God: "Behold, to me thou hast given no [offspring]: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir [literally, "is the one who is inheriting me"]" (Gen. 15:3--the first biblical occurrence of the word). Whatever Abram had to be passed on to his legal descendants was destined to be given to his servant. Hence his servant was his legally designated heir.
None of this was unknown at all; we even cited an example (Gen. 15:3) of such usage.
This root can also represent the status of having something as one's permanent possession, as a possession which may be passed on to one's legal descendants. God told Abram: "I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it" (Genesis 15:7). Yaras can mean "to take over as a permanent possession": "And his father have no brethren, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his kinsman that is next to him of his family, and he shall possess it..." (Num. 27:11). The verb sometimes means to take something over (in the case of the Promised Land) by conquest as a permanent possession: "The Lord shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until he have consumed thee from off the land, whither thou goest to possess it" (Deut. 28:21).
All of this still agrees with what we have been saying. The land is, as we said from the very beginning, always the Israelites'; as we said, "The covenant is indeed forever, in spite of any interruptions by human error." And: "...it is also clear in the blessings portion of the treaty that the land remains as something given to Israel to have as a possession when they return to right behavior." The land is Israel's permanent possession (noun form) but this does not mean that they always have possession (what the critic "retention") of the land. Our point is that yarash offered no connotation of unconditional permanence of a given state in association with the property "possessed".
It is said that I "cited no contextual evidence in Genesis 17 to show that 'olam was being used to mean only 'in perpetuity' for as 'long as there were Jews to take part in the covenant,' and then proceeded to cite other passages where the word had some secondary meaning. Hence, his argument is that because 'olam didn't mean 'everlasting' in 1 Samuel 1:22 and other passages, it didn't mean 'everlasting' in Genesis 17:8."
First of all, the critic is only arguing for a "secondary meaning" of 'olam to save his argument. We say it means the same thing both in Gen. 17:8 and in 1 Samuel 1:22. Second, it does not take "contextual evidence" to see that a covenant can only be "everlasting" if both sides of the covenant agreement actually continue to exist. If God vanished in a puff of smoke, God's agreements vanish with Him. If the Jews disappear, so does their covenant. The point to be made was not that 'olam did not mean "everlasting" such that there could indeed be a state of covenant relationship forever, but that -- as we plainly said -- "everlasting" does not connote a "forever" state without any conditions.
Hence the critic cannot wrest 'olam all by itself into any meaning that the state of the covenant would always be the same, or that the relationship to the land would always be the same, which is what he has been trying to do time and time again by saying that the covenant was "everlasting" and then asking why the Jews were ever kicked out of the land. We went on to note that the "the covenant is indeed forever, in spite of any interruptions by human error." The land is ALWAYS granted to Israel, even when they are in Exile and not using it.
I used the extreme example of the Jews ceasing to exist to make the point as clear as possible that any "forever" contract is not guaranteed to last "forever" such that circumstances never change or that conditions cannot be applied affecting the application of the covenant. The removal of the Jews from their land -- even as they retained forever the "right of return" when their behavior improved, or their punishment was completed -- is another example on a lesser scale of a change in circumstance. The Jews are forever assigned the land and it is theirs to have for use when they keep the covenant obligations. This does not mean that their state of relationship with the land is forever the same.
We get to this, where we dealt with the issue of Yahweh being actual owner of the land, as clearly stated in Lev. 25:23 and as confirmed by the ancient paradigm of the gods owning the land, and of this in no way meaning that the Israelites could not, on a human level, transact business with the land:
The sense in which Yahweh "owned" the land was obviously figurative, because if a person could sell land--as the texts that I cited below clearly show that they could--then that person owned the land. He wasn't just a "rentor", but he was the owner of the land and had the right to sell it. Has Holding ever heard of "rentors" who had the right to sell the property they were renting?
Obviously figurative! Yahweh's ownership was "figurative"? What literal truth(s) did this "figurative" expression stand for, exactly? What in the text of Lev. 25:23 makes it "obvious" that it is meant "figuratively"? Is this saying that this "figurative" ownership precluded any ability of the omnipotent Yahweh to have a say over human transactions of land? Our modern idea of renting usually precludes any selling of the property, but people can and do sell leases and contracts. In fact I recently encountered a situation in which a crediting company sold its account with a lendee to another crediting company. Most renting agencies like apartment complexes won't do that; they prefer to have a new lease signed with a new tenant, but that is because of legal and other modern issues that Yahweh the Landlord, as a deity, would care less about. What it amounts to is that this critic is vaguely trying to abscond the whole semantic barrel of what a renting relationship is today into what it was then. The Israelites were renters with respect to Yahweh. They were only owners with respect to human transactions. The critic is trying to foist a "figurative" meaning onto Lev. 25:23 with no justification whatsoever and without explaining what literal truth this figurative meaning carried.
The text has Yahweh saying, "the land is mine." It calls the Israelites "strangers and sojourners" -- the former word meaning a guest or alien, the latter a lodger or a resident. In fact the critic X even notes the meaning of this last word (but not the first one!) and tries to wrest it over to his position, but all he can do is try to apply modern concepts of property ownership by persons -- not by deities -- and pound a square peg into a round hole. What "figurative" meaning is that offering? Deuteronomy also has God parceling out land to various parties as though it were His right to do so as an owner.
Let's have a closer look at those two words:
Gen. 15:3 And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years...
Just the first word.
Gen. 23:4 I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a buryingplace with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.
Num. 35:15 These six cities shall be a refuge, both for the children of Israel, and for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them: that every one that killeth any person unawares may flee thither.
Lev. 25:23 therefore essentially calls the Israelites strangers in their "own" land.
The critic makes some efforts to "figurativize" the word "mine" in Lev. 25:23, but all he comes up with is passages with no parallel to the sojourners/strangers elucidation:
Genesis 48:5 And now your two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine.
It is said, "Jacob was speaking to Joseph here, but Ephraim and Manasseh were not 'his' in any literal sense in the same way that Reuben and Simeon were Jacob's. The latter were Jacob's literal sons, but Ephraim and Manasseh weren't. Reuben and Simeon were Jacob's first- and secondborn sons, and Ephraim and Manasseh were Joseph's first- and secondborn sons. The obvious sense of the word mine here was that Jacob considered Ephraim and Manasseh to be his sons just as much as Reuben and Simeon were, but considering them to be 'mine' did not literally make them 'mine.' The word mine was obviously being used in a secondary sense."
Further context makes it clear that this is a secondary and legal sense: "And thy issue, which thou begettest after them, shall be thine, and shall be called after the name of their brethren in their inheritance." (48:6) The "strangers and sojourners" context in Leviticus does the opposite and makes Yahweh the ultimate owner, not a "figurative" one. Moreover, this is a case of a patriarch extending a familial blessing within a set family structure -- the structure in Leviticus that sets the context is that the gods owned the land.
The critic then chooses passages from Rom. 16:13 and Songs 2:16 which speak of persons calling other persons "mine" but that parallel won't hold water, either, since persons have interpersonal relationships that beings do not have with land. Land that is "mine" is not "mine" because I have a personal relationship with it. The last parallel only supports our case:
Psalm 50:10 For every beast of the forest is Mine, And the cattle on a thousand hills.
It is said: "In this psalm, Yahweh was speaking, so the word mine had reference to him. If Yahweh meant that every beast was his and all the cattle on a thousand hills were his in the sense of a strict ownership, this would present problems with various passages that speak of the private, personal ownership of animals."
Oh, really? And what problems were these, exactly?
"The commandment against coveting, for example, prohibited coveting a neighbor's ox or ass or anything that belonged to a neighbor, but if we interpret literally the verses quoted above one's neighbor couldn't have an ox or an ass, because every beast and all livestock were Yahweh's."
And Yahweh is our neighbor, is he? Yahweh owns the cattle, and the land, but He gave it to people for their use and to conduct such transactions as they pleased. Ultimate ownership and discretion is the key here. There is nothing to "covet" when Yahweh owns the cattle and land because Yahweh doesn't need the cattle and land, even as He owns it. Hence he gives it to who He pleases.
As an aside, here are four major Leviticus commentaries - two conservative, two liberal - on this verse:
Wenham: "the land ultimately belongs to God." 
Noth: The land "was Yahweh's property" and the buying and selling of land by Israelites was such that "a purchase or sale might not take place to the exclusion of a claim of ownership." Yahweh "exercised this claim through the law of reversion in the year of Jubilee." [188-9]
Budd: "The ultimate owner of the land is God himself..."  Note that this phrase and Wenham's match our own, though we created it independently of these commentators.
Hartley: "...God himself holds title to the land…"
We challenge the critic to find any scholar that assigns "mine" in this verse any sort of "figurative" meaning amenable to his case.
It's worth commenting briefly on a few parallels drawn from Numbers 36. The critic notes that Moses granted "an inheritance that was to remain permanently in Zelophehad's family." That's quite true, but Moses was not a deity, he did not own the land he granted ("mine"), and he did not set any conditions for Z's family to continue to occupy the land. This is a non-parallel. Keep in mind again Cross' words:
If a future son sins (rebels), he may be punished or removed, but kingship and land must pass to another heir of Ulmi-Teshup, in theory thereby creating an eternal dynasty. Put another way, it can be said that permanence of dynasty and possession of land rests on the "reservoir of grace" filled by the obedience of Ulmi-Teshup alone, and therefore is not dependent on the fidelity of each succeeding heir--presumably intensifying Ulmi-Teshup's motivation to obedience.
As we reworded it, "If a future set of Israelites sins (rebels), they may be punished or removed, but the land must pass to another set of descendants of the Israelites, in theory thereby creating an eternal possession. Put another way, it can be said that permanence of possession of land rests on the 'reservoir of grace' filled by the obedience of Abraham alone, and therefore is not dependent on the fidelity of each succeeding heir--presumably intensifying Abraham's motivation to obedience..."
Some more time is spent on nathan. I did not argue that "nathan was just so nebulous in its meaning that Hebrews who read this passage just couldn't understand what nathan meant", no more than the broad usage of "give" makes it so nebulous that we can't understand what it means. Context informs the meaning of nathan, and the contexts in the examples cited do nothing to support the critic's case. We have Abraham asking the Hittites to "give" him the land for money -- a clear business transaction. The Israelites did not offer Yahweh money for the land, so there is no parallel.
1. If obeying Yahweh's commands was a condition to "keeping" the land, why are there biblical examples of breaking Yahweh's commands that didn't result in a loss of the land?
Because, as we've said, the Deuteronomic contract laid out a progression of warnings after offenses which led up to loss of the land by the corporate nation of Israel. It was not an "instant" punishment and so individuals like David and Bathsheba aren't getting kicked off of land -- nor, for that matter, is there anything showing that every possible offense warrants instant punishment. Moreover:
2. How many people in a national population as large as the two to three million Israelites would have had to have broken their god's command before the land would be taken from them? One? Two? Ten? A hundred? A thousand? Inquiring minds want to know, so please tell us.
Deuteronomy lays out a series of progressive punishments. How many had to go bad to enact them would hardly be specified; there would be no proviso saying, "If 35,987 of you act out, no problem; but that 35,988th breaks the camel's back." Or, "If you commit adultery 4 times, OK; the 5th time, you get whacked." Or, "You get 3 free sins as long as you were just reacting to stimuli." Perhaps we can envision what a rebellious congregation would do with expressed latitude of THAT extreme.
Notice the verse--which Holding didn't emphasize in bold print--that says, "(Y)e shall not prolong your days upon it [the promised land], but shall utterly be destroyed." As the context shows, this was a warning pertaining to longevity of life if the Israelites served other gods. If they did this, they would be "utterly destroyed." Since obviously the Israelites were never "utterly destroyed," [Holding] must say either that the Israelites didn't violate this command or else the Bible is not inerrant.
Oh? Maybe we should go back in time and give Pharaoh Ramesses III a proper lesson in speaking:
I slew the Denyon in their islands, while the Tjekker and Philistines were made ashes. The Sherden and the Washesh of the sea were made non-existent, captured all together and brought on captivity to Egypt like the sands of the shore.
Clearly when Ramsses tells us his enemies were "made non-existent," he was not meaning this literally, since he goes on to indicate that they were captured. If anything, then, "utterly destroyed" fits just fine with the idea of an Exile at the end of the road.
I have noted that Yahweh was in a feudal-landlord relationship with the Israelites. The critic responded that this would make the Israelites serfs, which they were not, since they could transact business with the land. I countered that the critic had imposed a concept (serfdom) and one of its attendant features (inability to buy and sell land) upon the text. To this , noting that I was "the one who imposed the concept of a feudal-landlord relationship into this debate" he then says:
Webster's New World College Dictionary defines feudalism as an "economic, political, and social system in which land, worked by serfs who were bound to it, was held by vassals in exchange of military and other services given to landlords," so feudalism, an analogous concept that [Holding] himself introduced, was inextricably associated with serfdom. The Columbia Viking Desk Encyclopedia described feudalism as a "local, agricultural, political economy," which consisted of a manorial system of lord, peasant, villein and serf" (1960, vol. 1, p. 447, emphasis added). The explanation of the system went on to say that "ownership of the land was vested in [a] king" and under him was a hierarchy of nobles, the highest of whom held land granted by the king, and under this noble were those who held land granted by the highest nobles. The lowest in the order was a "seigneur" [lord], who held just one manor. The seigneur or lord of the manor gave "protection and personal use of land in return for personal services and dues."
Really? We have is a professor of history named Joseph Strayer, who wrote a volume titled Feudalism (Anvil Books, 1965). I'm now going to quote from Strayer in detail [11ff]; . I'll be adding some emphasis whose import will be obvious:
Feudalism is a difficult word. It was invented in the seventeenth century, at a time when the social phenomena it purported to describe had either vanished or were decaying rapidly. The men of the Middle Ages, who were deeply involved in what we call feudalism, never used the word, so that we cannot work out a definition from their statements. Modern scholars have long argued about the meaning of the term, without ever reaching agreement. Laymen have used it loosely, often as a way of condemning any political, economic, or social relationships they did not like. No definition will satisfy everyone, and yet we must have a tentative definition in order to know what we are talking about and what kind of behavior we are trying to describe.
Strayer briefly explains how the term feudalism was invented by 17th-century "lawyers and antiquarians" who were trying to understand the survival of feudal customs, which were in important ways contradictory to their present understanding of law and politics. These writers connected the customs to the medieval institution of the fief, and hence we got the word feudalism. Thus the term was derived from the European Middle Ages structure, but as Strayer notes, other societies had characteristics of the same system (he gives Japan 1300-1600 as an example). Strayer then analyses the situation in the Middle Ages and identifies factors which defined Middle Age feudalism:
- "First, there is a fragmentation of political power" -- counties, lordships, and within these, "rights of jurisdiction and administration which are held as hereditary possessions by lesser lords." . Rights of jurisdiction or administration by lesser lords? Like the people of Israel might have been under the Lord with the big L? Like they may have had the right to do things like sell the land -- except to non-Israelites?
- "Second, this fragmented political power is treated as a private possession. It can be divided among heirs, given as marriage portion, mortgaged, bought and sold." The Israelites were not serfs, but "lesser lords" (nobles as in above) who just happened to do their own gruntwork. The essence, as Strayer says, is that "public power is in private hands." But no serfs here yet.
- "Third, a key element in the armed forces -- heavy-armed cavalry -- is secured through individual and private agreements. Knights render military service not because they are citizens of a state or subjects to a king, but because they or their ancestors have promised to give this service to a lord in return for certain benefits." Private agreement -- like Deuteronomy, a contract? Israel had no knights, of course, but the people all served Yahweh and obeyed His commands. "They or their ancestors (Abraham?!?) have promised to give this service to a lord in return for certain benefits (living long in the land?!?)."
"To sum up," Strayer says, "the basic characteristics of feudalism in Western Europe are a fragmentation of political authority, public power in private hands, and a military system in which an essential part of the armed forces is secured through private contracts. Feudalism is a method of government, and a way of securing the forces necessary to preserve that method of government."
Where are the serfs? They seem to be conspicuously missing from this definition of "feudalism" by a professional historian. Not that they would not crop up, now: Strayer notes that in such a system, the guys in charge would make things suit their needs. He does not name serfs at all in his definition, but they of course could be part of the picture. But he has one more warning for us. "On the other hand," Strayer cautions, "if we try a wider definition, feudalism becomes an amorphous term. The most usual attempt to broaden the definition of feudalism stresses social and economic factors: in its simplest form it would find the essence of feudalism in the exploitation of an agricultural population by a ruling group."
That's as close to saying "serf" as Strayer gets in his definition section; the problem, he notes, is that such exploitation "occurred in many other societies" -- but in the end, he says, a definition "which can include societies as disparate as those of the Ancient Middle East, the late Roman Empire, medieval Europe, the southern part of the United States in the nineteenth century, and the Soviet Union in the 1930's is not much use in historical analysis." That's it" The critic's definition is not much use. Sum it up: Serfs aren't an essential part of the picture. Yahweh could be a "feudal lord" without the Israelites being serfs and with no restrictions of necessity on the human "buying and selling" of the land.
Now let's clamp the door shut with some comments from this site (now offline) which is an academic one with some notes on Japanese feudalism. Note these three characteristics offered:
- The samurai was not given the land, he was appointed to an office which allowed him an income from the land.
- The imperial bureaucracy still retained much authority; the feudal elements were found only in the remote provinces.
- Generally speaking, the peasants who worked the land were not serfs, but were free peasants.
- "The United States has laws that we must follow to keep our freedoms. If we break the laws, there are penalties, though expulsion from land is seldom used as such a penalty, if at all." To this we are asked whether we have "ever stopped to consider that the breaking of 'Yahweh's laws' didn't seem to bring about expulsion from the land either. When David, for example, committed adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 12:13-18), Yahweh didn't expel David from the land."
As we have said already:
Deuteronomy lays out a series of progressive punishments. How many had to go bad to enact them would hardly be specified; I would expect Skeptic X to realize that there would be no proviso saying, "If 35,987 of you act out, no problem; but that 35,988th breaks the camel's back." Or, "If you commit adultery 4 times, OK; the 5th time, you get whacked." Or, "You get 3 free sins as long as you were just reacting to stimuli." Perhaps Skeptic X the former CoC preacher can envision what a rebellious congregation would do with expressed latitude of THAT extreme.
The "get out of Dodge" punishment takes place only after a progression of serious and escalating punishments on the nation as a whole -- not on individuals. Most of Deut. gives laws and penalties for individuals while 28-30 sets out curses and blessings (in standard treaty format; see above) on the nation as a whole.
- "The parallel breaks down ultimately because the US does not own the land, and our opponent cannot show any example (other than parklands) where it is said that the land is the USA's land in any possessive sense, or in the same sense, that Yahweh declares that the entire land "is mine" in Leviticus (and in spite of permission thereafter to conduct land transactions of the "personal property" sort)" -- the critic interrupts, "No analogy will ever be completely parallel, because situations and events will always be different in some respects. However, my analogy is far more parallel than Holding's feudal landlord/tenants-"rentors" analogy, because tenants or renters cannot sell the property that they are occupying." We fixed that mis-defining feudalism by the use of the popular press above, showing that if anything, it is a near-perfect match, but what it runs down to is that the "analogy" is deficient on the most essential points of all.
- "...nor can he find a place where it is said that the USA is the Creator of the land of the United States (cf. Gen. 14:19)" -- the issue is whether the texts themselves are consistent on the subject. The existence of Yahweh is a non-issue in this context.
- "...or of US citizens thinking they need to take dirt from the USA with them to be patriotic in a foreign country and loyal to the US government, or any example of anyone thinking that US troops become powerless when they step on foreign soil." The critic responds to this with a comparison to "POWs or troops who have been abroad in war time stooping to kiss the ground when they stepped off the planes or ships that returned them home". I sincerely doubt that any of these POWs or troops were thereby demonstrating a belief that they had to bring soil with them to be patriotic Americans (since this implies they were traitors and rebels while abroad), or thanking the land for restoring their power. Kissing the dirt is nothing more in the modern world than, "I'm sure glad to be home!" and has nothing to do with any associated deity and the land -- even if they say, "Thank God I'm home" or sing "God Bless America" before or after they kiss the ground. They don't think of God as owning the land, unless they are pious or pretending to be. The association expressed in "God Bless America" refers to God's putative blessings upon our ideals as a nation -- the dirt we reside on has nothing to do with it. It's dead dirt, which we enact our ideals upon. The "amber waves of grain" reflect our agricultural prosperity. The "purple mountains" in majesty reflect a hearkening back to the manifest destiny and the frontier spirit which conquered those mountains. No modern American (again, other than the truly or falsely pious) sings "God Bless America" with the sentiment in mind that God actually owns the land, or that the land is sacred such that we have to take it with us to keep the ideals of America alive in our hearts or to worship God properly. Maybe some native American tribes have such a sentiment, but the dirt-kissing POW doesn't.
- "The USA is a nation, with a long history of individualism and Western property rights and a view of God as more remote" -- that we sing "God Bless America" and such isn't an equivalent. The closest we get is Jerry Falwell presumptively saying (to the great consternation of most others, including many theists such as myself) that things like the WTC disaster are a judgment of God. More importantly:
- "...it is not a Deity like Yahweh, Chemosh, or the gods of Babylon and Assyria" -- here the critic resorts to the diversion that the US is a real entity, unlike the deities, which is again beside the point, since as he admits, "belief, of course, would have affected the way that documents of the time were written."
- "...and the history is one of Eastern collectivism and a view of gods as deeply involved in judgment and the ownership of the land and its occupants." Reply: "Actually, the prevailing view of that time was much broader than just the aspect of land. The people of that time believed that their gods were directly involved in everything--warfare, weather, famine, pestilence, fertility, and you name it--so I don't deny Holding's claim that people in superstitious times believed that gods reigned over territorial domains...What Holding must prove--and hasn't done yet--is that this belief made it unnecessary for the writer(s) to mention conditions in the land promise passages in Genesis because the people of that time would have understood that a condition of obedience was inherent in the promise even if it wasn't specifically mentioned."
So the critic admits that they believed the gods were directly involved in everything. He admits that they believed gods reigned over territories. Earlier he admitted that they even believed that gods owned the land, though he can't seem to decide at times whether he wants to keep that or not. Now on what basis did the gods get involved? The only answer that matches the data is the behavior of the people with relation to the deity in question. This alone made it completely unnecessary to mention conditions attached to use of land. The critic wants to posit the absurd idea (also refuted by what Pilch and Malina say about grace in the ancient world, above) that Yahweh or any deity would simply put land in the lap of people and say, "Hey, Abe did all that was needed by just believing in me; take it and do what you want; I'll let you live in peace in it the same way no matter what you do. Ignore me, call me names, worship other gods, have sex all over the altars, sacrifice your children to Molech, syncretize me with Marduk, or that other deity the Canaanites worship with the twenty-foot penis. I don't care. Knock yourself out. I won't bother you." Now really. Can the critic envision any complex relationship, even between man and man, that would work under such principles? How much less so in an era when "grace" or a gift meant an expectation of a debt of gratitude. (Let us remind the reader again that the land was always Israel's to return to -- even while in Exile; and by the same token, the land in the grant that they never got to occupy was still theirs even if they did not occupy it. Hence again the promise to Abraham is always made good on.)
- "The parklands themselves provide a slightly closer analogy that only proves our point. The parklands have rules that occupants must follow, or they will be expelled from the parklands; though the analogy breaks down because no one in parklands occupies the land: they do sometimes temporarily occupy it (campgrounds) but cannot sell it amongst themselves (though they could conceivably barter 'off the record' for the rights to certain plots)." -- Here the critic only points out (as I do) that this analogy isn't really close either, then goes back to his error on defining feudalism.
On one hand I am quoted:
Again, we have never argued for, and our opponent cannot show that we have ever argued for, any "extremist view" that any deity's ultimate ownership precluded the ability of humans to transact business in terms of personal property; we have rather argued that the deity holds ultimate jurisdiction with respect to occupation and use of the land, including the ability to transact business associated with the land.
As allegedly contradictory to:
Abraham and his descendants are "given" the land, but what does that mean? It does not connote any modern sense of property ownership. What it does mean for Abraham to have been "given" the land is made most clear within the Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity.
There is no contradiction here -- and it is not explained where it is.
Joshua 22:1 Then Joshua summoned the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, 2 and said to them, "You have observed all that Moses the servant of Yahweh commanded you, and have obeyed me in all that I have commanded you; 3 you have not forsaken your kindred these many days, down to this day, but have been careful to keep the charge of Yahweh your God. 4 And now Yahweh your God has given REST to your kindred, as he promised them; therefore turn and go to your tents in the land where your possession lies, which Moses the servant of Yahweh gave you on the other side of the Jordan.
The critic tries to link this back to Joshua 21:43-45, reasoning that this "rest" given to just the tribes on the other side of the Jordan who had completed their conquest proves that ALL land promised had been conquered, because "rest" was promised to all the tribes once all the land was conquered. The 2 1/2 tribes were being given rest to help fight with other tribes that had no rest. It perhaps does not occur to us that all 12 tribes were very much unlikely to complete their conquests at precisely 6:42 AM on Monday the 3rd, so that some would qualify for "rest" before others. In any event all of this is irrelevant because we have explained the contextual exegesis of Josh. 21:43-5.
Kenneth Kitchen's Reliability of the Old Testament offers a defense of Josh. 21:43-45 similar to our own. Kitchen, comparing this text to other ANE inscriptions of military victory, regards readings like X's as "careless" and recognizes Josh. 21:43-45 as a "rhetorical summation" of a sort that was "a regular feature of military reports" in Joshua's period -- and he uses my very example of the Mitanni being "annihilated totally" and Mesha of Moab says that Israel "utterly perished for always."