Rethinking Joshua as Genocidal

I’ve picked up John H. Walton’s and J. Harvey Walton’s The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest for a book review I’ll submit to the Journal of Faith & the Academy. Thus far, I’ve only read the first section to get my bearings on what the authors want to do, and I’ve read other in The Lost World series and figured this might be a welcomed addition. From the preface, the elder Walton informs that he and his theologian son discussed the moral ramifications of how Joshua seems to be interpreted as a genocidal account of an angry God, so I already figure that this is a polemical work and has thus far proven to be here or there.

The elder Walton informs readers that, the younger actually wrote this work and that he consulted on Hebrew and Ancient Near Eastern points more so as an editor. For those looking to hear from John Walton, they are given J. Harvey instead. This isn’t necessarily a negative attribute of the book, but the younger writes and thinks differently than his father. The author expounds on the hermeneutical issues of reading Joshua with a modern morality versus how the ancients would have understood the account. Again, as with the other Lost World series, hermeneutics is addressed as a starting point so that the reader knows through which lenses they ought to cipher the material.

A few points are made regarding an ancient Near Eastern reading of Joshua which is thus far the most positive attributes of the work, but the author, presumably the younger Walton, often bloviates his points. He also mentions concepts that would be fitting for greater explanation only to note that they will appear later in work. One wonders if it would have been better for the structure if the description was given at the mention rather than leaving readers on a cliffhanger. One particular section where he opines on what goodness is seemed disjointed from work, but in that section, he mentions in one paragraph what would have been easier to comprehend rather than taking a detour speaking about goodness.

Within the first section, I find myself longing for the elder Walton to chime in and take over the authorship. After all, his name and the series is why readers will pick up this work. This isn’t to slam the younger Walton who seems a knowledgeable fellow himself, but his authorship appears at least at this point to have needed more editing. However, I also will mention that these thoughts are only a reflection on the first section and not the entire book. Stay tuned.

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