Wednesday, 9 July 2008

SBL Wednesday

We've reached Wednesday evening in Auckland. This morning saw two papers by people with PTC connections. Peter Lau who started a PhD with us before moving the the slightly larger and more prestigious University of Sydney presented on the presentation of Boaz in Ruth and Rochelle Gilmour, who is teaching Hebrew this year, looked at the rhetorical strategy in 1 Samuel 9 in which Saul seems to take so long to actually meet Samuel. She showed the devices used to raise tension and that it is quite possible to make sense of the final form of the text without resorting to textual history explanations. It stretched my Hebrew but was very enjoyable.

At least one person was interested in Peter Lockwood's paper, and I liked it, so here is a little more on"Genocidal warfare in the book of Joshua: Does the implied author have qualms of conscience?" Peter argued that the book is written to encourage Israel to courageous Torah-keeping in the 6th and 7th centuries and so is not aimed at calling the reader to enter holy war. Israel are presented has having a legal right to the land as an inheritance (1:3, 6,11; 11:23; 21:43-45) and the conquest is a kind of Jubilee in which all land reverts to its proper owner (Josh 6 uses the term yovel, the word for jubilee and rams horn stressing the parallel between the feast of Jubilee and the conquest). Israel’s right to the land is not based on their greatness but on the Lord’s promise (Dt 7:7; 8:7-18; 9:4). He also pointed to various factors which make the Joshua conquest less ethically troubling. For example the contrast between Rahab and Achan undermines any claims that Yahweh is a national god who will always fight for Israel. This is reinforced by Joshua’s encounter with the commander of the Lord’s armies in Joshua 5 where Joshua asks “Are you for us or for our enemies?” and the answer is “No” and then “but I have now come as commander of the army of the LORD”. Peter also pointed to the presentation of the sin of the Canaanites in the Deuteronomic history and the presentation of the Canaanites as the aggressors and that Israel’s first widespread military action was to assist the Gibeonites. The Canaanites are presented as corrupt and corrupting (Jsh 23:7-16; 24:19-20) This all presents the conquest in a different light to the way it may be seen in a superficial reading, though I was not convinced that it shows the narrator was troubled by the conquest.

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