Volume 46 - Issue 2

Testimonies of Faith and Fear: Canaanite Responses to YHWH’s Work in Joshua

By Cory Barnes


This article surveys five narrative passages in which Canaanites hear of the works YHWH has done on Israel’s behalf and act according to what they have heard (Josh 2:10–11; 9:1–2; 9:3, 9; 10:1–2; 11:1). Using some basic tools from narrative criticism, the article explores each passage by analyzing the characters who hear of YHWH’s work, the content of the message they receive, and their reaction to the message. The analysis of the narratives provides insight into the theology of the book of Joshua and informs theological method for contemporary readers of the OT.

In Romans 10:17, the Apostle Paul writes, “Faith comes as a result of what is heard.”1 This principle of Christian theology is well known to readers of the NT. The statement is no less true in the OT; hearing is essential to faith in YHWH. The Shema reminds readers of the OT that Israel’s faith is a faith which must be heard, “Hear (שְׁמַע) Israel! YHWH our God, YHWH is one!” (Deut 6:4). Israel, therefore, is to be active in hearing the words and works of YHWH, in believing what is heard, and in proclaiming those words and works to subsequent generations.2 The command of the Shema is given to Israel, but the OT makes clear that the ability to hear and obey YHWH is not reserved only for those born into the nation of Israel.3

To understand the message of the book of Joshua, readers must consider how the narratives in Joshua connect with the message of the Pentateuch.4 The book of Joshua is saturated with the message of YHWH’s past works, which are chronicled in the Pentateuch. Readers of Joshua encounter references to the past works of YHWH in multiple places throughout the book, but nowhere more so than on the lips of the inhabitants of Canaan.

1. Canaanite Testimony Texts

The book of Joshua contains five texts in which Canaanites testify concerning the work of YHWH in the past and how it affects their present (2:10–11; 9:1–2; 9:3, 9; 10:1–2; 11:1).5 Through these narratives, readers of Joshua see a theological methodology on display in the biblical text. This study provides a brief exegetical analysis of each Canaanite testimony giving attention to three primary areas: (1) What character or group of characters hear the message of YHWH’s action in the past, and how does the narrative present these hearers?6 (2) Of what event in history do the Canaanites in each passage hear? (3) How do the Canaanites who hear of YHWH’s past work on Israel’s behalf react to the message?7 By answering these questions, we see how the Canaanites in Joshua come to their theological conclusions.

We do not do theology simply to tell us what other theologians—whether they be theologians of the ancient world, contemporary theologians, or any theologians in between—believe about who God is, what he has done, and what he is doing. Inquiry about the work of God in the past without considering God’s ongoing work in his people is history. Inquiry about the work of God in the present without consideration of the past is speculation. Theology is grounded in the work of God in the past, present, and future because its proper object is the God who was, who is, and who is to come (Rev 1:8). The final section of this article, therefore, explores how the passages of Canaanite testimony inform theological inquiry in our current context.

Three of the Canaanite testimony texts in Joshua may be categorized as testimonies of fear (9:1–2; 10:1–2; 11:1). These passages describe adversarial reactions of the Canaanites to the acts of YHWH. The other two passages (Josh 2:9–11 and 9:3–9), however, describe surprising testimonies of faith among the Canaanites. In both the testimonies of fear and testimonies of faith we see examples of how different groups of Canaanites understood and reacted to what YHWH had done and was doing in his land. Their reactions provide insight into the theology of the book of Joshua and a model for how we must respond to what God has done and is doing in our world.

2. Testimonies of Fear

Three passages in Joshua serve as exemplars of testimonies of fear. In these passages groups of Canaanites assemble to go to war against Israel, thus testifying to their fear of the promise God has made to his people to give them the land.

Then when all the kings who were in the hill country on the other side of the Jordan and in the lowland all along the coast of the great sea towards Lebanon—the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites—heard of this, they assembled together to fight Joshua and Israel with one purpose.8 (Josh 9:1–2)

Then when Adonai-zedek king of Jerusalem heard that Joshua had taken Ai, and had put it under the ban, as he had done to Jericho and its king, and that the ones dwelling in Gibeon had made peace with Israel and were with them he was very frightened, for Gibeon was a great city, as one of the royal cities, and was larger than Ai and all its men were warriors. Then Adonai Zedek king of Jerusalem sent to Hoham king of Hebron and to Piriam king of Jarmuth and to Japhia king of Lachish and to Devir king of Eglon and said, “Gather with me and help me and we will strike down the Gibeonites because they have made peace with Joshua and the sons of Israel. (10: 1–4)

Then when Jabin, king of Hazor, heard of this he sent to Jobab, king of Madon, to the king of Shimron, to the king of Achshaph … and all of these kings met together and they went out and they made camp together to the west of Merom to do battle against Israel (11:1, 5)

The testimonies of the Canaanite kings follow the pattern readers of the OT may expect from those outside the covenant community of Israel.9 They all have in view the promise YHWH gives in Deuteronomy 2:25 that he will cause all people under the face of heaven to fear Israel.10 The common thread throughout all three narratives is that “hearing leads to the nations fearing, while Israel sees what God has done and knows.”11

2.1. The Hearers: Canaanite Kings

The kings in the narrative of Joshua 9–11 are vassal kings and rulers of local city-states. These vassal kings would have been dependent upon allegiance to major empires of the period (Egypt, Mittani, Hittites, etc.) as well as alliances of local city states.12 The testimonies of fear give no biographical information of the kings. They are flat characters in the text, merely names representing the role of Israel’s enemies.13 These pagan kings base their actions on the message they have heard concerning the work of YHWH on behalf of his people, though there is no indication in the text that they give credit to YHWH for Israel’s military success.

2.2. The Message: The Immediate History of Israel

The chief question in these passages involves the content of the message that is heard by the Canaanite kings. In all three passages, the verb שׁמע is without an object; thus most English translations read “When they heard this.” Richard Hess proposes that the Canaanites in all three texts hear of Israel’s defeat at the battle of Ai. In Hess’s interpretation of Joshua, the defeat at Ai provides the Canaanites with hope that Israel can be defeated resulting in additional struggle for the Israelites.14

Joshua’s narrative does not support Hess’s theory. The events in Joshua 7–8 makes clear that after Achan and his family were killed—and thus the community ritually purified—the unmitigated success of the conquest was to continue as evidenced by the procession of the ark to Ebal and Gerizim.15 The narrative flow indicates the message that the Canaanite kings heard concerned the events that took place in Israel’s immediate past.16 Thus the message the Canaanite kings hear in each subsequent narrative is of the events that recently occurred in the storyline of Joshua. Josh 9:1 indicates that the kings have heard of the desolation of Ai. Joshua 10:1 makes explicit that the message heard is that of the treaty with the Gibeonites. In 11:1 the message heard by the kings of the northern coalition is of the defeat of the southern coalition. All of these messages are confined to recent events, thus limiting their theological scope. Where Rahab and the Gibeonites will consider the broader history of Israel and her God, the Canaanite kings in chapters 9–11 hear only of recent events and thus ignore the greater theological implications of Israel’s history.

2.3. The Reaction: Alliances and Attacks

The Canaanite kings react as most readers of Joshua might expect—they seek to protect their own interests through political alliances that build military might.17 Readers must be careful, however, to recognize the response of the Canaanite kings as a theological testimony concerning Israel and her God. While Rahab and the Gibeonites make theological assertions based on a broader and better understanding of the work of YHWH and his people in the past, the Canaanite kings testify and act based on a limited view of the history of YHWH’s people.

3. Testimony of Faith: Rahab the Prostitute

In stark contrast to the three passages that exemplify the fear of the Canaanite kings, Joshua 2:9–11 contains the testimony of Rahab who responds to God’s promise to give Israel the land by faithfully accepting God’s sovereign power and authority.

I know that YHWH has given the land to you, and that he has caused terror concerning you to fall upon us, and that all the hearts of the ones dwelling in the land to melt before you. For we have heard how YHWH caused the waters of the Red Sea to dry up before you when [he was] bringing you up from the land of Egypt,18 and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were across the Jordan, to Sihon and to Og, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard [these things] our hearts melted and we were demoralized19 before you. For YHWH your God is indeed God in heaven above and upon the earth below. (Josh 2:9–11)

YHWH’s promise to give the land to Israel is a foundational component of Israel’s identity and is central to YHWH’s promise to Joshua in Josh 1:1–9.20 Joshua and the Israelites, however, are not the only ones who understand God has given the land to his people. Within the walls of Jericho, we encounter Rahab the prostitute (זוֹנָה) who testifies to Israelite men about God’s gift of the land. Rahab’s character is an enigma: how does a Canaanite prostitute become the first Canaanite convert to Yahwism?21 What message did she hear, and what causes such a surprising reaction?

3.1. The Hearer: The Character of Rahab

The author of Hebrews bears witness to the faith of Rahab: “By faith, Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, having welcomed the spies in peace” (Heb 11:31). Readers of the NT may find the commendation of a prostitute’s faith surprising, and so readers of the OT may be perplexed for the same reason when reading Joshua’s narrative. Though interpreters often struggle with nuances concerning the morality of Rahab’s profession, the biblical author undoubtedly presents her character in a positive aspect.22

Except for Joshua, Rahab is the only character in chapter 2 who is named, signifying her central place in the story. 23 Her character drives the chapter’s narrative and dialogue, demonstrating the importance of understanding her role to interpreting Joshua 2. The first characteristic the text highlights is that Rahab is a זוֹנָה (“prostitute”); thus, the initial impression she leaves on readers is a far cry from the positive assessment of her character provided by the passage as a whole.24 The author uses the inherent tension between the identity of Rahab the prostitute and the Hebrew spies to move the narrative forward.25 Readers are naturally shaken by the narrative of Joshua 2, for they find themselves struggling with this woman whose actions contrast with the stigma of her profession.26 Rahab’s character sets up the altogether surprising conclusion of the narrative—Rahab becomes a covenant member of Israel.27

Rahab’s actions in the text show her to be a competent character who is capable of subterfuge and shrewd negotiation.28 This Canaanite prostitute is a “dangerous and strange woman, unreliable prostitute, faithful and wise theologian, and capable informant.”29 Rahab demonstrates that she is the capable protagonist of the narrative, and thus readers discover this suspicious woman is the most worthy character in Joshua 2—indeed, one of the most worthy in the entire Bible.30 The pinnacle of Rahab’s character is not found in her actions, but in her confession. This raises the question, “On what grounds does a prostitute profess faith in YHWH?”

3.2. The Message: The Works of YHWH in the Past

Prior to Rahab’s confession she confirms that YHWH has fulfilled his promise from Deuteronomy 2:25 that he will, “put the terror of you and the fear of you upon the face of all people under heaven, so when they hear of you they will quake and tremble before you.”31 Rahab affirms this by stating that the people of Canaan, herself included, have heard of the works of YHWH and his people. Yet for Rahab the message surpasses fear and leads to a testimony of faith based on her understanding of YHWH’s work.

Rahab has heard more than mere rumors of terror. Her knowledge of the work of YHWH for his people goes beyond rumblings of a warrior God who is acting on his people’s behalf. Rahab focuses on two specific points in Israel’s history: the drying up of the Red Sea (Exod 14–15) and the defeat of Sihon and Og (Num 21). These events delineate both the beginning and the end of the experience of God’s people in the wilderness, thus serving as a reference not only to the specific events, but also to God’s holistic work in the deliverance of his people.32 The message Rahab hears is a more complete message than what the Canaanite kings hear in Joshua 9–11. In those testimonies of fear, the Canaanites hear only the threat of a conquering people, but Rahab has heard the story of a God who has delivered his people and who continues to fulfill his promises to them.33

How Rahab heard the message of YHWH’s deliverance of his people is unclear, and speculating about where she encountered this message adds little to the interpretation of Joshua.34 Instead, the author of Joshua emphasizes that Rahab understands the theological reality of God’s promise by recording her words, which closely resemble language from the Pentateuch. The biblical author calls attention specifically to the Song of Moses, indicating that Rahab recognizes that what has been said concerning the Canaanites, namely that “all of their inhabitants will melt away” will come to pass (Exod 15:15). The climax of her confession in Joshua 2:11 demonstrates that she is familiar with the historic commands of YHWH demanding faithfulness.35 When Rahab proclaims, “YHWH your God is indeed God in heaven above and upon the earth below,” the author of Joshua places on her lips the very words of Deuteronomy 4:39.36

The message Rahab has heard, therefore, is the message of how YHWH acts in history. Were the narrative of Joshua 2 to cease after verse 10, it would be appropriate to speak of Rahab as a faithful witness to what she has heard, for up to this point in the narrative she has recited the facts that have come to her and made reference to their general effect on her culture. Rahab, however, is not content with the recitation of facts. Rahab is not, as Von Rad states, in search “for a critically assured minimum”; rather, she now makes a faith-filled testimony that encapsulates a “theological maximum” and thus we must now turn to the testimony of Rahab the theologian.37

3.3. The Reaction: A Confessional Response

Rahab’s discourse with the spies in Joshua 2:9–13 begins with a confession that demonstrates Rahab understands the theological significance of the historical account she is about to tell. By saying, “I know that YHWH has given the land to you” (v. 9), Rahab affirms all that has been said about the land in Josh 1, and by extension, affirms the promise of the land as revealed throughout the Pentateuch.38

This is a confessional statement as is evident from the obvious deviation of the norm in the testimonies of the Canaanite kings. The kings of the northern and southern coalitions (Josh 10:1–4; 11:1–5) hear of YHWH’s actions among his people and react in exactly the opposite way. Rather than taking the opportunity to affirm that YHWH is the owner of the land with the right to give it to his people, they amass their forces to do battle to attempt to keep the land YHWH is giving to Israel. Here it becomes critical to recognize that Rahab hears much more than the other Canaanites, or at least that she takes more of what she has heard into account. Where the testimonies of fear give little to no detail concerning what is heard about the work of YHWH among his people, Rahab has heard enough to make an accurate confessional statement.

The same is true for Rahab’s penultimate theological proclamation in Joshua 2:11. Rahab has heard of God’s mighty acts in history and this motivates her to proclaim trust in YHWH in the present.39 Rahab, therefore, demonstrates the importance of hearing in the book of Joshua. Like other hearers, she has heard and been terrified by the reality that YHWH is moving to conquer the land for his people and in doing so remove all hostile Canaanites.40 Unlike the Canaanite kings, however, Rahab makes an altogether different theological testimony based on what she hears.41 This message of terror drives her to faith and thus becomes a message of hope.

4. Testimony of Faith: The Gibeonites

In addition to the faithful testimony of Rahab, the testimony of the Gibeonites also stands in contrast to the fearful testimony of the Canaanite kings. In Josh 9:3–10 we encounter a group of Canaanites that, like Rahab, realize that it is futile to stand against the power of YHWH.

Then when the ones dwelling in Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, they acted themselves with cunning, they went and prepared provisions, and took worn sacks for their donkeys, and wineskins, worn and torn and sewn, with worn, patched sandals on their feet, and worn clothing; and all their provisions were dry and moldy. They came to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal, and said to him and to the Israelites, “We have come from a far off country; so now make a treaty with us But the Israelites said to the Hivites, Perhaps you live among us; then how can we make a treaty with you?” They said to Joshua, “We are your servants.” And Joshua said to them, “Who are you? And where do you come from?” They said to him, “Your servants have come from a very far country, because of the name of the Lord your God; because we have heard a report of him, of all that he did in Egypt, and of all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, King Sihon of Heshbon, and King Og of Bashan who was living in Ashtaroth.” (Josh 9:3–10)

Interpreters of Joshua have proposed a wide range of theological assessments of the treaty between Israel and Gibeon. These assessments range from blatant faithlessness on the part of Israel and sin on the part of the Gibeonites to understanding the covenant made with Gibeon as an important reminder of the mercy of God. As with Rahab, God’s mercy shown toward the Gibeonites demonstrates that God’s command banning Israel from associating with the people of the land (e.g., 7:1–5; 20:10–15) is not inconsistent with God’s willingness to show mercy to those outside of ethnic Israel.42

4.1. The Hearers: A Cunning People

Joshua 10:2 contains a vital piece of information about the city of Gibeon; it is said to be a “great city, as one of the royal cities, and was larger than Ai and all its men were warriors.” The expectation is for Gibeon to capitulate to the normative action of a vassal city state and join in alliance with other kings against a conquering force, yet there is more to these Gibeonites than expected.

Where all the Canaanite kings are type characters, the Gibeonites have more depth. They חרם demonstrate both strategy and intrigue in their dealings with Israel.43 Where Rahab is a character who makes her theological assertions in a direct conversation/confession, the Gibeonites’ theological assertion will cause them to act out an elaborate ruse to attempt to gain the favor of Israel and her God.44

4.2. The Message: The Works of YHWH in the Past

As with Rahab, the Gibeonites are familiar not only with the works of Israel in the immediate past, but also have knowledge of Israel’s broader history. Implicit in the text is the Gibeonites’ awareness that YHWH forbids Israel to make treaties with people who live among them in the land, thus their deception concerning their location.45

Though the Gibeonites do not demonstrate knowledge of the same detailed account of Israel’s history as did Rahab, they still proclaim the same summary message of YHWH’s interaction with Israel from deliverance in Egypt to the defeat of the trans-Jordan kings. That the Gibeonites have heard of the defeat of the kings of the trans-Jordan is particularly important in context as it would serve as a reminder to them that YHWH and his people are more than a match for vassal kings, even in alliance with one another.46 The Gibeonites do not mention the work of YHWH in the destruction of Jericho and Ai, likely due to their attempt to portray themselves as people of a foreign land, unfamiliar with local events, though these events would have been a part of the message they heard concerning YHWH and his people.47

4.3. The Reaction: Deception Based on Conviction

The Gibeonites demonstrate a radical departure from the Canaanite kings who lead their people in war against Israel. The Gibeonites have heard a different message and take a different course of action.48

Regardless of whether or not Israel should have entered into a relationship with Gibeon, there is no mistake that this is what the Gibeonites request. Their methods for approaching this covenant relationship with Israel and her God may be questionable, but their motives are made obvious in the text.49 The Gibeonites have heard what YHWH has done in Israel’s history and they understand that their only hope is to submit to him, for he cannot be conquered in battle.50 The Gibeonites’ reaction to the message that they hear about YHWH and his actions in Israel’s history drive them to faith rather that to fight.51 Thus Bruce Waltke states, “As with Rahab, the delegation from Gibeon both recognize and confess their fear of I AM—and so also their faith in him—and are familiar with the Mosaic law. Both believe in I AM’s promise to give Israel the land.”52

5. Hearing and Faithful Testimony

Gerhard von Rad explains that “Israel’s faith is grounded in a theology of history. It regards itself as based upon historical acts, and as shaped and re-shaped by factors in which it saw the hand of Jahweh at work.”53 Exploring the various testimonies of Canaanites in the narrative of Joshua affirms the centrality of history to theology.

What is remarkable about the texts surveyed is that they represent people placed in a situation where they must consider of YHWH’s work in the past and make theological decisions—decisions which lead to life altering actions—based on that history. A significant amount of literature, particularly in conservative biblical studies, is rightly dedicated to helping readers understand the historical veracity of the OT.54 These “hearing” texts in the book of Joshua, however, invite readers to go beyond considering the OT as a collection of historical facts. The biblical author presents the reality of how YHWH has worked in the history of his people and thus beckons readers to consider how he is working in the lives of his people today.

The history of YHWH’s interaction with his people is more than a collection of past realities, but is instead a collection of events which ever challenges the people of God today to participate in the story.55 How we participate in the story depends on the message that we hear in the text and our faithfulness to that message in our actions. The examples found in the Canaanite testimonies in Joshua do not provide an all-inclusive methodology through which we are to approach hearing the message of God, yet they still challenge contemporary readers to consider how understanding what God has done in the past impacts the life and practice of individuals and communities.

The most overwhelming difference between the way Rahab and the Gibeonites heard the message of what God had done for his people and the way the Canaanite kings heard this message was the breadth of history they considered. The Canaanite kings have only their immediate context in view, while Rahab and the Gibeonites consider the broader story of YHWH’s work among his people. The change in the scope of what was heard makes all the difference in regard to the understanding of the message. The people of God today must follow the example of Rahab and the Gibeonites by reflecting on the biblical story of God’s powerful work among his people as we consider what it means to live faithful lives in our context. This calls for faithfulness informed by a robust understanding of the biblical metanarrative. No one can respond faithfully to God’s work in their midst if their response is not informed by God’s redemptive work displayed throughout the biblical story. Failing to consider the covenant promises God has made to his people throughout Scripture produces fearful reaction to the work of God in our midst and not faithful response.

Rahab and the Gibeonites also remind readers that the message YHWH conveys in history often calls us to actions beyond what is expected of our characters. In Joshua it is the harlot who professes faith in YHWH and the strong Gibeonites who come to humble themselves before the invading Israelites. This is because encountering YHWH’s redemptive activity among his people in history effects change in his people in the present. This, perhaps, is the chief difference between respecting the Bible’s historical accuracy and participating in the ongoing story of its history. In the narrative of Scripture God does something more than beckon readers to consider how he once was. God calls all who would respond faithfully to his word to testify that who he is now is who he has always been. Only the reality that the God who has done mighty works in the past is the living God of the present produces faithfulness in his covenant people. The story of Scripture calls us to action today to testify to the God who is and who was and who is to come and to live faithfully according to that testimony.

[1] All biblical quotations are my own and are based on the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia in the case of OT Scripture, or the Nestle-Aland 28 in the cases of NT Scripture.

[2] Moshe Weinfeld, Deuteronomy 1–11, AB 5 (New York: Doubleday, 1991), 339–41.

[3] See Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1965), 1:296–305; Jeffrey H. Tigay, Deuteronomy, JPS Torah Commentary 5 (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1996), 76.

[4] Thomas B. Dozeman, Joshua 1–12, AB 6B (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015), 205.

[5] Two other verses which are similar in nature are Joshua 5:1 and 7:9. Although 5:1 is vital to the understanding of the function of the Canaanites hearing to the work of YHWH in Joshua, it is not one of the five primary texts examined because it only mentions what the Canaanites hear, but does not describe how they testify and react to the message. Joshua 7:9 notes the Canaanite reaction to a specific event, namely, the failure to capture Ai.

[6] This area of inquiry draws heavily on methods of character analysis used in narrative criticism of the OT. See the following works: Shimon Bar-Efrat, Narrative Art in the Bible (London: T&T Clark, 2008); Adele Berlin, Poetics and Interpretation of Biblical Narrative (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1994); R. Dennis Cole, “OT Narrative,” in Biblical Hermeneutics: A Comprehensive Introduction to Interpreting Scripture, ed. Bruce Corley, Steve Lemke, and Grant Lovejoy, 2nd ed. (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2002), 260–72.

[7] In other words, how do these Canaanites implement their understanding of the historical acts of YHWH in Israel’s past? See John Goldingay, Old Testament Theology, Volume 1: Israel’s Life (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009), 29–50.

[8] Literally, “with one mouth” (פֶּה אֶחָד).

[9] See Reinhard Achenbach, Albertz Rainer, and Jakob Wöhrle, eds., The Foreigner and the Law: Perspectives from the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East, BZABR 16 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2011).

[10] See Duane L. Christensen, Deuteronomy 1–11, WBC 6A (Dallas: Word, 1991), 43. Christenson notes that this passage introduces the language of holy war into the book of Deuteronomy.

[11] Trent C. Butler, Joshua 1–12, 2nd. ed., WBC 7A (Nashville: Zondervan, 2014), 444.

[12] See Niels Peter Lemche, “Kings and Clients: On Loyalty between the Ruler and the Ruled in Ancient ‘Israel,’” Semeia 66 (1994): 119–32; Wolfram von Soden, The Ancient Orient: An Introduction to the Study of the Ancient Near East (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 63–86.

[13] See Berlin, Poetics and Interpretation of Biblical Narrative, 23–42; Cole, “OT Narrative,” 268–69.

[14] Richard Hess, Joshua: An Introduction and Commentary, TOTC 6 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 193.

[15] Dozeman, Joshua 1–12, 392–94; Butler, Joshua 1–12, 417–19.

[16] Butler, Joshua 1–12, 416.

[17] Evidence of exactly this type of maneuvering is prevalent in the Amarna letters, which reflect the historical setting of Canaan near the time of Joshua. See William L. Moran, The Amarna Letters (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992).

[18] This translation follows some Masoretic MSS and the LXX, which insert מֵאֶרֶץ before מִמִּצְרָיִם.

[19] Literally: “The spirit of each man could no longer rise” (וְלֹא־קָמָה עוֹד רוּחַ בְּאִישׁ).

[20] John H Stek, “Rahab of Canaan and Israel: The Meaning of Joshua 2,” CTJ 37 (2002): 28–48.

[21] David M. Howard Jr., Joshua, NAC 5 (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1998), 97.

[22] Stek, “Rahab of Canaan and Israel,” 39.

[23] Though Joshua is named in the narrative, he is largely passive, serving only to send and receive the spies, thus forming the inclusio in which the narrative takes place.

[24] Phyllis A. Bird, “The Harlot as Heroine: Narrative Art and Social Presupposition in Three Old Testament Texts,” Semeia 46 (1989): 127.

[25] Bird, 131; Aaron Sherwood, “A Leader’s Misleading and a Prostitute’s Profession: A Re-Examination of Joshua 2,” JSOT 31, no. 1 (September 2006): 53–54.

[26] Berel Dov Lerner, “Rahab the Harlot: And Other Philosophers of Religion,” JBQ 28 (2000): 52.

[27] See Péter Jenei, “Strategies of Stranger Inclusion in the Narrative Traditions of Joshua–Judges: The Cases of Rahab’s Household, the Kenites and the Gibeonites,” OTE 32 (2019): 136–39.

[28] Ken M. Campbell, “Rahab’s Covenant: A Short Note on Joshua 2:9–21,” VT 22 (1972): 244.

[29] Butler, Joshua 1–12, 256.

[30] Butler, Joshua 1–12, 265–67. See also NT passages that reference Rahab’s faithfulness: James 2:25, Hebrews 11:31 as well as the inclusion of Rahab in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:5.

[31] Hess points to YHWH’s promise in the Song of Moses in Exodus 15:16: “Terror and dread fell upon them; by the might of your arm, they became still as a stone until your people, O Lord, passed by, until the people whom you acquired passed by.” Deuteronomy 2:25 is a closer intertextual connection with the general concern of Joshua 2. The song of Moses only comes into view due to Rahab’s explicit reference to the Exodus event. Hess, Joshua, 88.

[32] Hess, Joshua, 89.

[33] Butler notes that the focus of the broader story of YHWH and his people in Rahab’s discourse with the spies has much in common with prophetic discourse. Thus, he calls Rahab, “The first prophetic figure in the historical books” (Joshua 1–12, 259). Though the text never calls Rahab a prophet, Butler is correct in drawing parallels between her speech and the speech of prophets. The similarity is even greater when one considers that the words of Rahab serve as a message to the people of Israel collectively through the report of the spies at the end of Joshua 2.

[34] See Butler, Joshua 1–12, 259.

[35] Dozeman, Joshua 1–12, 243–44.

[36] There are two other possible texts to which Rahab may be alluding: Exodus 20:4, or Deuteronomy 5:8, both of which contain identical wording to Deuteronomy 4:39 and Josh 2:11. Deuteronomy 4:39 seems the most likely, however, due to the similarity in message and context. See Butler, Joshua 1–12, 103.

[37] Von Rad, Old Testament Theology, 108.

[38] See Suzanne Boorer, The Promise of the Land as Oath, BZAW 205 (New York: De Gruyter, 1992).

[39] Butler, Joshua 1–12, 267.

[40] Note that in the book of Joshua it is the Canaanite Rahab who first uses the verb חרם with reference to the complete destruction of Sihon and Og (2:10).

[41] Stek, “Rahab of Canaan and Israel,” 44.

[42] See R. W. L. Moberly, Old Testament Theology: Reading the Hebrew Bible as Christian Scripture (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013), 53–74. Moberly advocates for understanding the divine command of “the ban” (חרם) in connection with Israel’s election. In this view, the command to destroy other nations is secondary to the necessity of Israel’s separating themselves from other nations.

[43] The details given concerning the Gibeonites recommends the author of the text is concerned with how they are perceived by the readers of the text. See Yitzhak Lee-Sak, “Polemical Propaganda of the Golah Community against the Gibeonites: Historical Background of Joshua 9 and 2 Samuel 21 in the Early Persian Period,” JSOT 44 (2019): 115–32.

[44] Howard, Joshua, 223.

[45] Howard, Joshua, 223.

[46] Butler, Joshua 1–12, 448.

[47] Butler, Joshua 1–12, 449.

[48] The Canaanite kings may also have been familiar with many of the additional facts about the works of YHWH in Israel’s history, but the fact that the author of Joshua only presents those facts in the narrative of the Gibeonites demonstrates that they are the only ones who consider this broader history in their reaction to the message.

[49] See Robert P. Gordon, “Gibeonite Ruse and Israelite Curse in Joshua 9,” in Covenant in Context: Essays in Honour of E. W. Nicholson, ed. A. D. H. Mayes and R. B. Salters (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).

[50] Butler, Joshua 1–12, 449.

[51] Christoph Berner suggests the negative portrayal of the Gibeonite deception is the product of later redaction, in “The Gibeonite Deception: Reflections on the Interplay between Law and Narrative in Josh 9,” SJOT 31 (2017): 254–74.

[52] Bruce K. Waltke with Charles Yu, An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), 521. Waltke uses “I AM” to translate the tetragrammaton.

[53] Von Rad, Old Testament Theology, 106.

[54] See, for example, works such as Kenneth A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006); Eugene H. Merrill, Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament Israel, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008).

[55] Wolfhart Pannenberg, Basic Questions in Theology: Collected Essays, trans. George H. Kehm (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1970), 1:83.

Cory Barnes

Cory Barnes is associate vice president of distance learning and associate professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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