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The allotment of Canaan in Joshua and Numbers

Johnson, Dylan R. 2022. The allotment of Canaan in Joshua and Numbers. Journal of Biblical Literature 141 (3) , pp. 427-447. 10.15699/jbl.1413.2022.2

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This study examines the literary and redactional history of the allotment motif in biblical tradition. The notion that the Israelite tribes apportioned the promised land through the casting of “lots” stems from a core narrative about a ceremony for the house of Joseph at Shiloh (Josh 17:17–18; 18:4, 8–10a). Through later redactional expansions, the allotment motif came to define the distribution of all Israelite territory in the central chapters of Joshua (chs. 13–21). Outside the book of Joshua, however, this idea gained little acceptance among scribal circles that preferred other explanations for how the Israelites came to occupy and possess the land. The only extensive engagement with the allotment motif outside of Joshua appears in the concluding chapters of Numbers (chs. 26–36). The post-Priestly redactors who organized these chapters harmonized the allotment motif with their own genealogies as a means to create narrative continuity between the desert wanderings and the conquest account in Joshua. By examining many “redactional reciprocations” between Numbers and Joshua, I demonstrate how biblical books and literary motifs developed in parallel narrative contexts, with punctuated revisions that alter the form and function of each through dialectical processes of harmonization. The allotment motif in Numbers is the literary legacy of scribes who did not consider Moses’s death in Deuteronomy to be a decisive break in the biblical narrative, instead promoting the view of Joshua as Moses’s spiritual successor and the conquest as the fulfillment of the exodus.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Publisher: Society of Biblical Literature
ISSN: 0021-9231
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 20 October 2022
Date of Acceptance: 1 June 2022
Last Modified: 24 Oct 2022 13:15

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