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The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest: Covenant, Retribution, and the Fate of the Canaanites
Cover of The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest: Covenant, Retribution, and the Fate of the Canaanites
The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest: Covenant, Retribution, and the Fate of the Canaanites
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Biblical Foundations Award Winner

Holy warfare is the festering wound on the conscience of Bible-believing Christians. Of all the problems the Old Testament poses for our modern age, this is the one we want to avoid in mixed company.

But do the so-called holy war texts of the Old Testament portray a divinely inspired genocide? Did Israel slaughter Canaanites at God's command? Were they enforcing divine retribution on an unholy people? These texts shock. And we turn the page. But have we rightly understood them?

In The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest, John Walton and J. Harvey Walton take us on an archaeological dig, excavating the layers of translation and interpretation that over time have encrusted these texts and our perceptions. What happens when we take new approaches, frame new questions? When we weigh again their language and rhetoric? Were the Canaanites punished for sinning against the covenanting God? Does the Hebrew word herem mean "devote to destruction"? How are the Canaanites portrayed and why? And what happens when we backlight these texts with their ancient context?

The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest keenly recalibrates our perception and reframes our questions. While not attempting to provide all the answers, it offers surprising new insights and clears the ground for further understanding.

The books in the Lost World Series follow the pattern set by Bible scholar John H. Walton, bringing a fresh, close reading of the Hebrew text and knowledge of ancient Near Eastern literature to an accessible discussion of the biblical topic at hand using a series of logic-based propositions.

Biblical Foundations Award Winner

Holy warfare is the festering wound on the conscience of Bible-believing Christians. Of all the problems the Old Testament poses for our modern age, this is the one we want to avoid in mixed company.

But do the so-called holy war texts of the Old Testament portray a divinely inspired genocide? Did Israel slaughter Canaanites at God's command? Were they enforcing divine retribution on an unholy people? These texts shock. And we turn the page. But have we rightly understood them?

In The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest, John Walton and J. Harvey Walton take us on an archaeological dig, excavating the layers of translation and interpretation that over time have encrusted these texts and our perceptions. What happens when we take new approaches, frame new questions? When we weigh again their language and rhetoric? Were the Canaanites punished for sinning against the covenanting God? Does the Hebrew word herem mean "devote to destruction"? How are the Canaanites portrayed and why? And what happens when we backlight these texts with their ancient context?

The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest keenly recalibrates our perception and reframes our questions. While not attempting to provide all the answers, it offers surprising new insights and clears the ground for further understanding.

The books in the Lost World Series follow the pattern set by Bible scholar John H. Walton, bringing a fresh, close reading of the Hebrew text and knowledge of ancient Near Eastern literature to an accessible discussion of the biblical topic at hand using a series of logic-based propositions.

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About the Author-
  • John Walton is professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College. He is coauthor of Manners and Customs in the Bible and The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament.

Table of Contents-
  • Preface
    Introduction
    Abbreviations
    Part I: Interpretation
    Proposition 1: Reading the Bible Consistently Means Reading It as an Ancient Document
    Proposition 2: We Should Approach the Problem of the Conquest by Adjusting Our Expectations About What the Bible Is
    Proposition 3: The Bible Does Not Define Goodness for Us or Tell Us How to Produce Goodness, but Instead Tells Us About the Goodness God Is Producing
    Part II: The Canaanites Are Not Depicted as Guilty of Sin
    Proposition 4: The Bible Teaches Clearly and Consistently That Affliction by God Cannot Be Automatically Attributed to Wrongdoing on the Part of the Victim
    Proposition 5: None of the Usual Textual Indicators for Divine Retribution Occur in the Case of the Canaanites
    Excusus: The Midianites in Numbers 31
    Proposition 6: Genesis 15:16 Does Not Indicate That the Canaanites Were Committing Sin
    Proposition 7: Neither the Israelites nor the Canaanites Are Depicted as Stealing the Other's Rightful Property
    Part III: The Canaanites Are Not Depicted as Guilty of Breaking God's Law
    Proposition 8: The People of the Land Are Not Indicted for Not Following the Stipulations of the Covenant, and Neither Is Israel Expected to Bring Them into the Covenant
    Excursus: Demons and Idolatry in the Old Testament
    Proposition 9: Ancient Law Codes Such as the One Contained in Leviticus 18-20 Are Not Lists of Rules to Be Obeyed, and Therefore the Canaanites Cannot Be Guilty of Violating Them
    Proposition 10: Holiness Is a Status Granted by God; It Is Not Earned Through Moral Performance, and Failing to Have It Does Not Subject One to Judgment
    Proposition 11: The Expulsion of the Canaanites from the Land in the Conquest Cannot Be Evaluated by Comparison to the Expulsion of the Israelites from the Land in the Exile Because Israel Is Under the Covenant and the Canaanites Are Not
    Part IV: The Language and Imagery of the Conquest Account Has Literary and Theological Significance
    Proposition 12: The Depiction of the Canaanites in Leviticus and Deuteronomy Is a Sophisticated Appropriation of a Common Ancient Near Eastern Literary Device, Not an Indictment
    Excursus: The Invincible Barbarians and the Rephaim
    Proposition 13: Behaviors That Are Described as Detestable Are Intended to Contrast with Ideal Behavior Under the Israelite Covenant, Not to Convict the People Who Did Them of Crimes
    Proposition 14: The Imagery of the Conquest Account Recapitulates Creation
    Part V: What God and the Israelites Are Doing Is Often Misunderstood Because the Hebrew Word Herem Is Commonly Mistranslated
    Proposition 15: Herem Does Not Mean "Utterly Destroy"
    Excursus: Hyperbole in Conquest Accounts
    Proposition 16: Herem Against Communities Focuses on Destroying Identity, Not Killing People of Certain Ethnicities
    Excursus: What Is Happening in Deuteronomy 7
    Proposition 17: The Wars of Israelite Conquest Were Fought in the Same Manner as All Ancient Wars
    Proposition 18: Rahab and the Gibeonites Are Not Exceptions to the Herem, and the Use of Herem Against the Amalekites Does Not Indicate That Herem Is Punishment
    Excursus: Ḥerem and the Removal of Impurity
    Proposition 19: The Logic of the Herem Event of the Conquest Operates in the Context of Israel's Vassal Treaty
    Part VI: How to Apply This Understanding
    Proposition 20: The Old Testament, Including the Conquest Account, Provides a Template for Interpreting the New Testament, Which in Turn Gives Insight into God's Purposes for Us Today
    Proposition 21: The Application...

Reviews-
  • James Matichuk, Bible Study Magazine, Jan/Feb 2018 "The Waltons have a provocative thesis that revises many popular and traditional views. They are attentive students of the Bible and its ancient context, and their argument is detailed. Bible readers who have wrestled with the implications of the conquest will find this work helpful."
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The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest: Covenant, Retribution, and the Fate of the Canaanites
The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest: Covenant, Retribution, and the Fate of the Canaanites
John H. Walton
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