Let me take a moment before continuing this rebuttal of Paul Copan’s solution to the Canaanite problem in order to let you know that I am not condemning Mr. Copan as a person. I think very highly of Mr. Copan. I appreciate his character and the work that he has done for the Lord, and he is much better at one-liners than I could ever hope to be. I simply think that he is mistaken in his approach this particular issue. Having said that, let me continue to address this mistake.
As I mentioned in the previous article, Mr. Copan’s error seems to stem from a lack of consideration of the context of his proof texts. In particular, I mentioned the possibility that relatives of the people whom Joshua slew may have reclaimed the cities which Israel had left abandoned. I suggested that Mr. Copan failed to consider this possibility because he neglected to consider the implications of the contextual clues. Now, I am certain that, at this point, some of you are thinking that the hypothetical situation which I mentioned in the previous article was a bit far-fetched, but let’s take a look at what the context tells us about the chronology of the events at the end of Joshua.
Mr. Copan’s claim that Joshua was using “ancient Near Eastern hyperbole” rests on a comparison between the first half of the book of Joshua against the second half of that book. In the first half, we read about Joshua’s military campaign against the inhabitants of the land of Canaan, and we discover statements like the one found in Joshua 11:21-22 that Joshua destroyed all the Anakim in the mountains of Judah. Then, as Mr. Copan points out, when we come to the latter half of the book of Joshua, we find that Caleb still has to drive out the Anakim on Mount Hebron. The solution which I offered in the previous article was that there was a long period of time between these two events.
We can see this if we recognize that the last half of the book of Joshua is not written in any specific chronological order. This portion of the book is not a narrative of battles and troop movements like the previous portion, and the writing style changes accordingly. For example, immediately after reading about Joshua destroying the Anakim in chapter 11, we find chapter 12 giving an account of Moses defeating Og, the king of Bashan. Then, chapter 13 jumps forward to a time when Joshua was “old and stricken in years.” All throughout the latter portion of the book, there are frequent jumps both forward and backwards in the chronology as the author reviews what has been accomplished and lays out the plan for Israel’s future.
In the midst of all this jumbled up chronology, we find three different accounts of the Anakim being driven from the mountains of Israel. The first is found in Joshua 11:21-22. The second is found in Joshua 14:6-15, and the third can be seen in Joshua 15:13-19. In Joshua 21:11, the Anakim are mentioned again in passing when we are told that the Israelites gave the city of Kirjath-Arba (or Hebron as it was named by the Jews) to the Levites. But then, when we come to the book of Judges, we are met in the very first chapter with yet another account of the Anakim being driven from the mountains of Israel. Thus, there are three accounts of the Anakim being defeated in Joshua and a fourth account of them being defeated in the book of Judges. Are we to assume that these are four separate accounts? Not at all. This is simply an indication of the fact that this portion of Scripture was not written in chronological order.
When we take the time to read through the latter half of Joshua and the first few chapters of Judges, we can see that there were probably two occasions in which the Anakim were defeated in the mountains. The first occurred during Joshua’s initial campaign, and it is recorded in Joshua 11:21-22. All of the other accounts of the Anakim being defeated are references to Caleb’s victory in Kirjath-Arba which was then renamed as Hebron. The chronology of these two events is difficult to determine unless we read all of the accounts, but once we take all of the information into consideration, the following sequence emerges:
According to this chronology, there was a period of 25 to 30 years from the time that Joshua initially drove the Anakim out of the mountains of Canaan to the time that Caleb actually took possession of the city of Kirjath-Arba. This gap between the two battles increases the likelihood that the scenario presented in the previous article is correct. It is at least possible and perhaps even probable that some of the Anakim who were left alive in Gaza, Gath and Ashdod at the end of Joshua’s campaign traveled from those cities and reclaimed the city of Kirjath-Arba at some point during the 30 years that it was not possessed by the Israelites. Then, when Caleb finally returned to take the city as his own, he would have had to fight the Anakim once again before he could claim it.
Click here to read part 3.
Bill Fortenberry is a Christian philosopher and historian in Birmingham, AL. Bill's work has been cited in several legal journals, and he has appeared as a guest on shows including The Dr. Gina Show, The Michael Hart Show, and Real Science Radio.
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