When was the book of Joshua written?

The book of Joshua records the events after entering the promised land. Here, we will discuss when this book of Joshua was compiled and written down as the single book we have today.

After Jerusalem’s first siege (after 1399 BC)

Josh 15:63 As for the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Judah could not drive them out; but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Judah at Jerusalem to this day.

Josh 18:28 Zelah, Eleph, Jebus (which is Jerusalem), Gibeath, and Kirjath: fourteen cities with their villages. This was the inheritance of the children of Benjamin according to their families.

The verse at chapter 15:63 in the book of Joshua cannot have possibly written only if the children of Judah were living in Jerusalem after it had been captured for it was never their territory to begin with. This very clearly suggests that the author is well aware of children of Judah capturing Jerusalem.

Judg 1:8 Now the children of Judah fought against Jerusalem and took it; they struck it with the edge of the sword and set the city on fire.

However, it is worth noting that the author of Joshua is referring the first siege of Jerusalem by Judah and not the second siege by king David. The first siege of Jerusalem happened after the death of Joshua. The book of Joshua itself contains the death of Joshua. Hence, the book was written after the death of Joshua i.e., after 1399 BC.

 

Masoretic vs LXX: Canaanites killed in Gezer (after 1032 BC)

Josh 16:10 And they did not drive out the Canaanites who dwelt in Gezer; but the Canaanites dwell among the Ephraimites to this day and have become forced laborers.

1 Kgs 9:16-17 (Pharaoh king of Egypt had gone up and taken Gezer and burned it with fire, had killed the Canaanites who dwelt in the city, and had given it as a dowry to his daughter, Solomon’s wife.) And Solomon built Gezer, Lower Beth Horon,

At first glance, it seems the book of Joshua was written when Canaanites dwelt among the Ephraimites in Gezer. During the reign of king Solomon, the Canaanites who dwelt in Gezer were killed by Pharaoh king of Egypt. This means, we may tend to conclude that the book of Joshua must have been written before the marriage of king Solomon to Pharaoh’s daughter.

Josh 16:10 And Ephraim did not destroy the Chananite who dwelt in Gazer; and the Chananite dwelt in Ephraim until this day, until Pharao the king of Egypt went up and took it, and burnt it with fire; and the Chananites, and Pherezites, and the dwellers in Gaza they destroyed, and Pharao gave them for a dowry to his daughter. (LXXE)

However, reading the same passage in Septuagint, it even mentions the event of Pharaoh king of Egypt destroying Canaanites who dwelt in Gezer and giving it as a dowry to king Solomon. This means, the book of Joshua must have been written after 1032 BC, that is, after the marriage of king Solomon to Pharaoh’s daughter.

After Cabul was named (after 1028 BC)

Josh 19:27 It turned toward the sunrise to Beth Dagon; and it reached to Zebulun and to the Valley of Jiphthah El, then northward beyond Beth Emek and Neiel, bypassing Cabul which was on the left

1Kgs 9:13 So he said, “What kind of cities are these which you have given me, my brother?” And he called them the land of Cabul, as they are to this day.

Twenty cities in the land of Galilee was called Cabul by Hiram the king of Tyre. Joshua might have not possibily known the region of Cabul. Hence, the book of Joshua was written after Solomon’s Temple was built which is after 1028 BC.

After Joktheel was named (after 850 BC)

Josh 15:20-22 This was the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Judah according to their families: The cities at the limits of the tribe of the children of Judah, toward the border of Edom in the South, were Kabzeel, Eder, Jagur,   …. (38) Dilean, Mizpah, Joktheel,

2Kgs 14:1-3 In the second year of Joash the son of Jehoahaz, king of Israel, Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, became king. He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jehoaddan of Jerusalem. And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, yet not like his father David; he did everything as his father Joash had done. …. (7) He killed ten thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt, and took Sela by war, and called its name Joktheel to this day.

Joktheel is one of the cities mentioned to be in the border of Edom from the book of Joshua. Amaziah became king at 850 BC who conquered Sela by war with Edom and called it Joktheel. Joshua may not have possibly known the city of Sela by the name of Joktheel on the border of Edom. Hence, the book of Joshua was written after Amaziah became king, which is after 850 BC.

Josh 15:28 Hazar Shual, Beersheba, Bizjothjah,

The other way to verify is to check other names. For e.g., Bizjothjah means contempts of Yah, which cannot be the original name of city in Canaan when Joshua conquered or divided, but rather a later name by Israelites after they rebuilt and dwelt there.

Ai no longer a desolation (before 626 BC)

Josh 8:28 So Joshua burned Ai and made it a heap forever, a desolation to this day.

Jer 49:3 “Wail, O Heshbon, for Ai is plundered! Cry, you daughters of Rabbah, Gird yourselves with sackcloth! Lament and run to and fro by the walls; For Milcom shall go into captivity With his priests and his princes together.

Ezra 2:1 Now these are the people of the province who came back from the captivity, of those who had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away to Babylon, and who returned to Jerusalem and Judah, everyone to his own city. …. (28) the men of Bethel and Ai, two hundred and twenty-three;

According to prophet Jeremiah, Ai became a territory of Ammon and God is giving prophecies regarding Ai being plundered. Jeremiah started his ministry from 626 BC and clearly suggests that Ai was no longer a heap of ruins. This is backed by what we read in Ezra that Ai was not a heap of ruins even before the exile since people returned to their own city and Ai was one of them.

Valley of Achor (before 740 BC)

Josh 7:26 Then they raised over him a great heap of stones, still there to this day. So the LORD turned from the fierceness of His anger. Therefore the name of that place has been called the Valley of Achor to this day.

Isa 65:10 Sharon shall be a fold of flocks, And the Valley of Achor a place for herds to lie down, For My people who have sought Me.

Hos 2:15 I will give her her vineyards from there, And the Valley of Achor as a door of hope; She shall sing there, As in the days of her youth, As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.

The valley of Achor was named because of an event recorded in the book of Judges. The name for that location recorded in later prophets suggests that the book of Joshua must have been written earlier than these prophets who mentioned it. Isaiah lived between 740 – 686 BC and Hosea lived around ~730 BC. Hence, the book of Joshua must have been written prior to 740 BC.

Curse of Jericho (before 930 BC)

Josh 6:26 Then Joshua charged them at that time, saying, “Cursed be the man before the LORD who rises up and builds this city Jericho; he shall lay its foundation with his firstborn, and with his youngest he shall set up its gates.”

1 Kgs 16:33-34 And Ahab made a wooden image. Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him. In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation with Abiram his firstborn, and with his youngest son Segub he set up its gates, according to the word of the LORD, which He had spoken through Joshua the son of Nun.

The curse of Joshua on Jericho and it’s apparent fulfilment in the days of king Ahab, suggests that the book of Joshua may have been written before 930 BC.

Oath to Gibeonites (after 1065 BC)

Josh 9:15 So Joshua made peace with them, and made a covenant with them to let them live; and the rulers of the congregation swore to them.

2Sam 21:3 Therefore David said to the Gibeonites, “What shall I do for you? And with what shall I make atonement, that you may bless the inheritance of the LORD?”

Josh 9:27 And that day Joshua made them woodcutters and water carriers for the congregation and for the altar of the LORD, in the place which He would choose, even to this day.

Similar to the curse of Jericho, the oath mentioned the book of Joshua and it’s usage in 2nd Samuel suggests that the book of Joshua existing prior to 1065 BC. However, the author hints the knowledge of Gibeonites working as woodcutters and water carriers in the place that God would choose which is Jerusalem. Hence, the book of Joshua was written after 1065 BC.

Prior to the book of Judges (before 1075 BC)

Based on our earlier study, When was the book of Judges written? 1075 BC the book of Judges was written sometime around 1075 BC. The book of Judges contains a lot of reference about Joshua in the first 2 chapters, clearly suggests that the book of Joshua preexisting 1075 BC.

After the book of Genesis (after 1060 BC)

Gen 33:18-19 Then Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padan Aram; and he pitched his tent before the city. And he bought the parcel of land, where he had pitched his tent, from the children of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for one hundred pieces of money.

Josh 24:32 The bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel had brought up out of Egypt, they buried at Shechem, in the plot of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of silver, and which had become an inheritance of the children of Joseph.

Based on Jacob’s purchase of the land which is from Genesis, we can infer that the book of Joshua must be after the book of Genesis, i.e., after 1060 BC.

Investigation

There were several dates we arrived based on several Scripture verses within the book of Joshua itself. It can be broadly divided into two sections.

Original document (before 1075 BC)

  • Prior to the book of Judges (before 1075 BC)
  • Curse of Jericho (before 930 BC)
  • Valley of Achor (before 740 BC)

Later Revisions (850 BC – 625 BC)

  • After Jerusalem’s first siege (after 1399 BC)
  • Oath to Gibeonites (after 1065 BC)
  • After the book of Genesis (after 1060 BC)
  • Masoretic vs LXX: Canaanites killed in Gezer (after 1032 BC)
  • After Cabul was named (after 1028 BC)
  • After Joktheel was named (after 850 BC)
  • Ai no longer a desolation (before 626 BC)

The book of Joshua was either an older document or compiled from an older document written prior to 1075 BC which got continually revised and additional information added based on events with last noticeable revision after 850 BC. Hence, we can confidently place the book of Joshua prior to the book of Judges in 1075 BC and last revision after 850 BC.