Understanding Inconsistencies in Book of Joshua

God very clearly mentioned in His law that only the person who is guilty must be put to death for his own sin.

Deut 24:16 “Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall children be put to death for their fathers; a person shall be put to death for his own sin.

Neither the fathers for son’s sins nor the sons for the father’s sins.

Achan and His Family Stoned to Death. 1

To give a background, Achan sinned by hiding a Babylonian garment in his tent which caused Israel a terrible defeat from Ai.

Joshua spilled innocent blood

Josh 7:24-25 Then Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the garment, the wedge of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent, and all that he had, and they brought them to the Valley of Achor. And Joshua said, “Why have you troubled us? The LORD will trouble you this day.” So all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones.

When the sin was known, Joshua and all Israel, not only stoned and killed Achan but also burnt his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys and his sheep. This is a terrible sin.

Josh 22:20 ‘Did not Achan the son of Zerah commit a trespass in the accursed thing, and wrath fell on all the congregation of Israel? And that man did not perish alone in his iniquity.’ ”

This was later confirmed by Joshua.

Book of Joshua is not a single book

The book of Joshua is generally divided into the following sections:

  • God’s commission to Joshua (chapter 1)
  • Entry into the land and conquest (chapters 2–12)
  • Division of the land (chapters 13–22)
  • Joshua’s farewell speeches (chapters 23–24)

Josh 13:1-6 Now Joshua was old, advanced in years. And the LORD said to him: “You are old, advanced in years, and there remains very much land yet to be possessed. This is the land that yet remains: all the territory of the Philistines and all that of the Geshurites, from Sihor, which is east of Egypt, as far as the border of Ekron northward (which is counted as Canaanite); the five lords of the Philistines–the Gazites, the Ashdodites, the Ashkelonites, the Gittites, and the Ekronites; also the Avites; from the south, all the land of the Canaanites, and Mearah that belongs to the Sidonians as far as Aphek, to the border of the Amorites; the land of the Gebalites, and all Lebanon, toward the sunrise, from Baal Gad below Mount Hermon as far as the entrance to Hamath; all the inhabitants of the mountains from Lebanon as far as the Brook Misrephoth, and all the Sidonians–them I will drive out from before the children of Israel; only divide it by lot to Israel as an inheritance, as I have commanded you.

In the above passage from the division of the land, Joshua did not take all the land of Israel. God says, there remains much land yet to be possessed.

Josh 11:16 Thus Joshua took all this land: the mountain country, all the South, all the land of Goshen, the lowland, and the Jordan plain–the mountains of Israel and its lowlands, ….(21-23) And at that time Joshua came and cut off the Anakim from the mountains: from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab, from all the mountains of Judah, and from all the mountains of Israel; Joshua utterly destroyed them with their cities. None of the Anakim were left in the land of the children of Israel; they remained only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod. So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD had said to Moses; and Joshua gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. Then the land rested from war.

However, in chapter 11 from entry into the land and conquest, we find Joshua taking the whole land and the description of the conquest does not fit what is mentioned in chapter 13. This shows that the division of the land from chapters 13 to 22 were written by a different scribe from a different period of time, written independently of the earlier section, entry into the land and conquest from chapters 2 to 12. This was later combined into one book, probably during the reign of king Solomon.

Conclusion

Based on internal Scriptural evidence, entry into the land and conquest (chapters 2–12) is inconsistent with Division of the land (chapters 13–22) on the details. There can be many plausible explanations for these inconsistencies but it seems multiple sections of the book of Joshua were written by multiple scribes in different periods of time based on eyewitness accounts recollected much later.


1 The Jewish Museum. “Achan and His Family Stoned to Death.” The Jewish Museum, http://thejewishmuseum.org/collection/26414-achan-and-his-family-stoned-to-death. Accessed 1 Oct. 2017.