Joshua. By David M. Howard, Jr. New American Commentary 5. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1998, 464 pp., $29.99.
In this careful, thorough, and lucid exposition of the book of Joshua, David Howard, Professor of OT at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, has made a solid contribution to the study of this important book. The commentary clearly reflects the intent of the New American Commentary series to focus on theological and exegetical concerns of the Biblical text, along with discussion of issues raised in contemporary Biblical scholarship, and to do so from the starting assumption of the inerrancy of Scripture.
The arrangement of the commentary includes an introduction and four sections of commentary: I. Preparations for Inheriting the Land (1:1-5:15); II. Inheriting the Land (6:1-12:24); III. Apportioning the Land (13:1-21:45); and IV. Farewells (22:1-24:33). Each of these sections is concluded with some "Theological Reflections" that elucidate and expound the theological implications and overtones of the preceding historical narratives in useful and suggestive ways. Scattered throughout the book are nine excursuses that deal with interpretive issues (often of a controversial nature, but important for understanding the book of Joshua) in a more detailed fashion than could properly be done in a running commentary format. These include: (1) The Giving of the Land in Joshua; (2) Rahab's Lie; (3) The Identity of the Angel of the Lord; (4) The Archaeology of Jericho and Ai; (5) Destruction and Devoted Things in Joshua; (6) Identifying Geographical Entities; (7) Israel's Inheritance of the Land in Joshua; (8) Patterns in the Land Distribution Lists; (9) Etiology in Joshua. The analysis and documentation provided on each of these topics give the reader both competent guidance in interpretation and identification of significant resources for further study.
In his introduction, Howard engages foundational matters, most of which are also topics of long-standing debate, and here, as well, the reader will find well-documented and carefully reasoned discussions. Howard opts for a modified conquest model over the settlement, revolt or evolutionary models for the taking of the land of Canaan. He favors an early date for the exodus (mid-fifteenth century ac), and rejects the Nothian "Deuteronomistic History" hypothesis for dating the book. Howard's own conclusion on authorship is that portions of the book were written in Joshua's day, and that it was "substantially complete by the time of David at the latest" (p. 30). Howard also gives a good overview of the "maximalist-minimalist" controversy concerning the reliability of the historical narratives of the OT. He concludes that minimalist approaches suffer in that they are not only "profoundly antibiblical in most respects, but they also founder methodologically in the ways in which they use and interpret the evidence, both biblical and extrabiblical" (p. 45).
The real strength of Howard's commentary, however, lies in its detailed exposition of the meaning of the original Hebrew text. In his expositions, Howard regularly incorporates competent and instructive discussions of, among other things, the following: (1) Hebrew word meanings, usage, and morphology (e.g. use of raq, p. 95, nn. 92, 93; use of 'az, p. 238, nn. 191, 192; paragogic nun, p. 124, n. 192); (2) notes on syntax and discourse structure that highlight linguistic connections often obscured or lost in English translation (e.g. function of hinneh, p. 156, n. 284; disjunctive, circumstantial clause construction, to show that 7:11-13 is a flashback, expanding 7:3-9, p. 200; comments on verb forms, p. 225, n. 163; (3) occasional objections to NIV renderings of the original Hebrew, which often reflect a very different understanding of the text (e.g. p. 200, n. 104; p. 237, n. 187; p. 240 on 10:12; p. 409 on 22:18; and (4) rejection of hypothetical reconstructions of the growth of the present text by means of identifying supposed sources and redactional layers (e. …