I recently received a question about the books of Joshua and Judges: when were they written? They are fascinating books — flat out GREAT stories in them — and need to be placed in the historical context of their author to be understood. But when was that, and what ideas were guiding his narrative?
I discuss such issues in my textbook The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction, right after my coverage of the Pentateuch. Here is what I say there.
As we move now beyond the Pentateuch, we come to another collection of historical writings in the Hebrew Bible. Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings are usually thought of and treated as a group of books, probably all written by the same author (or group of authors). These books narrate the life of Israel once it comes to the Promised Land, as it conquers the peoples already dwelling there, divides up the land, lives in the land as a group of tribes, comes to be ruled by kings, and eventually is defeated by other foreign powers and removed from the land. In the Tanakh these books are considered the “Former Prophets”; modern scholars have preferred calling them the Deuteronomistic History, as they record the history of ancient Israel between the entry to the land and the exile in terms highly reminiscent of, and probably dependent on, the religious views set forth in the older D source that makes up the book of Deuteronomy.
The Deuteronomistic History
The six books of the Deuteronomistic History (just four books in the Hebrew Bible, as 1 and 2 Samuel are counted as one book, as are 1 and 2 Kings), cover a large span of time, nearly 600 years. These six centuries can be…