Richard S. Hess, «The Book of Joshua as a Land Grant», Vol. 83 (2002) 493-506
Despite a variety of attempted identifications of the book of Joshua, or portions of it, with other ancient Near Eastern legal documents, the form of the royal land grant remains the closest of those studied in terms of structure and content. In particular, the form of this type of document, as illustrated in the archive of the Middle Bronze Age site of Alalakh, provides an important and useful set of parallels with those found in the sixth book of the Bible. The essay considers the strengths and weaknesses of identifying the book of Joshua in this manner, as well as its implications for the interpretation of the book. In addition, the origin of these documents in the West Semitic world invites consideration of a specific genre or literary type that flourished in those cultures and perhaps provided a link for related documents in the Mesopotamian and Mediterranean worlds.
I. Treaties and Land Grants
The tradition of comparing suzerain-vassal treaties has a long history in analyzing the forms of various biblical texts1. It may seem to provide a means of access to understanding the structure and purpose of the book of Joshua. Some treaties include boundary lists within a larger context of historical circumstances and agreements between parties, similar to the boundary lists in Joshua 13–19. They provide a background both for the covenant making reports of 8,30-35 and chap. 24, as well as assistance in understanding the form of the latter. However, as will be argued, it is not vassal treaties in general, nor even those that occur with boundary inscriptions, but agreements in the form of land grants that provide the most productive basis for comparison with the biblical form of the book of Joshua2. Such grants are found throughout the ancient Near East in Hittite, Ugaritic, and Akkadian. Although they have been used as sources for comparisons with biblical covenants of Abraham and David, their