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.
form is not fixed (unlike the suzerain-vassal treaties) nor can they be described as unconditional 3.
Thus the understanding of royal land grants does not lie within the larger context of ancient Near Eastern treaties. This appears to be the one point concerning royal grants that has general agreement. Treaties as a whole preserve a fixed structure, whether they occur in the second millennium or first millennium BCE. In all cases the suzerain-vassal treaty begins with a prologue consisting of the self-identification of the suzerain. This is followed at some point by stipulations, by witnesses, and by curses. In the second millennium BCE, the treaties also preserve a historical review after the prologue and a set of blessings after the curses 4. However, there are important differences between treaties and royal grants5. The former protect the rights of the suzerain whereas the latter preserve the rights of the vassal. Thus the treaty’s curses are directed against the rights of the vassal, whereas the curses of the grant are designed for anyone who attempts to violate the vassal’s rights that have been guaranteed by the suzerain.
Having established distinctions between treaties and land grants, however, it is not the case that the royal grants of land can be grouped together as the same type. Nor is it true that they possess any necessary relationship with biblical grants such as that of Genesis 12,1-3 (cf. chaps. 13-22), where Abram is promised land and descendants; and 2 Samuel 7, where a perpetual dynasty is given to David and his descendants. For Kalluveetil, the following differences are significant: loyalty is not a prerequisite in the biblical grants but it is in the royal grants; the ancient Near Eastern royal grants establish a deeding of land with the decree, whereas the biblical grants provide a promise of land and dynasty that awaits fulfillment; the promise to Abram is one that occurs in contexts with other promises and concerns and cannot be