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.
isolated as a separate document6. Knoppers critiques the connection between royal land grants and the biblical promises to Abram and David7. He notes that, unlike the treaties, there are neither structures or terms distinctive to ancient Near Eastern royal grants. They are diverse in their form and phrases. Not only are the terms and language irregular in the grants themselves; they are found in texts that are not royal grants. He also observes that the apparent unconditionality of the biblical promises does not always occur in the ancient Near Eastern royal grants. In particular, texts from the West Semitic worlds of Alalakh and Ugarit often attach various demands of loyalty to their grants of land. Yet these might be expected to serve as the models for the West Semitic "grants" to Abram and David.
II. AT 456
Even the grants from the West Semitic world of Alalakh and Ugarit must be distinguished. Those from Ugarit represent deeds in which the king provides gifts of lands within the city-state to loyal subjects for services rendered. They remain part of the lands of Ugarit and are thus understood as a kind of property exchange, in which the land becomes available for use by the loyal servant. However, one Middle Bronze Age text from Alalakh is exceptional in that its largely preserved text details the gift from one king to another (although a vassal) of a city and its villages and lands in exchange for loyal services rendered in a recent battle. AT 456 is a unique West Semitic cuneiform document that allows the reader to glimpse the literary form of a royal land grant enacted on the scale of an entire city state.
In light of these considerations, we may consider the question of the book of Joshua as a land grant. The book of Joshua has been a source of discussion regarding its form and structure 8. However,