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.
|38. ù URU mu-ra-arKI e-li zi-i[t-ti-s\u]||
The town of Murar, in addition to
I will add to it."
The mention of the allocation of these cities to Yarimlim forms the next part of AT 456. Thus lines 31-39a resemble the allotments of Joshua 13–21. Although they are much more detailed in the biblical text, they nevertheless form a parallel element. Both texts name specific places as a gift that the chief leader who has won the battle gives to the loyal ally. While it is true that some of the texts in Joshua 13–21 preserve boundary descriptions, these are clearly not the only texts in these chapters. They do not occur for every tribe nor are they always complete when they do occur18. There is therefore a larger context to the boundary descriptions and town lists than marking specific boundaries for the inheritances of the various tribes. That context is best understood in terms of a land grant document such as AT 456. This document does not necessarily preserve specific boundaries, but is concerned to list the towns that are given to the recipient. The same is true of the towns listed in Joshua. In virtually every case both the town lists and the boundary descriptions utilize population centers in assigning allotments.
Although the biblical lists provide names of actual places and may have served juridical purposes at some time in Israel’s history, they are not composed without regard to literary structure. The comprehensive and precise form of the first allotment named west of the Jordan River, that of Judah in Joshua 15, contrasts with the less well structured and sketchier allotment descriptions of the tribes as one moves further along in the chapters (Joshua 16–19) and proceeds north in the geography. This has led to various observations about the priority of Judah and the implicit criticism of the northern tribes19.
There may also be conscious literary formation at work in the parallel section of the land grant of Alalakh. Only Alalakh and Murar are given to Yarimlim. Although Alalakh is depicted as Yarimlim’s share (zi-i[t-ti-s\u]), Murar is a gracious, additional gift to the loyal brother. This is suggested by the final word in the Abbael’s promise, ú-ri-id-di-s\u, "I shall add it." It is perhaps more than coincidental that the