The books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings are often referred to as the Historical Books. According to Richard D. Nelson (who will be advising us for this segment of the journey), the Historical Books tell the story of Israel’s history in the land. This story begins with the invasion of Canaan (the first chapters of Joshua) and ends with the exile of the people of Judah from their land (the last chapters of 2 Kings).
But even calling these books ‘historical’ requires some careful context. Nelson suggestions three ways that these books differ from history as we presently understand it:
1) In contrast to modern history writing, the writing of these books was more of a corporate enterprise than an individual achievement… in other words, it was a group effort.
2) Unlike modern historians, these authors never seem to evaluate or weigh their sources… in other words, the operative principle for including certain data/facts seems to have been to include whatever information supported the theological point being made.
3) The system of causation operative in the Old Testament is centered on God and God’s will. Authors sought to persuade their readers to think a certain way about themselves and their relationship to God… in other words, cause and effect were understood very differently in ancient times.
So, we’re reading history, but a different kind of history. In other words, “even history writing that is thoroughly biased and largely wrong is not the same thing as fiction.”
Does that make your brain hurt?