Section 4: Foundation of Israel -- Joshua through Ruth
The next Biblical unit following the Pentateuch consists of the three books of Joshua, Judges and Ruth. These cover a period of approximately 350 years, from 1400 to 1050 BC. Syria and Palestine were a buffer zone between the great powers of the Hittites in the north and Egypt in the south.1 After the death of Moses, Joshua led Israel in the conquest and settlement of Canaan. Joshua is the book of Implementation -- the third stage of the God's work in birthing a new nation. Having delivered Israel from Egypt, and given them an identity at Sinai as His people, "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation," He then fulfilled the promise made to Abraham 400 years earlier, that his descendants would have their own land. The Book of Joshua is the enactment of the plan revealed in the Pentateuch. "The race, the nation and the land were to be brought together" (Joshua and the Flow of Biblical History, Francis Schaeffer, pp. 19-20).
Much of the contents of Joshua and Judges is the account of battles between Israel and her many enemies. However, God's plan to eradicate the original inhabitants of the land fell short of realization, and an uneasy coexistence developed. Israel quickly adopted many of the local customs and religious practices. Consequently, God allowed them to be defeated by their enemies and come into temporary subjection to them.
This was a chaotic time, as Israel invaded Canaan, divided the land among the tribes, expanded her borders, and settled in. Not all conflict was external -- the tribes were quick to take up arms against each other. In fact, the Israelites sometimes seemed more eager to slaughter each other than their foes -- for example, the near extermination of Benjamin.
God continued His active intervention in history through miracles: sending fear into the hearts of Israel's enemies (Josh 2:9), stopping the flood waters of the Jordan (Josh 3:14-17), causing the walls of Jericho to collapse (Josh 6:20), pounding the Canaanites with hailstones (Josh 10:11), and prolonging daylight during battle (Josh 10:12-14). God was present even when His intervention wasn't obviously miraculous. As Joshua reminded the people, in all their victories against the Canaanites,
"it was the Lord your God who fought for you" (Josh 23:3-5).
There is not much new racial teaching in Joshua and Judges. Rather, the longstanding sentence of God upon the Canaanites was carried out, though inconsistently by Israel. Very quickly the appointed avengers became corrupted by the nations they were supplanting in the land. However, there were a couple of events in Joshua that were of major importance in the development of the Biblical attitude to race.