Review: The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest

61e0CA1aLgLThe newest volume in The Lost World series looks to reconcile the long-felt difficulty of the Israelite conquests with the ancient Near Eastern world. The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest: Covenant, Retribution, and the Fate of the Canaanites by John H. Walton and J. Harvey Walton offers readers a captivating exploration that takes the Hebrew Bible seriously in its ancient cultural context and establishes a fresh pair of interpretive lenses for investigating the many important issues involved.

The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest “helps [readers] to transcend the shackles of our modern worldview and traditional readings to recapture the text as it would have been understood by the original author and audience” (p. xi). The book contains twenty-one individual prepositions across six major parts: (1) Interpretation, (2) The Canaanites are Not Depicted as Guilty of Sin, (3) The Canaanites are Not Depicted as Guilty of Breaking God’s Law, (4) The Language and Imagery of the Conquest Account has Literary and Theological Significance, (5) What God and the Israelites are Doing is Often Misunderstood because the Hebrew Word Herem is Commonly Mistranslated, and (6) How to Apply This Understanding. Keen readers who are familiar with Walton’s work in the series will be able to determine the trajectory of the book’s claim by following the titles of each major part (above).

The entire book is fascinating. It is unlike any other (seriously) exploration of the conquest narrative that I have ever read. Moreover, the preposition-driven organization of the book makes it extremely easy to navigate knowing what I was going to be reading. Like other books in The Lost World series, there will be some (possibly a lot) therein that the reader will not appreciate concerning the case that Walton and Walton have presented. It’s not traditional by any stretch, and for most that should be fine. Walton and Walton have done a tremendous job building their case and bringing the reader to an appropriate place of application. If the reader disagrees with the conclusion here and there, I can guarantee those same readers will still appreciate the amount of detailed work put into this volume. Without giving away the ending, The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest will make you think long and hard about the conquest narrative, and possibly even do a bit of reconsideration in areas you may not even have known needed reconsideration.

The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest: Covenant, Retribution, and the Fate of the Canaanites by John H. Walton and J. Harvey Walton accomplishes exactly what it set out to accomplish. It will make you think about how deeply-seated our modern worldview and traditional readings are to our understanding of the Bible. I don’t think that Walton and Walton have done much to solve the theological tension of the Israelite conquest narratives, but they have certainly offered readers a plausible explanation to an age-old conundrum. If you have read any of the books from The Lost World series, then I likely don’t need to encourage you to grab The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest. Everyone else? Do yourself a favor and start reading this book right away. It will get you thinking about the topic in ways like never before. It comes highly recommended!

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