A Comprehensive List of Contradictions in the Bible, identified verse by verse and explained using the most up-to-date scholarly information about the Bible, its texts, and the men who wrote them.

#308. Is it on account of Yahweh’s indignation toward Moses and thus his refused to let him enter the promised land that Joshua is selected as his successor OR is it because Joshua was faithful during the spying of the land incident? (Deut 1:34-38; 3:26-28 vs Num 14:30, 38; 27:15-21)

I concluded yesterday’s contradiction (#307) with this thought:

Finally, the author of Deuteronomy also informs us that Joshua was selected in Moses’ stead precisely because Moses too was not allowed to enter the promised land.

The surprising thing here, is that if we look at the Deuteronomic tradition on its own terms, nowhere does it inform us that Joshua was granted access to the promised land because of his faith in the spying of the land incident as Caleb was. Rather, in this tradition, he was granted entry into the promised land because Moses was denied entry and he was Moses’ stand-in successor!

Look how the author of Deuteronomy has Moses renarrate this event.

And Yahweh heard the sound of your words and was angry and swore: “Not a man among these people, this evil generation, will see the good land that I swore to give to your fathers—except Caleb son of Jephunneh! He will see it, and I shall give the land on which he traversed to him and his children because he went after Yahweh fully.” (Deut 1:34-36)

The text specifically and only singles out Caleb! Indeed, the text mentions Joshua in the following verse, but not in connection to the spying of the land incident nor in a similar context as Caleb.

Yahweh was incensed at me also because of you, saying: “You too shall not come there. Joshua son of Nun, who is standing in front of you, he shall come there. Strengthen him because he shall get Israel its legacy.” (Deut 1:37-38)

Thus if we ask the text, why was Joshua from the 1st generation of Israelites also permitted to enter Canaan, our reply would be because Moses was disqualified and he is Moses’ stand-in.

Now if we were to flip back to the Priestly version of the spy story, and only P’s version, we would see that in this tradition, of the 603,550 males of the 1st generation only Caleb and Joshua were both granted access to the promised land specifically because of their faith in Yahweh (Num 14:6-9, 26-38).

As discussed in earlier contradictions (#238-240), the original Yahwist version of this story—now stitched together with the P version in Numbers 13-14—only mentioned Caleb as sole survivor and sole faithful (Num 14:24). It is quite possible that the Deuteronomist has followed the earlier Yahwist tradition in expressing “except Caleb.” However, other earlier traditions, E for example, had already told stories about Joshua as Moses’ successor who will lead the Israelites into Canaan. It looks then like both the 7th century tradition of the Deuteronomist and the 6th century tradition of the Priestly writer attempted to bring these two traditions together by acknowledging Joshua’s survival. P accounted him with Caleb as the two sole faithful 1st generation Israelites, while D accredits his survival to the fact that he was Moses’ successor by tradition.

This can be seen by looking closely to the contextual occasions that Joshua is spoken of in the Deuteronomic tradition. Whenever the Deuteronomist mentions Joshua, he also mentions Moses’ disqualification in connection with this. We already saw that in the citation above, whose organizational structure might be noted as:

  1. None of the Israelites shall cross over ——— except Caleb for his faithfulness
  2. Neither shall Moses cross over ——— Joshua will lead in his stead

These same two themes are also mentioned together in Deut 3:26-28.

But Yahweh was incensed toward me on account of you . . . “You won’t crossover this Jordan. Command Joshua . . . because he will crossover in front of this people.”

Thus it would appear that, given the earlier Elohist tradition relating how Joshua led the Israelites into Canaan in Moses’ stead and the Yahwist tradition relating how Caleb was the sole faithful of Yahweh, both P and D attempted to answer questions left behind by these traditions.

Well, why wasn’t Moses allowed to enter Canaan in the first place? How exactly did Joshua survive the extermination of all 1st generation Israelites except Caleb?

It would seem therefore that D and P gave different and contradictory answers to these questions.

D claims that Joshua survived because of his election as Moses’ successor when Moses was disqualified, which not coincidentally happens during the spying of the land incident early in the wilderness campaign, since apparently Moses bore the people’s sin in this incident. So Joshua gets elected specifically because Moses was refused entry.

P claims that Joshua survived because he had been faithful like Caleb in the scouting of the land incident. And Moses gets disqualified, not because he bears the sins of the people, but due to a sin of his own doing, his lack of faith in the waters of Meribah incident (#266), and it is only at the end of the wilderness period (#307) that Joshua is elected to continue in Moses’ stead, because that is what tradition already dictated.

About Me & This Website

I am a biblical scholar and historian of the early Christian period. But over the past 5 years I have become increasingly interested in the compositional history of the Hebrew Bible, especially the Pentateuch. In January 2013 I started posting 1 contradiction a day, with the aim of working through the entire Bible. Read more . . .

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