The Levites’ Exclusion from Land Allotment: The Joshua Story in Dialogue with the Joseph Story

  • Hulisani Ramantswana UNISA
Keywords: Levites, Landlessness, Joseph story, Joshua story, Legitimisation

Abstract

In this study an African proverb or saying, Mapfeṋe hu ḽa mahulwane (literally, “The baboons who get to eat are the big ones”), the tenor of which is that the ones who tend to benefit from the system are those in position of power while the rest have to eat the crumbs or nothing at all, is utilized as a lens to engage the issue of the exclusion of the Levites from owning land. Utilizing the proverb of our interrogation as a lens, the Joshua story (especially Jos 14, 16–17) is read in dialogue with the Joseph story. This paper, therefore, argues that the Levites’ loss of land was due to a coup by the Joseph tribes under the leadership of Hoshea (Joshua) son of Nun from the tribe of Ephraim. The Levites’ exclusion from land, thus, reflects the privileging of those in power at the expense of the tribe of Levi, which was relegated to lower class. The paper also engages the current South African political-economic context, in which those in political power enrich themselves by grabbing what they can while they can at the expense of the ordinary citizens.

References

Albertz, Rainer. “The Canonical Alignment of the Book of Joshua.” Pages 287–303 in Judah and Judeans in the Fourth Century B.C.E. Edited by Lipschits, O., Knoppers G. N. and Albertz, R. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2007.

Amit, Yairah. “Narrative Analysis: Meaning, Context, and Origins of Genesis 38.” Pages 271–292 in Method Matters: Essays on the Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Honor of David L. Petersen. Edited by Joel M. LeMon and Kent H. Richards. Atlanta: SBL, 2009.

Baden, Joel S. “Violent Origins of the Levites: Text and Tradition.” Pages 103–116 in Levites and Priests in Biblical History and Tradition. Edited by Mark Leuchter and Jeremy M. Hutton. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2011.

Beetham, David. “Max Weber and the Legitimacy of the Modern State.” Analyse & Kritik 13 (1991): 34–45.

Blum, Erhard. Die Komposition der Vätergeschichte. WMANT 57; Neurkirchen-Vluyn: Neurkirchener Verlag, 1984.

Boorer, Suzanne. The Promise of the Land as Oath: A Key to the Formation of the Pentateuch. BZAW 205; Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1992.

Carr, David M. Reading the Fractures of Genesis: Historical Literary Approaches. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996.

Coats, George. From Canaan to Egypt: Structural and Theological Context for the Joseph Story. CBQMS 4; Washington: Catholic Biblical Association, 1976.

Cook, Stephen L. “Those Stubborn Levites: Overcoming Levitical Disenfranchisement.” Pages 155–170 in Levites and Priests in Biblical History and Tradition. Edited by Mark Leuchter and Jeremy M. Hutton. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2011.

Dozeman, Thomas B. Joshua 1–12: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015.

Farber, Zev. Images of Joshua in the Bible and their Reception. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2016.

Gottwald, Norman K. The Tribes of Yahweh: A Sociology of the Religion of Liberated Israel, 1250–1050 BCE. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999.

Grosfoguel, Ramón. “Epistemic Decolonial Turn.” Cultural Studies 21/2–3 (2007): 211–223. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0950238061162514.

Hepner, Gershon. Legal Friction: Law, Narrative, and Identity Politics in Biblical Israel. New York: Peter Lang, 2010.

Hirsch, Samson R. The Pentateuch Translated and Explained Vol. 1 Genesis. Translated by Esaac Levey. 2nd edition. New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1963.

Humphreys, W. Lee. “A Life-Style for Diaspora: A Study of the Tales of Esther and Daniel.” Journal of Biblical Literature 92 (1973): 211–223.

Japhet, Sara. “Conquest and Settlement in Chronicles.” Journal of Biblical Literature 98/2 (1979): 205–218.

Knight, Douglas A. “Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomist.” Pages 31–46 in Old Testament Interpretation: Past, Present and Future-Essays in Honor of Gene M. Tucker. Nashville: Abingdon, 1995.

Mathews, Kenneth A. Genesis 11:27–50:26: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005.

Matshidze, Pfarelo Eva. “The Role of Makhadzi in Traditional Leadership among the Venda.” PhD dissertation, University of Zululand, 2013.

Meinhold, Arndt. “Die Diaspora-novell—eine alttestamentlich Gattung.” PhD dissertation: Universität Greifswald, 1971.

______. “Die Gattung der Josephgeschichte und des Estherbuches: Diasporanovelle,” Die Zeitschrift für die alttestamentlich Wissenshchaft 87 (1975): 306–342.

Morgan, Donn. Wisdom in the Old Testament Traditions. Atlanta: John Knox, 1981.

Noth, Martin. The Deuterononomistic History. JSOTSup 15. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1981.

O’Connell, Robert H. The Rhetoric of the Book of Judges. VTSup 63. Leiden: Brill, 1996.

Pressler, Carolyn. Joshua, Judges, and Ruth. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002.

Quijano, Aníbal. “Coloniality and Modernity/Rationality.” Cultural Studies 21/2-3 (2007): 168–178. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09502380601164353.

Redford, Donald. “The ‘Land of the Hebrews’ in Gen 40:15.” Vetus Testamentum 15 (1965): 529–532.

_____. A Study of the Biblical Story of Joseph, Genesis 37–50. VTSup 20. Leiden: Brill, 1970.

Sarna, Nahum M. Understanding Genesis. New York: McGraw Hill, 1966.

Snyman, Gerrie. “Responding to the Decolonial Turn: Epistemic Vulnerability.” Missionalia 43/3 (2015): 266–291.

______. “Esther and African Biblical Hermeneutics: A Decolonial Inquiry.” Old Testament Essays 27/3 (2014): 1035–1061.

______. “Empire and a Hermeneutics of Vulnerability.” Studia Historiae Ecclesiastica 37 (2011): 1–17.

______. “Social Identity and South African Biblical Hermeneutics: A Struggle against Prejudice,” Journal of Theology for Southern Africa 121 (2005): 34–55.

Van Seters, John. “The So-called Deuteronomistic Redaction in the Pentateuch.” Pages 58–76 in Supplements to Vetus Testamentum 43. Edited by J. A. Emerton; Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1989.

Vervenne, Marc. “The Question of Deuteronomic Elements in Genesis to Numbers.” Pages 243–268 in Studies in Deuteronomy in Honour of C. J. Labuschagne on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1994.

Von Rad, Gerhard. The Joseph Narrative and Ancient Wisdom.” Pages 292–300 in Problems of the Hexateuch and Other Essays. Translated by Trueman Dicken; New York: McGraw Hill, 1966.

______. “The Form-Critical Problem of the Hexateuch.” in Problems of the Hexateuch and Other Essays. Translated by Trueman Dicken; New York: McGraw Hill, 1966.

Warning, Wilfried. “Terminological Patterns and Genesis 38.” Andrew University Seminary studies 38 (2000): 293–305.

Weber, Max. Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology, 2 Volumes. Edited by Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich. Translated by Ephraim Fischoff et al. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978.

Westermann, Claus. Genesis 37–50: A Commentary. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1986.

Wildavsky, Aaron. Assimilation versus Separation: Joseph the Administrator and the Politics of Religion in Biblical Israel. New Brunswick: Transaction, 1993.

Woudstra, Marten H. The Book of Joshua. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981.

Wünch, Hans-Georg. “Genesis 38 – Judah’s Turning Point: Structural Analysis and Narrative Techniques and their Meaning for Genesis 38 and Its Placement in the Story of Joseph.” Old Testament Essays 25/3 (2012): 777–806.

Published
2017-12-20