Tanakh Lab #2

Yehoshua's Entrée into Leadership

Yehoshua 1

Interactive Learning Module

Keywords in Yehoshua 1

1. Introduction

  • Yehoshua 1 describes Yehoshua's entrée into leadership, as he takes over from Moshe and is tasked with the conquest of the land of Israel.
  • This module will use the Tanakh Lab to explore the chapter's guding words, refrains, and Biblical parallels.
  • What might a literary analysis of the chapter reveal about both its explicit motifs and hidden messages?
  • What can be learned from Tanakh's word choice and its repetition of certain phrases?
  • FInally, what do the literary allusions to earlier chapters add to the text?

2. Yehoshua Becomes a Leader

  • Let's go to the Tanakh Lab.
  • In the box which says "Analyze One Text", use the book, chapter, and verse dropdown menus to select Yehoshua 1:1-18. Press "display". Alternatively, click here.
  • Before we begin out literary analysis, let's scan the chapter. Note the circular icon after verse 9. This marks the middle verse of the passage.
  • In our case, this division reflects two subunits of the chapter. What is the subject of each half?

3. Finding Your Own Keywords

  • Yehoshua 1 opens on the eve of conquest, and relays both Hashem's initial commands to Yehoshua and Yehoshua's first commands to the nation at this juncture.
  • Given this context, what words might we assume would be keywords in the unit? What motifs are natural to be stressed in these initial conversations?
  • Now, scan the Biblical text again. Do any words jump out at as being keywords?
  • To check how many times and where each word appears in the unit, click on the word in the Biblical text.
  • Use the pop-up statistics box to analyze your findings.

4. Computer Generated Finds

  • Let's now compare our findings to those in the data table at the left. [To clear the screen from all your highlighted words, press on the garbage icon.]
  • Click on the "בקטע" column which will list entries according to the number of appearances of the entry in the unit.
  • What are the two most common roots? To highlight these words in the unit and see their context, click on each word.
  • In how many different contexts does the word "נתן" appear? How about "ארץ"?
  • Given that the main subject of the book is the Conquest of Canaan, it is perhaps not surprising that the word "ארץ" acts as a guiding word. Yet, there were several options for the accompanying verb and one might have expected the roots "כבש" (to conquer) or "ירש" (inherit) to be more prevalent.
  • What message might be implied by the fact that the chapter highlights the "giving" of the land rather than its conquest?

5. Relative Frequency

  • The eightfold repetition of both "נתן" and "ארץ" highlights the main theme of the book, the giving of Eretz Yisrael to the nation. The specific choice of verb might emphasize that the conquest should be viewed as a gift and not a product of our own might.
  • Now click on the "תנ"ך" column which will order entries based on their relative frequency here versus in the rest of Tanakh.
  • Where on the list are "ארץ" and "נתן" now? Why might that be? Where is the root "ירש"?
  • Does the switch in ranking of the roots "נתן" and "ירש" in this ordering mean that our analysis above was mistaken? Why or why not?
  • Click on the "דירוג" column which attempts to take into account both relative frequency and the number of occurrences in the unit. According to this ordering, which verb is more significant? By how much?

6. Be Brave

  • Let's now look at the keyword which tops the list in the "דירוג" ordering.
  • Click on the word "אמץ" to see the various contexts in which it appears. With what word is it always paired? About what is Yehoshua told to be brave?
  • Who is the speaker in each verse in which the phrase appears? What might be the significance of the repetition of the phrase in the second half of the chapter, by the two and a half tribes?
  • What does the repetition suggest about Yehoshua's state of mind at this juncture?

7. Doublets and Triplets

  • The keyword "אמץ" points to a second theme of our unit, Yehoshua's insecuriies and need for encouragement.
  • Looking at other refrains in our chapter will reinforce the motif and simultaneously hint to the reasons for Yehoshua's lack of confidence.
  • At the top of the table, click on "pairs". Note that the phrase "חֲזַק וֶאֱמָץ" discussed above tops the list.
  • Now, click on "triplets". What is the third triplet listed? Click on the words to see where they appear in the unit.
  • What does this phrase reveal about the challenges faced by Yehoshua and the source of his insecurity?

8. Biblical Parallels

  • The threefold repetition of the phrase "משה עבד ה'" reveals why Yehosua was in such need of encouragement; he had very big shoes to fill.
  • Let's now turn to another literary technique employed by our chapter, the use of Biblical parallels. Tanakh sometimes relays message by alluding to other stories. Which other passages in Tanakh does our chapter recall and why?
  • Click on the Torah icon at the top of the Lab, right next to the "display" button. This will open a menu listing the chapters which share the most words and phrases with the unit being studied, ranked from highest to lowest.
  • Click on the first listing, Devarim 3, which the computer has found to be the most linguistically similar to our own.
  • Explore the highlighted phrases to see the similarities between the two chapters. Which parts of the chapter are parallel?
  • What is the subject of this section of Devarim 3? What message might Tanakh be subtly relaying by recalling it?

9. Comparisons Continued

  • Now, click on the second listing, Devarim 31, which the computer has found to be the second most linguistically similar chapter to ours.
  • What is taking place in Devarim 31? Why might Yehoshua 1 be alluding back to it?
  • As you explore the parallels, note that in addition to the message of encouragement, both chapters also share a lesson regarding the centrality of Torah to success. How is this expressed in each?
  • We'll close by looking at one last Biblical parallel, the fifth listing under "similar chapters", Yehoshua 23. How does Yehoshua's speech to the nation before death echo Hashem's speech to him in our chapter?

10. Conclusions

  • Yehoshua 1 uses a variety of literary techniques: guiding words, repeating phrases, and literary allusions, to help relay its main messages.
  • The refrains highlight that this is not only a story about conquest, but about a hesitant leader who is in need of encouragement because he has big shoes to fill, those of "Moshe, the servant of God".
  • The literary allusions reinforce the message. Hashem's words of strength echo the language of Devarim 31, where Moshe had first encouraged Yehoshua, while the discussion with the two and half tribes recalls their original promise to Moshe, and how they plan to fulfill that vow even under new leadership.
  • By alluding to the earlier chapters and drawing a direct line from Moshe to Yehoshua, Tanakh tells the reader that despite Yehoshua's concerns, it, at least, views Yehoshua as the worthy successor to Moshe.

11. Additional Reading