The period from the conquest of the land under Joshua to the crowning of Saul as king raises a number of interesting questions with modern relevance. Regarding the conquest itself, there are questions on two levels: a) did it really happen as described in the book of Joshua? Internal biblical evidence – and, possibly, archaeology – cast doubt on the account of the Israelites’ rapid and total conquest ofCanaan; if so, what do we do with the contradiction and how do we teach it? b) how do we respond to our own and our students’ moral concerns about the bloody account of the conquest? And of course, the question of the morality of conquest hovers over the discussion of the modern state ofIsraeltoo.
Another issue is that of Israelite identity. The Book of Judges seems to depict a land inhabited by a number of disparate and sometimes even warring tribes, each absorbed in its own local conflicts with neighboring non-Israelite tribes; only in the face of a powerful common enemy does any kind of political union form – and only temporarily. Different theories have been proposed regarding the formation of the Israelite nation during this period; how might these affect our understanding of Jewish identity past and present?