More on the possibility that the post-Moses-era Israelites knew nothing about the Torah

                                                                        Joshua 22


As previously stated,[1] there seems to be no indication in the biblical books describing life after the days of Moses until the time of King Josiah (641-609) that the Israelites knew about Moses’ Torah or observed the laws contained in it. An example is the Mishkan which was a core element of the religious practices according to the Five Books of Moses.


Did the Mishkan exist in the post-Moses eras?

Exodus 25 begins an extensive description of the tabernacle that Moses built in the desert, a dwelling used for religious inspiration and sacrifices. The portion emphasizes that the building, called Mishkan, based on the Hebrew root s-k-n meaning dwelling, and suggesting the divine dwelling place,[2] was directed by God who described precisely how it and the implements placed in it were to be constructed.[3] The careful description of the Mishkan details and that they were divinely mandated as a divine dwelling place makes it clear beyond cavil that the Mishkan was a significant part of early Israelite history, the focus of Israelite worship. Yet there is only one possible, but debatable, mention of the Mishkan outside of the five books of Moses. Arnold Ehrlich argues that the authors of the subsequent biblical books, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, and the others, knew nothing of the Mishkan and Moses’ five books, and that various documents were composed, as Bible critics contend, around the time of the second temple and assembled into the five books by Ezra in the fourth century BCE.

Ehrlich does not mention Joshua 22:19, the only source that has the word Mishkan. The Israelite leaders tells the tribes that remained in Trans-Jordan to reconsider and settle in Canaan, “the land of the possession of the Lord where dwells the mishkan of the Lord.” In support of Ehrlich, this is most likely not a reference to the tabernacle: the term mishkan here could be a poetic repetition of shakein, “dwells,” which has the same root and precedes it, and should be translated, “where dwells the dwelling of the Lord,” and means “you should settle in Canaan, God’s land.”

Ehrlich’s observation about apparent ignorance of the Mishkan is similar to the more disturbing problem that I mentioned in chapter 20. The five books of Moses have many laws, traditionally 613 commandments mandated by God. Yet there is no mention of Moses’ five books or the divine commands in any of the subsequent biblical volumes until the seventh century BCE. This absence seems to verify the critique of the Bible critics. If Joshua, the judges, Samuel, and the other biblical figures knew of the Torah commands, why is there no mention of them? Since Jews feel that the commands are or should be an integral part of their lives, why is there no incident describing any of the post-Moses Israelite leaders observing laws such as the Sabbath and keeping kosher? Why, for example, does Boaz go through a levirate marriage procedure in the book Ruth that is different than the one mentioned in the five books? Why were the people surprised when a book of the Bible was discovered in the seventh century BCE which prompted King Josiah to reform the religious practices in Judea?[4] Was this, as Bible critics argue, when a part of the five books was developed?


[1] In chapter 20 and elsewhere.

[2] 25:8.

[3] 25:9.

[4] A story told in II Kings 22-23 and II Chronicles 34-35..