BAS Summer Seminar 2023 at St. Olaf

ONLINE: July 17-21 (Online registration closed)
IN-PERSON: July 16-22 (IN-PERSON registration closed)
St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota

The Beginnings of Ancient Israel
With a Focus on the Books of Joshua and Judges

Ralph Hawkins, Averett University & Jillian Ross, Liberty University

View information video.

The books of Joshua and Judges have long provided the biblical backdrop to scholarly understandings of ancient Israel’s historical beginnings as a “mixed multitude” that first emerged in the land of Canaan around 1200 BCE. In this week-long seminar, two leading scholars of early Israel—Ralph Hawkins of Averett University and Jillian Ross of Liberty University—explore the rich and diverse stories, memories, and traditions found in these biblical books, and also examine recent archaeological and textual evidence that is providing fresh perspectives on how, when, and where Israel first appeared in the land.

Join us as we host this thought-provoking summer seminar in the beautiful and restorative setting of St. Olaf College. The campus boasts award-winning architecture nestled in a 350-acre woodland, just 35 miles south of Minneapolis and St. Paul, St. Olaf’s picturesque setting offers the best of two worlds: the quiet charm of a rural community and the convenience and excitement of the nearby Twin Cities.


Jillian Ross

Liberty University

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Ralph Hawkins

Averett University

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Jillian Ross’ Lectures

Texts of the Early Settlement in Canaan: An Overview of Joshua and Judges

This opening lecture provides the structure of each book, discusses their purpose, and surveys their major themes. It then compares and contrasts Joshua and Judges, paying particular attention to their portrayals of Israel’s early settlement period.

The Sincerest Form of Flattery: Joshua as a New Moses

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. As a means of showing Joshua’s authority as the leader of Israel, the text adopts stories and statements of Moses and applies them to Joshua. This lecture explores this narrative technique through various texts in Joshua.

Will the Real Israelite Please Stand? Rahab and Achan—Literary and Ethnic Contrasts

The genealogical distinction between an Israelite and a Canaanite has a rich textual history, beginning in the earliest portions of the Pentateuch. Achan of Judah and Rahab of Jericho form an unlikely literary pair to show that there is more to being an Israelite—or Canaanite—than one’s ethnicity.

“I Do”: Covenant, Treaty, and Renewal Ceremonies

Covenants, treaties, and renewal ceremonies were societal scaffolding for domestic and foreign relationships in the ancient world. This lecture explores their key features and functions with select examples from the ancient Near East and the texts of Joshua.

Is Joshua a Genocidal General?

Joshua’s three war campaigns encompass half the book. As just-war theory has shaped modern sentiments of war, readers of Joshua wonder how to interpret these disturbing narratives and its implications about the God found in its pages. This lecture compares just-war theory, genocide, and the literary features of Joshua and the laws it applies.

Warfare and Ritual in Judges

Warfare and worship are the two most ritualized activities in the ancient world. Rituals communicate through actions and symbols rather than more overt means. After offering a functional description of ritual, this lecture will narrow its focus to warfare rituals of the ancient Near East. Various warfare texts in Judges will be interpreted through analogous ancient Near Eastern texts.

Deborah’s Battle and Victory Song

Judges 4–5 records Deborah and Barak’s battle against the Canaanites. Curiously, Judges 4 provides a narrative account, with Judges 5 offering a song. This lecture will discuss the rhetorical strategies for the two accounts and assess whether they can be reconciled on the basis of both ancient battle accounts and similar narrative-victory song parallels found in the Hebrew Bible.

Loose Lips: Jephthah’s Vow

For centuries, Jephthah’s vow and its execution (Judges 11) has perplexed readers. Some believe Jephthah sacrificed his daughter, while others believe he dedicated her to God as a perpetual virgin. In this lecture, vow making and breaking in the ancient Near East will be discussed, then each view will be presented and weighed against features of the story, the biblical laws on vow making and sacrifice, as well as other vow texts.

Weaponizing Imitation: Samson as an Anti-Moses

Imitation cuts both ways. In Joshua, it bolsters its leader; in Judges, it berates Samson as a deliverer unlike Moses. This lecture juxtaposes stories of Moses with that of Samson, showing that the pen is mightier than the sword, or in the case of Samson, the ox goad. For all his physical strength, Samson is a weak spiritual leader who resembles the Israelites wandering in the wilderness more than Moses, Israel’s premier leader.

Wives, Warriors, and Wounded: Women in the Book of Judges

Unlike many books in the Bible, Judges contains stories with women in almost every story. The books begin and end with wives and daughters (Judges 1, Judges 19–21) but the differences are night and day. The first wife negotiates for choice land as bridal gift while the book ends with 200 “wives” assaulted for procreation. This lecture discusses the strong women and the victimized ones in the book and how the women and the placement of their stories fits within the theme of Israel’s spiritual decline.

Ralph Hawkins’ Lectures

Models of the Early Israelite Settlement in Canaan

This opening lecture provides an overview of classical and recent models of the early Israelite settlement in Canaan, including Conquest, Peaceful Infiltration, Peasants’ Revolt, and Social Revolution Models. It summarizes recent models, such as the Pastoral Canaanite, Symbiosis, Agrarian Reform, and Mixed Multitude Models. It concludes with an overview of Hawkins’s own Culture-Scale Model, a new synthetic model that combines anthropological and archaeological approaches.

“Every Place That the Sole of Your Foot Shall Tread Upon”: Joshua’s Gilgal and the Foot-Shaped Sites in the Jordan Valley

When the Israelites first entered the land of Canaan, the Book of Joshua reports that they established a camp at “Gilgal.” The late Israeli archaeologist Adam Zertal proposed that this was not the name of a specific site, but a type of site, which he identified with a series of foot-shaped sites that he discovered in the Jordan Valley. This lecture will present these mysterious sites and how they may have functioned during the settlement period.

Where Can Destruction be Found? The Archaeology of Jericho, Ai, and Hazor

The cities of Jericho, Ai, and Hazor are famous for their role in the conquest narratives. And, yet, the archaeology of each is the focus of controversy. This lecture summarizes the archaeology of these sites and their possible relationship to the conquest narratives.

Israelite Ethnicity: How to Tell the Difference between a Canaanite and an Israelite

There was clearly dramatic growth in the population of the central hill country of Canaan during the time associated with the early Israelite settlement. But were the newcomers Canaanites or Israelites, and how can we tell the difference? This lecture will discuss the concept of “trait lists” and present six traits that may indicate Israelite ethnicity.

The Altar on Mt. Ebal: Myth or Reality?

Adam Zertal identified the structure he excavated on Mt. Ebal with the altar of Joshua 8:30–35, but critics identified it as the remains of a watchtower, a house, or a barbecue site. This lecture will discuss the Ebal structure, its physical and literary parallels, and how it may have functioned in the context of the early Israelite settlement.

“Drive Out Any Canaanites Who Oppose You” and Other Ways to Abuse Scripture

Throughout the history of the church, some interpreters have tragically appropriated the conquest traditions typologically and used them as justification for colonialism and genocide. In this lecture, we will look at select examples of this kind of usage, discuss why they are inappropriate, and consider alternative ways of reading and applying the conquest narratives.

Our Daily Bread: The Highland Villages and Daily Life in Early Israel

During the period of the judges, Israelites settled primarily in the central hill country, where they practiced a mixed agricultural economy that combined the cultivation of grains with the herding of sheep and goats. In this lecture, we will discuss nine salient features that characterized Israelite culture during this period.

Different Strokes for Different Folks: Folk Religion in Early Israel

While the Book of Joshua asserts that Yahwism was a key factor in the formation of early Israel, the Book of Judges portrays the Israelites as also worshiping the gods of Canaan. In this lecture, we will sift through both the textual and archaeological data to reconstruct “folk” religion during the period of the judges.

At This Juncture: “The House of the Sun” as a Border Town

The city of Beth-Shemesh, whose name means “House of the Sun,” was located in the Shephelah, at the juncture of Canaanite, Israelite, and Philistine culture. According to the Book of Joshua, it was apportioned to the tribe of Dan; but according to Judges, it was never conquered. Beginning in the early Iron Age, however, the archaeological data begins to reflect some features associated with the Israelites, such as a total absence of pig bones. This lecture will explore the archaeology of this border town and its relationship to the changing cultural spheres of the Shephelah during the early Iron Age.

Dan in Real Life: The Archaeology of Dan

The Book of Judges recounts that, when the tribe of Dan was unable to gain a foothold in their allotted territory, they moved north and conquered a Canaanite city named Laish and changed its name to Dan. This lecture will review the archaeology of Dan, which has been under excavation since 1966, in order to shed light on the biblical account.

Click here to download the lecture schedule.


St. Olaf College sits atop Manitou Hill at the edge of historic Northfield, Minnesota. Northfield is known for its historic downtown district along the scenic Cannon River.


All Residence hall rooms are AIR-CONDITIONED, DORMITORY-STYLE, equipped with ONE OR TWO beds, extra long twin mattresses, dressers, desks, desk chairs.


Bon Appetit is the exclusive caterer for St. Olaf College. Cafeteria style dining. They offer full meals that feature a variety of fresh, wholesome selections .






  • Virtual Attendance Rate (Deadline: July 10, 2023): $199
  • *In-Person Deposit is "Non-refundable." However, if you should cancel, you will receive a digital link to access the live, online event.




To pay off your balance, click here.

No lectures on Sunday, July 16 and Saturday, July 22.


For more information, contact:

Peter Megginson
Biblical Archaeology Society
Email: [email protected]
800-221-4644, ext. 424 (Toll-free)
202-364-3300, ext. 424
5614 Connecticut Ave. NW #343
Washington, DC 20015-2604