I’ve been plotting out a possible book, looking at characters and times and events, and trying to make everything fit together. A couple things weren’t quite working, and I realized, it’s all because of Joshua.
The scriptures never really say how old Joshua is when he goes into the Promised Land as a spy. Caleb is 40, so most people assume Joshua is as well. Many of the sites and books I looked at as I researched flat out state “Joshua was 40 years old when he spied out Canaan,” but the Bible never says that.
But here’s the problem: Numbers says he was Moses’s aide since youth, and I just don’t see a 40-year-old man being a youth. I know they lived longer then, but still.
When working on a Biblical fiction novel, you have to start with the absolute facts in the Bible, and go from there. Let’s go with Joshua again. That’s not who I’m writing about, but he’s a great example because there’s not much written about his personal life in Scripture.
Jewish tradition says he married Rahab, the prostitute who helped the spies in Jericho. They had only daughters, all of who became prophetesses. But in the New Testament, the Bible says Salmon of Judah married her. The Bible say nothing about his life, so we can pretty much go wild there.
Ruth is another good example. We only know she lived “in the days when the judges ruled.” Naomi left during a famine and lived in Moab for ten years and returned with Ruth. I’ve read a couple dozen commentators, all convinced they knew precisely under which judge’s rule she lived. So for fiction, again, you can place her pretty much anywhere. If the experts can’t agree, and the Bible doesn’t say, go for it.
Some people try to use dates to pin it all down, but then it all goes back to the Exodus, and there are two schools of thought on that. And that’s a can of worms to be opened on another day.