The book of Joshua will constitute the first portion of our Daily Bible Readings during May and part of June. The book is so called, not because he is the author, but because it is Joshua who is the central figure of its record. It commences as he succeeds Moses in the leadership of the nation at about 85 years of age, and it concludes with the death of Eleazar, Aaron’ s son, and the death of Joshua at 110 years old.

Joshua—The Man

Joshua’s name means “Yahweh is salvation”; it was changed from Hoshea (“Salvation”) by Moses (Num 13:8,16). He is described as Moses’ minister or servant (Exod 24:13), and was deeply committed to the support and service of his leader under Yahweh. So jealous was he for the honour of Moses that on the occasion when two prophesied in the camp, Joshua requested Moses to forbid them. The response was, “Enviest thou for my sake? Would God that all Yahweh’ s people were prophets, and that Yahweh would put His spirit upon them” (Num 11:27–29).

When the forty years of wandering were almost over, Joshua, along with Caleb, remained alone out of a whole generation of Israelites to enter the promised inheritance (Num 26:65). Moses, at Yahweh’ s direction, took Joshua and, in company with Eleazar the priest, publicly invested him with authority over the people. When it was revealed to Moses that his death was imminent, he was commanded to appear with Joshua in the Tabernacle, and while in the Divine presence, Moses gave his faithful minister a charge—“Be strong and of good courage: for thou shalt bring the children of Israel into the land which I sware unto them: and I will be with thee” (Deut 31:14,23).

Joshua Assumes Leadership

Israel greatly mourned the lonely death of their faithful leader. “There arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom Yahweh knew face to face….” For a moment, the people were at a loss what to do, until Yahweh spoke to Joshua, once again affirming the charge previously given: “Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.”

What a truly daunting prospect, to lead all that nation into their inheritance. Yahweh was not unmindful of the tremendous difficulties and the overwhelming responsibility of such a calling. “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for Yahweh thy Elohim is with thee withersoever thou goest.” This must certainly have been of great comfort and encouragement to the new leader. Yahweh gave Joshua specific guidance and told him clearly the four requirements for success. If he observed these four points, Yahweh promised him that he would “ make his way prosperous”, and he would “have good success” (Josh 1:7,8).

  • Strength be strong in faith
  • Courage be alert and determined
  • Observance of God’ s Law
  • Meditation on God’ s Word

Before his death, Moses had set down in the book of Deuteronomy all the words of the Law which Yahweh had given him. His counsel to the people was, “Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which Yahweh Elohim of your fathers giveth you.” He had also made them understand the importance of the book which he had given them: “Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which ye shall command your children to observe to do, all the words of this law. For it is not a vain thing for you; because IT IS YOUR LIFE….” Joshua had taken careful note of these words, and Yahweh’s words of instruction and encouragement would no doubt have strengthened and reinforced his conviction and commitment.

Now in his eighty–fifth year and “full of the spirit of wisdom” (Deut 34:9), Joshua was ready to assume command of the people. The Israelites had enthusiastically pledged their allegiance to their new leader: “All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go. According as we hearkened unto Moses in all things, so will we hearken unto thee: only Yahweh thy Elohim be with thee, as he was with Moses.”

Crossing Jordan

Joshua’s first task was to take the people across Jordan and in preparation for this, he sent spies from Shittim into Jericho, where, under Rahab’ s protection, they performed their duties and returned to Joshua with the report of the fear which had fallen upon the people of the land because of the Israelites (Joshua chapter 2).

With Jordan in flood and overflowing all its banks, Joshua assembled the people in a Divinely appointed order. As soon as the priests bearing the Ark entered the river, the waters were cut off, flowing back to Adam; and the priests stood on dry ground in the bed of the river until all the camp had passed over (Joshua 3). “On that day Yahweh magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they feared Moses, all the days of his life” (Joshua 4:14).

The host camped that night at Gilgal on the other side of the river, and Joshua caused a memorial to be erected on the river bank that future generations might remember the mighty hand of Yahweh, and that Israel “might fear Yahweh your Elohim for ever”. Whilst camped at Gilgal, Joshua was instructed to circumcise all those born in the wilderness, as a sign of the renewing of the Covenant and the “rolling away” of the reproach of Egypt (Gilgal means “rolling”). Here also they kept the Passover in the plains of Jericho, memorialising their deliverance from sin and death in Egypt: here they partook of parched corn and unleavened cakes, and the following day the manna, which had been their daily food supply for forty years, ceased and they ate of the “fruit of the land of Canaan” (Josh 5).

The miraculous crossing of the turbulent waters of the Jordan river and the activities that followed had not gone unnoticed by the people of the land. When they heard “that Yahweh had dried up the waters of Jordan from before the children of Israel, until we were passed over, that their heart melted, neither was there spirit in them any more, because of the children of Israel” (Josh 5:1). The triumph of Jericho was indeed a victory for Yahweh and His “Captain of the Host” (Josh 6). Ai would have similarly fallen into their hands had it not been for the covetous sin of Achan which occasioned the death of thirty-six of his brethren and the destruction of him and his family in a valley which has ever since borne the name of “trouble”—‘Achor’. (Josh 7). But we know that this same vale will in the near future “become a door of hope” (Hos 2:15) as the ransomed of Yahweh return to Zion with songs of everlasting joy and gladness.

Conquest of the Land Continues

The account of the conquest of the land continues with the victory at Ai, the deception of the Gibeonites and the battle of Beth-horon when the sun stood still at Joshua’s request, that they might complete their defeat of the Amorites, pursuing them as far south as Makkedah. We are told that there was no day like that before it or after it, when Yahweh hearkened to the voice of a man, for on that day “Yahweh fought for Israel” (Josh 10:14,42). There is another day coming when Yahweh shall again fight for His people, “as when He fought in the day of battle” (Zech 14:3), and when He shall be wroth “ as in the valley of Gibeon” (Isa 28:21).

This last battle was followed by the conquest of Makkedah, Libnah, Lachish, Gezer, Eglon, Hebron and Debir. In this one campaign, Joshua subdued the whole southern half of the land, from Kadeshbarnea to Gaza, the eastern and western limits of the southern frontier, effectively opening up the whole of the land to the Israelites. In six years Joshua was master of the whole of the territory of land from Mount Halak at the ascent of Mount Seir in the south, to Baalgad, under Mount Hermon in the north (Josh 11:15–17, 23). He was conqueror of six nations, with thirty-one kings, induding the Anakim, the old terror of Israel (Josh 11:21,22).

Joshua—The Nation-Builder

Having valiantly discharged his particular duties as warrior-leader, Joshua now faced the role of statesman and nation-builder. In conjunction with Eleazar and the heads of the tribes, he proceeded to apportion the Promised Land, including the part as yet unconquered, asking for his portion in Timnathserah, a city of Mount Ephraim (Josh 13–19).

After the inheritance of five of the tribes had been determined, Joshua moved to Shiloh where he set up the Tabernacle and assembled the people (Josh 18) and organised the possession of the inheritance of the remaining seven tribes. Six cities of refuge were appointed and forty-eight cities as inheritance for the Levites (Josh 20–21).

Joshua’s Final Message and Pledge

Israel had now for a long time experienced rest from their enemies and Joshua himself was an old man (Josh 23:1). The time had come to call together in solemn assembly all the people, that he might address them and rehearse all the marvellous acts of Yahweh their God, that He had done in bringing them into their inheritance as He had promised. He warned them of their responsibilities in the light of Yahweh’s goodness and called upon them to renew their covenant with Him: “Now therefore fear Yahweh, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye Yahweh” (Josh 24:14). There in Shechem, Joshua elicited a solemn and sincere promise from his brethren: “Yahweh our Elohim will we serve, and His voice will we obey”; and he “set them a statute and an ordinance”—a great stone which he set up under the oak in Shechem (Gen 35:2–4). His own commitment and consistent attitude, expressed in almost his dying breath, was “as for me and my house, we will serve Yahweh”.

Our Example

We are told in 1 Corinthians 10:11 that all the events of the exodus, the wilderness wanderings and the conquest of Canaan are highly typical—“Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples” (literally, ‘as types’). Joshua himself is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, our commander, deliverer and “Yahweh’ s salvation”.

As we traverse our wilderness and approach the borders of the Promised Land, we look for that “rest” still to come: “For if Joshua had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day”. If Joshua’s settlement in the Land had been a fulfilment of God’s promised rest, then God would not have, at a later date, spoken of another “day”, that is, another opportunity of attaining to His rest. “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest…” (Heb 4:6,11).

Analysis

Part 1 Conquest of the Land—Ch 1:1 to 12:24

Commission of Joshua 1:1–9

Preparation to Cross Jordan 1:10 to 2:24

Jordan Crossing 3:1 to 4:24

Circumcision and Passover at Gilgal 5:1–15

Capture of Jericho and Ai 6:1 to 8:29

Altar Erected on Mt Ebal 8:30–35

Deception of Gibeonites 9:1–27

Conquest of Southern Canaan 10:1–43

Conquest of Northern Canaan 11:1–15

Summary of Conquest 11:16 to 12:24

Part 2 Division of the Land—Ch 13:1 to 22:34

Instruction of Joshua 13:1–7

Eastern Tribes Assigned 13:8–33

Western Tribes Assigned 14:1 to 19:51

Cities of Refuge Appointed 20:1–9

Levitical Town Chosen 21:1–45

Eastern Tribes Sent Away 22:1–34

Part 3 Joshua’ s Farewell Address and Death— Ch 23:1 to 24:33