Thoughts on the Book of Joshua
In my previous posting “Resources for studying the Bible”, I made mention of forthcoming writings on certain Bible books, namely Joshua, Judges and Ruth, and resources I have used along with the Bible itself, examples of which can be seen in the extracts from videos shown below.
|1 After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.|
5 And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.
6 And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.
13 And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years;
16 But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.
18 In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:
Joshua, Judges and Ruth bridge that gap between the period of the first five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy to when Israel had a king (Books of Samuel and Kings). The dominant theme of the Pentateuch is the calling of Abraham to become the father of a special nation, one that is meant to live for the glory of God. After a long period of waiting (over 400 years, until the sins of the Amorites were ripe for judgment) and the nation growing, Moses led Israel out of Israel and into the wilderness for 40 years, where YHWH made a covenant with His people, and then onto the edge of the Promised land, that was to be possessed under the command of Moses’ successor, Joshua.
Interestingly, Moses began to lead Israel, aged 80 and did so for 40 years. So did Joshua, who Moses had earlier mentored. Not only did they lead a people, although not as kings but rather as prophets of God, but both saw their main work as ensuring or at least encouraging people to follow the Law given to Moses direct from God at Mount Sinai. The last words of Moses are salutary ones – not just passing the baton to his successor, but reminding the people of the consequences of keeping and not keeping God’s commands, something we are to see played out throughout the Old Testament. It particularly mattered that God went before His people, represented by the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant. Both Moses and Joshua recognised that was the only way victory was possible, when Joshua was to lead the people in to conquer the land God promised Abraham, something Moses was not allowed to do.
|“There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky. The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them. Israel then shall dwell in safety alone: the fountain of Jacob shall be upon a land of corn and wine; also his heavens shall drop down dew. Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency! and thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon their high places.”|
|“And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him: and the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the Lord commanded Moses. And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, In all the signs and the wonders, which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land, And in all that mighty hand, and in all the great terror which Moses shewed in the sight of all Israel.”|
I don’t propose to go through Joshua, chapter by chapter, because I would rather keep this short and wet the appetites of some to read the book. Neither do I want to over dwell on lessons we are able to learn or some more difficult sections to stomach, like God’s idea of dealing with the sins of the Amorites is telling Joshua to wipe out whole cities (men, women, children and animals), which he does. Then there are the miracles, such as the parting the River Jordan for the people to pass over, the collapsing of the Walls of Jericho (which, incidentally has some archaeological confirmation) or the Sun standing still for the best part of the day – the best comment I can make is God being God can and will do whatever He wants and the more significant lesson concerns how people responded.
There is stuff I am going to miss – so apologies. If I were writing the book of Joshua, I would imagine I would gloss over genealogies (it is even heavier in other books) and much of the detail on how the land was eventually divided, but since the Holy Spirit inspired the author, who am I to argue? When it comes to genealogies, what family owned which land, suffice to say – God deemed it important. My focus is on what we read in the beginning and end of the books with skimming in the middle. But credit to two of my afore-mentioned resources – I share here their summaries of the Book.
The book starts on a high, including some wonderful promises.
While two and half tribes already got their inheritance east of Jordan, the rest needed to possess theirs with the help of their brethren. Then comes the spying out of the land with taking the City of Jericho as the first target (including the meeting with Rahab the harlot and the important part she plays in the Bible narrative). First the people had to cross the River Jordan, led by the priests carrying the Ark, with God parting the waters, just as He did with the Red Sea, for the people to cross. One important not to ignore encounter is Joshua’s meeting with what we can only take to be an angelic being, it being not a matter of who is on who’s side but Joshua being on God’s side, the one who gives the victory.
The capturing of the cities of Jericho and Ai are contrasting. Joshua did indeed fight the battle of Jericho and the walls came tumbling down, but only because God made it so – all Israel did was follow instructions. As for the next city, a lesser challenge on paper, the Israelites thought it would be easy but were defeated first time round. It was revealed, it was because of sin in the camp – Achan took booty God said cannot be taken. This was discovered and Achan and his co-conspirators paid the ultimate price – showing how seriously we must take sin. Only then could Israel take Ai.
There is a lot of happening between the defeat of Ai and the death of Joshua, which are recorded in these middle chapters, beginning with the renewing of the covenant, noting that the people were in the main obedient to the Lord (unlike in the Book of Judges) and experienced many blessings and victories in numerous subsequent wars, just as God promised, with the inhabitants of the land living in fear of God, yet not wiped out entirely. Then there was the record of how the land was divided, according to each of the Tribes, including a number of sub plots – and not to forget the special place for the Levites, the Cities of Refuge, the deception of the Gibeonites and the building of an alter east of Jordan that almost led to civil war.
We come to the end, just prior to Joshua’s death, as he exhorts the people, having secured victory, to follow in the ways of God as laid down in the Law – something the people enthusiastically agree to.
Just as we begun on a high note, as we complete the Book of Joshua we end on one too. One application I found is how it is not only desirable to live a victorious Christian life, it is achievable too if like the Israelites under Joshua we too are obedient to God – not by way of possessing land or victories over our enemies but experiencing the blessings of God and honouring Him.We look forward to finding out what happened next, as described in the Book of Judges (watch this space or, better, read for yourselves) …