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 Introduction to the Book of Joshua

Julian Spriggs M.A.

Related articles

How to interpret OT Narratives
Canaanite religion Israel's enemies
Holy War?

Title of the book

The book is named after the hero, Joshua. Jewish tradition assumes that he supplied the details of the story and that it was edited by some later scribes.

The book continues from the point Deuteronomy finished, Joshua was about to complete what Moses began. Moses led the Israelites through the Red Sea, Joshua led them across the Jordan. Moses led them out of bondage in Egypt, Joshua led them into their inheritance in the Promised Land.

Joshua, the leader

Joshua was the outstanding leader of Israel. His was of the house of Joseph. His grandfather was Elishama, chief of Ephraim (1 Chr 7:26-27, Num 1:10), who led his tribe through the wilderness.

He was brought up with Egyptian civilisation and culture before the Exodus. He had close contact with Moses as his attendant and colleague for forty years, from Egypt until the plains of Moab. His faith and courage were demonstrated when he and Caleb stood against the other ten spies and urged an immediate invasion of Canaan (Num 13 & 14). His skill as a military commander had already been proved in the victory against the Amalekites (Ex 17, Deut 25).

He was also chosen by God to bring the tribes into Canaan and commissioned by the laying on of hands by Moses. He fought with God's authority and enabling of the spirit of wisdom (Deut 34:9).

Authorship of the book of Joshua

The traditional view is that Joshua himself wrote the book. Joshua himself certainly wrote down his last message in the book of the law of God (24:26). There are some 'we' passages, which do not appear in English Bibles except the KJV. "The lord dried up the waters of the Jordan from before the children of Israel, until we passed over ..." (5:1), and, "... that he would give us a land that flowed with milk and honey" (5:6)

The book of Joshua uses very old names for Canaanite cities, showing the antiquity of the material, eg. Kiriath-arba for Hebron (15:13), Baalah for Kiriath-Jearim (15:9). The reference to Sidonians (13:4-6, 19:28) indicates a date before 12th cent BC, when Tyre became more prominent.

Contemporary accounts by Joshua were certainly edited later, perhaps during the time of the judges. The expression 'to this day' occurs frequently. In the description of Joshua's death, it says, "Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders who outlived him"(24:31), probably quite a few years after Joshua died. Other supplementary material was added by Eleazar and his son Phineas. Eleazar probably added the account of Joshua's death, and Phineas the account of Phineas' death.

Theology of Joshua - What does the book of Joshua tell us about God?

God's faithfulness

God first promised to give his people the land of Canaan when he spoke to Abraham around 2000 BC (Gen 12:7), now 500-700 years later they enter and possess the land. The book of Joshua tells the story of the conquest of Canaan and of the fulfilment of God's promise to Abraham.

God's holiness

God's holiness is shown both by the judgement on the inhabitants of the land, and in his insistence that Israel as his instrument of judgement must be holy.

God's salvation

Joshua's name means 'Yahweh is salvation', the Hebrew form of Jesus. He led the people of God over the Jordan river into the blessings of their inheritance in the promised land. In Hebrews chapters 3 and 4, Jesus, called the captain of our salvation (Heb 2:10) is greater than Joshua. Jesus carries us through the Jordan into the final rest of God.

Extermination of the Canaanites

Why did God command the Israelites to utterly destroy the Canaanites? This is a frequently asked question, often with the motive of questioning the justice of God, normally claiming that the Canaanites were innocent.

Abraham was promised the land for his descendants after four generations of slavery in Egypt (Gen 15:12-21). The reason given was that the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet complete. God's plan was to provide a place of inheritance for the Israelites and at the same time use this as an act of judgement on the current perverted residents. Once the iniquity and guilt of the Amorites had reached a predetermined level, God would remove them from the land and give the land to his people Israel. Israel was used as God's instrument of judgement and wrath. God had to remove the corrupt and corrupting influence of the degenerate idolatry and moral depravity before Israel could settle in the land.

If the Canaanites were allowed to survive, they would be a threat to the moral and spiritual purity of Israel, who God had called to be a holy people (Deut 7:1-6). God did not give the Israelites the land because of their righteousness, but because of the wickedness of the Canaanite nations (Deut 9:4-5). Israel was told not to defile themselves by practising the ways of the nations: immorality, incest, homosexuality, child sacrifice. The land vomited out its inhabitants (Lev 18:21-25). They were told not to imitate the abhorrent practices of the nations in the land... (Deut 18:9-14), and were warned that if they join and intermarry the survivors in the land, then they shall be a snare and a trap, a scourge on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land (Josh 23:12-23).

The rest of the history of Israel recounts the consequences of their failure to carry out God's command to destroy the inhabitants. It led to the downfall of the twelve tribes during the period of the Judges (Judges 2:1-3, 10-15, 19-23). Not until the reign of King David did Israel finally succeed in completing the conquest of the land. At this time, there was a resurgence of religious and spiritual life in the nation emphasising purity and holiness. However, this was short lived, and during the period of the divided monarchy, the people returned to the same idolatry.

Rahab - the great exception

Rahab was a Canaanite prostitute from Jericho, a Gentile, who was spared because she had faith (Heb 11:31), and sheltered the two Hebrew spies. She was justified by her works, and given as a great example of faith (James 2:25). Joshua noted that her family has lived in Israel ever since (6:25). She eventually became an ancestor of Jesus, as part of the Messianic line (Mt 1:5), by marrying Salmon, father of Boaz (Ruth 4:21). It is possible that he was he one of the two spies.

Related articles

How to interpret OT Narratives
Canaanite religion Israel's enemies
Holy War?

The Bible

Pages which look at issues relevant to the whole Bible, such as the Canon of Scripture, as well as doctrinal and theological issues. There are also pages about the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha and 'lost books' of the Old Testament.

Also included are lists of the quotations of the OT in the NT, and passages of the OT quoted in the NT.

Old Testament Overview

This is a series of six pages which give a historical overview through the Old Testament and the inter-testamental period, showing where each OT book fits into the history of Israel.

New Testament Overview

This is a series of five pages which give a historical overview through the New Testament, focusing on the Ministry of Jesus, Paul's missionary journeys, and the later first century. Again, it shows where each book of the NT fits into the history of the first century.

Introductions to Old Testament Books

This is an almost complete collection of introductions to each of the books in the Old Testament. Each contains information about the authorship, date, historical setting and main themes of the book.

Introductions to New Testament Books

This is a collection of introductions to each of the 27 books in the New Testament. Each contains information about the authorship, date, historical setting and main themes of the book.

Old Testament History

Information about the different nations surrounding Israel, and other articles concerning Old Testament history and the inter-testamental period.

New Testament History

Articles which give additional information about the history and culture of the first century, giving helpful background knowledge for the Gospels and Paul's travels.

Old Testament Studies

A series of articles covering more general topics for OT studies. These include a list of the people named in the OT and confirmed by archaeology. There are also pages to convert the different units of measure in the OT, such as the talent, cubit and ephah into modern units.

More theological topics include warfare in the ancient world, the Holy Spirit in the OT, and types of Jesus in the OT.

Studies in the Pentateuch (Gen - Deut)

A series of articles covering studies in the five books of Moses. Studies in the Book of Genesis look at the historical nature of the early chapters of Genesis, the Tower of Babel and the Table of the Nations.

There are also pages about covenants, the sacrifices and offerings, the Jewish festivals and the tabernacle, as well as the issue of tithing.

Studies in the Old Testament History Books (Josh - Esther)

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the history books. These include a list of the dates of the kings of Israel and Judah, a summary of the kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and studies of Solomon, Jeroboam and Josiah.

There are also pages describing some of the historical events of the period, including the Syro-Ephraimite War, and the Assyrian invasion of Judah in 701 BC.

Studies in the Old Testament Prophets (Is - Mal)

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the OT prophets. These include a page looking at the way the prophets look ahead into their future, a page looking at the question of whether Satan is a fallen angel, and a page studying the seventy weeks of Daniel.

There are also a series of pages giving a commentary through the text of two of the books:
Isaiah (13 pages) and Daniel (10 pages).

New Testament Studies

A series of articles covering more general topics for NT studies. These include a list of the people in the NT confirmed by archaeology.

More theological topics include the Kingdom of God and the Coming of Christ.

Studies in the Four Gospels (Matt - John)

A series of articles covering various studies in the four gospels. These include a list of the unique passages in each of the Synoptic Gospels and helpful information about the parables and how to interpret them.

Some articles look at the life and ministry of Jesus, including his genealogy, birth narratives, transfiguration, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and the seating arrangements at the Last Supper.

More theological topics include the teaching about the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete and whether John the Baptist fulfilled the predictions of the coming of Elijah.

Studies in the Book of Acts and the New Testament Letters

A series of articles covering various studies in the Book of Acts and the Letters, including Paul's letters. These include a page studying the messages given by the apostles in the Book of Acts, and the information about the financial collection that Paul made during his third missionary journey.

More theological topics include Paul's teaching on Jesus as the last Adam, and descriptions of the church such as the body of Christ and the temple, as well as a look at redemption and the issue of fallen angels.

There are a series of pages giving a commentary through the text of five of the books:
Romans (7 pages), 1 Corinthians (7 pages), Galatians (3 pages), Philemon (1 page) and Hebrews (7 pages)

Studies in the Book of Revelation

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the study of the Book of Revelation and topics concerning Eschatology (the study of end-times).

These include a description of the structure of the book, a comparison and contrast between the good and evil characters in the book and a list of the many allusions to the OT. For the seven churches, there is a page which gives links to their location on Google maps.

There is a page studying the important theme of Jesus as the Lamb, which forms the central theological truth of the book. There are pages looking at the major views of the Millennium, as well as the rapture and tribulation, as well as a list of dates of the second coming that have been mistakenly predicted through history.

There is also a series of ten pages giving a detailed commentry through the text of the Book of Revelation.

Inductive Bible Study

These are a series of pages giving practical help showing how to study the Bible inductively, by asking a series of simple questions. There are lists of observation and interpretation questions, as well as information about the structure and historical background of biblical books, as well as a list of the different types of figures of speech used in the Bible. There is also a page giving helpful tips on how to apply the Scriptures personally.

Types of Literature in the Bible

These are a series of pages giving practical help showing how to study each of the different types of book in the Bible by appreciating the type of literature being used. These include historical narrative, law, wisdom, prophets, Gospels, Acts, letters and Revelation.

It is most important that when reading the Bible we are taking note of the type of literature we are reading. Each type needs to be considered and interpreted differently as they have different purposes.

Geography and Archaeology

These are a series of pages giving geographical and archaeological information relevant to the study of the Bible. There is a page where you can search for a particular geographical location and locate it on Google maps, as well as viewing photographs on other sites.

There are also pages with photographs from Ephesus and Corinth.

Early Church Fathers

These are a series of pages giving biographical information about some of the more significant early church fathers, such as Irenaeus, Origen and Tertullian, as well as some important groups and events in the first centuries of the church.

Artifacts in the British Museum relevant to Biblical studies

These are a series of pages describing artifacts in each gallery of the British Museum, which have a connection with the Bible.

Biblical Archaeology in Museums around the world

A page with a facility to search for artifacts held in museums around the world which have a connection with the Bible. These give information about each artifact, as well as links to the museum's collection website where available showing high resolution photographs of the artifact.

There is also page of photographs from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem of important artifacts.

Historical documents

These are a series of pages containing historical documents which give helpful information for Biblical studies. These include Hittite suzerainty treaties with a similar structure to the Book of Deuteronomy, different lists of the New Testament books and quotations from Josephus and other ancient writers.

Life Questions

These are a series of pages looking at some of the more difficult questions of Christian theology, including war, suffering, disappointment and what happens to those who have never heard the Gospel.

How to Preach

These are a series of pages giving a practical step-by-step explanation of the process of preparing a message for preaching, and how to lead a small group Bible study.

Information for SBS staff members

Two pages particularly relevant for people serving as staff on the School of Biblical Studies (SBS) in YWAM. One gives helpful instruction about how to prepare to teach on a book in the SBS. The other gives a list of recommended topics which can be taught about for each book of the Bible.