Categories: Men in the Old Testament
- The first mention of Joshua is in Ex. 17:9.
He was an Ephraimite, the son of Nun. Moses
instructed him to choose men to fight against
the Amalekites. (This was the battle for which
Aaron and Hur helped Moses hold up his arms.
When his arms were up, they were winning; when
his arms were down, they were losing.)
- Later on in Ex. 24, Moses took "his minister"
Joshua with him up into the mount of God to
receive the Law. This sounds as though Joshua
might have been his personal attendant.
- Joshua was not in the camp when the golden
calf was made. On the way back down the mountain
with Moses, he thought there was "a noise
of war" in the camp.
- Joshua is called "Hoshea" in Num
13:16. Moses then renames him "Joshua,"
or "Yahweh is salvation."
- Joshua was one of the spies sent to check
out the Promised Land (See Num 13:8; 14:6).
- He and Caleb were the only dissenting voices.
They believed God would be faithful to His word
and that they would prevail in battle, regardless
of how strong the inhabitants seemed to be.
Unfortunately, the people rejected that idea;
as a result they were kept out of the Promised
Land and were relegated to wandering in the
wilderness for forty years. Because of their
faithfulness, Joshua and Caleb were the only
two of the first generation who were allowed
to enter Canaan.
- In Num. 27:18-23, Joshua was designated to
be the successor to Moses.
- Moses took Joshua and set him before Eleazar
the priest and all the people.
- It was decided that Joshua would be the one
to apportion the land among the tribes (Num
34:17) with a little help from Eleazar the Priest.
- Joshua was told in Deut. 3:21 that he was
not to be afraid, that the Lord would fight
for him - a hint, perhaps, that this task would
be very daunting.
- Several times Moses was told to "encourage"
Joshua because Joshua would be the one to lead
the people to inherit the land. No doubt, Joshua
needed it. (Dt. 1:38, 3:38, 31:7-8)
- When the time came for his commissioning,
the Lord said to Joshua, "Be strong and
courageous, for you will bring the Israelites
into the land I promised them on oath, and I
myself will be with you." (Dt. 31:23) This
is both a command and an assurance for Joshua.
- After Moses' passing, Joshua was "filled
with the spirit of wisdom." This wisdom
would be of a practical nature and would enable
him to do what was right. He was now equipped
for his task. Some might say he was a man in
whom was the spirit of God.
- God speaks directly to Joshua, telling him
exactly what to do and how to move the people
across the Jordan River. The people had been
grieving the loss of Moses, but the time had
come to move forward. Joshua surely felt the
loss of his friend, Moses.
- Joshua's task will parallel
Moses' activities in several important ways.
|Crossing the Jordan
||Crossing the Red Sea
|Encounter with the Lord's Commander (5.13)
||Encounter with the Burning Bush
|Acts as intercessor for people
||Acts as intercessor for people
|Holds up his sword in battle
||Holds up his arms in battle
|Conqueror of land
||Conqueror of land
||Distributes land (2½ Eastern tribes)
|Speaks as a prophet
||Speaks as a prophet
|God will be with him
||God will be with him
- The one thing Joshua does not do is parallel
Moses' role as lawgiver. He continually refers
back to the law that Moses has already given,
and uses that as the standard.
- Joshua is the one to convince Reuben, Gad,
and half of Manasseh that they need to keep
their promise to Moses and help the others fight
for their lands. They respond to him with the
loyalty they showed to Moses. An early victory
- Before they could enter the land, they had
to cross the River Jordan.
- Joshua assured the people God would provide
for them. He told them to prepare: "Consecrate
yourselves." To the priests, he said they
were to go into the water with the ark. There
they would experience God's power.
- The people thought enough of Joshua to follow
these instructions. No one knew for sure what
would happen, but the priests did not hesitate.
When their feet hit the water, it receded. The
people crossed on a dry riverbed.
- When they had safely crossed, Joshua instructed
the tribes to choose twelve men to take twelve
stones from the riverbed and pile them up where
they camped that first night. Those stones would
stand as proof of God's mighty deed.
- The wonders of crossing the Jordan elevated
Joshua's leadership (like Moses), and confirmed
God's promise to be with him. It also demoralized
the kings of Canaan, who saw the mighty works
- When the enemy was without spirit, God commanded
Joshua to circumcise all the males. This act
identified them as descendants of Abraham. (It
is not clear why this had not been done before.
Some translations say, "again," but
add that this generation had not been circumcised
since they left Egypt.) The men were able to
recover while the enemy was dispirited.
- On the eve of battle, the Lord's commander
meets Joshua. He comes with sword drawn to deliver
a message. In response to Joshua's "Who
are you?" question, the messenger tells
Joshua to remove his shoes for the place where
he is standing is holy. (Remember the burning
bush?) Whether or not this was the actual message,
it symbolized Joshua's readiness to remove any
symbols of personal power and strength. Then
he is told that Jericho belongs to God.
- God repeats His promise to deliver Jericho
to the people, but his instructions were unusual.
Joshua followed them exactly. He told the priests
to carry the ark at the head of the procession;
the priests blew horns continually; the people
marched around the city once a day for six days
in total silence.
- Additional instructions, including forbidding
them from taking anything from the city, were
given out around the campsites at night. If
anything were to be taken, it would bring disaster
to the Israelites. Any silver or gold was to
be given to the Lord's treasury. No exceptions.
- All went according to plan. On the seventh
day, they marched around the city seven times
and then gave a great shout. The walls fell
- With the success of Jericho ringing in his
ears, Joshua turned towards Ai - and was resoundingly
defeated! Reasons were many - Achan stole some
things from Jericho, thereby disobeying God's
direct command; the spies underestimated the
strength of the city. The most damaging reason,
however, stems from the information that the
Lord's anger was kindled over the stolen booty,
and Joshua never consulted with the Lord about
invading the territory.
- God tells Joshua that first he must deal with
the sin of disobedience; next he must consecrate
- Then Ai was delivered into his hands - and
they were able to keep the plunder.
- Lessons learned at Ai include the perils of
coveting and disobedience to God; never underestimate
the enemy; and lastly, work with God, not independent
of God, against evil.
- Joshua set up an altar at Mount Ebal after
these battles to reaffirm the covenant and to
celebrate the restoration of the community after
Achan's sin had put them in jeopardy. Joshua's
role included reading the entire law, and reminding
them of all of their obligations, blessings
- Word has been spreading about the Israelites.
Nations are banding together.
- Gibeonites plan a ruse to convince Joshua
they've just moved in, are no threat to them,
and to ask for a treaty. Joshua, again, does
not consult the Lord, and agrees to the treaty.
- Three days later, he comes to regret it when
the ruse is discovered. By then, however, the
agreement has been accepted, so the decision
is to let them live as woodcutters and water
carriers for the Israelites. That is how the
Gibeonites earned a place as children of God.
- Joshua is forced to defend Gibeon when Canaanite
kings decide to attack them - consequences of
entering into treaties that have not been sanctioned
by the Lord. This time, however, he does consult
God and receives needed support - through hail.
A resulting poem adds that "the sun stood
still" and "the moon stopped."
All the spoils are given to God.
- In conjunction with the Lord, Joshua successfully
claims all the southern cities, one at a time.
Then he turns northward, with similar success.
Joshua is seen as a great warrior who was able
to take control of the land as he had been commanded
to do. Though they allowed the Hivites (Gibeonites)
to live in the land [and this will cause them
problems later on], they were faithful to God's
directive. They received the land.
- At this point, the land "had rest."
God told Joshua, "You are old and stricken
in years." For this reason, Joshua began
the process of turning the leadership over to
the individual tribes. As they would take possession
of the land, he would no longer be able to direct
or monitor their activities.
- Joshua, in the presence of Eleazar, divided
up the land, starting with Caleb and going right
down the line. He honored the agreement Reuben,Gad,
and half of the tribe of Manasseh had with Moses,
just as they had honored their agreement to
help the other tribes fight for their land.
They were allowed to return home, back across
the Jordan to the east side.
- The apportionment of the land was done in
order - first to Judah, then to Joseph's two
sons. The allotment of the remaining seven was
decided by casting lots. Not all were happy
about their portion, but Joshua was firm and
told them to make do.
- When the task was completed, Joshua was given
land in the center of the country given to the
tribe of Ephraim. He took the land and built
up the city of Timnath Serah.
- Some unfinished business involved setting
up the cities of refuge, which he did, and providing
cities for the Levitical priests. It was important
that the tribes assume responsibility for the
- A hint of some of the challenges facing the
new reality [Can these motley tribes really
become one nation?] include having the eastern
tribes build an altar on their side of the river.
The response of the tribes west of the river
is to declare it to be an abomination against
the Lord and to gather for war.
- War is averted by sending a peace delegation
(Phineas, son of Eleazar, the priest) to talk
with them about it. They discovered that the
eastern tribes had meant no harm or disrespect,
but saw their actions as their way of staying
faithful to God. Phineas saw their earnestness
and apparently was persuaded. War was averted.
- Joshua assembled all the leaders of the people
to hear his final words. He reminds them of
God's mighty deeds, how God fought for them
and gave them the land. They owe a great debt
to God, and he assures them of God's continued
support for future challenges. In return they
are to remain faithful, to be strong, to obey
the laws of Moses, and to swear off worshiping
any local gods or getting too involved with
the local people. (Though most all of the cities
had been destroyed, a few people remained [remember
- His final act is to renew the covenant one
more time. He again reviews their history with
God, places their options before them, and commands
them to "choose this day whom ye will serve."
- Leaving nothing to chance, Joshua made the
covenant, and set them a statute and an ordinance
at Shechem. He then wrote the words of the covenant
in a book of the Law, and set up a large stone,
saying this will be a witness against us if
you are untrue to the Lord. (People may forget,
but stones are quite lasting.) They will stand
as a consistent reminder as to what was promised.
- Joshua died when he was 110 years old; he
was buried in his city of Timnath Serah, in
Mount Ephraim, on the north side of the hill
- For the first time, Joshua is called a "servant
of the Lord" in his own right. Previously,
this term was only attributed to Moses. (Josh.
24:29) It recognizes that Joshua was a servant
of the Lord in the tradition of Moses.
- Shortly thereafter, Eleazar died, and Joseph's
bones were buried in Jacob's burial cave as
requested. This officially ends the leadership
of the religious leaders. Now everything falls
to the individual tribes - for good or bad
Ashby Godfrey. "Go Out and Meet God." Exodus, International Theological Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B Eerdmans, 1998.
Auld, A. Graeme. Joshua, Judges, and Ruth. The Daily Study Bible Series. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1984.
Buttrick George, ed. Interpreter's Bible. New York, Abingdon-Cokesbury Press,1953.
Dummelow, J.R. A Commentary on the Holy Bible. New York: MacMillan Publishing, 1977.
Gispen, WH. Exodus, The Bible Student's Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1982.
Hamlin, E. John. "Joshua, Inheriting the Land." The International Theological Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B Eerdmans, 1983.
Harris, J. Gordon. Joshua. New International Biblical Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2000.
Mills, Watson and Richard Wilson. Mercer Commentary on the Bible. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1995.
Nelson, Richard. Joshua. Old Testament Library. Louisville, KY: Westminster Press, 1997.
Noordtzij, A. Numbers. Bible Student's Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1983.
Sakenfeld, Katharine. Numbers, Journeying with God. The International Theological Commentary, Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B Eerdmans, 1995.