By Raymond Harris
Regarding Scripture: The Book of Joshua
Note to the Reader – I encourage you to invest additional time reading the book of Joshua in conjunction with this article.
The Book of Joshua
As we enter into a new month, the book for our study will be the book of Joshua. In our English Old Testament compilations, Joshua is considered the first of twelve historical books, the last being Esther. However, in the Tanakh, Joshua is the first of the Prophets. In either event, this book gives the details of Israel’s journey after the death of Moses.
The book of Joshua is significant, in the aspect, that it records the establishment of Ancient Israel in the land of Canaan, or Palestine. These people are not much more than a confederated people lead by Joshua, Jehovah’s appointed leader within a theocratic society. They are the children1 of the slaves that came from Egypt.2 These clans will be born, will live and will die before Saul, David or Solomon ever become king and fulfill their respective roles in Israel’s development. They worship at the Tabernacle constructed during the Exodus and decades will pass before Solomon’s Temple is constructed.
These men, women, and children are founders of a nation and the things they accomplish during their time have a lasting impression on the Israelite Nation. Theirs is a history of triumph and tragedy but ultimately they become a nation that trusts Jehovah and Joshua.
Many times this time period in Israel’s history is referred to as the Conquest. While the term encapsulates the truth of “the act or state of conquering”3 it also carries the concept “to defeat or subdue by force, especially by force of arms”4 which is unfortunate to the spiritual historicity of Joshua. Israel was an inferior army. While she numbered nearly forty-thousand,5 Israel simply did not possess chariots or other weapons of warfare that matched or surpassed the inhabitants of Canaan. The idea of Conquest almost betrays the truth of Joshua. The book of Joshua records the necessity of Israel to trust their covenanted God, named Jehovah, in order to receive the inheritance that was promised.
Some have tried to cast doubt on this volume of Sacred Writings by speculating that Joshua is not the author by referencing “Othniel’s capture of Kirjath Sepher (15:13-19), Dan’s migration to the north (19:47), and the account of Joshua’s death and burial (24:29-33).”6 It is my conviction that the original recording of the account of Joshua is a Holy Spirit inspired product; but that does not automatically mean that the transmission of the account necessitates inspiration. However, since autographs (the original documents) no longer exist, all we have is what has been given throughout the ages.
Some have argued that the phrase unto this day7 indicates that the writing of Joshua had to be after the events within the book itself. This seems like a fair statement, but it also seems fair to say that it could have been that Joshua himself or Joshua through dictation had the events records within his lifetime. II Timothy 3.16 states, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” However, this verse does not say that all scripture within a book has to be written by the exact same author for inspiration to be profitable. If all material within a book has to be by the same writer, then how would we divide the collection of Psalms?
No matter the writer, the events in the book of Joshua record a tremendous journey. It was a journey that required stamina of emotions, endurance of morality, resilience of intellect, and determination of body. This record is one not just for national foundation, but spiritual foundation, the bedrock that even a single believer in Jehovah must have – trust that He will deliver on His promises.
Let us briefly examine the name Joshua. Joshua in Hebrew is transliterated as Yehoshua and means “Yahweh (Jehovah) is salvation”. Part of God’s deliverance (salvation) for Israel was to give His covenanted people what He had promised, and that was a land inheritance. To accomplish delivery on the promised inheritance, Jehovah specifically chose a servant by the name Yehoshua to lead God’s covenanted people into their promised inheritance – Canaan. It is of no minor import that Yehoshua led the covenanted people of old into their inheritance, and another Jehovah-chosen servant has led and is leading a new covenanted people8 into their inheritance, that man – Jesus, Iesous, Yeshua.9
As we close, let us consider some tidbits mentioned in the NIV Archeological Study Bible.10 These provide additional points of interest which can enrich one’s reading of Joshua. Here they are:
- In the ancient Near East a judicial verdict of the gods was commonly obtained by compelling an accused person to submit to a trial-by-water ordeal. Usually this involved casting the accused in a river. If the person drowned, the gods had found him or her guilty. Here the Israelites engaged in a different trial-by-water ordeal (3:10-11).
- When Israelite officers placed their feet on the necks of great and powerful kings they subdued, they were recognizing them as frail human beings like everyone else. This practice, widespread in ancient times, is pictured in the artwork of Egypt and Assyria (10:24).
- The use of lots in the Old Testament contexts placed everything in God’s hands – making it clear that chance did not come into the picture (14:1-5). [italics in original – RAH]
- Horses and chariots posed an awesome challenge to the Israelites, whose own army was made up exclusively of foot soldiers (11:1-5).
- “Defiled,” a term for ritual uncleanness, did not necessarily imply something sinful (22:19).
- Numbers 14.26-38 records information regarding the people who would enter Canaan.
- Egypt is also known as Mizraim (KJV) or Mitsrayim (Scriptures 98). Linage information for Egypt can be found in Genesis 10.6, 13.
- Conquest as defined by dictionary.com, May 28, 2008.
- Conquering as defined by dictionary.com, May 28, 2008.
- Joshua 4.13.
- Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts, Joshua, p. 66, ISBN 0-7852-1154-3.
- Joshua 4:9, 5:9, 6:25, 7:26, 8:28, 8:29, 9:27, 14:14, 15:63, 16:10, 22:3, 23:8, 23:9 based on KJV word search “unto this day”.
- Jeremiah 31.31-34.
- Jesus is English, Iesous is Greek and Yeshua is a variant of the Hebrew.
- Archaeological Study Bible, New International Version, p. 303, ISBN-10: 0-310-92605-X.