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Joshua

Joshua is the name of the leader who led the military campaign to conquer the Promised Land. The name literally means 'God is salvation' [3]. He ordered that the people who had lived there before should be driven out or killed. The book then records the areas allocated to each tribe, and rules for adapting from a nomadic life to a settled one.

Some see the book as being in two parts. The first part concerns Joshua's youth and commission, and God's voice in 13:1 re-commissions him to complete his work in old age.[3]

See Old Testament regarding authorship.

Commentary

1:5

cf. Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5.

2:10

Rahab indicated belief in the one true God, which set her apart from her neighbours, and justified her rescue and incorporation into God's people (6:25). However, James 2:25 points out that her faith was revealed by her works.

3:7–10

These verses show how well Joshua was in tune with God. How would you react if God said he was going to exalt you before your people (:7)? Joshua simply told the people to watch God at work among them (:10); in other words, he gave the glory to God.

3:11

The Ark was a symbol of God's presence, and the covenant between him and the people.

3:12–13

Of the twelve men one from each tribe (:12) only one was a Levite. Yet verses 4 and 13 f describe the Ark as carried by Priests. Therefore the twelve men did not carry the Ark but only removed the twelve stones from the bed of the Jordan (Joshua 4:3).

3:16

God made dry land in the midst of the waters, as he had done in creation (Genesis 1:9–10) and the crossing of the sea (Exodus 14:29). Of those who had crossed the sea, only Joshua and Caleb survived (Numbers 14:30, 38); this miracle was a new experience to the others.

5:2

Ecclesiasticus 44:20 says circumcision established the covenant between Abraham and God in Abraham's flesh. Thus circumcision is a sign of being in a covenant relationship with God.

5:13

Joshua's question is quite straightforward, with no hint of deference; it seems that the figure looked like an ordinary person.

5:14

The reply immediately turned the encounter into an extraordinary one, and Joshua's demeanor changed from command to servitude. The captain of the Lord's army implies a chief angel, though 6:2 suggests it was "the Lord" himself. His reply seems to say that he is not taking sides (though we would expect the Lord to be fighting on Joshua's side); perhaps it meant he was not taking orders from either side.

5:15–6:5

The instructions to Joshua have unusual features. Trumpets were in those days used as alarm sirens, calling people to take up arms or take cover, so one would expect the trumpets to be blown by civil authorities rather than priests. And there is no mention of taking weapons; the victory would be the Lord's. However it appears from the following verses that the people did carry arms.

6:1

cf. Judges 7:18 where trumpets again played a key part.

6:23

Gideon was afraid because of the words of Exodus 33:20.

7

This terribly severe response to sin should have been expected, because it is precisely what was covenanted in Deuteronomy 7:25 f: by taking possession of a thing that should be destroyed, one becomes liable to its fate. The nature of the sin can be compared with failure to give God the glory (see Numbers 20:1–13 and Acts 5:1 for other severe responses), which is a sin we are more likely to commit. cf. Isaiah 65:10, Hosea 2:15.

7:2

Ai: see Appendix 3 Ai.

7:21

Shekel: see Appendix 2 Money.

9:15

This was a sin, because the Israelites failed (through negligence) to observe the command in Exodus 23:32 despite its repetition in Exodus 34:12.

10:13

It has been suggested that since Joshua appears to be praying in poetry in verse 12, as shown by the parallelism between phrases, some later person has tampered with the text of verse 13 altering the poetic form (in which we would allow some poetic license) into prose, leading us to take literally a statement about the sun's motion that was perhaps not intended to be taken that way.[1 p.123]

12:3

Pisgah means summit.

12:6

Half-tribe: see Appendix 2 "half-tribe".

13:7

Half-tribe: see Appendix 2 "half-tribe".

13:20

Pisgah means summit.

13:29

Half-tribe: see Appendix 2 "half-tribe".

14:2–4

Half-tribe: see Appendix 2 "half-tribe".

14:13–14

Caleb: see Appendix 1.

15:16–19

= Judges 1:13–15.

16:2

Luz: see comment on Genesis 28:19.

18:3

Luz: see comment on Genesis 28:19.

19:2

Some editions of AV contain the misprint "and Sheba" which should read "or Sheba".[4 p.142]

21:4

See comment on 1 Chronicles 6:64f.

21:5–6

Half-tribe: see Appendix 2 "half-tribe".

21:25

Half-tribe: see Appendix 2 "half-tribe".

22:1

Half-tribe: see Appendix 2 "half-tribe".

22:7

Half-tribe: see Appendix 2 "half-tribe".

22:9–15

Half-tribe: see Appendix 2 "half-tribe".

22:22

Half-tribe: see Appendix 2 "half-tribe".

23:1–10

Verse 1 mentions rest in terms of peace in place of war with adjoining nations, and also acknowledges that Joshua will soon go to his eternal reward. Perhaps peace between nations is a metaphor for eternal rest in heaven.

23:7

See Exodus 34:13–14.

23:11–16

This passage (like the book Ezra) shows the limitations of Old Testament religion. At that time, evil could only be destroyed by destroying the evildoer; but since Christ has come, we seek to convert the evildoer.

24

Some commentators, e.g. Anderson[2 p.144f], say that this passage was particularly significant because here the relatives of the tribes freed from Egypt, who had colonised central Canaan which therefore did not have to be conquered like the hill country, vowed to join the newcomers in worshipping Yahweh. (Note that verse 14 makes it clear he is addressing people whose ancestors did not worship "the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob".) Also certain unrelated peoples joined as proselytes. This fits the archaeological evidence, and explains why the meeting was held at Shechem, in the centre of central Canaan, where these particular people lived and worshipped. Note that long before Jacob had bought some land at Shechem, establishing a family connection.

However, I disagree with this analysis. Verse 14 continues the thought of verse 2, which is clearly a reference not to contemporaries of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but their ancestors who worshipped other gods. So when Joshua urges them to throw away the gods Terah and the other ancestors worshipped it must indicate that the Hebrews had drifted away from the worship of Yahweh and gone back to the pagan faiths of their forebears.

Anyway, the important point to notice is that salvation does not depend on having the right faith in the first instance. On the contrary, God rescues us from pagan beliefs and restores us to a relationship with him.

24:23

See Exodus 34:13–14.

24:28–30

= Judges 2:6–9.

24:29–32

This passage is subtly drawing parallels between Joseph and Joshua. Joseph paved the way for the people to enter Egypt; Joshua led them into the Promised Land. Joshua died aged 110 years, as did Joseph in Genesis 50:26.

24:32

cf. Genesis 33:19. Joseph gave instructions regarding his burial in Genesis 49:29, and they removed his body from Egypt in Exodus 13:19.

References:

  1. Coggins, R Introducing the Old Testament Oxford University Press, 2nd edition 2001
  2. Anderson Bernhard W The Living World of the Old Testament New Millennium Edition (Pearson Education Ltd, publishers)
  3. John Twistleton writing in New Daylight Bible notes, 14 May 2017.
  4. Campbell, Gordon Bible: the Story of the King James Version (Oxford: OUP, 2010)

© David Billin 2002–2021