The book of Joshua is named for the most well known member of the Israelite generation that entered the Promised Land. Joshua was Moses' servant and replaced him as leader after his death. It is a fitting title of the book, as it follows the conquest of the Promised Land by Israel, led by Joshua.
- History of the Book
- Date Written
- Message & Purpose
- Chapter by Chapter Breakdown
- Prominent Individuals
- Important People
- Other Individuals
- Lessons Learned: Before There Was Google Maps…
History of the Book
Joshua is the sixth book of the Bible in both the Christian and Jewish canon. As the first of the historical books, Joshua serves as a bridge between the books of law and the history of Israel.
No author is given for the book of Joshua. Many believe the book was written by Joshua himself since Joshua 18:9 and Joshua 24:25 tell us Joshua wrote under the instruction of God. The vivid detail throughout the book suggests the person who recorded the book was someone who was an eye witness to the events and knew Joshua well. The common thought is that Joshua wrote most of the book with Eleazar and Phineas—the son and grandson of Aaron, respectively—finishing the book.
If Joshua or one of his contemporaries wrote the book, it must have been written during his lifetime or shortly thereafter. Joshua is thought to have died in 1380 BC which would place the date of authorship sometime during the 14th century BC (probably after 1380, since Joshua's death is recorded). With references to the Sidonians, we can be confident the book was written before 1100 BC. Also since the Philistines are not a problem in the book, it had to be written before they invaded in 1200 BC.
Message & Purpose
Joshua picks up right where Deuteronomy leaves off: Joshua's assumption of leadership and the Israelite's entry to the Promised Land. This book details the battles fought to obtain the land and marks the beginning of the nation at home.
The book has been compared to a land grant of the era with God acting as the suzerain. This makes sense because the land was in fact granted to Israel from God.
Like the Books of Law, the book of Joshua will show us more of the struggle Israel had with faith. The renewal of the covenant by the new generation is also discussed. This should remind us to be mindful of our own struggles, because no matter how much God does for us, we are prone to doubt. We must strive to keep our faith!
Chapter by Chapter Breakdown
Some of these people were mentioned for genealogies. Others play a larger role in future books.
Lessons Learned: Before There Was Google Maps…
The book of Joshua is basically Google Maps put into words... Initially, it seems boring, which probably explains why most of us skip the passages that just list cities. The only thing I could remember from the book of Joshua was the Battle of Jericho. Despite hearing "as for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord" all the time, I had no idea this was a quote from Joshua (see Joshua 24:15). Once I saw the lists of cities, I knew this was one of the books I probably skimmed instead of read as a child. However, this time I was determined to get some meaning out of it. As I was reading the list of cities, I thought, "why would God preserve this?"; it had to have some significance. When the book of Joshua was written, there was no Google Maps for the Israelites to look up and check the boundaries, they had to be written out. Perhaps a physical map was made at some point, but during a hostile takeover, I doubt the Israelites had time to draw an accurate picture of the land and annotate it. Furthermore, a pictorial map isn't easy to memorize (unless you have a photographic memory). The lists in Joshua could be memorized easily so that each tribe knew where their boundaries were. Following this train of thought, I tried to place some of the locations on a modern map; I must say, this made it much more interesting. It's amazing to see that many of the cities have the same names today, as well as, to see how the names have changed. In addition, it helps put some perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is ongoing.
Because the U.S. is mostly Christian, the U.S. generally supports Israel and most Christians don't question this. Interestingly, when reading Joshua, you can clearly see that only an obedient Israel is able to take the Promised Land. According to the Bible, Israel shouldn't need the U.S. or the U.N. or anyone else; all they had to do was be obedient to God. He would give them the ability to conquer and keep the Promised Land. Note, when God initially commanded them to take the the land, He also commanded them to drive everyone else out. God knew that the Canaanites would tempt the Israelites to spiritual adultery. The Israelites did not follow this command, something that is mentioned throughout Joshua, and indeed, they fell into idolatry (which is covered in Judges). Greed overcomes the Israelites, so they keep the Canaanites around to pay tribute, i.e. to be exploited for money. Eventually, part of the land was taken by the Philistines (Palestinians). While Israel regains control of the land off and on, they are unable to maintain it due to their disobedience. This is basically the same thing that is being done today—Israel is still exploiting another nation, this time the people of Palestine, for money.
Now, I'm not saying that the Israeli's should go kill the Palestinians. The Palestinians were not in Canaan when God told Israel to empty it of its inhabitants and thus, they would be considered the same as any other "stranger" in the land. All throughout the Books of Law Israel was told not to oppress strangers in the land, but to treat them decently. Furthermore, Israel made its decision when they chose to crucify Jesus and confirmed it when they stoned Stephen. That was the end of Israel as the chosen people; after that the Word of God was preached to Gentiles, which includes the Palestinians. As such, it is the body of Christ that has become God's "chosen people." So, from a Christian perspective, not only are the Palestinians equally able to accept Jesus and enter the kingdom of God, but without accepting Jesus and the New Testament, it's impossible for the Jews to follow the law; they have no Temple to perform the sacrifices. There are prophecies that people believe require Israel to be a nation, but I'll talk about that when we get there. At the moment, I think the Promised Land was a gift God gave that Israel; they never truly accepted it so they lost it. More importantly, I think in order to understand the issue in our world today, we should have a good understanding of Joshua.
Many of the famous Biblical Cities such as Bethlehem and Jericho are located in the West Bank. It was interesting to see so many cities whose names have not changed and are not in Jewish controlled territories. For example, the capital of Jordan is a city called Amman, in the same location Joshua places the sons of Ammon and their capital city. Also in Jordan is a city called Dhiban, in the same general proximity as the Biblical city of Dibon that was given to the tribe of Reuben. I discus many such cities in the posts covering the passages in which they were mentioned. This definitely made the read more enjoyable. Here in the Americas, our countries and cities are very young and the history of the Native American tribes that the land was stolen from was destroyed, so it's quite impressive that a city like Jerusalem has been in existence for over 4,000 years. For each additional city that amazement doubles! There's a lot of history contained in that region and Joshua was a nice introduction to that history.
- MacDonald, William. Believer's Bible Commentary. pg. 237-239. 1995
- Holman Bible Publishers. Holman KJV Study Bible. pg. 359-362. 2014
- "Suzerain". Merriam Webster. 2016