(When I conceived the 2022 Bible reading plan, I miscalculated the date for Easter, thinking it was April 10th and not 17th. The plan intended to follow the end of the Gospel of Matthew with the reading of the OT book of Joshua. Obviously, I was wrong. This is my explanation why I am sending you an introduction to Joshua a week late).
Introduction of the book of Joshua
“All your life, no one will be able to hold out against you. In the same way, I was with Moses, I’ll be with you. I won’t give up on you; I won’t leave you. Strength! Courage! You are going to lead these people to inherit the land that I promised to give their ancestors. Give it everything you have, heart and soul. Make sure you carry out The Revelation that Moses commanded you, every bit of it. Don’t get off track, either left or right, so as to make sure you get to where you’re going. And don’t for a minute let this Book of The Revelation be out of mind. Ponder and meditate on it day and night, making sure you practice everything written in it. Then you’ll get where you’re going; then you’ll succeed. Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take.”
(Joshua 1: 5-9, The Message)
The Joshua Story in Context
The books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers tell the 40-year story of the newly formed nation of Israel led by Moses. In those 40 years, God used Moses to deliver the people of His promise from the yoke of Egyptian oppression miraculously crossing the Red Sea. Following the Exodus, Moses then led the people toward Mt. Sinai where God revealed His Law, and the portable meeting place of God, the Tabernacle, was constructed.
From Mt. Sinai, Moses led the Israelites to the edge of the Promised Land where tragically unbelief and rebellion gripped the people resulting in divine discipline. The people of the promise were not spiritually prepared to enter the Promised Land. For nearly four decades, God sustained His people during the wilderness wandering.
Following the wilderness wandering, God led the people into the Plains of Moab where Moses taught God’s Word to a new generation of Israelites. The instruction is the book of Deuteronomy. The book of Deuteronomy ends at Mt. Nebo where the Lord renewed his promise, showed Moses the Promised Land, and Moses died.
The story of the book of Joshua begins where Deuteronomy ends. The tribes of Israel are encamped on the east side of the Jordan River and the command is given to move forward, pass through the river and commence the conquest. The book of Joshua recounts the events surrounding the conquest and settlement of the land of Canaan, with emphasis on God’s faithfulness in fulfilling his promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (ESV Study Bible)
THE LIFE OF JOSHUA
Joshua’s remarkable life was filled with excitement, variety, success, and honor. He was known for his deep trust in God and as “a man in whom is the spirit” (Numbers 27:18). As a youth, he lived through the bitter realities of slavery in Egypt, but he also witnessed the supernatural plagues and the miracle of Israel’s escape from the army of the Egyptians when the waters of the sea opened before them. In the Sinai peninsula, it was Joshua who led the troops of Israel to victory over the Amalekites (Exodus 17:8-13). He alone was allowed to accompany Moses up the holy mountain where the tablets of the law were received (Ex. 24:13-14). And it was he who stood watch at the temporary tent of meeting Moses set up before the tabernacle was erected (Ex. 33:11).
Joshua was elected to represent his own tribe of Ephraim when the 12 spies were sent into Canaan to look over the land. Only Joshua and Caleb, representing the tribe of Judah, were ready to follow God’s will and take immediate possession of the land (Numbers 14:26-34). The rest of the Israelites of that generation were condemned to die in the desert. Even Moses died short of the goal and was told to turn everything over to Joshua. God promised to guide and strengthen Joshua, just as he had Moses (Joshua 1:5).
Joshua was God’s chosen servant (Joshua 24:29) to bring Moses’ work to completion and establish Israel in the promised land. To that divine appointment, he was faithful, as the leader of God’s army, the administrator of God’s division of the land, and as God’s spokesman for promoting Israel’s covenant faithfulness.
AUTHOR AND DATE
While the book mentions Joshua writing (8:32, 24:26) it does not claim he wrote the book. The repeated references to something existing “to this day” seem to suggest that there was a significant lapse of time between the events recorded in the book and the time when the writing of the book was completed. The final writing may have taken place in the time of the exile (post-587 B.C.), but the writing probably began much earlier. (from ESV Study Bible)
THE CONQUEST AND THE ETHICAL QUESTION OF WAR
Many readers of Joshua (and other OT books) are deeply troubled by the role that warfare plays in this account of God’s dealings with his people. Not a few relieve their ethical scruples by ascribing the author’s perspective to a pre-Christian (and sub-Christian) stage of moral development that the Christian, in the light of Christ’s teaching, must repudiate and transcend. Hence the main thread of the narrative line of Joshua is an offense to them.
It must be remembered, however, that the book of Joshua does not address itself to the abstract ethical question of war as a means for gaining human ends. It can only be understood in the context of the history of redemption unfolding in the Pentateuch, with its interplay of divine grace and judgment. Of that story, it is the direct continuation.
Joshua is not an epic account of Israel’s heroic generation or the story of Israel’s conquest of Canaan with the aid of her national deity. It is rather the story of how God, to whom the whole world belongs, at one stage in the history of redemption reconquered a portion of the earth from the powers of this world that had claimed it for themselves, defending their claims by force of arms and reliance on their false gods. It tells how God commissioned his people to serve as his army under the leadership of his servant Joshua, to take Canaan in his name out of the hands of the idolatrous and dissolute Canaanites (whose measure of sin was now full; see Genesis 15:16 and note). It further tells how he aided them in the enterprise and gave them conditional tenancy in his land in fulfillment of the ancient pledge he had made to Israel’s ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Joshua is the story of the kingdom of God breaking into the world of nations at a time when national and political entities were viewed as the creation of the gods and living proofs of their power. Thus, the Lord’s triumph over the Canaanites testified to the world that the God of Israel is the one true and living God, whose claim on the world is absolute. It was also a warning to the nations that the irresistible advance of the kingdom of God would ultimately disinherit all those who opposed it, giving place in the earth only to those who acknowledge and serve the Lord. At once an act of redemption and judgment, it gave notice of the outcome of history and anticipated the final destiny of humankind and the creation.
The battles for Canaan were therefore the Lord’s war, undertaken at a particular time in the program of redemption. God gave his people under Joshua no commission or license to conquer the world with the sword but a particular, limited mission. The conquered land itself would not become Israel’s national possession by right of conquest, but it belonged to the Lord. So, the land had to be cleansed of all remnants of paganism. Its people and their wealth were not for Israel to seize as the booty of war from which to enrich themselves (as Achan tried to do, chapter 7) but were placed under God’s ban (were to be devoted to God to dispense with as he pleased). On that land, Israel was to establish a commonwealth faithful to the righteous rule of God and thus be a witness (and a blessing) to the nations. If Israel became unfaithful and conformed to Canaanite culture and practice, it would in turn lose its place in the Lord’s land as Israel almost did in the days of the judges, and as it eventually did in the exile.
War is a terrible curse that the human race brings on itself as it seeks to possess the earth by its own unrighteous ways. But it pales before the curse that awaits all those who do not heed God’s testimony to himself or his warnings—those who oppose the rule of God and reject his offer of grace. The God of the second Joshua (Jesus) is the God of the first Joshua also. Although now for a time he reaches out to the whole world with the gospel (and commissions his people urgently to carry his offer of peace to all nations), the sword of his judgment waits in the wings and his second Joshua will wield it (Revelation 19:11-16). (ARTICLE FROM NIV STUDY BIBLE)