What is the book of Joshua about?

by Pastor Glen Podd – 24 May 2017


Meaning The Book of Joshua

Joshua has a Hebrew root meaning of: Jehovah is salvation, Jesus in the New Testament. 



Jewish tradition gives the author as Joshua, his death at the end being added afterwards. 


Main characters  

The main characters are Joshua, Rahab, Achan and Caleb.


Main events

The book of Joshua covers the Conquest stage of the journey of Israel according to Dr H. L. Willmington. Prior to it there were three other stages: 

The Creation stage (Genesis 1-11)

Covering the creation, fall and flood.

The Patriarch stage (Genesis 12-50) 

Covering the early spiritual fathers, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph.

The Exodus stage (Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy) 

Covering Israel’s deliverance from bondage, becoming a nation and establishing its laws, Joshua continues the story as this wandering nation enters its promised land. 

In Genesis 12:1-3 God promised Abraham three things: 

- To make him into a nation (v2).

- To give him a land (v1).

- To bless all mankind through him (v3) – speaking of Jesus.

In the Exodus stage we see how God fulfilled phase one of his promises, making Jacob’s family of 70 into a nation of 1-2 million, delivering them from slavery and, through 40 years of wandering, deals with their character problem of doubt.  In Joshua they are now ready to fulfil phase two of God’s promise…to receive the promised land to live in.

The Conquest stage 

This stage covers some 25 years (1405-1380BC).  We see three main actors (Joshua, Rahab and Caleb) and we see three main theatres of action: the invasion, the conquest and the division of the land. 


The challenge of the Conquest stage 

Joshua 1:2"Moses my servant is dead!"

These words uttered by God to Joshua mark the end of an era. Moses had been the only leader of this new nation. He had been their deliverer from bondage, their priest and their prophet who had brought them this far to the border of the promised land. The Bible describes him with unparallelled honour in Deuteronomy 34:10-12.
But now he was gone, an era of greatness was over. However, his era also stood for something else: a faithless, grumbling, disobedient people. During their wilderness wanderings God had to deal with Israel’s apathy, discontent, bondage, doubt, lack of confidence and disloyalty. The Moses generation had been a people who said "we can’t", and so they didn’t enter the land of promise. 

As we come to the Conquest stage we come to a new leader and a new Joshua generation. Every soldier of the Moses generation who refused to enter the promised land had died over the 40 years in the wilderness and a new generation of young fighting men had emerged who had a new attitude of "we can".   


A people committed to leadership (1:16,18) 

The Moses generation were marked by their continual attacks upon Moses' leadership.  But the Joshua generation was marked by total commitment to Joshua’s leadership. They did whatever he commanded and went wherever he sent them. 


A people committed to one another (1:12-18) 

The tribes of Reuben, Gad and half of the tribe of Manasseh had already claimed their inheritance on the east of the Jordan.  Why should they cross over and fight for the west side which would not be theirs?  That could have been their thinking, but no, they were committed to each other and the fighting men crossed over ahead of their brothers and did not return to their families until the whole land was conquered and all the 12 tribes had land of their own. 


A people committed to possessing the promise (2:24) 

In Chapter 2 we read of the two spies Joshua sent across the Jordan into Jericho, their first obstacle. They were spotted as being spies but were rescued by Rahab, a prostitute who put her trust in God. When spies had gone into Canaan 40 years earlier they had discouraged Israel from possessing the land, but the report of these spies was totally different; they were convinced the land was theirs. They were committed to possessing the promise, "be strong and courageous" became their motto, eg Caleb (14:6-14).

Also note their circumcision in Chapter 5 before going into battle. Circumcision was:  

- The sign of the covenant between God and Israel given to Abraham (Genesis 17). 

- An act of consecration showing their will to obey and follow God.


A people committed to discipline (7:25-26) 

Israel suffered an amazing defeat by a little town called Ai and the reason was found to be sin among them. Achan had taken unauthorised plunder, putting the whole of the people of God in jeopardy. The whole people stoned him to death.  Whereas in Moses, time his disciplining had led to grumbling, here it was enacted wholeheartedly. 


A people free from grumbling  

The whole atmosphere of Joshua is different from Exodus and Numbers. In the latter two you expected grumbling and criticism every few pages but in Joshua there is not one incident even though there were plenty of potential flashpoints: 

- Reuben, Gad and Manasseh having to fight.

- The division of the land, who got what.

- Achan’s disciplining. 

- Joshua’s leadership (marching round Jericho).

The Conquest stage is where Israel reached their peak in faith and action. It is a stage to which we have been called!

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