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Joshua, the son of Nun, was Moses’ assistant and successor as Israel’s leader. Joshua brought the young nation across the Jordan River into Canaan. He faithfully followed God’s leadership.
Before Israel reached Mount Sinai, Joshua led Israel’s warriors when Amalek attacked Israel. (Exodus 17:8-13) shortly thereafter, he was among the twelve men Moses sent to scout the Promised Land. (Numbers 13:8,16) Joshua and Caleb urged Israel to occupy Canaan immediately, (Numbers 14:6-9) and only they entered Canaan. (Numbers 14:30,38)
God directed Moses to designate Joshua as his successor. (Numbers 27:15-23; Deuteronomy 34:9)
After Moses died, Joshua led Israel across the Jordan River, (Joshua 1:1-18; Joshua 3:1-4:24) to the conquest of Jericho. (Joshua 6:1-27) When Israel suffered defeat at Ai, Joshua turned to the Lord and followed His instructions to purge Israel of sin: (Joshua 7:1-26) then Israel conquered Ai. (Joshua 8:1-29) Following God’s instructions to Moses, (Deuteronomy 11:29-32; Deuteronomy 27:1-28:68) Joshua built an altar on Mount Ebal (Joshua 8:30-32) and read the blessings and curses of the covenant. (Joshua 8:33-35) Joshua conducted campaigns against two coalitions of Canaanite kings, a southern and a northern coalition. (Joshua 10:1-43; Joshua 11:1-15) Joshua’s victories in these campaigns opened the hill country to settlement by the Israelites.
After supervising the allotment of territories to the tribes of Israel, Joshua received his own portion in Ephraim. (Joshua 19:49-50) He established the cities of refuge (Chapter 20) and Levitical cities. (Chapter 21) As he grew old, Joshua charged Israel to remain faithful to God. (Chapters 23-24) His farewell message at Shechem summarized God’s dealings with Israel and concluded with the familiar challenge, “Choose today whom you will serve … But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15) Joshua died at the age of 110 and was buried in Timnath-serah. (Joshua 24:29-30)
Joshua demonstrated exceptional faithfulness throughout his life, except in dealing with the Gibeonites. (Chapter 9) Israel served God faithfully under Joshua and the elders Joshua trained. (Joshua 24:31) Stephen mentions Joshua in his martyr’s sermon, (Acts 7:45) and the writer of Hebrews uses Joshua’s conquest of Jericho as an illustration of faith. (Hebrews 11:30) It is fitting that Joshua and Jesus are the same name in Hebrew: Joshua led Israel into physical salvation in Canaan; Jesus leads all who believe Him into eternal salvation.
Joshua is the historical account of God’s Covenant with Moses being fulfilled under the leadership of Joshua. When the Israelites were in the land of Egypt they were an enslaved nation. Egypt was at the time the most powerful, prosperous and secure nation on the earth. When Moses had go down to Egypt to under the command of God tell Pharaoh to let God’s people go, Pharaoh had refused. Through Moses and his brother Arron God placed 10 Plagues upon Egypt devastating them. Finally Pharaoh let the Israelites go but then changed his mind and went after them to bring them back into slavery. When Pharaoh’s army had pinned the Israelites against the Red Sea God parted the waters and the Israelites marched to safety upon dry land. When Pharaoh’s army pursued the waters of the Red Sea caved in around them and the army was drowned.
After the Law was given to Moses at Mount Sinai Moses sent twelve spies into the Promised Land of Canaan and ten of them returned saying the land was as God had promised but they would not be strong enough to take it from their hand. Joshua and Caleb had said the land was truly the land of milk and honey and that it could be taken. Because of the disbelief of the Israelite people God said that none of that generation would be able to enter into the Promised Land. The Israelite nation wondered for forty more years in the wilderness until, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, a new generation of Israelites was ready to fulfill God’s promise to them. Moses was not able to enter into the Promised Land either and in Deuteronomy 31:7-8 he passed the role of leadership to his assistant Joshua. “Then Moses called to Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land which the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall give it to them as an inheritance. “The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:7-8)
The book of Joshua begins when he takes command of the Israelite nation and ends with his death and burial. This book is the record given to us in an orderly narrative to leadership and government of Joshua as he fulfills the commission given to him by God at the hand of Moses. The book of Joshua is divided into two divisions. The conquest of Canaan is described in the first twelve chapters and the partitioning of the land and last acts and words of Joshua in in the remaining Chapters.
The victories that were given to Joshua and the Israelite nation were accompanied by the repeated movements on their behalf by God. Because of this some commentators have treated the book of Joshua as not a historical book. We must remember that the miracles of God preformed in the Book of Joshua do not stand alone. They have grown from the interventions of God on behalf of the Israelite people from the previous days of Moses in the Book of Exodus. They are to be seen as the hand of God and continue to abound in the future with His dealing with the Jewish Church, and continues to be manifested in the Christian Church, and will continue unto until the end of all things. The conquest of Canaan by Joshua and the Israelite nation is more than an historical account but is just as relevant to us today in God’s dealing with the Christian Church and the glorious future that is just ahead of her.
Neither is this book to be considered as an account of a band of nomads from the Arabian deserts that somehow invaded and conquered a group of city states of superior force. It is a testimony of God who accomplished His purpose for the preservation of His Law, Will and Word among men. The Book of Joshua is to be seen in relation to the future dealing of God with mankind. Canaan was not a land that a band of nomads could have taken as the Israelite were ill equipped to become victorious over the states of Canaan. They had no weapons of war in comparison to the Canaanites. They lacked chariots and horses and all of the more modern equipment’s of warfare.
God had promised the forefathers of this Israelite nation and God’s Word is truth and He is faithful to His Word. The Book of Joshua is the sequel to the first five books of the Bible which tells the story of God fulfilling His promise to His chosen people.
Setting aside the theological characteristics of Joshua let us look to the historical facts that this book presents. First let us look at one of the problems that people have with the Israel’s conquest of Canaan. May people have a hard time accepting that a God of Love would order the populations of the Canaanite people to be destroyed? The real problem for these people is accepting God’s judgment upon evil. The non-acceptance of unbelievers in the Lord God Almighty is an acceptable one and understandable. For the unbeliever death is the final outcome of life and how could a God of Love take life away from a person of His creation? The real problem for the un-believer is that life does not end with death. Death is but the gateway into the spiritual life in the world to come. The question that is most pressing upon all is where one will spend eternity. Will eternity be spent in suffering God’s eternal wrath or spent in intimate fellowship with Him in His kingdom? God will judge both the righteous and the unrighteous. For the unbeliever, “And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.” (Revelation 20:12) For the believer, “Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” (Revelation 21:4)
Let us go back 400 hundred years before Israel invaded Canaan where we first see that the Canaanite people were evil. “Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.” (Genesis 15:16) The Amorites were a tribe of the Canaanites. God was watching the wickedness of the Canaanites as their unrighteousness continued to grow over the years until the fullness of their time. Both their behavior and their religion was wicked. We can read of their fate in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18:16-19:29. God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah but for Lot’s sake speared the city of Zoar. From this remaining city the wicked ways of the Canaanites spread throughout Canaan and even the Israelite tribe of Benjamin took up their evil practices. (Judges 18:9-20) The other Israelite tribes fought a war with the Benjamite tribe and nearly wiped them out. The evilness of the Canaanites would even be considered unacceptable even in our day and most civil people would find them detestable. The Canaanites practiced incest, homosexuality, had sex with animals, children, and burned their children as sacrifices all in the name of their gods. Although these behaviors are still present in the world today.
Israel was a new nation just out of Egypt, a chosen nation unto God as His people, a people to be holy and to be an example to all other nations in the world. (Deuteronomy 7:6 Deuteronomy 28:9 Leviticus 19:2) The Canaanites had been a nation for centuries practicing their depravity and were not about to change their ways. Therefore, the Canaanite people would have to be removed from the Promised Land of the Israelite nation.
God issued two commands concerning the removal of the Canaanites from the Promised Land. Concerning the Canaanites east of the Jordan. (Deuteronomy 2:26-36 Deuteronomy 3:1-1) These two commands concerned the conquest of the kingdoms east of the Jordan. Also there was a general command in Deuteronomy for the total destruction of the Canaanites. (Deuteronomy 7:1-5) Deuteronomy 20:10-18 qualifies this by stating the complete destruction of the Canaanite cities. The general commands for the Canaanites west of the Jordan were that they should be driven out of the land and their idols destroyed.
The time is soon to come when God’s people will once again live in a purified land in complete righteousness. The whole of God’s creation will be purged of unrighteousness and those of evil will be placed into the lake of fire for eternity. Is this an act of a God of Love? Let me ask another question, what is love without justice? God is love and He is a Just God. He gave His only Son that mankind can be reconciled unto Him. Not only that, mankind can be reconciled unto God at no cost. We are saved by grace through faith. It is the free gift of God. That is the love of God yet most reject His love for their love for this passing world. God is also just in that those who choose to follow Him shall not again be tainted by those who have chosen evil.
The invasion of Canaan
The Strategy for the invasion of Canaan came from the greatest general known to man, God. He did not send the Israelite nation as a horde of barbarians into the Promised Land to slaughter everyone in sight. We can see the bare bones strategy that God put forth in the following Scriptures. (Exodus 23:28 Deuteronomy 7:20 Joshua 24:12) God would use terror and panic to drive the Canaanites out of the land. (Exodus 23:27) The Israelites had a known reputation because of the mighty things that their God had done for them. In Egypt there was the 10 plagues that had brought Pharaoh down. The drowning of Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea. The Amorites destruction and the Israelite nation crossing the Jordan River on dry land. All of these known facts about the God of the Israelite people were known by the Canaanite people and would make them flee rather than fight. This would enable the Israelites to drive them from their land.
The strategy worked. Rahab, the Canaanite at Jericho who hid Israel’s spies, said everyone was afraid of Israel (Joshua 2:11). This is repeated by the writer of the book of Joshua (Joshua 5:1). The vast majority of Canaanites were ready to flee. Isaiah 17:9 confirms Israel took over deserted cities.
The path that Joshua chose was skillfully conceived. To have attacked Canaan from the south would have meant being met by range after range of heights. At the time of Joshua these heights were filled with towns and fortresses. This would have been a slow and tedious for an army that was not well equipped for conquest. As they would have progressed along this line of attack they would have been met by better organized resistance in ever increasing numbers. Instead of this avenue the Israelite host marched to the south eastern corner and attacked from the defenseless eastern flank above the Dead Sea. Thus the strong positions of the hill country and the defenseless cities that lay within were taken in reverse order leaving them useless fortifications for their defense against the Israelite invasion.
It is also probable that the Canaanites of the south were in a weakened state because of the invasions of Thutmose III who had attacked the Gaza not many years before.
Thutmose III was the sixth Pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty. During the first twenty-two years of Thutmose’s reign he was co-regent with his stepmother and aunt, Hatshepsut, who was named the pharaoh. While he was shown first on surviving monuments, both were assigned the usual royal names and insignia and neither is given any obvious seniority over the other. He served as the head of her armies.
After her death and his later rise to pharaoh of the kingdom, he created the largest empire Egypt had ever seen; no fewer than seventeen campaigns were conducted, and he conquered from Niya in North Syria to the Fourth Cataract of the Nile in Nubia.
Officially, Thutmose III ruled Egypt for almost fifty-four years, and his reign is usually dated from April 24, 1479 BC to March 11, 1425 BC; however, this includes the twenty-two years he was co-regent to Hatshepsut. During the final two years of his reign, he appointed his son and successor, Amenhotep II, as his junior co-regent. His firstborn son and heir to the throne, Amenemhat, predeceased Thutmose III. When Thutmose III died, he was buried in the Valley of the Kings as were the rest of the kings from this period in Egypt. (Wikipedia)
When the Israelites advanced on the Jordan River is was at flood stage and the Canaanites no doubt thought for the Israelites to cross would be impossible. (Joshua 3:15) Gilgal was quickly seized and served as a foothold from which to launch forward operations into Canaan. With the capture of Jericho and Ai Joshua was able to drive a wedge through the middle of land to near the western sea. By this cut in the land Joshua had driven a barrier between the Amorites on his left and the Hittites on his right by this action Joshua had placed the south into temporary subjection before the larger multitudes from the north could be mustered in aiding their defense. The northern forces did come together but shard the same fate as the southern and the Israelite host defeated them on the shores of Lake Merom. In the campaigns of Joshua it is impossible not to see the strategically skillful presence of divine suggestion which the Scriptural record records.
A leading character trait of Joshua is courage and faithfulness. Joshua was a close aide to Moses and was one of the twelve spies that went into the Promised Land to recon in preparation for the invasion. (Numbers 13:2) Of the twelve only Joshua and Caleb came with a positive report while the others had doubt and unbelief. As a result none of Joshua’s generation would be allowed to enter the Promised Land except Caleb.
There is not enough evidence to name Joshua as the author of the Book of Joshua. Although it is probable that the author is Joshua. The author of this book would have to been an eye witness to the events described in the book. It is also arguable that an assistant of Joshua finished the work in regards to the comments of Joshua’s death. Some have suggested that this assistant could have been the High Priest Eleazar, or perhaps his son Phinehas. Rahab was still living when Joshua was written. (Joshua 6:25) The Book of Joshua was completed before the reign of King David. The best likely period is 1405-1385 B.C.