Who wrote it?
The book of Joshua does not explicitly name its author. More than likely Joshua the son of Nun, the successor of Moses as leader over Israel, penned much of this book. The latter part of the book was written by at least one other person after the death of Joshua. It is also possible that several sections were edited/compiled following Joshua’s death.
When(ish) was it written?
Joshua was likely written between 1400 and 1370 BC.
Why was it written?
The book of Joshua provides an overview of the military campaigns to conquer the land area that God had promised. Following the exodus from Egypt and the subsequent forty years of the wilderness wanderings, the newly-formed nation is now poised to enter the Promised Land, conquer the inhabitants, and occupy the territory. The overview that we have here gives abbreviated and selective details of many of the battles and the manner in which the land was not only conquered, but how it was divided into tribal areas.
Some Key Verses
[quote] Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the Law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
– Joshua 1:6-9 [/quote]
[quote] Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
– Joshua 24:14-15 [/quote]
A Quick Summary
The book of Joshua continues the story of the Israelites after the exodus from Egypt. The book chronicles the 20ish years of Joshua’s leadership of the people after Moses anointed him at the end of Deuteronomy. The twenty-four chapter divisions of the book of Joshua can be summarized as follows:
- Chapters 1-12: Entering and conquering the Promised Land.
- Chapters 13-22: Instructions for distributing the portions of the Promised Land.
- Chapters 23-24: Joshua’s farewell address
The story of Rahab the harlot and her great faith in the God of the Israelites gives her a place with those honored for their faith in Hebrews 11:31. Hers is a story of God’s grace to sinners and salvation by faith alone. Most importantly, by God’s grace she was in the messianic line (Matthew 1:5).
One of the ceremonial rituals of Joshua 5 finds its perfect fulfillment in the New Testament. Verses 1-9 describe God’s commandment that those who were born in the wilderness were to be circumcised when they came into the Promised Land. By so doing, God “rolled away the reproach of Egypt” from them, meaning that He cleansed them from the sins of their former life. Colossians 2:10-12 describes believers as having been circumcised in their hearts by Christ Himself, by whom we have put off the sinful nature of our former lives without Christ.
God established cities of refuge so that those who accidentally killed someone could live there without fear of retribution. Christ is our refuge to whom we “have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us” (Hebrews 6:18).
The book of Joshua has an overriding theological theme of rest. The Israelites, after wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, finally entered the rest God had prepared for them in the land of Canaan. The writer of Hebrews uses this incident as a warning to us not to let unbelief keep us from entering into God’s rest in Christ (Hebrews 3:7-12).
What does this mean?
One of the key verses of the book of Joshua is 1:8 “Do not let this book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.” The Old Testament is replete with stories of how the people “forgot” God and His Word and suffered terrible consequences. For the Christian, the Word of God is our lifeblood. If we neglect it, our lives will suffer accordingly. But if we take to heart the principle of verse 1:8, we will be complete and able to be of use in God’s kingdom (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and we will find that God’s promises in Joshua 1:8-9 will be ours as well.
Joshua is a prime example of the benefits of a worthy mentor. For years he remained close to Moses. He watched Moses as he followed God in an almost flawless manner. He learned to pray in a personal way from Moses. He learned how to obey through the example of Moses. Joshua apparently also learned from the negative example that cost Moses the joy of actually entering the Promised Land. If you are alive, you are a mentor. Someone, somewhere, is watching you. Some younger person or someone that you are influencing is seeing how you live and how you react. Someone is learning from you. Someone will follow your example. Mentoring is far more than the words that are spoken by the mentor. His or her entire life is on display.
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- Take a few minutes to review the Scripture from Joshua 2:1-14, Joshua 6:15-25, Joshua 7:1-26, Romans 10:11-13, and I Timothy 4:16. What verses or ideas stand out to you from these passages? What questions do you have? What would you like to remember and apply to your life?
- Do you relate more to Rahab, who had a sinful lifestyle and had no background in the faith, or to Achan, who grew up in the church but struggled to trust God with his actions? How can you apply the truth of the Gospel to your present reality?
- Read Joshua 2:12. Rahab trusted that God was “Lord in the heavens above and on the earth beneath,” and she was willing to take a huge risk in order to be part of what God was doing in the world. Is your life sacrificial? Are you willing to set aside reputation, time, comfort, possessions, sinful habits, etc. in order to honor God and serve others? Where do you get stuck? Is there Scripture that would be helpful to remember?
- God used Rahab’s faith and faithfulness to protect her family and to further His purposes, and ultimately to save the world because Jesus was a direct descendant of Rahab. How have you seen God use your faith and faithfulness?
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- Take a few minutes to review the Scripture from Joshua 5:13-15; Isaiah 55:4; Revelation 19:11,15-16; Romans 11:22; Joshua 24:14-15; and Hebrews 4:8-11. What verses or ideas stand out to you from these passages? What questions do you have? What would you like to remember and apply to your life?
- Read Joshua 5:13-15 and consider Joshua’s encounter with the ‘commander of the Lord’s army’. What about Joshua’s response to the commander suggests that the commander is divine, not a regular person?
- How do God’s actions with Israel’s conquest of Canaan demonstrate both God’s justice and grace?
- Read Joshua 24:14-15. What ideas (e.g. being ‘true to yourself’) or forms idolatry (e.g. materialism) hinder our relationship with God?
- In what ways are you tempted to become the commander of your own life, instead of allowing God to call the shots?
- Have you made a decision to follow Jesus? If not, what ideas and idolatry might presently be standing in the way? If you are a believer, what further decisions or commitments could you make today to ensure that He is truly the commander of your life?
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- Take a few minutes to review the Scripture from Joshua 1:1-9, Joshua 21:43-45, Joshua 23:2-8, 24:13-15, and Hebrews 4:1, 8-11. What verses or ideas stand out to you from these passages? What questions do you have? What would you like to remember and apply to your life?
- As seen in the book of Joshua, spiritual leadership is important. Who in your life has been an influential spiritual leader for you? Who are you hoping to be an influential leader for?
- The children of Israel were warned to not look to other gods of the land for fulfillment. When does this happen for us? When are we tempted to look away from God and His provision in our life? Where do we look?
- Remembering God’s faithfulness to us in the past affects our relationship with Him in the present. What are some stories you have of God working in your life or in those you care about? How do those encourage your faith now?
- What are some practical ways we can call to mind God’s faithfulness to us in the past? How can we make this a normal rhythm in our lives?