THE BOOK OF JOSHUA
The book of Joshua is a book in the Bible that teaches us about a man named Joshua, and about a generation of Israelites, who displayed their faith in God by obeying, conquering, and taking possession of a land that was promised to them by Him. It’s a book that contains all the elements of a great movie. It has a great plot, is filled with action, suspense, twists and turns, and has a great ending. As we study the book we’ll learn about characteristics of a great leader, the importance of obedience and conquering evil. We’ll see faithfulness in action - both on the part of individuals and God. We’ll see examples of the power of God and get a glimpse of some of the wonderful things He has in store for His people. In other words, it’s an inspirational book that contains a lot of parallels to the struggles and hopes that we, as modern-day Christians have.
1. WHAT IS THE OLD TESTAMENT PROMISED LAND?
The book of Joshua primarily deals with the conquest of the Promised Land. This was the geographic area God had promised to give to his chosen people, the offspring of Abraham. Originally, God’s chosen people were known as the Hebrews. Later, after they settled in the Promised Land and formed a nation, they were known as the Israelites (descendants of Jacob, whose name was change to Israel after wrestling with God). The term “Jew” doesn’t come into use until after the ten northern tribes were exiled to Assyria and Judah was exiled to Babylon.
Abraham himself was originally born and raised in the 1st known civilization in the world, the seaside city called Ur in Mesopotamia, and was the son of a man named Terah, who was an idol worshipper. The family travels from Ur to Haran (700 miles, present day Iraq). So, the story of Promised land originates with a man of God who was called out of a sinful location and situation, and who didn’t have a real home.
The Promised Land was in ancient Canaan, on the eastern side of the Mediterranean Sea (Numbers 34:1-12), about 700 miles to the south of Haran. Nineteen times in the Old Testament it is described as “a land flowing with milk and honey.” The soil was fertile for agriculture – producing wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, and olives. There were pastures for shepherding. It had an arid climate providing perfect conditions for livestock to thrive. It had brooks and deep springs that gushed out into the valleys and hills. And it had mountains to provide security and protection from the elements and their enemies. In the Promised Land, the Israelites would lack nothing. (Exodus 3:17; Numbers 13:27, Deuteronomy 8:6-9).
Followers of Christ have things in common with Abraham. We, too, find ourselves living in a sinful world, and long for a place that feels more like home. It is rare to be fully content with the way things are on this earth. It has always been and always will be (until Christ returns), natural to desire something better and more fulfilling than we currently have. Until we get to the promised land, we can only imagine what it will be like.
2. THE HISTORY OF THE PROMISE
God communicates His promise that He’s giving a land to the Israelites to multiple individuals over the course of about 600 years.
a. 2000 BC – The promise was originally made to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-10, Covenant 15: 1-6). It would begin with the faithfulness of this one man. It would involve the miraculous birth of a son. The promise was a gift of God. It included a reward for faithfulness. The number of people who would also benefit from this promise was as numerous as the stars in the sky. Does that have any similarities to the life and teaching of Christ in the New Testament or what (Galatians 3:26-29)! So, in other words, the Old Testament account of the historical events regarding the promise and what was involved in taking hold of the promise, has a direct application for Christians today.
The promise made to Abraham (and to his descendants) involved physical blessings and land (Genesis 15:18-21). Abraham knew that he would not see God’s promised land with his own eyes, because the land would not be given until four generations had passed. During that time his descendants would face the hardship of slavery (in Egypt) before they would enjoy the home God had promised. (Genesis 15:12-16). But Abraham held on to the promise, believing that God could and would bring His descendants into their promised land. After his death, Abraham was buried in cave in Mamre in Canaan, west of Dead Sea (Genesis 23 and 25). He was buried in the promise land.
b. The promise was made to Isaac, son of Abraham (Genesis 26:1-5). When Isaac died, he was buried in the same cave near Mamre in Canaan (49:29-32).
c. The promise was made to Jacob (who would be named Israel), son of Isaac (Genesis 28:1-4, 10-15). When Jacob died, he was buried in the same cave near Mamre in Canaan (Genesis 50:12).
d. The promise was passed down to Joseph, the son of Jacob. He believed in and passed down the promise (Genesis 50:24). Joseph died in Egypt, but the Jews would eventually carry his bones and bury him Shechem in Canaan (Joshua 24), in the promised land.
e. The promise was made to Moses (1500 BC) (Exodus 3:1-10), and, to the Israelites while in slavery (Exodus 6:1-8) and while at Mount Sinai (Deuteronomy 1:6-8). When Moses died, he was buried in Moab (east side of Dead Sea – opposite of the rest of patriarchs (Deuteronomy 34:5-6). More on that later.
f. 1400 BC - The promise was made to Joshua as he was about to become the new leader (Deuteronomy 31:23, Joshua 1) and to the Israelites who survived God’s judgement (Numbers 33, Deuteronomy 1:6-8).
The Bible provides us with a historical account of the Old Testament promise as well as the fulfillment of that promise. The Bible also contains great and precious promises meant for us (2 Peter 1:3-4). Just like the Hebrew people in the Old Testament, we should be believing in the fulfillment of God’s promises and should be passing them down to those who will come after us.
3. FULFILLMENT OF THE PROMISE REQUIRES AN ESCAPE FROM SLAVERY BY MEANS OF A SAVIOR
As we have already said, the book of Joshua teaches us about faithfulness, obedience, and conquest on the part of a particular generation of God’s people. These people can be inspirational to us, encouraging us to walk in strength, courage, and victory they did. But, it is also helpful to contrast the people of Joshua’s day, with their ancestors who were originally led out of slavery in Egypt. In doing so, we can also see if we have any characteristics in common with them as well.
Depending upon which Biblical event you refer to, the Israelites were slaves for 430-400 years (i.e. the original promise made to Abraham vs when Ishmael persecuted Isaac). For the people alive at the time of the escape, that kind of existence was all they knew. In spite of being born into that kind of life, dominated and controlled by an enemy, they still desired freedom and a more fulfilling life. People weren’t designed to be slaves. We know that the last 80 years or so of the subjectivity were especially bad. Exodus 1 the Pharaoh started having Israelite male babies killed because they were flourishing in number. Exodus 2:23-25: During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. 24 God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. 25 So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.
In order for the promise to be fulfilled, there needed to be an escape from slavery, and it was going to take the arrival of a savior or leader to help make that happen. In the book of Exodus we learn that man was a Hebrew named Moses. While the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt, he was placed in the basket in the Nile river to avoid being killed. After fleeing Egypt and living in Midian until he was around 80. Then, God chooses Moses to help free the slaves and sends him back to Egypt for his encounter with Pharoah.
In Exodus 6:6-8 we see that God uses Moses to promise the Israelites that they would be freed from slavery and be given the promised land. 6 “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. 7 I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. 8 And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.’”
Put yourself in the shoes of those slaves and try to imagine what those circumstances would do to your demeanor and outlook. Exodus 6:9 gives us the first indication that the journey was going to reveal some shortcomings about their faith. 9 Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and harsh labor.
Isn’t it hard to believe in promises of God, when we are going through long and seemingly overwhelming circumstances? In spite of the conditions in which one lives, in order to enter the promised land, each person must recognize they are a slave, believe there really is a promised land, and trust the savior to help get them there.
4. FULFILLMENT OF THE PROMISE REQUIRES FAITH IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES (EGYPT TO MOAB - THE 1ST 40 YEARS)
Their escape from slavery and their journey towards the promised land was filled with numerous examples of the power of God. As difficult as it might be imagining what it was like to live in slavery, it is also hard to fathom what it was like to see first-hand, the powerful hand of God performing miracles. The Bible accounts tell us that by witnessing God’s power, that caused their faith in God to increase.
· As we know it began with the plagues sent against Eqypt, and the passing over of the spirit of God.
· An angel of God and a pillar of cloud and fire guarded the multitude (Exodus 13:21-22; 14:19).
· A strong wind made a path for the Israelites through the sea (Exodus 14:21-29).
· The Egyptian's chariot wheels were made to swerve; the army was drowned in the sea (Exodus 14:25-31). Exodus 14:30 - Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31 Israel saw the great power that the LORD used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses.
· Bitter waters were made sweet and drinkable (Exodus 15:22-25).
· Manna rains from heaven for bread. Quail are sent to provide meat(Exodus 16:4,13-18).
· Water comes from a rock (Exodus 17:2-6)
· Moses’s raised hand allows the Israelites to prevail over Amalek (Exodus 17:9-13).
· God speaks from the mountain at Sinai (Exodus 19:2-6; 16-21)
· The wind brings the quail (Numbers 11:31)
· Miriam's rebellion and leprosy (Numbers 12:5-10)
· The ground opens and swallows Korah (Numbers 16:19-35)
· The budding of Aaron's staff (Numbers 17:1-11)
· Water from the rock and Moses’s sin (Numbers 20:2-13)
· The bronze snake on a pole (Numbers 21:4-9)
However, God didn’t use His power to eliminate every difficulty along their way to the promised land. The people were still going to face difficult circumstances during their journey. It was their responsibility and calling to trust God, obey Him, and to have courage during the bad times as well. However, their behavior during their Exodus from slavery proves they aren’t able or willing to do that. The Bible describes about 14 examples of their complaints, disobedience, and lack of faith during their journey. Five of the 14 times they complained occurred during the two months after the Exodus and before they reached Mount Sinai. Then while at Mount Sinai, they showed their lack of faith by getting impatient while Moses was receiving 10 commandments and worshipping golden calf. God then told them to leave Mount Sinai (Deuteronomy 1:1-8) and head to a place called Kadesh Barnea. He repeats the promise that a new land awaited them at that time.
6 The Lord our God said to us at Horeb (Mount Sinai), “You have stayed long enough at this mountain. 7 Break camp and advance into the hill country of the Amorites; go to all the neighboring peoples in the Arabah, in the mountains, in the western foothills, in the Negev and along the coast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the Euphrates. 8 See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land the Lord swore he would give to your fathers—to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—and to their descendants after them.”
Despite the promise that the land they were heading to would be theirs, the Bible records two more instances of complaining and unfaithfulness on the trip from Mount Sinai. Then when they get to Kadesh Barnea and event unfolds that becomes the pivot point of the promise fulfillment.
#9 – Twelve spies are sent to the land to get a report on the condition of the promise land and the people who inhabit it (Numbers 13). They travel North and South, the whole length of the promised land during their spying. 26 They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.” When he sees the unfavorable reaction to this report among the people, the spy named Caleb speaks up. Numbers 13:30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”
14 That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. 2 All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”
At this point Joshua reveals that he is of the same opinion as Caleb.
6 Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 8 If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9 Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”
10 But the whole assembly talked about stoning them. Then the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting to all the Israelites. 11 The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them? 12 I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they.”
22 not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times— 23 not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.
26 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: 27 “How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites. 28 So tell them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Lord, I will do to you the very thing I heard you say: 29 In this wilderness your bodies will fall—every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. 30 Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. 31 As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected. 32 But as for you, your bodies will fall in this wilderness. 33 Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the wilderness. 34 For forty years—one year for each of the forty days you explored the land—you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.’ 35 I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will surely do these things to this whole wicked community, which has banded together against me. They will meet their end in this wilderness; here they will die.”
36 So the men Moses had sent to explore the land, who returned and made the whole community grumble against him by spreading a bad report about it— 37 these men who were responsible for spreading the bad report about the land were struck down and died of a plague before the Lord. 38 Of the men who went to explore the land, only Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh survived.
There are about 4 more instances of disobedience and complaining after they start dying off. This includes the time where Moses gets so angry and frustrated that he strikes the rock with his staff to get water from it.
Towards the end of their 40 years in the wilderness, as the unfaithful generation is being killed by God or dying a natural death, and the new generation is getting ready to succeed them, Moses does lead the people to some victories, in lands that are east of the Jordan River. They were involved in partial conquest of region of Argob, after Defeat of Og King of Bashan (Deuteronomy 3:12, 23-29). And defeat of Sihon king of Heshbon. Numbers 21, 32, Deuteronomy 3:12 – There were areas that the Rebuenites, Gadites, half tribe of Mannesah would keep for themselves. (https://www.gotquestions.org/east-of-Jordan.html).
Moses was described as the greatest OT prophet (Deuteronomy 34:1-12), but he wouldn’t see the realization of the promise either. Specifically, because he broke faith with God in front of the Israelites (Deuteronomy 32:51-52). He was buried in a valley in Moab near Mount Nebo where God showed him the promised land.
Finally, as the new generation was being made ready to conquer the promised land, they take a second census of the people in Numbers 26.
victories and rewards are a result of a combination of God’s grace and our
level of faithfulness.
5. FULFILLMENT OF THE PROMISE REQUIRES JUDGING & CONQUERING EVIL
In our study of the book of Joshua we’ll learn about how and why the Israelites had to conquer evil. For them, this included displacing and even killing inhabitants of the land.
Deuteronomy 7:1-3: When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you— 2 and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally.[a] Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. 3 Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons,
For many people, both believers and non-believers, this is a difficult concept to grasp. Was it right for the Israelites to destroy the people in the land God was giving them? Did they really have to be so drastic in their approach? This seems to go against the concept of a loving God.
Here are 6 important things to remember as we study the book of Joshua when it comes to judging and conquering evil.
a. The conquest of Canaan was a directive by God, not by the desires of man.
b. It was a one-time event. God gives no additional commands to continue to expand their borders and possess any other land. We cannot lump all of the battles and wars found in the Old Testament in the same category. Often times, the battles the Israelites get involved in later are not sanctioned by God.
c. It wasn’t a race war or a conflict based upon ethnicity (“Israelites vs. Canaanites”). There are examples of some Canaanites who believed that this God the Israelites were following was the one true God as well – and these people are welcomed and spared.
d. They weren’t battles against harmless people, they involved hostile armies.
e. The people who lived there were idolatrous, wicked, sinful people, who refused to believe in God. It was due to the sinful nature of these nations, not because of Israel’s righteousness, that God determined to drive them out and turn the land over to His children.
Deuteronomy 9:1-6 Hear, Israel: You are now about to cross the Jordan to go in and dispossess nations greater and stronger than you, with large cities that have walls up to the sky. 2 The people are strong and tall—Anakites! You know about them and have heard it said: “Who can stand up against the Anakites?” 3 But be assured today that the Lord your God is the one who goes across ahead of you like a devouring fire. He will destroy them; he will subdue them before you. And you will drive them out and annihilate them quickly, as the Lord has promised you. 4 After the Lord your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, “The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you. 5 It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 6 Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.
This wickedness can be traced all the way back to the days of Noah (400-500 years before Abraham in Genesis 9:20-27).
God’s promise to Abraham also revealed sinfulness of the people in the land. Genesis 15:16 “In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”
God tells Moses that the people who live there are evil. Leviticus 18 - The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God. 3 You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices.
Deuteronomy 7:4-6 provides more clues as to how they behaved and what they believed. The people needed to be destroyed, “for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you. 5 This is what you are to do to them: Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles[b] and burn their idols in the fire.
f. The 6th point is that it’s critical to remember God doesn’t play favorites when it comes to His judgement. Already learned about how, because of their unfaithfulness, God was directly involved in the death of thousands of Israelites in the wilderness. But God also warns them going forward as they enter the promised land: Deuteronomy 28 - 1 If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God. 15 However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you: 20 The Lord will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him.
If you are familiar at all with Old Testament history about the Israelites years after they inhabit the promised land, God judges them again for wicked behavior.
All people of all time will be held to the same holy standard of God and be judged accordingly. 2 Corinthians 5:10 - 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the So, remember as we study the book of Joshua, that the Israelites were being used by God as divine judgement against a sinful people.things done while in the body, whether good or bad.