Moses was dead; the land of Canaan lay on the other side of the Jordan. The LORD was about to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land just as He had promised their forefathers. These momentous events are chronicled in the book of Joshua.
Joshua is the sixth book of the Bible, named after Joshua, the man appointed to lead Israel into the land after the death of Moses (cf. Deuteronomy 31:1-8). The book describes the major battles between the Israelites and the native Canaanites, the conquest of the land of Canaan, and the portions allotted to each tribe. The events described in the book take place ca. 1410-1370 BCE. Joshua is an important and transitional book: in one sense, Joshua is the end of the “Hexateuch,” or the first six books of the Old Testament, since it records the near fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham (Genesis 17:1-14). Yet, in another sense, Joshua is the first book of the “former prophets,” setting forth the beginning of the history of the Israelites in the land of Canaan, a history which will continue from Judges through 2 Kings. The author of the book of Joshua is unknown: he writes sometime after the events described, perhaps in the days of the United Monarchy (cf. 1050-930 BCE).
Joshua begins with the story of Israel’s crossing over into the land of Canaan. Joshua assumes command of the Israelites and encourages the people (Joshua 1:1-18), and sends spies into the land of Canaan to view Jericho. In Jericho the spies are protected by Rahab whose family is protected as a reward (Joshua 2:1-24). By the power of God the Israelites then cross the Jordan River, and twelve stones are taken from the riverbed to commemorate it (Joshua 3:1-4:24). The Israelites of that generation are circumcised and observe the Passover; God no longer provided them with manna (Joshua 5:1-15).
The middle section of Joshua describes the various battles and other interactions between the Israelites and the Canaanites. Jericho’s walls fall down by God’s command and the city is taken (Joshua 6:1-27). Israel suffers a momentary setback at the hands of the people of Ai because Achan, an Israelite, took spoil from Jericho. After Achan was executed, the Israelites were able to capture Ai (Joshua 7:1-8:29). At that time Joshua and the Israelites renewed the covenant with God at Mounts Ebal and Gerizim as Moses had commanded them (Joshua 8:30-35; cf. Deuteronomy 27:1-8).
The people of Gibeon then deceived the Israelites into making a treaty with them (Joshua 9:1-27); as a result, many of the kings of Canaan came together and fought against the Gibeonites, and Joshua and the Israelites come to their aid, win a decisive victory, and conquer much of southern Canaan (Joshua 10:1-43). The kings of the cities of northern Canaan then come together to fight against Israel, and they too are defeated, and land is conquered (Joshua 11:1-23).
The author of Joshua then sets forth a list of the kings defeated by the Israelites under both Moses and Joshua (Joshua 12:1-23), and then sets forth how Joshua has grown old and describes the land left to be conquered by future generations (Joshua 13:1-7). At this time the author describes the tribal allotments along with the personal allotments for Caleb and Joshua (Joshua 14:1-19:51). The cities of refuge are specified as well as cities and pasturelands for the Levites (Joshua 20:1-21:43). The story of the return of the two and a half tribes east of the Jordan and the altar of witness they build is then recorded (Joshua 22:1-34), and the book concludes with Joshua’s final charges to the leaders of Israel, the renewal of the covenant in Shechem, and the description of the death and burial of Joshua and Eleazar, son of Aaron the High Priest (Joshua 23:1-24:33).
In Joshua we can see how God is faithful in fulfilling His promises and how He conquered the land of Canaan for Israel with a powerful hand. We have every reason, therefore, to trust in God and His promise of eternal life for all those who serve His Son Jesus as the Risen Lord (John 3:16, Romans 6:1-23). Let us be strong and courageous and obtain the victory in Jesus!
Ethan R. Longhenry