Lectionary Calendar
Friday, April 19th, 2024
the Third Week after Easter
StudyLight.org has pledged to help build churches in Uganda. Help us with that pledge and support pastors in the heart of Africa.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Commentaries

The Biblical IllustratorThe Biblical Illustrator

- Joshua

by Editor - Joseph Exell



The title of the book

This book, like several others of the historical books of Scripture, derives its name from its contents. It records almost exclusively the acts of Joshua in fulfilment of the commission laid upon him from God by the hand of Moses (cf. Deuteronomy 31:7-8), and terminates with Joshua’s death and burial. Hence it very appropriately bears in the Hebrew the simple title of Joshua: in the LXX that of Ἱησοῦς Ναυή or Ἱησοῦς υἱὸς Ναυή.(T. E. Espin, B. D.)

The authorship of the book

The Jewish rabbins and early Christian writers all supposed this book to have been written by Joshua himself; but this is an impossible assumption, for besides telling of his that event (see, e.g., Joshua 15:63 compared with Joshua 19:10-12; Joshua 19:47, with Judges 18:7; Judges 18:27 seq.). In fact, like the other historical books of the death it alludes to a number of things that did not happen until long after Old Testament, it is an anonymous writing, and when critically examined is seen to have been originally united to the Pentateuch, and to have been composed in the same manner. It is made up of extracts from various narratives, pieced together by a later hand in the manner of Eastern historians, and in its present form cannot be much earlier than the time of Ezra. Most modern critics are agreed that the documents used by the editor were mainly three--the Jehovistic (known to critics by the symbol JE), of the eighth or ninth century; the Deuteronomistic (D) of the seventh; and the Priestly (P) of the fifth. To the Jehovistic document belong in the main Joshua 2:1-24; Joshua 3:1-17; Joshua 4:1-24; Joshua 5:1-15; Joshua 6:1-27; Joshua 7:1-26; Joshua 8:1-29; Joshua 9:1-27; Joshua 10:1-43; Joshua 11:1-9; Joshua 23:1-16; Joshua 24:1-33., and a few short fragments in other chapters. To the Deuteronomist are assigned chapters 1; Joshua 8:30-35; Joshua 11:10-14; Joshua 14:6-15, and some other small portions; while the remainder, including the greater part of the account of the division of the territory, comes from the priestly writer. Its geographical details are characterised by great vagueness, except as regards the portion of the land which was held by Jews after the exile. (Chambers’s Encyclopaedia.)

The chronology of the book

The chronological dates presented in this book are few.

1. We are informed (Joshua 4:19) that the passage of the Jordan took place “on the tenth day of the first month.” The year is not specified, but would seem to have been the fortieth after the exodus. Thus, if the date of the exodus be assumed to be B.C. 1490 that of the invasion of Canaan will be B.C. 1459.

2. The duration of Joshua’s wars with the Canaanites is spoken of loosely in 11:18, as “many days.” Inferences can, however, be drawn from the words of Caleb (Joshua 14:7; Joshua 14:10), which enable us to determine this point with some approach to definiteness. Caleb speaks of himself as forty years old when he was sent by Moses from Kadesh to spy out the land. When he came before Joshua to prefer his claim to Hebron, the conquest of Canaan was accomplished, and he was then eighty-five. Since the mission of the spies took place in the summer of the second year after the exodus (Numbers 13:20)--and the whole period from the exodus to the crossing of Jordan is estimated at forty years--it would appear that Caleb was thirty-eight years old when he passed through the Red Sea, and seventy-eight when he passed through Jordan. Thus a period of seven years is left for the campaigns of Joshua. Josephus, indeed (Ant. 5.1, 19), speaks of these wars as lasting only five years. The difference, however, is not great. Josephus himself speaks of five complete years as occupied by the conquest, and Caleb probably employed round numbers after the Hebrew mode.

3. The duration of Joshua’s rule, and consequently the number of years covered by the records of this book, is far more uncertain. We have no definite information as to the age of Joshua at the date of the exodus, or indeed at any other period previous to his death when he was an hundred and ten (Joshua 24:19). If, however, we suppose him to be of the same age as Caleb, a supposition probable in itself and supported by the expression used of him in Exodus 33:11 (“a young man”), he will have been about seventy-eight years old when he invaded Canaan, and have been at the head of Israel not much less than thirty-two years altogether after the death of Moses. Or if we assume seven years for the wars against the Canaanites, he will have survived about twenty-five years after his retirement to Timnath-serah. This accords sufficiently well with the notice (Joshua 23:1) which places the parting words and acts of Joshua “a long time after that the Lord had given rest unto Israel from all their enemies round about.” Josephus, however (Ant. 5.1, 29), states that Joshua’s rule after the death of Moses lasted for twenty-five years, and that he had previously been forty years associated with Moses. This would fix Joshua’s age at the time of the exodus at forty-five, an age perhaps hardly so suitable as thirty-eight to the language of Exodus 33:11. Ewald, Furst, and others regard the statement of Josephus as probable, and as in all likelihood of ancient authority. Others (e.g., Clem. Alex. “Strom.” 1.21; Theoph. “Ad Autolyc.” 3.24)

name twenty-seven years as the length of Joshua’s government; while Eusebius (“ Praepar. Evang.” 10.14) states that some assigned thirty years to it. (T. E. Espin, B. D.)

The object of the book

The object of the book is to magnify the inviolable covenant faithfulness of Jehovah in the fulfilment of His promises (Joshua 21:43-45), by the historical information as to the conquest by the covenant people of the land of Canaan promised to their fathers, and their inheritance of it (Joshua 1:2-6), through the Almighty assistance of Jehovah, under the guidance of Joshua, Moses’ minister, who had been called to effect the accomplishment of the Divine promise, according to an appointment recorded in the law itself (Deuteronomy 31:7). (Prof. C. F. Keil.)

The Book of Joshua is one of the most important writings in the Old Covenant, and should never be separated from the Pentateuch, of which it is at once both the continuation and completion. Between this book and the five books of Moses there is the same analogy as between the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. The four Gospels give an account of the transactions of Jesus Christ, the Christian legislature, just as the first five books of the Bible give, for the most part, of the doings of Moses, the Jewish legislator; and the Acts of the Apostles, as a book, bears the same relation to these Gospels as the Book of Joshua to the Pentateuch. (Dr. A. Clarke.)

The contents of the book

It falls into three great divisions:--

1. The conquest of the land (Joshua 1:1-18; Joshua 2:1-24; Joshua 3:1-17; Joshua 4:1-24; Joshua 5:1-15; Joshua 6:1-27; Joshua 7:1-26; Joshua 8:1-35; Joshua 9:1-27; Joshua 10:1-43; Joshua 11:1-23; Joshua 12:1-24.). This part is historical, both in form and substance. It relates the main operations by which the people under Joshua obtained possession of Canaan. The chief points are: The sending of the spies and the crossing of the Jordan (Joshua 2:1-24; Joshua 3:1-17; Joshua 4:1-24.); the fall of Jericho (Joshua 5:13-15; Joshua 6:1-27); the capture (after a reverse) of Ai (Joshua 7:1-26; Joshua 8:1-29); the treaty with the Gibeonites (Joshua 9:1-27); the defeat of the leagued kings of the south at the battle of Beth-horon (Joshua 10:1-43); and the defeat of a similar confederacy in the north near the waters of Merom (Joshua 11:1-23). It is obvious that many details are omitted, for a long list of conquered kings is given at the close (Joshua 12:1-24); and it is stated (Joshua 11:18) the “Joshua made war a long time with all those kings.” Yet the narrator makes it particularly clear that it is a holy war he is describing, for he tells us of the miraculous manner in which the Jordan was crossed (Joshua 3:1-17); describes the observance of the Passover (Joshua 5:2-12); dwells upon the sin of Achan as the cause of the reverse at Ai (Joshua 7:1-26); and relates the confirming of the Covenant at Ebal and Gerizim (Joshua 8:30-35).

2. The partition of the land (Joshua 13:1-33; Joshua 14:1-15; Joshua 15:1-63; Joshua 16:1-10; Joshua 17:1-18; Joshua 18:1-28; Joshua 19:1-51; Joshua 20:1-9; Joshua 21:1-45; Joshua 22:1-34). This part, while historical in form, is topographical and legislative in contents. Here the main points are: After a sketch of the land to be divided (Joshua 13:1-7), and of the territory already assigned to the tribes east of the Jordon (Joshua 13:8-33), Hebron is given to Caleb (Joshua 14:6-15), and the three tribes, Judah, Ephraim, and half Manasseh, receive their portions in the western territory (Joshua 15:1-63; Joshua 16:1-10; Joshua 17:1-18). Afterwards, the Tabernacle being set up, the remaining tribes, except Levi, receive theirs (Joshua 18:1-28; Joshua 19:1-48), a special inheritance being assigned to Joshua (Joshua 19:49-51); the cities of refuge and the cities of the Levites are set apart; and the two tribes and a half who had assisted in the conquest are sent to their homes (Joshua 20:1-9; Joshua 21:1-45; Joshua 22:1-34). Here again, while the details are very unequal, the sacred character of all the proceedings is clearly indicated. The inheritances are distributed by lot (Joshua 14:2; Joshua 18:6; Joshua 18:10), the cities of refuge and the Levitical territory have a religious reference (Joshua 20:1-9; Joshua 21:1-45), and the jealousy of the people for national unity of religion is shown in the matter of the altar Ed (Joshua 22:10-34).

3. The leader’s farewell (Joshua 23:1-16; Joshua 24:1-33.). This part is mostly hortatory. Joshua warns the people against idolatry, renews the Covenant with solemn ceremony, and incorporates a record of the transaction in the Book of the Law. The book closes with an account of the death and burial of Joshua and of Eleazar (Joshua 24:29-33). (Prof. James Robertson.)

adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile