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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Joshua

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(Heb. Yehoshu'a, יַהוֹשׁוּע, Jehovah is his help, or Jehovah the Savior, according to Pearson, On the Creed, art. 2, p. 89, ed. 1843:; Sept., N.T., and Josephus Ι᾿ησοῦς; Auth. Vers. "Jehoshua" in Numbers 13:16, and "Jehoshuah" in 1 Chronicles 7:27; "Jesus" in Acts 7:45; Hebrews 4:8, (See JESHUA); (See JESUS) ), the name of several men.

I. The son of Nun, of the tribe of Ephraim, the assistant and successor of Moses, whose history is chiefly contained in the book that bears his name. His name was originally HOSHEA (הוֹשֵׁע, salvation, Numbers 13:8), and it seems that the subsequent alteration of it by Moses (Numbers 13:16) was significant, and proceeded on the same principle as that of Abram into Abraham (Genesis 17:5), and of Sarai into Sarah (Genesis 17:15). In Nehemiah 8:17, he is called by the equivalent name JESHUA (יֵשׁוּע, salvation). (See JESUS).

1. Personal History. According to the Tsemach David, Joshua was born in Egypt, in the year of the Jewish era 2406 (B.C. 1037); but as he was probably about the age of Caleb, with whom he was associated, we may assign his birth to B.C. cir. 1698 (or, as below, 1693). The future captain of invading hosts grew up a slave in the brick fields of Egypt. Born about the time when Moses fled into Midian, he was a man of some forty years when he saw the ten plagues and shared in the hurried triumph of the Exodus. The keen eye of the aged Lawgiver soon discerned in Hoshea those qualities which might be required in a colleague or successor to himself. In the Bible he is first mentioned as being the victorious commander of the Israelites in their battle against the Amalekites at Rephidim (Exodus 17:8-16 B.C. 1658. When Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive for the first time (compare Exodus 24:13; Exodus 33:11) the two Tables, Joshua, who is called his minister or servant, accompanied him part of the way, and was the first to accost him in his descent (Exodus 32:17). Soon afterwards he was one of the twelve chiefs who were sent (Numbers 13:17) to explore the land of Canaan, and one of the two (14:6) who gave an encouraging report of their journey. B.C. 1657. The forty years of wandering were almost passed, and Joshua was one of the few survivors, when Moses, shortly before his death, was directed (Numbers 27:18) to invest Joshua solemnly and publicly with definite authority, in connection with Eleazar the priest, over the people (Deuteronomy 3:28). After this, God himself gave Joshua a charge by the mouth of the dying Lawgiver (Deuteronomy 31:14; Deuteronomy 31:23). B.C. 1618. Under the direction of God again renewed (Joshua 1, 1), Joshua, now in his 85th year (Josephus, Ant. 5, 1, 29), assumed the command of the people at Shittim, sent spies into Jericho, crossed the Jordan, fortified a camp at Gilgal, circumcised the people, kept the Passover, and was visited by the captain of the Lord's host. (See below.) A miracle made the fall of Jericho more terrible to the Canaanites. A miraculous repulse in the first assault on Ai impressed upon the invaders the warning that they were the instruments of a holy and jealous God. Ai fell; and the law was inscribed on Mount Ebal, and read by their leader in the presence of all Israel. The treaty which the fear stricken Gibeonites obtained deceitfully was generously respected by Joshua. It stimulated and brought to a point the hostile movements of the five confederate chiefs of the Amorites. Joshua, aided by an unprecedented hail storm and a miraculous prolongation of the day (see below), obtained a decisive victory over them at Makkedah, and proceeded at once to subjugate the south country as far as Kadesh-barnea and Gaza. He returned to the camp at Gilgal master of half of Palestine.

In another campaign he marched to the waters of Merom, where he met and overthrew a confederacy of the Canaanitish chiefs in the north, under Jabin, king of Hazor; and in the course of a protracted war he led his victorious soldiers to the gates of Zidon and into the valley of Lebanon under Hermon. In six years, six nations, with thirty-one kings, swell the roll of his conquests; amongst others the Anakim the old terror of Israel are specially recorded as destroyed everywhere except in Philistia. It must be borne in mind that the extensive conquests of Joshua were not intended to achieve, and did not achieve the complete extirpation of the Canaanites, many of whom continued to occupy isolated strongholds throughout the land. (See below.)

Joshua, now stricken in years, proceeded, in conjunction with Eleazar and the heads of the tribes, to complete the division of the conquered land; and when all was allotted, Timnath-serah in Mount Ephraim was assigned by the people as Joshua's peculiar inheritance. The tabernacle of the congregation was established at Shiloh, six cities of refuge were appointed, forty-eight cities assigned to the Levites, and the warriors of the trans- Jordanic tribes dismissed in peace to their homes.

After an interval of rest, Joshua convoked an assembly from all Israel. He delivered two solemn addresses reminding them of the marvelous fulfilment of God's promises to their fathers, and warned them of the conditions on which their prosperity depended; and, lastly, he caused them to renew their covenant with God at Shechem, a place already famous in connection with Jacob (Genesis 35:4) and Joseph (Joshua 24:32). He died at the age of 110 years, and was buried in his own city, Timnath-serah (Joshua 24). B.C. 1593. According to Schwarz (Palest. p. 147), his grave, ornamented with a handsome monument, is still pointed out at Kefar Charas.

2. His Character. Joshua's life has been noted as one of the very few which are recorded in history with some fullness of detail, yet without any stain upon them. In his character have been traced, under an Oriental garb, such features as chiefly kindled the imagination of Western chroniclers and poets in the Middle Ages: the character of a devout warrior, blameless and fearless, who has been taught by serving as a youth how to command as a man; who earns by manly vigor a quiet, honored old age; who combines strength with gentleness, ever looking up for and obeying the divine impulse with the simplicity of a child, while he wields great power and directs it calmly, and without swerving, to the accomplishment of a high, unselfish purpose.

All that part of the book of Joshua which relates his personal history seems to be written with the unconscious, vivid power of an eyewitness. We are not merely taught to look with a distant reverence upon the first man who bears the name which is above every name. We stand by the side of one who is admitted to hear the words of God, and see the vision of the Almighty. The image of the armed warrior is before us as when in the sight of two armies he lifted up his spear over unguarded Ai. We see the majestic presence which inspired all Israel (Joshua 4:14) with awe; the mild father who remonstrated with Achan; the calm, dignified judge who pronounced his sentence; the devoted worshipper prostrating himself before the captain of the Lord's host. We see the lonely man in the height of his power, separate from those about him, the last survivor, save one, of a famous generation; the honored old man of many deeds and many sufferings, gathering his dying energy for an attempt to bind his people more closely to the service of God whom he had so long served and worshipped, and whom he was ever learning to know more and more.

The great work of Joshua's life was more exciting but less hopeful than that of Moses. He gathered the first fruits of the autumn harvest where his predecessor had sown the seed in spring. It was a high and inspiring task to watch beside the cradle of a mighty nation, and to train its early footsteps in laws which should last for centuries; and it was a fit end to a life of expectation to gaze with longing eyes from Pisgah upon the Land of Promise. But no such brightness gleamed upon the calm close of Joshua's life. Solemn words, and dark with foreboding, fell from him as he sat "under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the Lord in Shechem." The excitement of his battles was past; and there had grown up in the mind of the pious leader a consciousness that it is the tendency of prosperity and success to make a people wanton and worldly minded, idolaters in spirit if not in act, and to alienate them from God.

Holy Scripture itself suggests (Hebrews 4:8) the consideration of Joshua as a type of Christ. Many of the Christian fathers have enlarged upon this view; and Bishop Pearson, who has collected their opinions (On the Creed, art. 2, p. 87-90, and 94-96, ed. 1843), points out the following and many other typical resemblances:

(1.) the name common to both;

(2.) Joshua brings the people of God into the land of promise, and divides the land among the tribes; Jesus brings his people into the presence of God, and assigns to them their mansions;

(3.) as Joshua succeeded Moses and completed his work, so the Gospel of Christ succeeding the law, announced One by whom all that believe are justified from all things from which we could not be justified by the Law of Moses (Acts 13:39);

(4.) as Joshua, the minister of Moses, renewed the rite of circumcision, so Jesus, the minister of the circumcision, brought in the circumcision of the heart (Romans 2:29; Romans 15:8).

3. Difficulties in his Narrative. It has been questioned whether the captain of the Lord's host (Joshua 5, 13-15) was a created being or not. Dr. W.H. Mill discusses this point at full length and with great learning, and decides in favor of the former alternative (On the Historical Character of St. Luke's First Chapter. Camb. 1841. p. 92). But J.G. Abicht (De Duce Exercitus, etc., ap. Nov. Thes. Theologico-philolog. 1, 503) is of opinion that he was the uncreated angel, the Son of God. Compare also Pfeiffer, Dif. Script. Loc. p. 173. (See ANGEL).

The treatment of the Canaanites by their Jewish conquerors is fully discussed by Dean Graves, On the Pentateuch, pt. 3, lect. 1. He concludes that the extermination of the Canaanites was justified by their crimes, and that the employment of the Jews in such extermination was quite consistent with God's method of governing the world. Professor Fairbairn (Typology of Scripture, bk. 3, ch. 4, § 1, ed. 1854) argues with great force and candor in favor of the complete agreement of the principles on which the war was carried on by Joshua with the principles of the Christian dispensation. (See CANAANITES).

Among the supernatural occurrences in the life of Joshua, none has led to so much discussion as the prolongation of the day of the battle of Makkedah (10, 51, 14). No great difficulty is found, in deciding as Pfeiffer has done (Diff. Script. loc. p. 175) between the lengths of this day and that of Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:11), and in connecting both days with the Egyptian tradition mentioned by Herodotus, 2, 142. But since modern science revealed the stupendous character of this miracle, modern criticism has made several attempts to explain it away. It is regarded by Le Clerc, Dathe, and others as no miracle, but an optical illusion, by Rosenmü ller, following Ilgen, as a mistake of the time of day; by Winer and many recent German critics, with whom Dr. Davidson (Introd. to O.T. p. 644) seems to agree, as a mistake of the meaning or the authority of a poetical contributor to the book of Jasher. So Ewald (Gesch. Isr. 2, 326) traces in the latter part of 2 Kings 20:13 an interpolation by the hand of that anonymous Jew whom he supposes to have written the book of Deuteronomy, and here to have misunderstood the vivid conception of an old poet; and he cites numerous similar conceptions from the old poetry of Greece, Rome, Arabia, and Peru. But the literal and natural interpretation of the text, as intended to describe a miracle, is sufficiently vindicated by Deyling, Observ. Sacr. 1, § 19, p. 100; and J.G. Abicht, De statione Solis ap. Nov. Thes. Theol.-philol. 1, 516; and is forcibly stated by Bishop Watson in the fourth letter in his Apology for the Bible. Barzillai (Josua und die Sonne, from the Italian, Trieste, 1869) understands the word,דּוֹ, "stand still" (lit. be dumb), to signify merely cease to shine, and the expression "hasted not to go down a whole day" as equivalent to withheld its full light! in other words, there was an eclipse: how this could be of service to the Hebrews does not appear. (See GIBEON); (See JASHER).

4. Length of his Administration. According to Josephus (Ant. 5, 1, 29), Joshua commanded the Jews twenty-five years, but, according to other Jewish chronologers, twenty-seven years. The Tsemach David, on the years of the Jewish era 2489 and 2496, remarks: "It is written in the Seder Olam that Joshua judged Israel twenty-five years, commencing from the year 2488, immediately from the death of Moses, to the year 2516. This, however, would not be known to us but for cabalistic tradition, but in some degree also by reasoning," etc. Hottinger (Smegma, p. 469) says: "According to the Midrash, Rahab was ten years old when the Israelites left Egypt; she played the harlot during the forty years in which the Israelites were in the desert. She became the wife of Joshua, and eight prophets descended from her, viz. Jeremiah, Mahasia, Hanamael, Shallum, Baruch, Ezekiel. Some say also that Huldah the prophetess was her descendant." Some chronologers have endeavored to reduce the rule of Joshua to seventeen, and others to twenty-one years. There is no good reason for departing from the number assigned by Josephus (see Meth. Quar. Rev. 1856, p. 450). (See CHRONOLOGY).

5. Other Traditionary Notices. Lightfoot (Hor. Heb. in Matthew 1:5, and Chronogr. Lucoe proemis. 4, § 3) quotes Jewish traditions likewise to the effect that the sepulchre of Joshua was adorned with an image of the sun in memory of the miracle of Ajalon. The Sept. and the Arab. Ver. add to Joshua 24:30 the statement that in his sepulchre were deposited the flint knives which were used for the circumcision at Gilgal (Joshua 5:2). There also occur some vestiges of the deeds of Joshua in other historians besides those of his own country. Procopius mentions a Phoenician inscription near the city of Tingis in Mauritania, the sense of which was: "We are those who fled before the face of Joshua the robber, the son of Nun" (De Bell. Vandal. 2, 10). Suidas (sub voce Χαναάν ): "We are the Canaanites whom Joshua the robber persecuted." Compare Fabricii Codex Pseudepigraphus Veteris Testamenti, 1, 889 sq., and the doubts respecting this statement in Dale, De Origine et Progressu Idolatrioe, p. 749 sq. Ewald (Gesch. Isr. 2, 297, 298) gives sound reasons for forbearing to use this story as authentic history. It is, however, accepted by Rawlinson (Bampton Lecture for 1859, 3, 91). A letter of Shaubech, byש, king of Armenia Minor, in the Samaritan book of Joshua (ch. 26), styles Joshua אכֹדיב אלקאתול, lupus percussor, "the murderous wolf;" or, according to another reading in the book Juchasin (p. 154, f. 1), and in the Shalsheleth Rakkabbalah (p. 96), זאב ערבות, lupus vespertinus, "the evening wolf" (comp. Habakkuk 1:8; Hottinger, Historia Orientalis, Tiguri, 1651, p. 40 sq.; Buddeus, Hist. Eccles. p. 964 sq.). A comparison of Hercules, according to the Phoenician and Greek mythology, with Joshua has been attempted by Hercklitz (Quod Hercules idem sit ac Josua, Lipsiae, 1706; comp. Anton. Commpar. libror. sac. V.T., et scrpt. profan. 4, 5, Gorlic. 1817).

6. Additional Literature on Joshua personally, and his Exploits. The principal occurrences in the life of Joshua are reviewed by Bishop Hall in his Contemplations on the O.T. bks. 7, 8, and 9. See also T. Smith, Hist. of Joshua (Lond. 1862); Overton, Life of Joshua (Lond. 1866); Hess, Gesch. Josuas (Zur. 1759); Masius, Josuoe historia (Antw. 1754); Plumptre, Hist. of Joshua (Lond. 1848).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Joshua'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/j/joshua.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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