Joshua

The Israelites Enter the Promised Land

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An Introduction to Courses

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Taster Course

A short introduction

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Starter Course

Getting into the guts of what’s going on

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Main Course

The meat! And what to do about it!

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Dessert Course

Material for Church leaders and Tertiary level students

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The Key
The Key to unlocking the dynamic

The key to unlocking the dynamic of ‘Joshua’ is to understand that it is important to see the big picture within the book of how God is at work.  Some parts of ‘Joshua’ stress that salvation is accomplished; God has given the people victory and given the land rest.  Other parts emphasise how there is still much work to be done to see the reality of this victory.  The book concludes with an uncompromising call to total loyalty to Yahweh in order to enjoy the reality of living in the victory that Yahweh has won for his people.  This dynamic is used again in the way that the book of Hebrews uses the character of Joshua as a foreshadowing of Jesus in Hebrews 3-4.

 


hear
Hear
Listen Here

Click the link above for an audio version of Joshua.

 

Download the Bible App for your smart phone and listen when you’re at the gym, travelling etc …

 

Listen to the gospel-style worship song ‘Joshua fit the walls of Jericho’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5WmR-7woWk

 


Read
Read

Read Joshua all the way through – try it in one sitting if you can.  Joshua 12-21 are mostly listings of various sorts, but skim read them and make sure you pause when you get to Caleb, and also notice in these lists any verses that tell you a bit more, as these are important aspects of Joshua to note.


Study
Study

Look at what God commands Israel and think about why he does that.

Think about how well (or not) Joshua and Israel obey God – what are the result of this (dis)obedience?

What is the high point of the book?

What is the overriding requirement throughout the book of Joshua?

 


Meditate
Meditate

Suggested verses for meditation …

 

Joshua 1:6-9

Joshua 5:13-15

Joshua 14:6-15

Joshua 23:14-16

Joshua 24:14-15


learn
Learn

Excellent passages and verses to learn include:

 

Joshua 1:6-9    ‘Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.  Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’

 

Joshua 23:14    ‘Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.’

 


Challenge
The Challenge

Explanation:  We all learn in different ways. This section is for those who find that challenging questions motivate them to master a subject.

Here are ten questions about ‘Joshua’. See how you score. The answers are at the bottom of the page.

 

Easy:

Q1   Who did Joshua take over from as leader of Israel?

Q2   Who was the first non-Israelite to be allowed to live among them – and why?

Q3 Why did the Israelites have to follow the ark of God?

 

Straightforward:

Q4 What reason does Joshua give to the Israelites for the parting of the Jordan?

Q5 What are the first two things that the Israelites are said to do when they have entered the land?

Q6 Whose side does the man Joshua meets outside Jericho belong to?  Why does this matter?

 

Difficult:

Q7 Why are Israel defeated at Ai, and what do they do have to do about it?

Q8 Why do the Israelites fail to defeat the Canaanites later on? (Try to distinguish between the reasons given by the Israelites, and those that God, Joshua or the writer tell us about)

 

Testing:

Q9 Which parts of Joshua talk about Israel having to destroy all Canaanites? Where do other bits talk about survivors and about Israel driving them out little by little? Why is this?

 Q10 Israel was given the land as a gift, but needed to live life in loyalty and obedience to God in order to enjoy the gift of the land – do you think a similar dynamic applies to us as Christians in terms of receiving God’s gift of new life? Read Hebrews 3-4 to help you think about your answer.

 

Answers:

A1 – Moses.

A2 – Rahab – because she hid the spies, and confessed her faith in Yahweh.

A3 – So that they could see which way to go (3:4).

A4 – So that they will know that the living God is with them, and that he will drive out their enemies (3:10).

A5 – Their men are circumcised (5:2) and they eat the Passover (5:10).

A6 – Neither (5:14) – he is the commander of heaven’s armies. God does not take sides. The question is: whose side are we on, and do we recognise him as holy? (5:15).

A7 –  Achan’s sin, which is taking the devoted things (7:1). As a result, they stone Achan (chapter 7).

A8 – They fear the iron chariots more than they trust God’s promise (chapter 14-15).

A9 – See Joshua 6 and Joshua 3-4 as examples of each, and look for more as you go through Joshua.  These are different ways of talking about the complete victory Israel experience as they trust God.

A10 – I think the New Testament makes it clear that God’s gift of salvation involves our transformation into people who live out of our new identity in Christ.  As such, we can take hold of the encouragements to press on in faith that Joshua offers us, and also take heed of the warnings against disobedience and hypocrisy that it contains.  Both the Old Testament and the New Testament describe a salvation that is by grace and which leads to a changed life.  The key difference is that in the New Testament, God’s Spirit indwells all believers, rather than ‘coming upon’ some people for particular tasks or offices; compare Judges 6:34 with Romans 8:9-11.

 

taster course

Overview

Questions

5 mins

    • Video: Mark Arnold introduces 'The book of Joshua' -
    • Video: Mark Arnold introduces 'The book of Joshua'
      Summary - All the key features in a one page summary
    • Summary

    Summary and Exhortation

    Joshua begins with Israel on the boundary of the Promised Land, camped west of the Jordan, ready to enter the land.  The book tells us of the start of God’s fulfilment of his promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  It tells us of how Israel came to live in the land, controlling most of it.  As it tells the story of Israel coming into the land, we are reminded of the way that God originally placed people in a garden, a land where he could live with them.  In some ways, the high point of the book is Joshua 18:1 where the tabernacle, the meeting place with God, is set up in the land, with the whole land ‘subdued’ before them, the same word as used in God’s instructions to people in Genesis 1:28.  Joshua is the story of God’s people being brought into God’s place, to enjoy God’s presence with them.

     

    When we read Joshua, we must remember that it comes directly after Deuteronomy and is the carrying out of the instructions given in Deuteronomy, and preceding books, concerning how Israel is to enter the land, and enjoy life in the land.  In Deuteronomy, we learn that the people of Israel is not being given this land because of their righteousness, or because they have earnt that privilege, instead they are being given the land because of God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

     

    Israel receive the gift because God is a gracious, promise-keeping God, who gives without regard to what his people deserve.  But having been given the gift, they are expected to live in a way that is fitting with such a gift.  They are supposed to live in the land in a way that demonstrates they have received it as gift.

     

    At the same time, Joshua contains within it some highly disturbing sections of text.  Entire populations, men, women and children, are apparently exterminated.  It is hard to reconcile such sections with the love of God.  If there is truly is power in love, and if it really is the case that God is love, then how can such a God who loves, and commands us to love, command this seeming genocide? As we look at the text in this study, we’ll see how everything is not exactly as it seems in the book of Joshua.  At key points the text will show us that God’s people are not defined by ethnic origin, and that God’s mercy and grace extend to all who commit their loyalty to him.

     

    We will see how Joshua contains within it no mandate for military conquest today; Hebrews 3-4 reminds us that we follow a greater Joshua (Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua) who promises a rest to come for us.  This Joshua conquers through a cross, and the battle is not against flesh and blood.  Yet we will see how lessons learnt from the conquest of Canaan can encourage and challenge us as we seek to live out of the victory our new Joshua has won for us.

     

    We will be urged to press on in total loyalty to God, so that we can come to enjoy his rest, in his restored creation.  As we look at the Israelites and their successes and failures, we will be encouraged to learn from their examples, and to give greater trust and loyalty to God.

    taster Questions - Questions to start you off

    Question 1 -

    Re: Promises: The whole narrative of the book of Joshua is about the fulfilment of a promise that God made to Abraham and affirmed to Moses. Has another person ever promised to give you an exceptional gift simply because they love you? What is your experience of waiting?


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    Question 2 -

    Re: Consecration: At different points in ‘Joshua’, the nation is called to ‘consecrate’ itself, and declare again its loyal commitment to the Lord. What does this consecration look like for us today in the first part of the 21st Century? How do these specific stories relate to different aspects of our Christian lives?


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    Question 3 -

    Re: Heroes: Read Joshua 14:6-15. What does Caleb’s example have to teach us? Think of what we know of Caleb’s life in the Bible, and dip into Numbers to think of the sort of life he must have lived in between Numbers 13-14 and Joshua 14.


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    starter course

    podcasts

    the essentials

    Questions

    10 mins

    • podcasts - 3 to 5 minute ‘Teach-Ins’ on key themes

    Joshua and Jesus

    Circumcision

    A mysterious encounter

    A celebration meal

    Haram - destruction

    Is 'Joshua' history?

      the essentials - The literary features explained
    • Context
    • /
    • Literary Genre
    • /
    • Structure
    • /
    • Themes

    Context:

    Author:   There is no author named in the text. There is evidence for ancient leaders writing about, or commissioning records of, their conquests, so it could be based on records from Joshua himself.

    Date:   Unknown. Critical scholarship would mostly suggest a date late in Israel’s history; that is, sometime after King Josiah.

    Alternatively, if we take Joshua 18:1 with its reference to Shiloh as a clue, it suggests that ‘Joshua’ (or at least a first edition) could have been written while the city of Shiloh was still in use, so around the time of Eli and Samuel.

    Either way, as it now stands, ‘Joshua’ fits into a wider history of Israel from Genesis to 2 Kings, and so when we read it, we read as those who know the bigger picture of Israel’s eventual decline and exile from the land.

     

    Joshua – the man:

    Joshua is introduced at an early stage (in Exodus 17) as Moses’ assistant who fought the Amalekites. Later in Exodus 24:32-34 he waits on the mountain for Moses, and sits outside the Tent of Meeting while Moses prays and speaks with God. In Numbers 11:28, he attempts to prevent unauthorised prophesying, but more positively is one of the two faithful spies in Numbers 13-14. In Numbers 27:15-23, at Yahweh’s instruction, Moses commissions Joshua as his successor. This story is retold in Deuteronomy 31:7-8, 14-15, 23.

    Genre:

    The dominant genre of the book of Joshua is ‘narrative story’, but while it is about historical events, it is not told in the way that we would expect a history book to be written. Some parts of ‘Joshua’ are written in a manner similar to other ancient Near Eastern accounts of conquests.  As such, they include language that sounds exaggerated to our ears to describe victories in hyperbolic language.  It is also written as a story, to capture our interest and our imagination. It is important that we pay attention to the way the story is told to understand what the storyteller wants us to take away from their story of God and his people.

    The Structure of ‘Joshua’

    ‘Joshua’ can be structured around four imperatives: to cross the Jordan, to take the land, to divide the land and to serve Yahweh.  These verbs feature heavily in their relevant sections of Joshua, and give a useful guide to the content of the book of Joshua.

    1:1-5:15 – Crossing the Jordan

    1:1-18   Crossing commanded – Joshua encouraged to be strong and courageous

    2:1-24   Spies, Rahab, encouragement – Canaanites can become part of Israel

    3:1-4:24   Crossing and remembering

    5:1-12-15   Dedication

     

    6:1-12:24 – Taking the Land

    6:1-27   Joshua (didn’t) fight the battle of Jericho

    7:1-26   Achan’s sin – an Israelite under haram

    8:1-29   Ai reconquered

    8:30-35   Reading of the law

    9:1-47   Gibeonite deception

    10:1-11:23   Joshua took the whole land

    12:1-24   Summary list of defeated kings

     

    13:1-21:45 – Dividing the Land

    13:1-17:18   Division of the land

    14:6-15   Wholehearted obedience – the land had rest from war

    15:13-19   Bold operations

    13:13, 16:10, 17:12-13   Incomplete driving out

    17:14-18   Iron chariots should not be a barrier

    18:1   Sanctuary set up, land ‘subdued’

    18:2-10   Remaining allocation of land

    18:11-19:51   Remaining division of the land

    20:1-9   Cities of refuge

    21:1-42   The Levites’ portion

    21:43-45  ‘Rest on every side’

     

    22:1-24:33 – Serving the Lord

    22:1-34   The tribes east of the Jordan

    23:1-16   Address to the elders – no promises failed – stay loyal to Yahweh

    24:1-33   Address to the people – serve – who will you serve this day?

    Themes:

    • Israel is to trust that Yahweh is with them and stay loyal to him so that they can enjoy life with him in his land.

     

    • The emphasis in ‘Joshua’ on the need for Israel to stay faithful to Yahweh in order to enjoy life in the land resonates throughout Israel’s history. As such, the people’s inclination to compromise and commit idolatry is never far from the narrative.

     

    • Understanding God is another leading theme in ‘Joshua’. God keeps his promises; he demands complete loyalty from his people, he demands that his people follow his instructions, he is a holy God, and he accepts people in surprising ways

     

    Literary Genre >
    starter Questions - To help you think carefully about the key issues

    Question 1 -

    In May 2018 there was worldwide concern at the USA moving its Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Although the move has been delayed by constitutional legal restraints, 57 Palestinians died in Gaza when protesting against this development. Does the book of Joshua provide any justification for this move?


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    Question 2 -

    Our identity is profoundly linked to our ethnicity and our nationality. ‘Joshua’ is the story of a ‘refugee’ nation finding a new home. Is your nation open to receiving refugees? Have you seen people enter into marriage, or leave the people they love simply to get a passport?


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    Question 3 -

    In the European Union alone there are over 40,000 laws. The book of Joshua emphasises the importance of keeping God’s law. Jesus gave the community of those who believe in him only one law; ‘Love each other as I have loved you’ (John 13:34). How can you obey this command today?


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    Question 4 -

    Re: Idols, temptations. Joshua commands the Israelites to get rid of their idols. What could the equivalent be for the church today? What would be the equivalent be for you?


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    main course

    Verse by Verse

    The Apprentice

    Questions

    • Verse by Verse - For a thorough understanding of the Biblical text
    • Joshua 1 - 5 Crossing the Jordan
    • /
    • Joshua 6 - 12 Taking the land
    • /
    • Joshua 13 - 21 Dividing the Land
    • /
    • Joshua 22 - 24 Serving the Lord

    Section 1         1:1-5:15 – Crossing the Jordan

     

    1:1-18   Crossing commanded: Joshua encouraged to be strong and courageous

    1:1-9 Yahweh’s instructions to Joshua

    V1-4   Moses is dead, he died having seen the promised land from the mountain (Deuteronomy 34:4-5).  It is worth remembering that Moses did not enter the land because he did not fully obey Yahweh (Numbers 20:1-13).  So, now is the time for Yahweh to fulfil his promise to Abraham regarding the land, and so he instructs Joshua: ‘Now, get up, cross over this Jordan’.  Yahweh will give the full extent of this land to his people.

    V5-9 These verses contain key re-assurances for Joshua of Yahweh’s presence with him: ‘I will be with you’, ‘I will not abandon you’, ‘I will not forsake you’.   Yahweh will be with Joshua and enable him to do the task he is called to do.  Yahweh’s instructions to Joshua are bookended by these wonderful promises to Joshua of his presence with him (v5,9) – ‘as I was with Moses’.

    Joshua would know that when Yahweh called Moses at the burning bush, the first promise Yahweh made to Moses was ‘I will be with you’, and so he can draw strength from the promises he has seen Yahweh fulfil to Moses.  At the same time, he will also know just how difficult it was for Moses, and so he will need strength and courage to fulfil his task.

     

    Yahweh says three times to Joshua ‘Be strong and be very courageous’.

    He is to be strong and courageous in v6 in relation to his task of bringing the people into their inheritance. He is to be strong and courageous in v7 to do all the law which Moses commanded.  Joshua is not simply to be a great warrior, he is to be a man shaped and formed by the ‘Torah’ of Moses.  It is slightly misleading for us to think of the term ‘law’ when the word in Hebrew covers much more than just commands.  The ‘law’ contains the whole story of how Yahweh has made and kept promises to his people so far, as well as instructions on how they are to live now.  It would be better for us to think of words like ‘instruction’ or ‘teaching’.  Joshua is commanded that it should never leave his mouth.  He is always to be ‘meditating’ on it, which has connotations of ‘muttering’ it.  He should know this book so well that some part of it is never far from his lips. If he does this, then he will be successful in all his ways.  God has given Joshua a mission, and the way in which Joshua will know how to carry it out, and how to succeed, is by careful meditation on, and obedience to, the teaching of Moses. And so, knowing that God is with him as he carries out his mission, and knowing that God has chosen him the way he is to carry out that mission, he is told once more to be strong and courageous.  He is not to be in dread of what is to come, and he is not to be dismayed because of the task ahead – because Yahweh his God is with him, wherever he may go.

     

    In Hebrews 13:5 this assurance of God’s presence is applied to Christians and given a very practical edge.  We are able to keep our lives free from the love of money and are able to be content with what we have, according to the writer to the Hebrews, because we know that God is with us. At first glance this might seem very different from Joshua’s mission.  Joshua was at the head of God’s people conquering a land.  We are asked to be content with what we have and not love money, which does not sound as exciting.   But, when we read Joshua, we will see that Joshua’s campaign looked very different to a normal battle campaign.  Joshua need to trust what God said, even it when it looked stupid in terms of strategy and human cleverness.  We need to trust what God says about money, even when it is countercultural and results in a very different lifestyle.  The heart issue is the same – it is about trusting God above our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6).

    1:10-18 Joshua’s instructions to Israel

    V10-11   Having received this assurance, Joshua commands the officials of the people to get ready, because soon they are to take possession of the land.   There is an interesting contrast here with the book of Exodus, where in chapter 5 the same word for ‘officials’ is used to describe the Israelites who have some authority over their fellow Israelites in Pharaoh’s Egyptian brick making machinery, and who carry Pharaoh’s demands to the people.  Now, rather than Pharaoh’s demands for oppression, they carry Yahweh’s promise of an inheritance in the land.

    V12-18   Now Joshua commands the fighting men of Reuben, Gad & Manasseh.  They had previously agreed with Moses that they would be allowed to settle east of the Jordan as long as they stayed loyal to the other tribes who settled west of the Jordan and would fight with them (Numbers 32).  Joshua now calls on them to remember their promise, and their reply assures Joshua that they will completely obey him, just as they had previously obeyed Moses.  The final sentences of their reply echo God’s promise to Joshua earlier in the chapter – they pray that Yahweh would be with Joshua just as he was with Moses, and they encourage Joshua to be strong and courageous once more.

     

     

    2:1-24   Spies, Rahab, encouragement – Canaanites can become part of Israel

    V1-2   This next section of the story comes as a slight surprise. In the previous chapter we have had preparations for the crossing of the Jordan, and in the next chapter we will read of Israel crossing the Jordan.  In chapter 2, however, we read of Joshua sending out spies from Shittim.  We can read in Numbers 13-14 of the problems that came about the last time spies were sent out – and perhaps this is why Joshua sends them in secret. He sends them to look at the land, and especially Jericho. The spies go, and enter the house of Rahab, a prostitute.  This is another part of the story that seems a little odd.  Why do the spies end up at Rahab’s house?  It certainly raises questions in our mind about their mission, and the fact that a report so quickly reaches the king of Jericho also makes us wonder about how effective these spies are being. It is worth noting here that when we read ‘king of Jericho’ we shouldn’t think of the idea of a king as we would think of it today.  Rather we should think of a tribal leader.  It may be that Jericho itself was not a vast city at that time, it may only have been a fort, with some civilians occupying it, like Rahab, to provide for the ‘needs’ of the troops.

    V3-7   Whatever we may think of the spies, we then read of Rahab’s actions, which are striking.  She does not hand them over to the king of Jericho.  Instead she hides the spies and redirects the king of Jericho to search in another place.  When we read of Rahab’s actions we are not told of her reasons.  Instead we are left to wonder.  What would lead Rahab to lie in this way?  Why is she not co-operating with the king of Jericho?

    V8-14   The answer is given in this central section of the chapter in Rahab’s speech to the spies. Her statement reveals that Israel’s journey is known to the Canaanite peoples, and that the people of the land are afraid because they have seen what Yahweh has done for Israel.  Rahab knows that Yahweh is God in heaven above, and on the earth below – in other words, that he is the supreme God over all. Then her words get more remarkable still.  She asks, that just as she has shown kindness to the spies, they would show kindness to her, and to her family, and deliver her, and them, from death.  The word that the NIV translates ‘kindness’ is the same one that is often translated as love, or ‘steadfast love’ in some other translations.  It is used of Yahweh’s covenant love for his people, most famously in Exodus 34:6-7, where Yahweh reveals his goodness to Moses.  It is a word that carries the idea of love bound by a promise, which is why ‘steadfast love’ or something similar can be a good translation.  In addition, she asks for a ‘sure sign’ (literally ‘a faithful sign’) that they will do as they have promised.

    In response, the spies assure her that they will do as she has promised, and that they will treat her ‘kindly and faithfully’ when Yahweh gives them the land.  This language is even more reminiscent of Yahweh’s speech to Moses in Exodus 34:6-7 where Yahweh describes himself as a God who is full of ‘steadfast love’ (same word as kindly here) and faithfulness.   The spies promise that they will treat her in a way that mirrors the character of God.

    V15-21   Then Rahab lets them down by a rope from the city wall, and the spies agree with her the sign.  She will hang a scarlet cord out of the window, her family will gather in that house, and she and all her household will be spared.  In some ways this is similar to the Israelites at Passover, where the sign is made on the doorposts, and the angel of death spares the firstborn in the houses where the sign is found.  When God acts in judgement, he consistently provides a way for people to be saved from that judgement, and so here, even in the conquest, there is a way for Canaanites to be saved from God’s action.

    V22-24   The spies head back to Joshua.  They hide until they are safe, then they come back and report all that happened, concluding with v24.  This provides the additional assurance Joshua is seeking that the Canaanites are afraid.

    This chapter gives us some important reminders about how the Christian life can work.  Strikingly, we never know whether or not the sending of the spies is a good idea.  Joshua gains some encouragement from it, but we are never told that God has commanded it, and we could imagine the story without chapter 2 at all.  However, whether or not it was a good idea, and whether or not the spies ‘should’ have gone to Rahab’s house, we can also learn of the good that God can weave through mistakes or confusion.  Even if we have landed ourselves in the wrong place, facing great danger, God can still be at work. It is Rahab who proves to be the most surprising character.  We have questions about Joshua, and questions about the spies, but Rahab gives a clear testimony of faith in Israel’s God.  This testimony that is picked up in the New Testament in James 2, where she is an example of faith that proves itself in action, and in the genealogy of Jesus, where she is one of four women mentioned, all of whom are in one way or another outsiders and unexpected additions to Jesus’ family tree.

    Once the spies have heard Rahab’s confession of faith, their own faith seems to spring into action, and they promise to act in accordance with Yahweh’s character.  This is vital as we read the accounts of the conquest.  It tells us that Yahweh is not commanding a war of genocide against Canaanites.  God does not play favourites. If a Canaanite, like Rahab, professes faith in Israel’s God, then there is the chance for that Canaanite to become part of God’s people.   That gives us the encouragement today that God accepts anyone who turns to him and puts their trust in his character and faithfulness.

     

     

    3:1 – 4:24   Crossing and remembering

    V1-6   Having received the encouragement of the spies’ news, Joshua and the people get up to go to the Promised Land.  They reach the Jordan, which it seems from 3:15 was in full flood.  This small detail is important. Yahweh leads his people to the Jordan at the hardest point of the year to cross it. After 3 days of waiting, the officials give the people their instructions.  The people are to watch for the ark of the covenant of Yahweh your God.  The ark of the covenant was made by the people, at Yahweh’s command, to be a visible reminder of God’s presence with his people.  When the people were encamped, the ark was kept in the tabernacle, in the Most Holy Place, and only the High Priest on the day of atonement was allowed to enter.  When the people were on the move, the ark could be carried by the Levites and the people followed behind.  The ark was the ark of the covenant, a reminder of God’s promises to be with his people and bring them to the land. The people needed to follow it because they had not been that way before, and they needed to keep their distance from the ark. Most English translations swap the order around from the Hebrew.  In the Hebrew the people are told to start moving when they see the ark, but to keep their distance so that they will be able to see where they are going. Then, in v5, the people are told to consecrate themselves, because ‘Yahweh will do wonders in your midst’. This is the first time that this generation of the people are told to consecrate themselves and be ready for Yahweh’s work.  The time has come, and so the people need to be set apart for Yahweh.  Then the ark of Yahweh is taken up, and the journey begins its final stage.

    V7-13   Now Yahweh speaks directly to Joshua. This is the day he is going to show the people that he is with Joshua just as he was with Moses.  The priests are to carry the ark of the covenant down to the Jordan and they are to stand in the river.  Joshua relays this instruction to the people.  He reminds them that they are hearing the words of Yahweh their God, and that he is the living God who will drive out their enemies before them.  Each tribe is to select a representative, and we will find out why at the start of chapter 4, but first we hear that it is when the priests carrying the ark enter the Jordan that the water will stop flowing and the Israelites will be able to cross on dry land.

    V14-17   Then, in these verses, we read about the events happening.  We might wonder why we need to hear the instructions Joshua gives, and then the account of what happens, but this is a common way that the stories of the Old Testament are heard.  One of the key means that biblical writers emphasise particular things is by repetition, often adding additional details each time.  Here we learn that the people pass over opposite to Jericho and on dry ground the people cross over the Jordan.

    4:1-7   Now we are told the reason for the 12 men, 1 from each tribe.  These people are to carry stones from the middle of the Jordan and they are to put them down at the lodging place that night.  The purpose of the stones is to build a memorial so that when their children ask ‘what do these stones mean?’ they will be able to tell them about the crossing of the Jordan.  The stones will be a memorial for ever.  Remembering God’s rescue is vital; as at the Passover in Exodus 12-13, so with the crossing of the Jordan here.

    V8-10   These verses tell us that the people did as Joshua commanded, and add the detail that another set of 12 stones are put in the middle of the Jordan where the priests had stood.  These verses emphasise to us that everything Joshua told the people happened, in accordance with all that Moses had commanded to Joshua previously.

    V10-14   These verses remind us that the eastern tribes do indeed cross over ready for battle as they promised, and that Yahweh did exalt Joshua as he promised.  Joshua really had inherited Moses’ leadership role, and it is confirmed by the crossing of the Jordan.

    V15-18   Once all the people have crossed, Yahweh commands Joshua to call the priests carrying the ark out of the Jordan, and when they do so the waters return.

    V19-24   The people camp in Gilgal, and we return to the stones, and hear their purpose emphasised once more.  The stones will remind the people, and their children, that Yahweh dried up the Jordan, just as he dried up the Red Sea.  Yahweh did this so that all the peoples of the earth (or possibly of the land) would know that Yahweh is mighty and so that Israel might fear him for ever.  Yahweh’s parting of the sea and the river demonstrates that he is mighty and will therefore prepare Israel for the conquest of the land.  ‘Fear’ of Yahweh here is not about cringing in terror but is about a right honour and reverence for the one who has rescued them and shows them how to live.

     

    The theme of remembrance is very strong in these chapters and is a key part of following Jesus also.  Jesus gave his disciples instructions on the night before he was betrayed for a simple meal by which his followers were to remember what he had done for them, and that he was coming again.  Each time we take communion, it is both a reminder of what Jesus has done and a call to remember that he is coming again.  We also experience Jesus’ rescue, provision and work in our lives on an ongoing basis and it is vital to build in ways to remember what he has done for us and said to us.  How we do this will vary, but for each follower of Jesus, and each group of followers of Jesus, we need to make sure that we remember all that God has done for us so that we will continue to know what he can do and fear him.

     

     

    5:1-15   Dedication

    V1   Yahweh’s parting of the Jordan had, according to the narrator, the desired effect. The kings of the land were terrified, and their hearts melted.  This matches the description given by Rahab in chapter 2.

    V2-9   In that light, the next event is surprising.  We would imagine that Joshua and the people would press home their advantage and take rapid control of the land.  But there is something lacking from the people’s preparations.  In the wilderness, the new-borns were not circumcised.  Perhaps this was a practical necessity, perhaps it signals a spiritual lack, but either way, before the people can go on to take the land they need to be circumcised.  Circumcision was the defining mark of the people of God in the Old Testament – every male had to be circumcised according to the covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17.

    V4-7   The narrator of Joshua is at pains to remind us of the failure of the older generation to enter the land.  Circumcision then here symbolises a complete consecration to Yahweh.  The gruesome story of Genesis 34 demonstrates how vulnerable this would have made Israel.  To practice this mass circumcision was an act of trust in Yahweh, that he would protect them at their point of greatest vulnerability.  It demonstrates that loyalty to Yahweh comes above military strategy.

    V8-12   The next event takes us back to the rescue out of Egypt, as the Israelites together celebrate Passover in the land for the first time. The feast of Passover was given to remind them of God’s rescue, so it is fitting that they arrive in the land in time for Passover.  Following this event, the manna ceases and they eat the fruit of the Promised Land.  God has faithfully provided every step of the way.  Now they enter a new phase of life – one which is no less a gift from God, but in which he provides in new ways.

    V13-15   This section could be the end of the first section of Joshua, or the start of the next section.  It is a strange story in itself.  Here Joshua, standing by Jericho, presumably thinking about the next stage of the conquest sees a man with a drawn sword.  Joshua approaches him and confronts him: ‘Are you one of us, or one of our enemies?’  The answer is mysterious: ‘No: but as commander of the hosts of Yahweh I have now come.’ Who is this mysterious figure?  There are various possibilities – an angel (perhaps Michael) or more likely the ‘angel of Yahweh’ who appears at various points in the Old Testament and is in some way one who brings Yahweh’s presence – note the way that he accepts Joshua’s worship here.  Given this, it is remarkable that he denies belonging to Israel.  The one commanding Yahweh’s army is not doing so to bring Yahweh to the aid of any particular nation.  The battle Joshua is about to fight is Yahweh’s battle.  Yahweh is bringing judgement on the Canaanites and giving Israel the land, not because Israel are righteous (Deuteronomy 9:4-6) but because the Canaanites are wicked.  Yahweh will bring the same judgement on Israel (by means of Babylon) as he did on the Canaanites if Israel do the same thing (Jeremiah 25:9).

    Joshua asks the commander of Yahweh’s armies what he should do.  Presumably he is looking for what military instructions he should carry out.  The answer again is a surprise: ‘Take off your shoes, for this is holy ground’.  We’ve heard those words before – to Moses, at the burning bush when this story began.  Now they are addressed to Joshua, his successor.  Before any instructions can be given, there is a need to acknowledge the holy God who goes before them.  The same can be said about our lives.  Before we can take actions for God or serve him, we first need to take time to recognise his holiness and listen for his instructions.

     

    Section 2         6:1-12:24 – Taking the Land

     

    6:1-27   Joshua (didn’t) fight the battle of Jericho

    V1-5 Rather than going straight on with the story, the camera angle now switches away from Joshua to Jericho, which is effectively under siege, with no-one going in and no-one coming out.  It is important as we come to this story to listen carefully to what we are told, and to imagine the story through the descriptions we are given in the text, rather than assume we know what is happening.

    We shouldn’t, for example, jump to the conclusion that Jericho was a vast city, strong and heavily populated.  It certainly was at some points in its history, but it is quite difficult to match up those points with when it is most likely that Israel was entering the land.  It may have been that at this point Jericho was little more than a fortress, populated by a garrison and some civilians serving the soldiers.

    The point of the story is not to emphasise Jericho at all, but rather to remind us that the battle belongs to Yahweh.  If you read carefully, there is no fighting at all in this story.  But the story is told to us in a particular way that would have been readily understood by its first readers.  At this time there were accounts by generals of their conquests, and sometimes these talk about how important the first victory was.  Often this first battle was not the hardest, but symbolically it was critical, and so the story is told that way.

    In Joshua 6 we hear Yahweh describing how he has given Jericho into Joshua’s hands.  In particular, he has given the king and warriors into Joshua’s hands.  The battle plan is simple, if slightly odd.  All of the warriors are to march around the city once each day for six days.  Then on the seventh day, seven priests with seven ram’s horns shall march around the city seven times as the priests blow on the trumpets.  When the priest sounds a long blast on the trumpets, all of the people shall shout, and the walls will fall down.   Notice the repetition of the number seven.  It seems designed to emphasise that the battle is Yahweh’s.  The seventh day is a day of worship to Yahweh, a day set apart for him.  Yahweh will win this victory on the seventh day, his day.

    V6-7   The commands are given, making clear that the priests should also join in the marching for the first six days.

    V8-14   The commands are carried out, with Joshua making it clear that for six days there is to be no sound from the people.

    V15-21   Finally the seventh day comes.  The march happens seven times.  The trumpet sounds, and Joshua commands the people to shout.  He also commands that the city be ‘devoted to destruction’.  The word used here is ‘herem’, used frequently in Joshua having been commanded in Deuteronomy, and means to utterly and irrevocably devote something to Yahweh for his use, and out of use for people.  The people who are to be allowed to live are Rahab and all with her in her house, because of the oath the spies took.

    The people are not to take anything that has been devoted to Yahweh in this way – because, if they do, then they bring the whole Israelite camp in danger of itself being ‘devoted to destruction’ in this way.  This is not, as Deuteronomy 9:4-9 makes clear, a war that is about Israel being right.  It is a war that is exercising God’s judgement on Canaan, by means of Israel.  Being used by Yahweh in this way heightens Israel’s responsibility for obeying Yahweh.

    The people shout, the wall falls down, and the people go straight into the city and destroy all in the city.  This total destruction is a constant refrain through the following chapters, and yet we also know that there were survivors in the land, and that there were those who fled the land.  The ‘total destruction’ language may well contain some hyperbole – using language to convey impact rather than precise death tolls.

    V22-27   Rahab is rescued, and the city burns with fire, only the gold and silver are saved and put in Yahweh’s treasury.  No Israelite has won the victory here; no Israelite will be able to claim the spoils of war.  Instead Yahweh wins, and Yahweh has the treasure…

     

     

    7:1-26   Achan’s sin – an Israelite under haram

    V1   …Or, so the theory goes.  Following straight on from Joshua 6, we are told that one of Israel breaks faith with this command.  Achan takes some of the devoted things, and so Yahweh is angry with Israel.

    V2-5   When we read the next verses, however, it seems as if we are switching topics and that we won’t find out what happens as a result of Yahweh’s anger.  Maybe Achan thinks it is all good, no-one has found out.  Joshua once more sends spies, and they say that they don’t need many troops.  They just need a couple of ‘thousands’, or possibly a couple of units – the word for thousand can be used for a unit of troops and be used with a similar precision to the way to the names of millipedes and centipedes today.  Just as a millipede does not have exactly 1000 legs, or a centipede exactly 100 legs – both have a lot, and a millipede has (usually) more than a centipede – so a ‘thousand’ of troops could be a large unit of troops without necessarily being anywhere near exactly a thousand men.   Three units go up, attack, and are defeated – they lose 36 men and the people’s hearts ‘melt in fear’.  The Israelites are now in the same state as the Canaanite kings earlier, ready to give up totally.

    V6-9   Joshua does what anyone should do and goes back to Yahweh.  The elders of Israel have dust on their heads and Joshua prays, as Moses has before. Like Moses, he prays on the basis of God’s name.  If Israel perish in the land, what will that say about Yahweh’s character and power?

    V10-15   Yahweh’s response is to reveal that Israel has sinned; notice, it is not just one man, but the whole nation is part of this.  Yahweh will not be with Israel anymore, because there are devoted things among them.  Therefore, in the morning they are to come before Yahweh and he will make known who has transgressed, and the one who has taken the devoted things will be utterly destroyed.  Just as Jericho has been utterly destroyed, so will any in Israel who use this conquest for their own gain.

    V16-26   They do as Yahweh says, and discover the culprit is Achan.  He liked the look of the Babylonian robe and coveted it and took it.  Sin is so often simple: “I saw, I coveted, I took”.  Like Adam taking the fruit, like Israel building a calf, like David seeing Bathsheba, so Achan takes what he should not – and so often, it is the same with us.

    Achan’s tent is investigated and all is as Achan says, and so Achan and all his possessions are utterly destroyed.  In chapter 2 we saw a Canaanite come under the protection of Israel; in chapter 7 we see an Israelite face the fate of the Canaanites.  Being part of Israel is more than being born into the right family.  All through Joshua there are hints of this; being part of Israel is about wholehearted obedience to Yahweh, above race and birth.

    It seems to right to stand by Achan’s heap of stones and reflect on the damage that one man’s sin does to a family and a nation.  So often we are tempted to think that our sin is private and doesn’t really impact anyone else.  But any sin has an impact on others too.  We can’t sin with impunity.  Yahweh is still angry against sin, and whenever we sin and cover it up there are consequences – even if at the time it seems like no-one has found out and all is good.  If we think that Yahweh has somehow changed since Achan’s day it is worth turning to Acts 5:1-11 and pondering that story also.  It seems important that at the start of Israel as a nation in a land, and at the start of the church after Pentecost, God emphasises to his people that he is a holy God who will not tolerate his people covering up sin.  It is worth all of us who are part of churches today reflecting on that reality.

     

     

    8:1-29   Ai reconquered

    V1-2   Following on from the sin of Achan, Yahweh reassures Joshua that he is back on track.  Once more comes the encouragement: ‘do not be afraid, do not be discouraged’.  This time they are to take the whole army, not just a few – this a subtle rebuke to the overconfidence of Joshua 7 – for God has given Ai and its king into Joshua’s hand.

    V3-9   Having had Yahweh’s overarching instructions, Joshua then makes plans to capture Ai.  There doesn’t seem to be any sense in the book of Joshua that he was wrong to do this.  Rather, God giving Ai into Israel’s hands goes together with Joshua planning how he will strategically go about the capture of the city.  Being dependant on God and making plans with the best of our intelligence are not opposites.  Joshua makes his plans, and all is ready.

    V10-19   The plan works, Ai is captured and burnt.  Yahweh instructs Joshua to hold out the javelin in his hand, which Joshua does as a symbol that Yahweh is giving Israel the victory.  Exodus 17 gives the story of Israel defeating the Amalekites in the wilderness, when Joshua was fighting, and Moses was holding up his hands, or having his hands held up, to show that Yahweh was the one providing victory.

    V20-29   The gruesome story of Ai’s capture is told.  The men of Ai are destroyed.  The people of Ai are killed, herem is applied without mercy to the city.  Whether every single person did perish is open to question (see 10:20), but even so the account as it stands is sobering.  Joshua does not tell us why it was just of Yahweh to allow this.  The hints we have are outside Joshua itself.  Genesis 15 talks of how the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure, so presumably by Joshua’s day it has.  Deuteronomy 9 talks about how Israel are not to become proud of their righteousness, reminding them that the Canaanites are being driven out because they are wicked.  Jeremiah 25:9 speaks of how God will raise up Nebuchadnezzar to carry out herem against Judah (which is perhaps a clue that not every Canaanite perished when it was applied to the Canaanites).

    The difference in Israel’s case is that Israel are being told by Yahweh directly to destroy the Canaanites.  Usually when God uses human agents as his tools of judgement he does not tell them. Nebuchadnezzar being raised up is something that happens in the mystery of Yahweh’s sovereignty, but even in this case Nebuchadnezzar does not know he is doing God’s will.  The book of Joshua is the only time in the Bible that God uses a nation to carry out divine judgement on another nation where he has told them what he is doing. This specific instruction may be because Israel are entering the promised land, and they need to know they are not getting it because of their own goodness; that Israel were acting as God’s means of judging a people whom he had specifically stated were to be treated in this way means that we cannot use this a precedent for our own acts of genocide or takeover of land today. It was wrong when the European settlers in North America used language about the native peoples being like the Canaanites.  It was wrong when Oliver Cromwell, and other English military leaders in Ireland, used it against the Catholics. It is wrong whenever and wherever it is used today. There is a day coming when God will judge the whole world, when the whole world will be made new.  On that day Jesus is the one who will fight the final battle (by the word of his mouth).  Our battles are not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).

     

     

    8:30-35   Reading of the law

    At the end of the initial activity of the conquest, Israel take the time to build an altar to Yahweh, as Moses commanded. Joshua writes out a copy of the law.  In doing this, he anticipates what future kings of Israel are commanded to do in Deuteronomy 17.  The text is emphatic that Joshua wrote all of the law, and then read all of the law to all the people; men, women, children and the foreigners among them.  Everyone needed to hear the law so that they knew what God expected.  The tragedy of Israel’s history is in how the people rejected that law in practice.  It is a good reminder to us of the importance of reading and listening to God’s word explained.  We need to gather with God’s people to hear God’s word read and explained to us – we can’t operate as solo Christians.

     

     

    9:1-47   Gibeonite deception

    V1-2   Now we hear of two very different reactions to the Israelite invasion.  The first is the gathering of the Canaanite nations to fight Joshua and Israel.

    V3-6   The second is the Gibeonite approach.  They know what the Israelites have done to Ai and Jericho and they choose the way of craftiness.  In the NIV it says a ‘ruse’, a deception.  The word itself can be either good or bad.  Sometimes it is used in Proverbs to talk about a prudent or wise approach to life, but on the other hand it is related to the word used to describe the serpent in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3.  The intention here is that they should deceive Israel into thinking that they had come a long way.

    V7-15   The men of Israel see them coming and are suspicious. In v6-7, the men of Israel do not make a covenant because they wonder if the Gibeonites are from close by.  In v8 Joshua asks directly where they come from.  They reply by mixing the lie that they are from a long way off with the truth that they have heard of the name of Yahweh, and of his mighty deeds for his people.

    The men of Israel sample the Gibeonite provisions to make sure that the bread is indeed mouldy, and the garments worn out.  They see the evidence of their eyes, but v14 ‘did not ask direction from Yahweh’.  Joshua made peace and Joshua and the leaders made a covenant with them.

    V16-21   The people discover that their leaders have made a mistake and want to kill the Gibeonites, but the leaders prevent them because of the oath they have sworn, and instead the Gibeonites are to become slaves of the people.

    V22-27   These verses serve as the final part of the chapter summarising Joshua’s formal response to the Gibeonites.  Once again, the narrative has a story where the boundaries of who comes under herem and who does not shift.  Gibeon should be put to death, but because of their cunning they are saved.  Rahab had deceived the king of Jericho and saved the spies, Gibeon deceived Joshua and Israel and were saved.

    We should not jump to the conclusion, either, that in 9:14 that Yahweh would have said ‘put them to death’ if Israel had asked.  Perhaps Yahweh would have seen the Gibeonite faith and had mercy.  Israel though, would have been acting with knowledge that they doing what Yahweh wanted. This story stands as a warning for us. How often do we look at the evidence of our eyes, but not ask God for his wisdom to see whether what seems wise and prudent is what God would have us do, or whether God has anything else to say to us in this situation?

     

     

    10:1-11:23   Joshua took the whole land

    V1-5   Now we return to the start of chapter 9, with kings gathering to fight Joshua.  Like Gibeon, Adoni-Zedek is afraid of Joshua, and so he gathers a force of five kings to fight against Gibeon for going over to the Israelites.  He wants the kings of the area to be united as one to resist the invaders, and so they besiege Gibeon.  We shouldn’t think of these kings as rulers like Pharaoh in Egypt, instead they are rulers of small city-states, who often fight amongst themselves but sometimes band together to resist a common enemy.

    V6-15   So Israel fight to defend their new ally, Gibeon.  Yahweh once more reminds Joshua not to be afraid and throws the enemy army into a panic.  Israel pursues, and Yahweh sends a hail storm, with huge hail stones, enough to kill a man.  Then we get an even stranger episode where Joshua commands the sun to stand still, and the day apparently lasts for a whole day longer than usual.  This is presumably some intervention by Yahweh which provided light during the night to get the job done, or the ability to do the work of two days in one.  Whatever the exact mechanics or language behind this event, the lesson to be drawn is clear in 10:14 – ‘Yahweh fought for Israel’.

    V16-27   So the five kings flee and hide in caves.  The Israelites continue to pursue their enemies.  Verse 20 here is important to notice: the Israelites wipe out their enemies utterly – they completely destroy them, and yet the next sentence talks about the survivors.  This indicates that we need to watch carefully the language used.  As we have already said, the way that victories are spoken about may be hyperbolic in a way that the original readers in the day would have understood clearly to talk about a remarkable victory.  Then Joshua defeats the kings and executes them.

    V28-43   Joshua and Israel pass through the cities of the kings and kill kings and people in the cities.  Repeatedly we are told that they applied herem to the cities to all that breathed.   Kings and land were taken at once because Yahweh fought for Israel.  They all returned to the camp at Gilgal, to prepare for the next phase of the attack.

    11:1-15   Next the kings of the northern hill country gather to attack Israel, with a massive army.  As in the previous chapter, we should note that this is another example of a battle begun by the Canaanites.  Yahweh reminds Joshua not to be afraid, and he gives the enemy into Israel’s hands.  Once more, Joshua and Israel carry out herem on the conquered cities and people.  All of this was done by Joshua, just as Moses had instructed.

    11:16-23   Joshua took the hill country and the lowlands and put their kings to death.  No city sought peace with Israel, only the Gibeonites.  11:20 reminds us of the plagues in Egypt with its reference to God hardening the hearts of the Canaanites so that they will keep on fighting.  We should not read this as if God somehow makes the Canaanites oppose Israel when they would naturally have made peace.  The hardening is like that of Pharaoh who stubbornly refused to let Israel go, even before Yahweh had hardened his heart.

    It is the same with the Canaanites. They refuse to seek peace with Israel, and refuse to submit to Yahweh as Lord, even though the example of Rahab and Gibeon show this is possible.  Because of this, Yahweh’s act of punishment is to harden, or ‘strengthen’ their resolve so that they will carry on the fight and be defeated.  This is, in miniature, an example of how God’s judgement is usually played out in the world; if we read Romans 1:18-32 we get the big picture of how this works.

    Then Joshua defeats the Anakim, which reminds the reader of Numbers 13:28, where these are some of the peoples who frighten the Israelites, and carries out herem once more. The enemies of Israel are defeated and Joshua takes the whole land, according to everything that Yahweh had commanded Moses.  Then the land has rest from war.  This is a key phrase in the Old Testament, and it is part of God’s intention for Israel, to experience his rest in the land.

     

    12:1-24   Summary list of defeated kings

    The first half of Joshua finishes with a list of the defeated kings, defeated first by Moses, for the tribes east of the Jordan, and then by Joshua for the majority of the people west of the Jordan.  It may not seem like the most interesting read for us, but it is full of reminders for the people who would have been its first hearers of God’s faithfulness in enabling Israel to conquer the land.

     

    Section 3         13:1-21:45 – Dividing the Land

     

     

    13:1-17:18   Division of the land

    Now we move into a new section, focused around the division of the land.  If chapters 1-12 could give us the impression that everything has been accomplished, then we learn from these chapters that there is still much to be done.  This may be a clue also that the language in chapters 1-12 used to describe the conquests is intended to make it clear that Israel are now firmly planted in the land, not that every single inhabitant of the land has been wiped out.

     

    13:1-7 Here Yahweh speaks to Joshua, reminding him that much land yet remains to be conquered.  Joshua is to allot the land to the various different tribes, and Yahweh will drive out the people before them.  Notice here the switch of language: Yahweh talks about driving out the nations rather than putting them under herem – there are echoes of Exodus 23:29-33 here, where the promise is that the conquest will happen section by section.  The command is still given to the Israelites to make no treaty or covenant with the people of the land, lest they be ensnared into idolatry (a concern echoed in Exodus 34:11-16).

    It is worth pausing and thinking about the difference between the two sections of Joshua, and the language used to talk about the victory.  In Joshua 1-12 it is possible to think that the Canaanites get entirely wiped out, and from Joshua 11:23 that victory has been complete, with nothing left for Israel to do.  And yet, we learn in Joshua 13 onwards that there is much land still to be possessed by Israel, and many battles still to be fought.  If we try to reconstruct the details on the ground of what that looked like it is going to be difficult for us, we simply are not given the details we need.  What we are given is this two-stage account of the conquest, where the decisive victory is won by Yahweh, and yet the outworking of that victory has to go on day-by-day in the experience of the Israelites.

    I think this parallels the Christian experience.  We trust by faith that Jesus by his cross and resurrection has won the decisive victory over evil, and yet we live in a world where on a day-by-day basis we need to seek to live out that victory, and show others what it means to live that victory.  We do this in the strength of the Spirit given to us – and yet on a daily basis it looks a lot messier than it does when we gather to sing our songs of triumph.  Joshua is therefore an encouragement to us to press on, knowing that the promised rest is still to come for all who trust in Jesus.  It is an encouragement to both rejoice in the victory won and acknowledge that there is land that yet remains.

    13:8-33 The tribes east of the Jordan are now allocated their inheritance.   To us it is a long list of place names, but to those hearing these words read to them, to those writing down those words, these are words that give each family, clan and tribe in Israel roots and a place in the land.  These are words that give the assurance that they belong, that they have a place and home.

    Notice, too, the exceptions.  Ominously in 13:13, the people did not drive out some of the inhabitants of the land, but they remain there ‘to this day’ (until the time of the writer).  13:14 and 13:33 remind the readers that the Levites did not get an inheritance of land, but the offerings by fire are their inheritance, and Yahweh himself is their inheritance.

    14:1-5 Then the tribes of the west are given their inheritance.  Once again it is emphasised that they did all this in line with Yahweh’s commands.

    14:6-15 In the midst of this rather dry section we are given an insight into one man’s faith and obedience.  Caleb’s earlier faith in God should be familiar to us who read about Joshua from Numbers 13-14, where he is one of the two faithful spies (along with Joshua) who believed that God could give them the land.  Interestingly, Caleb is the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite.  The Kenizzites are listed in Genesis 15:6 as one of the tribes who live in the land of Canaan.  Caleb then is himself of Canaanite origin (remember how in Exodus 12:38 a ‘mixed multitude’ go up from Egypt with Israel), and so his faith shines out all the more brightly in Israel.

    Notice the important feature of Caleb: literally translated it says ‘he is full after Yahweh’.  There is no holding back with Caleb, and at 85 he is still committed to fully following Yahweh.  He knows that if Yahweh is with him then he will be able to drive out the Anakim.  Caleb receives Hebron as his inheritance, and the land has rest from war.  Perhaps here that little phrase highlights that Caleb’s obedient faith brings the blessing of rest to his portion of the land.

    It is worth pausing on that description of Caleb.  Do we have hearts that are ‘full after Yahweh’?  Are we totally committed to serving him?  If we want Caleb’s faith, then we need to make sure that we have Caleb’s view of God.  We need to know that Yahweh is the God who makes and keeps promises, and that Yahweh is the God who can do what he says. We live further on in God’s big story of salvation than Caleb, so we see more of how God has done this. We see the cross and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, we live in the light of the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  We should think about and meditate on these events and ask God to give us faith like Caleb’s so that we keep on the path of following Jesus.

    15:1-17:18 Land is allocated to Judah, Manasseh and Ephraim.  In 15:13-19 we see the boldness and faith of Caleb’s family once more, but by contrast in 15:63, 16:10, 17:12-13 and 17:14-18 we have a story of failure.  The tribe of Joseph fails to drive out the Canaanites on the plain because they have iron chariots (tanks and stealth bombers in today’s language).  Joshua’s response is to remind them that they can drive them out.  The challenge is: will they believe that Yahweh’s strength is stronger than iron chariots?  The challenge for God’s people is always: do we believe that God’s power is stronger than man’s strength (1 Corinthians 1:18-32)?

    14:6-15   Wholehearted obedience – the land had rest from war

     

    18:11-19:51   Remaining division of the land

    18:1-19:51 The remaining tribes are allocated their land.  In the midst of the allocations, we are reminded of the importance of the tent of meeting, set up at Shiloh.  This is the place where God has promised to meet with his people (Exodus 25-31, 35-40 give the instructions for its building and completion).  At the start and end of this section, Shiloh is mentioned.  It reminds us that God is now dwelling with his people in his land.  Interestingly the word in 18:1 ‘subdued’ reminds us of the initial creation of humanity, where the word is used to describe part of humanity’s task in taking care of the earth.  In an excellent commentary on Joshua, Gordon McConville puts it like this:

     

    ‘Israel’s possession of Canaan, therefore, together with its presence before God in worship, has a significance far beyond itself, for it stands as a symbol and promise of the human fulfilment of its mandate to “subdue the earth”, namely to bring it to that ordering and completion that God’s creative purposes intended for it.’ It is in this context that we read of Joshua’s encouragement to the tribes to get on with the task of taking the land, finishing with Joshua receiving his own share of the land.

     

     

     

    20:1-9   Cities of refuge

    These cities show God’s desire to limit the havoc that the desire for vengeance can create.  Moses was given the initial instructions about these in Numbers 35:6. Here the details are unpacked a little more.  The cities are to be set up for the people, so that someone who has unintentionally killed someone will not be struck down in a thirst for vengeance, but so that justice can be done publicly, ‘before the congregation for judgement’.  Yahweh is a God who cares about justice.  Justice has to be done, and be seen to be done.

     

    21:1-42   Levites’ portion

    Also in Numbers 35 are the instructions for the allocation of cities for the Levites, whose cities are scattered around the tribes of Israel.  The priests came from the tribe of Levi, so perhaps one of the purposes of spreading the Levites around Israel was so that they could be centres of instruction in the law.

     

    21:43-45   ‘Rest on every side’

    The section concludes with the reminder that Yahweh has fulfilled all his promises to the Israelites.  Literally, ‘No word, of every good word which Yahweh had spoken has fallen – all (of them) came to pass.’  God’s words are good.  God’s promises are for good, and not to harm.   They do not fall to the ground, but they accomplish what God desires (Isaiah 55).  God can be trusted.

     

    Section 4         22:1-24:33 – Serving the Lord

     

     

    22:1-34   The tribes east of the Jordan

    The story of this chapter is a slightly strange one.  The eastern tribes are dismissed back to their allocations east of the Jordan.  Then they build an altar on the edge of the Jordan, and the remaining tribes in the bulk of the land hear about it.  The remaining tribes prepare for war because they reason that such an altar must be built for the purpose of sacrifice at a place other than that chosen by Yahweh.  But first they send a delegation to speak with the eastern tribes.

    The eastern tribes protest.  Such sacrifices are not in their minds at all.  Instead they want to build an altar as reminder, as a witness, for the generations to come.  They want the altar to be a constant reminder that Israel is one people, and that the eastern tribes are a loyal part of the whole.  Such protestations find favour with Phinehas the priest, the head of the delegation sent to check out the problem and peace is restored. It is worth noting that if the majority of Israel had been right, this would have been a serious problem.  It is also important to note that they didn’t launch an attack straight away, instead they sought to talk first.  It is a good lesson to us, when we do not understand the actions some people are taking, to talk and listen first before taking action on the basis of what may turn out to be a misunderstanding.

     

    23:1-16   Address to the elders – no promises failed – stay loyal to Yahweh

    V1-13 Now at a point when Yahweh has given rest to Israel, Joshua calls the elders and all the leaders of the people together.  Joshua reminds them of how Yahweh has fought for them, and how Yahweh has driven out their enemies, and encourages them to remember that Yahweh will continue to drive out their enemies and complete the task.  Their part is to keep the law of Moses, not turning from it, ‘either to the right or to the left’. The picture is of keeping going, focused on the law and so moving in a straight line under God’s instructions.  They are not to become mixed and mingled with the nations around and worship their gods, but only to worship Yahweh.  The word for ‘worship’ is the same as ‘to serve’.  Israel have only one master, and so they are to love him with whole hearted devotion and loyalty.  If they mingle with the nations already in the land then Yahweh will not drive out the nations, and they will be a trap that leads to Israel perishing from this land.

    V14-16 Joshua concludes his address to Israel’s leadership by reminding them of Yahweh’s commitment to his promises.  He reminds them that all of Yahweh’s promises have been fulfilled.  He reminds them that just as the good promised has been fulfilled, so the evil Yahweh threatens for disobedience will come to pass if they turn away.  Loyalty to Yahweh matters.  Yahweh’s work for Israel demands an exclusive commitment on their part to following him.

     

    24:1-33   Address to the people – serve – who will you serve this day?

    V1-13   Now Joshua to turns to address the people as a whole and declare Yahweh’s word to them this day.  He begins with a reminder of all that Yahweh has done for them, from the call of Abraham, to the exodus out of Egypt, to protection in the wilderness and the conquest of Canaan.  Yahweh has given them a land, they have not earned it, nor have they worked for it.  It is Yahweh’s gift.

    V14-15   Such a gift demands a response, and so Joshua calls for a response from the people.  They are to get rid of their idols and serve only Yahweh.  They have a choice: to serve Yahweh or to serve idols; there is no middle way.

    V16-18   The people respond enthusiastically.  They will serve only Yahweh.  They will not forsake him.  Yahweh is their God, who has rescued them.  It sounds good.

    V19-24   Joshua, however, has lived with the people for a while now so he knows that the right response can be said without coming from the heart.  He warns them that following Yahweh is no easy road.  He is holy.  He is jealous.  He will not forgive them if they desert him and follow after other gods.  That isn’t saying that Yahweh will never forgive.  What it is saying is that if God’s people desert him then they are leaving the only way that they can be forgiven.  Yahweh is jealous for his people – passionately devoted to their good, and so passionately opposed to all idols and all that would get in the way of them serving him once and for all.  The people say once more that they will follow Yahweh.

    Joshua once more calls on them to get rid of their foreign gods.  The people affirm their willingness to follow Yahweh and obey him.  They are not, however, ever said to get rid of their foreign gods – a silence that casts an ominous shadow over the future narrative.

    V25-28   Then Joshua makes a covenant with the people, writes the words and sets up a stone of witness so that the people will remember what they have promised.  The stone reminds the people of the promises they have made, and of the warnings that Joshua has given.

    V29-33   The final section of the chapter speaks of several deaths and burials.  Joshua dies and is buried in the land. This reminds us of how Abraham was buried in the land, still not possessing it; now Israel do possess the land because God fulfils his promises.

    Israel serve Yahweh all the days of Joshua and of the elders who had lived with Joshua and known all that Yahweh had done for Israel.

    Then Joseph’s bones were buried, reminding us of Joseph’s story, and of Joseph’s identity as an Israelite even while an official of Pharaoh. Joseph’s request was an exercise of faith that Yahweh would keep his promises.  Then Eleazer dies, the son of Aaron, a death that marks the passing of a generation, and leads us on into Judges and what will happen to Israel now that Joshua has died.

    What will happen next?  Will Israel keep on serving?  What will happen in our lives?  Having experienced something of God’s rescue for us in Jesus, will we keep on serving him?  Will we have the trust in God’s promises that enables us to throw away our idols and serve only Jesus?

     

     

    Joshua 6 - 12 Taking the land >
      The Apprentice - Helping apprentices of Jesus think through the applications
    • Overall Message
    • /
    • Leading Imperatives
    • /
    • Implied Imperatives
    • /
    • Applications
    • /
    • Holy Habits

    The overall message of ‘Joshua’:

    By reminding us of God’s faithfulness to his promise, the book of Joshua encourages us to walk faithfully and wholeheartedly before him.  In one sense, the sort of person we should be because of the book of Joshua is summed up in Joshua 14:6-14: we are to be like Caleb, wholeheartedly devoted to Yahweh.

    The leading imperatives:

     

    1:6-9  ‘Be bold!’ ‘do not let this book of the law depart from your mouth’ (addressed to Joshua, but by implication these verses apply to us all in the individual tasks we have to do for God)

     

    24:14-15  ‘choose this day whom you will serve’ and ‘get rid of your idols’

    The implied imperatives:

     

    Joshua 7   Do not think sin is a private matter.

    Joshua 9   Make sure that you ask God when you are making decisions.

    Joshua 14:6-15   The life of Caleb as an example to follow.

    Applications:

     

    1:6-9, 8:30-35   The importance of reading and hearing God’s word.

    Chapter 4, 24:1-13   The importance of remembering all that God has done for us.

    3:5, 5:2, 5:15   The recognition that God is holy.

    Chapter 23-24   In the light of all that God has done for you, you are to be utterly devoted to him.

    Holy Habits: (Holy Habits are patterns of living and lifestyle practices which we choose to do in our lives.  These can be in order to either withdraw from the dominion of the world, such as silence, secrecy, submission, fasting, watching, simple living, or, practices that plunge us into the life of the Kingdom, such as prayer, worship, celebration, study, serving the poor and deprived, etc. They can be as simple as kneeling by your bed and thanking God at the end of the day, or as substantial as attending an annual Christian festival.)

     

    Ideas:

     

    • Meditate on scripture (1:6-9).
    • Remember God’s rescue and tell the story to the next generation – can you build in times of doing this into your family or household life (4:19-24)?
    • The Israelites had circumcision and Passover as markers of the covenant.  Christians have baptism and communion; be baptised and take communion regularly. These are what mark us as belonging to Christ and nourish us for the journey towards enjoying our (eternal) promised land (5:2-11).
    Leading Imperatives >
    main Questions - Important questions directly from the text

    Question 1 -

    You may be shocked by this, but Joshua 1:8 directly links meditation on the Scriptures with prosperity and success. What change can you make to your lifestyle so that you regularly meditate on God’s words? What sort of ‘prosperity’ do the scriptures promise?


    watch video

    Question 2 -

    Re: Compromise: Read Joshua 7 and then read Acts 5:1-11 – how does that make you feel about God? What is it about the actions of Achan that is so serious? How do we go wrong in similar ways?


    watch video

    Question 3 -

    The taking of Jericho was the most crucial victory for the Israelites since the defeat of the Egyptians at the Red Sea (5:13 – 6:27). What spiritual principles should we learn from the story?


    Question 4 -

    Chapters 14-21 outline the division of the land between the tribes of Israel, even the land that had not been taken. Joshua 2, Joshua 7 and Joshua 9 show us that the Canaanite/Israelite divide is not absolute in the book of Joshua (you might want to study Ezekiel’s instruction in Ezekiel 47:21-23). Who do you think gets to decide who is part of the church – and how do we recognise that?


    Question 5 -

    ‘As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord’ (24:15). This statement of loyalty to the Lord touches the heart of the book of Joshua. At several points in the book, the Israelites affirm their allegiance and reject their idols. As apprentices of Jesus we will need to establish similar lifestyle patterns. How can we do this?


    dessert course

    A prayer

    Commentaries

    Suggested Sermon Series

    Questions

    • A prayer -

    A prayer based on Joshua

    Oh living God, the God of Joshua, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who fulfils every one of your promises; give us grace so that we are careful to obey all your commands, to meditate on your words day and night, and reject every idol from our lives, so that we and all our households may serve you faithfully and inherit every part of the Kingdom Christ has won for us. Amen.

     

    Commentary on the Prayer:

    Oh living God, the God of Joshua (1:1), the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who fulfils every one of your promises (1:3); give us grace so we are careful to obey all your commands (1:7), to meditate on your words day and night (1:8), and reject every idol from our lives (24:23), so that we and all our households may serve you faithfully (24:15) and inherit every part of the Kingdom Christ has won for us. Amen.

      Commentaries - Introducing the best commentaries

    Commentaries on ‘Joshua’   

    (Updated: June 2018)

    Commentary Comment
    Dale Ralph Davis:

    Joshua : Focus on the Bible

    http://www.eden.co.uk/joshua-focus-on-the-bible/

    Very helpful, clear and applied.

    Two Horizons – Gordon McConville and Stephen Williams:

    Joshua

    http://www.eden.co.uk/shop/joshua-2709853.html

    Not only contains excellent concise commentary on Joshua, but also excellent theological reflection on the text, and discussion of the genocide issue.

    Tyndale – Richard Hess

    Joshua

    http://www.eden.co.uk/shop/joshua-pb-1141476.html

    More challenging, but worth reflecting on (as are his other books on Joshua).

    L Daniel Hawk

    Every Promise Fulfilled: Contesting Plots in Joshua

    On Joshua and ‘genocide’:

     

    http://theologicalmisc.net/2016/05/joshua-violence-part-6-warfare-liturgy/

    This is a link to the last of a six-part series by Matt Lynch of Westminster Theological Centre.  All six are worth reading and pondering for their insights, and they contain useful pointers for thinking further.

     

    For a review of John Walton’s The Lost World of The Conquest see this series here:

    http://www.joeledmundanderson.com/?p=2969

    This is a really thorough summary and review of John Walton’s book – which looks well worth a read (although it isn’t an easy read by all accounts) in itself.

     

    God behaving Badly – David Lamb – a nice introduction to some of the tricky issues people often have with the Old Testament: God’s attitude to violence, women and the way God seems to change his mind. He is really good at pointing us back to what the text actually says. He helps to show how we can make sense of these stories.

    https://davidtlamb.com/god-behaving-badly/

     

    The God I don’t understand – Chris Wright – two chapters of the book deal with violence and the Old Testament in again a very helpful and pastoral way.

    https://wordery.com/the-god-i-dont-understand-christopher-j-h-wright-9780310530701?cTrk=OTEyODM3MTh8NWIwYmQ5ODViZDFjMzoxOjE6NWIwYmQ5NzVkZWQyZjguMzMyMzI3NDk6MDEyNGIxZTg%3D

     

    Another useful article is here (I’d like to change the order of it around somewhat, but the content is helpful, especially if you keep reading through the article).

    https://www.bethinking.org/bible/old-testament-mass-killings

     

     

     

     

     

      Suggested Sermon Series -

    Series Title:           How To Inherit All God Has Promised You

     

    Strategy: The book of Joshua could be covered in about 10 Sundays, which with festivals and occasional special services (like baptisms) means that a series would fit comfortably into a term. Most of the sermons will be on the events described in the first half of Joshua. It would be important to address questions of genocide and historicity directly, either as they come up in the text, or as separate sessions, as church members will be wrestling with these questions.

     

     

    Text Title Subject
    Joshua 1   ‘Be bold’ God commissions Joshua to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. Address the subject of ‘pressing in to take hold of all that Christ has won for believers’ (Phil 3:12), and how faith lays hold of the promises of God. Introduce the book of Joshua; outline the series.
    Joshua 2 ‘Surprising faith’ Rahab, a non-Jew, has surprising faith that God will establish the Israelites in the land. Rahab represents all non-Jews (Gentiles) and this story demonstrates that God’s plan is to bless all humanity, as he promised Abraham (Genesis 12:2-3).
    Joshua 3-4

     

    ‘Crossing the Jordan and remembering God’s rescue’ The people consecrate themselves and cross the Jordan river. Preach about the necessity for God’s people to obey God in order to inherit what he has promised.
    Joshua 5 ‘God comes first’ Cover the confirming of the covenant. This is a chance to teach on ‘covenant’, that great subject of the Old Testament (just as ‘Kingdom’ is the great subject of the New Testament).
    Joshua 6  

     

     

    ‘God’s peculiar battle strategy’ Cover the fall of Jericho. Preach about obedience and the call to persevere in the pursuit of God’s promises.
    Joshua 7&8

     

     

    ‘Beware of complacency and secret sin’ Cover Achan’s disobedience in taking some of the plunder from the battle. Just as ‘Covenant’ is the great theme of the Old Testament, so ‘Idolatry’ is the great sin of the Old Testament. Achan’s disobedience strikes at the heart of the motive of sin.
    Joshua 10-11

     

     

    ‘Complete victory: God fights for his people’ The Israelites take possession of land around Gilgal.
    Joshua 12

     

     

    ‘Taking the land’ Address the difficult issue of God’s exhortation to his people to take possession of the land by driving out the inhabitants.
    Joshua 13-21

     

     

    ‘God’s promises fulfilled; God’s people not living up to God’s promises’ The division of the land: cover in particular 3:1, 18:1, 21:43-45 vs 15:63, 17:16-17.
    Joshua 14:6-15, & Chapters 23-24  

     

    ‘Wholehearted obedience to Yahweh; choose today whom you will serve’ An opportunity to preach about loyal love for Yahweh.
    dessert Questions - Gloves off; hard questions for the Bible student and theologian

    Question 1 -

    How would you begin to answer those who say we should just put ‘Joshua’ on the shelf, out of the way, because of its accounts of violence and genocide?


    Question 2 -

    Richard Dawkins writes in The God Delusion: ‘The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.’ John Piper replied with this article: https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/what-made-it-ok-for-god-to-kill-women-and-children-in-the-old-testament How far do you think Piper’s response to the sort of thing Dawkins says is (1) accurate and (2) effective? If you think there are flaws in Piper’s approach, what do you think they are? What (if anything) in the text of Joshua supports his perspective, and what would modify it? How would you respond to Dawkins?


    watch video

    Question 3 -

    Is the author of ‘Joshua’ a historian?


    Question 4 -

    Did the Israelites capture the land, or did they actually infiltrate it?


    Waiter's Brief

    Answers to Questions

    Coaching Questions

    Questions

    • Answers to Questions -

    Taster Course Questions:

     

    QQQ

    Re: Promises: The whole narrative of the book of Joshua is about the fulfilment of a promise that God made to Abraham and affirmed to Moses. Has another person ever promised to give you an exceptional gift simply because they love you? What is your experience of waiting?

    Comment:

    Usually the greatest promise a person ever receives is the promise made by the person they marry, that for the rest of their lives they will be sexually faithful to them alone. Parents may promise to give a specific inheritance to their children. All such promises shape the whole of our lives very powerfully.

     

     

    QQQ

    Re: Consecration: At different points in ‘Joshua’, the nation is called to ‘consecrate’ itself, and declare again its loyal commitment to the Lord.

    What does this consecration look like for us today in the first part of the 21st Century?  How do these specific stories relate to different aspects of our Christian lives?

    Comment:

    Mark Arnold comments: ‘Christians are called to holy lives in line with who we are in Christ – in other words, just as God bringing Israel into the land in Joshua meant that they should live in a way that fitted with that gift, so we are to live our lives in Christ in a way that is fitting to his making us new people. Colossians 3:1-17 is an excellent passage describing this new lifestyle. With regard to the specific situations in Joshua; in Joshua 3 and 5 you might like to think about the need to be intentional about consecrating, or devoting, each aspect of our lives to Christ before setting out on a new part of our journey. (e.g. before starting a new job, while preparing for marriage, or for children, or for going away to a new location).’

     

    QQQ

    Re: Heroes: Read Joshua 14:6-15.  What does Caleb’s example have to teach us? Think of what we know of Caleb’s life in the Bible, and dip into Numbers to think of the sort of life he must have lived in between Numbers 13-14 and Joshua 14.

    Comment:

    Mark Arnold comments: ‘Think of Caleb’s 40 years in the wilderness.  Remember that Caleb’s father was not even an Israelite by birth (but had presumably been part of them in Egypt) (Joshua 14:14).  Think of the time he must have spent wondering if entering the land would ever happen.  Think of how he may have thought of those in his generation who had not believed.  Read and meditate on his words in Joshua 14 and then think of God’s promises to us and ponder how you can increase your trust in God to fulfil them. Look at Joshua 14:6-13.  Caleb at 85 was still following God wholeheartedly. Can you think of Christians like Caleb, perhaps in your church now, or that you have known? How do we make sure that we keep on following God wholeheartedly so that we will be able to say that? Look back at the text and see where Caleb’s confidence is; both for what has happened in the past, and for what he wants to see in the future.  Caleb knows that he will only be able to win the victory if God is with him.’

     

    Starter Course Questions:

    QQQ

    In May 2018 there was worldwide concern at the USA moving its Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Although the move has been delayed by constitutional legal restraints, 57 Palestinians died in Gaza when protesting against this development. Does the book of Joshua provide any justification for this move?

    Comment:

    Mark Arnold comments: ‘This is a massive topic, and one on which Christians have very different (and often very strong) opinions.  I am persuaded that God’s promise of a land to Israel is fulfilled in Christ, and in the new creation that Christ will bring when he returns.  There may well be a time when we see many Jews turning to Christ (how strong our hope is of that will depend on our understanding of Romans 9-11), but since Jesus, there is no need for a physical temple and location for God’s people today.  Christians, together with believing Jews, are all children of Abraham by faith; Gentile Christians are grafted into God’s people.  The church is not a replacement for Israel, it is the fulfilment of what was always intended for Israel. Abraham and Israel are the beginnings of God’s rescue plan, not the ultimate goal. See: https://www.psephizo.com/biblical-studies/does-the-state-of-israel-fulfil-biblical-prophecy/ for a useful overview of the issues. I think that many evangelicals, particularly in the US, have got this wrong and the consequences for the people of Palestine of this wrong theology have been absolutely dire. Theology impacts life.  How we read the Bible has massive impacts on the world; we need to take the task of interpretation seriously.’

     

    QQQ

    Our identity is profoundly linked to our ethnicity and our nationality. ‘Joshua’ is the story of a ‘refugee’ nation finding a new home. Is your nation open to receiving refugees? Have you seen people enter into marriage, or leave the people they love simply to get a passport?

    Comment:

    The evidence is that the countries that receive refugees and immigrants become stronger as a result. Christians are called to be hospitable, and the Old Testament law frequently reminded God’s people that they were to welcome foreigners precisely because in earlier years they themselves had suffered badly as foreigners and slaves.

     

    QQQ

    In the European Union alone there are over 40,000 laws. The book of Joshua emphasises the importance of keeping God’s law. Jesus gave the community of those who believe in him only one law; ‘Love each other as I have loved you’ (John 13:34). How can you obey this command today?

    Comment:

    Mark Arnold comments: ‘The most important thing is that we read the Bible, and that we are hearing it read and explained to us in the context of community regularly – we can’t do this on our own.’

     

    QQQ

    Re: Idols, temptations. Joshua commands the Israelites to get rid of their idols. What could the equivalent be for the church today?  What would be the equivalent be for you?

    Comment:

    Mark Arnold comments: ‘An idol is anything that you rely on to make life work for you, or turn to when times get hard, or place above God in your life.  When people or things become idols, the remedy is to remember the first place that God should have in your life and relate those other things well to God.  Sometimes that may mean that you need to cut out of your life things that lead you into sin (even if for someone else they may be totally harmless) (Mark 9:42-50).

     

    Main Course Questions:  

    QQQ

    You may be shocked by this, but Joshua 1:8 directly links meditation on the Scriptures with prosperity and success. What change can you make to your lifestyle so that you regularly meditate on God’s words? What sort of ‘prosperity’ do the scriptures promise?

    Comment:

    It is difficult to overstate the power of meditation on the words of our heavenly Father. Psalm 1:2-3 paints the most delightfully strong picture of the effect it has on those who build this into their lives.

     

    QQQ

    Re: Compromise: Read Joshua 7 and then read Acts 5:1-11 – how does that make you feel about God?  What is it about the actions of Achan that is so serious?  How do we go wrong in similar ways?

    Comment:

    Mark Arnold comments: ‘These are passages we don’t always like to read.  They highlight how bad hypocrisy is in God’s eyes.  In both cases, the sin was covered up and lied about.  In Joshua we see the impact that had on God’s people as a whole.  Who knows what impact the secret sin of God’s people has on his church?  Make sure that you are confessing sin to God, and where appropriate to others (if unsure seek out the counsel of a trusted friend or church leader). Joshua 7 is a sobering story which tells us how serious sin is – and in particular how serious covering up sin is.  Think through how we can make sure we are not covering up our own sin, and that we are helping others to bring their sin before God. NB we don’t to confess every sin publicly – but we shouldn’t pretend we are better than we are, and where we have publicly offended we should be ready to confess openly.  We should, though, confess every sin to God and bring it to him for forgiveness.’

     

    QQQ

    The taking of Jericho was the most crucial victory for the Israelites since the defeat of the Egyptians at the Red Sea (5:13 – 6:27). What spiritual principles should we learn from the story?

    Comment:

    The vital importance of loyal, patient obedience to God. It is the Lord alone who gives the victory.

     

    QQQ

    Chapters 14-21 outline the division of the land between the tribes of Israel, even the land that had not been taken. Joshua 2, Joshua 7 and Joshua 9 show us that the Canaanite/Israelite divide is not absolute in the book of Joshua (you might want to study Ezekiel’s instruction in Ezekiel 47:21-23). Who do you think gets to decide who is part of the church – and how do we recognise that?

    Comment:

    Mark Arnold comments: ‘Notice how the story tells us first of all about Rahab and her profession of faith – she is a Canaanite woman, yet she turns to the living God.  That should prepare us for surprises in the sort of people who want to become Christians.  We are also warned about the sin of Achan – just being part of the visible church doesn’t guarantee that we will be walking well with Jesus.  Joshua 9 is harder to figure out because the Gibeonites adopt a policy of deception – but we may well encounter people who want to be part of a Christian community for all sorts of mixed motives – and sometimes we may just have to live with that, trusting that God will sort it out in his time.  Our part is to be clear about what we believe God calls us to and listen to God for his guidance on how to deal with particular situations.’

     

    QQQ

    ‘As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord’ (24:15). This statement of loyalty to the Lord touches the heart of the book of Joshua. At several points in the book, the Israelites affirm their allegiance and reject their idols. As apprentices of Jesus we will need to establish similar lifestyle patterns. How can we do this?

    Comment:

    All ‘Holy Habits’ are in one way or another both signs and patterns of loyal devotion to Jesus. Nevertheless, some are particularly effective: attending an annual Christian festival with your family or household; unobtrusive Christian signs or symbols in your home; points of the day when you take time to withdraw and pray.

      

    Dessert Course Questions:

     

    QQQ

    How would you begin to answer those who say we should just put ‘Joshua’ on the shelf, out of the way, because of its accounts of violence and genocide?

    Comment:

    Mark Arnold comments: ‘I think it is always worth saying first and foremost that the conquest is not an account of genocide – the accusation of genocide is the result of failing to read the texts in their full ancient and biblical contexts.  Then it is worth noting that if we get rid of all the parts of the Old Testament and New Testament with violence we get rid of large chunks of scripture.  Throughout church history people have benefitted from wrestling with these texts.  The answer to difficulty is not to abandon the quest to understand it, but to work at it harder.  God’s ‘violence’ is not the violence of a bully or an abuser, but the ‘violence’ of one protecting the oppressed and downtrodden.  See other parts of this Joshua study for more ideas.’

     

    QQQ

    Richard Dawkins writes in The God Delusion: ‘The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.’ John Piper replied with this article:

    https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/what-made-it-ok-for-god-to-kill-women-and-children-in-the-old-testament

    How far do you think Piper’s response to the sort of thing Dawkins says is (1) accurate and (2) effective?  If you think there are flaws in Piper’s approach, what do you think they are? What (if anything) in the text of Joshua supports his perspective, and what would modify it?  How would you respond to Dawkins?

    Comment:

    Mark Arnold comments: ‘There isn’t space here to provide a full answer to this.  I think that there are aspects of Piper’s answer that are helpful, and aspects that are more problematic.  The danger of appealing to God’s right to do whatever he pleases as our first move in the discussion is that makes it sound like we have an arbitrary God who doesn’t do anything for moral reasons. Piper is also in danger here of giving a similar ‘flat’ reading of Joshua as Dawkins does – both appear to assume that we should read the texts as if they were written in the 21st Century.  Looking at the texts in their ancient Near Eastern context gives us good reasons for questioning whether Joshua does indeed present us with the wholesale slaughter of Canaanites. I think it would be better to work harder at the text to see what is actually going on and show how that points us to God’s right to judge.  Have a look at the links elsewhere on the site and see how well you think different approaches to this issue ‘work’.’

     

    QQQ

    Is the author of ‘Joshua’ a historian?

    Comment:

    Mark Arnold comments: ‘Several important points must be understood here:

    • The difference between the way history was written then, and how it is written today, i.e., exaggeration and hyperbolic language was used in describing battles: they seem to be much more concerned that we feel the impact rightly, rather than know the details accurately. Sports reporting today is probably the best analogy.
    • The actual numbers involved are a lot lower than we might imagine based on cities today. City populations were much lower, and army sizes smaller; remember that the term ‘thousand’ can refer to a troop unit rather than literally 1000 men. Some cities, including Jericho, at this point could be forts rather than cities as such.
    • The Bible, including Joshua, uses language that suggests killing, and other language that suggests driving out; don’t assume everyone was killed.
    • Canaanites had a chance to change sides (Rahab and the Gibeonites), and Israelites could end up put to death (Achan).
    • The conquest was a unique event in salvation history, never to be repeated before or since. The Old Testament prophets never talk about a new conquest but push the return from exile and coming of the Messiah into categories beyond one single earthly land into a new creation with the coming of the Messiah (think of Isaiah 11 and 65-66 for example) 

     

    QQQ

    Did the Israelites capture the land, or did they actually infiltrate it?

    Comment:

    One could argue that in fact the Israelites mostly ‘infiltrated’ the land, because only four chapters of ‘Joshua’ (6,8,10 & 11), describe actual armed conflict. This was of course the reason why idolatry was such a temptation for them, and why as a result they lost the land and were exiled to Babylon. 

     

     

      Coaching Questions -
    Discipleship Coaching Session                                        Joshua

     

                Podder:   

    Start:    ‘Hello’ and Beginning

    Key current things in your life

    Last pod you said you wanted to make progress in …  How have you got on?

    10 min: Prayer:        Ask for the Spirit’s help now.  
    11 – 45 mins: ‘Understanding the content’

     

         How did you engage with ‘Joshua’?

    What were the verses/stories that made the greatest impression on you?

     

          What do you want to talk about from your study of ‘Joshua’?

                       Do you have any questions – points to clarify?

     

          What are the main themes and points?

    1)    Israel are to trust that Yahweh is with them and stay loyal to him so that they can enjoy life with him in his land.

     

    2)    The emphasis in Joshua is on the need for Israel to stay faithful to Yahweh; the converse danger of idolatry.

     

    3)    Understanding that he is a holy God, and he accepts people in surprising ways.

     

         How should we handle the difficult issues in Joshua?

    Was the author a historian?

    Commands to commit genocide.

    God’s action against Achan.

     

    *** Use some of the Menu Questions

     

    45 – 60 mins:    Personalised Coaching Qs for “the Podder

     

    How can you ‘meditate day and night’ (Joshua 1:8)? What does God promise will happen when you do?

     

    60 min: Prayer from Joshua: Oh living God, the God of Joshua, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who fulfils every one of your promises; give us grace so we are careful to obey all your commands, to meditate on your words day and night, and reject every idol from our lives, so that we and all our households may serve you faithfully and inherit every part of the Kingdom Christ has won for us. Amen.