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Joshua 1-4 Listen
What you need to know about this book
Many scholars believe that Joshua himself wrote this book and references in the book cause one to conclude that Joshua wrote at least some of it. The book was written in Rahab's lifetime according to Joshua 6:25 (see notes), "...she dwelleth in Israel even unto this day." She's the harlot from Jericho that assisted the Hebrew spies. However, authorship is not expressly stated. The conquest of Canaan detailed in this book took place around 1406 B.C. and was completed within a decade.
Joshua gets commissioned by God himself (Joshua 1:1-9)
1 Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minister, saying,
2 Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.
3 Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses.
4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast.
5 There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.
6 Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them.
7 Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.
8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.
9 Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.
Israel is still not a democracy...never would be; it's a theocracy under God himself. Joshua gets his marching orders here after the death of Moses. Notice verses 3-4, "Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast." The "great sea toward the going down of the sun" is a reference to the Mediterranean Sea. Click here to see a map of land promised to Israel. Under David, Israel did control the land promised to Joshua here. In verse 8 God tells Joshua about the importance of staying with God's Word. In essence, observe the Law of God and you'll prosper.
The specific Hebrew word translated "law" here in verses 7 and 8 is "torah." That, of course, is what Jews call the first five books of the Old Testament - Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. It seems likely that Joshua was actually referencing the Book of Deuteronomy itself in these verses where he refers to "the law." Keep in mind: Just before his death, Moses gave these Hebrews the "law" contained in the Book of Deuteronomy all in one day according to Deuteronomy 1:3 (see notes), "And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spake unto the children of Israel, according unto all that the LORD had given him in commandment unto them." Afterward, Moses died, and everyone mourned his death for 30 days. Here we are 30+ days later, and Joshua challenges the people to honor their commitment to the Law of Moses. Yeah...that's probably a reference to that which he gave them some 30+ days earlier which is recorded in the Book of Deuteronomy.
This leadership transition from Moses to Joshua actually began before the death of Moses.
Let's recall Deuteronomy 31:14-15 (see notes):
And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thy days approach that thou must die: call Joshua, and present yourselves in the tabernacle of the congregation, that I may give him a charge. And Moses and Joshua went, and presented themselves in the tabernacle of the congregation. And the LORD appeared in the tabernacle in a pillar of a cloud: and the pillar of the cloud stood over the door of the tabernacle.
Let's establish something about Joshua's name and origin here. Joshua had been Moses' right-hand man through the whole process. After leaving Egypt, it was Joshua who was appointed by Moses to assemble an army to fight against the Amalekites in Exodus 17:8-16 (see notes). Moreover, we see in Exodus 24:13 (see notes) that Moses was accompanied by "his minister Joshua" when he ascended Mount Horeb for his extended stay where he communed with God. Moreover, Joshua was only one of two men (except Levites) who was alive before and after the 38+ years of wandering in the wilderness. That's because he and Caleb were the only two spies in Numbers 13 (see notes) who came back with a positive report concerning their findings and proposed plan of action in Canaan. He was the representative spy for his tribe, the Tribe of Ephraim. Joshua had definitely earned the respect of the people of Israel over the last 40 years.
Another interesting note about Joshua is that he gets a name change in Numbers 13:16 (see notes) from Oshea to Jehoshua. Actually, only the KJV adds the "eh" to the name, and it only does so in Numbers 13:16 and I Chronicles 7:26. "Jesus" is the transliteration of the Greek name "Iesous" which is the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name "Joshua." So, "Joshua" and "Jesus" are the same name. The KJV editors translated "Joshua" as "Jesus" in Acts 7:45 (see notes) and Hebrews 4:8 (see notes); only by context is it possible to distinguish them in their Greek renderings. In the Old Testament, a theophoric name was one which had Jehovah's special name integrated into it, often with the "y-e-h" letters set as a prefix. That appears to be the intent with regard to the changing of Oshea's name to Jehoshua, which in Hebrew is actually pronounced, "yeh-ho-shoo´-ah."
Joshua calls in a marker (Joshua 1:10-18)
10 Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying,
11 Pass through the host, and command the people, saying, Prepare you victuals; for within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land, which the LORD your God giveth you to possess it.
12 And to the Reubenites, and to the Gadites, and to half the tribe of Manasseh, spake Joshua, saying,
13 Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, The LORD your God hath given you rest, and hath given you this land.
14 Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle, shall remain in the land which Moses gave you on this side Jordan; but ye shall pass before your brethren armed, all the mighty men of valour, and help them;
15 Until the LORD have given your brethren rest, as he hath given you, and they also have possessed the land which the LORD your God giveth them: then ye shall return unto the land of your possession, and enjoy it, which Moses the LORD’S servant gave you on this side Jordan toward the sunrising.
16 And they answered Joshua, saying, All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go.
17 According as we hearkened unto Moses in all things, so will we hearken unto thee: only the LORD thy God be with thee, as he was with Moses.
18 Whosoever he be that doth rebel against thy commandment, and will not hearken unto thy words in all that thou commandest him, he shall be put to death: only be strong and of a good courage.
Remember when the tribes of Gad, Reuben and Manasseh requested permission to stay and live on the east side of Jordan? Well, now it's time for them to pay up according to their deal with Moses back in Numbers 32 (see notes). Joshua recalls their promise: We're going over Jordan in 3 days and you folks agreed to help. No problem; they're in. Notice the strength of their resolve in verses 16-18. It is not clear in verse 17 if they are placing a condition on their allegiance to Joshua when they say, "...so will we hearken unto thee: only the LORD thy God be with thee, as he was with Moses." Perhaps they are saying, "We'll follow you, Joshua, as long as it is evident that you are being led by God just as Moses was led by God." They do acknowledge the consequences of not keeping their word in verse 18 - refusal to fight means execution - always a strong recruiting tool. Incidentally, they do stay and fight with the rest of Israel until they are dismissed in Joshua 22 (see notes) after the job is done.
The lying Harlot gets rewarded! (Joshua 2)
1 And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying, Go view the land, even Jericho. And they went, and came into an harlot’s house, named Rahab, and lodged there.
2 And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, Behold, there came men in hither to night of the children of Israel to search out the country.
3 And the king of Jericho sent unto Rahab, saying, Bring forth the men that are come to thee, which are entered into thine house: for they be come to search out all the country.
4 And the woman took the two men, and hid them, and said thus, There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were:
5 And it came to pass about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark, that the men went out: whither the men went I wot not: pursue after them quickly; for ye shall overtake them.
6 But she had brought them up to the roof of the house, and hid them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order upon the roof.
7 And the men pursued after them the way to Jordan unto the fords: and as soon as they which pursued after them were gone out, they shut the gate.
8 And before they were laid down, she came up unto them upon the roof;
9 And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you.
10 For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed.
11 And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.
12 Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the LORD, since I have shewed you kindness, that ye will also shew kindness unto my father’s house, and give me a true token:
13 And that ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.
14 And the men answered her, Our life for yours, if ye utter not this our business. And it shall be, when the LORD hath given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with thee.
15 Then she let them down by a cord through the window: for her house was upon the town wall, and she dwelt upon the wall.
16 And she said unto them, Get you to the mountain, lest the pursuers meet you; and hide yourselves there three days, until the pursuers be returned: and afterward may ye go your way.
17 And the men said unto her, We will be blameless of this thine oath which thou hast made us swear.
18 Behold, when we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father’s household, home unto thee.
19 And it shall be, that whosoever shall go out of the doors of thy house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head, and we will be guiltless: and whosoever shall be with thee in the house, his blood shall be on our head, if any hand be upon him.
20 And if thou utter this our business, then we will be quit of thine oath which thou hast made us to swear.
21 And she said, According unto your words, so be it. And she sent them away, and they departed: and she bound the scarlet line in the window.
22 And they went, and came unto the mountain, and abode there three days, until the pursuers were returned: and the pursuers sought them throughout all the way, but found them not.
23 So the two men returned, and descended from the mountain, and passed over, and came to Joshua the son of Nun, and told him all things that befell them:
24 And they said unto Joshua, Truly the LORD hath delivered into our hands all the land; for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us.
Yup! She fooled 'em. This chapter is neither a commendation for harlotry nor lying, but Rahab does figure prominently into Jewish history from this day forward. So, when you're away from home, and there are no motels, where can one find lodging? These two spies enter Jericho and head for the harlot's house. And who would be suspicious of two out-of-towners going into a harlot's house? However, somebody alerts the king - no problem though; Rahab lies to the king's messengers concerning their whereabouts and assists the two Hebrew spies in their escape. She hides them among the flax on her roof and then drops them down over the wall through her window. With Rahab's cooperation, they looked for the Hebrew spies for 3 days, but failed to find them. The result: Israel takes Jericho (Joshua 6, see notes) and Rahab gets honorable mention in Hebrews 11:31 (see notes) and James 2:25 (see notes). Notice in this chapter that the reputation of the Hebrews had preceded them. All the inhabitants of Jericho were afraid of them after having heard the miracles God had done in protecting and delivering these Hebrews. Rahab felt there was simply no point to resisting God himself.
As a condition of her assisting the spies, she makes them vow a vow (swear an oath) to spare her family. The Hebrews were very meticulous about keeping vows they had made. (Click here to read stipulations of the Law concerning vows as seen in Leviticus 27.) I'm guessing that no one in Jericho thinks it at all strange that a harlot hangs a scarlet thread from her window on the wall - just good advertising to attract those out-of-town visitors to Jericho.
So...what kind of a report do the two spies deliver back to Joshua? There it is in verse 24, "And they said unto Joshua, Truly the LORD hath delivered into our hands all the land; for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us."
By the way, Rahab goes on to become a very important person when she is taken as the wife of Salmon, a prince of the Tribe of Judah. We see in Ruth 4:21 (see notes); I Chronicles 2:11 (see notes) and Matthew 1:5 (see notes) that Salmon and Rahab were the parents of Boaz who married Ruth, making them the direct ancestors of King David and Jesus. Wow...from Canaanite harlot to Jewish celebrity! God's grace is good!
O Lord! We need a miracle! (Joshua 3)
1 And Joshua rose early in the morning; and they removed from Shittim, and came to Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over.
2 And it came to pass after three days, that the officers went through the host;
3 And they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it.
4 Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore.
5 And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the LORD will do wonders among you.
6 And Joshua spake unto the priests, saying, Take up the ark of the covenant, and pass over before the people. And they took up the ark of the covenant, and went before the people.
7 And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee.
8 And thou shalt command the priests that bear the ark of the covenant, saying, When ye are come to the brink of the water of Jordan, ye shall stand still in Jordan.
9 And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, Come hither, and hear the words of the LORD your God.
10 And Joshua said, Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you, and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Hivites, and the Perizzites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Jebusites.
11 Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan.
12 Now therefore take you twelve men out of the tribes of Israel, out of every tribe a man.
13 And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above; and they shall stand upon an heap.
14 And it came to pass, when the people removed from their tents, to pass over Jordan, and the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people;
15 And as they that bare the ark were come unto Jordan, and the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim of the water, (for Jordan overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest,)
16 That the waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon an heap very far from the city Adam, that is beside Zaretan: and those that came down toward the sea of the plain, even the salt sea, failed, and were cut off: and the people passed over right against Jericho.
17 And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan.
When the priests are told that they will lead the troops by three-fifths of a mile with the ark of the covenant in hand, I'm guessing they were looking for a sign. Well, they got it. When these priests arrive at the edge of the Jordan, it dries up right before their eyes. Even though it was the rainy season and the banks of the Jordan were to the brim, the troops go across on dry land - so far, so good. Jericho, here we come! The mission of the twelve men chosen in verse 12 is seen at the beginning of chapter 4 (see below).
It should be pointed out that this Jordan-drying-up miracle was God's way of validating Joshua's leadership before the people of Israel. Notice the promise God made to Joshua at the outset in verse 7, "And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee." Notice the prominent place of the Ark of the Covenant here. It passed before the army, and it was when the priests feet (who carried the ark) touched the water that the Jordan River dried up. It was a big ol' miracle day for Israel on the banks of the Jordan.
Incidentally, the "salt sea" in verse 16 is the Dead Sea. This crossing took place just north of the Dead Sea. See the map above for the crossing location.
Sometimes a rock is NOT JUST a rock (Joshua 4)
1 And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over Jordan, that the LORD spake unto Joshua, saying,
2 Take you twelve men out of the people, out of every tribe a man,
3 And command ye them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests’ feet stood firm, twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you, and leave them in the lodging place, where ye shall lodge this night.
4 Then Joshua called the twelve men, whom he had prepared of the children of Israel, out of every tribe a man:
5 And Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of Jordan, and take ye up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel:
6 That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones?
7 Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever.
8 And the children of Israel did so as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones out of the midst of Jordan, as the LORD spake unto Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, and carried them over with them unto the place where they lodged, and laid them down there.
9 And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests which bare the ark of the covenant stood: and they are there unto this day.
10 For the priests which bare the ark stood in the midst of Jordan, until every thing was finished that the LORD commanded Joshua to speak unto the people, according to all that Moses commanded Joshua: and the people hasted and passed over.
11 And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over, that the ark of the LORD passed over, and the priests, in the presence of the people.
12 And the children of Reuben, and the children of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh, passed over armed before the children of Israel, as Moses spake unto them:
13 About forty thousand prepared for war passed over before the LORD unto battle, to the plains of Jericho.
14 On that day the LORD magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they feared Moses, all the days of his life.
15 And the LORD spake unto Joshua, saying,
16 Command the priests that bear the ark of the testimony, that they come up out of Jordan.
17 Joshua therefore commanded the priests, saying, Come ye up out of Jordan.
18 And it came to pass, when the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD were come up out of the midst of Jordan, and the soles of the priests’ feet were lifted up unto the dry land, that the waters of Jordan returned unto their place, and flowed over all his banks, as they did before.
19 And the people came up out of Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and encamped in Gilgal, in the east border of Jericho.
20 And those twelve stones, which they took out of Jordan, did Joshua pitch in Gilgal.
21 And he spake unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones?
22 Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land.
23 For the LORD your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over:
24 That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the LORD your God for ever.
It's sort of like placing your flag on conquered territory - these 12 stones. Those men chosen in 3:12 (see above) get the call for this stone-selection and placement task. They were placed in Gilgal for a memorial. I'd say the Jordan River drying up long enough for the Israeli army to cross was worth remembering. The priests stood there in the midst of the dried-up Jordan River long enough for the representative from each tribe to pick out his rock from the river bed and for all the troops to pass over. As soon as these ark-bearing priests stepped out of the water, the Jordan River once again filled up and overflowed the banks. How about that Reuben, Gad and Manasseh? For the privilege of having already occupied their homeland east of the Jordan, they get the call to go across first of the 40,000 soldiers called into Jericho. Notice the prominent, undisputed place of authority Joshua had among the Israelites in verse 14, "On that day the LORD magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they feared Moses, all the days of his life." The tribal representatives took the river-bed stones, and they were erected in Gilgal just east of Jericho as a memorial of this awesome occasion.
Incidentally, this took place on the tenth day of the first month (Nisan 10). That just happens to be exactly 40 years to the day since they began their preparation to leave Egypt on Nisan 14, the Passover day. As a matter of fact, this puts us on track to observe the Passover feast in Canaan on Nisan 14 in Joshua 5 (see notes).