|This is the New King James text of the passages.|
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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 dwells in Israel to 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 ¶ After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, it came to pass that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying:
2 “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel.
3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses.
4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory.
5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you.
6 Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.
7 Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go.
8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
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 will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory." 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), "Now it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spoke to the children of Israel according to all that the LORD had given him as commandments to 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):
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, the days approach when you must die; call Joshua, and present yourselves in the tabernacle of meeting, that I may inaugurate him.” So Moses and Joshua went and presented themselves in the tabernacle of meeting. Now the LORD appeared at the tabernacle in a pillar of cloud, and the pillar of cloud stood above 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 camp and command the people, saying, ‘Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you will cross over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you to possess.’ ”
12 ¶ And to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh Joshua spoke, saying,
13 “Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, ‘The LORD your God is giving you rest and is giving you this land.’
14 Your wives, your little ones, and your livestock shall remain in the land which Moses gave you on this side of the Jordan. But you shall pass before your brethren armed, all your mighty men of valor, and help them,
15 until the LORD has given your brethren rest, as He gave you, and they also have taken possession of the land which the LORD your God is giving them. Then you shall return to the land of your possession and enjoy it, which Moses the LORD’S servant gave you on this side of the Jordan toward the sunrise.”
16 ¶ So they answered Joshua, saying, “All that you command us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go.
17 Just as we heeded Moses in all things, so we will heed you. Only the LORD your God be with you, as He was with Moses.
18 Whoever rebels against your command and does not heed your words, in all that you command him, shall be put to death. Only be strong and of 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 we will heed you. Only the LORD your God be with you, 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 Now Joshua the son of Nun sent out two men from Acacia Grove to spy secretly, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” ¶ So they went, and came to the house of a harlot named Rahab, and lodged there.
2 And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, “Behold, men have come here tonight from the children of Israel to search out the country.”
3 ¶ So the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house, for they have come to search out all the country.”
4 ¶ Then the woman took the two men and hid them. So she said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from.
5 And it happened as the gate was being shut, when it was dark, that the men went out. Where the men went I do not know; pursue them quickly, for you may overtake them.”
6 (But she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order on the roof.)
7 Then the men pursued them by the road to the Jordan, to the fords. And as soon as those who pursued them had gone out, they shut the gate.
8 ¶ Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof,
9 and said to the men: “I know that the LORD has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you.
10 For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed.
11 And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.
12 Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the LORD, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father’s house, and give me a true token,
13 and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.”
14 ¶ So the men answered her, “Our lives for yours, if none of you tell this business of ours. And it shall be, when the LORD has given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with you.”
15 ¶ Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the city wall; she dwelt on the wall.
16 And she said to them, “Get to the mountain, lest the pursuers meet you. Hide there three days, until the pursuers have returned. Afterward you may go your way.”
17 ¶ So the men said to her: “We will be blameless of this oath of yours which you have made us swear,
18 unless, when we come into the land, you bind this line of scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you bring your father, your mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household to your own home.
19 So it shall be that whoever goes outside the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we will be guiltless. And whoever is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head if a hand is laid on him.
20 And if you tell this business of ours, then we will be free from your oath which you made us swear.”
21 ¶ Then she said, “According to your words, so be it.” And she sent them away, and they departed. And she bound the scarlet cord in the window.
22 ¶ They departed and went to the mountain, and stayed there three days until the pursuers returned. The pursuers sought them all along the way, but did not find them.
23 So the two men returned, descended from the mountain, and crossed over; and they came to Joshua the son of Nun, and told him all that had befallen them.
24 And they said to Joshua, “Truly the LORD has delivered all the land into our hands, for indeed all the inhabitants of the country are fainthearted 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 to Joshua, 'Truly the LORD has delivered all the land into our hands, for indeed all the inhabitants of the country are fainthearted 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 Then Joshua rose early in the morning; and they set out from Acacia Grove and came to the Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they crossed over.
2 So it was, after three days, that the officers went through the camp;
3 and they commanded the people, saying, “When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests, the Levites, bearing it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it.
4 Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure. Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you must go, for you have not passed this way before.”
5 ¶ And Joshua said to the people, “Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.”
6 Then Joshua spoke to the priests, saying, “Take up the ark of the covenant and cross over before the people.” ¶ So they took up the ark of the covenant and went before the people.
7 ¶ And the LORD said to Joshua, “This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.
8 You shall command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, saying, “When you have come to the edge of the water of the Jordan, you shall stand in the Jordan.’ ”
9 ¶ So Joshua said to the children of Israel, “Come here, and hear the words of the LORD your God.”
10 And Joshua said, “By this you 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 is crossing over before you into the Jordan.
12 Now therefore, take for yourselves twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one man from every tribe.
13 And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand as a heap.”
14 ¶ So it was, when the people set out from their camp to cross over the Jordan, with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people,
15 and as those who bore the ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks during the whole time of harvest),
16 that the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap very far away at Adam, the city that is beside Zaretan. So the waters that went down into the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, failed, and were cut off; and the people crossed over opposite Jericho.
17 Then the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed over on dry ground, until all the people had crossed completely over the 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 to Joshua, “This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you." 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 had completely crossed over the Jordan, that the LORD spoke to Joshua, saying:
2 “Take for yourselves twelve men from the people, one man from every tribe,
3 and command them, saying, “Take for yourselves twelve stones from here, out of the midst of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet stood firm. You shall carry them over with you and leave them in the lodging place where you lodge tonight.’ ”
4 ¶ Then Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the children of Israel, one man from every tribe;
5 and Joshua said to them: “Cross over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of the Jordan, and each one of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel,
6 that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, “What do these stones mean to you?’
7 Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.”
8 ¶ And the children of Israel did so, just as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones from the midst of the Jordan, as the LORD had spoken to Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, and carried them over with them to the place where they lodged, and laid them down there.
9 Then Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests who bore the ark of the covenant stood; and they are there to this day.
10 ¶ So the priests who bore the ark stood in the midst of the Jordan until everything was finished that the LORD had commanded Joshua to speak to the people, according to all that Moses had commanded Joshua; and the people hurried and crossed over.
11 Then it came to pass, when all the people had completely crossed over, that the ark of the LORD and the priests crossed over in the presence of the people.
12 And the men of Reuben, the men of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh crossed over armed before the children of Israel, as Moses had spoken to them.
13 About forty thousand prepared for war crossed over before the LORD for battle, to the plains of Jericho.
14 On that day the LORD exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they had feared Moses, all the days of his life.
15 ¶ Then the LORD spoke to Joshua, saying,
16 “Command the priests who bear the ark of the Testimony to come up from the Jordan.”
17 Joshua therefore commanded the priests, saying, “Come up from the Jordan.”
18 And it came to pass, when the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD had come from the midst of the Jordan, and the soles of the priests’ feet touched the dry land, that the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and overflowed all its banks as before.
19 ¶ Now the people came up from the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they camped in Gilgal on the east border of Jericho.
20 And those twelve stones which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up in Gilgal.
21 Then he spoke to the children of Israel, saying: “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’
22 then you shall let your children know, saying, “Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land’;
23 for the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over,
24 that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.”
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).