Joshua – Intro and Background

This book bears the name of Joshua, the hero of the conquest of the land of Canaan. The name “Joshua” means “God’s salvation.” Joshua completes what Moses began as God never leaves his work unfinished. This book is about a land and a people – a land that is an inheritance promised by God, waiting to be occupied; and a people that consist of the elect nation of God who face human obstacles in the way of taking the land. These obstacles are the occasion for a war designed by God to judge the idolatrous and corrupt people of the land.

In Genesis God brings Israel to birth (Gen. 12:1-2) and promises to give them the land of Canaan (Gen. 12:7; 15:18-21); in Exodus God delivers his people from Egypt and leads them on their way to this promised land; Leviticus, along with parts of Exodus give God’s laws as to how they should live in the land; Numbers records the wanderings of Israel prior to entering the promised land while Deuteronomy gives the last minute instructions before entering the land. At this point, Joshua picks up the story, describing the conquest of Canaan and the division of its territories to the tribes of Israel – the book of Joshua therefore is an important link in Israel’s history between their bondage and freedom, between law and history, between God’s promises and the realisation of many of those promises.

The great event in Moses’ life was the crossing of the Red Sea – the great event in Joshua’s life was the crossing of the Jordan. The first crossing was an exit from Egypt while the last was the entrance into the land of promise.

The human author of Joshua had to be someone who actually crossed the Jordan River into Canaan (5:1) and someone who was present while Rahab was still alive (6:25). Joshua 24:26 and I Kings 16:34 pretty conclusively point to the human author.

About thirty years are covered by this book as it covers the events from the death of Moses to the death of Joshua. The purpose of this book is to show how God’s promises were fulfilled in the giving of the land to Israel (23:14) and also to show how Israel failed to fully possess the land as instructed by God (18:3).

Here is the history of Israel’s passing into the land of Canaan, conquering and dividing it, under the command of Joshua, and their history until his death. The power and truth of God in fulfilling his promises to Israel, and in executing his justly threatened vengeance on the Canaanites, are wonderfully displayed. This should teach us to regard the tremendous curses denounced in the word of God against impenitent sinners, and to seek refuge in Christ Jesus.

The story of Joshua does not begin in the book that carries his name, his life begins as a slave in Egypt, but he later becomes Moses’ servant fighting Israel’s battles. Israel faces three enemies prior to her crossing the Jordan where she will face seven remaining foes.

Ten nations that become seven led by a type of the antichrist, Adonizedek. Just like the book of Revelation of Jesus Christ.

Joshua whose name in Greek is Jesus, is one of the best pictures or types of Christ in scripture. His life parallels many events relating to our Saviour.  He is Israel’s greatest General ever.

An interesting fact about Joshua that many do not know is that his name does not appear anywhere in the new testament, but he is mentioned by his Greek name Jesus in the book of Hebrews.

Some say that this is one of the bible’s many errors, but the bible is without error and this is rather a deliberate transliteration to show the reader that Joshua and Jesus really do have a lot more in common than the liberals give them credit for.

The book of Joshua parallels the book of Ephesians in that it pictures Israel’s entering the promised land and the battles it fights with the spiritual battles a believer faces today.

It also pictures the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ in so many ways as to rule out it being just a coincidence. Remember, coincidence is not a kosher word.

The book of Joshua is about entering the land and appropriating the promises through physical battles while Ephesians is about the believer accessing heaven’s promises through spiritual warfare.

The ears of Joshua

Almost immediately after God delivers the children of Israel from Pharaoh Joshua makes his first appearance in scripture. He is the leader of an untested military that is to protect its people on their way to the promised land as well as to fight its battles.

After Israel complains God sends Amalek to fight against her and she begins to hear the name of Joshua elevated after her victory.

Exodus 17:8 Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim. 9 And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: to morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand. 10 So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13 And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. 14 And the LORD said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. 15 And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovahnissi: 16 For he said, Because the LORD hath sworn that the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation

This battle was not the last that Israel would see with the Amalekites, they would pop up over and over again to try the children of Israel just as Satan does to us from time to time.

We next see Joshua after the children of Israel were complaining again about not having any meat to eat and that they were tired of the manna, so God sent them so much quail they complained about that so two men began to prophecy their judgment.

Numbers 11:27 And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp. 28 And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them. 29 And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the LORD’S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!

Spying out the land

Numbers 13:1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,  2 Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel: of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them.

Here we have the sending of the twelve spies into the promised land to search it out. Notice that it is God that decides to send out twelve and not Moses.

3 And Moses by the commandment of the LORD sent them from the wilderness of Paran: all those men were heads of the children of Israel. 4 And these were their names: of the tribe of Reuben, Shammua the son of Zaccur. 5 Of the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat the son of Hori. 6 Of the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh. 7 Of the tribe of Issachar, Igal the son of Joseph. 8 Of the tribe of Ephraim, Oshea the son of Nun. 9 Of the tribe of Benjamin, Palti the son of Raphu. 10 Of the tribe of Zebulun, Gaddiel the son of Sodi. 11 Of the tribe of Joseph, namely, of the tribe of Manasseh, Gaddi the son of Susi. 12 Of the tribe of Dan, Ammiel the son of Gemalli. 13 Of the tribe of Asher, Sethur the son of Michael. 14 Of the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbi the son of Vophsi. 15 Of the tribe of Gad, Geuel the son of Machi. 16 These are the names of the men which Moses sent to spy out the land. And Moses called Oshea the son of Nun Jehoshua.

Joshua (God saves) is mentioned here by the name of Oshea (he saves) which was his birth name, Moses however calls him Jehoshua (God is salvation).

Joshua is a type of Christ throughout the book which bears his name, but another person is mentioned here which typifies the victorious believer, Caleb.

The believer’s promises for today are there for the taking but you must by faith possess what God has given to you already as Caleb alone did in Israel. I am not talking about claiming Israel’s promises but our own.

17 And Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said unto them, Get you up this way southward, and go up into the mountain: 18 And see the land, what it is; and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they be strong or weak, few or many; 19 And what the land is that they dwell in, whether it be good or bad; and what cities they be that they dwell in, whether in tents, or in strong holds; 20 And what the land is, whether it be fat or lean, whether there be wood therein, or not. And be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land. Now the time was the time of the firstripe grapes.

Moses gives the twelve their marching orders here but remember God was not sending them in to see if they thought they could conquer the land, they were to search out the land and to give a report to their individual tribes.

21 So they went up, and searched the land from the wilderness of Zin unto Rehob, as men come to Hamath. 22 And they ascended by the south, and came unto Hebron; where Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the children of Anak, were. (Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.)

The Children of Anak (the giants) are mentioned here a thousand years before king David ever slays their most memorable descendant, Goliath. These Anakim were feared by all.

No doubt Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had told stories of these giants to their sons. They must have seen them while they journeyed in the land and passed that information on down for the next four hundred years to their children as they asked their parents what the promised land was like.

23 And they came unto the brook of Eshcol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bare it between two upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs. 24 The place was called the brook Eshcol, because of the cluster of grapes which the children of Israel cut down from thence. 25 And they returned from searching of the land after forty days.

Forty days of searching the land and no sneaking around is mentioned, but while they were there God shows them the fruit of the land and they bring back a little of that fruit to show the people.

26 And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and shewed them the fruit of the land. 27 And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. 28 Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan.

The report is given in such a way by ten of them as to discourage the people from wanting to enter the promised land. Remember they had been waiting to go there for four hundred and thirty years.

30 And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it. 31 But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. 32 And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. 33 And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.

Explain the giants away if you want but they are what the scriptures say they are, giants. Genesis six explains their origin. The sons of God are fallen angels that marry the daughters of men.

Their offspring become the giants known later as the Anakims. The new testament says they left their first estate and habitation and are reserved in chains. 2 Peter 2:6-7 Jude 5-9.

14:1 And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. 2 And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness! 3 And wherefore hath the LORD brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt?

What a stupid thing to say. We should be careful what we say because God answered their prayers. Isn’t it great that God doesn’t give us everything we ask for?

4 And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt. 5 Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel. 6 And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes: 7 And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. 8 If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. 9 Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not.

Here we see Joshua joining Caleb, who no doubt were the two that carried the cluster of grapes on their staff, and they are renting their clothes at the fatal comments that their kinsman were making.

Matthew 7:3 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:

10 But all the congregation bade stone them with stones. And the glory of the LORD appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel. 11 And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them? 12 I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they.

God did not get caught off guard here and had to change his plans for building a nation. God meant that if Israel continued in their ways it would become necessary to start over again.

God was about to intervene in Israel’s future through a very great chastisement which calms God’s wrath and it is called the wilderness wanderings. A forty-year death sentence.

13 And Moses said unto the LORD, Then the Egyptians shall hear it, (for thou broughtest up this people in thy might from among them;) 14 And they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land: for they have heard that thou LORD art among this people, that thou LORD art seen face to face, and that thy cloud standeth over them, and that thou goest before them, by day time in a pillar of a cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night. 15 Now if thou shalt kill all this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of thee will speak, saying, 16 Because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land which he sware unto them, therefore he hath slain them in the wilderness. 17 And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my Lord be great, according as thou hast spoken, saying, 18 The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation. 19 Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.

Moses makes an appeal on behalf of the people that had often turned their back on him. Christ does that today for us as our mediator when Satan accuses us before God.

20 And the LORD said, I have pardoned according to thy word: 21 But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD. 22 Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice; 23 Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it: 24 But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it. 25 (Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwelt in the valley.) To morrow turn you, and get you into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea.

Joshua is not mentioned here as being spared but he is mentioned in future verses. God does this to single out the person of Caleb.

Caleb is a man of great faith, strong and of good courage. Caleb shall choose a place in the promise land that is literally crawling with giants (Anakims).

26 And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, 27 How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me. 28 Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the LORD, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you: 29 Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me, 30 Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun. 31 But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised. 32 But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness. 33 And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness. 34 After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise. 35 I the LORD have said, I will surely do it unto all this evil congregation, that are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.

Be careful what you ask for, you might just get it. Israel did. God allows forty days to search out the land and he used forty years to punish Israel. Forty is always the number of testing.

36 And the men, which Moses sent to search the land, who returned, and made all the congregation to murmur against him, by bringing up a slander upon the land, 37 Even those men that did bring up the evil report upon the land, died by the plague before the LORD. 38 But Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of the men that went to search the land, lived still.

It pays to serve the LORD when everyone else is going the other way. Plagues will come upon the whole earth during the tribulation period, but God’s two witnesses will not be hurt until they have finished their mission.

These witnesses are found in type in the next chapter as spies who go after Rahab to deliver her.

39 And Moses told these sayings unto all the children of Israel: and the people mourned greatly. 40 And they rose up early in the morning, and gat them up into the top of the mountain, saying, Lo, we be here, and will go up unto the place which the LORD hath promised: for we have sinned. 41 And Moses said, Wherefore now do ye transgress the commandment of the LORD? but it shall not prosper. 42 Go not up, for the LORD is not among you; that ye be not smitten before your enemies. 43 For the Amalekites and the Canaanites are there before you, and ye shall fall by the sword: because ye are turned away from the LORD, therefore the LORD will not be with you. 44 But they presumed to go up unto the hill top: nevertheless the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and Moses, departed not out of the camp. 45 Then the Amalekites came down, and the Canaanites which dwelt in that hill, and smote them, and discomfited them, even unto Hormah.

When will we ever learn? The children of Israel decide to go into the land after they are told they are to wander for forty years in the wilderness as punishment for their unbelief.

They tried to enter into their rest by their own works and not by faith. Delayed obedience is disobedience and will be punished by God.

Hebrews 3:5 And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; 6 But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. 7 Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, 8 Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. 10 Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. 11 So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) 12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. 13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; 15 While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. 16 For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. 17 But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

The commissioning of Joshua

Numbers 27:12 And the LORD said unto Moses, Get thee up into this mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given unto the children of Israel. 13 And when thou hast seen it, thou also shalt be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother was gathered. 14 For ye rebelled against my commandment in the desert of Zin, in the strife of the congregation, to sanctify me at the water before their eyes: that is the water of Meribah in Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin. 15  And Moses spake unto the LORD, saying, 16 Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, 17 Which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the LORD be not as sheep which have no shepherd. 18 And the LORD said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him; 19 And set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight. 20 And thou shalt put some of thine honour upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient. 21 And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the LORD: at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation. 22 And Moses did as the LORD commanded him: and he took Joshua, and set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation: 23 And he laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge, as the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses.

The key words of this book are possess/possession (22 times) and inherit/inheritance (63 times).