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Joshua One

Joshua One

Introduction

 

 

With the opening lines of the book of Joshua the reader is informed of the passing of Israel’s great prophet, Moses, and the commissioning of Joshua, which harkens back to narrative found in Deut 32-34.  In the final pages of the Pentateuch we are reminded of the greatness of the Lord our God, the choosing of Israel as His covenant people, and their subsequent deliverance from the land of Egypt.  Josh 1:1-9 also reminds the readers of the conditional nature of the Mosaic Covenant and that the Lord will be with them throughout the coming trials.  Therefore, the Israelites, with God on their side and going before them, can expect to receive their promised inheritance in the land Canaan.

 

Historical Background

 

 

In reading the book of Joshua careful attention should be paid to its authorship and the history that lead the people of Israel to this time and place.  When looking into the very distant past it is often hard to discern who is the author of a literary work, when it occurred, and where the events actually transpired.

Fortunately, the Hebrew text of Joshua (MT) is in relatively good condition making necessary emendations rare.[1] Although the authorship of Joshua is nowhere explicitly attested to in the Old Testament, there are internal clues that can be observed in an attempt to answer the question of who penned this important work[2]  Some scholars, in the search for an author, have begun to hold to a text-form writing of the Hebrew Scriptures, including Joshua, which often involves creative redaction and transmission of the texts themselves.  Scholars such as Tov, Talmon, and Brook argue that the biblical texts found among the Dead Sea Scrolls reflect a dynamic literary process—an enterprise so creative that it invalidates rigid distinctions between lower and higher criticism.[3]

Another theory that has evolved in regards to the authorship of Joshua is the Deuteronomistic Theory.  This theory, proposed by Martin Noth, states that Deuteronomy through II Kings was a single literary complex whose author used older source material compiling it with a single theological intent.[4]  Two clues used in formulating this theory, which also lend it some credence, are the great variety of details found in the Joshua narrative, such as tribal and place names, along with the very strong influence the book of Deuteronomy has upon its content, such as Mosaic language and recurring speech themes[5]

As to the date affixed to the events recorded in Joshua 1:1-9, there are two that stand out and are most often cited.  While both methods vary as to the timetable used, they both have as their referent the date used in conjunction with the Exodus from Egypt.  According to I Kings 6:1, 480 years had passed between the Exodus and Solomon’s fourth year (966 B.C.) placing the Exodus at the early date of 1446 B.C and Joshua to circa 1406 B.C.  This date has corroborating evidence in the story of Jephthah found in Jud 11:26[6].

An alternate view holds that the 480 years are used symbolically rather than chronologically.   One aspect of this theory uses the Egyptian royal city of Pi-Rameses as the locator from which to date the Exodus, placing the date later to approximately 1250 B.C.[7] which corresponds more closely to the destruction level evidence found at Jericho Ai, and Hazor.  This date also is feasible when using the generations of priests from Eleazar, Aaron’s son, to Zadok I, a priest under Solomon, and the time described in Judges.[8]  This dating method also includes the allowance of overlapping dates where indicated, which produces a time span of possibly over 557 years[9]

Depending upon the preferred dating method, the Israelites would have either found that Egypt dominated the politics of Syria-Palestine with Pharaonic representatives serving as local princes ruling over central fortified cities and the surrounding rural area, or that a regional upheaval, including Egypt’s withdrawal from the region, had left many of the same major city-states present but in a state of decline.[10]

Regardless of the date settled upon for these events or the authorship of Joshua, the reader is left with a portion of Israelite history and more importantly a theological history of God’s people and His revelation to them.  This history includes their preparation to enter Canaan by crossing the Jordan with a new leader and still facing the formidable inhabitants of the land.

Textual Commentary

Joshua 1:1-2

The author begins this passage by recounting the death of Moses, the servant of the Lord, to whom Joshua had previously served in both the initial Exodus and the desert wanderings. These two verses serve as both an epilogue and a prologue by resuming the more detailed account found in Deut. 34[11].  This narrative gives a short report of the passing of their great leader and prophet along with the commissioning of a new one, in the person of Joshua.  This commissioning was both to be a military and spiritual leader as the tenor of the passage is akin to a king issuing the preliminary plans of battle and will include instructions dealing with the covenant.[12]  This serves as a bridge between the past and the future for the Israelites as Joshua now has taken the reigns of leadership and will continue the legacy of his predecessor.

 

Joshua 1:3-5

Here we are presented with the boundaries of the Promised Land as spelled out by God to Joshua.  This land was promised to Abraham and his descendants (Gen. 12,15, and 17) and to Moses (v. 3).  This was a great stretch of land, a land flowing with milk and honey (Ex. 3:8) encompassing the edge of the wilderness, Lebanon, to the Euphrates River, and West to the Great Sea.  Commensurate with this promise was the more significant statement made by the Lord to Joshua, “I will be with you and I will never leave nor forsake you (v. 5).  This undoubtedly affirmed Joshua’s leadership, as it mirrored Moses relationship with God, again using language almost verbatim with Deuteronomy,[13] and surely would have bolstered Joshua’s faith and confidence in moving forward.

Joshua would have been a man well prepared for what lay ahead of him because of what lay behind him.  Joshua makes his narrative debut with his defense of the Israelites against the Amalekite raiders as seen in Ex. 17.  Not only did Joshua’s resume include military experience he was also Moses’ aide during Yahweh’s instructions at Mt. Sinai (Ex. 24:13, 33:11)[14]

 

Joshua 1:5-9

A key phrase found here is “Be strong and courageous “(Hebrew hazaq we’emas) as it is reiterated three times in the ensuing verses and is tied to both God’s promises and the conditions of the covenant.[15]  “ Be strong “is often used in conjunction with both physical and moral strength,[16] both of which would be necessary components to Joshua’s and the people’s success in carrying out the divinely related to the instructions given to Moses by God and restated here in Josh 1:6-7.

When viewing the very nature of God’s speech to Joshua we see both the temporal military aspects and the spiritual reality inherent in these verses.[17]  To fully gain the inheritance promised them by overcoming the inhabitants of the land, they were to observe the whole instruction of the law (v. 7) which included neither deviating to the right nor to the left.  The Law of God, as given to the people through Moses, is seen here as guide, as a measure, and as a path that must be followed in order to have success.  The law, as recorded in Exodus, Leviticus, and recounted in Deuteronomy, can be seen not only as the stringent commands of a holy God but also as the gracious provision of a benevolent Redeemer to His people for their welfare.

In v. 9 we have the consummation of Joshua’s commission, “Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” It is God Himself who has commanded Joshua and it is God who encourages and strengthens him for the work to come.

 

Theological Application

 

When considering this passage in light of the Exodus, the patriarchs, and the further revelation of the New Testament, we can see God’s faithfulness and provision for His covenant people.  It is no coincidence that we read in Num 13:16 that the future leader of the Israelites name was changed from “Hosea “(salvation) to “Joshua “(Yahweh is salvation)[18] as God is the central character of not only Joshua but the entirety of Scripture.  The author conveys that God has not left His people like a ship without a rudder to wander aimlessly and to be discouraged by the trials and tasks at hand.

We can stand on the promises of God, just as Abraham did, while we are sojourners in a strange land, looking forward to the city whose designer and builder is God (Heb. 11:8-10).  We can look out over the plains of Moab and across the Jordan[19] knowing that the Lord is with us.

We know that truly “Yahweh is salvation “in the person and work of Jesus Christ who came to save His people from their sins (Mt 1:21) and who has established the rest promised to Joshua and Israelites of old (Heb. 4:6-10).  Jesus Christ, the true Israelite, whom the promises were made through Abraham (Gal. 3:16) fulfilled all the conditions of the law that both the Israelites and we have failed to do, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23).  This is extremely important for those of us considered Gentiles according to the flesh as we were once separated from God, but we are now fellow citizens with the saints, no longer strangers and aliens, and we receive an inheritance in Christ Jesus.[20]

Our Savior was obedient, “as Joshua here, was borne up under his sufferings by a regard to the will of God and the commandment he had received from his Father, John 10:18[21]. It is Christ who has commissioned His church, not just to enter all the land of the Hittites through conquest, but to go into all nations making disciples, teaching them to observe all that He has commanded and that He would be with us always (Mt. 28:18-20)

 

 

Bibliography.

 

[1] Robert J. Hubbard Jr, The NIV Application Commentary: Joshua (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009).

Sarah Lebnar Hall, Conquering Character: The Characterization of Joshua in Joshua 1-11 (New York/London: T & T Clark, 2010).

Richter, S. (2005). Deuteronomistic history. In B. Arnold & H. Williamson (Eds.), The IVP Bible Dictionary Series: Dictionary of the old testament: Historical books. Westmont, IL: Intervarsity Press. Accessed on June 23, 2016 Retrieved from http://ezproxy.lutherrice.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/ivpold/deuteronomistic_history/0.

Tremper Longman and Raymond B. Dillard, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 2nd edition, (Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan, 2006).

Kitchen, K. A. (2005). Chronology. In B. Arnold & H. Williamson (Eds.), The IVP Bible Dictionary Series: Dictionary of the old testament: Historical books. Westmont, IL: Intervarsity Press. Accessed on June 20,2016 Retrieved from http://ezproxy.lutherrice.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/ivpold/chronology/0.

Bill T. Arnold and Richard S. Hess, ed., (Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Academic, 2014) Ancient Israel’s History: An Introduction to Issues and Sources.

  1. E. Vine, Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, (Nashville, TN, Thomas Nelson Inc., 1996).

Easton, Matthew George. M.A., D.D., (Easton’s Bible Dictionary Biblical Meaning for ‘Jordan’) accessed on June 25,2016.
bible-history.com – Eastons; 1897.

Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, WORDsearch CROSS e-book,

[1] Robert J. Hubbard Jr, The NIV Application Commentary: Joshua (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009) 46.

[2] Ibid, 63

[3] Sarah Lebnar Hall, Conquering Character: The Characterization of Joshua in Joshua 1-11 (New York/London: T & T Clark, 2010) 14-15.

[4] Richter, S. (2005). Deuteronomistic history. In B. Arnold & H. Williamson (Eds.), The IVP Bible Dictionary Series: Dictionary of the old testament: Historical books. Westmont, IL: Intervarsity Press. Accessed on June 23, 2016 Retrieved from http://ezproxy.lutherrice.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/ivpold/deuteronomistic_history/0.

[5] Hubbard, The NIV Application Commentary: Joshua, 63-66.

[6] Tremper Longman and Raymond B. Dillard, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 2nd edition, (Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan, 2006), 124.

[7] Hubbard, The NIV Application Commentary: Joshua, 58.

[8] Kitchen, K. A. (2005). Chronology. In B. Arnold & H. Williamson (Eds.), The IVP Bible Dictionary Series: Dictionary of the old testament: Historical books. Westmont, IL: Intervarsity Press. Accessed on June 20,2016 Retrieved from http://ezproxy.lutherrice.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/ivpold/chronology/0

[9] Bill T. Arnold and Richard S. Hess, ed., (Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Academic, 2014) Ancient Israel’s History: An Introduction to Issues and Sources. 136.

[10] Hubbard, The NIV Application Commentary, 63.

[11] Hall, Conquering Character, 23

[12] Hubbard, The NIV Application Commentary, 170.

[13] Hall, Conquering Character, 24

[14] Hubbard, The NIV Application Commentary,54.

[15] Hubbard, 174.

[16] W. E. Vine, Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, (Nashville, TN, Thomas Nelson Inc., 1996). 250.

[17] Hall, Conquering Character, 27

[18] Hubbard, The NIV Application Commentary, 170

[19] Easton, Matthew George. M.A., D.D., (Easton’s Bible Dictionary Biblical Meaning for ‘Jordan’) accessed on June 25,2016.
bible-history.com – Eastons; 1897.

[20] Hubbard, The NIV Application Commentary, 104-105.

[21] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 5

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