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Bible Commentaries

Adam Clarke Commentary


- Joshua

by Adam Clarke

Joshua, the son of Nun, of the tribe of Ephraim, was first called Oshea or Hoshea, הושע, Numbers 13:16, which signifies saved, a savior, or salvation; but afterwards Moses, guided no doubt by a prophetic spirit, changed his name into יהוש Yehoshua or Joshua, which signifies he shall save, or the salvation of Jehovah; referring, no doubt, to his being God's instrument in saving the people from the hands of their enemies, and leading them from victory to victory over the different Canaanitish nations, till he put them in possession of the promised land. On the change and meaning of the name, see the note on Numbers 13:16. By the Septuagint he is called Ιησους Ναυη, Jesus Naue, or Jesus son of Nave: and in the New Testament he is expressly called Ιησους, Jesus; see Acts 7:45; Hebrews 4:8. Joshua was denominated the servant of Moses, as he seems to have acted sometimes as his secretary, sometimes as his aid-du-camp, and sometimes as the general of the army. He was early appointed to be the successor of Moses, see Exodus 17:14; and under the instruction of this great master he was fully qualified for the important office. He was a great and pious man, and God honored him in a most extraordinary manner, as the sequel of the history amply proves. From the preceding books it appears that he became attached to Moses shortly after the exodus from Egypt; that he was held by him in the highest esteem; had the command of the army confided to him in the war with the Amalekites; and accompanied his master to the Mount, when he went up to receive the Law from God. These were the highest honors he could possibly receive during the life-time of Moses.

Commentators and critics are divided in opinion whether the book that goes under his name was actually compiled by him.

It is argued by those who deny Joshua to be the author, that there are both names and transactions in it which did not exist till considerably after Joshua's time. The account we have, Joshua 4:9, of the twelve stones set up by Joshua in the midst of Jordan remaining to the present day, seems to prove that the book, at least this verse, was not written till after Joshua's time; the same may be said of the account of Ai, that Joshua made it a heap for ever, even a desolation to the present day, Joshua 8:28, which is a proof, however, that the book was not written after the time of the kings, as Ai subsisted after the return from the captivity; see Ezra 2:28 : The men of Beth-el and Ai, two hundred twenty and three. It is supposed also, that the relation of the marriage of Achsah, daughter of Caleb, with Othniel the son of Kenaz, necessarily belongs to the time of the Judges; Joshua 15:16-19; as also the account of the capture of Leshem by the Danites Joshua 19:47, compared with Judges 18:7, Judges 18:29.

"What is related, Joshua 15:63, concerning the Jebusites dwelling with the children of Judah at Jerusalem unto this day, must certainly have been written before the time of David; for he took the strong hold of Zion, and expelled the Jebusites; see 2 Samuel 5:7-9. Also, what is said, Joshua 16:10, They drave not out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer, but they dwelt among the Ephraimites unto this day, must have been written before the time of Solomon, for in his time Pharaoh, king of Egypt, had taken Gezer, burnt it with fire, slain the Canaanites that dwelt in it, and given it a present to his daughter, the wife of Solomon, 1 Kings 9:16. The country of Cabul, mentioned Joshua 19:27, had not this name till the time of Solomon, as appears from 1 Kings 9:13; and the city called Joktheel, Joshua 15:38, had not this name till the reign of Joash, as appears from 2 Kings 14:7, it having been previously called Selah. The like may be said of Tyre, Joshua 19:29; and of Galilee Joshua 20:7; Joshua 21:32."

These are the principal objections which are made against the book as being the work of Joshua. Some of these difficulties might be so removed as to render it still probable that Joshua was the author of the whole book, as some think to be intimated Joshua 24:26; And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of the Lord; (but this probably refers to nothing more than the words of the covenant which was then made, and which is included in Joshua 24:2-24); but there are other difficulties that cannot be removed on the above supposition and therefore it has been generally supposed that the book was written by some inspired person after the time of Joshua; and positively before many kings had reigned in Israel. The book has been attributed to Samuel, though some give this honor to Ezra.

After all, I cannot help considering the book in the main as the composition of Joshua himself. It is certain that Moses kept an accurate register of all the events that took place during his administration in the wilderness, at least from the giving of the law to the time of his death. And in that wilderness he wrote the book of Genesis, as well as the others that bear his name. Now, it is not likely that Joshua, the constant servant and companion of Moses, could see all this - be convinced, as he must be, of its utility - and not adopt the same practice; especially as at the death of Moses he came into the same office. I therefore take it for granted, that the Book of Joshua is as truly his work, as the Commentaries of Caesar are his; and all the real difficulties mentioned above may be rationally and satisfactorily accounted for on the ground, that in transcribing this book in after ages, especially between the times of Joshua and the Kings, some few changes were made, and a very few slight additions, which referred chiefly to the insertion of names by which cities were then known instead of those by which they had been anciently denominated. This book therefore I conceive to be not the work of Ezra, nor of Samuel, nor of any other person of those times; nor can I allow that "it is called the Book of Joshua, because he is the chief subject of it, as the heroic poem of Virgil is called the Aeneis, because of the prince whose travels and actions it relates;" but I conceive it to be called the Book of Joshua,

1. Because Joshua wrote it.

2. Because it is the relation of his own conduct in the conquest, division, and settlement of the promised land.

3. Because it contains a multitude of particulars that only himself, or a constant eye-witness, could possibly relate.

4. Because it was evidently designed to be a continuation of the Book of Deuteronomy, and is so connected with it, in narrative, as to prove that it must have been immediately commenced on the termination of the other.

5. I might add to this, that with the exception of a few individuals, the whole of the ancient Jewish and Christian Churches have uniformly acknowledged Joshua to be its author.

The Book of Joshua is one of the most important writings in the old covenant, and should never be separated from the Pentateuch, of which it is at once both the continuation and completion. Between this Book and the five Books of Moses, there is the same analogy as between the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. The Pentateuch contains a history of the Acts of the great Jewish legislator, and the Laws on which the Jewish Church should be established. The Book of Joshua gives an account of the establishment of that Church in the Land of Canaan, according to the oft-repeated promises and declarations of God. The Gospels give an account of the transactions of Jesus Christ, the great Christian legislator, and of those Laws on which his Church should be established, and by which it should be governed. The Acts of the Apostles gives an account of the actual establishment of that Church, according to the predictions and promises of its great founder. Thus, then, the Pentateuch bears as pointed a relation to the Gospels as the Book of Joshua does to the Acts of the Apostles. And we might, with great appearance of probability, carry this analogy yet farther, and show that the writings of several of the Prophets bear as strict a relation to the Apostolical Epistles, as the Books of Ezekiel and Daniel do to the Apocalypse. On this very ground of analogy Christ obviously founded the Christian Church; hence he had his twelve disciples, from whom the Christian Church was to spring, as the Jewish Church or twelve tribes sprang from the twelve sons of Jacob. He had his seventy or seventy-two disciples, in reference to the seventy-two elders, six chosen out of each of the twelve tribes, who were united with Moses and Aaron in the administration of justice, etc., among the people. Christ united in his person the characters both of Moses and Aaron, or legislator and high priest; hence he ever considers himself, and is considered by his apostles and followers, the same in the Christian Church that Moses and Aaron were in the Jewish. As a rite of initiation into his Church, he instituted baptism in the place of circumcision, both being types of the purification of the heart and holiness of life; and as a rite of establishment and confirmation, the holy eucharist in place of the paschal lamb, both being intended to commemorate the atonement made to God for the sins of the people. The analogies are so abundant, and indeed universal, that time would fail to enumerate them. On this very principle it would be a matter of high utility to read these Old Testament and the New Testament books together, as they reflect a strong and mutual light on each other, bear the most decided testimony to the words and truth of prophecy, and show the ample fulfillment of all the ancient and gracious designs of God. This appears particularly evident in the five Books of Moses and the Book of Joshua compared and collated with the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles; and the analogy will be the more complete as to the number of those books, though that is a matter of minor consideration, when we consider Joshua, as we ought, a continuation of the Book of Deuteronomy, though written by a different hand, which two books should be rated only as one history. Of Judges and Ruth it may be said they are a sort of supplement to the Book of Joshua.

Whoever goes immediately from the reading of the Pentateuch to the reading of the Gospels, and from the reading of Joshua to that of the Acts, will carry with him advantages which on no other plan he will be able to command. Even a commentator himself will derive advantages from this plan, which he will seek in vain from any other. To see the wisdom and goodness of God in the ritual of Moses, we must have an eye continually on the incarnation and death of Christ, to which it refers. And to have a proper view of the great atonement made by the sacrifice of our Lord, we must have a constant reference to the Mosaic law, where this is shadowed forth. Without this reference the law of Moses is a system of expensive and burdensome ceremonies, destitute of adequate meaning; and without this entering in of the law that the offense might abound, to show the exceeding sinfulness of sin, the frailty of man, and the holiness of God; the Gospel of Christ, including the account of his incarnation, preaching, miracles, passion, death, burial, ascension, and intercession, would not appear to have a sufficient necessity to explain and justify it. By the Law is the knowledge of sin, and by the Gospel its cure. Either, taken separately, will not answer the purpose for which God gave these astonishing revelations of his justice and his grace.