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Bible Commentaries

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Book Overview - Joshua

by Arend Remmers

1. Author and Time of Writing

In the entire book we find no mention that Joshua is the author of it. And yet the Jews have since long considered Joshua as the author. The Talmud says that Joshua has written the whole book except for the last few verses (Joshua 24:29-33), that Phinehas shall have added.

In Joshua 24:26 we read: "And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God", that is he wrote a document that he added to the book of the law that Moses had given the people. This hint as well as the fact that many events are marked by the description of an eyewitness emphasizes the authorship of Joshua (compare chapter 6:25 and 15:63).

Joshua (his name means "Jehovah is salvation") was well qualified for becoming Moses' successor in the land of Canaan. When still a young man Joshua stood by the side of Moses, fought with Amalek (Exodus 17:9), went up to Mount Horeb with Moses (Exodus 24:13), went to Canaan as one of the twelve spies (Numbers 13) and was finally called to be Moses' successor by Divine appointment (Numbers 27:18 ff; Deuteronomy 31:1-8).

The book of Joshua describes the time from the entrance into Canaan (around 1406 BC) until Joshua's death about ten years later.

2. Purpose of Writing

The book of Joshua describes the passing through Jordan, the conquest of the Canaanites and the distribution of the country among the twelve tribes. Israel received the promised land according to God's promise given to Abraham (Genesis 13:14-17; Genesis 15:7; Genesis 15:16). But the people needed obedience and energy of faith for it.

In this story we see figuratively how the believers appropriate God's blessings by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the river Jordan we not only see a picture of Christ's death and resurrection for the saint (as in the Red Sea), but also the believer's raising up together with Christ (Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 3:1). Canaan is a picture of the spiritual blessings in the heavenlies (Ephesians 1:3). Therefore the battles between Israel and the heathen Canaanites are a picture of the Christian's battle against the spiritual powers of wickedness in the heavenlies (Ephesians 6:12).

We may clearly see out of this that the book of Joshua corresponds to the Epistle to the Ephesians in the New Testament.

3. Peculiarities

a) The Extermination of the Canaanites

To many Bible readers the general command of Jehovah to Israel to exterminate all Canaanites causes real difficulties for it appears to be cruel and incomprehensible.

Already in Genesis 15:16 God had said to Abraham: "For the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full." The Amorites were one of the main nations of Canaan. The idolatry of the Canaanites with their idols Baal ("Lord"), Moloch ("King") and Astaroth ("Spouse") was linked with dreadful moral excesses such as child offering and prostitution. And yet God showed grace towards these nations for more than 400 years. But once Israel came to live in Canaan the extermination of these idolatrous nations was a necessary spiritual task. On the one hand God used Israel to punish the ungodliness of these nations. On the other hand this was the only way to preserve the people of God from defilement and from taking over these sinful customs. Israel became God's instrument so to say to fulfil His moral goals (Sodom and Gomorra likewise had been exterminated by God for the same reason - but without human intervention). The disobedience of Israel in this respect unfortunately let idolatry creep in amongst the people of God. -

The Christian likewise is called to exterminate every evil out of his life (1 Corinthians 5:7; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Colossians 3:5; 2 Timothy 2:21).

The Long Day in Joshua 10:7-14

Whilst in battle against the Amorites Jehovah made the sun and moon stand still for one day upon the request of Joshua until he had defeated the enemies. At the same time great hailstones fell from heaven. Different explanations for these miracles have been given:

  • Some expositors wrongly think it was only an apparent prolongation of a day on which the Israelites (who did not have any clocks or watches) achieved a performance for which they would have needed much longer under normal circumstances. Then the miracle would only have been of psychological nature and the hailstorm would just have helped them.

  • We find ancient reports from China, India and Egypt in which a very long day is mentioned. And in the legends of Indians in South America we find reports of a very long night. If the hailstones consisted of real stones one could be thinking of an cosmic catastrophe by which the rotation of the earth was slowed down or changed in order that there was a day on which the sun shone for a longer time than usual (while it was night on the other side of the globe).

If we believe the entire Word of God to be inspired there is no doubt as to whether God has wrought this miracle or not. It is unbelief to think that the Creator and Sustainer of all things is not able to fulfil such a miracle. "Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places." (Psalms 135:6)

b.) Gilgal

One remarkable characteristic of the book of Joshua is the continuous return of the people to Gilgal the place of circumcision. At the circumcision in Canaan the abomination of Egypt was shifted off Israel. Philippians 3:3 and Colossians 3:5-11 explain the spiritual meaning of the circumcision for the Christian in the New Testament.

The return to Gilgal signifies daily anew the practical realisation of the fact that the sinful flesh of the believer (who has been raised with Christ) has no right to exist any more. Compare Joshua 5:1-10; Joshua 9:6; Joshua 10:6-7; Joshua 10:9; Joshua 10:15; Joshua 10:43; Joshua 14:6.

4. Overview of Contents

1. Joshua 1-12 : The Conquest of the Land of Canaan



The Passage of the Jordan



Joshua, the New Leader of Israel



Rahab and the Two Spies



The Passage of the Jordan



Setting Up of the Memorial Stones



Circumcision at Gilgal and Celebrating of the Passover



The Conquest of the Land of Canaan



Taking of Jericho



The Sin of Achan and its Consequences



Ai is Taken; the Altar on Mount Ebal



The Ruse of the Gibeonites



Defeat of the Kings in the South of Canaan



Defeat of the Kings in the North of Canaan



Enumerating of the Defeated Kings on Either Side of Jordan

2. Joshua 13-22 : Distribution of the Country among the Twelve Tribes



The Commission of God and the Two Tribes and a Half



Caleb Receives Hebron as an Inheritance



Inheritance of the Tribe of Judah



Inheritance of the Sons of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh)



The Tabernacle is Set Up at Shiloh; Inheritance of the Tribe of Benjamin



Inheritance of the Tribe of Simeon, Zebulon, Issachar, Asher, Naphtali and Dan



The Six Cities of Refuge for the Slayer



The 48 Cities for the Levites



Returning of the Two Tribes and a Half; the Altar on the other Side of Jordan

3. Joshua 23-24 : The End of Joshua's Life



Joshua's Exhortation to the Elders, Heads and Judges



Joshua's Covenant with the People at Shechem and his Death

Arend Remmers

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