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Bible Commentaries

Gaebelein's Annotated BibleGaebelein's Annotated

- Joshua

by Arno Clemens Gaebelein



The book of Joshua heads in the Hebrew arrangement of the Old Testament Scriptures, that division which is called “the former Prophets.” It is the first book in the Bible which bears in its title the name of a person.

Joshua means “Jehovah is Saviour”; the Greek name for Joshua is Jesus. In our study of the previous books, beginning with Exodus, we have met his name at different times and have learned much of this great man of God. He was the Son of Nun, an Ephraimite (Numbers 13:8 ), grandson of Elishama (1 Chronicles 7:26-27 ). In Exodus we saw him as the leader of Israel against Amalek. He is mentioned as Moses’ servant and attendant (Exodus 24:13 ; Exodus 32:17-18 ); as the servant of Moses, he did not depart out of the tabernacle (Exodus 33:11 ). He went with Moses, up into the mount of God.

We meet him again in Numbers 11:27-29 . In Numbers 13:8 ; Numbers 13:16 we find him as one of the spies sent to Canaan. With Caleb he had confidence in God and His promises, and bravely exhorted the people to trust the Lord and go forward. His name, however, is not given at all during the thirty-eight years’ wandering in the wilderness. In Deuteronomy he is divinely pointed out as Moses’ successor. Moses and Joshua presented themselves in the tabernacle of the congregation, and after the Lord had announced the approaching death of Moses, Joshua hears the charge from the lips of the passing leader of God’s people. “Be strong and of a good courage; for thou shalt bring the children of Israel into the land, which I sware unto them; and I will be with thee” (Deuteronomy 31:23 ). In the analysis and annotations of the book itself we shall have abundant occasion to study the character of Joshua more fully.

The Authorship of the Book

Jewish tradition makes Joshua the author of the book which bears his name. There is no reason why this should be denied. No other person was more fitted to write down the great events, connected with the entrance of Israel into the land, than Joshua. As Moses by inspiration wrote the account of how the Lord brought out His people from Egypt, so Joshua is the instrument, divinely chosen and equipped, to give the story of how the Lord brought them in. That another person should be the author of the book of Joshua appears unreasonable.

The modern critics, however, deny that Joshua had anything whatever to do with the book as we possess it. These wise men have discovered what equally learned and pious men of passed generations, seemingly did not know. They tell us that the date of the composition of Joshua is very late and that it is not the work of one man at all, but a compilation from the same sources that have been utilized in the Pentateuch. These are termed Jehovist (J.); Elohist (E.); Priestly Code (P.); Deuteronomist (D.) and still another Deuteronomist, termed D2. This So-called “science,” higher criticism, tries to show which is which. And to these must be added a number of redactors, revisors and editors, who all had a hand in putting the book of Joshua into the shape in which we have it now. (The letters behind the names are used by the critic to indicate these different sources. W.H. Bennett in 1895 published Joshua in a number of colors, indicating the various documents.) Well has it been said:

“One is tempted to say of this complicated but confidently maintained scheme, that it is just too complete, too wonderfully finished, too clever by half. Allowing most cordially the remarkable ability and ingenuity of its authors, we can hardly be expected to concede to them the power of taking to pieces a book of such vast antiquity, putting it in a modern mincing machine, dividing it among so many supposed writers, and settling the exact parts of it written by each!”

And now we must mention in connection with the authorship of the book of Joshua, the Hexateuch theory.

The Hexateuch Theory

The word “Hexateuch” means “six-fold book.” The five books written by Moses, Genesis to Deuteronomy, are called “Pentateuch,” that is, “five-fold book.” The critics claim that the book of Joshua belongs properly to the five books of the law, thereby adding a sixth book. This combination they call the Hexateuch. In itself this appears harmless. However, a closer examination reveals that this invention is the offspring of unbelief. They call attention to the fact that throughout the Pentateuch the land of Canaan and its final conquest and inheritance by Israel is mentioned and presupposed. The following passages are generally pointed out: Genesis 13:14-17 ; Genesis 15:13-16 ; Genesis 26:3 ; Genesis 28:13-15 ; Exodus 3:8 ; Exodus 3:17 ; Exodus 32:13 ; Exodus 33:1-3 ; Numbers 13:17 ; Numbers 27:18-23 ; Deuteronomy 1:38 ; Deuteronomy 3:21 ; Deuteronomy 31:3-6 . Upon those passages predicting the future occupation and possession of Canaan, the critics base the claim that the same person or persons who wrote the Pentateuch must have also written the book of Joshua. We quote the exact words of one of the leading critics. “It is self-evident that a writer who has commenced his narrative by the brilliant promises made to the patriarchs, is bound to conclude it by showing us their accomplishment; to say the least, it would be impossible for him to pass that accomplishment in silence.”

Such a claim involves the denial of the possibility of prediction of future events. This denial is in very fact the whole foundation of the destructive criticism of the Bible; and such a denial is unbelief. To explain, in a scientific way, as it is termed, the predictions found in the Bible, all kinds of theories have been invented. These theories attempt to explain away the supernatural in the Word of God. Thus different Isaiahs have been invented, because the one Isaiah, who wrote the book which bears his name, must be denied an account of such a marvellous prediction as the mention of Cyrus, the king unborn, when Isaiah lived. Daniel is rejected as the author of the book of Daniel and a “pious Jew” (without a definite name) living hundreds of years after Daniel, has to pose as the author of that prophetic book, because, according to the critics, Daniel could not have foretold the events recorded in his prophecies. And the book of Joshua, for the same reason, must have been composed by the same author or authors, compiler or compilers of the Pentateuch. Of course the critics deny that Moses had anything to do with the writing of the first five books of the Bible. If they were to assign the composition of the book of Joshua to Joshua, and the Pentateuch to Moses, the denial, that there can be no genuine prediction, could not be sustained. And this supposed “Hexateuch,” the six-fold book, is relegated to a very late period.

But all this Hexateuchal invention is easily disproven. The Hebrews always reverenced the five books, universally ascribed to Moses. They look upon them, and rightly so, as standing by themselves in solitary grandeur. The Hebrew Old Testament has three parts, Thora (Pentateuch), Neviim (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah to Malachi, except Daniel), and Kethubim (Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah and Chronicles). To link Joshua with the five books of Moses is a thing unknown among the Hebrews. The book of Joshua was never bound together with the law. No manuscript has ever been found which links Joshua with the Pentateuch. The Pentateuch always stood alone by itself and was jealously guarded by the Hebrews. The critics are unable to furnish any proof that originally the Pentateuch and Joshua were combined.

We state another fact, which overthrows the Hexateuch theory. The Pentateuch is the model of the entire Bible. The five-fold division can be traced in both Testaments. The Book of Psalms, for instance, in the Hebrew Bible has five divisions. The ancient Hebrews called therefore the Psalms “the Pentateuch of David.” Each division corresponds in a remarkable degree with the character of the different books written by Moses. The New Testament also has five parts which correspond to the Pentateuch: Gospels (Genesis); Acts (Exodus); Pauline Epistles (Leviticus); General Epistles (Numbers); Revelation (Deuteronomy). All this shows that the Hexateuch is a man-made theory pure and simple. It is invented by such, who refuse to accept the supernatural in the Bible.

We cannot follow the different other objections made against the book of Joshua, as being written by Joshua. These objections are easily answered and we need not to burden our readers with these controversial matters which are of no value at all. We shall, however, in our annotations, call attention to some questions raised by the critics. The study of the book itself will furnish continued evidence, that it is written by inspiration.

The Historical Events and their Typical Meaning

The book of Joshua records the entrance of the people Israel into the promised land, how this entrance was effected by the power of God, the conflicts which arose when they came into the land, the partial conquest and the division of the land among the tribes. All this is fully given in our analysis and followed in the annotations of the different chapters.

There is no other historical book in the Bible so rich in typical foreshadowings as the book of Joshua. It is inexhaustible and full of blessed meaning and encouragement to every child of God, because these historical events typify Christian position, Christian experience and Christian conflict. We shall find that a part of Joshua illustrates for us in a typical way the Epistle to the Ephesians. We point out a few of the leading types; the annotations will give the details and touch upon others as well.

Joshua is, of course, a type of Him whose earthly Name he bears. He is the first one in the Word of God who bears that ever blessed Name. As already stated Joshua is the same as “Jesus,” the Greek form for Joshua. Joshua therefore typifies Christ. The earthly people Israel typifies the heavenly peoples and the earthly possession promised and given to Israel is the type of the heavenly possession given to His heavenly people. However, Canaan is not the type of heaven, the place into which the believer enters in the future. Canaan could not be the type of heaven for two reasons. The first is, Israel’s conflict when they came into the land. They had to fight their way through the land. Their battles, so to speak, began after they had crossed Jordan. They got into the land without even lifting a single sword or spear. But no sooner were they in the land, their fighting began. This can never be said of heaven. When we reach the Father’s house all conflicts will be forever ended and Satan will be completely bruised under our feet.

The second reason why Canaan cannot mean heaven is, that Israel could be driven out of the land. This is not possible with heaven. It is impossible that the place into which God’s grace brings us could ever be lost to a child of God. Canaan is the type of the heavenly position and possession which the believer has in Christ Jesus. It corresponds to that which in Ephesians is called “in heavenly places,” or as better rendered “in the heavenly.” It is the heavenly sphere, the heavenly, spiritual blessings given to us in Christ Jesus.

Jordan is not the type of the death of the believer, but Jordan typifies in Joshua the death of Christ, by which we are separated into this blessed heavenly possession. We are brought into it by the death of Christ, as Israel was brought into Canaan through the passage of Jordan.

The passage of Jordan, the erection of the memorial stones, the events at Gilgal, all find a most blessed typical application, illustrating our redemption in Christ as well as our privileges and responsibilities.

The enemies of Israel, the Canaanites, were usurpers of a land which did not belong to them. They were steeped in wickedness. Immoralities of the most abominable nature were connected with their idolatries. They practised sorcery, divinations; they asked the dead and had familiar spirits. Satan and his demons had complete control over them. They are the types of the “wicked spirits” with which a heavenly people wage their warfare. See Ephesians 6:10-13 . All these typical applications we shall make in the annotations.

The division of the land among the tribes has its many typical lessons for us, who are called to possess and enjoy our heavenly possession.

The Dispensational Aspect

The book of Joshua has also a marked dispensational aspect. Israel is yet to possess the promised land in the dimensions in which they never possessed it. God brought them in under Joshua, the second one. The first one, Moses, could not bring them in. When our Lord Jesus Christ appears the second time, He will gather His people from the wilderness of the nations and will give them the land and they shall occupy their full inheritance.

The fall of Jericho, the overthrow of Israel’s enemies, the battle at Gibeon, the division of the land, the rest which followed, all have their striking and most interesting dispensational meaning.

May it please God to make the study of the book of Joshua a blessing to the hearts of His people.



The book of Joshua foreshadows the great coming events in which Israel, Israel’s land and the nations are concerned. Everything in Israel’s history is prophetic. The events connected with the lives of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as well as the story of Joseph, have a prophetic dispensational meaning. Israel in the furnace of Egypt foreshadows Babylon, and also the great dispersion in which they are now. Their persecutors then were Gentiles, who hated them and would not let them go; Gentiles are still troubling them and will persecute them during the time of the end. Their remarkable experiences and preservation in Egypt are the types of their miraculous keeping, and no less miraculous increase among all the nations of the world, among whom they have been scattered. The plagues which fell upon Egypt are typical of the judgments of God, which will fall upon the world at the close of the present age. Their Exodus from Egypt teaches similar lessons. The passage through the Red Sea, their slain enemies and the song of praise, as given in Exodus 15:0 , have likewise a dispensational aspect. So has the visible presence of Jehovah. As He was there with His people, so will He be with them again.

As we have seen in the study of Numbers, the parables of Balaam are great prophecies touching the future of Israel. When the dying people were looking upon the brazen serpent, and the healing which resulted, may also be taken as a type of their future looking upon Him, whom they have pierced. There is therefore also a dispensational foreshadowing in the book of Joshua. We shall mention seven things.

I. The Possession of the Land

That goodly land in its great dimensions is still Israel’s land, the land of promise. They have yet to possess it from the Euphrates to the River Nile. To say that Israel will never receive the land and possess it in the future as a redeemed people, would mean the same as accusing God of breaking His promise and oathbound covenants.

As surely as we are in Christ the heirs of God and joint-heirs with the Lord Jesus Christ, so surely will Israel inherit and possess the land. As there was a definite time for Israel to cross Jordan and possess the land, so is there a definite time when God will bring them in again. It will be when the measure of wickedness of the nations, who are the present possessors of the land, is filled up, as the wickedness of the Canaanites was filled up in Joshua’s days. When that time comes God will once more remember the covenant, and He will give the land back to His people and bring them in through Joshua.

The land is God’s gift. We have often talked with Jews and Zionists. Some years ago a Zionistic leader mentioned in our presence their plans of getting the land back gradually, and eventually buy the whole land. We asked him: “What would you think, if your horse had been stolen by a thief, and you knew the thief, went to him and offered him a hundred dollars to buy your horse back? Would it not be the most nonsensical as well as unjust dealing? You Zionists are trying to buy back the land from the power which has no right to have the land.” That power holds stolen property. And, besides, this land, according to the law, is not to be bought nor to be sold. Today the power which holds Palestine, Turkey, is crumbling to pieces. It is only the question of time when the fate of Palestine has to be decided.

II. Joshua Their Leader

As we have mentioned before in the annotations, Joshua means “Jehovah is Saviour.” Moses, the first one, could not bring them in, but Joshua, the second divinely appointed leader, brought them in. Moses is the type of Christ’s first coming, and Joshua the type of the second coming of Christ. It is at the second coming of our Lord that Israel will receive the land. He will restore to them the God-given inheritance.

Under Joshua the people were no longer stiff-necked, but obedient and submissive, willing followers of Him who led them forth. This will be the case when the Lord Jesus Christ returns. Then they will be His willing people (Psalms 110:3 ). Joshua was magnified before the eyes of all Israel, even as Christ will be magnified when He comes again. At the close of the fourth chapter of Joshua we read that all the people may know and fear the Lord. This surely will be the result of the second Coming of our Lord.

III. The Spies and Rahab

God’s abounding grace is illustrated in the salvation of Rahab and her house. In the New Testament we find her with three other Gentile women in the genealogy of our Lord in Matthew’s Gospel. We read of her in Hebrews 11:0 and in the Epistle of James. The meaning of these passages has already been pointed out. The scarlet line, and her security and salvation from judgment, we have also seen in the annotations. But the story has still another application.

The two spies entered the land in advance of the whole nation. They were faithful and courageous men, and took their lives into their own hands. They may well be taken as a type of the faithful remnant, which will be a kind of an advance guard entering into the land, before the rest of Israel is taking possession. The King of Jericho, who seeks their lives, is the type of that wicked one, the counterfeit king and messiah. Their flight to the mountains reminds us of the word of warning given by our Lord in His Olivet discourse, “Let them that be in Judea flee unto the mountains.” Rahab, who believed and hid the spies and was saved on account of it, foreshadows those of the nations, who believe the last message concerning the coming of the King and the judgment in store for this earth. They will do good to the Jewish remnant, as Rahab did hide the spies. When the Lord comes and takes the seat upon the throne of His Glory, He will say to them: “What ye have done to the least of these, My brethren, ye have done unto Me.” Rahab remained in the land and enjoyed blessings with Israel. So the nations, who believe during the great tribulation, will remain on the earth, and not be swept away by the divine judgments.

IV. The Events at Gilgal have a Prophetic Significance

The circumcision of Israel, as carried out by Joshua, is the type of the spiritual circumcision which the Lord will effect for the whole nation. Of this the Word of prophecy speaks: “And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live” (Deuteronomy 30:0 ). “Behold I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in My anger, and in My fury and great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely. And they shall be My people, and I will be their God. And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them, and of their children after them” (Jeremiah 32:37-39 ). “Then I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness and all your idols will I cleanse you. And a new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you. And I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:25-28 ). Then the reproach, which has rested upon them for so long, will be rolled away. They will become the head of all the nations of the world.

V. The Fall of Jericho and the Overthrow of Israel’s Enemies

As stated in the annotations, Jericho is the type of the world ripe for judgment. The number seven, in its frequency in the fall of Jericho, the reader will find more fully described in the annotations of chapter 6. The walls of Jericho fell without a single sword being lifted up. The breath of Jehovah laid them flat. So shall the day come when the power of God will throw down the high and lofty things.

The warfare which Israel carried on is likewise prophetic. Israel was used to execute God’s vengeance upon the wicked nations of Canaan. It will be repeated in the future. “Thou art My battle-ax and weapons of war, for with thee will I break in pieces the nations, and with thee will I destroy kingdoms” (Jeremiah 51:20 ). Read also Micah 5:8-9 ; Ezekiel 39:10 ; Zechariah 2:6 ; Zechariah 14:14 .

VI. Battle at Gibeon

It was the most remarkable battle in Israel’s history. There was no day like it, nor ever after, because the Lord hearkened unto the voice of Joshua. The Lord fought for Israel. The sun stood still, and the moon stayed until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. This is a prophetic type of the coming day of the Lord. What will happen in that day? Habakkuk, seeing that day and describing its detail, tells us, “The sun and the moon stood still in their habitation: at the light of thine arrows, as they went, at the shining of thy glittering spear. Thou didst march through the land in indignation; thou didst thresh the nations in anger. Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, for salvation with thine anointed; thou woundest the head of the house of the wicked by laying bare the foundations to the neck” (Habakkuk 3:0 ).

VII. The Division of the Land and Israel’s Rest

They came into the land, and the land was divided unto them by lot. Though it was not a permanent rest, yet the land had rested from wars for a time, and the tabernacle was set up at Shiloh. The prophetic Word tells us, that when Israel is brought in, they shall no more be plucked out of the land. There is in store for them a great Sabbath, a great jubilee, when His people and His land will have rest. It will be after the Lord has come. Then the land will be re-divided. See Ezekiel 47-48. Israel’s land will then become, with its magnificent temple, the gloryland of this earth, the center of the Kingdom.

The Division of the Book of Joshua

The division of the book of Joshua is not difficult to make. The opening chapters are taken up with a description of the entrance of the people into the promised land and the conflicts with the enemies. This is followed by the record of the division of the land among the tribes. The book closes with the last words of Joshua, as Deuteronomy closed with the final words of Moses. The death and burial of Joshua and a few other historical statements are added to the book. These, of course, were not written by Joshua.


1. The Entrance Commanded and Success Promised (Joshua 1:1-18 )

2. The Spies and Rahab’s Faith (Joshua 2:1-24 )

3. The Passage of Jordan (Joshua 3:1-17 )

4. The Memorial Stones (Joshua 4:1-24 )

5. At Gilgal (Joshua 5:1-15 )

6. The Fall of Jericho (Joshua 6:1-27 )

7. Achan’s Sin and Israel’s Defeat (Joshua 7:1-26 )

8. The Overthrow of Ai (Joshua 8:1-35 )

9. The Gibeonites and their Victory (Joshua 9:1-27 )

10. The Victorious Conquest (Josh. 10-12)


1. Instructions Given: The Two and a Half Tribes (Joshua 13:1-33 )

2. Caleb’s Request and Inheritance (Joshua 14:1-15 )

3. The Portion of Judah (Joshua 15:1-63 )

4. The Portion of Ephraim (Joshua 16:1-10 )

5. The Portion of Manasseh (Joshua 17:1-18 )

6. The Portion of the Rest of the Tribes (Josh. 18-19)

7. The Cities of Refuge (Joshua 20:1-9 )

8. The Portion of the Levites (Joshua 21:1-45 )


1. The Two and a Half Tribes (Joshua 22:1-34 )

2. Joshua’s Two Addresses (Joshua 23:1-16 ; Joshua 24:1-28 )

3. The Epilogue (Joshua 24:29-33 )

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