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the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 1

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

Verses 1-9

COMMENTARY

THE CONQUEST OF CANAAN

Joshua 1:1 to Joshua 12:24

The book begins with a backward look at the passing of Moses, the last event mentioned in Deuteronomy. There a quick reference is made to Joshua as the new leader who possesses Moses’ spirit of wisdom (Deuteronomy 34:9). Thus the two books are connected by the Deuteronomic writer. The style and ideas of Joshua 1 are strikingly like those of the Book of Deuteronomy. The charge to Joshua by God is practically a summary of the point of view of that book. Throughout chapters 1-12 the reader is constantly made to know that Israel’s successes were wholly due to complete obedience to the Law, as set forth in the Book of Deuteronomy, and to the resultant help of God.

The Preparation for the Conquest (1:1-5:15)

God’s Charge to the New Leader (1:1-9)

The Lord’s charge to Joshua revolves around three foci. Joshua is told, first, that the time of fulfillment has come. He and all the people should now rise up and take possession of the land. In the Book of Deuteronomy the nation is pictured as standing between promise and fulfillment: it had been delivered from the bondage of Egypt, it had entered into a Covenant with God, but it had not yet possessed the land in which the terms of that Covenant were to be carried out. But now the hour was come; and Joshua hears the command, "Arise, go over this Jordan . . ."

The limits of the land to be possessed are vaguely described: it stretches from the southern wilderness to the Euphrates River, far to the northeast, and westward to the Lebanon Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea. "All the land of the Hittites" (vs. 4) refers not to the entire Hittite empire (which would involve much of the territory now known as Turkey—an area never promised to Israel) but to those parts of that empire which lay between the Euphrates and the Mediterranean, that is, northern Syria. Israel never, as a matter of fact, actually controlled all this territory, but David’s kingdom covered most of it.

The charge next assures Joshua that he will be invincible, for God will be with him (vss. 5-6). Joshua’s strength will be as the Lord’s. God will not "fail" (literally, "let drop") Joshua or abandon him in the difficult enterprise.

Thirdly, the charge affirms emphatically that the promise of God’s help is conditional on complete obedience to the Law (vss. 7-8) and on complete confidence in God (vs. 9). If the Law is to be fully obeyed (without the slightest deviation to the right or to the left), it must be fully known by all. Therefore, it must be the subject of constant conversation and meditation (see Deuteronomy 5:29-33; Deuteronomy 6:4-9).

The inhabitants of Qumran by the Dead Sea, who gave us the Dead Sea Scrolls, took literally the command given here and other similar statements in the Old Testament (Psalms 1:2; Psalms 119:97). The Law was studied around the clock by individual members who succeeded one another in shifts; and the entire community arose at about two o’clock in the morning to recite and expound Scripture and say benedictions. Thus was knowledge of the Law promoted in order that the members might be fully obedient.

Confidence in God is here connected with assurance of his presence. Joshua is to have courage because God will be with him. Paul, in the midst of great trouble at Corinth, was told by the Lord, "Do not be afraid . . . for I am with you . . ." (Acts 18:9-10). "If God is for us, who is against us?" (Romans 8:31).

Verses 10-18

The Responsibility of All Israel (1:10-18)

The principle on which Israel is here represented as working is: All for one and one for all. No man can rest and enjoy the fruits of conquest until all have won their inheritance. The passage testifies to the strong spirit of solidarity that characterized the Israelite tribes. But it is clear that this spirit was not always equally strong, as a consideration of Joshua 22:10-34; Judges 12:1-6; and Judges 21:5-14 will show. The later division of the Israelite kingdom into Northern and Southern, after the united kingdom of David and Solomon, was one step among others leading to the eventual dissolution of both kingdoms. Ancient Israel again and again bears testimony to the truth that in unity there is strength.

That the history set forth in this passage is to a certain extent idealized seems clear. It is hardly likely that the wives, children, and cattle of the two and one-half tribes were left beyond the Jordan completely unprotected. Some fighting forces must have been left behind to guard them in the lands so recently captured.

The strong support of Joshua by the two and one-half tribes and their willingness to undertake the assignment given them (verse 14 suggests that the warriors of these tribes, being without their wives and children, were to form the spearhead of the invasion) is based upon the assumption that Joshua will always be God-led and God-empowered. In early Israel the right to leadership was conditioned upon evidences of possession of God’s Spirit. The coming of the Spirit of God on Saul (1 Samuel 10:6-13) qualified him to become king; and when that Spirit departed from him (1 Samuel 16:14), David was empowered by the Spirit for leadership (1 Samuel 16:13). The tribes thus say to Joshua: We are willing to follow you, as we did Moses, if we can continue to see that God is with you as he was with Moses. Much trouble would have been spared the world if loyalty to leaders had always been thus conditioned.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Joshua 1". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/joshua-1.html.
 
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