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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 1

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Joshua 1:0


God's Charge to JoshuaGod's Commission to JoshuaThe Lord's Address to JoshuaGod Commands Joshua to Conquer CanaanThe Summons to Enter the Promised Land
Joshua 1:1-9Joshua 1:1-9Joshua 1:1-9Joshua 1:1-9Joshua 1:1-5
God's Help Conditional on Faithfulness to the Law
Joshua 1:6-9
Preparations to Cross JordanThe Order to Cross the JordanJoshua's Address to the PeopleJoshua Gives Orders to the PeopleSupport From the Trans-Jordanian Tribes
Joshua 1:10-11Joshua 1:10-11Joshua 1:10-11Joshua 1:10-11Joshua 1:10-18
Joshua 1:12-18Joshua 1:12-15Joshua 1:12-15Joshua 1:12-15
Joshua 1:16-18Joshua 1:16-18Joshua 1:16-18

* Although they are not inspired, paragraph divisions are the key to understanding and following the original author's intent. Each modern translation has divided and summarized the paragraphs. Every paragraph has one central topic, truth, or thought. Each version encapsulates that topic in its own distinct way. As you read the text, ask yourself which translation fits your understanding of the subject and verse divisions. In every chapter we must read the Bible first and try to identify its subjects (paragraphs), then compare our understanding with the modern versions. Only when we understand the original author's intent by following his logic and presentation can we truly understand the Bible. Only the original author is inspiredreaders have no right to change or modify the message. Bible readers do have the responsibility of applying the inspired truth to their day and their lives. Note that all technical terms and abbreviations are explained fully in the following documents: Hebrew Grammatical Tems, Textual Criticism, and Glossary.

READING CYCLE THREE (from “A Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-9

NASB (UPDATED TEXT): Joshua 1:1-9 1Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' servant, saying, 2” Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. 3Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. 4From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory. 5No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. 6Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. 8This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. 9Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:1 “Now it came about” This book begins with the Hebrew phrase “And it came to pass,” which shows that Joshua is continuing the history which began in the Pentateuch (Torah), although it must be stated that ancient Hebrew regularly started books with “and.”

“after the death of Moses” The chosen leader is dead, but Israel's God is not! See Deuteronomy 34:0.

“the servant of the LORD” The title “Servant of the LORD” is an honorific one which is used of Abraham in Genesis 26:24; of David in 1 Kings 8:66; and of Joshua only after his death in Joshua 24:29. This seems to be the background for the Servant Songs of Isaiah 40-53 and possibly the background of Paul's famous phrase “slaves of Christ.”


“the LORD spoke to Joshua” Originally he was to consult the High Priest for guidance (cf. Numbers 27:18-23). YHWH is said to have spoken to Joshua like He had to Moses (cf. Joshua 1:1; Joshua 4:1, Joshua 4:15; Joshua 5:9; Joshua 6:2). He was one of the two spies who brought a positive report and he lived through the Wilderness Wandering period (cf. Numbers 26:25). He was Moses' right-hand man from the time of the Exodus from Egypt to the crossing of the Jordan. This shows that although leaders come and go, God is the consistent power and strength of the people.

Joshua 1:2 “Moses, my servant is dead” The question is often asked, “Why could Moses not enter the Promised Land after being such a faithful, effective leader?” The reason is seen in Numbers 20:12; Numbers 27:14; Deuteronomy 3:26. One major theological truth again and again in the history books of the OT is that when God reveals to someone what to do, but they slightly change it, the result is judgment. God is no respecter of persons. When Moses publically disobeyed God, he reaped the consequences.

“arise, cross” Both of these VERBS are Qal IMPERATIVES:

1. arise - BDB 877, KB 1086, e.g., Deuteronomy 2:13, Deuteronomy 2:24; Deuteronomy 10:11

2. cross - BDB 716, KB 778, e.g., Joshua 1:11, Joshua 1:14; Joshua 2:23; Joshua 3:1

The time had come. It was time to act!

“Jordan” The term “Jordan” is from a word which means “descending” (BDB 434). This river plunged almost 1,500 feet in just 80 miles. At this particular time of the year it was at flood stage (cf. Joshua 3:15). It was just as much an act of faith to cross this torrent as it was to have trust in God during the Exodus.

“to the land which I am giving to them” This was a significant act because of God's promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:0, which was later repeated to Isaac and Jacob and then, through Moses, to all Israel. This was the promised land, given to them by God (cf. Genesis 15:12-21). In the OT and in Assyrian documents it is called “the land flowing with milk and honey” because of its fertility.

Joshua 1:3 Notice the emphasis on God's sovereignty and His complete revelation to Moses concerning these matters. This reflects YHWH's promises to Abraham (cf. Genesis 12:7; Genesis 13:15; Genesis 15:18).

There are several places where the dimensions of the Promised Land are given:

1. Numbers 34:1-12

2. Deuteronomy 1:6-8; Deuteronomy 3:12-20; Deuteronomy 11:24

3. Joshua 1:3-4; Joshua 13:8-12

4. Judges 20:1

They are not all exactly the same. The only time Israel came close to these boundaries was during the kingdoms of David and Solomon.

Joshua 1:4 “from the wilderness” The term”wilderness” (BDB 184) refers to “the Negev,” which is usually translated “the south” (BDB 616). It refers to the semi-arid pastureland which was uninhabited, because of lack of ground water, located between Beersheba and the desert of Sinai.

“Lebanon” This is literally “white” (BDB 526), which refers to (1) the snow-capped heights of Mt. Hebron or (2) the color of its cliffs. It designates the northern reaches of the Promised Land (cf. Deuteronomy 1:7-8; Deuteronomy 11:24).

“as far as the great river, the river Euphrates” This refers not to the mouth of the Euphrates (BDB 832), but to the headwaters, which are northeast of the Sea of Galilee.

“all the land of the Hittites” The exact location of this area is uncertain. It may refer to northern Syria. In the Bible there are three different groups of Hittites. The largest and most famous one was in central Turkey (Anatolia). There was a group by this name that also lived within Palestine. This same basic description is found in Deuteronomy 11:24. Hittite names of these were found in written documents during the reigns of David and Solomon. See Special Topic: Pre-Israelite Inhabitants of Palestine.

“as far as the great sea” This refers to the Mediterranean, often called “the upper sea” and, therefore, is a designation for the west.

Joshua 1:5

NASB“No man will be able to stand before you” NRSV“No one shall be able to stand against you” TEV“No one will be able to defeat you” NJB“No one will be able to resist you”

Because of Joshua 1:4 and 11:25, this phrase has military overtones. Joshua passed this word of encouragement on to his army (cf. Joshua 10:8). The “you” is SINGULAR here and refers to Joshua. In Joshua 1:4 it was PLURAL and referred to all the people.

“just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you” What a tremendous promise! This is the same type of phrase used when God called Moses (cf. Genesis 26:3; Genesis 31:3; Exodus 3:12; Deuteronomy 31:6, Deuteronomy 31:8; Joshua 3:7; Judges 6:16; 1 Kings 11:38). The promise was YHWH's personal presence!

“I will not fail you nor forsake you” The Hebrew word “fail” (DBD 951, KB 1276, Hiphil IMPERFECT) implies “weakness” and the Hebrew word “forsake” (BDB 736, KB 806, Qal IMPERFECT) implies “non abandonment.” This reflects Deuteronomy 31:6-7. These were covenant terms which imply that YHWH would be with Joshua (cf. Joshua 1:9), even though problems would arise. God's presence and promises are His greatest gifts!

Joshua 1:6 “Be strong and courageous” This was Moses' message to Joshua (cf. Deuteronomy 31:7, Deuteronomy 31:8, Deuteronomy 31:23). This is God's command to Joshua (BDB 304, KB 302, Qal IMPERATIVE and BDB 54, KB 65, Qal IMPERATIVE, cf. Joshua 1:6, Joshua 1:7, Joshua 1:9, Joshua 1:18). This is Joshua's message to the people (cf. Joshua 10:25, same grammatical form). Notice the covenantal need for continuing human response.

“the land which I swore to their fathers to give to them” The promise was given to Abraham in Genesis 12:7; to Isaac in Genesis 26:3; to Jacob in Genesis 28:13; and to all Israel in Exodus 6:8.

Joshua 1:7 “be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you” The phrase “Be careful to do” is made up of two Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCTS (BDB 1036, KB 1581 and BDB 793, KB 889). This is a repeated theme throughout this period of Israel's history. There is the covenant relationship between God and Israel which had stipulations on both sides (cf. Deuteronomy 5:32-33; Deuteronomy 6:1-4, Deuteronomy 6:17, Deuteronomy 6:24, Deuteronomy 6:25).

God's covenant(s) are both conditional and unconditional. Some covenant promises are based solely on God, e.g., (1) Noah, cf. Genesis 8:20-21; Genesis 9:8-17; (2) Abraham, cf. Genesis 15:12-21. God will redeem mankind (cf. Genesis 3:15), but individuals are united to Him by personal faith and obedience (conditional covenant, cf. Genesis 12:0). The literary form of the conditional covenant is usually “if they. . .I will. . .” (cf. Deuteronomy 28:1, Deuteronomy 28:2, Deuteronomy 28:9, Deuteronomy 28:13, Deuteronomy 28:15).

In my opinion the theological tension of the sovereignty of God versus the free will of humanity can best be explained in these covenantal categories.

“do not turn from it to the right or the left” The VERB (BDB 693, KB 747, Qal IMPERFECT) is used in a JUSSIVE sense. This phrase (cf. Deuteronomy 5:32; Deuteronomy 17:11, Deuteronomy 17:20; Deuteronomy 28:14; Joshua 23:6; 2 Kings 22:2; 2 Chronicles 34:2; Proverbs 4:27) reflects the Hebrew words for “sin,” which were always a deviation from the standard (i.e., God Himself). The Hebrew term “righteousness” is literally “a measuring reed.” All the terms for sin in Hebrew, and to some extent, followed by the terms for sin in Greek, mean “a deviation from the standard” or “crookedness” or “perverseness” or “falling short.” God Himself is the standard!


“so that you may have success wherever you go” Physical prosperity was the covenantal promise (cf. Joshua 1:8; Deut. 27-28). God wanted to bless His people and thereby bring the world to Himself. See Special Topic below. God purposed blessing (cf. Deuteronomy 29:9), but fallen mankind was incapable of obedience, reaping only judgment (cf. Deuteronomy 28:29).


Joshua 1:8 “this book of the law shall not depart from your mouth” There are three emphases made in Joshua 1:8 about covenant responsibility:

1. talk about it continually (cf. Deuteronomy 6:6-9)

2. meditate (BDB 211, KB 237, Qal PERFECT, cf. Psalms 1:2; Psalms 77:12; Psalms 143:5) on it always

3. perform it continually (the same phrase, “be careful to do,” from Joshua 1:7 is repeated, cf. Deuteronomy 6:6-9; Psalms 1:2; Psalms 119:97)

“for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success” The covenant blessings and cursings of Deuteronomy 27-29 make it plain that God wants to attract the world to Himself by blessing Israel! God's goal was prosperity, but the consequences of disobedience resulted in judgment. The world never saw the blessings of YHWH.

Joshua 1:9 This includes both the positive aspect “to be strong and courageous” (cf. Joshua 1:6, Joshua 1:7, Joshua 1:9, Joshua 1:18) and the negative aspect “to not tremble or be dismayed” (both of these VERBS are negated QAL IMPERFECTS used in a JUSSIVE sense, [1] BDB 791, KB 888 and [2] BDB 369, KB 365, cf. Deuteronomy 20:3; Deuteronomy 31:6). The reason for this is that the LORD is going to go with themthe greatest promise is the presence of God (cf. Exodus 3:12).

Verses 10-11

NASB (UPDATED TEXT): Joshua 1:10-11 10”Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, 11Pass through the midst of the camp and command the people, saying, 'Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you are to cross this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you, to possess it.'“

Joshua 1:10 “the officers of the people” These were official scribes or military officers (BDB 1009, cf. Joshua 23:2; Joshua 24:1). They are mentioned as helpers of the elders in Numbers 11:16. They were Joshua's way of communicating to the large number of Israelites.

Joshua 1:11 This verse has three IMPERATIVES, two to the officers and one through them to the people:

1. the officers

a. “pass through the camp,” BDB 716, KB 778, Qal IMPERATIVE

b. “command the people,” BDB 845, KB 1010, Piel IMPERATIVE

2. the people: “prepare provisions,” BDB 465, KB 464, Hiphil IMPERATIVE

“prepare provisions for yourselves” This refers to food (cf. Joshua 9:11; Genesis 42:25; Genesis 45:21; Exodus 12:39; Judges 7:8; Judges 20:10; 1 Samuel 22:10).

“three days” This seems to be the period required for ritual purification (cf. Exodus 19:10-11) as well as time for preparation of food and for travel. It referred to the remainder of the day on which it was spoken and all of the next day and part of the succeeding day (cf. Joshua 3:2).

“to go in to possess. . .to possess it” There are three Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCTS:

1. go in, BDB 97, KB 112

2. possess, BDB 439, KB 441

3. possess, BDB 439, KB 441

The VERB “possess” is used of the Promised Land several times:

1. Leviticus, 3 times

2. Numbers, 14 times

3. Deuteronomy, 71 times

4. Joshua, 27 times

5. Judges, 25 times

The immediate focus of the Abrahamic covenant for Israel was the land of promise! Genesis 15:12-21 is about to become a reality!

Verses 12-15

NASB (UPDATED TEXT): Joshua 1:12-15 12To the Reubenites and to the Gadites and to the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua said, 13Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, 'The LORD your God gives you rest and will give you this land.' 14Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle shall remain in the land which Moses gave you beyond the Jordan, but you shall cross before your brothers in battle array, all your valiant warriors, and shall help them, 15until the LORD gives your brothers rest, as He gives you, and they also possess the land which the LORD your God is giving them. Then you shall return to your own land, and possess that which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise.

Joshua 1:12 “the Reubenites the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh” These three tribes wanted land on the eastern side of the Jordan because it was good pastureland (cf. Numbers 32:0). However, Moses commanded them to go to war with their brothers and claim the Promised Land (cf. Deuteronomy 3:18-20) before going home to their land allocation. They even had to go first into battle.

“half-tribe of Manasseh” This term may have two possible origins: (1) because Joseph's two children, Manasseh and Ephraim, inherited land equally, it may refer to Joseph having the right of double inheritance as the firstborn did; or (2) more likely, Manasseh had land on both eastern and western sides of the Jordan and so he is called the half-tribe, while Ephraim is never called a half-tribe.

Joshua 1:13 “the LORD your God gives you rest” This was referred to in Deuteronomy 3:18-20. The term “rest” (BDB 628, KB 679) is used in the sense of

1. a resting place

a. Exodus 33:14

b. Deuteronomy 3:20

c. Joshua 1:13, Joshua 1:15; Joshua 22:4

d. 1 Chronicles 23:25

e. Isaiah 63:14

2. freedom from enemies

a. Deuteronomy 12:10; Deuteronomy 25:19

b. Joshua 23:1

c. 2 Samuel 7:1, 2 Samuel 7:11

d. 1 Chronicles 22:9

Joshua 1:14

NASB“in battle array” NKJV“armed” NRSV“the warnings” TEV“armed for battle” NJB“in battle formation”

This (BDB 332) seems to come from the Arabic root which means “in a group of five” and possibly refers to the marching order of the army (cf. Joshua 4:12; Exodus 13:18; Numbers 32:17; Judges 7:11). The order would be (1) the advanced guard; (2) the main body; (3 and 4) two flanks and (5) a rear guard. This is similar to the marching order of the Egyptians (Rameses II) which shows the historicity of these accounts. Moses was trained at Pharaoh's court. The tribes whose families were safe and settled had to go into battle first (i.e., #1).

“valiant warriors” This term is used several times in Joshua to describe the soldiers (cf. Joshua 6:2; Joshua 8:3; Joshua 10:7; Judges 6:12; Judges 11:1).

Verses 16-18

NASB (UPDATED TEXT): Joshua 1:16-18 16They answered Joshua, saying, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go.” 17Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you; only may the LORD your God be with you as He was with Moses. 18Anyone who rebels against your command and does not obey your words in all that you command him, shall be put to death; only be strong and courageous.

Joshua 1:16 “they” This refers to the three tribes that settled on the eastern side of the Jordan, Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh (the half tribe).

“all that you have commanded us we will do” This paragraph is a confirmation of the tribes' understanding that YHWH was speaking through Joshua. It is like a covenant renewal.

Joshua 1:17 This is an affirmation and prayer (cf. Joshua 1:5, Joshua 1:9).

Joshua 1:18 Obedience was the key to covenant fidelity and military victory. The consequences of disobedience were terminal!

“only be strong and courageous” God reaffirms His charge to Joshua (cf. Joshua 1:5, Joshua 1:7, Joshua 1:9, Joshua 1:18) through these three tribes' affirmation.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why could Moses not enter the Promised Land?

2. What is the significance of the term “servant”?

3. Why was the Promised Land so important to the Jewish people?

4. Did Israel ever fully possess the limits of the Promised Land?

5. Is the covenant conditional? What does this imply?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Joshua 1". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/joshua-1.html. 2021.
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