corner graphic   Hi,    
ver. 2.0.19.12.13
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to classic.studylight.org/

Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Joshua 1

 

 

Introduction

Commentary On The Book of Joshua Chapters 1-4.

Israel prepare to enter the land of Canaan, and experience the miraculous power of YHWH in opening up the River Jordan so that they can pass over. Meanwhile two military scouts have reconnoitred Jericho, being saved from capture by a prostitute innkeeper Rahab who is promised that when Jericho is taken she and all her close family will be spared. The crossing of the Jordan is safely accomplished and twelve stones set up as a memorial of the event.

Chapter 1. God Instructs and Encourages Joshua.

The book commences with the fact that, with Moses being dead, YHWH directs and encourages Joshua to take command of the children of Israel, and to go over Jordan with them. His purpose was that Joshua might take possession of the land of Canaan, and divide it among them. He initially gives him firm and gracious promises and strong assurances of His presence, and some good advice with respect to his behaviour, upon which Joshua orders the people to be ready ‘in three days’ to go along with him. He particularly addresses the Reubenites and Gadites, and half tribe of Manasseh, who had settled in Transjordan, and puts them in mind of what Moses had ordered when they had obtained permission to do so. They had subsequently promised to go along with their ‘brothers’, and assist them in conquering the land. This they had readily agreed to do, and had promised total obedience to him. Now they were being called on to fulfil their obligation.


Verse 1

Commentary On The Book of Joshua Chapters 1-4.

Israel prepare to enter the land of Canaan, and experience the miraculous power of YHWH in opening up the River Jordan so that they can pass over. Meanwhile two military scouts have reconnoitred Jericho, being saved from capture by a prostitute innkeeper Rahab who is promised that when Jericho is taken she and all her close family will be spared. The crossing of the Jordan is safely accomplished and twelve stones set up as a memorial of the event.

Chapter 1. God Instructs and Encourages Joshua.

The book commences with the fact that, with Moses being dead, YHWH directs and encourages Joshua to take command of the children of Israel, and to go over Jordan with them. His purpose was that Joshua might take possession of the land of Canaan, and divide it among them. He initially gives him firm and gracious promises and strong assurances of His presence, and some good advice with respect to his behaviour, upon which Joshua orders the people to be ready ‘in three days’ to go along with him. He particularly addresses the Reubenites and Gadites, and half tribe of Manasseh, who had settled in Transjordan, and puts them in mind of what Moses had ordered when they had obtained permission to do so. They had subsequently promised to go along with their ‘brothers’, and assist them in conquering the land. This they had readily agreed to do, and had promised total obedience to him. Now they were being called on to fulfil their obligation.

Joshua 1:1.

‘And it happened after the death of Moses, the servant of YHWH, that YHWH spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' deputy minister, saying.’

Moses was dead! This was a new beginning. For so long Moses had led the people (over forty years). He had spoken to them on God’s behalf. He had always been there. Through him God had performed His wonders. He had been uniquely the Servant of YHWH. And now he was dead. We can imagine the effect that this devastating news would have had on the people of Israel. He had been the bulwark on which they had leaned, the target for their dissension when they were dissatisfied. But he had always been there. Thus both God and the people now looked to another, to Joshua, Moses’ trained assistant, to carry on his work. Note the beginning ‘and’. The Book is seen as a continuation of what has gone before. Moses may be dead but the salvation history goes on.

“The servant of YHWH.” This was the prime accolade, only given to Moses, and, once he had proved himself, to Joshua (Joshua 24:29; Judges 2:8), demonstrating the high regard in which they were held. Others, including Caleb, David and the great Servant in Isaiah, would be described as ‘My servant’. But none were described by others in the Old Testament as ‘the servant of YHWH’. The term ‘servant’ so used meant a high official as well as a loyal servant.

“YHWH spoke to Joshua the son of Nun.” We do not know how YHWH did speak to Joshua. This was more than could be communicated by Urim and Thummim, the means by which He communicated His will to Israel in the future. Probably it came to him in a dream of the night, or possibly while he was at prayer, as he considered the future. Either way words which were deeply impressed into his mind from the memorable words of Moses in his speeches in Deuteronomy, which he could never forget, came into his mind. He knew that YHWH was pressing them home on him. It may even have been by hearing the voice of the Angel of YHWH (compare Joshua 5:3-15), for this was a unique moment in history, a time of deliverance. But the constant use of Deuteronomy throughout the book favours the former.

The name Joshua means ‘YHWH is salvation’. It translated into Greek as ‘Jesus’. He was originally called ‘Hoshea’ (Numbers 13:8; Deuteronomy 32:44), but Yah was added when he became God’s appointed man (Numbers 13:16). It may, however, be that Hoshea was a shortened name with his full name being Joshua from the beginning.


Verse 2

Moses, my servant is dead, now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land which I give to them, to the children of Israel.”

Because of Moses’ prior disobedience God had said that Moses would not be allowed even to enter the land of Canaan (Numbers 20:12; Numbers 27:13-14; Deuteronomy 1:37; Deuteronomy 3:26-27; Deuteronomy 32:52; Deuteronomy 34:4). Thus until Moses’ death invasion was not possible. There is a warning in this that even a great man can falter and can become a hindrance to the work of God. But now Moses was dead. To the children of Israel the death of Moses was a tragedy. They must have felt deeply bereft. To God it presented them with an opportunity.

“Now therefore arise.” With God every tragedy is an opportunity. An opportunity to rise by His power over it and use it as a stepping stone to better things. There was first sufficient mourning (Deuteronomy 34:8). Due respect was paid to Moses. And then God expected Joshua to go forward.

“Go over this Jordan.” Interestingly this is a phrase only found on the lips of YHWH (Deuteronomy 3:27; Deuteronomy 31:2). The River Jordan lay before them, making its way through the deep Rift Valley (the Arabah). There were no fords at this time for the river was overflowing its banks (Joshua 3:15). Thus it appeared a great obstacle, and beyond it lay their destiny. However, the obstacle could be overcome with God’s help, and the destiny achieved. It was a momentous situation. That river, overflowing its banks and difficult to cross, was the stepping stone into their future. We too should remember that whatever equivalent of Jordan we face, even if it overflow its banks, if God go with us we need fear nothing.

“You and all this people.” That was both Joshua’s encouragement and his responsibility. He had strong forces behind him, but he was responsible for their future. They were his strength but they were also his problem. How was he to get so many, with their wives and children and provisions, across the flooded waters of the Jordan?

“Into the land which I give to them, to the children of Israel.” Here was the necessary certainty. YHWH was giving them the land. It was thus theirs to possess. And He was here acknowledging that mixed, multi-racial group as being within His promises, as being now ‘the children of Israel’, those who would receive the inheritance promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel). Note that they were not called ‘the children of Jacob’. It was Jacob as the new man Israel, the chosen one, who was seen as their ancestor.


Verse 3

“Every place that the sole of your feet shall tread on, to you I have given it, as I said to Moses.”

The land was to be theirs, but it had to be possessed. Step by step they would receive it as they went forward by faith in YHWH. Sometimes it would be two steps forward and one step back, but always they should go onwards until the whole was theirs. For once they had trodden it, it belonged to them. And all this was in accordance with His promise to Moses. Moses may be dead but God had not forgotten Moses, and He had not forgotten His promises to him. They still stood firm.

These verses (Joshua 1:3-5) echo the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 11:24-25. There too possession would depend on going forward in obedience to YHWH.

We too must remember that those who would accomplish things in God’s name must be prepared to go forward step by step. As we do so He will lead us in the way (Genesis 24:27) and grant us our part in His work.


Verse 4

From the wilderness, and this Lebanon, even to the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun (the west), shall be your border.’

The land was strictly defined. The wilderness is that which they came through on their way from Egypt, the wilderness of Edom, Kadesh and Sin, beyond the Negeb up to the Edom border; Lebanon and the land of the Hittites was the land to the north, roughly up to the Euphrates. ‘The land of the Hittites’ was probably northern Syria, called this also in Assyrian inscriptions and the Amarna letters. The Great Sea was the Mediterranean. The fourth border was the Jordan, although some see ‘this Lebanon’ as marking the eastern border and referring to the easternmost of the Lebanon ranges, indicated with a wave of the hand even though not in sight.

But ‘all the land of the Hittites’ may be intended to be a general term (like Canaanites and Amorites) to indicate Canaan where there were colonies of Hittites. Thus some see it as signifying Canaan, the one nation standing for the many, of those named as inhabitants of the land. (LXX omits the phrase, finding it difficult). Notice the more exact definition of the land to be possessed in Numbers 34:1-15 with the northern border at mount Hor (one of the northern summits of the Lebanon range), Lebo-hamath (or the entering in, or border, of Hamath) and Zedad. Lebo-hamath is now testified to as a city archaeologically.

Under David and Solomon (1 Kings 4:21) the whole area would come under Israel’s influence by one means or another (apart from Phoenicia, although that became connected through marriage, and Philistia which was subdued), but they did not cast out their inhabitants, they made them tributary or made treaties with them, and thus when Solomon and finally his sons failed to maintain their position, much of it was soon lost to them. For possession was dependent on obedience to YHWH and it was obedience that was lacking. It is always so with God’s gifts. They must be possessed. And if we fail to possess them we lose them.

There is an important lesson here. God did at this stage make the whole land available to them. He promised that it was theirs for the taking. When hey failed to possess it, it was not His promise that failed. What failed was obedience. Thus did they lose what was rightly theirs because given to them by God. We never dream how much we lose through disobedience.


Verse 5

“There shall not any man be able to stand before you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so will I be with you, I will not fail you, nor forsake you.”

God’s promise to Joshua was that he would triumph wherever he went, not necessarily always immediately, but always in the end. Furthermore He would also be with him as He had been with Moses, guiding, advising and strengthening, protecting against all comers. He would not fail him. He would not desert him. He would always be able to be sure of YHWH’s backing.

“There shall not any man be able to stand before you.” Compare for this Deuteronomy 7:24. ‘All the days of your life.’ Compare Deuteronomy 4:9; Deuteronomy 6:2. These promises are always available to those who look to Him and obey Him when they are engaged in serving Him truly.


Verse 6

Be strong, and of good courage, for you will cause this people to inherit the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.”

Joshua was to be ‘strong’, the word often indicates strength of hand. But his hand was to be strong because his spirit was strong. ‘Of good courage.’ This word also indicates being strong, and especially strong in spirit. Thus ‘be doubly strong’. Strong in action, strong in heart, strong in spirit. (Compare Deuteronomy 31:7).

“For you will cause this people to inherit the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.” Notice the word ‘inherit’. It links closely with the word covenant. The land was to be theirs because YHWH had covenanted it to them by an oath. Because of this covenant it was theirs by right as a result of God’s gracious covenant love. Thus their possession of it was inevitable. Compare Deuteronomy 31:7. The same idea is applied in the New Testament to our calling in Christ. That too we ‘inherit’ because chosen and endowed by Him (Ephesians 1:11; Colossians 1:12; 1 Peter 1:4).

In these two verses YHWH brings to the mind of Joshua words of Moses spoken earlier as recorded in Deuteronomy. As he lay there in his dream they echoed and re-echoed in his mind. This is also true in the following two verses.


Verse 7

Only be strong, and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.”

Here the strength and courage is related to the keeping of God’s Instruction, ‘the Law’. He was not only to be strong and courageous in battle but also in life. He was strictly to observe God’s moral law. Obedience was more important than physical strength and physical courage, although it would enable him in both. But failure in obedience would mean that it did not matter whether he was strong in any other way or not.

“Observe to do.” See Deuteronomy 5:1; Deuteronomy 5:32; and regularly in Deuteronomy (fourteen times). It is something that requires hard work and deliberate and constant attention and determination. It will not just happen. It requires careful study of the word of God and a heart fully responsive to God.

“Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.” See Deuteronomy 5:32; Deuteronomy 17:11; Deuteronomy 17:20. Success would depend on strict conformity to the will of God. Indeed that would guarantee success. But treating God’s law lightly and deviating from it one way or another would result in disaster, for God would no longer act for him.

“Turn not from it.” The ‘it’ is masculine and has in mind the law thought of as ‘the book of the law’ (law is feminine). However LXX omits ‘law’, and the ‘it’ therefore there refers to what Moses had commanded. It may be that that was the original Hebrew reading, but it is more probable that it is simply LXX correcting a seeming difficulty which it does regularly.


Verse 8

This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

The idea here is of learning by heart and then constant spoken repetition (they could not carry written books around in their pockets for the ‘books’ were bulky and not portable). Day and night he was constantly to take the opportunity of repeating to himself the memorised word of God, and that with the aim of observing all that was in it. It is fine to rejoice in the promises of God, but we must also take careful note of the instructions of God.

The result will be success in what we do. Joshua’s success would depend on his knowledge of and submission to the word of God.

“This book of the law.” See Deuteronomy 28:58; Deuteronomy 28:61; Deuteronomy 29:21; Deuteronomy 30:10. Reference is to ‘the book of the law’ written down either by Moses or under his supervision. It may well be that Joshua had obtained the book from those responsible for watching over it for the very purpose of meditating on it. It was probably written on papyrus brought from Egypt, or possibly on leather. (He may have written it himself on Moses’ instructions).

“Meditate in it day and night.” A thought taken up by the Psalmist in Psalms 1:2. If we would succeed with God we must meditate regularly on His word and ensure that we live out every word of it.


Verse 9

Have not I commanded you? Be strong, and of a good courage. Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for YHWH your God is with you wherever you go.”

God had pointed to the land he was to possess (Joshua 1:2-4), He had pointed to the enemy (Joshua 1:5), He had pointed to the purpose (Joshua 1:6), He had pointed to the word of God and the need for obedience (Joshua 1:7-8), now He pointed to Himself. It is He Who has commanded. That is why Joshua can have strength and courage. That is why he need not be afraid, because YHWH his God was with him wherever he went.

He had, of course, indirectly pointed to Himself all the way through. ‘I give it to them -- to you I have given it -- I was with Moses -- I will be with you -- I will not fail you or forsake you -- I swore to your fathers to give them’, God was in it all, but here He laid the greatest stress on it, ‘is it not I Who have commanded? -- it is YHWH your God Who is with you’. YHWH, ‘the One Who is there’, ‘the One Who causes to be’, the One Who always is, the God of creation, the God of battle, remember that it is He Who is with you, and with you wherever you go.

“Do not be afraid, nor be you dismayed.” He would face many problems, many enemies, many seemingly insurmountable difficulties, but he need not fear any, he need not be dismayed at any, because it was his God YHWH Who would be with him wherever he went. And He can surmount anything.

With these words God bolstered the courage of Joshua, who was apprehensive as a result of taking over the role of Moses and apprehensive as he looked across at that unknown land. What did lie before them? But knowing that he had God with him, what else could he need? He was content.

These words have much to say to us. Whatever our calling in life God calls us to be strong and courageous. He also calls us to meditate in His word day and night with a view to obeying all His commands. We must remember that obedience is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22). If we are not obeying Him in the details of our lives there is little point in making great offerings.


Verse 10-11

Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying “Pass through the midst of the camp and command the people, saying, ‘Prepare victuals, for in three days you are to pass over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which YHWH your God gives you to possess it.’ ” ’

The officers (shoterim) of the people are mentioned in Deuteronomy 1:15; Deuteronomy 20:5-9. They were the chief men of the tribes. In Deuteronomy 16:18 they are parallel with the judges. Moved by his dream Joshua told them to prepare the people for the crossing of the River. Although they were still receiving the manna (Joshua 5:12), that would not be so easily gatherable on a war footing, and anyway it would shortly cease, so they needed to ensure that they were well provisioned. Now that they were out of the wilderness and close to the land, plenty of food would be available, such for example as they had captured in battles against the Amorites. The word for ‘victuals’ also includes hunted game.

“In three days.” That is, in a short time. ‘Three days’ is a standard way of saying ‘a few days, shortly’. (It means any period less than the next step up, ‘seven days’). Time was not as precise for them as it is for us. Life was more relaxed.

“You are to pass over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which YHWH your God gives you to possess it.” Compare Deuteronomy 11:31; Deuteronomy 1:8; Deuteronomy 3:18. Moses’ words were burned into Joshua’s mind and became God’s voice to him. Notice his encouragement to the people, they were to possess what God had given them to possess. Thus they could be sure that He would enable them.


Verse 12

And to the Reubenites, and to the Gadites, and to the half tribe of Manasseh, Joshua spoke saying.’

These were the tribes who had requested permission to stay in Transjordan and settle there. Moses had agreed, after much heartsearching lest it displease God, on condition that they assisted in the capture of the land (Numbers 32:1-27).

So this was a solemn formal approach by Joshua as he gathered the leaders of the three tribes together to establish their commitment to their promise in the form of a covenant. It was a formal swearing of loyalty and obedience to Joshua in the task that lay ahead, binding them in the sight of YHWH on penalty of death.


Verse 13

Remember the word which Moses, the servant of YHWH, commanded you, saying, ‘YHWH your God gives you rest and will give you this land.’ ”

Joshua reminded them of their promise made. They had been given their ‘rest’, no longer journeying, no longer always on the move. They could build their homes and permanently pitch their tents, sow their seed, plant their vineyards, and recognise that they had reached ‘home’.


Verse 14

Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle, shall remain in the land which Moses has given you in Beyond Jordan, but you shall pass over before your brothers, armed, all the mighty men of valour, and shall help them.”

This was what they had themselves proposed. The ‘all’ was not necessarily to be taken literally. It would be expected that some guards would be left both to arrange for protection and to assist in necessary tasks. And the older men would not be required to go. They were no longer reckoned as ‘mighty men of valour’. This would be a task for the younger men in the prime of life.

But the majority of their men of fighting age (forty military units - Joshua 4:13) must accompany the invading party, for they were part of the tribal confederacy. Israel were a confederacy of twelve tribes bound together by the covenant with YHWH and worship at the Tabernacle, the central sanctuary. ‘Before’ means ‘in the presence of, together with’.

“Beyond Jordan”. This was the official name given to land east and west of Jordan used at the time of writing, and probably the name by which it was already known by the people of the land. Compare ‘Ebir-nari’ (Beyond the River) a province of the Persian empire (Ezra 5:3; Ezra 5:6). Using it need not mean that the speaker was on the other side of the river. (Just as today we might speak of being ‘in Transjordan’).


Verse 15

Until YHWH has given your brothers rest, as he has given you, and they also have possessed the land which YHWH your God gives them, then you shall return to the land of your possession and possess it, which Moses, the servant of YHWH, gave you in Beyond Jordan, toward the sunrising.”

God’s intention was that all his people should have ‘rest’ and ‘possess’ the land. Possessing it meant working it and making full use of it. Thus His purpose was that they should be able to settle down in peace, security and comfort, sow their fields, care for their flocks and herds, gather their harvests, and worship contentedly. This was now the position of the tribes in Beyond Jordan. They must thus work to ensure that the same became the lot of the whole tribal confederacy.

There was here a great lesson in unselfishness. All the tribes were to look out for each other. How quickly this would be forgotten. Had this unity been maintained, and had all the tribes always responded when called on, the future would have been very different. For that was part of the significance of the covenant, immediate response when one member needed help.

The aim was that as they all gathered three times a year at the appointed feasts at the central sanctuary, to renew their covenant with YHWH and worship Him together, they would recognise that they were one nation with YHWH as their King. And that therefore each part was as important as the next. Unity would be strength. What did later result, as seen in the Book of Judges, was only a poor imitation, and yet without it Israel would not have survived as such.


Verse 16

And they answered Joshua, saying, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us, we will go.”

Their response was excellent. They solemnly swore to put themselves under Joshua’s command to do whatever he demanded of them, until he was ready to release them. These are the words that God expects also to hear from us.


Verse 17

In the same way as we have obeyed Moses in all things, so will we obey you. Only Yahweh your God be with you, as He was with Moses.”

This was rather a rosy view of the relationship that they had had with Moses. They had not always been quite so responsive. But in general it was true. It would of course be much easier to maintain this unity and response when they were moving forwards towards a goal than when, having reached the goal, they had all settled down in different places. That was one reason why the gatherings at the central sanctuary would be so vital. It was to renew their central goal. But here the intention was good. They would obey him as they should have obeyed Moses.

But the proviso was that Joshua should prove himself YHWH’s man, and that would be demonstrated by success, the final proof that YHWH was with him. It was not that they doubted that He would be. It was a statement of confidence. They were indicating that really they were committing themselves to YHWH, and to Joshua because he was YHWH’s man. It is ever God Who must be central in our thoughts. Men are but His servants.


Verse 18

Whoever he be who will rebel against your commandment, and will not listen to your words in all that you command him, he shall be put to death: only be strong, and of a good courage.”

Their covenant was solemn for the penalty for breaking it was death. They agreed that disobedience to Joshua, whether by one or by many, would be punished by death. In a war situation such disobedience would be treason. It could jeopardise the whole venture.

“Only be strong, and of a good courage.” Joshua’s part was to have the strength and courage of a good leader resulting from his devotion to YHWH, for that was what YHWH had commanded him. Let him fulfil his commitment to YHWH, then they would fulfil their commitment to him.

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Joshua 1:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/joshua-1.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, December 13th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
ADVERTISEMENT
Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
ADVERTISEMENT
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology