A Bible Study

"The Journey's End: An Inheritance is Given"

I. 1:1-12:24 The Battle for the Inheritance

A. 1:1-5:15 Preparations
B. 6:1-12:24 The Battle Joined

II. 13:1-21:45 The Division of the Inheritance

A. 13:1-7 Introduction: Allotment Before Full Occupation
B. 13:8-33 The Land East of the Jordan
C. 14:1-19:51 The Land West of the Jordan
D. 20:1-9 Cities of Refuge
E. 21:1-42 Cities for Priests and Levites
F. 21:43-45 Comprehensive Review

III. 22:1-24:33 Terms of the Inheritance

A. 22:1-9 Charge to East-Jordan Tribes
B. 22:10-34 No Idolatrous Altars
C. 23:1-24:28 Joshua's Charges to All Israel
D. 24:29-33 Close of an Era

Title & Theme

Joshua is a story of conquest and fulfillment for the people of God. After many years of slavery in Egypt and 40 years in the desert, the Israelites were finally allowed to enter the land promised to their fathers.

When Deuteronomy ends, the book of Joshua begins. The tribes of Israel are still camped on the east side of the Jordan River. The book opens with God's command to move forward and pass through the river on dry land. Then it relates the series of victories in central, southern and northern Canaan that gave the Israelites control of all the hill country and the Negev. It continues with a description of the tribal allotments and ends with Joshua's final addresses to the people. The theme of the book, is the establishment of Israel in the promised land.

Earlier in his life Joshua was called simply Hoshea (Numbers 13:8,16) meaning "salvation." But later Moses changed his name to Joshua, meaning ''The Lord Saves" or "The Lord gives glory." When this same name (the Greek form of which is Jesus in Matthew 1:21 ) was given to Mary's firstborn son, it became the most loved of names.

In the Hebrew Bible the book of Joshua initiates a division called "The Former Prophets" which includes also Judges, Samuel and Kings. All of these books are historical in content but written from a prophetic standpoint. They record the time in the Old Testament history from the death of Moses to the fall of Judah in 586 BC.

Author & Date

It is very hard to tell the time and the author of this book. Many features suggest the some of the book was written within Joshua's own lifetime, others point to a time somewhat later. The account of the long day when the sun stood still at Aijalon is substantiated by a quotation from another source, the Book of Jashar (10:13). This would hardly be natural for an eyewitness of the miracle, writing shortly after it happened. Also, there are 12 instances where the phrase "until this day" is employed by the author.

It seems safe to conclude that the book, at least in its early form, dates from the beginning of the monarchy. Some think that Samuel may have had a hand in shaping or compiling the materials of the book, but in fact we are unsure who the final author or editor was.

Date & Historical Setting

At the time of the Israelite migration into Canaan the superpowers of the ancient Near East were relatively weak. The Hittites had faded from the scene. Neither Babylon nor Egypt could maintain a military presence in Canaan, and the Assyrians would not send in their armies until centuries later.

As the tribes circled east of the Dead Sea, only the stronghold of Edom offered any resistance. Moeb was forced to let Israel pass through her territory and camp in her plains. When Og and Sihon, two regional Amorite kings of the Transjordan, tried to stop the Israelites, they were easily defeated and their lands occupied.

Biblical archaeologists call this period the Late Bronze Age (1550-1200 BC) Much of the data from archaeology appears to support a date for Joshua's invasion to be around 1250 BC. This fits well with an exodus that would then have taken place 40 years earlier under the famous Rameses II, who ruled from the Nile delta at a city with the same name (Exodus 1:1). It places Joseph in Egypt in a favorable situation. Four hundred years before Rameses II, the pharohs were the Semitic Hyksos, who also ruled from the delta near the land of Goshen.

The man Joshua

Joshua himself was born in Egypt. He became Moses' right-hand man during the exodus and desert wanderings. He was a fine military commander (Exodus 17:8ff) In the lawgiving at Sinai he was Moses' companion (Exodus 24:13). Joshua was one of the 12 spies sent by Moses to reconnoiter the land. He and Caleb alone had the faith and courage to recommend an advance (Numbers 14:6ff) and in consequence were the only ones to survive the 40 years of wandering. When Moses died, Joshua was an obvious choice to succeed him in leading the nation (Deuteronomy 34:9)

And now to our study of the book of Joshua...

A. Israel enters the promised land (Joshua chapters 1 - 4)

Chapter 1

This account of Joshua's accession is one of the great chapters of the Bible. Moses is dead: but God's promise and purpose for the nation will continue. The keynote of this prelude to the conquest is the repeated call to be strong and take courage (Joshua 1:6,7,9,18)

1:8 "This book of the Law..." see Deuteronomy 31:24-36. Joshua was with Moses when the law was given at Sinai.

1:11 "Within three days" Either the events of chapter 2 have already taken place, or the meaning is simply "soon."

1:13 "Remember the word..." Cf. Numbers 32

Chapter 2 - Rahab and the spies

Jericho, the city of palm trees, lies just west of the River Jordan. Joshua's intention was to make his first thrust into the center of Palestine, driving a wedge between north and south. Jericho stood directly in his path, an obvious first target.

Rahab's action in harboring the spies stemmed not from fear but from belief that Israel's God is the true God (cf. Hebrews 11:31, which commends her faith, not her immorality).

Rahab's house was built on or into the city walls, with a flat roof on which produce could be spread out to dry--in this case flax, from which she would spin linen thread.

Her house was somewhere the spies might go to with no questions asked; and no doubt a good place to pick up information.

The Israelites kept their promise to her (Joshua 6:22ff). Rahab was naturalized, married Salmon, and through her son Boaz became an ancestress of David, and of Jesus himself. (Cf. Ruth 2-4; Matthew 1:5)

Chapter 3 - The Israelites cross the Jordan

It was spring, and the river swollen with melted snows, when God took His people across Jordan. As the priests stepped into the floodwater, a blockage at Adam, 16 miles up river, dammed the stream, leaving 20 or 30 miles of riverbed dry.

Could this happen? In 1927 earth tremors caused a collapse of the high clay river banks at the same spot, and the Jordan was dammed up for over 21 hours.

3:3 "The ark of the covenant" containing the tablets inscribed with the law. It was a visible symbol of God's presence with His people - and of his leading and guidance.

3:5 "Sanctify yourselves" i.e. "prepare yourselves before God!" By ritual purification and moral self-scrutiny.

Chapter 4 - The memorial stones

Two piles were made. One where the priests had stood in the eastern edge of the river, the other at Gilgal, their base-camp on the west Both were to serve as a perpetual reminder of the greatness of God.

This is the same stretch of Jordan where John the Baptist's ministry and Jesus' baptism took place.

4:23 "For you...for us" Not many of these who had crossed the Red Sea now remained. Of the over-20's at the time the spies were sent out only Joshua and Caleb still lived.

B. Israel Circumcised (5:1-12)

The rite of circumcision had not been practiced because the covenant itself was, so to speak, in suspension for 40 years as a result of the people's disbelief and disobedience (Numbers 14)

Now the circumcision of the new generation marks the renewal of the old relationship between God and his People.

5:2 "Flint knives" Bronze tools had superseded stone by this time, but the traditional tools are used for the religious rite.

5:12 "Manna ceased" See Exodus 16:13dd. This special provision of God had never failed through all the years in the wilderness. Now it was no longer needed.

C. The Fall Of Jericho (Joshua 5:13 - 6:27)

The conquest of Canaan was a holy war God was at the head of the army No one knew this better than Joshua, after his experience of 5:13ff. Israel knew it, as the ark of God's presence led the forces.

And Israel's enemies knew it, and quaked (2:10-11; 5:1). It was a war of nerves for the men of Jericho; day after day the encircling troops, the trumpet-blasts, the silent army, building up to the great climax on the seventh day.

6:18 "Things devoted to destruction" The city and all its contents are dedicated utterly to God. It becomes sacrilege then, for anyone to take anything for himself.

6:23 "Outside the camp" Until such time as they were "cleansed" by a period of purification.

6:26 " the man" The mound lay in ruins for 400 years, until Ahab's reign. Then Hiel rebuilt Jericho - and fell heir to the curse. (cf. 1 Kings 16:34)

D. Achan's Defiance (Joshua chapter 7)

Because of Achan's sin (see 6:18) 36 men died at Ai, and the whole nation was shamed before their Canaanite enemies. God requires absolute obedience; and the disobedience of one individual affects the whole people of God.

7:2 "Ai" Ai in Hebrew means "the ruin." It is usually identified with et-Tell (meaning "the ruin" in Arabic) just two miles east of Bethel.

7:13 "Sanctify yourselves" A series of purifications to be undertaken by every Israelite in preparation for meeting with God, as before a solemn religious feast or a special assembly called by the Lord. Here God summons His people before Him for His judgment. See also Joshua 3:5

7:14 "Which the Lord takes" The guilty man was discovered by means of the sacred lot, the two stones kept in the high priest's breastplate. It is not now known exactly how this was done. When the lots are cast, one of the tribes is "taken by the Lord" so that the search is narrowed until the Lord exposes the guilty person. The lots may have been the Urim and Thummim from the ephod of the high priest (cf. Exodus 28:30; 1 Samuel 2:28)

7:25 "Stoned him...burned them" i.e. the stolen goods, unless his family were also in the know and therefore to blame (cf. Deuteronomy 24:16)

E. Ai Conquered (Joshua chapter 8)

The evidence of the mound at Et-Tell is difficult to accord with the Biblical record here. This suggests that this may not be in fact the correct site of Ai. However other Biblical scholars and archaeologists suggest that it may be. What is important here is the fact that Joshua's flight and ambush strategy makes capital out of Israel's previous defeat.

From Ai, Joshua moves north to establish himself at Shechem, in the valley between Mt Ebal and Mt. Gerizim. In God's name he takes possession of the land. The covenant is sworn as Moses had commanded (cf. Deuteronomy 27)

8:3 "30,000" This may refer to the total force, unless there were two ambushes (cf. 8:12) But high numbers In the Old Testament present a real problem for some.

8:9 "Bethel" The place where Jacob had his vision. A well-fortified and prosperous city during Israel's early days In Egypt; somewhat declined by Joshua's day. Either on this campaign (Bethel and Ai were only 1 miles apart) or later, the king of Bethel was defeated (cf. Joshua 12:16)

F. The Campaign In The South (Joshua chapters 9 - 10)

Chapter 9 - Gibeon tricks Israel into a treaty

Gibeon was an important city about six miles north of Jerusalem. The treaty obtained by such cunning (even to the pretence that that news of the recent victories at Jericho and Ai had not reached them. cf. verses 9-10) This also included three other cities (verse 17)

Israel could not draw back from a treaty sealed in friendship (a meal eaten together see vs.14). It still held good in David's day; The worst they could do was reduce the Gibeonites to slave status (see verse 21)

Chapter 10 - Alliance of the five Amorite kings; the "long day"

The treaty with the Gibeonites promptly involves Israel in war. All five Amorite Kings are killed at Makkedah and their city-states (all except for Jerusalem) are destroyed in the campaign following the rout at Beth-horon.

All the strategic cities of the south fall before Joshua's army. Israel now controls the land from Kadesh-barnea in the south to Gaza on the west, and as far north as Gideon.

10:12-14 "The long day" Usually taken as an extension of daylight. The fact is we do not know precisely what happened on that day except that it involved divine intervention. Some have suggested the events to be a prolongation of darkness.

Recently it has been suggested that there may have been an eclipse of the sun. Joshua's surprise attack was at dawn (as the positions of sun and moon in verse 12 also indicate). The hailstorm increased the gloom and consequent confusion.

10:13 "Go Down" May simply mean "come" or "go"

10:13 "Book of Jashar" A book of songs praising national heroes.

10:24 "Put your feet upon the necks" A customary gesture of total subjection.

10:41 "Goshen" A town south of Hebron, not the Goshen in Egypt.

G. The Northern Campaign (Joshua chapter 11)

The powerful king of Hazor, commanding his vassals, assembles an even more formidable alliance than that of the south. But with no more success.

Although the strategic cities were in Israel's hands within a short time of their entry into Canaan, mopping-up operations took a great deal longer (see verse 18)

11:1 "Hazor" A vast metropolis of 40,000 people, many times the size of Jerusalem in David's day. The lower city which Joshua destroyed was never rebuilt.

11:8 "As far as Great Sidon" Tyre had evidently not yet risen to prominence.

11:21 "The Anakim" The colossal race who struck fear into the hearts of the spies (cf. Numbers 13:33)

11:22 "Gaza, Gath, Ashdod" All Philistine strongholds. Gigantic Goliath came from the city of Gath. (cf. 1 Samuel 17:4)

H. The List of The Defeated Canaanite Kings (Joshua chapter 12)

Thirty-one kings are listed in this chapter.(Including those defeated under Moses ) The list rounds off the section of the conquest of the promised land.

I. The Division of The Land (Joshua chapters 13 - 21)

Not all the land allocated had been completely subdued. And not every tribe realized its ideal by conquering all its allotted territory. In several places the writer comments on the situation in his own day. (Example: Joshua 15:63)

13:1-7 Land still unconquered

13:8-14 The land east of Jordan

13:15-23 The tribe of Reuben

13:24-28 The tribe of Gad

13:29-33 The half-tribe of Manasseh

14:1-5 The land west of Jordan

Note that the inheritance of each tribe is decided by lot, by the high priest.

14:6-15 Caleb claims Hebron

Forty-five years after the spy episode (cf. Numbers 13-14) Caleb remains a man of unwavering faith. Despite 10:21ff there are still Anakim survivors to deal with (cf. Joshua 15:14; Judges 1:16-15,20)

Hebron became Levite property (21:11-13) but Caleb retained the surrounding land and villages.

Chapter 15 - The tribe of Judah

Judah's inheritance included Caleb's lands and also Jerusalem, or part of it (cf.18:28). But the city remained unconquered when Joshua was written (see verse 63)

Chapters 16-17 - Joseph's sons: the tribes of Ephriam and Manasseh

They were to have extended their territory by clearance and conquest. But the horses and chariots of the Canaanites holding the plains deterred them.

Chapter 18

18:1-10 The move to Shiloh; the land survey; the inheritance of the seven remaining tribes.

18:11-28 The tribe of Benjamin
Jerusalem seems to have been partly on Judah's land, partly on Benjamin's (cf. 15:63; Judges 1:8; 21)

Chapter 19

19:1-9 The tribe of Simeon
Simeon's people, whose land was part of Judah's territory, became absorbed into the larger tribe.

19:10-16 The tribe of Zebulun

19:17-23 The tribe of Issachar

19:24-31 The tribe of Asher

19:32-35 The tribe of Naphtali

19:40-48 The tribe of Dan

19:49-51 Joshua's city

Chapter 20 - The cities of refuge

See also Numbers 35:6-34; Deuteronomy 19:1-13. The cities were a safeguard against vengeance and blood-feud, protecting those who had caused an accidental death.

Chapter 21 - The cities of the Levites

The Levites receive no tribal inheritance: God is their inheritance. But they are given 48 cities, with pasturage, by the other tribes. This ensures that the leaders of the nation's faith and worship life are dispersed amongst the tribes of Israel.

J. The Tribes Settled On The East Of The Jordan Return Home; The Altar Of Witness (Joshua chapter 22)

Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh have fulfilled their obligations to help in the conquest. Now they return home, with Joshua's blessing, and a share of the spoil. Fear that, once across Jordan, Israel may at some future time disown them prompts the building of the altar which caused such misunderstanding.

This was neither a sign of idolatry, nor a second sanctuary. It was a token of solidarity with the rest of Israel to whom they were bound by faith and worship of the one true God.

21:17 "The sin of Peor" When Israel worshipped Baal (cf. Numbers 25)

21:20 "Achan" For his sin 36 men died (cf. Joshua 7)

21:22 "The Mighty One, God, the Lord" A solemn oath, twice repeated, and used as an oath is using all three names of God: El, Elohim, Yahweh.

K. Joshua's Last Days

Chapter 23 - Joshua counsels the leaders

Some years have elapsed since the division of the land. Joshua has reached the end of a long life, and is appointing no single successor. It is therefore vital to ensure that the leaders keep the law and remain faithful to God--the God who keeps His promises to His people. (cf. Joshua 24:14 and 21:45)

Chapter 24 - Joshua and the nation renew the covenant

Here, as in Deuteronomy, the covenant patter follows that of contemporary treaties.

The King's title (verse 2a) is followed by a rehearsal of his past favors (:2b-13) The stipulations are made in verses 14-15, with warnings on the consequences of disobedience. (verses 19-20)

Joshua's own readiness to commit himself wholly to God remains unwavering at the end of a long life. The eagerness of the people to follow him in renewing the covenant is in itself sufficient tribute to his leadership.

Verse 31 is an indication of the strength of this man's influence for good!


Concordia Self Study Bible New International Version Robert G. Hoerber Editor Concordia Publishing House St. Louis, MO. 1986 287-323

Concordia Self Study Commentary Robert R. Roehrs Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO. 1979 pp. 141-156