“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.” Joshua 1:6
What’s Going On?
As we turn the page from Deuteronomy to Joshua, we also begin a new section of the Bible I call ‘The History.’ The first five books, ‘The Beginning,’ told us about God’s promise to Abraham and his descendants to have a large family, to own the land that would come to be known as Israel, and that one day all the world would be blessed through this family. We saw the family grow into a very large group of people while enslaved in Egypt and then watched as Moses was responsible for bringing the people back to the land that had been promised to Abraham in Genesis 13:14-18. The Law was given to Moses that all of Israel would be expected to follow and a system was set up for sacrifice to make atonement for sin. The people who came out of Egypt did not fully trust God and therefore would die before their children would be allowed to enter the land.
Now it is finally time for the conquest of the land that would soon be known as Israel, named after Jacob, the grandson of Abraham. This section begins with the Lord appointing Joshua as leader of His people. They are camped on the east side of the Jordan River when Joshua sends two spies to look over the land, this time for a plan of attack. They are protected by Rahab who acts in faith and will be spared when the city of Jericho is taken. Joshua then leads the people to the Jordan River where the waters are held back as the people pass through on dry land (sound familiar?) and a memorial is left behind. After circumcising all the men and celebrating the Passover, the manna was no longer needed as they finally were able to eat the produce of the land.
Jericho was the first land conquered by the Israelites led by Joshua. Next a small band was sent to conquer Ai, but because Achan had disobeyed the Lord’s command not to take any of the sacred things from those they were conquering, Israel was unsuccessful and the small army was defeated. After the destruction of Achan, the land of Ai is then conquered and the people renew their Covenant with the Lord as Joshua carves the Law of Moses on stones and reads all the words before the people. Gibeon had heard about the Israelites coming to take over their land and tricked the Israelites into a treaty which allows them to serve as slaves and not be killed. Five kings in central Canaan join forces against Israel and the sun stands still in the sky until the five kings are killed and the lands are captured. Israel then easily conquers the lands in the southern part of Canaan and then heads up to the northern lands where they again defeat all who stood against them.
Once most of the territories of Canaan had been conquered, the land is divided up among the twelve tribes of Israel and cities of refuge are established and the towns for Levites are chosen. There were still some Canaanites living among them, but the era of warfare was over. Joshua has succeeded in doing all that the Lord had asked of him and as he nears the end of his days, he gathers the people of Israel for his farewell address and a renewal of the covenant before sending them all to the land of their inheritance. The bones of Joseph had been brought up from Egypt and were buried in the plot of land he himself had purchased. Finally, Eleazar, son of Aaron, dies and is buried as well.
When and Where Are We?
Most scholars date this period at about 1400 BC. After crossing the Jordan River from the east, the people camp at Gilgal before going in to conquer Canaan, beginning with Jericho and Ai and reaching to the south and to the north to cover all the land of Canaan. Twelve regions are allotted and named for the families of the twelve sons of Jacob.
- Joshua: new leader of the people of Israel. He had been Moses’ aide and one of the original spies.
- Eleazar: son of Moses and current High Priest.
Weekly Reading Assignment:
- Monday: Joshua 1-4
- Tuesday: Joshua 5-8
- Wednesday: Joshua 9-12
- Thursday: Joshua 13-17
- Friday: Joshua 18-21
- Saturday: Joshua 22-24