Joshua tells the story of Moses’ successor, Joshua, who led the people into the Promised Land after Moses’ death. The book is also a narrative about the conquest of Canaan and the division of the land among the twelve tribes of Israel.
Three key passages to focus on:
Joshua 1:8 – “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.”
Joshua 11:23 – “Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD had said to Moses; and Joshua gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. Then the land rested from war.”
Joshua 24:24-25 – “The people said to Joshua, ‘The LORD our God we will serve, and His voice we will obey!’ So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Schechem.”
Some of the most critical periods in Israel’s history are the transitions of leadership: Moses to Joshua, Joshua to the Judges, the Judges to the Kings, etc. Before his death at age 110, and in preparation of the transition of leadership of one man (Joshua) to many (the Judges), Joshua reviews for the people God’s fulfillment of His promises and then challenges the people to renew their commitment to the covenant which is the foundation for all successful national life.
Observations of the book of Joshua
1. Victory comes through faith in God and obedience to His Word. It took three military campaigns involving more than thirty armies for Israel to learn this important lesson. Victory does not come through military might or superior numbers, it comes through faith in God and obedience to His Word.
2. Joshua was born a slave in Egypt but becomes a conqueror in Canaan. Joshua has many great qualities including his obedient faith in God, his great courage, and his dedication to God and His Word.
3. The entire book of Joshua describes the entering, conquering, and occupying of the land of Canaan.
4. The book of Joshua divides neatly into three geographical divisions: the Jordan River (1-5), Canaan (6-13:7), and the twelve tribes situated on both sides of the Jordan (13:8-24:13).
5. The book describes three military campaigns that take place over a seven year span. The first campaign, in Central Canaan, places a strategic wedge between the northern and southern cities. This divide and conquer strategy prevented a massive Canaanite alliance from forming against Israel. The second campaign occurred in Southern Canaan and the third campaign took place in Northern Canaan.
6. Joshua became Israel’s leader at the age of 85. He lead them for 25 years and died at the age of 110.
There are two divisions in the book of Joshua
The first five chapters detail the spiritual, moral, physical, and military preparations of Joshua and the people for the impending conquest of Canaan. Joshua is given a charge by God to complete the task begun by Moses. After being encouraged by God, Joshua sends two spies across the Jordan River to spy out the land and to pay special attention to the city of Jericho. The spies come back with a favorable report (in contrast to the spies of the previous generation). Obedience and faith are united in the miraculous crossing of the Jordan River (3:1-4:24).
A strategic wedge is placed between the north and the south in Canaan. This divide and conquer strategy proved to be effective, but God’s directions for taking the first city (Jericho) sounds foolish from a military point of view. God uses this to test the people and to teach them that Israel’s success in battle will always be by His power and not their own might or cleverness.
While the southern campaign is successful, an unwise oath made to the deceptive Gibeonites forced Israel to protect them and disobey God’s command to eliminate the Canaanites.
Joshua was growing old and God told him to divide the land among the twelve tribes. Much remained to be won and the tribes were to continue the conquest by faith after Joshua’s death. Chapters 13-21 describe the allocation of the land to the various tribes as well as the inheritance of Caleb (14-15) and the Levites (21).
The last chapters (22-24) record a near civil war (22) and Joshua’s final challenge to the leaders who must keep the law of God (23) and to the people who must serve the Lord (24). Possessing the land would not be enough – God also wanted the people to be blessed in the land, and this would require unity and obedience.
Realizing that blessing comes from God only as Israel obeys His covenant, Joshua preaches a moving sermon, climaxed by Israel’s renewal of her allegiance to the covenant.