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The Hebrews became a nation forty years previously, when they came out as a people from Egypt, but this is the foundation of Israel as a nation with its own land. Modern arguments against this are irrelevant for any Christian, because what God says is supreme – not what men say.

Penned by Joshua, some suggest this Book (Sefer Yĕhôshúa) was written after the events spoken of, by a prophet as historian. Nevertheless, it is completely accurate, given to men by God through direct inspiration. It is the first book of Deuteronomistic history, covering the time between the conquest of Canaan to the Babylonian exile.

This looks at the beginning of Israel-proper, the defeat of enemies, and the dividing-up of the land between the 12 tribes. ‘Scholars’ claim that what is found in the Book is much later than it suggests. Readers should be suspicious of this claim, because it is a typical way to dismiss the authenticity and authority of scripture.

Rabbinical books put the name of Joshua to the Book and I see no problem with that – God can give a man today information pertaining to long ago, and the far future, as well as concerning the present. Atheists and unbelieving theologians tend to cast aside the divine. As believers we must not be tempted to follow these deceptions. On the other hand, there might have been multiple writers. If so, each was divinely inspired to write what they did.

Joshua assisted Moses, who handed over leadership to him, after God refused to allow Moses to enter the Promised Land. Joshua was named Hoshe’a, of the tribe of Ephraim, and was born in Egypt. The name Joshua/Yehoshu’a was given to him by Moses. In Numbers we find him mentioned as one of the 12 spies who toured Canaan to gather intelligence for Moses. He lived to age 110 during the Bronze Age.


His name gives a clue to his character: it means ‘Yahweh is salvation’. His birth-name was combined by Moses with the divine name. The name ‘Jesus’ comes from the Greek transliteration of Yehoshua, after the Latin. In the Greek, Joshua’s name is given as ‘Jesus son of Naue’ so as not to confuse him with Jesus Christ. Joshua was a major figure in the Exodus and continued to be so when the tribes entered Canaan.


Remarkably, God gave him total protection during his lifetime (see 1:5), so that Israel would become established in the land given to them. This divine protection also gave Joshua great authority amongst the tribes, thus making the transition from desert wanderers to foundling nation unified and strong.

Verses 1-4

  1. Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister, saying,

  2. Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.

  3. Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses.

  4. From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast.

The account begins with a fact of tribal leadership – Joshua took on the mantle after Moses’ death. God spoke directly to Joshua, telling him Moses was now dead, so he was to go over the Jordan river, at the head of the huge number of Hebrews. He was called the “minister” of Moses, sharath, because he did Moses’ bidding, being constantly at his side.

We see here the extent of the land given to Israel by God – compared to modern boundaries it was vast. It was promised to Moses and now to Joshua and the people. It spanned from the Hittite empire in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the West. The Lebanon was a massively wooded area north of Israel (from whence later came the quality wood used to build the Temple).

The Euphrates/Pĕrath flowed from the Armenian mountains down to the Persian gulf. The Hittites (descended from the second son of Canaan, Heth) originated in what is now modern Turkey, but moved down to the north of what became Israel. In the south the land was bounded by the huge wilderness which the Hebrews roamed in for forty years. This huge tract of land, now collectively called the Middle East, still belongs to Israel. (It is a truism that the things of God are limited only by His own laws, and are our inheritance, wide as the oceans and higher than the sky).

Verses 5-7

  1. There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.

  2. Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them.

  3. Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.

As a man and leader of the new nation, Joshua would be supreme. No-one would beat him in battle, nor overcome him as national leader. This is because God promised him immunity from defeat for all his life. When Moses began the task given to him by God, he never realised that his life was to be protected and started out as afraid. Then, when he saw God’s power over and in his life, he spoke and acted boldly. Indeed, this is the mark of a man called by God to his life’s role. God repeats His promise of protection to Joshua. Note that with both men, their personal errors or failings did not cause God to deviate from His promises.

Because Joshua would go forward in God’s Name and with His blessing, he could be “strong and of a good courage”. It would be his job to divide-up the entire land between the tribes. This was not just a giving of the booty of war to the victors. It was an inheritance, promised to the nation by God before they even arrived at Canaan, and an inheritance is owned by law. As it is God’s law, it stands true always, to this day and beyond to the end of time.

To be strong and courageous Joshua had to fully believe God, and fulfil ALL the law of Jehovah, as taught by Moses. If he did so, Joshua would be successful. Modern believers should note that this same condition applies to us today. When we believe, are holy, and do all of God’s commands, we will know blessings. These are works founded on faith. Both must operate together. In Israel today these are missing, so the nation struggles daily to survive. The same struggle happens in our own lives until we submit truly and totally to God.

Verses 8&9

  1. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

  2. Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.

What is “This book of the law”? The ‘book’ could have been any book, except for the qualification, ‘of the law’. It is the towrah/Torah, including the Mosaic law. The Book contains everything given to Moses as instruction, and it is now our Old Testament. It shall never “depart out of (Joshua’s) mouth”, because it is the foundation upon which Israel is to be built. Remove the foundation and the nation will fall - as indeed it did much later.

Joshua had to “meditate therein day and night” so that everything he thought, said and did, complied with the laws of God. Today, most Christians tend to act as if this is just a choice or option. No, it is for us today, too, a condition of God’s love and help. As Joshua is told, with a hint of warning: when he daily reads and applies God’s word, he would know prosperity for himself and the budding nation. The nation would be successful in everything if it obeyed. Think on this and do likewise.

God reminds Joshua that He has already commanded this. The help of God is a fact if he obeys, and so he need not fret or worry – and should be courageous and unafraid. Then, he will never be disappointed or upset by circumstances. How can we, today, be swayed away from God by anxiety, when He is with us?

Verses 10-15

  1. Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying,

  2. Pass through the host, and command the people, saying, Prepare you victuals; for within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land, which the LORD your God giveth you to possess it.

  3. And to the Reubenites, and to the Gadites, and to half the tribe of Manasseh, spake Joshua, saying,

  4. Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, The LORD your God hath given you rest, and hath given you this land.

  5. Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle, shall remain in the land which Moses gave you on this side Jordan; but ye shall pass before your brethren armed, all the mighty men of valour, and help them;

  6. Until the LORD have given your brethren rest, as he hath given you, and they also have possessed the land which the LORD your God giveth them: then ye shall return unto the land of your possession, and enjoy it, which Moses the LORD'S servant gave you on this side Jordan toward the sunrising.

Verse 10 tells us Joshua had obvious and full rule over the people. He issued a tsavah – a command that laid charge upon the people to do his bidding (from God). He did this through the shoter, the various higher officials of the new nation, possibly scribes who were also magistrates, or other rulers. At this time Israel was mainly a militaristic country.

The shoter were to pass down the commands to the tribes throughout the land, as the next verse says, by travelling to each area occupied by the people. It was time for the Hebrews to finally cross over the river Jordan as a first step in securing their new promised country. The people were to prepare solid meals to enable them to march onwards, just as they had to eat before leaving Egypt. They would begin to enter Canaan within three days.

The structure of the text tells us that simply walking across the river was the seal of ownership of the Middle East as a whole. The word “possess”, yarash, carries with it the idea of being heirs to a legally determined inheritance. This automatically meant that indigenous peoples would be dispossessed. Some today say this was just land theft, but the history of the Canaanites was horrendous and God would not allow them to live any longer; they were like a festering sore, godless and foul.

Joshua then spoke directly to the assembled tribes of Reubenites (descended from Jacob) and Gadites (descended from Gad), and only half the tribe of Manasseh (descended from Joseph’s son). They were to remember the promises given by God to Moses, that the land of Canaan was theirs forever, and this would give them rest. In this text it means to settle down in their own land. Interestingly, Joshua says this promise is also a command/tsavah. Thus, it was appointed by God that this would occur. The land of Canaan was, then, granted to the Hebrews for a perpetual home, assigned as an inheritance which cannot be removed throughout all of time.

Wives, children, livestock – all would remain in the land promised to Moses and then passed on to the Hebrews “on this side of Jordan” (because Moses never passed over the river into Canaan). The people now had to pass over the river into Canaan, fully armed, ready for battle, chamush, led by the “mighty men of valour”, the fighting men/army. This was to be a ‘whole-nation’ activity in which every individual was to assist the army to take Canaan.

Such activity was to continue until the land was in their hands; the verse hints at this taking at least another generation to accomplish (“Until... as he hath given you”). Note that this was not just a taking of land, but a return to it. Those who would take possession were born in the wilderness so knew nothing of living in Canaan, yet they were ‘returning’ to it; the word ‘enjoy’, yarash, means to inherit and to enjoy that knowledge and gift, related to them by Moses as they faced the East where the sun arose each day (symbolic of their future?). As believers we are to enjoy our lives on earth, in the sense of relying-on and living-out what we are given in Christ. It is sad when we see so many dour-faced Christians whose faces seem to show nothing but misery to those yet to be saved... a very poor testimony!

Verses 16-18

  1. And they answered Joshua, saying, All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go.

  2. According as we hearkened unto Moses in all things, so will we hearken unto thee: only the LORD thy God be with thee, as he was with Moses.

  3. Whosoever he be that doth rebel against thy commandment, and will not hearken unto thy words in all that thou commandest him, he shall be put to death: only be strong and of a good courage.

When Joshua finished speaking, the assembled men agreed to follow everything he commanded them to do, saying they were willing to go wherever he sent them. This is an example of genuine leadership, and how true leadership goes when the leader is godly and living according to God’s law. The tribes recognised that if Joshua lived a holy life as did Moses, then they would know national peace and victory over enemies. This is how it ought to be in our modern day.

The tribal chiefs of the three tribes standing before him, then said that if any did not listen to Joshua’s commands, they would be put to death, so he (Joshua) should be “strong” and of “good courage”. No doubt, though he was speaking from God, he was, as a mere mortal, still apprehensive. After all, he witnessed times when the people rebelled against Moses (and so against God). Genuine pastors know of this response from congregations, knowing what it is like when they rebel or do what is not good. They rebel not against the pastor but against God, when the pastor’s words come from God’s word. The scene was now set for the great influx of Hebrews into Canaan. We cannot doubt that the people living there must have been petrified by such a massive number, possibly about a million or more.

Even today, atheists and unbelievers insist that the land (the Middle East) belongs to the Arabs of Islam. This is untrue and goes against history. The lands now occupied by Arabs were invaded by early Muslims and subdued, and victims included Christians and Jews, who were killed or put into servitude. In other words, present day Arab ownership was itself gained by force.

At the time of Joshua the Middle East was occupied not by Muslims or Arabs, but by many different peoples, all of whom were transitory, and who themselves invaded Canaan. To put it historically, if we were to return the land to the original owners, it would have to be to the descendants of Adam and Eve... the original people of God... then to the descendants of Noah who came through the holy bloodline. 


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Bible Theology Ministries - PO Box 415, Swansea, SA5 8YH
United Kingdom