Joshua: Introduction

Read: Joshua 1:6-9

Joshua picks up after the death of Moses and Joshua had been installed as the leader of Israel in Moses’ place. Moses had sinned and for this reason was not allowed to enter the Promised Land and the task had been given to Joshua to complete this task. Joshua’s former name was Hoshea (Numbers 13:16), but was changed by Moses to Joshua, literally “Yeshua” which us the same name “Jesus” comes from. Two other people of note had their names changed in the Bible because they were deemed with a special purpose for God: Abraham and Paul (Genesis 17:5, Acts 13:9). Joshua was one of the spies who went and spied in the land of Canaan to see if the people of Israel could indeed conquer it. He along with Caleb believed it to be possible while the others did not and thought they’d be better go back to Egypt (Numbers 13, Numbers 14:5-7). Joshua and Caleb alone where the only two of the Israelites that left Egypt who would be allowed to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 14:23-24). It is evident that Joshua was a man of faith willing to do what it took in spite of the apparent risks and seemingly impossible obstacles.

Many scholars date the book Joshua to around 1400 BC, some 400 years before dates become more certain with the consecration of the temple during the reign of Solomon in 996 BC. Archeological evidence shows an invasion of people during this time with the fall of many cities. During this time, there is certainly upheaval of the indigenous that were supplanted by another people. Undoubtedly, by the time of David, Israel was the dominant nation of the area. The accounts of Joshua were probably recorded early, many by Joshua or an associate of Joshua himself. At some later date, these accounts were collated and commentary was added with many assertions about things existing “to this day”, a phrase found throughout the book (Joshua 4:9, Joshua 5:9, Joshua 7:26, Joshua 8:29, Joshua 10:27, Joshua 16:10, Joshua 23:8-9).

When one begins to read Joshua, there are a couple of things one needs to consider about the genre. Joshua is history, but not in the since of Western history. Western history looks at cause and effect relationships in a linear manner. Ancient Near Eastern history looked at history in a cyclical manner in which stories have a similar pattern.  The story of Joshua begins with a strong exhortation to Joshua the people of Israel to not only be strong and courageous, but to be obedient as well. The prologue and charge serves as the theological framework for the book, as it unfolds. When Israel does as God commands and acts courageously according to the ways of God, they are victorious. But when they do not, they are not victorious. Joshua is often seen as a historical narrative, and indeed it is, but is more than mere history because it teaches many things about the character of God and his relationship to people.

The story of a courageous and obedient people lead by a courageous and obedient man can still speak volumes to Christians today. God is still working the world to accomplish his goals of making his name great among the nations and he is still using people and their leaders alike. The command to be strong and courageous and obey the commands of God still goes out to all who call upon his name today!

Lord, help me to be courageous and obedient to your calling!

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