Author: probably Joshua
Date: c. 1350 B.C. or c. 1150 B.C.
The Book of Joshua picks up where Deuteronomy leaves off. Moses is gone, and the role of leadership is Joshua’s. Joshua had been one of the two spies (Caleb was the other) who had brought back a favorable report and urged the Israelites to enter the land. They would now enter after 40 years of wandering.
There are essentially three battle campaigns described in this book. The central campaign goes through Jericho and Ai and concludes with the treaty made at Gibeon. The occurrences in each of the three cities give us something to ponder: Jericho shows us the power of God; Ai shows us the wages of sin; and Gibeon shows us the foolishness of human beings. To leave the Canaanites in the land turned out to be a disaster a century or two later.
The southern campaign involves a coalition of kings led by Adoni-Zedek, king of Jerusalem. Joshua’s army is able to defeat them by the direct help of the Lord.
The northern campaign brings Jabin, King of Hazor, into battle against Israel and sees his eventual defeat. The land thus has rest from war (11:23), and the people of Israel now settle in to live in this new territory, which is apportioned to the twelve tribes.
Theological Themes in the Book of Joshua
Numerous important theological ideas may be seen in the Book of Joshua. The focus on the centrality of God continues from the earlier books. God is God, and his will is being done. His power to act is also evident, as well as his control over the forces of nature and history. The holiness of God is evident in the judgment meted out to the Canaanites whose iniquity was now “full,” but also in that Israel, too, was judged when it sinned. God is an absolutely impartial judge who will not regard one person above another. The mercy of God is also to be seen in the sparing of many from the horrors of war.
The importance of human involvement and response is a central theme of the Book of Joshua. God could have defeated his enemies directly had he chosen to do so, but he didn’t. He used Joshua and the people of Israel. They made the decisions, marched through the land, fought the battles, set up the cities, and lived their lives. Through those actions God accomplished his will. It is important to keep both facts firmly together in our minds: God works; we work.
One other thing stands out: the necessity to make the right choices. The choice was thrust upon the new dwellers in the land. Choose whom you will serve, either God or the gods who were worshipped by the Canaanites. Joshua made the right choice for his people as an example for us. The temptation to follow false gods is just as strong today as it was back then.
Outline for the Book of Joshua
The time of preparation Joshua 1:1-2:24
The entrance into the land Joshua 3:1-5:15
The conquest of Canaan Joshua 6:1-12:24
The division of the land Joshua 13:1-21:45
Settling under Joshua’s leadership Joshua 22:1-24:33