Introduction to Joshua
The book of Joshua immediately follows the Pentateuch in the Bible, chronologically as well as sequentially in the Bible. Some liberal scholars view Joshua and the rest of the Pentateuch as one book, called the Hexateuch, alleging that all six of the books were written and edited many centuries after the time of either Moses or Joshua, in an attempt to fabricate a history that would unify and encourage a fragmented nation.
The name “Joshua” is equivalent to “Jesus,” both meaning “Jehovah is Savior.” Joshua, of course, was the successor to Moses, leading the children of Israel across the Jordan to conquer and inhabit the promised land of Canaan. There is little realistic question that Joshua himself wrote the book, except for the account of his own death and certain explanatory editorial comments that were added later. In the final chapter is an affirmation by Joshua that he wrote the words of the book and added them to the books of the law left by Moses (see Joshua 24:26). Both the internal evidence and uniform tradition agree that Joshua was the author.
The archaeological and chronological evidence are still somewhat equivocal. However, there has been no indisputable evidence in these fields that would disprove any aspect of the book’s historicity or divine inspiration. In the New Testament the book of Hebrews refers to its accounts as true history (see Hebrews 4:8; 11:30-31). Rahab (Joshua 2:6) is also recognized in Matthew 1:5 as a real historical person, in fact, in the ancestry of Joseph, the legal father of Jesus. The divine inspiration of Joshua 1:5 is indicated by its quotation in Hebrews 13:5.
The account of Joshua records two of the most remarkable miracles in history, appropriately signaling God’s determination to fulfill His ancient promise to Abraham in giving the land of Canaan to his seed. The heavy walls of Jericho at the entrance to this promised land fell down flat in response to the trumpets of the priests and the shout of the people (Joshua 6:15-20). Then the sun itself “stood still in the midst of heaven” (Joshua 10:13) to enable Joshua’s army to rout the confederation of Amorites that otherwise might eventually have turned them back.
On the basis of the reference in Hebrews 4:8, Joshua, leading the people of God into the promised land, can even be considered as a type of the greater “Joshua,” the Lord Jesus, leading His own people to eternal life in the new Jerusalem.
1:1 Joshua the son of Nun. The name “Joshua” was actually found on a tablet from ancient Egypt, dating from about this same period. This may not have been the Biblical Joshua, but it does show that this name was used at that period of history.
1:4 unto the great river. The promised land was from the southern desert to the great Lebanon mountains on the north, and from the mighty Euphrates River on the east to the Mediterranean Sea on the west. This had been promised to Abraham (Genesis 15:18), but because of disobedience the children of Israel never took all of it except for a brief time under King David (I Chronicles 18:3). The ultimate fulfillment must be in the future.
1:4 land of the Hittites. There are numerous references to the Hittites in the Bible, but it wasn’t until the late 19th century that their existence was confirmed archaeologically. Their ancestor, Heth, was a prominent son of Canaan. Canaan, grandson of Noah, settled originally with his many sons in the region which later became known as the land of Canaan (Genesis 10:15-19). The eldest son, Sidon, evidently dwelled in the area later known as Phoenicia, giving his own name to the city of Sidon, whereas Heth, the second son, settled with his brothers farther south. There a community of Hittites at the site later known as Hebron had dealings with Abraham (Genesis 23:10) about 1900 B.C. They apparently became more and more prominent in relation to the other Canaanite tribes as time went on, so that by Joshua’s time Canaan was occasionally even called “the land of the Hittites.” Even before this, “the families of the Canaanites spread abroad” (Genesis 10:18), and some of the Hittites spread north into Anatolia, establishing the great Hittite empire in what is now modern Turkey.
1:8 book of the law. This familiar charge to Joshua indicates that the Law had been written before Joshua took command, not hundreds of years later, as alleged by liberal critics. Furthermore, the people were commanded to obey all of it. These statements from God constitute an unequivocal claim to plenary, verbal inspiration of this portion of the Scriptures.
2:1 two men. Contrast Joshua’s two spies with the twelve sent out by Moses (Numbers 13:3-16), only two of which proved faithful.
2:1 harlot’s. Although the Hebrew word and its Greek equivalent generally are translated by “harlot,” a number of authorities maintain that it can also mean “innkeeper,” which would seem to fit the context better.