Joshua is a story of conquest and fulfillment for the people of God. The Israelites, after many years of slavery in Egypt and 40 years in the desert, were finally allowed to enter the Promised Land. Moses led his people right up to this point but never possessed the land himself. Joshua, who took the place in leadership of Moses, was destined to turn the promise of deliverance of the Israelites into a reality. The book of Joshua was written to give the history of Israelâ€™s conquest of the Promised Land.
The book of Joshua picks up where the book of Deuteronomy picks up. The narrative opens with Godâ€™s command to move forward and pass through the river on dry land. Then it relates the series of victories in the central, southern and northern Canaan that gave the Israelites control of all the hill country and the Negev. It continues with a description of the tribal allotments and ends with Joshuaâ€™s final addresses to the people. The theme of the book, therefore, is the establishment of Israel in the Promised Land.
Earlier in his life Joshua was called simply Hoshea, meaning â€œsalvation.â€ But later Moses changed his name to Joshua, meaning â€œThe Lord Savesâ€. When this same name (the Greek form of which is Jesus) was given the Maryâ€™s firstborn son, it became the most loved of names.
The Promised Land is in actuality the land of Canaan. This land occupied the same general geographical territory of modern-day Israel. The key places in the setting of the book are Jericho, Ai, Mount Ebal, Mount Gerizim, Gibeon, Gilgal, Shiloh, and Shechem.
For 40 years, Israel has travel a circular route through the desert, but not because they were following their leader. Quite the opposite was true because with failing faith they had refused to obey God and to conquer Canaan. Finally, the new generation was ready to cross the Jordan and possess the land. Having distinguished himself as a man of faith and courage, Joshua was hosen to be Mosesâ€™ successor. Joshua was a brilliant military leader and a strong spiritual influence. But the key to his success was his submission to God. When God spoke, Joshua listened and obeyed. Joshuaâ€™s obedience served as a model and as a result, Israel remained faithful to God throughout Joshuaâ€™s lifetime.
The book of Joshua is divided into two main parts. The first part narrates the events surrounding the conquest of Canaan. After crossing the Jordan River on dry ground, the Israelites camped near the mighty city of Jericho. God commanded the people to conquer Jericho by marching around the city 13 times, blowing trumpets, and shouting. Because they followed Godâ€™s unique battle strategy, they won. After the destruction of Jericho, they set out against the small town of Ai. Their first attack was driven back because one of the Israelites had sinned. After the men o Israel stoned the sinner and his family â€" purging the community of its sin â€" the Israelites succeeded in capturing Ai. In their next battle against the Amorites, God even made the sun stand still to aid them in their victory. Finally, after defeating other assorted Canaanites they possessed most of the land.
Part two of the book of Joshua records the assignment and settlement of the captured territory. The book concludes with Joshuaâ€™s farewell address and his death.
Joshua was committed to obeying God and this book is about obedience. Whether they were conquering enemies or settling the land, Godâ€™s people were required to do it Godâ€™s way. In his final message to the people, Joshua underscored the importance of obeying God. â€œSo be very careful to love the Lord your Godâ€ (23:11), and â€œchoose for yourselves this day whom you will serveâ€¦But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lordâ€ (24:15).
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