Book of Joshua

Notes from Fr. Prior Benedict's Scripture class + Michael Duggan's 
Consuming Fire: A Christian Guide to the Old Testament + Vincent 
Branick's Understanding the Historical Books of the Old Testament

 Joshua & Judges: Settlement in the Land

The Land of Canaan

      • Ras Shamra (ancient city of Ugarit)
        • Highly developed civilization & cosmopolitan marketplace
      • Canaan was NOT a unified political state
        • Therefore, Israelites could enter the land & approach 1 city at a time without fearing that a national Canaanite army would meet them.


The History of Israel’s Occupation of the Promised Land

      • More complex that we might imagine upon a preliminary reading of the biblical account
      • Israelite settlement in Canaan took place through a gradual process of social transformation
      • 3 scholarly portraits:
        1. Military invasion led by Joshua
        2. Peaceful settlement infiltrating countryside then the cities
        3. Victorious peasant revolt that associated themselves with the Israelites & their faith.



      • The conquest of Canaan by the Israelites between the years 1250 – 1225 BC  and the subsequent division of the conquered territory among the 12 tribes.
      • To demonstrate that the conquest of the Canaanites is the work of God
        • Miracles when they obey
        • Failure when this disobey
      • Provides climax of what the Pentateuch anticipated = entrance into Promised Land.
        • Joshua is the culmination of the Pentateuch.
      • YHWH’s initiative + Israelite’s consent = harmony to achieve divine purpose.
      • Shows that YHWH is a faithful covenant partner to Israel.
      • Piece of military history:
        • DTR1 –> Served as a metaphor to support Josiah’s campaign to rid Judah of all vestiges of idolatry.
        • Both Joshua & Josiah follow the same “law of Moses” for their respective campaigns
          • Called people into covenant with YHWH by reading torah.
      • Value of Joshua =
        • put the historical aspect as a backdrop & then allow book to speak to every age.
        • We need to detach from cultural assumptions.


      • Battles:
        • Are viewed from point of view of fidelity to the law
        • Capture of Jericho & Ai = fulfilling deuteronomy…


      • Only 2 professions of faith in Joshua:
        • Rahab in start
        • Joshua at end



      • Correct conduct & sin as determined by the written Law of God.
      • The land as a gift of God & the divine fulfillment of promises
      • Crossing a definable threshold & border from one place to another, from one epoch to another
      • An inappropriate character functioning in a saving role
      • Some openness to non-Israelites
      • The importance of deliberate commitment to God




  • The God who fulfills promises


    • Crossing of Jordan into promised land
    • God helps oppressed people.
    • God’s care beyond limits of 1 human life (doesn’t change after Moses death).



  • The God of death


    • The “ban”
    • God of Book of Joshua dangerous and wild
      • Parallel from nature: violent at times, also benevolent & life-giving. We need to be in harmony with nature. Nature still elicits wonder & love.
      • Balance of love & fear
      • God of Book of Joshua = awesome & dangerous power
        • We need to focus on theology not ethics.
      • Wars reflect brutal & evil time.
        • Need to place within context of whole Bible. God fulfills his promises. The obvious presence of God.



  • The God who demands commitment


    • Faithful responsibility to the covenant.
    • People must choose God.
    • Choice codified by “the book of the Law”





      • What did Joshua do for us kind of book. Starts & ends with Joshua.
      • does not appear to have primacy of place in the other books
      • Not an undisputed leader
      • Name is NOT unique in the Bible (whereas others like Moses & Abraham are – hall of fame of names)
      • Joshua also not recorded in some historical lineages.
      • Crossing Jordan & leading into land NOT necessarily connected to Joshua
        • Therefore, book of Joshua NOT necessarily chronological history, but rather idealized way to conquest the land.
        • We don’t know our ancestors names 700 years ago… similar.
      • Repeat events similar like Moses.
      • Joshua is SUCCESSFUL by being FAITHFUL to the LAW.
      • NOT a military strategist, but a faithful man.


Joshua = the new Moses…

      • Joshua was mediator for his people with the Lord (cf. Josh 7:6–9)
      • He received his instructions directly from God (Josh 1:1; 3:7; 4:1, 15; 5:13–6:5; 8:18; 20:1).
        • Encounter with God on “holy ground”.
      • Joshua received a vision of God and the promise that God would be with him (Josh 1:5; 3:7),
      • sent out spies (as he had been sent by Moses; Josh 2),
      • crossed a body of water miraculously parted by God (Josh 3:14–17),
      • and purified the people for their appointed task – admonition that people sanctify themselves prior to YHWH’s revelation.
      • Above all, Joshua mirrored Moses in functioning as a covenant mediator at Shechem (Josh 8:30–35; 24:1–28), as Moses had been at Sinai (Exod 20–24).


Themes from Fr. Prior – Paradigms for teaching:

      1. Complete Lord’s works under Moses.
        • We are still the people of the promised age looking for the Sabbath rest.


      1. Joshua’s success depended upon being faithful to the law.
        • Obedience is still relevant today.


      1. ALL ISRAEL takes part in campaign to bring people into their rest.
        • All descendants of Jacob have a right to the land.
        • Whole Church acts together – we are part of the body of Christ – serve & grow with the whole Church.




Book of Joshua – CLASS NOTES

      • More theological than historical literary form
        • Do NOT press the historicity of Joshua. You can’t squeeze too much out of this text.
        • Reflects faith 6th ce VS. actual events 13th ce
        • Also shown in comparing VS. other books like Judges (2 diff accounts)
          • Joshua’s falling down of Jericho (and overall schematic view) VS. Judges slow progression of taking over Jericho


      • Lesson of obedience
        • covenant of Deuteronomy golden thread throughout these books.


      • Book of Joshua for Deuteronomistic history like sometimes we see the Early Church (golden age of everyone faithful in catacombs… we don’t know too many details so we see it in the favourable light)
        • Like a golden age for Israelites & rest of Deuteronomistic history (much more human & messy).



No form of human communication is closed to God’s revelation except what is false.



      • Book of Joshua in its present form apparently arose in the attempt to bridge the gap between the well-known stories of the Hebrews in the desert & the experience of the Israelites occupying the land of Israel.
      • Book of Joshua – more THEOLOGICAL than historical – idealized & fictional accounts to show more of Israel’s faith in 6th ce than about the actual events of 13th ce.



      • Difficult
      • Mid-6th ce.



      1. Israelite conquest of Promised Land (1:1 – 12:24)
      2. Distribution of the land of the tribes (13:1 – 22:34)
      3. Renewal of covenant in land (23:1 – 24:33)


(1) The Conquest of Canaan (chaps. 1–12)


  1. Preparations for Invasion (1:1–2:24)
      • Joshua 1:1-9 –> succession episode. Take up the torch of Moses.
        • Joshua’s call from YHWH:
          • going to be completing the task of Moses (Joshua is the culmination of the Pentateuch).
          • YHWH sets up partnership – guarantees land … Joshua needs to stay faithful according to law.
      • 2 spies sent to Jericho
      • Rahab the harlot’s key role
        • Key role for initial conquest of Canaan.
        • Confesses faith in Yahweh.
        • Family spared — shows non-Israelites could eventually join by reason of faith.
        • In Christ’s genealogy.
        • Rahab model of faith in NT.
          • Why highlight Rahab?


  1. Israel Enters Canaan (3:1–4:24)
      • Crossing the Jordan (3:1-17)
        • Parallel to Moses crossing Red Sea (Exodus 12-15)
        • Appears embellished by liturgical events


  1. Circumcision and Passover (5:1–12)
      • Mark the END of the “desert generation” and the rise of the next.
        • Passover celebration parallels Moses story (Ex 12).



  1. The Capture of Jericho (5:13–7:26)
      • Encounter of angelic figure (13-15) parallel Moses at burning bush (Ex 3).
      • All killed except Rahab & family.
        • The city and all that is in it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live because she hid the messengers we sent. ~ Josh 6:17
      • Siege & fall of Jericho (6:1-21)
        • Idealized account.
        • Basically fictional (from archeological facts)
          • Focus on sacred rituals (cultic setting)
          • To give hope to exiles.
          • Purpose = God is responsible for Israel taking the land.
        • All remaining booty = sacred as subject to the “ban” (cherem) –> don’t use for any human ends.


      • The ban (6:17-19)
        • Way to prevent Israel from turning to idolatry.
        • Joshua being faithful to the
        • Probably more “wishful thinking”
        • Aspect of divine pedagogy:
          • Shorter answer:
            • Israel child of its surroundings… only over time did their morality arrive at a certain level at the time of Jesus (already in Genesis noted that we are all children of God).
            • Similar to how Moses permitted divorce… Jesus fulfilled the law
          • Longer answer:
            • Aspect of ban – backdrop issue. God says to take possession of the land primarily to not be contaminated by the inhabitants.
            • Must put it into salvation history.



      • Example of how to do battle for the Lord
        • Follow the Lord’s directives = Victory assured.
      • Joshua = mediator for God
      • God = doing all battle & reason for victory
        • Tells Joshua He has handed them over to him.
        • Then gives order for how to do it.
      • Liturgical aspect of passage.
        • 7 priests carrying ark & Military in front & behind them
          • Therefore, a HOLY WAR
            • All antiquity linked war with religion
            • NOT a jihad
              • Jihad = Muslim use war to impose faith VS. Israel war for existence (closest for Israel was Macabees to have freedom of religion).


  1. The Capture of Ai (8:1–29)


  1. The Renewal of the Covenant (8:30–35)


  1. The Campaign in the South (9:1–10:43)


      • The Gibeonites
        • Israelites are tricked into making a covenant with the Gibeonites.
        • Turns out for their own good.
          • Why highlight the Gibeonites?


  1. The Campaign in the North (11:1–23)


  1. The Kings Are Defeated by Moses and Joshua (12:1–24)



(2) The Division of Canaan (chaps. 13–21)


  1. The Lands Are Still Unconquered (13:1–7)
      • The Divine Command to apportion the land
        • 2nd half of Joshua gives precious info for historical geography of Israel.
        • 13:1 –> much land still not possessed –> appears to be in contrast to previous conquests.


  1. Territories East of the Jordan, of Reuben, Gad, and the Half-Tribe of Manasseh (13:8–33)


  1. Territories West of the Jordan and the Lands Given to Judah, Ephraim, and Half-Manasseh (14:1–17:18)



      • Helps to have a wide as lense as possible.
      • Questions to ask:
        1. Any presumed knowledge from readings we can apply?
        2. Themes? or keywords?
        3. What is distinct from a literary point of view?
        4. Historical critical?
        5. Theological canonical?
        6. Actualization (how is it relevant to me today)?
        7. Religious sense (what human longings are voiced in it from other religions too)?
        8. Exegetical / theological sense?


      • Why did the Levites get no inheritance?
      • Caleb’s faithfulness.
      • Inheritance
      • Land
      • “Did as the Lord commanded” – literary way to constantly tie back to fulfillment of Pentateuch.
      • Gilgal — maybe stories connected to stories from Gilgal.
      • Theological = inheriting the land (blessed are the meek…)
      • Actualization = am I thinking of terms of entering into this land? And presently content to be in battle?
        • Origen saw book of Joshua as mystical theology – Joshua as Jesus. Rereads events of Joshua in light of Christian themes for his life.
        • Levites today -t he Lord is their portion.


  1. The Distribution of the Remaining Lands Among the Tribes (18:1–19:51)
      • Shiloh = where ark & meeting tent remain until Philistines destroy city around 1060 BC.


  1. The Cities of Refuge (20:1–9)


  1. The Levitical Cities (21:1–45)




(3) Joshua’s Farewell Speeches (chaps. 22–24)


  1. Dispute with the Eastern Tribes and the Altar East of the Jordan (22:1–34)


  1. Joshua’s Farewell Address (23:1–16)
      • Basics to farewell discourse:
        • Will share what is most important to his heart
        • usually some element of danger when he dies.
        • Exhortation to fidelity to go against danger.


      • Joshua’s farewell:
        • The Lord has fought for them.


      • Shows influence of Deuteronomist editors.
      • Like Moses: Whole book of Deuteronomy was Moses’ farewell statement.


      • Hints that its from a later:
        • 23:12 –> don’t intermarry. Spoken after the fact most likely.
        • Still hope admist disaster.


  1. The Renewal of the Covenant at Shechem (24:1–33)
      • Joshua’s summary provides sequence on which pentateuchal authors developed their saga.
      • Hypothesis: The story of a peaceful amalgamation of friendly Canaanites into the covenant federation
      • Shechem:
        • in Yahwist tradition, sacred place already in the time of Abram – YHWH appeared to Abram & promised him the land & Abram built an altar (Gen 12:6-7).
        • Religious centre of Samaritans in NT times.
      • Joshua insists on the real possibility of Israel NOT choosing YHWH –> Israel’s choice is laid out in way unparalleled in Bible.
        • People take responsibility for the covenant: “We too will serve YHWH, for he is our God” (24:18).




Literary = historical-creedal recital


God always freeing them when they needed it. Gratuitous favour.


History of liberation from various enemies.


God giving + them possessing it


** Israel’s history = Israel’s theology

      • To do theology is to recite their history


Joshua says, “Thus says the Lord…” = Prophetic formula


Covenant language

      • 2 types of covenants (equals & superior/vassal)
      • Superior telling vassal all He has done, now here are the terms to stay on good favour


Your fathers… you…

      • ** How this history is OUR history = timeless passage


Exodus to promised land

      • Origen’s commentary = progression of life in faith.



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