Introduction to Joshua

By James M. Rochford


The book never states the author, and this isn’t mentioned throughout the rest of the OT. However, we are inclined to believe that Joshua himself wrote this text. For one, the text tells us that Joshua was literate (Josh. 8:32). Moreover, the text itself tells us, “Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God; and he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the Lord” (Josh. 24:26). Furthermore, ancient extrabiblical Jewish sources attribute the book to Joshua (Baba Bathra 14b), as do medieval commentators like Rashi.[1]

Many object to Joshua as the author, because the book concludes with his death (which he could have hardly written!). However, Donald H. Madvig writes, “Those who hold [Joshua as the author] attribute to Eleazer or Phinehas the account of the death of Joshua and other short passages that Joshua could not have written.”[2]

Others object to Joshua as the author, because Joshua 19:47 describes the tribes of Dan living in the north, which historically occurred much later (Judg. 18:27-29). Conservative scholars hold that this passage may have been a later insertion, but “a substantial part of the book of Joshua was written by the Israelite leader himself with some supplementary material added possibly shortly after his death.”[3]

Who was Joshua?

We see Joshua throughout the Pentateuch 27 times.[4] For instance, Joshua was with Moses right before he went up on the mountain to receive the Law (Ex. 24:13). Joshua would stick around the tent of meeting, where God would often appear to Moses (Ex. 33:11). He must have seen many of God’s visitations to Moses. God had prepared Joshua as a military leader, giving him an opportunity to fight the Amalekites (Ex. 17), and he was one of the first spies to reconnoiter the Promised Land (Num. 13). This must have given him a special advantage when leading the men into battle in Israel, because he had already seen this land with his own eyes.

The book of Joshua begins with his commission as the leader, which Moses had already predicted in his writings (Num. 27:12-23; Deut. 31:1ff). In fact, God stated that Joshua had the Holy Spirit to serve as the next leader of Israel (Num. 27:18). The “spirit of wisdom” filled Joshua after Moses laid hands on him (Deut. 34:9).

Moses renamed Joshua in Numbers 13:16. Joshua’s name is a compound word in Hebrew, which means, “Yahweh is salvation.”[5]

Dating of Joshua

Critical scholars like Albrecht Alt, Martin Noth, Robert Coote, and John Van Seters argue that the book of Joshua is a literary legend used to explain the destruction of Canaan. However, there are multiple reasons for affirming the historicity of Joshua:

First, the genre of Joshua is similar to other documents in the second millennium BC. Mark Rooker writes, “Records from the second and first millennia BC from Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Anatolia display genres similar to what is found in Joshua 1-11.”[6]

Second, the book of Joshua doesn’t contradict archaeology. Critics argue that the burning and destruction of Canaan isn’t reflected by the archaeological data. However, when read closely, the Bible teaches that most of the cities and territories of Canaan were taken over, rather than burned to the ground (Ex. 23:24; Num. 33:50-56; Deut. 20:10-20). While some cities were incinerated, these were relatively few by comparison (Josh. 11:13).

Third, historical details point to an early date for the writing of Joshua.[7] For example:

(1) Ancient names are used for the cities in Canaan, including Baalah for Kirjath-jearim (15:9), Kirjath-sannah for Debir (15:49) and Kirjath-arba for Hebron (15:13).[8]

(2) Sidon is called the major city of Phoenicia, rather than Tyre (Josh. 13:6). This was only true before the rise of the monarchy (~1000 BC). In fact, Tyre became more important than Sidon around the 12th century BC.[9]

(3) The Jebusites are mentioned as inhabiting Jerusalem, rather than the Israelites (Josh. 15:63). This was only true before the time of the monarchy.

(4) Canaanites occupied Gezer in the day of the writing of the book (Josh. 16:10). But by Solomon’s day, the Canaanites were completely destroyed by the Egyptians (1 Kin. 9:16).

Major themes

There are various themes throughout the book of Joshua of which we should be aware:

First, Joshua is a type of Christ. Moses spoke of Joshua’s role as that of a shepherd, “Appoint a man over the congregation, who will go out and come in before them, and who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the Lord will not be like sheep which have no shepherd” (Num. 27:16-17). If Moses typologically represents the Law (i.e. foreshadows the inadequacy of the Law), then Joshua represents the Sabbath rest of Jesus (Heb. 3-4). Moses took the people to the border of the Promised Land, but Joshua took them in. The Law cannot bring us the promise of God—only faith can. Some commentators see the mysterious man of Joshua 5:14 as a preincarnate visit of Jesus.

Second, Joshua helps to fulfill what was promised to Abraham. In the unfolding of history, Joshua inherited the great promises of the land handed down from Abraham 400 years earlier (Gen. 15). Just to put this in comparison, the United States hasn’t even been a nation for this long. So this promise took a long time to see fulfilled.

Third, Joshua can be split evenly down the middle. Joshua chapters 1-12 is about the conquering of the land, and chapters 13-24 are about the dividing of the land. The first half describes Joshua’s military leadership, and the second half describes his governmental leadership.

Teaching Series

For teaching through this book, read our earlier article “Inductive Bible Study.”

Week 1: Read “What About the Canaanite Genocide?”

Week 2: Joshua 1-2 (Introduction and Rahab)

Week 3: Joshua 3-4 (Crossing the Jordan)

Week 4: Joshua 5-7 (Angel of the Lord, Jericho, and Ai)

Week 5: Joshua 8-12 (Mopping Up)

Week 6: Joshua 13-24 (Dividing the Land and Joshua’s Farewell. Consider looking at the “application” headings in these chapters to focus on the important material.)

Xenos Christian Fellowship has a teaching series for the book of Joshua (found here).

Pastor Joe Focht has a solid expository series through the book of Joshua (found here).

Joshua 1 (Passing the Baton)

The book opens with Moses passing the leadership baton to Joshua. It must have been pretty scary stepping into Moses’ shoes. Deuteronomy records,

Since that time no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, for all the signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh, all his servants, and all his land, and for all the mighty power and for all the great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel (Deut. 34:10-12).

Joshua must have been feeling fearful. This must be why God tells him to be “strong and courageous” three times in this chapter (1:6-9), and to “not tremble or be dismayed” (v.9). As you read this chapter, notice what God personally chooses to encourage this leader.

What will we do without Moses at the helm??

(1:1) Joshua may have gone through grief, seeing Moses die. We wonder if Joshua was thinking, “How could I ever be a leader like Moses? What are we going to do now that Moses is gone?” However, it was at this moment that God came and encouraged Joshua personally.

(1:2) We wonder if Joshua was thinking, “How are we going to walk through the Jordan River? What are we going to do with those scary people in Canaan?” God doesn’t provide these answers. God didn’t give Joshua an explanation of how he was going to provide the land to them. Instead, he reminded him of his promise. Often, we do not know how God is going to make the impossible happen, but we are promised that it will happen.

(1:3) God speaks about this promise in the past tense (“I have given it to you”). God’s word is so sure that it’s as if it’s already happened. Joshua had to go obtain what God had already given to him. Similarly, the believer in Jesus is given a new identity, and we need to receive these benefits in faith.

(1:4) Israel never obtained all of this land—though they came close under Solomon (1 Kin. 4).

(1:5) “No man will be able to stand before you.” Will Joshua be led by his fear of man, or will he be led by his faith in God?

“Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you.” God encourages Joshua to remember God’s faithfulness with Moses. This revelation from the past could build his faith for the future.

“I will not fail you or forsake you.” When we’re feeling afraid, we need to remember this passage (also given to NT believers in Hebrews 13:5). The real question is not, “How big are my problems?” The real question is, “Is God with me or not?”

Be strong and courageous!

Again, Joshua must have been feeling fearful. That’s why God tells him to be “strong and courageous” three times in this section (vv.6-9). But on what basis? Self-effort? Manly machismo? New Age mind power? Not at all.

(1:6) God tells Joshua to gain strength and courage from his PROMISES (“I swore to their fathers…”).

(1:7) God tells Joshua to gain strength and courage from his WORD (“be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you…”).

(1:8) God tells Joshua to gain strength and courage from BIBLICAL MEDITATION (“you shall meditate on it day and night…”).

(1:9) God tells Joshua to gain strength and courage from His PRESENCE (“the Lord your God is with you wherever you go”).

Joshua rallies the troops

Joshua receives these encouraging word from God, and he moves toward the people God has given him to lead with “strength and courage.”

(1:10) Instead of going directly to the people, Joshua works through his leaders (“the officers of the people”).

(1:11) Why does he tell them to wait for three days? Later, we discover that God was waiting for one Canaanite prostitute to come to faith—her and her whole household.

Joshua doesn’t know how they’re going to “cross the Jordan River.” But in faith, he gives this command to the people. Sometimes, we don’t know how God is going to make something happen, but we galvanize people to be ready for him to move.

(1:12) What is the significance of these three tribes? Why does Joshua address them directly?

(1:13) This is almost word for word what Moses recorded in Deuteronomy 3:18-20. Moses didn’t mention the part about God giving them “rest.” This is an interesting choice of words: On the eve of battle, Joshua is talking about “rest.” This cannot refer to inactivity, because the entire chapter is about what they need to do in order to prepare for war. Instead, since they knew that God “would give them the land,” they could rest in Him as they went out to take it.

(1:14) The women and children were all supposed to cross the Jordan River with the soldiers, but they were stay back while the soldiers went ahead and fought the war. By having the women and children cross the river, God was showing the people that they were in solidarity with the war. If the Hebrew soldiers lost, then the women and children would be killed.

(1:15) These soldiers from Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh would do most of the fighting. The soldiers would fight until the rest of the people could be secure and at “rest.”

(1:16) These words must have comforted Joshua. As a new leader, he might have wondered if the people would listen to his leadership. Instead, since he came in with such a “strong and courageous” vision and plan (vv.6-9), the people followed him.

(1:17) They were putting Joshua on par with Moses. This too must have been encouraging for Joshua to hear.

(1:18) In wartime, they needed to follow the directives of their general. Just like modern warfare, disobedience would be a capital offence.

God gave Joshua the encouragement to be “strong and courageous” (vv.6-9), and now, the people give him this same encouragement.

Application and further insights

We should serve faithfully wherever God has us. Joshua served under Moses for many years, and he wasn’t raised up until God knew he was ready.

Joshua had been leading alongside Moses for so long that when Moses died, the people trusted Joshua (1:17). The antithesis would be bringing in a random, unknown leader that nobody trusts.

God’s solution for fear is to dwell on his promises and his presence (vv.6-9).

Joshua 2 (Rahab and the Spies)

Summary: Joshua sent the spies “secretly” (v.1). The last time Moses sent the spies to the land, it ended miserably (Num. 13-14). Maybe Joshua was learning from this event. The king of Jericho went to find the spies at Rahab’s house, but Rahab lied to them (v.4). She tells the spies that the people had heard about God’s workings in Egypt and their former battles, and they were worried about meeting them (vv.9-13). And she begs for her family to be spared. The spies make a deal with her (v.14). They tell her to string a red cord down her window (v.18) and stay in the house (vv.19-20). They come back to Joshua with a lot of excitement, because of the fear that the people had (v.24).

(2:1) Instead of publically sending the spies like Moses did in Numbers 13-14, Joshua sends these spies “secretly.” This could mean that the spies were being secretive in regards to the Canaanites (which seems redundant), or they were being secretly sent from the view of the people of Israel. We favor the latter view. Joshua likely wanted to avoid another episode of unbelief like before. Remember, those spies in Numbers 13-14 talked the people out of conquering the land 40 years earlier. It was only Joshua and Caleb who were the spies who wanted to conquer the land.

Notice that instead of sending twelve spies like before (Num. 13), Joshua only sends two. In Joshua’s day, only two spies came back with a confidence report (Joshua and Caleb). Joshua probably hand selected men of faith to send this time.

“Especially Jericho.” Jericho will come up again in chapter 6.

“They went and came into the house of a harlot whose name was Rahab, and lodged there.” God wants to reach all people—even Canaanite prostitutes! This woman becomes part of the line that gives birth to Jesus (Mt. 1:5), and the author of Hebrews calls her a model of faith (Heb. 11:31).

The spies came into her house. The text does not say that they “went in to her” (cf. Judg. 16:1).

Was Rahab a harlot (prostitute)? Richard Hess doesn’t think so. Drawing from the work of D.J. Wiseman, he argues that “the meaning of the word here and in other Old Testament contexts may suggest one who conducts friendly dealings with alien persons. He also draws a comparison with the role of the Old Babylonian innkeeper, sābîtu, ‘one who gives drink’, and various laws regarding inns from the earlier law codes.”[10] The difficulty with this view is the fact that the NT authors explicitly call Rahab a “harlot” as well (Heb. 11:31; Jas. 2:25). Any lexical research on the Hebrew word “prostitute” (zônâ) would also need to be applied to the NT texts as well.

Was this a brothel or an inn? Hess writes, “Why then do the spies choose the house of a prostitute? This house was more likely a tavern, hostel or way station, which could be used by visitors, than a brothel.”[11] He notes that the early Targum and Josephus calls the place an inn, rather than a brothel. Josephus writes, “They were in the inn kept by Rahab” (Antiquities, Book 5, chapter 1, section 8). This is more open to debate in our mind. The text calls this a “house” and a place where they “lodged.” While we might assume that this was a brothel (because a prostitute owned it), this isn’t clearly stated in the text.

(2:2) How did the king of Jericho know that the spies had made it across the borders? Did he post men to watch out for these spies?

(2:3) How did the king know to contact Rahab specifically?

Rahab’s act of faith

(2:4) Rahab lies to the king in order to save the lives of these two Hebrew spies.

(2:5) She continues to lie by making up a story of how they fled, and how the king could catch them if he sent men in their direction.

(Josh. 2:4-14) Is it morally right to lie?

(2:6) Rahab is an ancient Corrie Ten Boom, hiding Jewish men in her “attic” to spare them from the authorities. The code of Hammurabi states, “If scoundrels plot together [in conspiratorial relationships] in an innkeeper’s house, and she does not seize them and bring them to the palace, that innkeeper shall be put to death’ (Hammurabi, 109).”[12]

(2:7) She must have been a convincing liar, because the king sent his men to search for the spies outside of the gate—just as Rahab had suggested (v.5).

Rahab’s profession of faith

(2:8) Imagine how scared you would be if you were two of the Hebrew spies. You’ve been hearing for 40 years how scary these Canaanites are. When the two of you finally make it into the land, you are immediately found!—and your lives are in the hands of a Canaanite prostitute. As they heard the sounds of feet climbing onto the roof, did they have a tight grip on their swords? Were they filled with terror and dread as the feet approached?

As it turns out, the feet are Rahab’s, and she comes to affirm their faith, rather than their fears.

(2:9) “I know that the Lord has given you the land.” This woman agrees with God’s promise (Gen. 15), rather than her king or her people. She even uses the covenant name for God (Yahweh).

“The terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you.” Originally, the Jews were afraid of the Canaanites, but now, in a terrific act of irony, the Canaanites are afraid of them! God had promised that he would send his terror ahead of them. After the parting of the Red Sea and the destruction of the Egyptians, we read, “The peoples have heard, they tremble; anguish has gripped the inhabitants of Philistia. Then the chiefs of Edom were dismayed; the leaders of Moab, trembling grips them; all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away. Terror and dread fall upon them” (Ex. 15:14-16; cf. 23:27).

(2:10) “For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt.” God did this in Exodus 14:21. This was from 40 years earlier, and they were talking about this the entire time. He will later “dry up” the Jordan River (Josh. 4:23).

“What you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed.” This occurred in Numbers 21:21-35.

This woman realized how God was with the Jewish people, doing incredible miracles of nature and of warfare.

(2:11) She claims that this was not just the case for her, but for all the men in Jericho (and probably Canaan as well). She had so many men coming through her home that she must have heard story after story.

She affirms that this is not her God (“the Lord your God”). She realizes that she’s separate from God.

She affirms that God is Sovereign over all of creation—not just a localized deity.

Rahab’s plea of faith

(2:12-13) Rahab understood that God was the Creator, but she has more faith than this. She asks for grace as well (“deal kindly with my father’s household… deliver our lives from death”). She trusted in the fact that God would spare a sinner like her and her family.

(2:14) The men promise to spare her—even putting their own lives on the line (“our life for yours”).

They don’t say, “If God gives us the land…” They say, “When God gives us the land…” They were convinced of the outcome.

(2:15) Rahab’s house was built into the city wall.

(2:16) The Canaanite men went out and searched for these Hebrew spies, and they “shut the gate” behind them (v.7). Rahab must be saying that they need to lay low in the “hill country” until the men return and reopen the gate.

(2:17-18) The Hebrew men knew that war was coming. In the middle of the maelstrom of war, it would be hard to tell that Rahab’s family should be untouched. So they suggested that they mark the house with a “scarlet thread.”

What did the conversation look like with Rahab and her family? She would’ve had to have persuaded them to come to her house. This is a OT picture of evangelism.

(2:19) This is really a picture of substitution: If the family was harmed, the spies would receive death. Earlier, they promised, “Our life for yours.”

(2:20-21) Rahab had to make good on her part of the condition, and she agreed.

(2:22) The scheme worked: The pursuers couldn’t find the Hebrew spies, and they escaped to report back to Joshua.

(2:23-24) This is such a drastically different report from the last time the spies entered the land! (Num. 13-14) Back then, Joshua and Caleb were the only two spies to support the idea of taking over the land, while the majority of others were spreading fear and cowardice. Here, the two spies are following in the footsteps of Joshua.

Imagine what the conversation looked like when they explained the part about visiting a prostitute’s house for the night… and the fact that she was a believer!


Rahab was a prostitute, but she was a believer. No one can say that they are too evil that God can’t love them and forgive them.

Rahab—the prostitute—marries an Israelite man. She gives birth to Boaz, who later is the great-grand father of David… who is the father of Jesus! Pastor Joe Focht says, “Jesus chose Rahab—the prostitute—to be in his family photo.”

God used Rahab—the prostitute—to lead her whole family to salvation. God can use you—no matter how far you’ve fallen—to be a witness to your family.

Joshua 3 (Crossing the Jordan)

Summary: The people were to consecrate themselves before they could take on this great task of conquering the land (v.5). Crossing the Jordan River was really a big step in this process. It was like “crossing the line in the sand.” Under Moses, God parted the Red Sea. Under Joshua, he parted the Jordan River during flood season (v.14). God opened the Red Sea with Moses’ staff before they walked in, but God opened the Jordan River after they walked into it (v.8, 13). This took a literal step of faith on their behalf. It wasn’t until they walked in that God acted. God was building their faith.

(3:1) The Hebrews had been camped here at Shittim since Numbers 22:1. It was about a 10 mile journey to the Jordan River from Shittim.[13]

(3:2-3) “Three days” was how long they sat there and watched the rushing waters of the Jordan River. They must have been whispering to each other, “How on Earth are we going to cross through that…?”

The Ark of the Covenant communicated God’s presence to the people. By following the ark, God was showing them that they were really following him into this battle.

(3:4) 2,000 cubits was about a 1,000 yards away. Madvig states that this distance was to communicate their separation from the holiness of the ark.[14]

(3:5) What does it mean to “consecrate” yourself? NLT translates this as “purify yourselves.” The term is used in Exodus 19:14-15 alongside bathing oneself and staying away from sexual activity. Hess notes that this act of washing would fit with being near the Jordan River.[15]

Joshua doesn’t tell them to sharpen their swords or engage in target practice to prepare for battle. Instead, God tells them to draw close to Him.

(3:6) In order to win a military battle, they needed spiritual leadership. The priests led the way—not the soldiers.

(3:7) The parting of the Jordan River was a teaching tool to show that God was now with Joshua. God does miracles to communicate truth to humanity.

It was a miracle when God parted the Red Sea to get the people out of Egypt (i.e. justification, 1 Cor. 10), and it is a miracle to bring them into his rest in the Promised Land (i.e. sanctification, Heb. 3-4).

(3:8) God called the priests to actually stand in the waters. He was asking them to take a literal step of faith.

(3:9-10) Before the miracle occurred, Joshua wanted to tell the people the significance of this supernatural act. God is not doing miracles to entertain these people. Instead, he is doing miracles to teach them that he is “among” them and will be with them as they enter this battle.

(3:11) See comments on verses 2-3 above.

(3:12) The twelve men would later be the ones to leave the memorial stones (Josh. 4:1-3).

(3:13) God didn’t “turn off the faucet” until their feet were in the water. This was not a natural drying of the river. The text states that the waters “will stand in one heap” (cf. v.16).

Instead of stopping the water with Moses’ rod, God would stop it with the faith of the priests.

(3:14-15) Normally, the water would’ve been overflowing here, but it became completely dry. The crossing of the Jordan could have carried apologetic value against the Canaanite gods. J. L. Kelso notes, “The crossing of the Jordan at high flood and the cyclonic hail storm at Aijalon are of special theological significance, for Baal was the great Canaanite storm god who was supposed to control the rain, the hail, the snow and the floods of Palestine. These episodes proved that Baal was as powerless before Yahweh in Palestine as he had been in the episode of the plagues in Egypt.”[16]

(Josh. 3:15) Is this a folktale?

(3:16) Adam was twenty miles up the Jordan River.

(3:17) The priests stood in the middle of the river. This showed their faith. It would be similar to having a fireman being the last to leave the burning building, while the victims were being carried out. It shows that they truly believed God was protecting them.

Remember the people of Jericho hearing about the Red Sea drying up, and now they are watching this from their city walls. No wonder they were “melting with fear” (Josh. 2:9).

(Josh. 3:17) Did they cross the Jordan or not?


This chapter gives us a window into the nature of biblical faith:

First, biblical faith isn’t blind faith. The people had the evidence of God working through Moses to part the Red Sea (Ex. 14). Here, they were called on to trust God in the present, because of how they saw him work in the past.

Second, biblical faith requires us taking a step BEFORE seeing God move. The priests needed to put their feet in the water before God stopped up the river upstream. Those priests must have felt foolish hiking up their ephods (robes) to wade into the Jordan River. But it wasn’t until they actually took this step that they saw God come through. Likewise, we need to trust in God’s word to take steps of faith before we see him coming through.

Third, God wants to build our faith. Like putting a muscle under tension builds its strength (i.e. weightlifting), God wants to put tension on our faith to build it. In the Exodus, God parted the Red Sea before the people walked through. Here, they needed to begin to walk through before he parted the Jordan River.

Joshua 4 (The Memorial Stones)

Summary: The people were to take memorial stones with them. These were to help them as reminders that God had provided for them. God used this to build up Joshua (v.14).

(4:1-3) The people made it through unharmed. God tells the twelve men he mentioned earlier (in Josh. 3:12) to pick up twelve stones to carry with them.

(4:4-5) The men were either still in the middle of the Jordan River, or maybe they “crossed again” (NASB) to come back and pick up the stones. The Hebrew is unclear.

These must have been large stones, because they needed to heave them up “on [their] shoulder.”

(4:6-7) Just like Jesus performed “signs” in the gospel of John, God wanted the people to recognize the theological significance behind this miracle they just witnessed. God wanted this one miracle to serve as a teaching tool “forever.”

By the end of the book of Joshua, the next generation forgot about the Lord.

(4:8) The men set up their stones on the shore.

(4:9) Joshua set up twelve stones in the dry river bed by himself as an additional memorial.

(4:10-11) The priests were the last ones to leave. This showed that the power to stop the river was a spiritual power generated by God through the priests and the ark.

(4:12-13) Remember, these were the tribes who were originally called to fight (Josh. 1:12). Now that the “fight for faith” was accomplished, they were ready to fight their enemies.

(4:14) God is going out of his way to show that he is with Joshua—just as he was with Moses. The baton is being passed.

Why only 40,000 men? The book of Numbers states that there were 136,930 fighting men (Num. 26:7, 18, 34). This implies that only 29% of the total soldiers crossed the land. Only a third of the people got to have the experience of seeing the waters dried up.

(4:15-18) The priests no sooner stepped out of the dry river bed than the water came rushing back in to refill the river.

(4:19-20) Joshua set up the memorial stones in Gilgal. Madvig writes, “‘Gilgal’ was strategically located. The Jordan provided security on one side, and the open plain prevented any surprise attack from the other side. An abundant water supply was provided by the river. Gilgal was Israel’s base of operations for some time (cf. 10:15, 43; 14:6).”[17]

(4:21-22) Again, the purpose of these memorial stones was to remind the people of the significance of this miracle. It wasn’t for them, but for their children.

(4:23) Again, God is going out of his way to show that Joshua is taking over the office of Moses.

(4:24) This would also have an evangelistic effect on “all the peoples of the earth.”

(Josh. 4:24) Are we supposed to “fear” God?


We need to have reminders of God’s provision. What are your memorial stones? Do you take time to remember answers to prayer, changed lives, etc.?

God used this miracle to authenticate Joshua. We need to wait on God’s authentication of us as leaders. We can’t force this. Joshua had to wait decades to get this while he learned and served under Moses.

God took them through the Red Sea to escape judgment from Pharaoh, but now, he is going to take them through the water to bring judgment on the Canaanites.

This passage shows how quickly God works if people are faithful. It doesn’t take 40 years this time. It takes three days to enter the land.

Joshua 5 (Israel gets Circumcised)

Summary: Rahab’s statement was true (v.1). The kings of Canaan were terrified at how God was supporting the Israelites. God called on Joshua to circumcise the men days before battle (vv.2-3). This wouldn’t have given them military advantage, having intimate surgery like this. They were given time until they healed (v.8). God cut off the manna at this time, and he gave them the natural produce instead (v.12). Before Joshua goes into the land, he approaches a strange man with a sword (v.13ff). Many theologians believe that this is a pre-incarnate Christ.

(5:1) Rahab had told the Hebrew spies that the Canaanite people and kings were melting with fear (Josh. 2:9-11).

(5:2) Joshua didn’t circumcise the men twice (“the second time”). This refers to Moses instituting circumcision with the earlier generation, and now, Joshua was circumcising this new generation.[18] Verses 4-5 provide this explanation.

This is a parallel between Joshua and Moses: Before Moses could carry out his ministry, he needed to circumcise his son (Ex. 4:24-26). Here, Joshua circumcises the men before the battle.

This was a statement of faith. This would have been delicate surgery right before battle!

(5:3) Gibeath Haaraloth is translated “the hill of the foreskins.”[19]

(5:4-5) None of these men in the new generation had ever been circumcised. Why were none of the men circumcised in the desert? Madvig believes that the covenant was temporarily suspended because of the disobedience of the fathers.[20] Perhaps God didn’t want these unfaithful older Hebrews to be the ones to circumcise the youth, or maybe they were so unfaithful that they collectively chose not to circumcise the boys.

(5:6-7) The older generation is being contrasted with this new generation.

(5:8) Again, this was delicate surgery (performed with a flint knife!), and the men probably would’ve wanted to take a load off until they healed up a little bit.

(5:9) “Gilgal” sounds like the Hebrew word gālal, which means “roll away.” Some preachers try to see an etymological connection between “Gilgal” and “Golgotha,” but this is a stretch. The place is simply a place of memorial to remember God’s deliverance.

(5:10) This is more parallelism with Moses, who practiced the Passover right before defeating the Egyptians (Ex. 12). They are celebrating the Passover right in the midst of the enemy (“on the desert plains of Jericho”). This reminds us of David’s claim, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (Ps. 23:5).

(5:11-12) This shows a change in the experience of Israel celebrating the Passover: they ate off of the land itself. This makes sense for why God ended the manna at this time, because God was now providing for them in the land of Israel.

(Josh. 5:13-15) Who is the captain of the Lord’s host?

Joshua was the human general of the battle, but he shows deference to this angelic commander. This demonstrates that he is not the one who is going to win this war.


Sometimes, when we follow God, he calls on us to do something that doesn’t seem very pragmatic. In this instance, they needed to circumcise their soldiers. This would’ve been painful, uncomfortable, and unstrategic for battle. And yet, this is what God commanded. If we abandon God’s word, we run into greater problems.

The Angel of the Lord is a perfect picture of leadership. Joshua was willing to wait under Moses’ leadership. He was also willing to surrender to the Angel of the Lord. Ultimately, he was flexible to God’s leadership and will.

God starts to provide in a different way when they get here—without any manna (v.12).

Joshua 6 (Conquest of Jericho)

Summary: Joshua attacked Jericho as a sort of beach head for invading the Promised Land. God tells the army to circle the city of Jericho each day for six days straight (v.3). On the seventh day, they needed to march around it seven times (v.4). Then, the priests would blow the horns and the people would let out a battle cry (v.5). The ark was carried around it, too (v.11). Joshua honors the word of the spies to spare Rahab and her family (v.17). The wall of the city collapsed and the people took it over (v.20). They scorched the city completely, and they put the gold and silver in the Tabernacle (v.24). Joshua’s prophecy was literally fulfilled in 1 Kings 16:34.

(Josh. 6:1-27) Doesn’t modern archaeology disagree with this?

(6:1) Ancient kings would usually let soldiers out of the barricade to harass the enemy,[21] but not here. The fortress city was “tightly shut.” They were terrified.

(6:2) The earlier generation of spies were discouraged of taking over the city because of the high walls (Num. 13:28).

God speaks about this victory in the past tense, because it is so certain that it is like it has already happened. This is similar to Rahab’s words in Joshua 2:9 (“The Lord has given you the land”). The psalmist speaks about God’s help in battle (Ps. 108:12-13).

(6:3) Marching around a fortified city wouldn’t seem like the best strategy. As the enemy called down taunts on the soldiers, Joshua must have been wondering what the point of this exercise was. The author of Hebrews comments that this was an act of faith to march around the city (Heb. 11:30).

(6:4) The priests (the spiritual leaders) were supposed to be front and center in this battle. Again, this showed the nation that the battle wouldn’t be won with the sword, but with the Spirit.

They had to march seven times around the city on the final day. Jericho was only five or six acres of land.[22] But still, they would’ve needed to march in an even wider perimeter to avoid being shot with arrows. This would’ve been exhausting.

(6:5) They aren’t told what God will do until this point: “the wall of the city will fall down flat.”

(6:6-7) Joshua doesn’t twist or distort God’s commands. He knew that God was the true Commander of this army.

(6:8-9) The people follow Joshua’s leadership.

(6:10) The people had to remain completely silent during this march. This must have really been agonizing for them. They couldn’t talk about the future battle, respond to Canaanite soldiers yelling from the fortified walls, or even encourage one another.

(6:11-16) The repetition of this account really builds the suspense.

(6:17) Rahab was called a “harlot,” and yet Joshua explicitly states that she should be rescued. Madvig writes, “Her profession continues to be mentioned here… to emphasize that she was a trophy of God’s grace.”[23]

(6:18) This foreshadows what will happen with Achan in Joshua 7. If they touch the things under the ban, then would fall under the ban themselves.

(6:19) The metals couldn’t be burned. These were put into the treasury.

(6:20) Does this imply that all of the walls of the city fell down flat? At the very least, Rahab’s portion of the wall was left standing, because she was told to stay in her house with her family until the fighting was over. This could be all of the walls, or it could just refer to one wall that gave them immediate access to the city.

(6:21) The last thing on Earth they would expect would be for the wall(s) to simply collapse straight down. These people must have been totally taken by surprise.

Notice how long the instructions are (vv.1-19) and how short the victory of the battle is (vv.20-21).

(Josh. 6:21) Is this a case of religious genocide?

(6:22) Imagine what it would look like to see the entire wall collapsed except for Rahab’s house. Incidentally, this shows that God was in favor of the deal made with Rahab. After all, it was a divine miracle that the walls were destroyed, and a divine miracle that only her house was left standing.

(6:23) While verse 21 states that all were utterly destroyed, this passage states that a sizeable number were spared in Rahab’s household.

(6:24) They followed through by burning the city.

Madvig argues that the phrase “house of the Lord” generally refers to the Temple—not the tabernacle—and thus, this is an “anachronism.”[24] We don’t see how this follows. Why not just broaden the range of meaning for “the house of the Lord” to include the tabernacle—lest we be guilty of circular reasoning?

(6:25) This statement (“she has lived in the midst of Israel to this day”) could imply (1) that Rahab was still alive when the account was written or (2) that she lives on “in her posterity.”[25]

(6:26) This curse lasted until the time of King Ahab, when Hiel lost his firstborn son by rebuilding the city (1 Kin. 16:34).

(6:27) This narrative and statement fulfill God’s promise in Joshua 1:5.


Imagine what the people inside the fortress thought about the Jews circling their encampment. They must have been pretty cynical of this group. Yet after the walls came down, they wouldn’t have been laughing. Similarly, many people don’t agree with God’s word, but they will see its fulfillment in the future.

There is no naturalistic explanation for why the walls fell. The author of Hebrews writes, “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days” (Heb. 11:30).

The soldiers weren’t taking a pragmatic approach by circumcising themselves immediately before the battle. In fact, it must have hurt to walk around the city thirteen times with such sensitive surgery (!). But their trust in God’s way paid off in the end—perhaps in a way that could not have imagined beforehand.

Joshua 7 (Israel defeated at Ai)

Summary: Ai in Hebrew means “ruin.” It was dinky (v.3), but they couldn’t conquer it. Their expectation was that nobody would be killed, but 36 were killed instead (v.5). Joshua was worried that this would have a galvanizing effect on behalf of the Amorites (v.9). If you violate God’s agreement (or covenant), then you are the enemy (v.12). Achan and his family were stoned to death (v.25). They renew the covenant to get them back in with God (8:34).

(7:1) This is a short summary of the entire chapter—almost like a thesis statement.

(7:2) “Ai” means “a ruins,” and “Beth-aven” means “house of wickedness.”[26]

Joshua sent spies ahead of him. Since Joshua had himself been a spy (Num. 13-14), he seemed to like this method of operations.

(7:3) Scholars estimate a population of about 12,000 people at Ai, which would result in roughly 3,000 soldiers. It was a 15 mile hike from Jericho to Ai a 3,300 hundred foot incline to get to the city.[27] The fact that the spies only requested 3,000 men sounds like they are underestimating the enemy.

(7:4) They were categorically defeated and fled.

(7:5) They only lost 36 men out of 3,000, which isn’t altogether that bad. It must have been a moral defeat, because they were expecting the battle to go as smoothly as it did in Jericho.

The language of their “hearts melting with fear” is identical to what the Canaanites had been feeling earlier (Josh. 2:9, 11; 5:1). The tables had turned.

(7:6) Joshua knew that the problem with the battle was not the amount of troops. The problem was theological.

(7:7-9) Joshua’s words sound very similar to the people at Kadesh Barnea (Num. 14:1-4). Joshua couldn’t handle this defeat. Instead of looking to himself or his men for the problem, he questions God’s faithfulness.

(7:10) God seems to rebuke Joshua here.

(7:11) God seems to say, “The problem isn’t with Me and My faithfulness… The problem is with Israel!” Notice the threefold repetition of “they… they… they…”

(7:12) God was with Joshua at the end of the battle of Jericho (Josh. 6:27), but now, he is threatening that he will continue to be with him.

(7:13) He calls on the people to consecrate themselves again (cf. Josh. 3:5).

(7:14-15) God would reveal who the guilty party was.

(7:16-18) Imagine how scary this would have been (v.16)! Can you imagine standing outside with the entire encampment? First, they pick the tribe of Judah. Then they pick the family of the Zerahites. Then the kin of Zabdi. You would be thinking, “Oh my God! They know!” No one could see this sin, but the Lord saw it. We can’t hide our sin from God.

(7:19) Joshua didn’t simply rely on the lot to determine guilt. He also called for a confession.

(7:20) Achan confessed, but it was under pressure and duress. Really, he confessed after he was already busted. He could’ve confessed before the lots were ever cast.

(7:21) Achan called the materials “spoils” of war, which was in direct contradiction to God’s view of them. He also “coveted” the silver, which broke the 10th commandment (“You shall not covet”).

The verbs “I saw… I coveted… I took…” are identical to the verbs used for Adam and Eve’s moral fall (Gen. 3:6).

(7:22-23) Joshua didn’t simply rely on the lot or the confession to determine guilt. He also pursued hard evidence.

(Josh. 7:24-26) Was the stoning of Achan’s family a case of divine overkill?

(7:24) His wife is not mentioned, but his children and livestock are mentioned. This long description of his livestock implies that Achan was wealthy and didn’t even need the silver he stole.

(7:25) This is a fulfillment of Joshua 1:18.

(7:26) “Achor” is a play on words with “Achan” (cf. 1 Chron. 2:7). The Hebrew word means “disaster.”[28]


God allowed the Jews to go into battle only to fail, because they hadn’t been following his way. Similarly, God allows us to fail to show us how helpless and hopeless we are.

Achan thought his sin only affected him. It didn’t. There is a corporate dimension to our sin. It affects the entire group. Achan’s sin affected many others (e.g. Achan’s family, the 36 people who were killed in battle).

Joshua 8 (The Conquest of Ai)

Summary: God tells Joshua to go back and take Ai (v.1). This time, the people were allowed to keep the plunder—probably to finance the army (v.2). Joshua sets up an ambush (v.4-8). All the men of Ai came out to fight the Jews (v.16). This left the city empty and defenseless (v.17). They wiped out everybody (v.22). Joshua killed the king himself (v.29). Joshua repeated the covenant to the people (v.34).

(8:1) Now that Achan’s sin was dealt with, God reaffirms his presence and power with the people. Again, God tells Joshua not to “fear or be dismayed,” and this is based on God’s presence and power.

(8:2) God commands Joshua to “set an ambush.” This further drives the case that the Bible supports “prioritized ethics.”

God allows the Jewish people to seize the spoils of war here, most likely to finance the rest of the military operation.

(8:3) The key to this ambush was partly that he sent the men “out at night,” under the cover of darkness.

(8:4) Joshua divided up his men to ambush the city. Some of the men were hidden behind the city, and the others were at the front gates.

(8:5-6) Joshua was playing on the idea that the soldiers of Ai would think that the Hebrews were fleeing again, as they did in 7:4-5.

(8:7-8) Instead of attacking the men of Ai, the Jewish soldiers were commanded to enter the city and set it on fire. This would completely demoralize the men of Ai, as they watched their city burn.

(8:9) The men prepared for war.

(8:10) Remember, the Jewish soldiers had already hidden themselves the night before (v.3).

(8:11-13) Joshua was to the north of the city, but the hidden men were to the west.

(8:14) The king of Ai couldn’t help himself. He was probably thinking that he would have a victory like the one before in Joshua 7:4-5.

(8:15-17) The nearby city of Bethel came to help Ai. They were overconfident that they could wipe out the Hebrew army.

(8:18) This is reminiscent of Moses holding up his arms as Joshua fought the Amalekites (Ex. 17:8-12). Joshua didn’t lower the javelin until the battle was completely over (v.26).

(8:19) This raising of the javelin must have been a signal to the hidden troops, who were ready to ambush the city.

(8:20-21) The smoke was a signal of defeat to the men of Ai, and a signal of victory to the Jewish army. Once the men of Ai saw the smoke, they lost their morale and will to fight.

(8:22) This was a “turkey shoot.” The men of Ai were stuck between a rock and a hard place.

(8:23) While verse 22 says “no one was left,” this apparently does not include the king of Ai.

(8:24-25) The inhabitants of Ai were destroyed. It’s interesting that the people of Bethel are not mentioned, though the king of Bethel is mentioned again in Joshua 12:16.

(8:26) Like Moses holding up his hands in prayer (Ex. 17), Joshua held up the javelin until the battle was over (see comments on v.18).

(8:27) This emphasizes that he was following God’s command—not his own.

(8:28) The city was burned to the ground and utterly desolate.

(8:29) The Jewish people were not allowed to leave a body hanging overnight (Deut. 21:23). This hanging was an object lesson to the people: the king that they once feared was completely and utterly destroyed.

From war to worship

(8:30) Joshua acknowledges God as the ultimate reason for the victory, rather than taking credit. This is similar to Moses building an altar after the victory over the Amalekites (Ex. 17:15). Joshua had won that battle under Moses’ leadership, and he apparently followed in Moses’ footsteps by building an altar.

(Josh. 8:30) Doesn’t the Bible condemn building altars like this?

(8:31) This material from Moses comes from Exodus 20:25.

(8:32) Moses had predicted this event. These stones were covered with lime, so they could write the Law on them (Deut. 27:4).

(8:33) Both the Hebrews “natives” and the non-Jewish “strangers” were together in this commemoration. Do the “strangers” refer to the Egyptians who escaped from Pharaoh in the “mixed multitude” 40 years earlier (Ex. 12:38)? The “strangers” are mentioned again in verse 35. The non-Jewish “strangers” were welcomed in Israel, because they too had been strangers in Egypt (Ex. 22:21; 23:9; Deut. 24:17-22).

This event was predicted and taught by Moses (Deut. 11:29; 27:11-26).

(8:34-35) Joshua was going out of his way to follow everything Moses had commanded.


God’s power was available to the people in chapter 7, but they didn’t carry out God’s will in God’s way. God was teaching them that they needed to follow his will.

While God promised to take down the city, Joshua still set up a brilliant military strategy. This shows the balance between human agency and God’s sovereignty. Of course, it was God’s idea to set up an “ambush” in the first place (Josh. 8:2).

Joshua repeated the covenant to the people, because they needed reminded. We need reminded in each stage of life of God’s promises.

Joshua 9 (Bad Peace Treaty)

Summary: The people of Canaan united in an evil confederacy to take down Israel (vv.1-2). The men of Gideon disguised themselves as foreigners and asked for a peace treaty with Israel (v.6). The people have heard of God’s work from far away (v.9). The error that they made was not praying to God about this (v.14). They ratified the oath (v.15), and they weren’t allowed to break the oath (v.20). They made the men slaves (vv.22-23). The people begged for mercy, and they were spared (v.25).

(Josh. 9:1-27) Why would Israel keep their oath with the Gibeonites?

(9:1-2) All of these city-states were formerly separated, but they formed a unified front against Israel. The enemy stopped the Israelites from being able to conquer one city at a time. If they wanted to continue to fight, then they needed to take on the entire Canaanite people at once.

(9:3-5) Gibeon—the modern city el-Jib—was about 8 miles northwest of Jerusalem.[29] They were a royal city with an intimidating army (Josh. 10:2). Yet they took a secretive approach in battling Israel. Instead of all-out war, they deceived them into making a covenant of peace with them.

(9:6) God had forewarned the Jewish people not to make a peace treaty with the people (Deut. 7:1-3; 20:16-18). They ignored God’s word in making this decision.

(9:7) God had explicitly promised to drive out the Hivites (Josh. 3:10). They were ignoring God’s word.

(9:8) The Hivites were trying to create a treaty where they would become the vassals of the Israelites. That is, they would become their servants in return for protection (Josh. 10:6).

Joshua still seems suspicious. Something doesn’t feel right about this. Will he be able to discern them correctly…?

(9:9-11) They pretended not to know about the recent battles at Jericho and Ai. They pretended to only hear about the great acts of God in Egypt and with King Sihon and King Og (Num. 21:21-35; Deut. 2:26-3:17).

(9:12-13) The Hivites provided fake evidence that they had travelled a long way to meet them (e.g. their crumbling bread and wineskins).

(9:14) Joshua should have asked God! He had been trained on using the Urim and Thummim to discover God’s will (Num. 27:18-21), but he neglected this.

(9:15) Once this oath was made, it couldn’t be undone.

(9:16) Immediately after they ratified the covenant, they discovered the deception. This was an impulsive decision that (1) neglected God’s word, (2) neglected prayer, and (3) neglected patience. They opted for an impulsive decision that had long term consequences.

(9:17-18) The soldiers visited Gibeon, and they realized their error. This resulted in them grumbling against their leaders. They were probably angered by the fact that they could have fought these men, but instead, they now needed to protect them.

(9:19) The leaders valued their word and swearing this oath.

(9:20) Ratifying the oath was a bad decision, but retracting the oath would be even worse.

(9:21) They put them to work.

(9:22-23) Joshua wouldn’t revoke the oath, but he still wanted to give them a parting shot, chastising them for their deception.

(9:24) The men thought it was better to live as servants, rather than face death. Another option would’ve been to simply flee their fortifications for another country.

(9:25) The ancient Near East placed a high premium on honor. Since the Hivites/Gibeonites were surrendering unconditionally, Joshua was bound by honor to respect their surrender.[30]

(9:26-27) Commentators wonder how bad it was that Israel made this peace treaty with Gibeon. First, Israel was never punished for making this treaty. In fact, they were punished later in history when King Saul revoked the treaty and attacked the Gibeonites (2 Sam. 21:1-9). Second, the Gibeonites never rebelled or subverted Israel. Later, they were fully assimilated into the nation (Neh. 3:7; 7:25). Israel failed to drive out other nations, and this came back to haunt them later in their history (Judg. 3:5-6). However, the same is not true in this case. While the text tells us that they did not consult God in this decision, we can’t see evidence of how this came back to haunt them later on.


The people of Canaan had heard of God’s power and works in Egypt and in the surrounding kingdoms. The problem with the Canaanites wasn’t with God’s revelation; it was with their stubbornness and lack of repentance.

In our culture, our word doesn’t stand for anything. We’ll lie and be pragmatic about the truth. But this text disagrees with that. If we make an oath, this matters to God: Our Yes should mean Yes, and our No should mean No.

Joshua 10 (Joshua Battles the Amorites)

Summary: The men of Gibeon were excellent warriors, and yet they still surrendered (v.2). This freaked out the king of Jerusalem. He gathered together the five kings of the Amorites to destroy Gibeon (e.g. Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon), because they had allied with Israel (v.4). God tells Joshua that he will destroy these kings, and defend the Gibeonites (v.8). God brought hailstones down on the people (v.11). God commanded the sun to stand still, and the moon stopped (v.13). This is recorded in the book of Jasher, which we do not possess. Joshua trapped the five kings in a cave, and while they were in there, they defeated the armies (v.20). The rest of the chapter describes Israel’s destruction of the rest of the cities. Joshua returned to Gilgal at the end of his military campaign (v.43).

(10:1-2) Adoni-Zedek means “Lord of Righteousness” (cf. Gen. 14:18).[31]

The king of Jerusalem knew that the Gibeonites/Hivites were powerful warriors, and yet they still surrendered to the Israelites. “Gibeon” is wordplay with gibbōrîm, which can be translated “good fighters.”[32] This must have really spooked the king of Jerusalem: Israel wasn’t just defeating the people, but they were assimilating some of their best warriors.

Joshua defeated these kings, but the city of Jerusalem wasn’t officially captured until later (Judg. 1:8), and later under David (2 Sam. 5:6-9).

(10:3-5) The king of Jerusalem strung together a five city coalition to punish the Gibeonite defectors. They had to send a message that defecting to Israel would be bad for your health.

(10:6-7) Since Joshua had made a peace treaty with Gibeon (Josh. 9:15), he was bound by this to defend and protect them.

(10:8) More repetition of this theme: “Do not fear them.” God had given Joshua his promises, but it was Joshua’s role to trust in them. Would he be a man of fear or of faith?

(10:9-11) This shows a balance between God’s role and man’s role. The soldiers went out to fight, and so did God. Regarding the hailstones, Madvig writes, “The Canaanites, who worshiped nature deities, must have thought that their own gods were aiding the Israelites.”[33]

(Josh. 10:12-13) How could the sun stand still without destroying life as we know it?

(Josh. 10:13) Why don’t we have this book?

(10:14) This shows why Joshua had no reason to fear (v.8).

(10:15) This passage could a parenthesis for what eventually happened after the battle was over.

Capture of the five kings

(10:16-18) The “five kings” were mentioned in verse 3. Joshua ordered his men to roll large stones in front of the cave to capture them inside. He mentions “stones” (plural), so this wasn’t one massive stone. They posted a few guard to ensure their capture.

(10:19) Again, human agency and God’s sovereignty are highlighted here. The men were told to fight hard, all the while knowing that God had already delivered them into their hand.

(10:20) This is a case of hyperbole.[34] The soldiers performed a “great slaughter” and “destroyed” them, but there were still “survivors.”

(10:21) This campaign may have taken days or even weeks (Josh. 10:27, 32; 11:8).

Military and execution of the five kings

(10:22-24) This act of putting their feet on the necks of the kings was a sign of dominance, showing their superiority over the kings. Madvig writes, “This practice was widespread in ancient times and is pictured in the paintings and reliefs of Egypt and Assyria.”[35] We see this expression used elsewhere throughout the OT (1 Kin. 5:3; Ps. 8:6; 110:1). It was a way of bolstering the morale of the troops (v.25).

(10:25) Formerly, God was telling Joshua to be “strong and courageous.” Now, Joshua is telling the people.

(10:26) Unlike generals of war in the ancient Near East, Joshua didn’t torture these men to death. Instead, he took away their power by humiliating them (v.24) and gave them a swift military execution. He took their dead bodies and hung them out in the open to boost morale in the army.

(10:27) As was the case earlier, Joshua buried the kings because having a hanging body overnight was against the law (Deut. 21:23).

(10:28) Joshua 6 never mentions the public execution and hanging of the king of Jericho, but this verse implies that the king received the same treatment.

With the kings slain, Joshua attacks their cities

(10:29-30) Joshua defeated Libnah—likely modern day Tell Bornat,[36] which became a city for the Levitical priests (Josh. 21:13).

(10:31-33) Joshua defeated Lachish, which was one of the five kings mentioned in verse 3.

Gezer is modern day Tell Jezer.[37]

(10:34-35) Joshua defeated Eglon, which was one of the five kings mentioned in verse 3.

(10:36-37) Joshua defeated Hebron, which was one of the five kings mentioned in verse 3. This city needs recaptured by Caleb (Josh. 14:6-15; 15:15-19) and later in Israel’s history. Paul Copan uses this as evidence that the language of being “totally destroyed” and “left no survivor” must be hyperbole. Madvig harmonizes this point by arguing that these “cities changed hands several times.”[38]

(10:38-39) Debir may be modern-day Khirbet Rabud.[39]


(10:40-41) These battles with the five kings are just some of the highlights of a more intensive and thorough military campaign (“Joshua struck all the land”).

(10:42) These battles were not primarily won through Joshua’s strategy or military prowess. The text tells us that “the Lord… fought for Israel.”

(10:43) The Israelites didn’t take over the cities immediately. They won the war, and they returned to their families.


Prayer matters to God, and he answers prayer when we need it (v.13). God listens to humans in accomplishing his will.

God’s destruction with the hailstones was more important than their fighting.

God’s judgment is serious and severe.

Joshua 11 (Mopping Up)

Summary: All of the remaining kings tried to join forces against Israel (v.5). But God promised Joshua victory (v.6). Apparently, this took a long time to conquer all of these cities (v.18). These cities didn’t make a peace treaty with the Israelites (v.19). Was this why God was so extreme with their judgment? Joshua carried out everything that God had commanded Moses (v.23).

(11:1-3) Jabin—king of Hazor—gathered another confederacy of Canaanites to battle Joshua. Jabin didn’t learn from what happened to the five kings earlier (Josh. 10).

(11:4) The author uses hyperbole to describe the amount of people coming to fight (“as many people as the sand that is on the seashore”). These “horses and chariots” would have been intimidating to the Israelite soldiers, who lacked such “advanced” weaponry.

(11:5) This is likely the modern day Wadi Merron.[40]

(11:6) Again, we see the repetition of the words “do not be afraid.”

“Hamstring their horses” refers to cutting the Achilles tendon of the horse, and leaving it incapable of going to war.[41]

(11:7-8) Again, Joshua led a surprise attack. As promised (v.6), the armies were utterly defeated.

(11:9) See verse 6.

(11:10) After defeating this coalition of armies, Joshua destroyed the military leader, Hazor. He likely beheaded him (“struck its king with the sword,” cf. 10:22-27).

(11:11) Madvig writes, “Archaeological excavations indicate that Hazor was destroyed sometime in the late fourteenth century b.c. and was not rebuilt until the time of Solomon (cf. 1 Kings 9:15).”[42]

(11:12) This passage connects Joshua’s work with the predictions and commands of Moses. It shows a linking of the Pentateuch with the book of Joshua.

(11:13-14) There were two reasons that they didn’t burn the cities: (1) they weren’t commanded to burn them and (2) they cities were immediately available to be repopulated by the Israelite people.

(11:15) This further supports the conclusion that the use of absolute language (“left no survivor” and “left no one who breathed” and “utterly destroyed”) is hyperbolic language. The Conquest is fully completed here, but in chapters 13-17, the Conquest continues.

Regardless, this text shows that Joshua was completing the work that Moses predicted and commanded (v.12).

(11:16) This language of “all the land” is hyperbole. Madvig writes, “He gained control of the whole region even though he did not take every city.”[43]


(11:18) This process took “a long time.” Moses predicted that it took at least over a year (Ex. 23:29-30).

(11:19) This peace treaty occurred in chapter 9.

(11:20) This language of “hardening their hearts” was for the express purpose of judgment (see comments on Exodus 4:21). Remember, God waited a full four centuries before their sin had reached its full measure (Gen. 15:13), and some Canaanites repented or fled during this time. On a literary note, this serves as a further connection between Moses and Joshua, and how each man fought against either the “hardened” Pharaoh or the “hardened” Canaanites.

(11:21-22) Remember, when Joshua and Caleb spied out the Promised Land, the people were extremely afraid of the sons of Anak, who were “a part of the Nephilim” (Num. 13:33). This verse only gives a few words to their conquering and destruction. The sons of Anak were no match for God!

(11:23) After World War II, people threw confetti from the windows and danced in the streets after the declaration: THE WAR IS OVER! The Israelites must have had a similar feeling of relief mixed with celebration.


Even when God has given us something, there is often still a prolonged fight to claim it (v.18). God’s plan was carried out over Moses’ generation and then Joshua’s (v.23), but it wasn’t overnight (Ex. 23:29-30). Likewise, the believer has many promises from God, but patience and persistence are required.

Joshua 12 (List of Kings that were Taken)

The text tells us the kings that Moses conquered (vv.1-6). Then it tells us the list of kings that Joshua conquered (vv.7-24). He took 31 kings total (v.24). Joshua conquered far more kings than Moses! This is showing that God is still working through Joshua after the death of Moses.

Consider what it would be like to read this list back then. All of these kings were your parent’s worst nightmare, just 40 years earlier. You probably heard stories about these dreadful kings growing up. Now, you’re reading a long list of all of these kings, and how God conquered them all through Joshua—your current leader. It would really build your faith to reflect on all that God had done.

Joshua 13 (Dividing Up the Land)

This chapter begins twelve chapters of how Joshua divided up the land of Canaan to the various tribes of Israel. While it is slow and uneventful reading, we need to remember that many things are boring that are wonderful truths. For example, consider the deed to your house. It isn’t fun reading, but it is very important to you. Or consider medical tests. While you might read repetitive truths on the medical test (i.e. negative, negative, negative, etc.), it is still great to read! Similarly, this material was very important to the people to whom it was written, because it was the title deed to all of the real estate that God had promised to them.

“Drive them out.” This expression is different than the more violent language used earlier. This doesn’t mean that they should kill all of these people. Similar language is used in the Prophets to refer to foreign nations “driving out” Israel.

(13:1) Caleb was 85 years old (Josh. 14:10), so maybe Joshua was a similar age.

Joshua hadn’t finished the job of taking all of what God had given to him.

Moses had commanded Joshua to dole out the land after it was conquered (Deut. 31:7).

(13:2-5) There were still massive swathes of land that remained unconquered.

(13:6-7) Even though the nation didn’t conquer all of the land, the individual tribes were supposed to continue to conquer the territory given to them. In a sense, Joshua was divvying up the land to the people, and they needed to go finish conquering it.

Half-tribe of Manasseh, Reuben, and Gad

(13:8-12) They took over land on the east side of the Jordan River.

Failure to take over the land

(13:13) Israel failed to take over what God had given to them.


(13:14) The tribe of Levi didn’t receive land. Instead, these people lived off of the offerings given from the other people. Their living depended on the giving of the people (cf. Josh. 13:33).


(13:15-19) These verses detail the land given to the tribe of Reuben.

(13:20-22) Balaam attempted to curse Israel at Beth Peor (Num. 23:28). This is also where the Moabite women seduced the Israelites (Num. 25:1-3). Moses was buried near this site (Deut. 34:6).

Numbers 31:8 records Balaam’s death. Jesus tells us that he was put to death because he led the people into sexual immorality and idolatry (Rev. 2:14).

(13:23) The land of the Reubenites went as far as the Jordan River.


(13:24-28) These verses detail the land given to the tribe of Gad.

Half-tribe of Manasseh

(13:29-31) This gives more specific details on their real estate.

(13:32) Moses had planned out who would get which portions of the land.

(13:33) See Joshua 13:14 above.


God had given them the land all the way to the Euphrates (Gen. 15:18; Deut. 11:24). However, Joshua only laid claim to part of the land. He divided up the land that was taken—not the land that was given. Israel didn’t take all of the land, as we see later (Judg. 1:27-36). Later, they extended their border toward the Euphrates (2 Sam. 8:3). Joshua himself knew the proper border earlier on in the book (Josh. 1:4), but he didn’t take all of it (Josh. 13:9-13). Joshua serves as a type for the believer who doesn’t appropriate all of the inheritance that God has promised and purchased for us (Eph. 1:3-14).

Joshua 14 (Caleb wants his Land)

Summary: Caleb talked to Joshua about taking his land (14:6). Caleb was one of the oldest men in the community at this point: 85 years old. He was 40 years old when he went to spy out the land (v.7), and 45 years had passed (40 years of wandering, then 5 years of conquering Canaan; v.10).

(14:1) Joshua worked in concert with Eleazar the priest and the heads of the households to divvy up the land.

(14:2) Eleazar had possession of the Urim and Thummim, which would were the “lots” that were cast to determine (Num. 27:21).

(14:3) The book has already mentioned this several times (Josh. 1:15; 12:6; 13:8-32).

(14:4) The sons of Joseph (Manasseh and Ephraim) were each considered a tribe, which brings the total number of tribes to twelve.

(14:5) This wasn’t the work of overzealous warriors. God had planned and commanded these men to take and assign the land to the twelve tribes.


(14:6) “Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite.” The Kenizzites were one of the people groups who were ousted from the Promised Land (Gen. 15:19). It’s possible Caleb’s ancestors defected from paganism and converted to Judaism. It’s also possible that this just means that one of his ancestors carried the name Kenaz (cf. Josh. 15:17; 1 Cor. 4:13, 15).[44]

“You know the word which the Lord spoke to Moses the man of God concerning you and me in Kadesh-barnea.” Joshua and Caleb had spied out this land 40 years earlier, and they were the only two spies who spoke in faith that it should be taken (Num. 14:6-9). God had promised these two men that they would inherit the land as a consequence (Num. 14:30).

(14:7) Caleb as 40 when he received this commission from Moses. He was a man of faith then, and he still is now.

(14:8) Caleb didn’t give in to peer pressure. He was outnumbered by his fellow spies, as well as the fear of the people, but he didn’t budge.

(14:9) See Deuteronomy 1:36.

(14:10) Since the Israelites spent 38 years of wandering, this must mean that the Conquest took seven years.

(14:11) Caleb’s faith only grew during those four and a half decades. He hadn’t lost his edge.

(14:12) Caleb had met the Anakim on his spy mission. The faithless spies surrendered to fear because of the size of the Anakim (Num. 13:28-29), but Caleb conquered them through faith. God later told the Israelites that they shouldn’t fear the size of strength of the Anakim (Deut. 9:1-3).

(14:13-15) Joshua blessed Caleb—his old friend—to drive out the Anakim and take over Hebron.

For more on Caleb, see Joshua 15:13-19 below.


Caleb still had just as much zeal for God at age 85 (v.11)! We shouldn’t blame our age for our lack of enthusiasm for the Lord.

Do you have older role models that you can look up to, who have modeled zeal in older age? How did they keep their passion for Christ for that long?

Joshua 15 (Judah’s Land)

Summary: This outlines the tribe of Judah’s boundaries for their land. Caleb gets the portion that he requested (v.13). Caleb made good on his promise to kick out the three Anakites (v.14). Caleb gives his daughter’s hand in marriage to his brother (v.17). The rest of the chapter outlines the land for each tribe (v.20ff). There was still a hardcore remnant of Jebusites in the land, which wasn’t be dislodged (v.63).

Judah’s land

(15:1-12) The text outlines the land given to the tribe of Judah.

(15:13) God had promised this land to Caleb after he had spied out the land four decades earlier (Num. 14:24; Josh. 14:9).

(15:14) Both Caleb (Judg. 1:20) and the men of Judah (Judg. 1:9-10) drove out the Anakites. Caleb had met these three men four decades earlier (Num. 13:22).

HUMOR: Caleb met the Anakim when he was 40. He asked them, “What’s your name? Sheshai? How do you spell that? S-H-E-S-H-A-I. Okay, I’ll remember you… I’ll be back!”


(15:16) It’s funny that Caleb was still as courageous as before. But he is also wise. As an old man, he gives an incentive for a younger man to fight this battle.

(15:17) Othniel later became a judge in Israel (Judg. 3:7-11).

(Josh. 15:16-17) Why does Caleb give his daughter to marry his brother?

(15:18-19) The land of the Negev is barren without irrigation, but with irrigation it is very fertile.[45]

(15:20-62) This section outlines the sons of Judah who inherited this land.

(15:63) A hardcore remnant remained in the capital city of Jerusalem. They will later be dislodged in Judges 1:8.

Joshua 16 (Ephraim’s Land)

Summary: Manasseh and Ephraim were the descendants of Joseph (v.4). This short chapter outlines their allotment of land. Canaanites remained in Gezer during their time (v.10).

(16:1-4) Manasseh and Ephraim were tribes descended from Joseph. This portion of the text describes their land.

Ephraim’s land

(16:5-9) This portion of the text describes the allotment for Ephraim. Chapter 17 describes the allotment for Manasseh (Josh. 17:1-2).

(16:10) Joshua killed the king of Gezer and the soldiers (Josh. 10:30). This supports the idea that hyperbole was being used, because people still existed in the land. Judges elaborates on the fate of the Canaanites in Gezer (Judg. 1:28-30, 33, 35).

Joshua 17 (Zelophehad’s Daughters)

Summary: Zelophehad didn’t have any male offspring to inherit his land (v.3). So, the daughters asked for the inheritance from Joshua, and Joshua gave this to them (v.4). This shows that women were given rights back then “according to the Lord’s command” (v.4). The Canaanites were not driven out completely (v.13). The descendants of Joseph complained about not having enough land, but Joshua urges them to “finish the job” by taking the land of the Perizzites and the Rephaim (vv.14-18).

Manasseh’s land

(17:1-2) This text elaborates on Manasseh’s allotment of land.

Zelophehad’s Daughters

(17:3) Zelophehad didn’t have any sons—only five daughters. One of the daughters was named Noah (!).

(17:4-6) In this day and age, women couldn’t hold property and didn’t have legal rights. Thus Madvig writes, “An unusual privilege and a remarkable measure of equality were granted to these women.”[46] This text shows that the OT had a high view of women.

Property markers

(17:7-11) The text goes on to demarcate their property.

(17:12) Again, this shows signs of hyperbole. The people of Canaan were completely and utterly wiped out during the Conquest, but here, they “persisted living in the land.”

(17:13) Instead of driving out the civilians, they took them as forced servants. Apparently, the Canaanites would have rather stayed as servants than become refugees.

Sons of Joseph complain

Joshua had been a brilliant and courageous military leader, but now, he becomes a political and diplomatic leader. He needs to deal with the complaints of his own people. Was this difficult for him to “switch hats” like this?

(17:14) Madvig argues that the descendants of Joseph didn’t have a legitimate request: “In terms of square miles, the Joseph tribes had little reason to complain. Moreover, the land they were given was the most fertile in all Palestine. Joshua was certainly justified in resisting their request.”[47]

(17:15) Essentially, Joshua is saying, “If you are so numerous, why don’t you put your men to work by taking over the remaining land of Perizzites and Rephaim?”

(17:16) Their response showed that they were still living in fear of the Canaanites. Even after taking over the major cities and military outposts of the land, they were still living in fear.

(17:17-18) Joshua realizes that they need more land, but he tells them to go out and take it for themselves. He didn’t fight their battles for them.

Joshua 18 (Drawing of Boundaries and Lots)

Summary: Seven tribes hadn’t gone in to take the property that God had given them. Joshua reproves them for this (v.3). Joshua casts lots for these seven tribes to inherit their real estate (v.6). He split up the land to the people (v.10). The rest of the chapter explains Benjamin’s territory (vv.11-27).

Seven tribes receive their land

(18:1-2) The Israelites had taken over the land, but seven tribes still hadn’t received their inheritance.

(18:3) God had given them the land, but they were too afraid to take it.

(18:4-8) Joshua tells these tribes to go out and divide the land into seven sections. Once they create a fair division, Joshua will cast lots to decide who would receive which portion. This is similar to a mother telling one of her sons to cut the last piece of cake in half, and letting the other son choose which piece is bigger. The seven tribes needed to divide the land equally, and Joshua would decide who received which plot of land.

(Josh. 18:6) Was it wrong for these men to gamble for the land?

(18:9-10) Joshua cast lots for them to receive their inheritance. The next chapter and a half lists the details of their inheritance.

TRIBE #1. Benjamin’s land

(18:11-28) This text explains in detail the land given to the tribe of Benjamin, and the families in that tribe who received it.


As we have been arguing, the people are a type of believers in the new covenant, who fearfully refrain from entering into the fullness of God’s promises to them (Eph. 1:3-14).

Joshua 19 (Simeon)

Summary: This chapter explains the territory of Simeon (vv.1-9). They received a part of Judah’s property (v.9). It also explains Zebulun’s property (vv.10-16), Issachar’s property (vv.17-23), Asher’s property (vv.24-31), Naphtali’s property (vv.32-39), and Dan’s property (vv.40-48). At the end of the chapter, Joshua gets his property (vv.49-51). Is there significance in the fact that Joshua (the leader and general) waits until everyone has their land before he takes his own land? Maybe this is a principle in servant-leadership.

TRIBE #2. Simeon’s land

(19:1-9) This text explains the territory given to Simeon and the families who inherited it. They received a subsection of Judah.

TRIBE #3. Zebulun’s land

(19:10-16) This text explains the territory given to Zebulun and the families who inherited it.

TRIBE #4. Issachar’s land

(19:17-23) This text explains the territory given to Issachar and the families who inherited it.

TRIBE #5. Asher’s land

(19:24-31) This text explains the territory given to Asher and the families who inherited it.

TRIBE #6. Naphtali’s land

(19:32-39) This text explains the territory given to Naphtali and the families who inherited it.

TRIBE #7. Dan’s land

(19:40-48) This text explains the territory given to Dan and the families who inherited it.

Joshua receives his land

(19:49-51) Is there significance to the fact that Joshua received his land last of all? Joshua deserved to receive his land first, because he led the conquest. As a servant-leader, he waited to receive his land last.

Joshua 20 (Six Cities of Refuge)

Summary: The ancient Near East had a common practice of “revenge killing.” If someone accidently did something to kill your family member, you would typically go and hunt that person down. Once that person was hunted down and killed in revenge, the family would retaliate and seek revenge for their death. This process went back and forth ad nauseum. Whole villages were killed by these blood feuds (similar to the Hatfields and McCoys). In fact, these sort of blood feuds still happen today (e.g. in some Middle Eastern cultures).

Consequently, God setup three “cities of refuge” on each side of the Jordan River. These were strategically placed, so that you were never more than a half day’s run from any of these cities. Here, you could be protected until you had a fair trial (Num. 35; Deut. 4, 19). The individual could stand trial, before anyone could get their hands on them (v.6). This was radically different from the culture.

(20:1-2) While sanctuary was given in the ancient Near East, this concept of a city of refuge was “a practice without parallel.”[48]

(20:3) The Bible distinguished between intentional and unintentional murder (Num. 35:6-34; Deut. 19:1-13).

(20:4) Before the man suspected murderer was given sanctuary, he needed to plead his case with the elders of that city.

(20:5) After deciding on his innocence, the elders of the city were responsible to keep the man from harm.

(20:6) It isn’t clear why the death of the high priest was the time period given. Perhaps it was simply a well-known and objective time marker. Also, the priests owned these cities (Josh. 21:13, 21, 27, 32, 38). This period of sanctuary allowed the avenger to calm down before coming for blood.

(20:7-9) Kedesh was in the north; Shechem was in the middle; Kiriath Arba (Hebron) was in the south. Madvig writes, “Three cities of refuge were selected in the territory west of the Jordan. They were strategically located so that wherever a person might be, he would have ready access to one of them.”[49]

Joshua 21 (Cities given to the Levites)

Summary: The Levites were given some cities to live in. They received 48 cities total (v.41). God had commanded that the Levites would be given cities—even if they weren’t given large property. Remember, they were supposed to live off the provision of the people. Each tribe of Israel chipped territory for them to live in. The priests lived in the “cities of refuge” mentioned in chapter 20 (Josh. 21:13, 21, 27, 32, 38).

The conclusion to this chapter is extremely important! We read that God was faithful to provide in each and every promise that he made to them (vv.43-45).


We should imagine what it would have been like to be an Israelite at this time. God had promised you all of the land, but there were fierce warriors living in there. Would you have ever imagined that this promise would come to fruition? We could imagine that the unbelief would be immense! Yet, we see that God exquisitely and exhaustively fulfilled his promises: “So the Lord gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they possessed it and lived in it. And the Lord gave them rest on every side, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers, and no one of all their enemies stood before them; the Lord gave all their enemies into their hand. Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass” (Josh. 21:43-45).

The same is true for the believer in Christ (Eph. 1:3-14). The most difficult thing to believe about God is how much he has promised us. If we could really grasp this, consider what would change in our lives!

Joshua 22 (The Offensive Altar)

Summary: Joshua calls Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh together (v.1). He encourages them to follow the covenant set up with Moses (v.5). The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh erected an altar outside of the main area for sacrifice (v.10). The rest of the tribes considered this idolatry, considering it worth starting a war over (v.12). They came and spoke to them about it. They were spooked about getting judged by God the way that they had before.

Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh said that they weren’t sacrificing anything (v.28). Instead, they erected it so the tribes wouldn’t be split (v.25). It was a statement that people in the future should fear the Lord (v.27). It showed that they were all Israelites—even if they were on wrong sides of the river. This made sense to the leaders (v.30ff).

(22:1-3) These men had left their families to fight in the war. They had made a big sacrifice, because they couldn’t be at home and provide for their families or farm their land.

(22:4) Joshua lets them return home to their families on the other side of the Jordan River.

(22:5) This is a citation of Deuteronomy 4:29.

(22:6-9) The men received their land and returned home.

The offensive altar

(22:10) Yikes! They returned home to immediately build an altar! This would reek of idolatry and Paganism—the very things they had just fought against. Not only did they build an altar, but it was a “large altar in appearance.”

(22:11) News spread to the other tribes. What will the other tribes think of this? Will they think that their Israelite brothers have lost it spiritually?

(22:12) They had just finished going to war. They must have thought that they were entering back into war again. Imagine the tired soldiers marching up to Shiloh to fight their own Israelite brothers. Moses had commanded that idolatry of this kind should be fought against (Lev. 17:8-9; Deut. 13:12-15).

(22:13-14) Phineas was one of the leaders in this army. Remember, Phineas was a zealous hard-liner. He was the one who impaled an Israelite man for taking a Midianite mistress (Num. 25:6-18). He obviously had no problem taking a hard line, and he is one of the leaders of this army.


(22:15-16) They came and confronted these brothers before drawing swords. They came in a questioning posture, but they were being very direct.

(22:17-19) They cite the example of Peor to show that sin affects the entire community (Num. 25).

(22:20) They cite the example of Achan to show that sin affects the entire community (Josh. 7).


(22:21-23) They were showing incredible faithfulness here. If they were in the wrong, they refused to be spared. They were willing to face judgment if they were in the wrong, rather than wreak havoc on the community.

(22:24-25) They built the altar out of solidarity with the nation—not out of separation from it. These two and a half tribes were separated by the Jordan River. This was a formidable natural barrier between the nation that could potentially cause disunity.

(22:26-29) The altar was not built to offer sacrifices (which was the norm in Paganism). Instead, the altar was built as a symbol of solidarity. They firmly rejected that they were starting their own religious system.

Response from the other Israelites?

(22:30) They had misunderstood the two and a half tribes. They were “pleased” with this answer and put their swords back in their sheaths. Remember, throughout the conquest, Israelites had worshipped in various places including Gilgal (5:10), Mount Ebal (8:30), and Shiloh (18:1).

(22:31) Even the hard-liner Phineas agreed with this.

(22:32-34) The other Israelites went home and spread the word that war was averted, and they were in solidarity with both halves of the people.


It would have been very easy to judge the motives of these two and a half tribes. But instead, they decided to sit down and talk through their issues. Often, believers are bitter or suspicious, and they won’t sit down and talk it out.

Furthermore, the Israelites were not being soft by sitting down to talk. They weren’t compromising their convictions. After all, they showed up with an army. But they were willing to ask questions before assuming guilt. This was not a case of “shoot first and ask questions later.”

Joshua 23 (Joshua’s Farewell Speech)

Summary: In this farewell, Joshua does all the talking. In the subsequent chapter, he allows the people to renew the covenant, and they chime in from time to time (ch.24). In other words, chapter 23 is a monologue, and chapter 24 is a dialogue.

Joshua brought all of the leaders together to give them a farewell (vv.1-2). He encourages them to obey the covenant of Moses (v.6). The only reason that they were in the land was the fact that God was fighting for them (v.9). He warns them not to intermarry (v.12). God’s promises have all been fulfilled (v.14). Violating the covenant means to serve other gods (v.16).

(23:1) If Joshua was the same age as Caleb, then he would’ve been 85 in Joshua 14:10. Since he dies at 110 years old (Josh. 24:29), this would mean that 25 years had passed since the end of the conquest.

As the author of Hebrews notes, the theme of rest is seen throughout the book of Joshua (Heb. 3-4).

(23:2) He dies short thereafter at the age of 110 (Josh. 24:29). He must’ve looked rugged after serving the Lord in battle for so many years. Joshua probably never thought he would live this long, dodging so many arrows and swings of the Canaanite sword. Yet, here he was dying of old age.

(23:3-4) He didn’t take credit for his military skill or strategic brilliance. Instead, he attributed their victory to the power and faithfulness of God.

(23:5) “Drive them out” doesn’t refer to annihilation, but to a slow takeover “little by little” (Ex. 23:30).

(23:6) God originally told Joshua to be “strong and courageous” (Josh. 1:6-9). At the end of his life, those words were still ringing in his ears. They became the most meaningful words of Joshua’s life, sticking with him even in old age. However, here we see a twist: Joshua encourages the people to be “very firm” in the word of God (“keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses”).

(23:7) While Gentiles were allowed to join in through conversion, God warned about assimilating with them and their worldview (Ex. 34:12, 15; Deut. 8:19-20; 20:16).

(23:8) The word “cling” (dāḇaq) is used in Genesis 2:24 to refer to the relationship in marriage.

(23:9-10) God was faithful to them. It was only when they were faithless that they failed (Josh. 7).

(23:11) Joshua emphasizes that they need to remain “diligent” in loving God. This must imply that we can lose our love for God if we aren’t diligent about focusing on him.

(23:12) This same word “cling” (dāḇaq) is used again (v.8). It is given in the context of intermarrying with the Canaanites and assimilating to their gods.

(23:13) Remember, Moses warned about this as well (Ex. 23:30-33; 34:11-12; Num. 33:55).

(23:14) God fulfills each and every promise.

(23:15-16) Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26 outline both the blessings and cursings for obedience or disobedience. Since God was faithful to bring blessing, he will also be faithful to bring judgment.

Joshua 24 (Joshua’s Farewell Speech—Part 2)

Summary: Joshua gave a farewell speech in chapter 23. The purpose of this chapter is for him to say more, but also to renew the covenant with the people. Joshua was a prophet, speaking in the place of God (notice the first person singular: “I will do ____”). He reminds them that Abraham was originally a Pagan (v.2). He reminds them of his work with Moses and Aaron (vv.5-7). He reminds them of conquering the land (vv.6-13). He must be repeating this narrative to remind them of God’s power and faithfulness. This will give them courage to serve God (vv.15-16).

(24:1) Joshua gathered all of the people (“tribes”) and leaders together.

God’s faithfulness through history

The point of this section seems to be the faithfulness and power of God in Israel’s history.

(24:2) Abraham came from a polytheistic home. Madvig writes, “Terah’s name may be derived from a Hebrew word meaning ‘moon.’ The moon was the patron deity of Ur.”[50] Despite Abraham’s upbringing, God was faithful to bring the Jewish people out of this man’s lineage.

(24:3) God was faithful with Abraham to bring about Isaac. This happened in Canaan.

(24:4) God was faithful with Isaac to bring about Jacob.

(24:5-7) God was faithful to judge the Egyptians through Moses and Aaron, delivering the people from Egypt.

(24:8) God was faithful with the Amorites.

(24:9-10) God was faithful turning Balaam into a blessing, rather than a curse. God blocked a false prophet from cursing Israel.

(24:11) God was faithful battling the Canaanites.

(24:12) What is the “hornet”? Some commentators (like John Garstang) hold that the “hornet” represents the Pharaoh of Egypt who weakened the Canaanites beforehand. In our estimation,[51] it is far more likely that the “hornet” is the terror that spread through the land beforehand (Ex. 15:14-16; Josh. 2:9-11; 5:1; 6:27). This is why two Amorite kings simply picked up and left. This seems to be the use of the term when Moses writes, “I will send My terror ahead of you, and throw into confusion all the people among whom you come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. I will send hornets ahead of you so that they will drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites before you” (Ex. 23:27-28).

(24:13) God was faithful to provide for their needs. This was an act of his grace.

The call to faithfulness

(24:14) Like all of their ancestors before them, Joshua calls on the Israelites to serve god—not Pagan deities.

(24:15) We cannot assume that we are followers of God, simply because our ancestors were. Each generation—each person—has the freewill to choose to follow God or not.

Their response

(24:16-18) The people affirm the rich history of God’s faithfulness as the basis for serving God.

No, you’re not able

(24:19-20) This is an unexpected response from Joshua! He gives them the choice (v.15), but now he says that they are not able. What does this mean? Does it mean that they can’t serve God perfectly? Can’t serve him without his enabling grace? Can’t serve him without “counting the cost” of following him?

Their response

(24:21) They reaffirm their decision.

The call to consequences

(24:22-23) Joshua seems to be saying that they better be prepared for what they’re signing up for. He tells them to remove the false gods from their nation.

Their response

(24:24) They reaffirm their decision (again!).

A stone of remembrance

(24:25-28) Joshua reaffirmed these laws. Just like the remembrance stones in Joshua 3, he sets up a stone structure to serve as a witness and a memorial of their decision.

Joshua dies

(24:29) He died at the same age as Joseph: 110 years old (Gen. 50:26). This could be a coincidence, but it’s interesting that the text mentions Joseph’s bones later (v.32).

(24:30) Joshua was buried in the “territory of inheritance.” He fought to secure this territory in the Promised Land, and now he was buried in it.

(24:31) The people did serve God as they promised.

(24:32) Joseph had requested for his bones to make it into the Promised Land (Gen. 50:24-25; cf. Ex. 13:19).

(24:33) This was the end of this generation. How will the subsequent generations do? We discover this in the book of Judges.


It isn’t enough to be born into a “covenant family.” Each generation has to renew the covenant for themselves. Regardless of our family of origin, each person needs to personally receive Jesus, and they need to make their faith their own. They need to “choose” whom they will serve.

[1] Merrill, Eugene H., Mark F. Rooker, and Michael A. Grisanti, The World and the Word: An Introduction to the Old Testament (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2011), 278.

[2] Madvig, Donald. Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 3: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (F. E. Gaebelein, Ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. 199(2) 242. See also Archer, G., Jr. (1994). A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (3rd. ed., p. 287). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Merrill, Eugene H., Mark F. Rooker, and Michael A. Grisanti, The World and the Word: An Introduction to the Old Testament (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2011), 519.

[4] Exod. 17:9, 10, 13, 14; 24:13; 32:17; 33:11; Num. 11:28; 13:16; 14:6, 30, 38; 26:65; 27:18, 22; 32:12, 28; 34:17; Deut. 1:38; 3:21, 28; 31:3, 7, 14 (twice), 23; 34:9.

[5] Hess, R. S. (1996). Joshua: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 6, p. 17). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[6] Merrill, Eugene H., Mark F. Rooker, and Michael A. Grisanti, The World and the Word: An Introduction to the Old Testament (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2011), 277.

[7] These insights were generously taken from Merrill, Eugene H., Mark F. Rooker, and Michael A. Grisanti, The World and the Word: An Introduction to the Old Testament (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2011), 278.

[8] Archer, G., Jr. (1994). A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (3rd. ed., p. 286). Chicago: Moody Press.

[9] Archer, G., Jr. (1994). A survey of Old Testament introduction (3rd. ed., p. 286). Chicago: Moody Press.

[10] Hess, R. S. (1996). Joshua: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 6). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[11] Hess, R. S. (1996). Joshua: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 6, p. 92). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[12] Cited in Hess, R. S. (1996). Joshua: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 6, p. 28). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[13] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 265). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[14] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 266). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[15] Hess, R. S. (1996). Joshua: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 6, p. 110). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[16] J.L. Kelso, Archaeology and Our Old Testament Contemporaries (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1966), p. 5(3) Cited in Madvig, Donald. Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 3: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (F. E. Gaebelein, Ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. 199(2) 245.

[17] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 271). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[18] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, pp. 273–274). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[19] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 274). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[20] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 274). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[21] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 277). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[22] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 280). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[23] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 280). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[24] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 282). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[25] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 282). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[26] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 283). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[27] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 284). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[28] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 288). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[29] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 296). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[30] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 300). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[31] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 301). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[32] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 301). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[33] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 302). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[34] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 305). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[35] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 305). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[36] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 306). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[37] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 307). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[38] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 307). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[39] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 307). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[40] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 309). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[41] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 309). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[42] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 310). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[43] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 311). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[44] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 324). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[45] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 328). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[46] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 336). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[47] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, pp. 337–338). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[48] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 347). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[49] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 349). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[50] Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 366). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[51] See also Hess, R. S. (1996). Joshua: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 6, p. 335). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. Madvig, D. H. (1992). Joshua. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 366). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.