See also Joshua
I. FORM AND SIGNIFICANCE OF NAME
II. HISTORY OF THE LIFE OF JOSHUA
1. First Appearance
2. The Minister of Moses
3. One of the Spies
4. The Head of the People
(1) His First Act--Sending of the Spies
(2) Crossing of the Jordan
(3) Capture of Jericho
(4) Conquest of Ai and Bethel
(5) Reading of the Law on Mt. Ebal
(6) The Gibeonites
(7) Conquest of the South
(8) Northern Conquests
(9) Allotment of Territory
(11) Final Address and Death
III. SOURCES OF HISTORY
IV. CHARACTER AND WORK OF JOSHUA
I. Form and Significance of Name.
The name Joshua, a contracted form of Jehoshua (yehoshua`), which also appears in the form Jeshua (yeshua`,
II. History of the Life of Joshua.
The narrative of the life of Joshua, the son of Nun, is naturally divided into two parts, in which he held entirely different positions with regard to the people of Israel, and discharged different duties. In the earlier period he is the servant and minister of Moses, loyal to his leader, and one of his most trusted and valiant captains. After the death of Moses he himself succeeds to the leadership of the Israelite host, and conducts them to a settlement in the Promised Land. The service of the earlier years of his life is a preparation and equipment for the office and responsibility that devolved upon him in the later period.
1. First Appearance:
The first appearance of Joshua in the history is at Rephidim, on the way from the wilderness of Sin to Horeb. Neither the exact site of Rephidim nor the meaning of the name can be determined; the Israelites, however, apparently came to Rephidim before they approached the rich oasis of Feiran, for at the former place "there was no water for the people to drink" (
It is evident also that at this period Joshua was no young and untried warrior. Although no indication of his previous history is given, his name is introduced into the narrative as of a man well known, who is sufficiently in the confidence of Moses to be given the chief command in the first conflict in which the Israelites had been engaged since leaving Egypt. The result justified the choice. And if, during the march, he had held the position of military commander and organizer under Moses, as the narrative seems to imply, to him was due in the first instance the remarkable change, by which within the brief space of a month the undisciplined crowd of serfs who had fled from Egypt became a force sufficiently resolute and compact to repel the onset of the Amalekite hordes.
2. The Minister of Moses:
In all the arrangements for the erection and service of the tabernacle, Joshua the warrior naturally has no place. He is briefly named (
3. One of the Spies:
Of the 12 men, one from each tribe, sent forward by Moses from Kadesh to ascertain the character of the people and land before him, two only, Hoshea the Ephraimite, whose name is significantly changed to Joshua (
4. The Head of the People:
The history of Joshua in his new capacity as supreme head and leader of the people in several instances recapitulates as it were the history of his greater forerunner. It was not Head unnatural that it should be so; and the similarity of recorded events affords no real ground for doubt with regard to the reliability of the tradition concerned. The position in which Israel now found itself on the East of the Jordan was in some respects not unlike that which confronted Moses at Kadesh-barnea or before the crossing of the Red Sea. Joshua, however, was faced with a problem much less difficult, and in the war-tried and disciplined host at his command he possessed an instrument immensely more suitable and powerful for carrying out his purpose.
(1) His First Act--Sending of the Spies.
His first act was to send spies from Shittim to ascertain the character of the country immediately opposite on the West of the Jordan, and especially the position and strength of Jericho, the frontier and fortified city which first stands in the way of an invader from the East who proposes to cross the river by the fords near its mouth (
There were doubtless special reasons which induced Joshua to essay the crossing of the Jordan at the lower fords opposite Jericho. Higher up the river a probably easier crossing-place led directly into Central Palestine, a district in which apparently his advance would not have been obstructed by fortified cities such as confronted him farther south; which therefore would seem to offer the advantages of an open and ready entrance into the heart of the country. His decision was probably influenced by a desire to possess himself of a fortified base at Jericho and in the neighboring cities. The favorable report of the spies also proved that there would be no great difficulty in carrying out this plan.
(2) Crossing of the Jordan.
The actual crossing of the river is narrated in Joshua 3; 4. The city of Jericho was built in a plain from 12 to 14 miles wide formed by the recession of the hills that border the valley of the Jordan from theto the Dead Sea, and stood at the mouth of the valley of Achor (7:24,26; 15:7). The modern village of Eriha is built at a short distance Southeast of the ancient site, and Gilgal lay half-way to the river. At the latter place the fixed camp was established after the taking of Jericho, and Gilgal formed for some considerable time the base of operations, where the women and children remained in safety while the men were absent on their warlike expeditions. There also the tabernacle was erected, as the symbol and center of national life, and there apparently it remained until the time came for the removal to Shiloh (18:1).
Within the plain the stream has excavated a tortuous bed to a depth of 200 ft. below the surface, varying from an eighth of a mile to a mile in breadth. In ordinary seasons the waters are confined to a small portion of the channel, which is then crossed opposite Jericho by two fords where the depth does not exceed 2 or 3 ft. When the river is low it may be crossed elsewhere. In times of flood, however, the water rises and fills the entire channel from bank to bank, so that the fords become impracticable. It is expressly stated that it was at such a time of flood that the Israelites approached the river, at the "time of harvest," or in the early spring (
An interesting parallel to the drying up of the Jordan before Joshua is recorded by an Arabic historian of the
At the command of Joshua, under Divine direction, the safe crossing of the Jordan was commemorated by the erection at Gilgal of 12 stones (4:3-9,20 ff), one for each of the tribes of Israel, taken from the bed of the river. In
(3) Capture of Jericho.
The narrative that follows, of the taking of Jericho, illustrates, as would naturally be expected in the case of a city so situated the effeminate and unwarlike character of its inhabitants. There was apparently little or no fighting, while for a whole week Joshua with priests and people paraded before the walls. A brief reference (6:1) seems to indicate that the citizens were quickly driven to take refuge behind their fortifications. Twice seven times the city was compassed, with the ark of the covenant borne in solemn procession, and at the 7th circuit on the 7th day, while the people shouted, the wall of the city fell "in its place" (6:20 margin), and Jericho was taken by assault. Only Rahab and her household were spared. All the treasure was devoted to the service of the Lord, but the city itself was burnt, and a solemn curse pronounced upon the site and upon the man who should venture to rebuild its walls (6:26). The curse was braved, whether deliberately or not, by a citizen of Bethel in the time of King Ahab; and the disasters foretold fell upon him in the loss of his children (
From the plains of Jericho two valleys lead up into the central hill country in directions Northwest and Southwest respectively. These form the two entrances or passes, by which the higher land is approached from the East. Along these lines, therefore, the invasion of the land was planned and carried out. The main advance under Joshua himself took place by the northernmost of the valleys, while the immediate southern invasion was entrusted to Caleb and the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin, the supreme control remaining always in the hands of Joshua (compare
(4) Conquest of Ai and Bethel.
At the head of the northern pass stood the city of Luz or Bethel (
(5) Reading of the Law on Mt. Ebal.
Of further campaigns undertaken by Joshua for the subjugation of Central Palestine no account has been preserved. It is possible, therefore, that the conquest of this part of the country was accomplished without further fighting (see Book of Joshua). In the list of the cities (
(6) The Gibeonites.
The immediate effect of the Israelite victories under Joshua was very great. Especially were the Hivite inhabitants of Gibeon struck with fear (9:3 ff) lest the same fate should overtake them that had come upon the peoples of Jericho and Ai. With Gibeon, 3 other cities were confederate, namely, Chephirah, Beeroth and Kiriath-jearim, or the "city of groves" (9:17). Gibeon, however, was the chief, and acted in the name of the others. It is usually identified with the modern village or township of el-Jib, 7 or 8 miles North by West of Jerusalem; and all four lay clustered around the head of the pass or valley of Aijalon, which led down from the plateau westward to the foothills of the Shephelah, toward the plain and the sea. Gibeon held therefore a position of natural strength and importance, the key to one of the few practicable routes from the west into the highlands of Judea, equally essential to be occupied as a defensive position against the incursions of the dwellers in the plains, and as affording to an army from the east a safe and protected road down from the mountains.
By a stratagem which threw Joshua and the leaders of Israel off their guard, representing themselves as jaded and wayworn travelers from a distance, the Gibeonites succeeded in making a compact with Israel, which assured their own lives and safety. They affirmed that they had heard of the Israelite victories beyond Jordan, and also of the gift to them by Yahweh of the whole land (
The treaty of peace with the Gibeonites and the indignation thereby aroused among the neighboring kings, who naturally regarded the independent action of the men of Gibeon as treachery toward themselves, gave rise to one of the most formidable coalitions and one of the most dramatic incidents of the whole war. The king of Jerusalem, Adoni-zedek ("the Lord of righteousness" or "the Lord is righteousness,"
(7) Conquest of the South.
With almost severe simplicity it is further recorded how the confederate cities in turn were captured by Joshua and utterly destroyed (10:28-39). And the account is closed by a summary statement of the conquest of the entire country from Kadesh-barnea in the extreme south as far as Gibeon, after which the people returned to their camp at Gilgal (10:40-43).
(8) Northern Conquests.
A hostile coalition of northern rulers had finally to be met and defeated before the occupation and pacification of the land could be said to be complete. Jabin, king of Hazor, the "fort," was at the head of an alliance of northern kings who gathered together to oppose Israel in the neighborhood of the waters of Merom (
(9) Allotment of Territory.
Thus the work of conquest, as far as it was effected under Joshua’s command, was now ended; but much yet remained to be done that was left over for future generations. The ideal limits of Israel’s possession, as set forth by Yahweh in promise to Moses, from the Shihor or
For the 7 tribes that were yet without defined inheritance a rough survey of the land appears to have been made, and the unallotted districts were divided into 7 portions, for which lots were then cast at Shiloh in the presence of the assembled tribes (Joshua 18; 19). The express mention of Shiloh here (
(10) Cities of Refuge.
Finally the 6 cities of refuge were appointed, 3 on each side of the Jordan, and the 48 cities of the Levites taken out of the territories of the several tribes (Joshua 20; 21; compare
(11) Final Address and Death.
In a closing assembly of the Israelites at Shechem, Joshua delivered to the people his final charge, as Moses had done before his death, reminding them of their own wonderful history, and of the promises and claims of God, and exhorting them to faithful and loyal obedience in His service (23; 24). A stone also was set up under the oak in the sacred precinct of Yahweh, to be a memorial of the renewed covenant between God and His people (24:26 f). Then at the age of 110 the second great leader of Israel died, and was laid to his rest within his own inheritance in Timnath-serah (24:29,30; in
III. Sources of History. That the narratives concerning the life and work of Joshua rest in the main upon basis of tradition can hardly be doubted. How far the details have been modified, or a different coloring imparted in the course of a long transmission, it is impossible to determine. There is a remarkable similarity or parallelism between many of the leading events of Joshua’s life as ruler and captain of Israel and the experiences of his predecessor Moses, which, apart from any literary criticism, suggests that the narratives have been drawn from the same general source, and subjected to the same conditions of environment and transmission. Thus both are called to and strengthened for their work by a special Divine revelation, Moses at Horeb in the burning bush, Joshua at Jericho. Both lead the people across the bed of waters miraculously driven back to afford them passage. And both at no long interval after the passage win a notable victory over their adversaries--a victory ascribed in each case to direct Divine intervention on their behalf, although in different ways. At the close of their life-work, moreover, both Moses and Joshua deliver stirring addresses of appeal and warning to the assembled Israelites; and both are laid in nameless graves. These all, however, are occurrences perfectly natural and indeed inevitable in the position in which each found himself. Nor do they afford adequate ground for the supposition that the achievements of the greater leader have been duplicated, or by mistake attributed to the less. To cross the Jordan and to defeat the Canaanite confederacy were as essential to the progress of Israel as the passage of the Red Sea and the breaking up of the gathering of Amalekite clans; and no true or sufficient history could have evaded the narration of these events. The position of Israel also on the East of the Jordan about to undertake the invasion and conquest of the Promised Land as imperatively demanded a specially qualified captain and guide, a mastermind to control the work, as did the oppressed people in Egypt or the wanderers in the desert. That Joshua was not so great a man as his predecessor the entire narrative testifies. Moses, however, must of necessity have had a successor to take up his unfinished work and to carry it to completion.
IV. Character and Work of Joshua.
As to the personal character of Joshua, there is little to be inferred from the narrative of his campaigns. In this respect indeed they are singularly colorless. In early life his loyalty to Moses was conspicuous and unswerving. As his successor, he seems to have faithfully acted upon his principles, and in the direction of the Israelite campaigns to have proved himself a brave and competent general, as wise in counsel as he was strong in fight. The putting to death of captives and the handing over to the sword of the inhabitants of hostile cities, which the historian so often records as the consequence of his victories, must evidently be judged by the customs of the times, and have perhaps lost nothing in the narration. They do not in any case justify the attribution to Joshua of an especially inhumane disposition, or a delight in slaughter for its own sake. After the death of Moses he would appear to have been reluctant to undertake the onerous position and duty assigned to him through mistrust of his own ability and lack of self-confidence, and needed more than once to be encouraged in his work and assured of Divine support. In the language of his closing discourse there is apparent a foresight and appreciation of the character and tendencies of the people who had followed him, which is hardly inferior to that of Moses himself.
In a real sense also his work was left unfinished at his death. The settlement of Canaan by the tribes of Israel within the appointed and promised limits was never more than partial. The new colonists failed to enjoy that absolute and undisturbed possession of the land to which they had looked forward; witness the unrest of the period of the Judges, prolonged and perpetuated through monarchical times. For all this, however, the blame cannot justly be laid to the account of Joshua. Many causes undoubtedly concurred to an issue which was fatal to the future unity and happiness and prosperity of Israel. The chief cause, as Joshua warned them would be the case, was the persistent idolatry of the people themselves, their neglect of duty, and disregard of the commands and claims of their God.
A. S. Geden