Background

The book Joshua is named after its principal character. Joshua, the son of Nun, was of the tribe of Ephraim. His grandfather Elishama was head of the tribe (Nu 1:10). Born in Egypt, he was a young man at the time of the Exodus. At Rephidim he was appointed by Moses to lead Israel into battle against the Amalekites (Ex 17:8-16). He accompanied Moses to Mount Sinai (Ex 24:12-13). He was sent as one of the 12 spies from Paran (Nu 13:1-16), and with Caleb gave a favorable (minority) report (Nu 14:36-37). He was God’s choice as Moses’ successor: “A man in whom is the Spirit” (Nu 27:18). Moses installed him (Dt 34:9).  His name was originally Hoshea (Nu 13:8), meaning “he saves.” Moses gave him the name Joshua (Nu 13:16; Dt 3:21), meaning Jehovah is salvation.1The introductory information on this page has been adapted from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary’s Middler Isagogic Notes, which can be found here. Used with permission.

Authorship

The name of the book, as mentioned above, refers to the book’s principal character, not its author. There is no statement as to authorship either in the book itself or elsewhere in Scripture.

Some events recorded in the book of Joshua appear to have taken place at a later time, after his death, according to parallel accounts in the book of Judges (for example, Caleb taking possession of Hebron (Jos 15:13-19) compared with Judges 1:10-15; the Danites’ occupation of Leshem (Jos 19:47) compared with Judges 18:27-29).

The book was probably written in the period of the early Judges, but certainly not later than the time of the early kings of Israel. In Joshua 9:27 we are told that the Gibeonites were “hewers of wood” (in the service of the temple) “until this day,” the day when the book was written. According to 2 Samuel 21:1-9 Saul massacred the Gibeonites.  According to Joshua 15:63 the tribe of Judah could not dislodge the Jebusites in Jerusalem. In 2 Samuel 5:6-9 we are told that David accomplished this.  (Note: the references “until this day” may refer not to the time of the book but to the time of the source the author may be using at this point. One such reference, Joshua 6:25, says that Rahab was still alive at the time of writing.)

Archer is of the opinion that Joshua himself was responsible for much of the book’s material because of the “intimate biographical details” it contains.2Archer, Gleason L. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2007. He also cites archaic name-references to Canaanite cities (Jos 15:13; 15:49, etc.), names no longer used at a later period in history. The use of the pronoun “we” in Joshua 5:1 is often cited as proof that the author was an eyewitness of events such as Jordan’s crossing. Keil suggests that the book was written possibly 20 to 25 years after Joshua’s death by one of his elders.3Keil, Carl Friedrich, and Franz Delitzsch. Commentary on the Old Testament. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996. This suggestion is as plausible as any.

Purpose for Writing

The purpose of the book of Joshua is to record for all time that the Lord’s promise to Abraham concerning the Land of Promise (Gen 12:1-3; 13:15) has been fulfilled. Because that promise also included reference to the coming Savior, the history of the conquest of Canaan at the same time serves as a standing confirmation of the promise of a future redemption.

Date of Writing

If the date of the Exodus is reckoned at approximately 1440 BC (see Exodus), this would place the crossing of the Jordan River at about 1400, and Joshua’s death at age 110 (Jos 24:29) some 30 to 40 years later.

Content

The book of Joshua tells how Joshua led the Israelites from the plains of Moab across the Jordan, conquered the land west of Jordan in three great military campaigns, assigned a heritage to each of the tribes, encouraged the people in two great assemblies to remain steadfast toward the Lord, renewed their covenant with Jehovah, died, and was buried in the land of his heritage.

Christ Connection

God’s grace is portrayed in the book of Joshua through the man Joshua, who is a type of Christ. A “type” foreshadows the Jesus’ work and role as our Savior. Joshua functions as the triumphant leader of his people who successfully brings God’s people into the Promised Land of rest after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.  This role foreshadows Jesus’ work of bringing God’s people to their ultimate land of rest, that is, the eternal joys of heaven (Heb 4:1-11). Even Joshua’s name reflects this role of Jesus, since both names come from the same word and reflect the meaning “the LORD saves.”

Notable Passages

  • Joshua 1:7-9
  • Joshua 4:24
  • Joshua 23:6,11
  • Joshua 24:14-15

Outline

  1. The Conquest (Joshua 1-12)
    • The preparations and entry (Jos 1-5:12)
    • The conquest (Jos 5:13-12:24)
      • The opening campaign (Jos 5:13-7:26)
      • The southern campaign (Jos 8-10)
      • The northern campaign and summary (Jos 11-12)
  2. The Distribution of Land and Farewell of Joshua (Joshua 13-24)
    • The allotments (Jos 13-22)
      • at Gilgal (Jos 13-17)
      • at Shiloh (Jos 18-22)
    • Farewell and conclusion (Jos 23-24)

References   [ + ]

1. The introductory information on this page has been adapted from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary’s Middler Isagogic Notes, which can be found here. Used with permission.
2. Archer, Gleason L. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2007.
3. Keil, Carl Friedrich, and Franz Delitzsch. Commentary on the Old Testament. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996.