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Reference: Joshua, The Book Of


contains a history of the Israelites from the death of Moses to that of Joshua. It consists of three parts: (1.) The history of the conquest of the land (1-12). (2.) The allotment of the land to the different tribes, with the appointment of cities of refuge, the provision for the Levites (13-22), and the dismissal of the eastern tribes to their homes. This section has been compared to the Domesday Book of the Norman conquest. (3.) The farewell addresses of Joshua, with an account of his death (23, 24).

This book stands first in the second of the three sections, (1) the Law, (2) the Prophets, (3) the "other writings" = Hagiographa, into which the Jewish Church divided the Old Testament. There is every reason for concluding that the uniform tradition of the Jews is correct when they assign the authorship of the book to Joshua, all except the concluding section; the last verses (24:29-33) were added by some other hand.

There are two difficulties connected with this book which have given rise to much discussion, (1.) The miracle of the standing still of the sun and moon on Gibeon. The record of it occurs in Joshua's impassioned prayer of faith, as quoted (Jos 10:12-15) from the "Book of Jasher" (q.v.). There are many explanations given of these words. They need, however, present no difficulty if we believe in the possibility of God's miraculous interposition in behalf of his people. Whether it was caused by the refraction of the light, or how, we know not.

(2.) Another difficulty arises out of the command given by God utterly to exterminate the Canaanites. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" It is enough that Joshua clearly knew that this was the will of God, who employs his terrible agencies, famine, pestilence, and war, in the righteous government of this world. The Canaanites had sunk into a state of immorality and corruption so foul and degrading that they had to be rooted out of the land with the edge of the sword. "The Israelites' sword, in its bloodiest executions, wrought a work of mercy for all the countries of the earth to the very end of the world."

This book resembles the Acts of the Apostles in the number and variety of historical incidents it records, and in its many references to persons and places; and as in the latter case the epistles of Paul (see Paley's Horae Paul.) confirm its historical accuracy by their incidental allusions and "undesigned coincidences," so in the former modern discoveries confirm its historicity. The Amarna tablets (see Adoni-zedec) are among the most remarkable discoveries of the age. Dating from about B.C. 1480 down to the time of Joshua, and consisting of official communications from Amorite, Phoenician, and Philistine chiefs to the king of Egypt, they afford a glimpse into the actual condition of Palestine prior to the Hebrew invasion, and illustrate and confirm the history of the conquest. A letter, also still extant, from a military officer, "master of the captains of Egypt," dating from near the end of the reign of Rameses II., gives a curious account of a journey, probably official, which he undertook through Palestine as far north as to Aleppo, and an insight into the social condition of the country at that time. Among the things brought to light by this letter and the Amarna tablets is the state of confusion and decay that had now fallen on Egypt. The Egyptian garrisons that had held possession of Palestine from the time of Thothmes III., some two hundred years before, had now been withdrawn. The way was thus opened for the Hebrews. In the history of the conquest there is no mention of Joshua having encountered any Egyptian force. The tablets contain many appeals to the king of Egypt for help against the inroads of the Hebrews, but no help seems ever to have been sent. Is not this just such a state of things as might have been anticipated as the result of the disaster of the Exodus? In many points, as shown under various articles, the progress of the conquest is remarkably illustrated by the tablets. The value of modern discoveries in their relation to Old Testament history has been thus well described:

The difficulty of establishing the charge of lack of historical credibility, as against the testimony of the Old Testament, has of late years greatly increased. The outcome of recent excavations and explorations is altogether against it. As long as these books contained, in the main, the only known accounts of the events they mention, there was some plausibility in the theory that perhaps these accounts were written rather to teach moral lessons than to preserve an exact knowledge of events. It was easy to say in those times men had not the historic sense. But the recent discoveries touch the events recorded in the Bible at very many different points in many different generations, mentioning the same persons, countries, peoples, events that are mentioned in the Bible, and showing beyond question that these were strictly historic. The point is not that the discoveries confirm the correctness of the Biblical statements, though that is commonly the case, but that the discoveries show that the peoples of those ages had the historic sense, and, specifically, that the Biblical narratives they touch are narratives of actual occurrences.

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The doomsday book of Palestine, especially Joshua 13-23. Authenticated by Scripture references to the events recorded in it (Ps 78:53-65; 28:9; Hab 3:11-13; Ac 7:45; Heb 4:8; 11:30-32; Jas 2:25). Joshua after destroying the kings, so that Israel had rest from war in the open field, divided generally the land; but this is quite consistent with the after statements that years passed before the process of division was completed and the allotments finally settled. Joshua was directed to divide land not yet in Israel's actual possession (Jos 13:1-14;Jos 13:5). God designed that Israel should occupy the land by degrees, lest the beasts should multiply and the land be desolate (Ex 23:28-30); for instance, though the kings of Jerusalem and Gezer were slain, their people were not rooted out until long after.

The slackness of Israel to extirpate the accursed Canaanites was also a cause of non-immediate possession (Jos 11:16,23; 12:7,10-12; compare 3/type/kjv'>Jos 15:63; 16/10/type/kjv'>16:10; 17:1,16; 18:1,3; 19:51). Joshua is based on the Pentateuch (to which it is joined by the conjunction "now" or "and" at its beginning), "now" but distinct from it. Compare Jos 13:7 with Nu 34:13; 13:17 with Nu 32:37; 13:21-22 with Nu 31:8; 13:14,33; 14:4, with De 18:1-2; Nu 18:20; Numbers 21 with Numbers 35.

UNITY. The book evidently is that of an eye witness, so minute and vivid are the descriptions. The narrative moves on in one uninterrupted flow for the first 12 chapters of Joshua. Jehovah's faithfulness is exhibited in the historical fulfillment of His covenanted promises, with which the book opens (Jos 1:2-9, the programme of the book).

I. The promise, Jos 1:2-5, is fulfilled (Joshua 2-12), the conquest of the land by Jehovah's mighty help, "from the wilderness and this Lebanon unto ... Euphrates ... and the great sea (the Mediterranean) toward the going down of the sun." The limit, the Euphrates, was not actually reached until Solomon's reign (1Ki 4:21), and the full realization awaits Christ's millennial reign (Ge 15:18; Ps 72:8); but the main step toward its fulfillment was taken. Joshua's conquests, though overwhelming at the time, could only be secured by Israel's faithfully following them up.

II. The promise, Joshua 6-7, that Joshua should divide the land is recorded as fulfilled (Joshua 13-22).

III. The means of realizing this two-fold promise, "only be very courageous to do ... all the law ... turn not to the right hand or to the left ... this book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do all that is written therein ... for then thou shalt have good success .... Be strong and of a good courage for the Lord thy God is with thee wheresoever thou goest" (Jos 1:7-9), are urged upon the people in detail by Joshua as his last testimony (Jos 23:16). The connection and method traceable throughout prove the unity of the book. The variety in the style of the historical compared with the topographical parts is what we should expect. The "three days" (Jos 1:11) are not the time within which the crossing actually took place, but the time allowed to the people to prepare for crossing: prepare victuals to be able to leave Shittim within three days, so as to be ready to cross Jordan.

The spies sent from Shittim to Jericho (the key of Canaan) on the same day as Joshua gave this charge to Israel had to hide three days after leaving Jericho, so that they could not have returned until the evening of the fourth day after they were sent (Jos 2:22). The morning after this Israel left Shittim for Jordan, where they halted again; three days afterward they crossed, i.e. eight days intervened between their being sent and Israel's crossing. The drying up of Jordan is the counterpart of the drying up of the Red Sea under Moses, Joshua's master and predecessor. Throughout the warlike and the peaceful events of this book, comprising a period of 25 years (compare Jos 14:7-10) from 1451 to 1426 B.C., God's presence is everywhere felt. Joshua is His conscious and obedient agent.

AUTHOR. That Joshua wrote the book is probable because

(1) he certainly wrote one transaction in it (Jos 24:26), and scarcely any but Joshua himself is likely to have written the parting addresses, his last legacy to Israel (Joshua 23-24).

(2) None but Joshua could have supplied the accounts of his communion with God (Jos 1:1 ff; Jos 3:7; 4:2; 5:2,9,13; 6:2; 7:10; 8:1; 10:8; 11:6; 13:1-2; 20:1; 24:2).

(3) Joshua was best qualified by his position to describe the events, and to collect the documents of this book; it was important that the statement of the allotments should rest on such a decisive authority as Joshua.

(4) He would be following his master and predecessor Moses' pattern in recording God's dealings with Israel through him; Jos 24:26 looks like his own subscription, as Moses in Deuteronomy 31, both being followed by an appendix as to the author's death.

(5) In Jos 5:1,6, he uses the first person, "we passed over"; and in Jos 6:25, "Rahab dwelleth in Israel even unto this day"; both passages imply a contemporary writer.

Keil gives a list of phrases and forms peculiar to this book and the Pentateuch, marking its composition in or near the same age. Jg 3:1-3; 1:27-29, repeat Jos 13:2-6; 16:10; 17:11, because Joshua's description suited the times described by the inspired writer of Judges. The capture of Hebron and Debir by Judah and its hero Caleb is repeated in Jg 1:9-15 from Jos 15:13-20. Possibly the account of the Danite occupation of Leshem or Laish is a later insertion in Jos 19:47 from Jg 18:7. So also the account (Jos 15:63; 18:28) of the joint occupation of Jerusalem by Israel and the Jebusites may be an insertion from Jg 1:8,21.

In the case of an authoritative record of the allotment of lands, which the book of Joshua is, the immediate successors who appended the account of his death (probably one or more of the elders who took part in Joshua's victories and outlived him: "we," Jos 5:1,6; 24:31; Jg 2:7) would naturally insert the exact state of things then, which in Joshua's time were in a transition state, his allotments not having been taken full possession of until after his death. The expulsion of the Jebusites from Jerusalem at the beginning of David's reign proves that Joshua and Judges were written before David. The Gibeonites were in Joshua's time (Jos 9:27) "hewers of wood and drawers of water" for the sanctuary "even unto this day," but Saul set aside the covenant and tried to destroy them; so that the book of Joshua was before Saul. The only Phoenicians mentioned are the Sidonians, reckoned with the Canaanites as doomed to destruction; but in David's time Tyre takes the lead of Sidon, and is in treaty with David (Jos 13:4-6; 2Sa 5:11).

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