Placing Joshua in Context. The book of Joshua stands at a critical juncture in the Old Testament and its history of the Jewish nation. Joshua moves the reader beyond the Torah (Law), the first category of the Old Testament books and the heart of the Jewish faith, into the books of history, the second category of the Old Testament books.
The Torah ends with the Jews poised on the east border of Canaan (the Promised Land) for final preparations prior to entering the land. The Jewish nation had been in that position 40 years earlier, but as a punishment for not trusting God to enable them to conquer the land, the nation had been condemned to wander the desert until the unfaithful generation had died. In Joshua, the nation actually enters Canaan, ready, through God, to conquer the inhabitants and take possession of the land.
The Name of the Book. The book of Joshua is named after Joshua, son of Nun, who succeeded Moses as the leader of the Jewish nation. Moses, because of an act of disobedience, is told by God that he will not enter the Promised Land. God will allow Moses to view Canaan from a distance, but Moses will die without stepping foot in it. After viewing Canaan, Moses dies. Prior to his viewing the Promised Land, Moses had appointed Joshua to lead the nation.
Important Events. There are three main movements in the book of Joshua: (1) Entering the Land, (2) Conquering the Land, and, (3) Dividing the Land. The following events take place in the book:
Men are sent into Canaan to spy out the land, they are discovered, and are protected by Rahab, who, as a reward, is spared when the Jews take Jericho
The Jews cross the Jordan River into Canaan and leave memorial rocks to commemorate the occasion
The city of Jericho is defeated (“And the walls came tumbling down!”)
An act of sin is discovered and dealt with, freeing the nation to continue its conquest
The sun stands still to help secure a Jewish victory
The land is conquered–some totally, some in part
The Promised Land is divided among the tribes of the Jews
Cities of Refuge are established to protect people who accidentally kill another person
Joshua gives a farewell speech to the nation, dies, and is buried
Lessons Learned from the Book of Joshua:
The importance of trusting God–It led to the conquest of the Promised Land
The importance of obeying God–It kept the relationship between God and the people strong
The danger of compromising with sin–It led to a temporarydefeat of the Jews and the eventual death of a man and his family
Comparison with Ephesians:
J. Sidlow Baxter, in his book, Explore the Book (see details below), compares some thoughts about the Jewish destination (the land of Canaan) in Joshua and the Christian destination (a “union of life and mind and will with Christ) in Ephesians. He finds these common ideas:
Each was the predestined inheritance of a chosen people
Each was opened up by a Divinely ordained leader
Each was a gift of grace to be received by faith
Each was a sphere of a striking Divine revelation
Each is described as a scene of conflict
Baxter is not talking about the ultimate destination of heaven, but the full Christian life here on earth. Just as Joshua led his people into a land of rest after their years of slavery, so Jesus leads people into a rest from the endless cycle of trying to find meaning in work, success, money, sex, and other things that ultimately do not work. Instead, in union with Christ, they find satisfaction for each day and hope for the future. That was God’s plan for the people Joshua led; it is God’s plan through Jesus for those who would call themselves Christians.
J. Sidlow Baxter, Explore the Book (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1960). 247-51