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The successor of Moses as the leader of Israel. Under his direction, the Promised Land is
One of two spies sent out into the land, who returned with a report that Israel could take the
Promised Land as God had said (along with Caleb). Thus, he is only one of two of the 604,550
that came out of the land of Egypt, who did not die in the wilderness.
Urged to be faithful to God, the land is not conquered by military might; but, by the power of God.
The battles, like Jericho, were won by the might of God, so that God gave them the land.
However, they failed to complete the job of clearing out the land of its inhabitants. The people
who remained would be a thorn in the side of the nation for years to come.'
Joshua’s most quoted situation is when, before his death, he challenged the people to follow
the LORD, or Jehovah, or Yahweh. Not only did he command them to put away the idols of their
past, but warned them of the consequences should they depart from God in the future. But
regardless of what they did, he and his house would serve the LORD.
(Joshua 24:14-25) Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth:
and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in
Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose
you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on
the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for
me and my house, we will serve the LORD. And the people answered and said, God forbid
that we should forsake the LORD, to serve other gods; For the LORD our God, he it is
that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage,
and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we
went, and among all the people through whom we passed: And the LORD drave out from
before us all the people, even the Amorites which dwelt in the land: therefore will we also
serve the LORD; for he is our God. And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the
LORD: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions
nor your sins. If ye forsake the LORD, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do
you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good. And the people said unto
Joshua, Nay; but we will serve the LORD. And Joshua said unto the people, Ye are
witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen you the LORD, to serve him. And they
said, We are witnesses. Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are
among you, and incline your heart unto the LORD God of Israel. And the people said
unto Joshua, The LORD our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey. So Joshua
made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in
|josh'-u-a ((a) yehoshua`, (b) yehoshua`, "Yahweh is deliverance" or "opulence"; compare
(1) Joshua the son of Nun; the name has the Hebrew form (a) above in De 3:21; Jg 2:7;
elsewhere the form (b), except in Ne 8:17, where it is of the form yeshua` (See JESHUA);
compare also Nu 13:8,16; De 32:44. See following article.
(2) In 1 Sam 6:14,18 (form (b)), the Bethshemite in whose field stood the kine that brought
the ark from the Philistines.
(3) In 2 Ki 23:8 (form (b)), governor of Jerusalem in the time of Josiah.
(4) The high priest at Jerusalem after the return. See separate article.
S. F. Hunter
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"
(Ex 17:1). The fact that the host encamped there seems to assume the existence of wells;
either, therefore, these were found to be dry, or they failed before the wants of the great
host were satisfied. The Amalekites, wandering desert tribes, claimed the ownership of the
wells, and, resenting the Israelite intrusion, swooped down upon them to drive them away
and to enrich themselves with the spoil of their possessions. Under the command of
Joshua, the Israelites won a complete victory in a battle that seems to have been prolonged
until sunset; the fortunes of the battle varying with the uplifting or falling of Moses' hands,
which were accordingly supported by Aaron and Hur throughout the day (Ex 17:11 ff). A
curse and sentence of extermination pronounced against Amalek were formally written
down and communicated to Joshua, apparently that, as the future leader of Israel, he might
have it in charge to provide for their fulfillment.
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 (Ex 24:13) as the minister of Moses,
accompanying him apparently to the foot of the mount of God, but remaining behind with the
elders and Aaron and Hur, when Moses commenced the ascent. A similar brief mention is in
Ex 32:17, where he has rejoined Moses on the return of the latter from the mount with the
two tables of the testimony, and is unaware of the outbreak of the people and their
idolatrous worship of the molten calf in the camp; compare Ex 33:11, where again he is
found in the closest attendance upon his leader and chief. No further reference is made to
Joshua during the stay of the Israelites at Sinai, or their subsequent journeyings, until they
found themselves at Kadesh-barnea on the southern border of the Promised Land (Nu
13:1-33). His name is once mentioned, however, in an earlier chapter of the same book (Nu
11:28), when the tidings are brought to Moses that two men in the camp of Israel, Eldad and
Medad, had been inspired to prophesy. There he is described in harmony with the previous
statements of his position, as Moses' minister from his youth. Jealous of his leader's
prerogative and honor, he would have the irregular prophesying stopped, but is himself
checked by Moses, who rejoices that the, spirit of God should rest thus upon any of the
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 (Nu 13:8,16), and Caleb the Judahite, bring back a report
encouraging the Israelites to proceed. The account of the mission of the spies is repeated
substantially in De 1:22-46. There, however, the suggestion that spies should be
commissioned to examine and report upon the land comes in the first instance from the
people themselves. In the record of Numbers they are chosen and sent by Moses under
Divine direction (De 13:1 f). The two representations are not incompatible, still less
contradictory. The former describes in an altogether natural manner the human initiative,
probable enough in the circumstances in which the Israelites found themselves; the latter is
the Divine control and direction, behind and above the affairs of men. The instructions given
to the spies (De 13:17 ff) evidently contemplated a hasty survey of the entire region of the
Negeb or southern borderland of Palestine up to and including the hill country of Judea; the
time allowed, 40 days (13:25), was too brief to accomplish more, hardly long enough for this
purpose alone. They were, moreover, not only to ascertain the character of the towns and
their inhabitants, the quality and products of the soil, but to bring back with them specimens
of the fruits (13:20). An indication of the season of the year is given in the added clause that
"the time was the time of first-ripe grapes." The usual months of the vintage are September
and October (compare Le 23:39); in the warm and sheltered valleys, however, in the
neighborhood of Hebron, grapes may sometimes be gathered in August or even as early as
July. The valley from which the fruits, grapes, figs and pomegranates were brought was
known as the valley of Eshcol, or the "cluster" (Nu 13:23 f; Nu 32:9; De 1:24).
No hesitating or doubtful account is given by all the spies of the fertility and attractiveness of
the country; but in view of the strength of its cities and inhabitants only Joshua and Caleb
are confident of the ability of the Israelites to take possession of it. Their reports and
exhortations, however, are overborne by the timidity and dissuasion of the others, who so
entirely alarm the people that they refuse to essay the conquest of the land, desiring to
return into Egypt (Nu 14:3 f), and attempt to stone Joshua and Caleb (Nu 14:10). These two
alone, therefore, were exempted from the sentence of exclusion from the Promised Land
(Nu 14:24,30,38; 26:65; 32:12; De 1:25 ff). The remainder of the spies perished at once by a
special visitation (Nu 14:36); and the people were condemned to a 40-year exile in the
wilderness, a year for each day that the spies had been in Palestine, until all the men of that
generation "from twenty years old and upward" were dead (Nu 14:29; 26:64 f; Nu 32:11 ff).
An abortive attempt was made to invade the land in defiance of the prohibition of Yahweh,
and ended in failure and disastrous defeat (Nu 32:40 ff; De 1:41 ff; compare De 21:1-3).
Upon the events of the next 38 or 40 years in the life of Israel an almost unbroken silence
falls. The wanderers in the wilderness have no history. Some few events, however, that are
recorded without note of time, the rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram, and the breaking
out of the plague because of the people's murmuring, and probably others (Nu 15:32-36;
16:1-50 f), appear to belong to this period. In none of them does Joshua take an active part,
nor is his name mentioned in connection with the campaigns against Sihon and Og on the
East of the Jordan. When the census of the people is taken in the plains of Moab opposite
Jericho, Joshua and Caleb with Moses himself are found to be the only survivors of the host
that 40 years previously came out of Egypt (Nu 26:63 ff). As the time of the death of the great
leader and lawgiver drew near, he was commissioned formally to appoint Joshua as his
successor and to hand over to him and to Eleazar the priest the duty of finally apportioning
the conquered territory among the several tribes (Nu 27:18 ff; Nu 32:28; 34:17; compare De
1:38; 3:28; 31:3,7,23; 34:9). Some of these passages anticipate the direct Divine commission
and encouragement recorded in Josh (De 1:1,5 ff) and given to him after the death of Moses.
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 (Jos 2:2). In Jericho the
spies owed their lives to the quick inventiveness of Rahab (compare Heb 11:31), who
concealed them on the roof of her house from the emissaries of the king; and returning to
Joshua, they reported the prospects of an easy victory and conquest (Jos 2:23 f).
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 Jos 3:1-17; 4:1-24. The city of Jericho was
built in a plain from Jos 12:1-24 to Jos 14:1-15 miles wide formed by the recession of the
hills that border the valley of the Jordan from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea, and stood
at the mouth of the valley of Achor (Jos 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 (Jos 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 (Jos 3:15). The priests were directed to carry the ark to the brink of the
river, the waters of which, as soon as their feet touched them, would be cut off, and a dry
passage afforded. The narrative therefore is not to be understood as though it indicated that
a wall of water stood on the right and left of the people as they crossed; the entire breadth
of the river bed was exposed by the failure of the waters from above.
An interesting parallel to the drying up of the Jordan before Joshua is recorded by an Arabic
historian of the Middle Ages, who writes to explain a natural but extraordinary occurrence,
without any thought of the miraculous or any apparent knowledge of the passage of the
Israelites. During the years 1266-67 AD, a Mohammedan sultan named Beybars was
engaged in building a bridge over the Jordan near Damieh, a place which some have
identified with the city Adam (Jos 3:16); but the force of the waters repeatedly carried away
and destroyed his work. On one night, however, in December of the latter year, the river
ceased entirely to flow. The opportunity was seized, and an army of workmen so
strengthened the bridge that it resisted the flood which came down upon it the next day, and
stood firm. It was found that at some distance up the river, where the valley was narrow, the
banks had been undermined by the running water and had fallen in, thus completely
damming back the stream. It seems not improbable that it was by agency of this character
that a passage was secured for the Israelites; even as 40 years earlier a "strong east wind"
had been employed to drive back the waters of the Red Sea before Moses.
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 Jos 4:9 it is stated that Jos 12:1-24 stones were
set up in the midst of the river. The statement is probably a misunderstanding, and a mere
confusion of the tradition. It is not likely that there would be a double commemoration, or an
erection of stones in a place where they would never be seen. At Gilgal also the supply of
manna ceased, when the natural resources of the country became available (Jos 5:12). The
date of the passage is given as the 10th day of the 1st month (4:19); and on the 14th day the
Passover was kept at Gilgal in the plains of Jericho (5:10). For the 2nd time, also, at the
crisis of the first entrance into the land, Joshua was encouraged for his work by a vision
and Divine promise of assistance and direction (5:13-15).
(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 (1Ki 16:34). Thenceforward Jericho appears to have been continuously inhabited.
There was a settlement of the sons of the prophets there in Elisha's day (2Ki 2:5,15). The
natural fertility of the site won for it the name of the city of palm trees (De 34:3; Jg 1:16; 3:13).
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 Jos 14:1-15; 15:1-63; Jg 1:1-36). This seems on the whole to
be the better way of explaining the narratives in general, which in detail present many
(4) Conquest of Ai and Bethel.
At the head of the northern pass stood the city of Luz or Bethel (Ge 28:19; Jos 18:13; Jg
1:23). Ai lay close at hand, and was encountered by the invaders before reaching Bethel; its
exact site, however, is undetermined. The two towns were in close alliance (compare Jos
8:17), and the defeat and destruction of the one was quickly followed by the similar fate that
overtook the other. Before Ai, the advance guard of the Israelites, a small party detached on
the advice of the spies sent forward by Joshua from Jericho, suffered defeat and were
driven back in confusion (Jos 7:2 ff). The disaster was due to the failure to obey the
command to "devote" the whole spoil of Jericho, and to theft by one of the people of
treasure which belonged rightfully to Yahweh (Jos 7:11). When the culprit Achan had been
discovered and punished, a renewed attempt upon Ai, made with larger forces and more
skillful dispositions, was crowned with success. The city was taken by a stratagem and
destroyed by fire, its king being hanged outside the city gate (Jos 8:28 f). Unlike Jericho, it
seems never to have been restored. Bethel also was captured, through the treachery
apparently of one of its own citizens, and its inhabitants were put to the sword (Jg 1:24 f).
(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 JOSHUA, BOOK OF, BOOK OF
ABRAHAM). In the list of the cities (Jos 12:7-24) whose kings were vanquished by Joshua,
there are no names of towns that can be certainly identified as situated here; the greater
part evidently belong to the north or south. The only record remaining is that of the formal
erection of an altar on Mt. Ebal in the presence of all the people and the solemn reading of
the law in their hearing (Jos 8:30-35). It is expressly noted that all this was done in
accordance with the directions of Moses (compare De 11:29; 27:2-8,11 ff). It would further
appear probable that this ceremony really took place at the close of the conquest, when all
the land was subdued, and is narrated here by anticipation.
(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 (Jos 9:9 f,Jos 24:1-33). Joshua and the princes were deceived
and entered too readily into covenant with them, a covenant and promise that was
scrupulously observed when on the 3rd day of traveling the Israelites reached their cities
and found them to be close at hand (9:16 ff). While, however, their lives were preserved, the
men of Gibeon were reduced to the position of menial servants, "hewers of wood and
drawers of water"; and the writer adds, it is thus "unto this day" (9:21,27).
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," Jos 10:1; compare Melchizedek,
"the king of righteousness," Ge 14:18; in Jg 1:5 ff the name appears as Adoni-bezek, and so
Septuagint reads here), with the 4 kings of Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon (Jos 10:3),
formed a plan to destroy Gibeon in revenge, and the Gibeonites sent hastily for assistance to
Joshua, who had returned with his army to Gilgal. The Israelites made a forced march from
Gilgal, came upon the allied kings near Gibeon, and attacked and defeated them with great
slaughter. The routed army fled westward "by the way of the ascent to Beth-horon" (Jos
10:10), and in the pass was overtaken by a violent hailstorm, by which more perished than
had fallen beneath the swords of the Israelites (Jos 10:11). The 5 kings were shut up in a
cave at Makkedah, in which they had taken refuge, whence they were subsequently brought
forth and put to death. The actual pursuit, however, was not stayed until the remnant had
found temporary security behind the walls of their fortified cities (Josh 10:16 ff). The victory
of Israel was commemorated by Joshua in a song of which some words are preserved (Jos
See BETH-HORON,THE BATTLE OF .
(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
(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 (Jos 11:1 ff). Hazor has been doubtfully
identified with the modern Jebel Hadireh, some 5 miles West of the lake. No details of the
fighting that ensued are given. The victory, however, of the Israelites was decisive, although
chariots and horses were employed against them apparently for the first time on Canaanite
soil. The pursuit was maintained as far as Sidon, and Misrephoth-maim, perhaps the
"boilings" or "tumults of the waters," the later Zarephath on the coast South of the former
city (Jos 11:8; compare Jos 13:6); and the valley of Mizpeh must have been one of the many
wadies leading down to the Phoenician coast land. The cities were taken, and their
inhabitants put to the sword; but Hazor alone appears to have been burnt to the ground (Jos
11:11 ff). That the royal city recovered itself later is clear from the fact that a king of Hazor
was among the oppressors of Israel in the days of the Judges (Jg 4:1-24). For the time
being, however, the fruit of these victories was a widespread and much-needed peace. "The
land had rest from war" (Jos 11:23).
(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 Brook of Egypt (compare 1Ch 13:5) to Lebanon and the entering in of Hamath (Nu 34:1-29),
had not been and indeed never were reached. In view, however, of Joshua's age (Jos 13:1),
it was necessary that an allotment of their inheritance West of the Jordan should at once be
made to the remaining tribes. Reuben, Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh had been already
provided for by Moses in Eastern Palestine (Jos 13:15-32). Jos 14:1-15 through Jos 21:1-45
accordingly contain a detailed account of the arrangements made by the Israelite leader for
the settlement of the land and trace the boundaries of the several tribal possessions. The
actual division appears to have been made on two separate occasions, and possibly from
two distinct centers. Provision was first made for Judah and the children of Joseph; and
between the northern border of the former tribe, recorded in detail in Jos 15:5-11, and the
inheritance of the sons of Joseph, a tract of land for the present left unassigned was later
given to the tribes of Benjamin and Dan. An extra portion also was promised by Joshua to
the descendants of Joseph on the ground of their numbers and strength (Jos 17:14 ff).
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 (Jos 18:1-28; 19:1-51). The
express mention of Shiloh here (Jos 18:1,10) suggests that the previous division was
carried out at some other place, and if so, probably at Gilgal, the earlier resting-place of the
ark and the tabernacle. No definite statement, however, to that effect is made. Benjamin's
portion was assigned between the territories of Judah and the children of Joseph (Jos
18:11). Simeon received his inheritance out of the land given to Judah, a part on the south
being taken away on the ground that the whole was too great for a single tribe (Jos 19:1-9).
Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, and Naphtali were established in the north (Jos 19:10-39). And
Dan was settled on the seacoast by Joppa, with additional territory in the extreme north, of
which they apparently took independent and forcible possession, beyond the inheritance of
the other tribes (Jos 19:40-48; compare Jg 18:27-29).
(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 (Jos 20:1-9; 21:1-45; compare
Nu 35:1-34; De 4:41-43). The two and a half tribes whose inheritance lay in Eastern Palestine
were then dismissed, their promise of assistance to their brethren having been fulfilled (Jos
22:1-34); and an altar was erected by them on the right bank of the Jordan whose purpose
is explained to be to serve as a standing witness to the common origin of all the tribes, and
to frustrate any future attempt to cut off those on the East from the brotherhood of Israel.
(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 Jg 2:9, Timnath-heres), in the
hill country of Ephraim. The site of his grave is unknown. Tradition has placed it at Kefr
Haris, 9 miles South of Nablus or Shechem. But the localizing by tradition of the
burying-place of hero or saint is often little more than accidental, nor can any reliance be
placed upon it in this instance.
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.
-- International Standard Bible Encyclopedia