by Peter and Vita Toon
Bible Study Starters
Servant Books, 1982
How to use the studies
Introduction to Joshua
Study 1: Joshua, the new leader 1:1–18
Study 2: Preparation for conquest 2:1–3:13
Study 3: Entry into Canaan 3:14–5:12
Study 4: Holy war begins 5:13–6:27
Study 5: The capture of Ai 7:1–8:29
Study 6: Conquest of southern Canaan 8:30–10:43
Study 7: Conquest of northern Canaan 11:1–12:24
Study 8: Division of the land 13:1–21:45
Study 9: Civil war averted 22:1–23:16
Study 10: Renewal of the covenant 24:1–33
How To Use The Studies
Studying the Bible should be exciting, and especially so in a group of believers. The Bible is God’s gift to the church, containing his self-revelation. It is the book of God’s message to people everywhere, in all sorts of conditions. Since it is a book for God’s people (and via them to the world), it follows that the treasures and blessings it contains become available when a group of God’s people read and study it together. With sincere hearts and listening ears and in the spirit of fellowship, a group of believers becomes a microcosm of the whole church as it hears what God has to say from his word.
This study is intended to get a group of Christians started on the task of studying the Bible profitably together, though it can be used for individual study as well. It is intended to facilitate the process wherein God’s people hear God’s word today. It will have served its purpose when members of the group find the living God through the printed page of scripture. Then they will find that both attendance at the Eucharist and daily devotion is enriched.
To function well together, members of the group will want to do some preliminary reading of the book being studied. Further, the group will need a leader to get the early studies under way. He or she could be replaced at the half-way stage. Here are some suggestions for the leader(s) to help the studies run smoothly. Naturally this task will be easier if all members acquaint themselves with these suggestions.
1. Since the Bible yields its truth especially when set in the context of an atmosphere of worship, prayer, and trust, make sure that the group begins and ends its time of study and fellowship with prayer. We need to read the Bible joyfully as believers.
2. Since the Bible was written in languages which sometimes do not translate very well into modern English, always have available several translations/paraphrases (e.g., the Revised Standard Version, Jerusalem Bible, New International Version, New American Bible, Good News Bible, or Living Bible) in order to be aware of the possibilities of meaning and interpretation.
3. Always bear in mind that your first task is to understand what the text means, what God originally said through his servant who wrote the book. We are always faced with the temptation to read into the text what we want to see there. When we know what God originally said to people in a different world from our own, we can ask what he has to say today.
4. To assist in the demanding but exciting task of interpreting the Bible today, the questions at the end of each study will prove helpful. If seen in this light, they will help you understand the connection between the original meaning arrived at by exegesis and the application of that meaning today ( = hermeneutics).
5. Seek to ensure that every member contributes in one way or another. Each Christian has a spiritual gift from the Lord and when encouraged can use this for the good of others. If someone is doing too much talking, persuade that person to give others a chance.
6. Try the following method of approach, involving as many members as possible:
(i) Read the whole biblical passage
(ii) Read each section (as indicated in the notes) from a different translation
(iii) read the notes for that section
(iv) discuss the meaning of the section
(v) use the questions at the end of each section as a means of
making the whole passage relevant today
(iv) use the final time of prayer as a means of bringing to God the
concerns that have arisen.
Introduction To Joshua
Joshua is an exciting book, telling how the tribes of Israel, led by Joshua, conquered the land of Palestine in the name of their God.
In the divisions of the Hebrew Bible this book is the first of those which are called “the early (former) prophets” and it follows the collection of five books, the Torah, which contain the revelation and law of God. The books from Joshua to 2 Kings were called “prophets” because their authors spoke the word of God in the way they recorded the history of the Israelites. They wrote in such a way as to judge and evaluate the history in terms of God’s revelation given in the Torah.
The name of the author is not known. Though he made use of material collected by Joshua he wrote after the death of Joshua (24:29–30) and after various incidents mentioned in the book (e.g. 15:13b–19, the conquest of Hebron and Debir). Rahab was alive at the time of writing (6:25); thus the unknown prophet probably wrote his book within a few decades of the death of Joshua.
Scholars have not yet reached an agreement as to the date of the conquest of Palestine. Good arguments can be given for beginning the conquest either about the year 1400 B.C. or 1230 B.C. Over the last fifty years a lot of important archaeological work has been done in the cities and towns mentioned in the book; there is much more to be done but the results are already helping scholars to gain a more accurate understanding of the contents of the book of Joshua.
There is important teaching in this book which can help the Christian to grow in the knowledge and love of God. In particular, the themes of God’s faithfulness to his promises, his holy character and his gift of salvation are emphasized. The example of Joshua (= “the LORD is salvation”) also presents much food for thought.
To appreciate this book a good map of the settlement of the tribes in Palestine is indispensable. The New Bible Commentary (Eerdmans) and the Wycliffe Commentary (Moody Press) are helpful as well as the Jerome Biblical Commentary (Prentice-Hall). See also D. Winzen’s Pathways in Scripture (Servant). For introductory matters and discussion of authorship see the Introduction to the Old Testament by R. K. Harrison (Eerdmans). For archaeological discoveries see the books on Old Testament archaeology by W. F. Albright, H. T. Frank, J. Gray, K. Kitchen, W. Keller, J. A. Thompson, M. F. Unger, and G. E. Wright.
Study 1: Joshua, The New Leader
Moses is dead. Joshua, who has been prepared for leadership, now takes over.
1. 1:1–9 The LORD speaks to Joshua
Joshua inherited the responsibility previously held by Moses, the servant of the Lord (Exodus 24:13; 33:11; Numbers 11:28). The work of God, begun in the deliverance from Egypt, must go on despite the death of Moses (which is recorded in Deuteronomy 34). Joshua must lead the people into the land which Moses saw but could not enter (Numbers 20:12; 27:12–14; Deuteronomy 3:27; 31:1–8). God’s saving work in history had to continue, for God is faithful to his promises.
Verse 2: The people are east of the river Jordan on the plains of Moab (Numbers 33:48). At this point the river is 350 metres below sea-level. It is narrow and deep with banks which easily crumble. So it formed a natural frontier and barrier.
Verse 4: Three landmarks form the extent of the promised land: the desert (Negev) of the south and of the south east; the Euphrates in the north east; and the Mediterranean in the west. Lebanon is included in this territory. When this area is compared with that divided among the tribes in chapters 13–21 it is found to be greater. In fact this larger territory was only obtained in the reigns of David and Solomon (circa 1000–926 B.C.) – see 1 Kings 4:24–25; 1 Chronicles 18:3–8.
Verse 6: Note the frequency of the expression “Be strong and of good courage” (verses 6, 7, 9, 18). Much is being demanded of Joshua but, in terms of divine grace, much will be given to him.
Verse 7: The relation between success and obeying the law is common. See Deuteronomy 5:32–33 and 29:9. The New Testament equivalent is found in such passages as Matthew 7:24–27 and Luke 6:47–49.
Verse 8: The theme here has similarities to the theme of Psalm 1.
2. 1:10–18 Joshua speaks to the people
This section may be seen as running parallel to that above. As the LORD commanded Joshua, so now Joshua commands the people.
Verses 12–14: The territory east of the Jordan had been allocated to Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh earlier (Numbers 32; Deuteronomy 3:16–20). However, as these tribes are part of the people of Israel, they must take their full part in the conquest of the land west of the Jordan. The conquest was God’s plan and God’s work and as his covenant people they must share in his work.
Verse 15: The verb “to give rest” (RV) or “to grant security” (NEB) is found also in Deuteronomy 12:9; 25:19; 1 Kings 8:56. The theme of rest is developed in Psalms 95:11 and 132:8 and reaches its New Testament fulfillment in Hebrews 3:11 and 4:1–13. To dwell in God’s promised land is an effectual sign of God’s great salvation. This rest is to be considered along with the rest from the work of creation described in Genesis 2:1–3.
Verses 16–18: The response of the people includes the affirmation of Joshua’s supreme authority (under the LORD). This may be compared with the authority of Moses.
3. Questions for discussion
1. What is involved in being an assistant (helper) of a servant of the LORD? Are there modern parallels in the churches?
2. May Christians make their own the promises which God gave to Joshua? In what ways can this be done?
3. What is the biblical idea of “rest”?
4. What kind of authority should be given to pastors or clergy today?
Study 2: Preparations For Conquest
Although the conquest of Canaan will be God’s victory, he will use human means. So Joshua, as a good tactician, has to ascertain the strength of the enemy through the use of spies.
1. 2:1–24 Spies sent to Jericho
Jericho was situated in the valley of the Jordan, five miles north of the Dead Sea. It was seventeen miles from Jerusalem.
Two spies were sent and were protected there by Rahab, a prostitute. She told them how the people of the city feared the God of Israel. Also she pleaded for the safety of her family when the attack came. Having explained what she must do to gain this safety, the spies escaped to the hills and returned to report to Joshua.
Verse 1: Shittim was also called Abel-shittim, “the stream of the acacia trees” (Numbers 33:49). The modern name is Tell el-Hammam, situated near the Allenby Bridge between Amman and Jericho.
Verse 6: The roof was the common flat roof of a typical house. It was used to entertain guests (1 Samuel 9:25) and for storing fuel. The laying out of stalks of flax to dry was done here to prevent the animals getting to them.
Verse 10: For the drying up of the sea, see Exodus 14:21–29; for Sihon, see Numbers 21:21–30; and for Og, see Numbers 21:33–35.
Verse 16: The hills were the hills west of Jericho. They had a rough terrain with few inhabitants.
Verses 17–20: Three conditions were imposed on Rahab. She had to fix a scarlet thread in her window, make sure all her family were in the house, and maintain secrecy.
Verse 19: “His blood” means his bloodguiltiness, the responsibility for his own life. See also 2 Samuel 21:1 and Ezekiel 22:2–4.
Rahab is presented in the New Testament as an example of faith (Hebrews 11:31) and of producing good works for God (James 2:25). She is also included in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:5).
2. 3:1–13 Preparations for holy war
The ark was the symbol of God’s presence (Exodus 25:10–22; 37:1–9; Deuteronomy 10:1–5). Thus when it was carried at the head of a procession it showed that the LORD was leading his people.
God is holy and so the symbol of his presence was sacred, only to be handled by those set apart to minister to the LORD. Thus the people followed about one kilometer behind the ark and the priests.
The people were required to purify themselves in preparation for the LORD’S great deeds for them; this should be compared with the preparations made at Sinai before the giving of the law to Moses (Exodus 19). By his mighty acts their God would reveal himself to be the living God (not an idol), the Lord of nature (verse 13) and of history (as the whole book makes clear) – see Deuteronomy 10:14; Micah 4:13; Zechariah 4:14.
Of all the tribes listed in verse 10 the Canaanites and Amorites were in the majority. The Hittites are probably people from Turkey, where from about 1460 to 1200 B.C. there was an important Hittite empire.
3. Questions for discussion
1. Is telling lies ever justified on Christian principles?
2. Why should Christians not be embarrassed by the appearance of Rahab in prominent parts of the New Testament?
3. Does the new covenant have a symbol or symbols of the presence of the LORD as did the old covenant?
4. Why are there not mighty miracles today proclaiming the Lord of all the earth?
Study 3: Entry Into Canaan
The LORD had made definite promises to his people concerning the possession of Canaan. Now we begin to see the way he fulfilled them.
1. 3:14–17 The LORD stops the flow of the river
This is the first mighty act of the LORD on behalf of his people. The ark symbolized his presence. Although not on the scale of the crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 14) this was a miracle of a similar type.
The crossing was in April when the river was in full flow. Instead of negotiating a deep, rapid stream, the people walked over the dry river-bed. Adam was about sixteen miles north of Jericho at the site of the present Tell ed-Damiyeh, which is a mile from the confluence of the Wadi Zerqa (Jabbok) with the Jordan. It is of interest to note that the Jordan was blocked at a similar point for 10 hours on the 7th December 1267, and for 21½ hours in 1927 (during an earthquake).
2. 4:1–5:1 Memorial stones are erected
In a religion where God intervenes in history, memorials of such events are important. The twelve stones, one for each tribe, were to remind following generations of Israelites of this great act of the LORD. This practice of memorials was traditional, dating back to the patriarchs – see Genesis 28:18–22; 31:45–49; cf. Exodus 12:24–27; 13:14; Deuteronomy 6:20–25; Joshua 24:26–27.
Gilgal literally means a “circle of stones” (but see below) and was probably a Canaanite shrine, where stones were set in a circle. It was located on the eastern edge of the oasis of Jericho, just north of the modern Khirbet el-Mafjar. In the time of Saul it became an Israelite shrine – see 1 Samuel 11:15; 15:33.
Verse 12: These tribes are mentioned because of their right to land east of the Jordan (see Study I above, Joshua 1:12–15).
Verse 19: This date is the modern April, but was in pre-exilic times Abib and in post-exilic times Nisan.
Note that the connection of the crossing of the Red Sea and the Jordan is made in verses 23-24.
3. 5:2–9 The practice of circumcision is renewed
The origin of circumcision for Israel is described in Genesis 17 where Abraham, the father of the people, is circumcised. It was both a spiritual sign and a national sign, distinguishing God’s covenant people. Though only males were circumcised they were seen as heads of households and so the sign was not only for themselves but for their families. A circumcised people was intended to be an obedient people.
Bronze implements were available, but Joshua was commanded to use flint knives, in accordance with ancient tradition (cf. Exodus 4:25).
Gibeath-haaraloth means “the hill of foreskins”.
In verse 9 a secondary or further meaning is proposed for Gilgal. Apart from meaning a circle of stones it is here seen as also meaning “a rolling away” (from gallothi, “I have rolled away”). Probably “the reproach of Egypt” refers to the servile status of Israelites in Egypt before the Exodus. That reproach is removed through this act of dedication.
4. 5:10–12 The Passover celebrated
In Exodus 12 where the Passover is described it is assumed that the participants are circumcised. Therefore this naturally followed the mass circumcisions. The first Passover heralded the exodus; this Passover heralds the conquest and a new source of food. Herewith the manna (Exodus 16) ceased.
5. Questions for discussion
1. What is a miracle? Will one definition suffice?
2. What does it mean to say that Judaism and Christianity are historical religions?
3. How does Paul’s explanation of circumcision in Romans 2:28–29 make sense against the Old Testament background?
4. Should Christmas, Easter and Pentecost function for Christians in a similar way to that in which Passover and other festivals did for the Israelites?
Study 4: Holy War Begins
After a profound spiritual experience, Joshua led the people into the first battle of the holy war of conquest.
1. 5:13–15 An encounter with God
Moses encountered God through the burning bush (Exodus 3:1–12), Isaiah in a vision (Isaiah 6), and Joshua on the plain of Jericho.
Joshua sensed the presence and power of the LORD through meeting the heavenly commander of God’s host of spiritual beings. Such beings were able to assume human form – cf. Genesis 19:1–23; 32:22–30; Numbers 22:22–35; Judges 6:11–24.
Unlike the call of Moses and Isaiah, no commission immediately followed this encounter.
2. 6:1–7 The strategy is described
Jericho stood at a strategic point for access to the hill country of Judah. It was a fortified, Canaanite city defending the route from the lowlands by the Jordan to the central highlands. It was small, covering about nine acres.
Two major excavations of Jericho have been done this century – by John Garstang from 1930 to 1936, and by Kathleen Kenyon from 1952 to 1958. The evidence from these archaeological digs is indecisive in confirming the collapse of the city walls and the destruction of the city.
Verse 4: The number seven symbolized perfection and completeness — cf. Genesis 1:1–2:4, creation in seven days.
The trumpet made from a ram’s horn was not a musical instrument; it was for use in battle (Judges 7:20) and on public occasions (1 Kings 1:34, 39).
3. 6:8–21 The city is taken
The daily procession was in this order: armed men; seven priests with seven trumpets; the ark, symbolizing God’s presence; more armed men.
As the procession kept out of the range of archers each circle would have taken about forty minutes. The seventh day was the climax, with marching of about three hours, followed by a great shout.
Verse 17: The command not to take that which is devoted to destruction shows that this is holy war. The goods and persons of the enemy belonged to the LORD who gave the victory. See Deuteronomy 7:2; 20:17; 1 Samuel 15:3; Joshua 8:2. Holy war was fairly common in the history of Israel up to the time of the monarchy. The idea was that Israel was fighting the LORD’S battles, completely vanquishing his enemies and magnifying his name.
To most modern readers the destruction of women and children poses a major moral problem. There is no easy answer, although we try to understand these holy wars in their original context.
Verses 20–21: If there is a “natural” explanation for the collapse of the walls it is probably that an earthquake occurred at precisely the time that the people shouted.
4. 6:22–27 Rahab’s family spared and Jericho cursed
The safety of Rahab and her incorporation into Israel fulfilled the promise given to her (2:14).
Joshua’s curse appears to have been realized. The site of Jericho remained a ruin for about five centuries. See 1 Kings 16:34.
5. Questions for discussion
1. Are true encounters with and experiences of the living God entirely initiated by God, or can we place ourselves in the position where God reveals himself?
2. Should Christians take the number seven seriously – seven church officers, Sunday School teachers, etc. Or was it only an Old Testament phenomenon?
3. How can we explain the doctrine of holy war to modern people and at the same time safeguard the doctrine of the love of God?
4. In what circumstances, if any, may we call down God’s wrath on a place?
Study 5: The Capture Of Ai
Having taken Jericho, Joshua now had to capture the fortified town of Ai, which stood in his path of advance into the central highlands.
1. 7:1–5 Defeat at Ai
Verse one anticipates the contents of the rest of the chapter and connects these with the events of chapter 6. Achan had taken that which belonged only to the LORD (7:21) and in so doing had brought down the anger of God upon the whole people. Here are two important biblical themes. First, the unity of Israel, so that the actions of one member affect the whole (cf. Paul’s image of the body and members in Romans 12). Secondly, the wrath of God, which is his positive decision to punish a disobedient people (cf. Paul’s teaching on the wrath of God in Romans 1:18–2:11).
Ai (= “the ruin”) is to be identified with et-Tell (= “ruined mound”), 1½ miles southeast of Bethel. To the north of it was a deep ravine (8:11) and to the west an open valley (8:13) through which the Israelite warriors went.
Shebarim means “quarries”, referring to a dangerous part of the valley.
The feelings of the Israelites now (7:5b) were similar to those of the Canaanites (2:9).
2. 7:6–26 Achan and his family are killed
Since the leaders of Israel did not yet know of the sin of Achan, their astonishment at defeat was perfectly understandable. Joshua’s prayer was informed by realism. He feared that the Canaanites and Amorites would gain confidence and present a new military challenge. At the spiritual level he was deeply concerned for the name and character of his God (cf. the prayers of Moses in Numbers 14:15–16 and Deuteronomy 9:26–28).
The response of the LORD (how he spoke is not explained) made it clear what was the problem. After a period of ritual purification the people were to come near to the LORD (that is before the ark, the symbol of his presence). There sacred lots were drawn (cf. 1 Samuel 10:20–24; 14:38–42; Proverbs 16:33) in order to determine innocence or guilt. Obviously in the case of Achan they indicated guilt and this he confessed. What he had stolen was laid before the ark and he and his family were stoned and burned by the people.
Verse 21: The mantle from Shinar was probably a priestly vestment trimmed with jewels. The shekel was a measurement of weight at this period, about 2/5 ounce.
Verse 24: The Valley of Achor (= Valley of Trouble) is the modern el-Buqei’a, south of the Wadi Qilt.
3. 8:1–29 Victory at Ai
Joshua placed the majority of his men across the ravine, north of Ai. An ambush party was concealed to the west of the town. The army of Ai left its fortifications to do battle with Joshua’s army. The latter appeared to flee towards the wilderness by the Jordan and were pursued by the men of Ai. The town was unprotected and at the pre-arranged signal (verse 18) the ambush party took the city and set it on fire. Caught between two parts of Israel’s army the men of Ai were annihilated. The slaughter of the inhabitants of the city then followed.
Verses 2 and 27: For the right to keep cattle and plunder, see Deuteronomy 2:34–35; 3:6–7.
Verses 18–19: The holding of the javelin by Joshua may be compared with the raised hands of Moses (Exodus 17:11).
Verse 29: The king was hanged after being killed. Cf. Deuteronomy 21:22–23.
4. Questions for discussion
1. In the light of Acts 1:26, is Proverbs 16:33 still valid?
2. Are we to think of the solidarity of the church in terms which resemble the solidarity of ancient Israel?
3. Do we have sentimental ideas of corporal and capital punishment today?
4. If we need the help of the LORD to be successful, why should we bother to construct good schemes and plans of action – in evangelism, church giving, Christian social service, missions etc?
Study 6: Conquest Of Southern Canaan
Having gained entry into the central highlands, Joshua made a treaty with Gibeon before conquering the people of the south. But first, following the example of Moses, he caused the people to renew their covenant with the LORD.
1. 8:30–35 The covenant ceremony at Shechem
Shechem was twenty miles north of Ai. To its north was Mt Ebal and to the south Mt Gerizim. The altar made of stones which stonemasons had not handled was required by Deuteronomy 27:5–6 and Exodus 20:25. Sacrifices were of two types – the burnt offering (described in Leviticus 1) where the whole animal was consumed by fire, and the peace or fellowship offering in which the animal was partly burned and partly eaten (Leviticus 3). The stones used by Joshua were probably covered in plaster (cf. Deuteronomy 27:2), and the way in which the people assembled for the ceremony followed the instructions of Deuteronomy 11:29 and 27:12–13.
2. 9:1–27 A treaty with the Gibeonites
Verses 1–2 are an introduction to the description given in chapters 9–11 of the final campaigns of the conquest of Canaan in north and south.
Gibeon is the modern el-Jib, six miles northwest of Jerusalem. As Joshua had cunningly deceived the king of Ai, so he is deceived by the ambassadors of Gibeon. In fact Joshua was forbidden to make treaties with people in Canaan (Exodus 23:32; 34:12; Deuteronomy 7:2; 20:16–18). When the deceit was revealed there was no slaughter, for oaths were sacred, having been made before God. Instead Gibeonites became menial servants.
Verse 17: Chephirah is probably Tell Kefireh, five miles west of el-Jib; Beeroth is probably Ras et-Tahuneh near Bethel, and Kiriath-jearim is Qiryat el-’Ainab.
Verse 21: For the menial status see Deuteronomy 29:11. However, verses 23 and 27 make this work relate to the sanctuary, which was later at Jerusalem but was first at Gilgal.
3. 10:1–43 The campaign in the south
This falls into three parts.
(a) The Amorites are defeated at Gibeon, verses 1–15
The confederacy of five kings intended to punish Gibeon, but Israel honoured her treaty with Gibeon and routed the confederate army.
Verse 1: This is the first time Jerusalem is mentioned in the Old Testament.
Verse 3: Hebron lay on the southwest slope of the modern el-Khalil and controlled the road south. Jarmuth was sixteen miles southwest of Jerusalem. Lachish is the modern Tell ed-Duweir, fifteen miles west of Hebron. The location of Eglon is not clear and various possibilities exist – e.g. Tell ’Eitun, ten miles southwest of Hebron.
Verses 12–13: The book of Jasher no longer exists but was a collection of poems in praise of the heroes of Israel. If the words are taken in the way in which they are translated in most Bibles then a spectacular event took place which defies any scientific explanation. However, the Hebrew may be translated, “The sun made no haste to come about a whole day and there was no day . . .” so that what happened was a prolongation of darkness. Such a phenomenon could be explained in several ways by meteorologists.
(b) Victory over five Amorite kings, verses 16–27
The five kings were named in verses 3 and 5. After death their bodies were hung on trees but removed at the end of the day (Deuteronomy 21:22–23).
(c) Conquest of the towns of south Canaan, verses 28–39
Making a southward thrust through the Shephelah, Joshua captured the major fortified towns guarding the western approaches to the hill country of the south. Then he ascended into the hill country and took Hebron and Debir.
Verses 40–43 are a summary of the conquest of the land.
4. Questions for discussion
1. Should Christians regularly renew their covenant with the Lord?
2. Do we take sufficiently seriously the promises we make?
3. What really happened to the sun (10:12–13)?
4. How would you explain 10:40b to a class of young teenagers?
Study 7: Conquest Of Northern Canaan
Here the third and final part of the conquest is described. It is followed by a summary of the kings who were conquered by Moses and Joshua.
1. 11:1–15 Jabin and his allies defeated
Jabin of Hazor formed a coalition of northern kings to fight Joshua’s army, but he did not succeed. With assurance of victory before he began, Joshua made a surprise attack, routed the enemy, captured his cities and destroyed the inhabitants. This was holy war. The events recorded in verses 6–9 reflect the basic instructions of 10:8–10. Swift, surprise attacks were very effective in hill country, especially after a long march. The LORD who promised victory guided Joshua to use good tactics!
Verse 1: Hazor was an important city of Canaan, about 200 acres in size. Its modern name is Tell el-Qedah and it has been fully excavated by Y. Yadin (see his book Hazor 2 vols, 1958–60). Madon was a settlement above Tiberias, the modern Qurn Hattin. Neither Shimron nor Achshaph have been conclusively identified; they were near either Acco or Safed.
Verse 5: The waters of Merom are probably springs at either Meirun, four miles west of Safed on the edge of the plateau of Upper Galilee, or Marun er-Ras, nine miles further north.
Verse 8: The line of flight was towards Sidon, the Canaanite seaport on the Mediterranean, towards Khirbet el Musheirifeh on the present Israel-Lebanese border, and towards the area east of the upper Jordan.
Verse 13: The cities “built on mounds” means built on tells, the accumulated ruins of previous cities.
2. 11:16–23 Summary of Joshua’s work
The summary begins with the south and moves northwards. Not all Palestine was yet conquered but the power of the Canaanites was broken. The coastal area and the Plain of Esdraelon are not mentioned here and were not yet taken – see Joshua 13:1–6 and 17:11–13.
Verses 16–17: The statements of verse 16 may be compared with those in Joshua 10:40–43. The territory stretched from Mount Halak (Jebel Halaq, forty miles southwest of the southern end of the Dead Sea) in the south, to the foot of Mount Hermon in the north.
Verse 20: God caused the Canaanites to refuse to submit to Joshua; thus they made war and in that war were utterly destroyed.
Verse 21: The Anakim were regarded as giants – see Numbers 13:28, 33; Deuteronomy 1:28; 2:10, 21; 9:2. For their survival (verse 22) see 1 Samuel 17:4; 2 Samuel 21:16–22.
Verse 23: This verse summarizes the two parts of the book and work of Joshua, the conquest (1–12) and the division of the land among the tribes (13–24). In doing both Joshua was fulfilling the task that Moses began when he led the people out of the land of slavery.
3. 12:1–24 A list of the conquered kings
This falls into three parts.
(i) The occupation of land east of the Jordan, verses 1–6.
(ii) A comprehensive survey of the land west of the Jordan, verses 7–8.
(iii) The catalogue of the defeated kings, verses 9–24.
The third may be further subdivided into a list of the defeated kings recorded in the narrative of Joshua 6–10 (verses 9–13a), a list of kings of southern Canaan, most of whom are mentioned in Joshua 10 (verses 13b–16a), a list of kings of central Canaan in the hills and on the plain (verses 16b–18), a list of kings of Galilee (verses 19–23), and the king of Tirzah (Tell el Farah). The last is out of context and belongs with those in verses 16b–18.
4. Questions for discussion
1. Why was the possession of the land of Palestine so important to the faith of Israel?
2. What moral and theological problems are raised by 11:20?
3. In the Bible there are many lists of names, kings, etc. which seem boring! If the Bible is the word of God, what function do such lists have?
4. In what ways were Joshua and Moses similar, and in what ways were they different?
Study 8: Division Of The Land
This is a long and, at first sight, boring section of the book of Joshua. The details were necessary in order to show how God’s promise of the land was actually fulfilled in real terms for real people, the tribes of Israel.
Obviously a study group will not have time to read it all and so the following sections are recommended: 13:1–7; 18:1–10; 19:49–51; 20:1–6; 21:1–3, 43–45.
1. 13:1–7 Introduction to the division of the land
The land yet to be conquered is here described:
(i) The five cities of the Philistines on the coastal plain. They settled there about 1300 B.C. and were a constant problem for the Israelites.
(ii) The Geshurites were a south Canaanite tribe, living south of the Philistine cities – 1 Samuel 27:8. Note that they are not the same as the tribe of Joshua 12:5.
(iii) The Avvim lived south of Gaza (Deuteronomy 2:23).
(iv) Mearah, Aphek and the land of the Gebalites were in the territory of the Phoenicians (modern Lebanon). Hamath was a town on the river Orontes. Misrepothmaim is Khirbet et-Musheirifeh, south of the coastal promontory called the Ladder of Tyre (cf. Joshua 11:8).
This vast territory was only acquired much later – 1 Kings 8:65; 2 Kings 14:25.
2. 13:8–33 The land east of the river Jordan – Manasseh, Reuben and Gad
This section should be compared with Joshua 12:1–6; Deuteronomy 2–3; and Numbers 32.
3. 14:1–15 Introduction to the division of Canaan
This section introduces the allocation of land to 9½ tribes – Joshua 13:1, 7. See further Numbers 34:16–29.
4. 14:6–15 Caleb receives Hebron
The background to this is the promise of Moses – Numbers 13–14 and Deuteronomy 1:34–36. The Kenizzites were assimilated into the tribe of Judah; originally they were Edomites (Genesis 36:11; Joshua 15:17).
5. 15:1–63 Judah receives a large and diverse area
Verses 1–12 describe the boundaries of Judah; verses 13–19 describe the occupation of Hebron and Debir by Kenizzites; and verses 20–63 list the towns they occupied, organized into twelve districts.
6. 16:1–17:18 The Joseph tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh, receive their inheritance
This may be subdivided as follows:
(i) The territory of Ephraim, 16:1–10. For verse 10 see 1 Kings 9:15–22.
(ii) The territory of Manasseh, 17:1–13. Verse 4 refers to Numbers 27:1–11. Verses 12–13 gain explanation from Judges 1:27–28 and 1 Kings 9:15–22.
(iii) Joseph demands more territory, 17:14–18. The hill country is either that of Samaria or that east of Jordan (2 Samuel 18:6).
7. 18:1–19:51 The territory of the remaining seven tribes
The first grant of lands was made in the plains of Moab (Joshua 13:32); the second was made to Judah and the Joseph tribes at Gilgal (14:1–6); and now the third took place at Shiloh. Again the system of guidance through lots was used. This section may be subdivided as follows;
(i) 18:1–10 A survey of remaining territory. Shiloh is not mentioned as in use after 1 Samuel 1–4, which may mean it was destroyed by the Philistines.
(ii) 18:11–28 The settlement of Benjamin. This covered both the borders (verses 11–20) and the towns (verses 21–28).
(iii) 19:1–9 The territory of Simeon. This was in the middle of Judah’s inheritance.
(iv) 19:10–39 The territory of Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, and Naphtali. This covered the area of Galilee.
(v) 19:40–48 The territory of Dan. For the later history of Dan, see Judges 18.
(vi) 19:49–51 Joshua’s inheritance. Timnath-serah is Khirbet Tibneh in the hill country of Ephraim, ten miles northwest of Bethel.
8. 20:1–21:45 Cities of refuge and for Levites
In 20:1–9 the LORD commands Joshua to appoint cities of refuge where someone who killed another unintentionally could find refuge from one who sought to avenge the blood of the dead. Israel made a distinction between deliberate and accidental killing. For the law of Moses, see Exodus 21:12–14 and Deuteronomy 19:1–10, and cf. 1 Kings 1:50–53; 2:28–31 for examples. Refuge was often at a sanctuary.
In 21:1–42 towns with pasture lands are allotted to those who served, in turn, at the sanctuary of the LORD. Cf. 1 Chronicles 6:54–81.
The last paragraph, 21:43–45, is a summary of the situation. The promises of the LORD, given in his covenant with Moses, have been fulfilled; the Land of Promise has been occupied, and the “rest” (1:13 and 11:23b) has come.
9. Questions for discussion
1. Why was it necessary for the writer of the book of Joshua to give so much space to detailed information on the settlement of Canaan?
2. Did God’s promise of the land of Canaan apply only to Israel under the old covenant or does it continue to modern Israelites (Jews) whether or not they are in the new covenant?
3. Is a modern equivalent of a city of refuge needed in some countries in order to ensure that justice is done?
4. May Christians now affirm the truth of 21:45 under the new covenant?
Study 9: Civil War Averted
The tribes have been given their inheritance. Those with land east of the Jordan set out to return, but the manner of their departure nearly causes a civil war. Joshua, now an old man, gives his farewell address.
1. 22:1-9 The return of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh
Having fulfilled the conditions imposed upon them (Joshua 1:12–18), these tribes were able to return to their inheritance after suitable admonishment and blessing from Joshua.
Verse 5: Cf. Deuteronomy 5:28–6:15.
2. 22:10–34 An altar of testimony, not sacrifice, is erected
Misunderstanding between brethren nearly caused a civil war! The three tribes built the altar, as they later explained (verses 26–27), not for worship but as a reminder to later generations that they, from the east of the Jordan, were an essential part of the covenant people of God. As they were going to be separated geographically by the river Jordan, they wanted another physical sign (a large altar) to witness to their inclusion in Israel.
Their brethren, taking Deuteronomy 12:5–14 seriously, at first believed that they were making a second centre for Israel’s worship. Such an action was forbidden.
Verse 17: For the sin of Peor, see Numbers 25:1–9 and Deuteronomy 4:3.
3. 23:1–16 Joshua’s first farewell address
This moving address has four main elements which are also found in the major speeches of Moses (e.g. Deuteronomy 29–30). There is the statement of God’s activity in history working for Israel (verses 4–5, 9–10), of divine blessings (verses 10, 14–15a), of obligations (verses 6–8, 11) and of the consequences of breaking the covenant (verses 12–13, 15b–16). The doctrine of Israel’s blessings’ being conditional on faithful obedience to the LORD of the covenant is set out in Deuteronomy 28:1–14.
4. Questions for discussion
1. What steps can we take to prevent jumping to false conclusions about people and thereby wrongly judging them?
2. Do modern Christians in local churches need to make themselves aware of the universal family of God to which they belong?
3. What can Christian leaders learn from the example of Joshua?
4. To what extent are the blessings of the new covenant dependent on our obedience to the LORD?
Study 10: Renewal Of The Covenant
The first address of Joshua (now near his end) is recorded in chapter 23. Here is recorded his second and final address, followed by the renewal of the covenant by the people.
1. 24:1–15 The LORD’s choice of and care for Israel
Shechem was an ancient shrine used by Abraham and Jacob (Genesis 12:6–7; 33:18–20). The Canaanites used it as a shrine where they worshipped Baal-berith (= “Lord of the covenant”).
Verses 2–13 describe the history of Israel from the time of the patriarchs until the occupation of Canaan. They may be compared with Deuteronomy 26:5–9.
Verses 2–4 are concerned with the history before the period in Egypt. Verses 5–7 deal with the period in and deliverance from Egypt. Verses 8–10 recount what happened east of the Jordan when Moses led the people, while verses 11–13 describe the recent events in Canaan.
Verses 14–15 summarize the call of Joshua to the people to commit themselves wholly to the LORD.
Verse 12: Apart from here, the word translated “hornet” only occurs in Exodus 23:28 and Deuteronomy 7:20. The best understanding of it is to take the Hebrew to mean “enervation” and see it as that divinely inspired panic which was a feature of the “holy war”.
2. 24:16–28 Israel renews her covenant with the LORD
After making an oath of loyalty (verse 16) the people, as represented by their elders and leaders, affirmed the guidance of God through their history (verses 17–18).
In order to deepen their loyalty, Joshua explained the character of their Lord and the nature of their commitment. When they persisted in their desire to submit to him, Joshua called upon them to prove their commitment by showing their sincerity in actions (verse 23).
What the statutes and ordinances were is best illustrated by the contents of the book of the covenant (Exodus 20:22–23:33). The record of the covenant was made in order to be deposited along with the ark at the central sanctuary; from time to time it would probably be read to the people (Deuteronomy 31:9–13).
The setting up of a stone to act as a memorial or reminder was familiar – Exodus 24:4; Deuteronomy 27:2–4; Joshua 8:32. For the tree, see Genesis 12:6; 35:4; Judges 9:6.
3. 24:29–33 The graves of Joshua, Joseph and Eleazar
Verses 29–31 are similar to Judges 2:7–9. At this point Joshua is given the exalted title of “servant of the LORD” which previously had been used only of Moses (see Joshua 1:11). Timnath-serah is the modern Khirbet Tibneh, twelve miles northeast of Lydda.
For the bones of Joseph and their travels, see Genesis 50:25 and Exodus 13:19.
As yet no one has located the site of “Gibeah, the town of Phinehas”.
4. Questions for discussion
1. Should Christians take a lively interest in the history of the Christian church from apostolic to modern times? If so, why?
2. In what ways is the Lord’s Supper a memorial and a remembrance?
3. What lessons can modern Christians learn from the whole book of Joshua?
4. Should Christians visit the graves of great heroes of the Christian church? If so, why, when the heroes are now in heaven?
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