Book Of Joshua

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The Book of Joshua (Hebrew: Sefer Y'hoshua ספר יהושע) is the sixth book in both the Hebrew Tanakh and the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. This book stands as the first in the Former (or First) Prophets covering the history of Israel from the possession of the Promised Land to the Babylonian Captivity.



Jewish tradition ascribes authorship of the book to Joshua. The Talmud states that the book was written by Joshua except for the last verses (Joshua 24:29-33) which were added by Phinehas the priest.

Certainly, the author writes as an eyewitness to the accounts described, occasionally using first person pronouns (for instance, in Joshua 5:1), although Joshua himself is usually described in the third person. Some sections, however (eg. 5:9, 7:26, 24:29-33) could only have been added after his death (probably by Eleazar the Priest or his son Phinehas).

Contents And Structure

The book of Joshua contains a history of the Israelites from the death of Moses to that of Joshua. After Moses' death, Joshua, by virtue of his previous appointment as Moses' successor, receives from God the command to cross the Jordan. In execution of this order Joshua issues the requisite instructions to the stewards of the people for the crossing of the Jordan; and he reminds the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half of Manasseh of their pledge given to Moses to help their brethren.

The book essentially 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.
  3. The farewell addresses of Joshua, with an account of his death (23, 24).
The section concerning the conquest of the land involves
  • Rahab (2).

Joshua sends out two spies from Shittim to explore the city of Jericho. They are saved from falling into the hands of the king by the shrewd tactics of Rahab, in return for promising not to attack her when they later invade.

  • The Crossing of the Jordan (1, and 3-4).

Having re-iterated the duty to follow the mitzvah, Joshua orders the Israelites to set forth, and they leave Shittim. When they reach the Jordan River, Joshua predicts that the Ark will miraculously cross the Jordan. As soon as the Ark reaches the river, a miracle duly occurs, and the river stops flowing and rapidly dries up, so the priests carrying it halt, allowing the rest of the Israelites to cross as well. In commemoration of the event, Joshua orders two monuments to be erected: one in the river-bed itself; the other on the western bank, at Gilgal (which does not yet have its name), where the Israelites encamp.

  • The Circumcision of the Israelites (5:1-12).

The Israelites are circumcised at Gibeath-Haaraloth (translating as hill of foreskins). This is then explained as owing to those being born in the desert as not having been circumcised. The people are therefore circumcised and the area is named Gilgal in memory (Gilgal sounds like Gallothi - I have removed, but is more likely to translate as circle of standing stones).

  • The Captain of the Lord's host (5:13-15).

In a somewhat obscure passage, a captain of the host of the LORD arrives, with drawn sword, and orders Joshua to remove his sandals (which he does) as the land he stands upon is holy.

  • The Battle of Jericho (6)

Placing Jericho under siege, the Israelites circle it once a day for six days, and on the seventh make seven circuits, each time loudly blowing horns and shouting. On the final circuit, the walls cave in, and the inhabitants, except Rahab and her family, are slaughtered. A curse is pronounced against rebuilding the city.

  • The First Battle of Ai (7)

Ai is surveyed and pronounced weak, so the Israelite army sends only a small group to attack them but they are defeated, causing Joshua and the people to the verge of despair. But God announces that the people have sinned, as someone has stolen some of the spoils from Jericho which are meant to be for the temple. Consequently the Israelites set out to discover the sinner by casting lots (Urim And Thummim), whittling them down first by tribe (Judah), then clan (Zarhites), then sept (Zabdi), then finally detecting it as Achan. Achan admits having taken a costly Babylonian garment, besides silver and gold, and his confession is verified by the finding of the treasure buried in his tent, so Achan is taken into the valley of Achor, where he is stoned and burned to death.

  • The Second Battle of Ai (8:1-29)

30,000 Israelites set an ambush of Ai overnight, and in the morning another Israelite force attack and then feign retreat, drawing the forces of Ai far away from the city. When Joshua raises his lance, the 30,000 men preparing the ambush strike, while Joshua start attacking again, thus surrounding Ai's forces. The entire city is burned and its inhabitants slaughtered, the king of Ai being hung on a tree, and his body being thrown into a pit.

  • The Ritual of Ebal and Gerizim (8:30-35)

Joshua erects an altar on Mount Ebal and makes offerings upon it, and carving into it the law of Moses. The people are arranged into two sections, with one facing Ebal and the other facing Gerizim. They each read the blessings and curses specified in Deuteronomy as appropriate.

  • The Hivite Treaty (9)

The Hivites fool the Israelites into thinking them foreigners, and gain a non-aggression treaty from the Israelites. Even after its detection, the fraud is not abrogated, though the Hivites are punished by being treated as the lowest social class (referred to via the Hebrew idiom "hewers of wood and drawers of water for the altar of Yhwh").

  • The five kings of the Amorites (10)

Adonizedek, king of Jerusalem, brings about an alliance of the "five kings of the Amorites" (himself, and the kings of Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon), and they besiege the Hivites in Gibeon, whom they perceive as traitors. The Hivites implore Joshua's help, and so he launches a surprise night attack, causing the Amorites to panic and flee as far as Beth-Horon. Although a night attack, a poem is quoted from the Book Of Jasher, which states that the sun stood still at Gibeon, and the moon in the valley of Ajalon, in order that Joshua could complete the battle. The five kings hide in a cave, but are discovered and trapped there until their army has been completely obliterated, at which point they are then hanged.

  • The battle against Hazor (11:1-20, 23).

Jabin, King of Hazor, his army, and those of his vassels, rendezvous at Merom. Joshua, however, executes a swift attack and is able to defeat them. Pursuing them to a great distance, he hamstrings their horses, burns their chariots, captures Hazor, slaughters its inhabitants, and burns it to the ground. Lesser royal residences are also captured and their inhabitants slaughtered, although the cities on the hill remain.

  • The Anakim(11:21-22).

The sons of Anak are driven away from the mountains and Hebron by Joshua, somewhat contradicting the accounts later in the Book Of Judges which says that it was Caleb who did this.

The section concerning the division of Canaan contains brief narrative portions and long lists of places, interweaving
  • The framing narrative, describing the process by which the land was divided (12:1-6, 13:1-14, 13:21b-22, 13:32-14:3, 15:63, 16:10-17:6, 17:12-18:10, 19:51, and 22:1-9).

First a description is given of the domains east of the Jordan which were conquered and given to Reuben, Gad, and Machir (half of Manasseh). After God gives Joshua a gloss concerning the unconquered region, he reminds him about Reuben, Gad, and Machir (half of Manasseh), already having been allocated land by Moses, and about the Levites not being given territory, only cities. The territory is handed out by lot, Judah gaining the first lot, although they fail to drive out the Canaanites living in Jerusalem. Then the house of Joseph gets its territory, Ephraim failing to drive out the Canaanites of Gezer, and it is pointed out that the daughters of Zelophehad, part of the tribe of Manasseh, are also given territory of their own. The house of Joseph is given the mountain region, including the forest, and is told that they will be able to drive out the Canaanites living there despite the presence of iron chariots. The Israelites then assemble at Shiloh, and Joshua sends out a survey team. When the survey is complete, the remaining land is divided amongst the lesser tribes. Finally, the tribes whose lands are east of the Jordan are allowed to go to their lands.

  • The Joshua King List (12:7-24).

A list of 31 cities which were conquered and had kings.

  • A description of the boundaries of the Israelite Tribes.

The description of the boundaries of Judah (15:1-12) and of Benjamin (18:11-20) is quite distinct from the list of their cities, unlike the descriptions of the borders of the other tribes. The boundaries of Ephraim (16:4-9) and (half of) Manasseh (17:7-11) are unusual in that they also include enclaves in some of the territory of the surrounding tribes, the boundaries of them as a whole are also given (16:1-3). Descriptions of the boundaries of the other tribes are also given - Reuben (13:15-16, 20, 23a), Gad (13:24-27), Machir (half of Manasseh) (13:29-31), Zebulon (10-14), Issachar (22a), Asher (24, and 26b-29a), and Naphtali (19:32-34) - except for those of Levi (who only have cities), Dan, and Simeon, for whom only cities are listed.

  • The lists of cities of the Israelites by tribe.

The lists for Judah (15:20-62) and Benjamin (18:21-28) are extremely extensive, leading many to suspect it was originally derived from an administrative document. The lists for the other territorial tribes - Reuben (13:16-21a and 13:23b), Gad (13:24-28), Simeon (19:1-9), Zebulon (19:10-16), Issachar (19:17-23), Asher (19:25-31), Naphtali (19:32-39), Dan (19:40-46) - are each partly mixed with the descriptions of their boundaries, though other parts stand unfettered. The list for the tribe of Levi (21:1-45) is broken into its three clans, and is somewhat more verbose. Conversely, there isn't really a list at all for either Ephraim or Manasseh.

  • The Anakim (14:6-15, and 15:13-14).

Caleb reminds Joshua of his loyalty and requests Hebron as his personal portion. The request is granted, and Caleb drives out the sons of Anak which are residing there.

  • The story of Othniel (15:15-19).

Caleb marches against Kiriath-Sepher, promising to give his daughter, Achsah, in marriage to whoever conquers it. His nephew, Othniel, takes up the challenge and so gains her hand in marriage. Achsah asks for a greater dowry from her father, and so is given the upper and lower pools in addition to the land in the Negev she has already been allocated.

  • The attack on Leshem (19:47-48).

The territory of the tribe of Dan is too small for them so they attack Leshem, slaughtering its inhabitants, and refounding it under the name Dan.

  • Joshua's portion (19:49-50). Joshua himself is given Timnath-Serah, which he has requested, in the territory of Ephraim.
  • The appointment of cities of refuge (20) also including a brief list naming the cities.
  • The altar of Ed (22:10-34).

When they return to their lands, Reuben, Gad, and Machir (half of Manasseh) build a conspicuously large altar. The other tribes take offense at this, since they believe it suggests that they are claiming their altar is the main one, so they prepare for war. However, they first send Phinehas and princes from each of the tribes, to admonish them. Reuben, Gad, and Machir, respond to this by stating that the altar is only a symbol of their loyalty, and not something to be used, so Phinehas and his party are relieved, and abandon their plans for war. The altar is named Ed (which translates as witness) in memory.

The section concerning Joshua's final words involves
  • Joshua's final speech (23-24).

Joshua, now old, calls an assembly, and when it meets, he admonishes the people to remain loyal to the Torah of Moses. Joshua then gathers all the tribes together at Shechem, where he admonishes people to remain loyal to the Torah of Moses, recounting certain prior events. Joshua then sets up a large stone beneath a tree, within the holy ground at Shechem, in witness to a promise of the people to be faithful. Joshua then dies, as shortly thereafter does Eleazar. The Bones of Joseph are also buried there by the tree and stone pillar, on a piece of ground that Jacob had purchased for 100 pieces of money.

The Book of Joshua 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 (Joshua 1-12).

(2) The allotment of the land to the different tribes, with the appointment of cities of refuge, the provision for the Levites (Joshua 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 (Joshua 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 (Joshua 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 (Joshua 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 Horce 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 1480 B.C. 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.”

I. Title and Authorship.

The name Joshua signifies “YHWH is deliverance” or “salvation” (see Joshua). The Greek form of the name is Jesus (Ἰησοῦς, Iēsoús, Acts 7:4; Hebrews 4:8). In later Jewish history the name appears to have become popular, and is even found with a local significance, as the designation of a small town in Southern Palestine (ישׁוּע, yēshūa‛, Nehemiah 11:26). The use of the title by the Jews to denote the Book of Joshua did not imply a belief that the book was actually written or dictated by him; or even that the narratives themselves were in substance derived from him, and owed their authenticity and reliability to his sanction and control. In the earliest Jewish literature the association of a name with a book was not intended in any case to indicate authorship. And the Book of Joshua is no exception to the rule that such early writings, especially when their contents are of a historical nature, are usually anonymous. The title is intended to describe, not authorship, but theme; and to represent that the life and deeds of Joshua form the main subject with which the book is concerned.

II. Contents.

With regard to the contents of Joshua, it will be found to consist of two well-marked divisions, in the first of which (Joshua 1-2) are narrated the invasion and gradual conquest under the command of Joshua of the land on the West of the Jordan; while the 2nd part describes in detail the allotment of the country to the several tribes with the boundaries of their territories, and concludes with a brief notice of the death and burial of Joshua himself.

1. Invasion and Conquest of Western Palestine:

Joshua 1: Renewal of the Divine promise to Joshua and exhortation to fearlessness and courage (Joshua 1:1-9); directions to the people to prepare for the passage of the river, and a reminder to the eastern tribes (Reuben, Gad, and half and Manasseh) of the condition under which they held their possession beyond Jordan; the renewal by these tribes of their pledge of loyalty to Moses' successor (Joshua 1:10-18).

Joshua 2: The sending of the two spies from Shittim and their escape from Jericho through the stratagem of Rahab.

Joshua 3: The passage of Jordan by the people over against Jericho, the priests bearing the ark, and standing in the dry bed of the river until all the people had crossed over.

Joshua 4: Erection of 12 memorial stones on the other side of Jordan, where the people encamped after the passage of the river (Joshua 4:1-14); the priests with the Ark of the Covenant ascend in their turn from out of the river-bed, and the waters return into their wonted course (Joshua 4:15-24).

Joshua 5:1-15 : Alarm excited among the kings on the West of Jordan by the news of the successful crossing of the river (Joshua 5:1); circumcision of the people at Gilgal (Joshua 5:2-9); celebration of the Passover at Gilgal in the plains of Jericho (Joshua 5:10, Joshua 5:11); cessation of the supply of the manna (Joshua 5:12); appearance to Joshua of the captain of the Lord's host (Joshua 5:13-15).

Joshua 6: Directions given to Joshua for the siege and taking of Jericho (Joshua 6:1-5); capture of the city, which is destroyed by fire, Rahab and her household alone being saved (Joshua 6:6-25); a curse is pronounced on the man who rebuilds Jericho (Joshua 6:26).

Joshua 7: The crime and punishment of Achan, who stole for himself part of the spoil of the captured city (Joshua 7:1, Joshua 7:16-26); incidentally his sin is the cause of a disastrous defeat before Ai (Joshua 7:2-12).

Joshua 8: The taking of Ai by a stratagem, destruction of the city, and death of its king (Joshua 8:1-29); erection of an altar on Mt. Ebal, and reading of the Law before the assembled people (Joshua 8:30).

Joshua 9: Gathering of the peoples of Palestine to oppose Joshua (Joshua 9:1-2); a covenant of peace made with the Gibeonites, who represent themselves as strangers from a far country (Joshua 9:3-26); they are, however, reduced to a condition of servitude (Joshua 9:27).

Joshua 10: Combination of 5 kings of the Amorites to punish the inhabitants of Gibeon for their defection, and defeat and rout of the kings by Joshua at Beth-horon (Joshua 10:1-14); return of the Israelites to Gilgal (Joshua 10:15); capture and death by hanging of the 5 kings at Makkedah (Joshua 10:16-27); taking and destruction of Makkedah (Joshua 10:28), Libnah (Joshua 10:29, Joshua 10:30), Lachish (Joshua 10:31, Joshua 10:32), Gezer (Joshua 10:33), Eglon (Joshua 10:34, Joshua 10:35), Hebron (Joshua 10:36, Joshua 10:37), Debir (Joshua 10:38, Joshua 10:39), and summarily all the land, defined as from Kadesh-barnea unto Gaza, and as far North as Gibeon (Joshua 10:40-42); return to Gilgal (Joshua 10:43).

Joshua 11: Defeat of Jabin, king of Hazor, and allied kings at the waters of Merom (Joshua 11:1-9); destruction of Hazor (Joshua 11:10-15); reiterated summary of Joshua's conquests (Joshua 11:16-23).

Joshua 12: Final summary of the Israelite conquests in Canaan, of Sihon and Og on the East of the Jordan under the leadership of Moses (Joshua 12:1-6); of 31 kings and their cities on the West of the river under Joshua (Joshua 12:7-24).

2. Allotment of the Country to the Tribes of Israel:

Joshua 13: Command to Joshua to allot the land on the West of the Jordan, even that which was still unsubdued, to the nine and a half tribes (Joshua 13:1-7); recapitulation of the inheritance given by Moses on the East of the river (Joshua 13:8-13, Joshua 13:32); the border of Reuben (Joshua 13:15-23), of Gad (Joshua 13:24-28), of the half-tribe of Manasseh (Joshua 13:29); the tribe of Levi alone received no the landed inheritance (Joshua 13:14, Joshua 13:33).

Joshua 14:1-15: Renewed statement of the principle on which the division of the land had been made (Joshua 14:1-5); Hebron given to Caleb for his inheritance (Joshua 14:6-15).

Joshua 15: The inheritance of Judah, and the boundaries of his territory (Joshua 15:1-20), including that of Caleb (Joshua 15:13-19); enumeration of the cities of Judah (Joshua 15:21-63).

[Joshua 16:1-10 : Inheritance of the sons of Joseph (Joshua 16:1-4); the border of Ephraim (Joshua 16:5-10).

Joshua 17: Inheritance of Manasseh and the border of the half-tribe on the West of the Jordan (Joshua 17:1); complaint of the sons of Joseph of the insufficiency of their inheritance, and grant to them by Joshua of an extension of territory (Joshua 17:14-18).

Joshua 18: The land yet unsubdued divided by lot into 7 portions for the remaining 7 tribes (Joshua 18:1-10); inheritance of the sons of Benjamin and the border of their territory (Joshua 18:11-20); enumeration of their cities (Joshua 18:21-28).

Joshua 19: Inheritance of Simeon and his border (Joshua 19:1-9); of Zebulun and his border (Joshua 19:10-16); of Issachar and his border (Joshua 19:17-23); of Asher and his border (Joshua 19:24-31); of Naphtali and his border (Joshua 19:32-39); and of Dan and his border (Joshua 19:40-48); inheritance of Joshua (Joshua 19:49, Joshua 19:50); concluding statement (Joshua 19:51).

Joshua 20:1-9: Cities of Refuge appointed, three on each side of the Jordan.

Joshua 21: 48 cities with their suburbs given to the Levites out of the territories of the several tribes (Joshua 21:1-41); the people had rest in the land, their enemies being subdued, according to the Divine promise (Joshua 21:43-45).

Joshua 22: Dismissal of the eastern tribes to their inheritance, their duty to their brethren having been fulfilled (Joshua 22:1-9); the erection by them of a great altar by the side of the Jordan aroused the suspicion of the western tribes, who feared that they intended to separate themselves from the common cause (Joshua 22:10-20); their reply that the altar is to serve the purpose of a witness between themselves and their brethren (Joshua 22:21-34).

Joshua 23: Joshua's address of encouragement and warning to the people.

Joshua 24: Second address of Joshua, recalling to the people their history, and the Divine interventions on their behalf (Joshua 24:1-23); the people's pledge of loyalty to the Lord, and formal covenant in Shechem (Joshua 24:24, Joshua 24:25); the book of the law of God is committed to writing, and a stone is erected as a permanent memorial (Joshua 24:26-28); death and burial of Joshua (Joshua 24:29-31); burial in Shechem of the bones of Joseph, brought from Egypt (Joshua 24:32); death and burial of Eleazar, son of Aaron (Joshua 24:33).

III. Historical Character and Chronology.

1. The Book of Joshua as History:

As a historical narrative, therefore, detailing the steps taken to secure the conquest and possession of Canaan, Joshua is incomplete and is marked by many omissions, and in some instances at least includes phrases or expressions which seem to imply the existence of parallel or even divergent accounts of the same event, e.g. in the passage of the Jordan and the erection of memorial stones (Joshua 3; 4), the summary of the conquests of Joshua (Joshua 10:40-43; Joshua 11:16-23), or the references to Moses' victories over the Amorite kings on the East of the Jordan.

This last fact suggests, what is in itself sufficiently probable, that the writer or compiler of the book made use of previously existing records or narratives, not necessarily in every instance written, but probably also oral and traditional, upon which he relied and out of which by means of excerpts with modifications and omissions, the resultant history was composed. The incomplete and defective character of the book therefore, considered merely as a history of the conquest of Western Palestine and its allotment among the new settlers, would seem to indicate that the “sources” available for the writer's use were fragmentary also in their nature, and did not present a complete view either of the life of Joshua or of the experiences of Israel while under his direction.

2. Chronology:

Within the limits of the book itself, moreover, notifications of chronological sequence, or of the length of time occupied in the various campaigns, are almost entirely wanting. Almost the only references to date or period are the statements that Joshua himself was 110 years old at the time of his death (Joshua 24:29), and that his wars lasted “a long time” (Joshua 11:18; compare Joshua 23:1). Caleb also, the son of Jephunneh, companion of Joshua in the mission of the spies from Kadesh-Barnea, describes himself as 85 years old, when he receives Hebron as his inheritance (Joshua 14:10; compare Joshua 15:13 ff); the inference would be, assuming 40 years for the wanderings in the desert, that 5 years had then elapsed since the passage of the Jordan “on the tenth day of the first month” (Joshua 4:19). No indication, however, is given of the chronological relation of this event to the rest of the history; and 5 years would be too short a period for the conquest of Palestine, if it is to be understood that the whole was carried out in consecutive campaigns under the immediate command of Joshua himself. On the other hand, “very much land” remained still unsubdued at his death (Joshua 13:1). Christian tradition seems to have assumed that Joshua was about the same age as Caleb, although no definite statement to that effect is made in the book itself; and that, therefore, a quarter of a century, more or less, elapsed between the settlement of the latter at Hebron and Joshua's death (Joshua 14:10; Joshua 24:29). The entire period from the crossing of the Jordan would then be reckoned at from 28 to 30 years.

IV. Sources of the Written Narrative.

The attempt to define the “sources” of Joshua as it now exists, and to disentangle them one from another, presents considerably more difficulty than is to be encountered for the most part in the Pentateuch. The distinguishing criteria upon which scholars rely and which have led serious students of the book to conclude that there may be traced here also the use of the same “documents” or “documentary sources” as are to be found in the Pentateuch, are essentially the same. Existing and traditional accounts, however, have been used apparently with greater freedom, and the writer has allowed himself a fuller liberty of adaptation and combination, while the personal element has been permitted wider scope in molding the resultant form which the composition should take. For the most part, therefore, the broad line of distinction between the various “sources” which have been utilized may easily be discerned on the ground of their characteristic traits, in style, vocabulary or general conception; in regard to detail, however, the precise point at which one “source” has been abandoned for another, or the writer himself has supplied deficiencies and bridged over gaps, there is frequent uncertainty, and the evidence available is insufficient to justify an absolute conclusion. The fusion of material has been more complete than in the 5 books of the law, perhaps because the latter were hedged about with a more reverential regard for the letter, and at an earlier period attained the standing of canonicity.

A detailed analysis of the sources as they have been distinguished and related to one another by scholars is here unnecessary. A complete discussion of the subject will be found in Dr. Driver's LOT6, 105 ff, in other Introductions, or in the Commentaries on Joshua. Not seldom in the ultimate detail the distinctions are precarious, and there are differences of opinion among scholars themselves as to the precise limit or limits of the use made of any given source, or at what point the dividing line should be drawn. It is only in a broad and general sense that in Joshua especially the literary theory of the use of “documents,” as generally understood and as interpreted in the case of the Pentateuch, can be shown to be well founded. In itself, however, such a theory is eminently reasonable, and is both in harmony with the general usage and methods of ancient composition, and affords ground for additional confidence in the good faith and reliability of the narrative as a whole.

V. Relation to the Book of Judges.

1. Parallel Narratives:

A comparison moreover of the history recorded in Joshua with the brief parallel account in Judges furnishes ground for believing that a detailed or chronological narrative was not contemplated by the writer or writers themselves. The introductory verses of Judges (1:1 through 2:5) are in part a summary of incidents recorded in Joshua, and in part supply new details or present a different view of the whole. The original notices that are added relate almost entirely to the invasion and conquest of Southern Palestine by the united or allied tribes of Judah and Simeon and the destruction of Bethel by the “house of Joseph.” The action of the remaining tribes is narrated in a few words, the brief record closing in each case with reference to the condition of servitude to which the original inhabitants of the land were reduced. And the general scheme of the invasion as there represented is apparently that of a series of disconnected raids or campaigns undertaken by the several tribes independently, each having for its object the subjection of the territory assigned to the individual tribe. A general and comprehensive plan of conquest under the supreme leadership of Joshua appears to be entirely wanting. In detail, however, the only real inconsistency between the two narratives would appear to be that in Judges (Judges 1:21) the failure to expel the Jebusites from Jerusalem is laid to the account of the Benjamites, while in Joshua 15:63 it is charged against the children of Judah. The difficulties in the way of the formation of a clear conception of the incidents attending the capture of Jerusalem are perhaps insuperable upon any hypothesis; and the variation of the tribal name in the two texts may be no more than a copyist's error.

2. Omissions in the History:

A perhaps more striking omission in both narratives is the absence of any reference to the conquest of Central Palestine. The narrative of the overthrow of Bethel and Ai (Joshua 6:1 through Joshua 8:29) is followed immediately by the record of the building of an altar on Mount Ebal and the recitation of the Law before the people of Israel assembled in front of Mounts Ebal and Gerizim (Joshua 8:30 ff). Joshua then turns aside to defeat at Beth-horon the combination of the Amorite kings, and completes the conquest of the southern country as far south as Kadesh-Barnea (Joshua 10:41). Immediately thereafter he is engaged in overthrowing a confederacy in the far north (Joshua 11:1-15), a work which clearly could not have been undertaken or successfully accomplished, unless the central region had been already subdued; but of its reduction no account is given. It has been supposed that the silence of the narrator is an indication that at the period of the invasion this district was in the occupation of tribes friendly or even related to the Israelite clans; and in support of the conjecture reference has been made to the mention of Israel on the stele of Merenptah, the Egyptian ruler in whose reign, according to the most probable view, the exodus took place. In this record the nation or a part thereof is regarded as already settled in Palestine at a date earlier by half a century than their appearance under Moses and Joshua on the borders of the Promised Land. The explanation is possible, but perhaps hardly probable. The defects of the historical record are irremediable at this distance of time, and it must be acknowledged that with the available material no complete and consistent narrative of the events of the Israelite conquest of Palestine can be constructed.

VI. Place of Joshua in the Hebrew Canon.

In the Hebrew Canon Joshua is the first in order of the prophetical books, and the first of the group of 4, namely, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, which form the “Earlier Prophets” (nebhī'īm rī'shōnīm). These books, the contents of which are history, not prophecy in the ordinary sense of the term, were assigned by the Jews to the 2nd division of their sacred Canon, and found a place by the side of the great writings of the “Later Prophets” (nebhī'īm ‛aḥǎrōnīm). This position was given to them in part perhaps because they were believed to have been written or composed by prophets, but mainly because Jewish history was regarded as in purpose and intent “prophetic,” being directed and presided over by Yahweh Himself, and conveying direct spiritual instruction and example. The Canon of the Law, moreover, was already closed; and however patent and striking might be the resemblance of Joshua in style and method of composition to the books of the Pentateuch, it was impossible to admit it therein, or to give a place within the Torah, a group of writings which were regarded as of Mosaic authorship, to a narrative of events which occurred after Moses' death. Later criticism reviewed and reversed the verdict as to the true character of the book. In every Canon except the Hebrew, its historical nature was recognized, and the work was classified accordingly. Modern criticism has gone further, and, with increasing consciousness of its close literary relationship to the books of the Law, has united it with them in a Hexateuch, or even under the more comprehensive title of Octateuch combines together the books of Jdg and Ruth with the preceding six on the ground of similarity of origin and style.

VII. Greek and Other Ancient Versions.

1. The Greek:

In the ancient versions of Joshua there is not much that is of interest. The Greek translation bears witness to a Hebrew original differing little from the Masoretic Text. In their renderings, however, and general treatment of the Hebrew text, the translators seem to have felt themselves at liberty to take up a position of greater independence and freedom than in dealing with the 5 books of the Law. Probably also the rendering of Joshua into Greek is not to be ascribed to the same authors as the translation of the Pentateuch. While faithful to the Hebrew, it is less constantly and exactly literal, and contains many slight variations, the most important of which are found in the last 6 chapters.

Joshua 19: The Septuagint transposes Joshua 19:47, Joshua 19:48, and, omitting the first clause of Joshua 19:47, refers the whole to the sons of Judah, without mention of Dan; it further adds Joshua 19:47, Joshua 19:48 on the relation between the Amorites and Ephraim, and the Amorites and the Danites respectively. With Joshua 19:47 compare Joshua 16:10 and Judges 1:29, and with Joshua 19:48 compare Joshua 19:47 (Hebrew) and Judges 1:34.

Joshua 20:4-6 inclusive are omitted in B, except a clause from Joshua 20:6; A, however, inserts them in full. Compare Driver, LOT6, 112, who, on the ground of their Deuteronomic tone, regards it as probable that the verses are an addition to the Priestly Code (P), and therefore did not form part of the original text as used by the Greek translators.

Joshua 21:36, Joshua 21:37, which give the names of the Levitical cities in Judah, are omitted in the Hebrew printed text although found in many Hebrew manuscripts. Four verses also are added after Joshua 21:42, the first three of which repeat Joshua 19:50 f, and the last is a reminiscence of Joshua 5:3.

Joshua 24:29 f which narrate the death and burial of Joshua are placed in the Greek text after Joshua 24:31; and a verse is inserted after Joshua 24:30 recording that the stone knives used for the purposes of the circumcision (Joshua 5:2 ff) were buried with Joshua in his tomb (compare Joshua 21:42). After Joshua 24:33 also two new verses appear, apparently a miscellany from Judges 2:6, Judges 2:11-15; Judges 3:7, Judges 3:12, Judges 3:14, with a statement of the death and burial of Phinehas, son and successor of Eleazar, of the idolatrous worship by the children of Israel of Astarte and Ashtaroth, and the oppression under Eglon, king of Moab.

2. Other Ancient Versions:

The other VSS, with the exception of Jerome's translation from the Hebrew, are secondary, derived mediately through the Greek. The Old Latin is contained in a manuscript at Lyons, Cod. Lugdunensis, which is referred to the 6th century. Of the Coptic version only small portions are extant; they have been published by G. Maspero, Memoires de la mission archeologique frantsaise, tom. VI, fasc. 1, le Caire, 1892, and elsewhere. A Sam translation also is known, for parts of which at least an early origin and an independent derivation from the Hebrew have been claimed. The ancient character of the version, however, is contested, and it has been shown that the arguments on which reliance was placed are insufficient to justify the conclusions drawn. The translation appears to be in reality of quite recent date, and to have been made originally from the Arabic, perhaps in part compared with and corrected by the Massoretic Text. The subject was fully and conclusively discussed by Dr. Yehuda of Berlin, at the Oriental Congress in the summer of 1908, and in a separate pamphlet subsequently published. It was even stated that the author of the version was still living, and his name was given. Dr. Gaster, the original discoverer of the Sam MS, in various articles and letters maintains his contention that the translation is really antique, and therefore of great value, but he has failed to convince scholars. (See M. Gaster in JRAS (1908), 795 ff, 1148 ff; E. N. Adler, ib, 1143 ff. The text of the manuscript was published by Dr. Caster in ZDMG (1908), 209 ff, and a specimen chapter with English rendering and notes in PSBA, XXXI (1909), 115 ff, 149 ff.)

VIII. Religious Purpose and Teaching.

As a whole, then, Joshua is dominated by the same religious and hortatory purpose as the earlier writings of the Pentateuch; and in this respect as well as in authorship and structure the classification which assigns to it a place by the side of the 5 books of Moses and gives to the whole the title of Hexateuch is not unjustified. The author or authors had in view not merely the narration of incident, nor the record of events in the past history of their people of which they judged it desirable that a correct account should be preserved, but they endeavored in all to subserve a practical and religious aim. The history is not for its own sake, or for the sake of the literal facts which it enshrines, but for the sake of the moral and spiritual lessons which may be elucidated therein, and enforced from its teaching. The Divine leading in history is the first thought with the writer. And the record of Israel's past presents itself as of interest to him, not because it is a record of events that actually happened, but because he sees in it the ever-present guidance and overruling determination of God, and would draw from it instruction and warning for the men of his own time and for those that come after him. Not the history itself, but the meaning and interpretation of the history are of value. Its importance lies in the illustrations it affords of the controlling working of a Divine Ruler who is faithful to His promises, loving righteousness and hating iniquity, and swaying the destinies of men in truth. Thus the selection of materials, and the form and arrangement of the book are determined by a definite aim: to set forth and enforce moral lessons, and to exhibit Israel's past as the working out of a Divine purpose which has chosen the nation to be the recipient of the Divine favor, and the instrument for the carrying forward of His purposes upon earth.


A Complete bibliography of the literature up to date will be found in the dictionaries, under the word “Joshua,” DB2, 1893, HDB, II, 1899, EB, II, 1901; compare W. H. Bennett, “The Book of Josh,” in SBOT, Leipzig, 1895; W.G. Blaikie, “Joshua,” in Expositor's Bible, 1893; A. Dillmann, Nu, Dt u. Josua2, Leipzig, 1886; H. Holzinger, “Das Buch Josua,” in Kurzer Hand-Comm. zum A T, Tubingen, 1901; C. Steuernagel, “Josua,” in Nowack's Handcommentar zum Altes Testament, 1899; S. Oettli, “Deuteronomy, Josua u. Richter,” in Kurzgef. Komm, Munchen, 1893; W.J. Deane, Joshua, His Life and Times, in “Men of the Bible Series,” London.

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