Complete Study Of The Book Of Joshua


Joshua was a man who lived much of his life in the shadow of the great Moses. Moses was such a towering personality that anyone who came immediately after him would seem small by comparison. Incidentally, I must say that I find it rather strange that Hebrews 4:8 is the only chapter in the New Testament, where we find the name of Joshua.

I would have expected to find him mentioned in that great 11th chapter of Hebrews where the ‘heroes of faith’ are enrolled. But he is only referred to by inference in verse 30, whilst some other lesser-known people are mentioned by name, e.g., Jephthah, Barak. Gideon.

However, in the life story of Moses, there is a sad chapter of personal failure, for which he paid very dearly, and it was because of this failure that he was not allowed to lead the people into the Promised Land. He was allowed to see the land from the Eastern side of the Dead Sea, from the Hills of Moab, now in the State of Jordan. But not allowed to enter, or to lead the people into the land, Numbers 20:8-12. That had to be done by someone else and that someone was Joshua.

After looking out over the land towards which he had to lead the people, Moses died, and we read the touching words, “And he (God) buried him in the valley, in the Land of Moab; but no man knows the place of his buried to this day”. Deuteronomy 34:5-6.

But, how much is generally known about Joshua? I think that the answer to that question would be, ‘very little!’ Summed up, it probably amounts to this;

1. He was the servant of Moses. Numbers 11:28.

2. He was one of the only two spies who brought back a good report when sent to spy out the land. Numbers 14:6-10.

3. He led the people into Canaan. Joshua 1.

4. He won a great victory at Jericho and defeated some other cities. Joshua 6:1-27.

5. And, we might add to the list something that is usually forgotten, but which is surely significant. When Moses went up Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments from God, Joshua went with him, at least part of the way. Exodus 24:13. That was a great honour when you remember that Aaron who had been appointed spokesman for Moses when Moses went to speak with Pharaoh, was left below with the people, and God called for Joshua to accompany Moses.

The History of Joshua

l. He was born in Egypt, (a slave) towards the end of the Egyptian bondage and just about the time that Moses was making up his mind to renounce his position as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. Remember that at this time, the Hebrews were undergoing great suffering at the hands of the Egyptians.

The favour they had been shown by the Hykson rulers in the days of Joseph was long past. The succeeding native Egyptian dynasty feared that the Israelites, who had multiplied greatly in numbers, might join forces with any invader who would come down from the North to the Nile Delta, ‘the Land of Goshen’, which Joseph’s Pharaoh had assigned to Jacob and his family. Exodus 1.

Slaving in the fields, building the store-cities of Pithum and Raamases and being beaten by the task-masters who were set over them, when Moses was born the Israelites had no reason to love the Egyptians. God actually told Moses, “I have seen the affliction of My People.” Exodus 3:7

And yet, remarkable enough, when this baby was born, his parents gave him the name ‘Osea’, which means “salvation”. So, the parents of Joshua must have been very devout and faithful, and optimistic people.

2. It was in Egypt that the young man grew up, whilst Moses was undergoing his forty years of training and preparation, like a shepherd with the Midianites in the wilderness. Exodus 2:11-25. This means that when Moses eventually returned to Egypt to demand that Pharaoh should let the people leave, he, Moses, was 80 years old, and Osea was 40 years old. Exodus 4:18ff.

3. Osea, to use his first name, must have been a man of outstanding quality, because he became the personal servant and bodyguard of Moses, standing guard outside his tent, Exodus 33:11.

4. About two months after the exodus, Moses appointed him commander of the army, when he won a great victory over the Amalekites. Numbers 27:18-23. Moses later changed the young man’s name to “Jeoshua” by adding a letter (Y) from the name of God, (YHVH), giving his name the meaning, “Jehovah is salvation”. Numbers 13:16

About 1000 years later, in the days of the prophet Nehemiah, we find that the form of the name has become “Jeshua,” Nehemiah 8:17. And the name we use today is “Joshua” is the Greek form of that name. This, then, is the man who is introduced in Hebrews 4. In this chapter, the writer points out that, although Joshua led the people into the Promised Land, he did not succeed in giving the people rest.

The word ‘rest’ ‘katapausis’ which he uses, means ‘to settle down’, and it means that Joshua did not succeed in settling the people in the land, that is, he did not bring them to a settled, stable condition. In fact, the word used is the word used to describe colonizing.

There is no doubt that Joshua was a tremendously effective leader and general. In the space of six years, he defeated 6 Canaanite tribes, and 31 Canaanite kings and their cities. But he did not give the people rest! Even after the land had been divided up among the various tribes of Israel, the conquest of the land fell far short of what God had prepared for them.

The reason for this was that they were persistently disobedient, and their enjoyment of rest depended on their obedience to God. Because the people were disobedient, God did not remove all their enemies. He allowed some of them to remain in the land to be thorns in their sides, Joshua 23:12-13.

The Book of Judges, records the whole sad story of that period, the book, the seventh in the Old Testament, records seven periods of servitude, when one or other of the tribes had to suffer oppression because of their disobedience. When Joshua died, there was no one of his calibre to take control.

There followed years of lawlessness, and two times we are told that “Each man did that which was right in his own eyes”. Judges 16:6 / Judges 21:25.

In a word, the history of Israel in the Promised Land, is the story of an incomplete conquest and imperfect rest.

This is what the Hebrews writer claims in Hebrews. Hebrews 4:4 states that Joshua did not give them rest. In fact, this part of the letter is all about rest. The word occurs 10 times in 13 verses, and, the assertion made by the writer of what Joshua of old failed to do, our Joshua succeeds in doing.

Let me remind you that Joshua is the Old Testament form of the name Jesus. Joseph was told, “You shall call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins”. Matthew 1:21

God had promised His people rest. The promise is in Deuteronomy 12:9. “When you go over the Jordan and live in the land which the Lord your God gives you to inherit, and when he gives you rest from all your enemies round about…. that you live in safety…..”

Joshua failed to give them rest. Of all those whom Moses led out of Egypt, only Joshua and Caleb entered the land. The others died in the wilderness, because of disobedience. Deuteronomy 1:34-39 / Hebrews 4:6.

Introduction to the Book of Joshua God gets Joshua prepared

We are told in Joshua 24:31, ‘And Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders who survived Joshua, and had known all the deeds of the Lord which he had done for Israel.’

From this statement made at the end of Joshua’s life, we know that he had a tremendous impact on the lives of God’s people. For Joshua to have had this influence says that his character must have been above reproach and the people respected him as a servant and leader of God.

His leadership abilities didn’t come overnight. He went through a period of preparation just like other characters we find within the Scriptures, characters like Joseph, Moses, and even Jesus Himself and if we can learn anything from this, it’s simply this, if we are going to be useful servants of God, we too must be willing to go through a period of preparation.

I believe that Joshua’s story begins way before he was even born, a careful reading of the Scriptures that God had always had a plan, this plan was revealed to Abraham. Remember that God made a promise to Abraham and a part of that promise, was the promise of land to His people, Genesis 12:1-3.

We see here that the promise was that Abraham would have a land, a seed which would become a great nation which would be a blessing to all nations through him. Remember later that the Jewish race was constituted a nation when they received the law from God at Sinai. Exodus 19:6. Sin in effect, what started with God, was promised to Abraham but it would be Joshua who would bring the land promise to completion and bring the people into that Promised Land.

God was getting Joshua ready for an important task

Even as a boy, his life experiences were preparing him for the task that God had planned for him. We know he must have been born in Egypt and he must have been a first-born son, 1 Chronicles 7:27, and he was a servant of Moses from his youth. Numbers 11:28.

God was preparing him when he went to war with Amalek, Exodus 17:8-16, which incidentally is the first mention of Joshua in the Scriptures.

You may remember that the Amalekites were making war against God’s people and they hadn’t been a part of the promise made to Abraham. From Exodus 17:16 it seems that they weren’t just fighting the Israelites, but God as well.

Moses instructs Joshua to select the men needed to fight and he leads them into battle and so God displays His power to the people, Moses, Aaron, and Hur go up to the top of the hill and as long as Moses held up his hands the Israelites prevailed, so Aaron and Hur stood at his sides holding his hands up until the Israelite’s finally won the war.

Joshua learned some important lessons that day, he learned that God was on Israel’s side, God won’t tolerate the rebellion of men against Himself and finally and probably the biggest lesson he learned was that the power of victory always comes from God.

God was also preparing him when he went up the mountain with Moses. Exodus 24:13-18 / Exodus 24:32. Moses is instructed to return to the mountain whilst leaving behind the elders, Aaron and Hur, but Joshua went up with Moses Exodus 24:13 and Exodus 32:17. As we know whilst Moses and Joshua were up the mountain, the people below went ahead and built their golden calf.

And once again Joshua would have learned a few lessons during that time of his life, He would have experienced the reality of God, he would have experienced the glory of God and also, he would have learned another important lesson and that is, the terribleness of sin.

God was also preparing him when he experienced the tabernacle, Exodus 33:9 / Exodus 33:11

We know that Moses had an intimate relationship with God, the Lord talked with Moses, even face to face but once again Joshua is present during this time where once again he experienced the glory of God and sees the leadership of God manifested.

God was also preparing him not to be jealous, Numbers 11:24-29. The people have been clamouring about not having meat to eat and so God informs Moses as to what He’s going to do, Moses then goes to tell the people and then God caused 70 of the elders to prophesy. However, there were 2 men who were prophesying in camp and when Moses learns of it, Joshua wants them forbidden to prophesy but Moses tells Joshua not to be jealous for his sake. Once again, he learns that God’s glory comes first and no man is to be elevated above his ministry and he learns that everyone’s abilities come from God, later he will realise this himself.

God was also preparing him when he became a spy, Numbers 13:1-14:10. The people have been out of Egypt for about 14 months and it’s now time to enter the Promised Land and so spies are sent in to check things out. 10 come back and say the land can’t be taken but only Joshua and Caleb say it can be taken. Sadly, the people agree with the 10 and got to the point where they even want to stone Joshua and Caleb to death.

It is during this time that Joshua’s name is changed, originally it was Hoshea, meaning he saves but now his name, Joshua means Jehovah saves, Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua. For nearly forty years the people will wander in the wilderness but once again Joshua had learned a lot of lessons. He learnt that even when the majority is against you, you must take a stand for God and he learnt that God always keeps his promises.

God was also preparing him when he was ordained, Numbers 26:65 and Numbers 27:18-23. God selected Joshua as the next leader and he was marked in the presence of the people as God’s choice. Just before Moses dies, Moses charges Joshua, Deuteronomy 31:2-8. Moses tells him that he is not going to cross Jordan but it is Joshua who will lead them across, a very important order is laid out which is basically, God must go before, then the people can go without fear.

And so, with all this preparation put in place by God for Joshua through his life experiences, he is finally ready to do what God needs him to do, Deuteronomy 34:9. Notice that Joshua made the choice to follow God which is the exact same choice people have to make today. Joshua is now ready to lead the people, they mourn greatly for Moses, Deuteronomy 34:7-8 but Joshua assumes command and will lead them.


We always have to remember that God hates sin and rebellion, we have to remember that it is God who must be before all things, whether it be in battle, in leadership or worship.

God can use us if we are willing to follow His timetable whilst remembering that God always keeps His promises.

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Complete Study Of The Book Of Joshua