The Book Of Joshua Essay, Research Paper
The book of Joshua begins with the preparation of Joshua and the people of Israel for
invasion of Jericho under the Lord’s presence and leadership. First, Joshua ordered the
people who were to cross the Jordan to Jericho to prepare themselves. Then, he placed
them under strict orders of obedience to his authority (1:10-18). Next, he sent out two spies
to Jericho to retrieve information about the enemy. The spies went to the house of a
prostitue name Rahab, as a cover for their actions. This plan did not work because the king
of Jericho sent men to Rahab’s house to try to find them. She had hidden the well, however,
and was able to convince the king’s men that they weren’t in her house. Since Rahab’s
home was on the wall of the city, she was able to let them down by a rope on the outside of
the wall. Returning to Joshua, they gave their report (2:1-24).
There followed another one of the events that Israel saw as a “wonder” of God. The
river banks of Jordan were undercut in such a way, that they formed a natural dam that
holds the river in check for extended periods of time. According to the passage 3:14-16, the
waters were flooded when this was necessary, and the people boarded the ark of the
covenant and passed easily over opposite Jericho. The ark of the covenant, symbol of the
Lord’s presence with the Israelites, was carried to the midst of the riverbed to remind them
that it was the Lord’s workings that enabled them to cross the flooded river (3:17). A pile
of stones was resurrected as a memorial to the event. The stones were to serve as a teaching
aid for the elders. When asked by children of future generations what the stones meant, the
elders would tell them of God’s deliverance of the people (4:1- 5:1).
After crossing the Jordan, all the men and boys underwent circumcision as an act of
consecration to the Lord (5:2-12). When they had recovered, preparations got under way
for the attack on Jerricho. In a vision, Joshua saw the leader of the Lord’s army. The
purpose of this seems to have been to assure Joshua of divine leadership in the days ahead
The numbers here are significant other than for their numerical value. Seven symbolized
completion, ten perfection, and 12 completeness (6:12-16). Joshua was given orders to
carry the arc of the covenant up to Jericho with seven priests carrying seven ram’s horns.
Armed troops were to march ahead of the priests blowing horns also. However no one was
to give the battle cry until Joshua gave the signal. They marched around the walls of Jericho
once in this fashion, and then retired to camp. This was done six days in a row, and then on
the seventh day they marched around the walls seven times before Joshua gave the signal,
and the people yelled a battle cry. The walls crumbled, and the soldiers flooded into the
city. Everything was to be destroyed as an act of dedication to God. Only the prostitue
Rahab, who had helped the spies, was to be spared (6:17-25). Finally, when the city was
conquered, a curses was pronounced upon it to prevent its rebuilding (6:26-27).
As harsh as the requirements of the holy war might seem, an incident involving an
Israelite named Achan would make it seem even more harsh. Strict regulations governed
the disposal of the goods that were captured in the holy war. A violation on the ban of
taking any spoils of war for personal use was punishable by death. In the battle for Ai, the
Israelites were driven back. Unknown to Joshua, Achan had taken certain banned items at
Jericho (7:1). Undoubtedly, word passed that Achan had taken the goods. Such knowledge
would have had a divisive effect on the army if it were known, since others probably had
been tempted to take the spoils of war but had resisted temptation. In any case, when the
battle for Ai was begun, Israel suffered a stinging defeat (7:2-5).
Joshua was perplexed, feeling that the Lord had let him down (7:6-9). But Joshua
was made to realize that such was not the case. Instead, the word came from God that
someone had violated the ban against taking spoils of war (7:10-15). An investigation
revealed Achan as the culprit and, in due course, he confessed his sin (7:16-26).
What follows next, describes the horrible punishment that Achan received. “Joshua
and all of Israel took Achan…and all Israel stoned him with stones; they burned them with
fire, and stoned them with stones (7:24-25). Not only was Achan punished, but also his
family. The destruction of Achan, his family, and all his possessions was looked upon as
the only way to clear the people as a whole of Achan’s sin. When the punishment was
carried out, the battle was renewed and was won (8:1-29). There follows an account of
building an altar on Mount Ebal in the Shechem area.
Gibeonites, having heard of the conquest of nearby towns by the Israelites, decided
that they would rather not have to face such a fate. They put on their most ragged clothes
and worn-out sandals, took stale bread and wineskins that were brittle with age, and set out
for the Israelite camp. When they arrived, they told the Israelite leaders a tale they had
heard about the Israelites greatness and that of their God (9:3- 10). They then claimed that
they were looking for these people to make a covenant with them.
The Israelites were taken aback by the story and immediately made a covenant with
the Gibeonites. Under the term of the covenant, the Gibeonites were to be spared and thus
would become a part of Israel (9: 11-15). After, the covenant was made, the truth was
discovered. However, the covenant could not be broken, but the Gibeonites were made
“hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation” (9: 27).
Next, the book of Joshua discuss the joining of forces between the kings of
Jerusalem, Hebron, Eglon, Lachish, and Jarmuth in alarmed response to the success of the
Israelties. The battle took place in the valley of Aijalon. The attack was aided by a violent
hailstorm. The great hailstones killed many of the enemy and cause the Israelite minstrels to
sing a song about the sun standing still at Gibeon (10:15- 27).
The kings were captured, and a symbolic ceremony was conducted in which the
Israelite leaders placed their feet on the kings’ necks. As they did, Joshua charged them to
be strong. He promised that the Lord would lead them to be just as successful against all
Israel’s enemies if they remained faithful to him (10:15- 27).
The next chapters of Joshua discusses the success in battle of Joshua and the
Israelites. It was a war of extermination with the Lord’s assistance. For, “they should be
utterly destroyed, and should receive no mercy, but to be exterminated..”(11:20).
The next chapters describe the succession over the surrounding cities and how the
land is to be distributed amongst the tribes. They are to be thankful for their good fortune
and not take any other man’s. Of special interest are the cities assigned to the Levites (21:1-
42). They were to recieve cities within each of the territories, centrally located to provide
accessible worship centers and also to include refuge centers where an accused criminal
could be held to his case was resolved. Otherwise, the criminal would be at the mercy of the
“avenger of blood” who was a member of the family of the criminal’s victim. The avenger
felt a moral obligation to punish the criminal since there was no state to carry out
An insight on how the Israelites dealt with disagreement among the tribes can be seen
in the story of the building of an altar by the tribes east of Jordan. Upon, receiving word of
this, the tribes in the west became concerned. Such an altar would seem to violate a ban on
worshipping anywhere except at one central shrine (22:12). in a tribal assembly it was
decided to send the priest Phinehas, accompanied by ten tribal representatives, to
investigate the situation. They were tools that the shrine was “a witness between us and
you…that we do perform the service of the Lord in his presence with our burnt offerings
and sacrifices”(22:27). Satisfied about the purpose of the altar, the tribal representatives
returned and the planned attack was averted ( 22:30- 34).
A recognition that Joshua’s conquest was not complete appears in Joshua’s farewell
address to the Israelite leaders. God had given them the land from the Jordan to the “Great
seas to the west”, and he would enable them to conquer the people who still occupied the
land provided Israel was faithful to the law as given to Moses (23:1- 13).
The climax of the book of Joshua is the covenant-renewal ceremony described in
Joshua 24:1-28. The site of the ceremony was Schechum. An altar was built, sacrifices were
offered, a copy of the law was written and read to the people, and a ceremony of blessing
and cursing was carried out, half of the Levites standing on Mount Gerizam and the other
half standing on Mount Ebal (8:33).
The important men of Israel gathered at the sanctuary (24:1). Joshua recounted God’s
call of the patriarchs- how he brought the people out of Egypt through the leadership of
Moses and Aaron and how he brought them into the land of Canaan (24:2- 13). After
reminding them of the Lord’s blessing, he called on them to accept the obligations of the
covenant. Joshua 24:14 indicates that not all of the people present were descendants of
those who came from Egypt, for he spoke of those who were worshipping “the gods which
your fathers served…beyond the river or the gods of the Amorites in whose lands you
dwell.” Furthermore, the Gibeonites were non-Israelite people who had earlier tricked Israel
into making the covenant with them (9:1- 27).
The purpose of the book of Joshua seems to be the glorifying of the Lord by giving
examples of the marvelous way he led the people to the patriarchs promised land. Further, the
book says that any failure was a failure on the part of Israel to walk in the faith with God.