Book Summaries

An account of the conquest and settlement of the land of Canaan by the Hebrew people under the leadership of Joshua. In the Hebrew Scriptures Joshua stands as the 1st book of the section called Former Prophets, the other books of this group being Judges, Samuel, and Kings, the whole being part of the 2nd division of the OT, called "the Prophets." Commentators and critics are divided as to whether the title of the book designates its author or simply the chief character in the narrative. Critical scholars insist that the book is a composite work by several authors, later compiled by an editor. However, the obvious internal unity of the book makes this conjecture unnecessary and pointless. The further contention that the repeated occurrence of the expression "unto this day" (Jos 5:9; etc.) necessarily indicates a time of writing long after the events recorded in the book, is disproved by the context of ch 6:25. The use of revised place names that were not used until later times (Jos 19:27 cf. 1 Ki 9:13; Jos 15:38; cf. 2 Ki 9:13; Jos 15:38; cf. 2 Ki 14:7; etc.) may be attributed to the fact that later copyists substituted names current in their day for the benefit of readers who were unfamiliar with names that had become obsolete. It is generally agreed that the record of Joshua's death in Jos 24:29 ­33 was written by someone else. The Talmud explains that this was written by Eleazar, the son of Aaron, and that Phinehas appended have v 33 (Baba Bathra 15a, 15b). Until modern times Jews and Christians alike have acknowledged Joshua as the author of the book (cf. Baba Bathra 14b). The book of Joshua picks up the narrative of Hebrew history at the point were where the book of Deuteronomy leaves it. This intimate relationship to the Pentateuch has led to the common practice of considering Joshua as a unit with it, the 6 books being referred to as the Hexateuch.

The book of Joshua opens with Israel's entrance into the Promised Land about 1405 b.c. (see Chronology, III). Joshua successfully led the Israelites in the conquest of Canaan, or rather, of at least sufficient portions of it as to make possible the allotment to each tribe of its appointed inheritance, so that all the people might find a permanent place of abode. The land was made up of numerous small kingdoms. Upon 2 or 3 occasions various Canaanite kings joined their armies to halt the progress of the Hebrews, but on each occasion God gave His people victory over their foes. This period of conquest occupied between 6 and 7 years (Jos 14:7 ­11; cf. Deuteronomy 2:14), and by the close of this time the basic occupation of the land was considered complete (Jos 11:23; 14:5). This did not mean that every part of the land had been brought under Israelite control, but that an area sufficient for the present needs of the tribes had been subdued.

The book may be divided into 3 parts: (1) The conquest of Canaan (Jos 1:1; to 12:24); (2) the partition of the land (chs 13:1 to 22:34); (3) Joshua's farewell address to Israel (chs 23:1 to 24:33). The crossing of the Jordan, including preparations for that great event, occupies the first 4 chapters. Chapters 5 and 6 deal with the fall of Jericho. The preparations included the circumcision of the people and the celebration of the Passover, neither of which had been observed since the departure from Sinai (see ch 5:2 ­10). In chapters 7 and 8 the preliminary defeat at Ai, the matter of Achan, and the subsequent successful conquest of the city are recorded. Chapters 9 and 10 tell of the treaty with the Gibeonites, and of the Canaanite confederacy against the Gibeonites because of their alliance with the Hebrews, and of Joshua's dramatic victory over them, leaving Israel in effective control of the central mountainous region. A military expedition that brought a large part of the southland under control is reported in ch 10:28 ­43. The coalition of northern Canaanite kings and the conquest of the north country are related in ch 11:1 ­15. ch 11:1 ­5. Further military exploits occupy ch 12. The preliminary conquest of the land now completed, Joshua proceeded to make the tribal allotments (Joshua 13 to 19), and set apart certain cities as cities of refuge (ch 20) and others for the Levites (ch 21). Chapter 22 describes the return of the armies of the two and a half tribes to their homes in Transjordan and the misunderstanding that arose between them and their brethren to the west, which was amicably settled. The book closes with Joshua's farewell address to Israel, the renewal of the covenant of the people with Yahweh, and an account of Joshua's death (chs 23, 24).

Horn, Siegfried H., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary, (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association) 1979.