Who was Joshua?
In the Hebrew Bible or Christian Old Testament, Joshua was the son of Nun, of Ephraim (1 Chr. 7:27). Born about the time when Moses fled to Midian, he endured in youth the slave labour amidst Egyptian brick kilns.
Probably he even in Egypt was recognized as an officer among his brethren; for at his first public act, choosing and leading picked men of Israel against the attacking Amalekites at Rephidim (Exo. 17:9) he is introduced abruptly without description as one already well known by the designation Joshua (not Hoshea) given by anticipation.
Moses discerned by the Spirit his sterling qualities, solid rather than brilliant. Joshua learned to rule by obeying first; then he ruled for God, not self. God commanded Moses to write in the book (Hebrew, namely, the history of God's dealings with Israel) and rehearse it in Joshua's ears.
Joshua inflicted the first decisive blow on the doomed nations; this was an earnest to him of the subsequent conquest of Canaan. Next as Moses' "minister" Joshua accompanied him along with Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and 70 elders up the mountain of God; but Moses went alone into the cloud (Exo. 24:9,13-15).
On the descent Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting, and with a warrior's thought he said to Moses, "there is a noise of war in the camp"; but it was the noise of singers in the calf worship.
When Moses removed the tabernacle of meeting between God and His people from the camp, Joshua, then "a young man" (perhaps an official term for an attendant, Num. 11:28; Deut. 1:38 "Joshua who standeth before thee"), departed not out of the tabernacle; the Lord's house and communion is the best qualification for those who are afterward to fight the Lord's battles.
Sent to spy out Canaan as representing Ephraim; CALEB (which see) represented Judah. They two alone of the 12 brought a good report, and encouraged the people not to fear the inhabitants for the Lord was with Israel (contrast Ps. 106:24; Num. 13:8,16; Num. 14). The people would have stoned both, but the glory of Jehovah suddenly appeared in the tabernacle.
The ten other spies were smitten with the plague and died. Joshua and Caleb alone of all that generation above 20 years of age survived the 40 years' wilderness wanderings that ensued, because "they wholly followed the Lord" (Num. 32:11,12). Moses shortly before death, by Jehovah's direction, solemnly invested Joshua with authority as his successor. The Spirit was already in Joshua. Moses by laying on hands added the formal and public sign, and instrumentally gave him thereby more of "the spirit of wisdom."
The previous receiving of inward grace does not dispense with the outward sign (Num. 27:18-23; Acts 9:1-18; 10:44-48). Moses put some of his own honour (dignity and authority) upon Joshua, making him vice leader, that Israel might obey him preparatory to his becoming chief after Moses' death. Joshua was inferior to Moses in standing before Eleazar the high priest to inquire through him and his Urim and Thummim, of Jehovah; Moses enjoyed direct communion with God.
When Joshua omitted to inquire in the Gibeonites' case he suffered for it. Moses gave Joshua a charge before the high priest and congregation. Joshua's solemn inauguration to the office to which he had previously been called is in Deut. 31:14-23. God Himself recognizes Joshua in it by summoning him into the tabernacle with Moses, while the divine pillar of cloud manifested Jehovah's presence (compare Num. 11:25; 12:5).
He commands Moses and Joshua to write Moses' song, and teach it to Israel as a witness against them of God's benefits, their duties, and the penalty of their apostasy. Jehovah's "charge" by Moses was: "be strong and of a good courage, for thou shalt bring the children of Israel into the land which I sware unto them, and I will be with thee." Once only did Joshua show an envious spirit, but it was in behalf of his beloved master Moses, not for self.
When Eldad and Medad prophesied in the camp separately from the rest of the 70 who received of the spirit that was upon Moses, in his presence, Joshua said, "my lord Moses, forbid them;" he replied, "enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord's people were prophets," etc. (Num. 11:28,29; compare John 3:26; Luke 9:49; Acts 15:8,9; 11:17).
Jehovah repeated the charge (Josh. 1:1-9), enjoining" courage" in "doing according to all the law, turning not from it to the right or left," and promising consequent prosperity and Jehovah's continual presence as "his God wheresoever he went." God kept His promise, working mighty miracles in his behalf, and giving Israel all the land and rest round about; no good thing failed which the Lord had spoken (Josh. 21:43-45). The people honoured Joshua as they had Moses.
During his lifetime Israel came nearest to realizing the ideal of the people of God (Josh. 11:15; 24:31). Joshua took the command at Shittim, sent spies to Jericho, crossed Jordan, fortified his camp at Gilgal, circumcised the people (for Israel's work was a spiritual one, and men still having the badge of fleshliness were not fit agents for the Lord's work: Josh. 10:40; Judg. 5:31), kept the Passover, (after which on their eating the old grain of the land the manna ceased,) and received the assurance of Jericho's fall and God's fighting against Israel's foes from the uncreated Angel of Jehovah (Josh. 5:13-15; 6:2-5), the Captain of Jehovah's host (Mt. 26:53; Exo. 23:20-23; Rev. 19:11-14).
The charge "loose thy shoe from off thy feet" identifies Him with the Jehovah of Exo. 3:5. Ganneau suggests that Sartabeh the mountain was the spot whereon the Captain of Jehovah's host, Hebrew: Sarsaba, appeared to Joshua, and thence takes its name. It is invisible W. of Jericho; but to one starting from Riha to the E. it appears at all points. The divine Captain was on a height above Joshua, for "he lifted up his eyes" toward Him, and went unto Him. Jericho fell by miracle. The repulse at AI, through Achan's sin, taught Israel their success depended on their doing God's work of wrath in God's holy way, without greed. Ai then fell.
Joshua wrote the law on Ebal, and read it before the assembled people, half on that side and half. over against Gerizim. By neglecting to consult Jehovah Joshua was entrapped into the league with Gibeon; but having sworn he honourably kept his oath (Ps. 15:4; Eccl. 5:2; contrast 2 Sam. 21:2-6, etc.). This brought on the attack of the five confederate kings whom he defeated at Makkedah, aided by a divinely sent hailstorm and prolongation of daylight: the condition of the air was probably rendered by God, at Joshua's believing prayer, highly refractive so as to cause the sun to be seen long after its actual descent beneath the horizon, as the fata morgana in Sicily and the arctic region; compare the recession of the sun dial shadow under Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:11).
The miracle was local, not universal, if we are to judge from the language, "stand ... upon Gibeon, ... in the valley of Ajalon;" so Exo. 8:22; 10:23. The mention of the moon with the "sun" hints at the true theory of the earth's rotation on its axis, which requires that if the sun apparently stood the moon should apparently stand too. Habakkuk (Hab. 3:10,11) refers to it: "the sun and moon stood still in their habitation." The words "hasted not to go down" imply a gradual not a sudden check to the ordinary phenomena of the sun's apparent motion.
Joshua subdued the S. to Kadesh Barnea and Gaza, then the northern confederated kings under Jabin, at Merom, and the country even unto Baalgad in the valley of Lebanon under Mount Hermon and unto "great Zidon." (Tyre was still inferior, merely a stronghold subordinate to Zidon. In the books Samuel and Kings this is reversed, marking the early date of the book of Joshua).
Israel often disliked destroying all; but God's command required utter extermination of the Canaanites (Josh. 10:40). Like the earthquake or pestilence, they were simply God's executioners, without personal blood-thirstiness, required to exhibit His hatred of idolatry, and learning themselves to hate it. For 500 years God had borne with longsuffering those guilty nations. Neither the piety of Melchizedek nor the awful punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah had led them to repentance. Now their "iniquity was full" (Gen. 15:16). In six years six nations and 31 kings, including the giant ANAKIM (which see), their former dread, fell before Joshua. Their extermination was "a work of mercy for all the countries of the earth to the very end of the world."
Next Joshua, now aged, allotted the land, along with Eleazar and the tribal heads (Josh. 14:1; 17:4). Timnath Serah in Ephraim was assigned to Joshua himself," the city which he asked" (Josh. 19:49). His singular unselfishness herein appears; he who might have claimed the first and best is served the last, and with no extraordinary possession above the rest.
The congregation set up the tabernacle at Shiloh (Josh. 18). Six cities of refuge were appointed, 48 to the Levites; and the two and a half trans-jordanic tribes were dismissed home with blessings (Josh. 20--22). The slackness of Israel in taking possession of the promised land and destroying the Canaanites was the drawback to the completeness of Joshua's work (Josh. 18:3); after their long nomadic life the people were slow in settling down in separate homes; fear of the foes' attack too made them shrink from the trouble of defending themselves severally: a root of bitterness left which bore deadly fruit under the judges.
A long time after Jehovah had given rest unto Israel from all foes, Joshua, now old, convened all Israel (Josh. 23) represented by their heads, judges, and officers, to either Timhath Serah his home or Shiloh the sanctuary, and exhorted them to love and serve Jehovah ("be ye very courageous to do all that is written in the law, turn not aside to the right or to the left," Josh. 23:6; the same as God had enjoined Himself, Josh. 1:7), constrained by His past benefits, His promises of future help, and His threats of leaving the nations to be snares, scourges, and thorns to vex and destroy Israel in the event of apostasy.
Again he gathered all the tribes with their heads and officers to Shechem, as being the place where Abram received God's first promise of the land after his migration into Canaan (Gen. 12:6,7); more especially because here Jacob on his return from Mesopotamia settled, and removed his household's strange gods (Gen. 33:19; 35:2-4), just as Joshua now wished Israel to renew the covenant binding them to renunciation of all idols. Here too Joseph's bones were buried (Josh. 24:32).
Joshua was buried at 110 years of age in Timnath Serah. His piety comes brightly out in his dying exhortation: (1) God's call to Abraham was one of pure grace, not for his merit; Israel's fathers and Terah had "served other gods" (Josh. 24:2,14; Gen. 31:53; 19:34), but Jehovah has through miraculous interposition brought Israel to the promised land; put away therefore all the gods ye served in Egypt (Lev. 17:7; Ezek. 20:18; Josh. 24:14); but, if not, (2) choose you (if you are bent on self destruction) which idols you like, "but as for me and my house (Gen. 18:19) we will serve the Lord" (compare Ruth 1:15; 1 Kings 18:21; John 6:67; Luke 10:42). When the people, self confidently (like Peter, Luke 22:33), promised faithfulness, Joshua replied "ye cannot serve the Lord," i.e. without putting away heart idols (for they had no wooden, stone, or metal images to put away): Deut. 6:5,6; Mt. 6:24. See Josh. 24:23, "put away the strange gods which are IN you," heart idols, inconsistent with the service of Jehovah who is "a jealous God" (Ezek. 20:39).
On the people expressing still their resolution to serve Jehovah, Joshua made a covenant between God and them; and wrote the covenant and the words spoken on both sides in the law book of God, adding it to that written by Moses, and set up a stone as a memorial on the spot, under a terebinth tree by the sanctuary (or place hallowed to Jehovah by Abraham), and as a visible silent witness of their engagement. His influence under God kept them faithful both in his own time and that of the elders who outlived him.
A pious warrior, almost without blemish, one who learned to command in advanced age by obeying when a youth, ever looking up to Jehovah with childlike faith, worshipping with devout prostration the Captain of the Lord's host, dispensing kingdoms yet content at the last with a petty inheritance, as disinterested and unselfish as he was brave, generous, and patriotic.
Joshua typifies Jesus whose name he bears (Acts 7:45; Heb. 4:8). Moses representing the law could not bring Israel into Canaan; that was reserved for Joshua. So Jesus perfects what the law could not, and brings His people into the heavenly inheritance (Acts 13:39; Heb. 4; 7:19-25). He leads His people through a Jordan-like flood of troubles and death itself without being overwhelmed (Isa. 43:2). He bruises Satan under their feet (Josh. 10:24; Ps. 110:5; Mal. 4:3; Rom. 16:20).
Jesus is the minister of the true circumcision (Josh. 5:2-9; compare Rom. 15:8; 2:29; Col. 2:11,13). Joshua was buried in the border of his inheritance in TIMNATH SERAH (which see: probably now Kefr Haris) in Mount Ephraim, on the northern side of the hill Gaash (Josh. 24:30). The Septuagint adds: "there they laid with him in the tomb the stone knives with which he circumcised the children of Israel in Gilgal ... and there they are unto this day." If this addition of the Septuagint be trustworthy, it will be a curious proof that flint knives lay in situ for 12 centuries, from the 16th to the third century B.C., the date of Septuagint.
At all events it shows that flint knives are no proof of a barbarous race ages before the historic period; such knives were used by civilized races in the historic times. M. Guerin professes to have discovered at Tigne (Timnath Serah), Joshua's tomb. In the hill there one tomb has a vestibule, into which the light penetrates. There are 300 niches for lamps. The vestibule admits to two chambers, one with 15 receptacles for bodies, the other but one; many sharp flint knives were found on removing the dirt from the floor of the tomb, as also in Gilgal, the passage of Jordan. The pillars in the vestibule are surrounded by a fillet of Egyptian style.
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IBSE, (in the public domain) with minor edits.