Read the Bible in a Year
This week, read: Joshua 1-24
At Least Know This
After 40 years of desert wanderings, the book of Joshua describes the people finally entering the land of Canaan. Under the leadership of Joshua, the people move into the land and then they divide themselves up into their tribes.
Author and Date
There is no named author of the book of Joshua. It was most likely a number of authors (or groups of authors) that wrote the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. It is likely that it was written during the time of the Babylonian Exile (587-538 BC), as a reflective history to describe how God led them in the taking of the land.
The people living in Canaan at that time were not unified. There was a collection of city-states, villages, and rural farmers all living independently. The first half of Joshua (see Joshua 10:29 to 11:21) seems like there were huge, quick battles, where the Israelites decisively defeated the indigenous tribes and took the land.
However, the second half of Joshua tells a different story (see 13:1; 13:13; 15:63; 16:10; 17:12; 17:16). From these chapters, it seems that the Israelites moved in to live with the Canaanites, in a more peaceful way.
Archeology supports this idea. There are very few destroyed cities in Canaan at this time. It seems that the Israelites moved in and lived among the Canaanites. This would also explain how easily the Israelites got into the worship of the Canaanite gods (known as Baal and Ashtoreth).
Remember the Deuteronomic Code? It said, “Obey God’s law and you’ll become wealthy and successful. Disobey God and you’ll be severely punished.” Read Joshua 1:8. The idea of the Deuteronomic Code is very prevalent in Joshua. Watch for it! When we get to the prophets, you’ll read that they rejected the Deuteronomic Code as foolish and misleading. Unfortunately, the people didn’t listen to the prophets very much.
There are some well-known stories in this section of the Bible. Rahab and the spies (chapter 2), the fall of Jericho (chapter 6), the sun standing still (chapter 10). To modern eyes, there is a lot of warfare, too. People often ask the question, “Did God order them to go to war with all those people?” My answer is that this is reflective history. They are looking backwards, several hundred years later, and trying to give rationalizations why they acted the way they did. And, as noted above, the entrance into Canaan may have been more peaceful than the first half of Joshua suggests.
In chapter 22, we see a brewing civil war between the tribes of Israel. This is largely because of the argument over where to worship. Remember Deuteronomy 12, and the one place of worship? The tension is beginning to build here.
In Joshua, the story is that people entered the land of Canaan and took the land for themselves. While it was clearly not that simple, the story persisted. The Old Testament is written so that we have a better understanding of Jesus. When Jesus began his ministry, people were ready for another Joshua—someone who would take the land back from the Romans. They wanted the Messiah to be like the leader here in the book of Joshua—to lead an army and take the land back for themselves. But Jesus was not interested in land… He was interested in human hearts—and still is interested in human hearts to this day!
Remember back in Genesis 12? Remember when God chose Abraham? If you ask 10 people why God chose Abraham, they will say “because Abraham was a righteous man.” But they would be wrong. Check out Joshua 24:1-2. Abraham was worshiping idols when God called him. God didn’t call Abraham because Abraham was good; God called Abraham because God is good. God treats us the same today. God doesn’t care what we’ve done, how we’ve acted, or what mistakes we’ve made. He loves us right now, he calls us right now, and offers us new life. The staggering truth of the gospel is that God loves us right now—not as we should be, not as we ought to be, but he loves us right now, as we are.
If you run across a passage that you have questions about, feel free to post questions (or insights that you have received from the Bible reading), then please click here, and then click on the most recent reading guide. You can also feel free to email the question to me.
Our next face-to-face meeting is on March 14, 2019 at 6:30-7:45.