The book of Deuteronomy ends with the death of Moses and the people ready to enter into the Promised Land. This new section in our journey through the Bible records the people’s exciting entry into the land and then the people’s disobedient lifestyle in the land. This part of the journey is called conquest and cycles and covers approximately 400 years in Israel’s history. The material covered in this section of our journey is from the books of Joshua, Judges, and Ruth.
Moses is dead and Israel now has a new leader. Joshua was Moses’ assistant and he was given the task of leading the people of God out of the wilderness and into the Promised Land after Moses’ death. The Lord gives Joshua a formal commission to “be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:6, 7, and 9). This was not the first time Joshua was told this (Deut. 31:6) and nor was it the last (Joshua 1:18; 10:25). The purpose of this commission is to remind Joshua to trust in the source and resource of true strength and courage. In this commission the Lord said, “Be strong and courageous for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them” (Joshua 1:6). God made a clear promise that His people would inherit the Promised Land. This promise was first made to Abraham (Gen. 15:18-21), was confirmed to Isaac (Gen. 26:3) and Jacob (Gen. 28:13) and was reiterated to Moses (Deut. 34:4). The Lord promised the land to the people and Joshua has been authorised to lead them into the land and see that promise come to pass. The events recorded in the book of Joshua provide the reader with an optimistic outlook. Though Israel has lost their great leader, God allows them to enter the land that God promised to Abraham. The theme of “land” dominates this book. This conquest, which happens in fulfilment to God’s promise to Abraham, should remind the reader of God’s plan to undo the curse in Genesis 3. The book of Joshua is divided into four major sections: Entering the Land (1-5), Conquering the Land (6-12), Dividing the Land (13-21), and Serving in the Land (22-24).
Entering the Land (Joshua 1-5)
After the Lord commissioned Joshua to lead His people into the Promised Land, Joshua prepares the people to enter the Land. This preparation involved a few things. Firstly, Joshua sent out of two spies into the land, but to especially view Jericho (Joshua 2). They lodged in the house of a prostitute named Rahab. News had come to the king of Jericho that there were spies in the city searching out the land, so Rahab was summoned to the king. By this time Rahab had them hidden, and she protected them by showing allegiance to the God of Israel. She deceived the king and created a decoy so they could escape (2:4-7). Rahab declared her understanding that the land belongs to the people of Israel because the Lord has given it to them (2:9). She testifies of God’s greatness and requests that she and her family be spared of the coming judgment on Jericho. Interestingly, Rahab, who was a pagan prostitute, becomes a significant individual in the life of Israel and from her line will eventually be David and Jesus. After the spies escaped, they made it back to their camp and gave Joshua a report (2:23) and declared, “Truly the LORD has given all the land into our hands. And also, all the inhabitants of the land melt away because of us” (2:24).
The people then were assembled, and with the Levites leading the march with the Ark of the Covenant, they prepared to cross over to the Promised Land (3:1-13). The Lord parted the waters of the Jordan River, and the people of Israel entered the land (3:14-17). Once they crossed over, they commemorated this event by setting up twelve memorial stones (4:1-9). These were to stand and state the story of the Lord’s power and faithfulness to many generations to come. In chapter 5, two significant actions take place as the people enter the land. The covenant sign of circumcision is applied to all the males of Israel (5:1-9) and the Passover is celebrated (5:10-12). The day after they ate the fruit of the land, the manna the Lord provided for them ceased and they enjoyed the food of the land that year (5:12).
Joshua then has a surprising encounter with the commander of the Lord’s army who was carrying a sword (5:13-15). Not knowing who this was, Joshua asked “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” (5:13). The reply given was “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come” (5:14). Joshua realizes who this is and worships Him. This act of worship gives the indication that this is the Lord and His presence is an affirmation of the victory He is going to grant.
Conquering the Land (Joshua 6-12)
Now that the people of Israel have entered the land, the time has come for them to take the land. This section of Joshua records a number of battle in which the Lord grants them victory and conquest. Among the many battles, two are described with great detail: the Battle of Jericho (6) and the Battle of Ai (7-8). The Lord commanded the people that in the first battle (the Battle of Jericho), there was to be no spoils or survivors. The only exception was God’s gracious salvation of Rahab and her family. The second battle started off as a debacle but in the end God allowed them to defeat their enemies. After an initial attempt, the people of Ai killed 36 Israelites. Joshua grieved over this and prayed to the Lord, but the Lord asked Joshua to stop and explained that this is happening because there is sin in Israel’s camp. What happened was that a man named Achan stole some things from Jericho that were to be destroyed (7:1, 21). This open act of defiance was a departure from the Law of God (cf. Joshua 1:8). Joshua then searched throughout the camp to find who did this. Eventually he found Achan, had him confess and then he was stoned to death. After this, Israel defeated the people of Ai (Joshua 8). After many battles, the people of Israel conquered the land. Under Joshua’s leadership 31 kings were defeated (Joshua 12:9-24).
Dividing the Land (Joshua 13-21)
After they conquered the land, the time came for the dividing of the land. The divisions and allocation were made for each tribe. Though this section contains information that appears tedious, it is exciting to see the people receive the allotments of the land the Lord had promised. After these allotments were completed a summary statement is made,
“Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass” (Joshua 21:43-45)
They are now in the land enjoying what God had promised. However, there is still much to do, and it becomes evident that they fail to remove all the enemies. The people’s lack of obedience in not removing these enemies will result of major problems and corruption that that lead to a series of cycles that go from bad to worse.
Serving in the Land (Joshua 22-24)
When Joshua was well advanced in years he summoned the people and gave them a charge. He calls for them to be strong and keep and do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses (23:6). He also calls for them to not mix with those that remained in the land and to rejects their gods (23:7-10). And he calls for them to be loyal to the Lord; otherwise there will be judgment (23:11-13). Then he recounts the Lord’s gracious, powerful, and faithful acts (24:1-13). He asks them to be fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and faithfulness (24:14). The people agree and reaffirm their commitment to the Lord (24:23-24). At the age of 110, Joshua died and was buried. During the days of Joshua the people served the Lord and they were are nation displaying the glory of God (24:31).