BIBLE STUDY The Book of
JOSHUA A STORY OF NEW BEGINNINGS
This study notes provide the core content of a group of bible studies on the Book of Joshua. While the core message of the study has been captured for you to read, written text can not fully express the sense of anointing upon the discussion of the word or the joy of corporate fellowship. We encourage you to pray before you begin reading that the Lord would open your heart and mind to be receptive and responsive to God’s message contained within this study. There may be times when you find it difficult to reconcile God’s truth to your own opinion or worldview, God’s truth is eternal, it does not change, our understanding of the truth does change as we allow God to work in our hearts and minds.
JOSHUA Introduction Joshua was chosen by God to succeed Moses and to lead the people of Israel into Canaan, to reclaim their inheritance as promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It is a true story of new beginnings. When Joshua was born in Egypt he was given the name Hoshea (meaning salvation) which was changed by Moses to Joshua (meaning God is salvation = Hebrew word for Jesus). There are parallels between Joshua and Jesus – Jesus now leads us into conquest and freedom, and into our inheritance. In the wilderness Joshua had worked close to Moses and had been used by God in defeating the Amalakites. He was the General of the Army and a man of great courage and wisdom. He was also a spiritual man, accompanying Moses up Mount Sinai and helping in the task of judging the people. Joshua was both a warrior and a worshipper. Joshua was an encourager and saw God’s vision. When twelve spies were sent to spy out Canaan only Joshua and Caleb encouraged the people to trust God and take their inheritance. Sadly, the people’s unbelief delayed this action for forty years – a whole generation. But Joshua was a man of patience and stayed true to the vision, believing in God’s covenant promise to Abraham. Joshua didn’t know why Israel was important, he just knew that God said it was. We know that God had chosen Israel to be the land and the nation through which He could send the Saviour of all mankind. Joshua’s obedience in securing the land was paramount. In possessing the Land, the Israelites were to know fruitfulness and rest. The analogy can be extended to us. Our riches and our rest are in Jesus Christ, but our walk will be one of conflicts and victories – as was Joshua’s.
Chapter 1 Read verses 1-5 Q. Moses had died and the weight of responsibility was now on Joshua. How would Joshua have been feeling? This was indeed a new beginning. A whole generation of Israelites had died in the wilderness, except for Joshua and Caleb who, because of their faith, had been entrusted with leading the people into the Promised Land. Joshua had the task of leading the people into a new land, a new beginning, a time of change and great challenge – a very difficult task indeed. But God encouraged him: • I will lead you across the Jordon • I will give you every place where you set your foot • There will be land for each tribe • I will never leave you or forsake you 1
Read verses 6-11 God certainly knew how Joshua was feeling!! He constantly reinforces the fact that He will be with Joshua: • Be strong and courageous (3 times, v6,7&9) • I am fulfilling my promises • Know the Word (Book of the Law) – meditate on it • I will be with you wherever you go Joshua acted on God’s word – in three days time they would cross the Jordon to take possession of the Land. Read verses 12-18 Two and a half tribes had already received their inheritance on the east side of the Jordon (as agreed in Numbers 32); they were expected to send fighting men to help their fellow Israelites to fight for their land. These were “border line believers”. Q. How do you see them represented in the church today? Conversely, the officers were fully supportive of Joshua. They obeyed him and prayed for him.
Chapter 2 Read verses 1-7 Whilst Joshua was preparing the people to cross the River Jordon, he sent two men ahead to spy out the land, so that they would know what to expect. The first major place they would encounter in their new land was Jericho – a fortified city. The first person the spies met was Rahab – a prostitute who owned an inn. Jericho: Rahab’s house was in the city wall. Archaeological evidence suggests that there were double walls around the city about 15’ apart; and although it is called a city the extent of it was only about 8 or 9 acres. If you picture a large castle such as Caernarfon Castle in Wales, with its double walls and large enclosed space, you can imagine how the city of Jericho appeared. Rahab seemed to be the only one in Jericho who was sympathetic to God’s people; and God had led the spies straight to her door – she was not afraid to help them. Q. How often does God prepare the way before us? And how often does God choose people for his purposes that we wouldn’t necessarily consider? What does this tell us about ourselves? Read 1 Corinthians 1 verses 27 and 29. Why did Rahab do what she did? Read on .... Read verses 8-11 2
Rahab did what she did because she had heard about Israel’s God on the grapevine. But “faith is only as good as its object” (Weirsbe). Her faith worked because it was based on what she knew of the true and living God. She had heard about God’s miracles and believed. She acted in the power of that knowledge and her faith was credited to her as righteousness – in other words it made her right with God. This was a woman who was confined by a very pagan culture but, nevertheless found freedom through her faith in God. Read verses 12-14 Having found the true God, Rahab wanted to bring her whole family into freedom (save us from death, v13). The spies pledged their word and their lives (v14) on the understanding that Rahab would keep their secret. Read verses 15-21 No-one knew how God would help the Israelites take the City of Jericho – it still seemed an impossibility. But there was to be a sign of the covenant between the spies and Rahab’s household – the scarlet rope which would ensure her protection and freedom. Q. What is the word “scarlet” likely to represent in Scripture, in the context of being saved and set free? Rahab’s whole family were to be saved. Whilst they were under her roof they were her responsibility and were safe. If they departed, loss of protection would be on their own head. Rahab is noteworthy for her obedience (v21). Read verses 22-24 The spies safely returned to Joshua and told him the whole story. What an encouragement to Joshua. God had gone before the spies and he would prepare a way for Israel too. Is that the end of Rahab’s story? Read Joshua 6v25; Matt 1v5; Hebrews 11v31 and James 2v25 Rahab was held up as an example of saving faith. Her past was not hidden, but it was included in order to show God’s grace and inclusiveness towards all people – whoever they are and wherever they come from.
Joshua chapter 3 Read verses 1-6 For three days the Israelites prepared themselves for the crossing of the Jordon. Officers were sent out with the orders. When the people saw the Ark of the Covenant passing they were to follow (v3); they were to consecrate themselves (v5); and they were to respect the Lords presence (v4). The Ark of the Covenant contained the 10 Commandments which represented the terms of the covenant that God had made with his people. But the Ark was more than that. It was the place of God’s Presence – it represented his throne on earth. It 3
had to be carried on poles and not touched directly. The priests were in a very privileged position as they stepped out in faith in The Lord. Q. The Israelites probably consecrated themselves by ritual washing. When, why and how might we consecrate ourselves? Read verses 7-13 Q. Why did God want to take them across the Jordon in so drastic a fashion? Israel would know that Joshua was God’s man and they were to follow him. He would have stature in their eyes. Rahab had already told of how God’s miracles were making people worried – they would soon hear more of what God was able to do. God was preparing the way before the people. Joshua does not take the glory but uses God’s promise to encourage the people (v10). The priests were asked to take a step of faith – to step into the rushing Jordon River with the Ark. The Jordon River (see verse 15) During most of the year, the Jordon River was about a hundred feet wide. But at the Spring flood season the river overflowed its banks and became a mile wide. (Wiersbe) But they had the promise and encouragement of the Lord that he would be with them and go before them. Read verses 14-17 As soon as the priests stepped into the water the flow stopped and the water piled up some 20 miles upstream. God caused it to happen, whether it be a pure miracle or a divine landslide at the exact right time! I choose to believe it was a miracle, because there is no way of explaining away that the people crossed on DRY ground. Unless we get our feet wet we do not experience the solid dry ground. We are often called to take that first step of faith. Joshua chapter 4 Read verses 1-9 Twelve men, one from each tribe, were chosen to pick up 12 stones from the river bed, and carry them to Gilgal, where they were to be stacked as an everlasting memorial. They were to serve as a sign to future generations that the Lord had led his people across the Jordon on dry ground in order to possess the land he had given them. Gilgal was about two miles from Jericho and would eventually be the place where King Saul was crowned. Read verses 10-14 The crossing was not complete without the 40,000 fighting men from the tribes who had already settled in the territory east of the Jordon (v12). The seemingly impossible task had been completed and the result was that the people revered and respected Joshua, as they had done Moses. 4
Read verses 15-24 When the priests bearing the Ark came up out of the water, the waters once again surged forward. The memorial stones were erected and the people worshipped God. Q. Can you think of milestones or places that remind you of a work God has done in your life? But encouraged as they were, they were still not quite ready to face their enemies. They first of all had to prepare themselves. . . . .
Joshua chapter 5 Our Christian walk should not depend on past experiences alone. To live a victorious Christian life we need to keep our relationship with God fresh, daily reaffirming our commitment to him and seeking him for his guidance and protection. This is how we can be prepared for whatever life may throw at us. The Israelites could not go into battle on the strength of what God had done for their fathers. They had to prepare themselves by recommitting their lives in covenant relationship to God. Read verses 1-12 - CIRCUMCISION Israel is a covenant nation and God gave circumcision as a sign or mark of the covenant. This reminded them that their bodies belonged to the Lord. But, all of the Israelites who entered the Promised Land (except for Joshua and Caleb) had not been circumcised like their fathers; and it was important that they renew this covenant relationship before they took the Land. Circumcision was meant to be a symbol of the spiritual response of the heart – without this response it had no meaning. In the same way today, baptism and communion are not substitutes for faith in Jesus – they are a symbol of our faith. Can you picture the scene? The Israelites were camped near Jericho and God required that every male was circumcised! Humanly speaking they might think it would be better to wait until after the battle! Q. Why do you think God chose this time? God often chooses to make us weak so that he can test our faith and obedience. Sometimes this testing experience (as now happened to the Israelites who had just crossed the Jordon) comes after a period of blessing or victory. Q. Why does God allow these knock-backs? Great victories can lead to pride (we did the right thing, we were obedient, we had faith) and God has to remind us to depend on him. Verse 10 tells us that they then shared in the Passover celebrations. They could only do this when they had been circumcised – this was the first Passover for most of them, when they celebrated the day when the blood of the Lamb on their door posts saved them from death in Egypt. Here is a picture of a nation in a hostile country sharing the Lord’s table. “A table prepared for me in the presence of my enemies” Psalm 23v5. How good God is!
God showed his goodness by renewing covenant with them, by resting them (probably 2 weeks between Jordon and Jericho), by allowing them to celebrate and then by providing for them with the produce of the Land. (From this time on the manna ceased to fall from heaven each day.) Read verses 13-15 Many scholars think that this is one of the pre-incarnation appearances of Jesus Christ. Joshua being commander of the army wanted to check out if this was friend or foe. When the man identified himself as commander of the army of the Lord (same meaning as The Lord of Hosts) Joshua fell to his face. In this attitude of servanthood he would become Israel’s leader. Great church services, or healings, or victories are often accomplished in private surrender to God. Watchman Nee said: Not until we take our place as servant can He take His place as Lord. Joshua’s first command from God was to “take off your sandals” – he recognised he was standing in God’s holy presence. Consider the Lord’s response to Joshua’s question (“Neither”– v14) Does God take sides? It is not a question of whether God is on your side or my side – but are we on his side. Are we about our business or are we about God’s business? God’s ways are not our ways Our battles are won through servanthood, spiritual preparation and obedience. It is then that God fights for us and gives us the victory when we face our “enemies”.
Joshua chapter 6 Consider the differences between childlike and childish faith. The next few chapters are about childlike faith and obedience, especially during times of conflict. Q. Why do we have a natural inclination to avoid conflict when warfare against Satan is one of the main themes of the Bible? Read verses 1-7 The people of Jericho were fearful of the Israelites (v.1) and had barricaded themselves in. God was already at work. The victory was already won, even though the battle had not begun (v.2). The Lord shared the plan of action with Joshua and Joshua explained it to the priests. This was the Lord’s plan and obedience would bring about victory. This was the order: The armed men (probably thousands) followed by 7 priests with trumpets followed by the Ark of the Lord followed by the rear guard. Seven priests, seven trumpets, seven days and seven circuits. Throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation the number 7 represents completeness and perfection. This was God’s perfect plan. 6
Read verses 8-16 The plan probably made no sense to the Israelites or to the people of Jericho who were watching. But childlike faith and obedience would bring about the victory. Read Hebrews 11v30. All the Israelites had to do was to follow an unusual battle plan and trust in God. Read verses 18-21 God gave clear instructions that all the valuable things (often called the spoils of war) were to be devoted as sacred to Him and were to be put in His treasury. This was to be their first battle and these were to be the firstfruits which the Law required to be given to God. Read verses 17 & 22-27 At the victory shout the walls collapsed – but Rahab’s bit of wall must have stayed intact! She and her entire family were rescued from death that day as promised. Q. In what ways was Rahab’s house like Noah’s Ark? As the Israelites obeyed God’s instructions exactly the victory was won. They didn’t have to fight to take the city. They learned, over 7 days, how to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46v10). But they did have to be obedient – and this included being obedient to all of God’s instructions, including a) the destruction of everything in Jericho b) the dedication of the valuable things to God Q. In what ways was Jericho like Sodom and Gomorrah?
Chapter 7 Read verses 1-9 Israel was one people in the Lord just as today we are one body in Christ. Whether we like it or not what we do is seen as what the church does. Our actions affect each other and God’s church as a whole. It is possible that God’s church is not triumphant because there are parts of the body who are living in sin – not obeying His written Word. Achan is an example of this – and the effect of his actions is made clear by the Israelites’ defeat at Ai. What was his sin? – read on ... Read verses 10-13 They (Achan’s family) had stolen things devoted to God. He stole, he hid, he lied. It cost Israel 36 men (v.5). How quickly Israel had become self-confident instead of God-confident! They would not stand against their enemies until they removed the sin (v.13). Read verses 16-26 God sees and knows all. Often at the beginning of a new era God punishes the wrongdoer severely as an example. Think about Uzzah (2 Samuel 6v1-11) and Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5v1-11). It reminds us that God cannot tolerate sin. In a time when they had no books the heap of stones would be their constant reminder of the lesson they had learned. Significantly this battle at Ai was the only defeat they experienced in Canaan. 7
One might wonder if Joshua had humbled himself (v.10) before the battle and sought God perhaps this whole episode would not have happened. In so short a time had they become self-confident instead of relying on God?
ACHOR We may think some of God’s punishments are unfair or severe, but only God knows the heart of a man. Achan was known as the troubler of Israel and the Valley of Achor means the place of trouble. While Achan was alive Israel would not be victorious in God. Achan is representative of God’s judgement on sin and his desire for us to be pure in his sight. BUT In Hosea 2v15 we read: “I will make the Valley of Achor a door of Hope”. This is part of God’s promise that he would find a way of salvation for man – an escape from the punishment and penalty of sin. Sin brings judgement, but Jesus Christ is our hope of salvation. In Isaiah 65v10 we read: “The Valley of Achor will become a resting place for herds, and for my people who seek me.” Only Jesus can take a place of defeat and trouble and turn it into a place of rest and joy.
Chapter 8 Our God is a God of second chances. Israel had “messed up”, but God in His faithfulness gave them another chance. This time they would trust in Him. They would know victory and abundance. Read verses 1-8 Jericho’s plunder was the firstfruits of their inheritance and had to be devoted to God. But Achan’s sin in stealing from God brought about their loss of victory at Ai. But now, having dealt with the sin, the Israelites were assured of God’s victory (v.1). And what’s more, this time they were allowed to keep the plunder when they took Ai. God doesn’t want to take everything from us – he just wants us to give him what is rightfully his because we love and trust him. Joshua outlined the battle plan. An advance party would go ahead and hide beyond the city. Joshua’s men would lure the men out of Ai and and cause them to give chase. (In the event, they left Ai completely undefended - probably because Israel had been no threat on their previous attempt.)Then the ambush party could go in and take the city. When Joshua saw that happening, his men would turn round and kill the soldiers from Ai. Verses 9-22 describe how they followed these instructions and gained the victory. 8
Read verses 23-29 Though it seems distasteful to us, every trace of the sinful nation had to be destroyed. We have to remember that this was not the killing of innocent people, but God’s judgment on an evil society. Read verses 30-35 A mark of Joshua’s spirituality was that he could draw aside from the business of battle to worship God. He built an altar on which they made burnt offerings (for their sin) and fellowship offerings (for their relationship with both God and man).And Joshua also gave Israel the opportunity to make a new commitment, reminding them that their success lay in their obedience to God’s Laws written in stone.
Sometimes Satan reveals himself in an obvious way, coming as Accuser or Destroyer. But other times he is more subtle, coming as Deceiver. This is why Paul warns us to be on our “guard against him who deceives those who are perishing”. (2 Thess 2v10) Read verses 1-6 Once again we see how talk of God’s mighty acts went before the Israelites. Some prepared for war, but the Gibeonites had a different idea. They would trick the Israelites into making a treaty with them, thus securing their safety. Here they outline their plan. Read verses 7-15 And here they carry out their plan. They were very clever con-men and convincing actors; so that Joshua’s men believed they were innocent travellers from a far country – in other words, not Canaanites. So much so, a treaty was made - but Israel had been deceived. WHY? See verse 14. Q. How can doing what seems right sometimes be wrong? Is it because we don’t always identify the enemy? Is it because we believe the enemy? Can you think of people who might deceive or manipulate us and the result is that we make a commitment that is difficult to get out of? Read verses 16-21 The leaders (probably humbled and embarrassed) were inspired to come up with the solution of insisting that the Gibeonites would become their servants – as water carriers and woodcutters. There is no evidence that this created a problem for the Israelites and God must have honoured the fact that Joshua kept his oath. Read verses 22-27 There is every likelihood that the Gibeonites abandoned their idols and worshipped the God of Israel.
Joshua chapter 10 Read verses 1-6 The story of 5 kings of: Jerusalem; Hebron; Jarmuth; Lachich; and Eglon When they heard about the treaty that Gibeon had made with Israel, they decided to attack them. But the Gibeonites asked Joshua to send help. Joshua had made a mistake when he made the treaty with Gibeon (previous chapter). But God can even use our mistakes to fulfil his purposes. Joshua was going to be able to take the 5 cities in one go instead of one by one! Read verses 7-15 Once more the Lord promised Joshua, “I have given them into your hand” (v.8). Joshua’s army arrived early morning when the 5 kings were unprepared, and they fled. A long battle ensued (over 24 hours?) and God secured the victory by sending hailstones (v.11) and by causing the sun to stand still (v.13). It’s worth remembering that God is not bound by his own creation. The record of events in this chapter shows how it was God’s intervention that won the battle. Q. Are we ready to give God the glory when he fights for us, and when he answers prayer for us? Read verses 16-28 But the 5 kings had hidden (v.16). Joshua blocked them in the cave while he dealt with the armies. He then publicly killed the 5 kings and made an example of them (v.26). When the sun eventually set they buried the men and marked the grave with rocks – another monument to the power of the God of Israel. Makkedah was also taken.
N.B. Joshua’s army had marched all night and then were given 24 hours of daylight to fight. They’d probably had no sleep for 48 hours. Doesn’t this speak to us of God’s strength being made manifest in our weakness? Read verses 29-43 Now, all that remained was for Joshua and his army to march into every one of the 5 cities and claim them for the Lord. So Joshua had conquered all the southern kingdoms (except Jerusalem) with one campaign. (V.29&30: Libnah / V.31-33: Lachich / V.34&35: Eglon V.36&37: Hebron and V.38&39: Debir)
Chapter 11 Read verses 1-6 King Jabin in the north of Canaan had heard of Joshua’s conquests in the south. So he prepared for war by joining forces with the northern kings (see map). Once again, the Lord promised Joshua the victory (v.6) over these amassed armies. Read verses 7-15 10
We read the words but we can hardly imagine the total wipeout of these northern peoples. Distasteful though it seems, it was God’s judgment on a sinful society. It does well for us to contemplate that we have been saved from God’s awful judgment simply because Jesus has taken the punishment for us by dying in our place. Read verses 16-23 These few verses could well cover a few years! The Lord was with Joshua – he had given him the victory, but Joshua still had to fight all the battles. Eventually, Joshua took the whole land for the Lord. He was ready to distribute it to the tribes as directed by the Lord. Chapter 12 This chapter catalogues in detail all Joshua’s conquests. Joshua chapters 13-21
These 9 chapters are about the division of The Promised Land. The 12 tribes were descended from the 12 sons of Jacob, whom God renamed Israel. However, the names of the sons differ from the names of the tribal territories: • •
The Levites inherited no land. They were the priestly tribe, but they were given 48 cities with some land around them. Read ch.13v14 and 14v4(b) Joseph’s tribe was divided between his 2 sons Ephraim and Manasseh (half tribes).
The following is a summary of these 9 chapters and covers the tribal inheritance, the Cities of Refuge and the towns allotted to the priests. Division of the Land east of the Jordan Read ch.13 v8: Moses had already given the Land east of the Jordan to three of the tribes – the half-tribe of Manasseh, the tribe of Rueben and the tribe of Gad. They had helped Joshua in battle and now could go east for their inheritance. Read ch.13v15, 24 and 29 The exact boundaries are given in this chapter. The Allocation for Caleb Caleb was eager to claim his well-deserved inheritance. Read ch.14 v6-15: Years before Moses had sent 12 men to spy out Canaan but only 2 of them – Caleb and Joshua – returned with a good report; only these 2 caught the vision. Caleb had served the Lord faithfully and now, at the age of 85, he claimed his reward, his inheritance. (Hebron was a city.) Read ch.15 v13-19: Caleb also brought the blessing of springs of water to his family, specifically his daughter. This passage is often interpreted as a metaphor describing how we can gain our inheritance in the Kingdom of God, but added to that we can be blessed further with the refreshing spring of water which is the Holy Spirit. 11
Division of the Land west of The Jordan (Caleb was given Hebron, in Judah, before the land was allotted.) It is useful to have a map handy if following these descriptions.
(Don’t feel it is necessary to read all the long names – the summary is detailed below) Read
ch.15v20-63: JUDAH ch.16v5-10: EPHRAIM ch.17v1-18: MANASSEH ch.18v1-10: describes how the remainder of land was allocated by drawing lots. ch.18v11-27: BENJAMIN ch.19v1-9: SIMEON ch.19v10-16: ZEBULUN ch.19v17-23: ISSACHAR ch.19v24-31: ASHER ch.19v32-39: NAPHTALI ch.19v40-48: DAN
The Allocation for Joshua Read ch.19v49-51: Joshua received the town of his choice – Timnath Serah – where he settled. (Seraiah in Hebrew means Yahweh rules)
Not everyone’s inheritance was the same – some were special. Others had more, or less, land. Yet others, still had battles to fight and win in order to be secure in their inheritance. But they all received. The Land was God’s covenant gift to them for eternity. We, as Christians, all have an inheritance. We have riches in Christ Jesus and a place in Heaven for eternity – our “promised land”. We will all be rewarded. Just as there was judgment on the Canaanites and an inheritance for the Israelites, so also will there one day be judgment on the wicked and an inheritance for all Christians. The Provision of Cities of Refuge (Read verses 1-6) God had instructed Moses to tell Joshua to set aside Cities of Refuge. Old Testament Law demanded “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. But there was to be a difference between murder and manslaughter. Verses 7&8 tell us how Joshua set aside Hebron, Shechem and Kedesh west of the Jordan; and Bezer, Ramoth Gilead and Golan east of the Jordan. These were sited so that most people could reach one of them within a day’s journey. If anyone killed a person they could flee to a City of Refuge so that their case could be investigated in safety, without the avenging family intervening unjustly. If the person who had killed someone was deemed innocent of murder then he could live in a City of Refuge and be protected. Allocation of Towns for the Levites (Read chapter 21) Verses 4-41 detail the towns that were allotted to the priestly families, such that every tribe would have priests to teach them God’s ways and to cater for their spiritual needs. 12
Read ch.21v43-45 Job done!! The Israelites now possessed their land. (It has to be said that not all the tribes dislodged the Canaanites from their midst. In some cases they lived peaceably with them, but in others they would live to regret this.) But God had fulfilled His promise. God had been faithful. God had used two faithful men – Joshua and Caleb – to spearhead the conquest, but God had gone before them in battle and fought for them. They had entered into their Rest. Q. How much does the work of God depend on those who hear God’s call and are willing to obey? Joshua chapter 22 Read verses 1-9 The fighting men from the two and a half tribes east of the Jordan could now return home to their families with their plunder – herds, silver, gold, bronze and clothes. Read verses 10-20 The leaders of the Transjordan tribes built an altar just to the east of the Jordan as a witness to their faith in God. But the Israelites were worried that this unauthorised structure would bring judgment on them (as had happened after Achan’s sin). Read verses 21-29 But the tribes of Manasseh, Gad and Rueben insisted that their motive was purely one of witness – they hadn’t intended making offerings there. Read verses 30-34 The delegation from Israel were satisfied with their explanation and peace was restored. However, this episode highlights the consequences of not seeking God’s Will in the first place. All of Israel should have been settled west of the Jordan, but it appears that Moses had allowed these two and a half tribes to settle in the east (what is known as Transjordan) without asking God (Numbers 32) – and Joshua concurred with this action. It meant that Israel had not claimed all of the Promised Land, they had settled for less than God’s best. Most of the land on the west coast was never claimed – particularly the land of the Philistines (apart from short periods in King David’s time). If all of the Israelites had settled over the whole land as God had intended then the land would not have suffered subsequent civil wars that last to this day. Q. Do we as Christians sometimes settle for less than God’s best? And do we suffer as a result?
Chapter 23 Read verses 1-13 This is Joshua’s farewell speech at the end of his life in which he gives God the glory for bringing the Israelites into their inheritance. But he reminds them not to compromise their faith and not to associate with those who are against God; they must not intermarry or be drawn into their religious practices. Q. How seriously are we to take these words as regards our Christian walk with God?
Read verses 14-16 Joshua reminds the people that God is a God who keeps his promises. But just as every good promise had come true, so would judgment come about if the people turned away from him (v.15). Q. Do we really believe that God is both Love and Justice? Does this belief affect our actions? Chapter 24 Read verses 1-13 Joshua recounts the history of God’s people – how he had led them to that place, and how he had fulfilled his covenant with Abraham which had been made some 500 years before. God reminds the people that he went before them, he fought for them, and he gave them land that was already full of good things. Read verses 14-27 Joshua renews the covenant between Israel and God. He explains the terms of the covenant and asks the people to choose to serve God or to forsake God. God always allows us to make that decision freely. The people chose to serve God (v.21&24) and Joshua set the example, “As for me and my household we will serve the Lord” (v15). The covenant was drawn up and a written record was made. Joshua set up a memorial to remind the people of their covenant promise, made that day. There are 9 memorials mentioned in the Book of Joshua. 1. The stones in the midst of the Jordan 2. The stones on the west of Jordan after they had crossed over 3. The stones in the Valley of Achor (Achan’s sin) 4. The stones at Ai (victory) 5. The altar on Mount Ebal (place of blessings and curses) 6. The stones of the law at Mount Ebal 7. The stones at the cave of Makkedah (5 kings were conquered) 8. The stones built into an altar across the Jordan (east) 9. Joshua’s stone of witness under the oak tree. Without multi-media, stones were the only way of recording things for posterity. These stones represented great miracles; judgment on sinners; victories in battle; places of commitment; places of witness; and the agreement of the covenant. They were a true memorial to all that God had done. 14
Read verses 28-33 Joshua was 110 when he died and he was buried in the town that he claimed for his inheritance, in the hill country of Ephraim (Ephraim later became synonymous with Israel). In fact there were 3 burials; Joshua, Eleazar the high priest, and the burial of Joseph’s bones. Believing in the Covenant and God’s promises Shechem became an important city for Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh. 260 years before, whist still in Egypt, Joseph on his deathbed had made a request. (Genesis 50v22-26) He trusted and believed in the covenant God had made with Abraham. Because of this he knew that one day God would lead his people out of Egypt into the Promised Land. When that time came he wanted his bones to be buried in Israel so that he would take up his inheritance with his sons. Likewise we can believe in the New Covenant with its promise of victory and eternal life! We can pin all our hope on God because he is faithful and always fulfils his promises.