Summary of the Book of Joshua

Joshua chronologically follows the book of Deuteronomy. In the English Bible it also follows Deuteronomy in order. About 30 years of time are covered in the book of Joshua from 1400 to 1370 B.C. The title of the book comes from the main character, Joshua.

Joshua is a book of history. The first five books of the Bible covered quite a bit of history as well, but their prime focus was on the Law. Joshua is the first of the 12 historical books: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther.

Like the other historical books, the recipients of this book are not specifically named. They are books about God’s dealing with His people. It can be assumed that the book was written as a reminder to future generations of how God worked in the past. Throughout the Bible, God commands the people to build altars of remembrance. These altars helped one generation teach the next generation about God. This book (as well as the other historical books) serves as an altar of remembrance today.

Author

The book of Joshua does not specifically name its author. It has historically been held that Joshua himself was the writer of the book. Even if he did not write the book personally, he must have planned the writing of the book. Moses seems to be the author of Leviticus and Numbers, partially proven by the fact that the one to whom God spoke the words of the book was the one who wrote it (Numbers 1:1 and Deuteronomy 1:1). Using that pattern, it appears that Joshua was probably the author of the book of Joshua.

A few verses of the book are written after the death of Joshua. That section obviously had to be written by someone else. That “someone else” may have been Eleazar or Phinehas, Aaron’s son and grandson respectively. Whoever wrote the book (Joshua or another writer) was present at the crossing of the Jordan river into the Promised Land, based on the usage of the first person pronoun “we” in Joshua 5:1. He was an eye witness to the events as indicated by the wording of Joshua 6:25.

Date Written

The history covered in the book is a time of 30 years. This was from the death of Moses in 1400 B.C. until the death of Joshua in 1370 B.C. Joshua was born about the time Moses fled from Egypt at the age of 40 (Joshua 14:7, 10 (speaking of Caleb)). Joshua died at the age of 110 (Joshua 24:29). Moses died at the age of 120, but 30 years previous to Joshua’s death.

Purpose of Joshua

The Book of Joshua gives a history of the conquering of the Promised Land. There is a record of some, but apparently not all, of the battles in the conquering of the land. The land is divided among the tribes of Israel.

God fulfilled His promise of providing the land (Joshua 23:14), but the people did not completely conquer the land (Joshua 18:3). This partial possession has been a continual problem to the nation of Israel.

The book details the dividing of the land among the tribes.

Key Verses

Joshua 1:2, 3 “Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minister, saying, Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.”

Joshua 1:8, 9 “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”

Joshua 24:14, 15 “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the LORD, to serve other gods;”

Key Words

  • Possess, possession – Used 22 times.
  • Inherit, inheritance – Used 63 times.

Outline of Joshua

The outline of Joshua has four parts:

  1. Entering the Land (Joshua 1-5)
  2. Conquering the Land (Joshua 6-12)
  3. Dividing the Land (Joshua 13-22)
  4. Final Message from Joshua (Joshua 23-24)

Summary of Joshua

The Israelites miraculously crossed into the Promised Land over the Jordan River. Their first city to conquer was the famed and defended city of Jericho. Two spies had already visited the city and promised to save Rahab and her family. Rahab was a prostitute who saved their lives (chapters 1-3). This is the city that was conquered by the Israelites walking around the city for a week and blowing trumpets on the final day (chapter 6). But they were defeated at the next city, Ai, because Achan had stolen goods that were expressly set apart for God (chapter 7). In the next chapter they were able to conquer Ai.

The southern part of the land was conquered first as they drove to the north. There is a summary of the conquered kings in chapter 12.

After the land was conquered, they began its division. There were two and a half tribes who chose to stay on the east side of the Jordan river. Even though they were not going to take ownership of land inside of Canaan they still fought alongside of Israel to take possession of the land. The land was divided among all of the tribes (chapters 13-19), but he Levites were given cities of refuge throughout the land instead of staying together in one location (chapters 20, 21).

Joshua’s final message is a message of separation and service (chapters 23, 24).

The final verses record the death of Joshua.

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