Joshua: The Conquest of Canaan
Old Testament Survey, Lesson 5 of 18
Joshua was one of the great men of God in the Old Testament. He served for 40 years as
Moses' assistant (Exodus 24:13; 33:11). He led the army of Israel to victory when
they were attacked by the Amalekites at Rephidim (Exodus 17:8-16). Joshua and Caleb were
the only ones of their generation who were allowed to enter the Promised Land (Numbers
Joshua is written the same as Jesus in Greek. This explains why Joshua is called Jesus in Hebrews 4:8 in the King James Version of the Bible. Joshua's original name was Hoshea which means salvation. It was changed to Joshua which means savior (Numbers 13:16).
The book of Joshua has a special place in God's plan to save man. God promised to make a great nation from Abraham's family. This would be the nation from which Christ would come. It was necessary for this nation to have a land in which to live. Therefore, God promised to give the land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 12:1-7; 17:8; Galatians 3:8,16). The book of Joshua shows how God fulfilled the land promise to Abraham.
Joshua Becomes the Leader of Israel
The children of Israel were camped east of the Jordan River. Mourning for Moses was now over and it was time to enter the Promised Land. When God gave the command to begin the conquest, He made a two-fold promise to Joshua: (1) There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life (2) I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Then God gave Joshua a two-fold admonition: (1) be strong and very courageous (2) observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee. (Joshua 1:5-7)
Joshua sent two spies across the Jordan to Jericho. Rahab, a harlot who lived in Jericho, hid the spies. She had heard of the mighty works of God in the desert. She had become a believer. Because of her faith, she and her family were spared when Jericho was destroyed. She later married an Israelite. She became a part of the family line of our Lord (Matthew 1:5).
When Israel crossed the Jordan, it was the time of harvest and the river was at flood stage. God made it possible for them to cross. The priests carried the ark of the covenant and went in front of the people. While they stood in the water at the edge of the river, the flood waters rose in a heap a great distance upstream. All of Israel crossed over on dry ground. Joshua had twelve large stones taken from the middle of the river. They were set up as a monument so future generations would see them and remember what God had done.
The first great battle to take the land was the battle of Jericho (Joshua 6). God told the children of Israel, I have given into thy hand Jericho. God gave them the city, but they had to take it. They had to follow His instructions in taking it. This is like our salvation today. God gives it to us (Ephesians 2:8,9). But we have to receive it by following God's instructions. We must do what He tells us to do if we want to be saved (Hebrews 11:30).
Israel went around the city once a day for six days. On the seventh day, they went around the city seven times. Then the priests blew the trumpets and the people shouted. The walls fell down and the army of Israel entered the city. Everyone was killed except for Rahab and her family. The city was to be a burnt offering to God. Therefore the Israelites were forbidden to take the spoils of war. Everything was supposed to be burned.
One man disobeyed. He took a beautiful garment and some gold from Jericho and hid them in his tent (Joshua 7). When the army of Israel went to fight against the city of Ai, they were defeated and thirty-six men were killed. God told them it was because someone had disobeyed Him and had taken some of the spoil at Jericho. Lots were cast and it was found that a man named Achan was guilty. He and all his family were stoned. Then Israel's army went against Ai and easily took it.
Israel had strict orders to make no covenant with any of the people of the land. All were to be destroyed (Exodus 23:31-33; Deuteronomy 7:1-5). However, the people of Gibeon had heard of Israel's great victories (Joshua 9). They were afraid. They planned to deceive Israel into making a covenant with them so they could survive. They told Israel they were not of the land but had come from a distant city. They asked Israel to make a covenant of peace with them. Israel made the covenant without first consulting with God. When they learned they had been deceived, they had to keep the covenant. They did not kill the people but made them servants instead.
A very unusual event is recorded in chapter ten. Five Canaanite kings had united their armies. They came out to battle against Israel. God rained down hailstones upon the Canaanites so that many of them were killed. Joshua then commanded the sun to stand still so that Israel could finish the battle against the Canaanites. The sun did not move in the heavens for a whole day. And there was no day like that before it or after it, that Jehovah hearkened unto the voice of a man: for Jehovah fought for Israel (Joshua 10:14).
Finally, the land was under the control of Israel. The various tribes entered into the land set aside for them, but the conquest was not fully completed until the time of David. When Joshua became old and knew he would soon die, he called all Israel to assemble together (Joshua 23:1-24:28). He urged the people to keep God's Law. He reminded them that God had given them all the land. He had promised them (Please read Joshua 21:43-45; 23:14). Nothing had failed to come to pass. Some people today falsely teach that God did not fulfill the land promise to Israel. They say it will be fulfilled in the future when Christ sets up an earthly kingdom. They believe the Jews must all return to Israel and take the land again. They are guilty of ignoring what the Bible plainly says: So Jehovah gave unto Israel all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein (Joshua 21:43). If a promise has been fulfilled, it cannot be fulfilled again.
Joshua challenged the people to serve God: 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 (Joshua 24:14,15). The people all agreed to serve the Lord. But when Joshua and all the elders who had served with him died, then the people began to worship idols.
Before leaving the book of Joshua, we need to answer an objection that is often made. Unbelievers often argue that God's command to destroy all the people of Canaan shows that He is cruel and unloving. They forget that God is a God of justice as well as a God of love. Since He is just, He must punish evil. The Canaanites were very, very wicked (Leviticus 18). God had waited for 400 years before carrying out His judgment (Genesis 15:16). The people had plenty of time to repent, but they did not. Why did God allow the small children to be killed as well as the adults? If the children had lived to adulthood, they would have become sinners like their parents and therefore would have been lost. By dying when they were young, they were innocent and therefore safe.
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