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Background

October 2, 2009

Joshua was chosen to follow Moses as the leader of Israel. He was the aid to Moses from Mt. Sinai to the plains of Moab where Moses died. After Moses died, Eleazar [Aaron’s son] handled all the high priestly duties. Joshua was from the tribe of Ephraim so he was not eligible to have anything to do with the Tabernacle or worship. Moses led the people of Israel to the Promised Land. Joshua will lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land. Joshua’s two main responsibilities were to conquer the land and divide the land [see Deut. 31:1-8].

According to some scholars, the Book of Joshua covers about 50 years of history or to about 1372 BC. Joshua died when he was 110 years old which would make him 60 years old when becoming the leader of Israel. Joshua would have been 20 years old when Moses tapped him to be his aid at Mt. Sinai. Other sources believe Joshua was about 75 years of age when he led Israel across the Jordan. Caleb, the other spy who believed Israel should have entered the Promised Land 38 + years earlier, is said to have been about 15 years senior to Joshua.

History indicates that the securing of the Promised Land such that Israel could occupy it and divide it into tribal kingdoms took about 5-7 years. Therefore, there is a large part of history not recorded between Joshua 22 and 23 when Joshua makes his final speeches. The Reese Chronological Bible fills in this history with Judges, particularly Judges 1-3. Another excellent reference book is The Macmillan Bible Atlas which shows what Joshua conquered in order to occupy the land and what was left to be conquered by the individual tribes. After the tribes were given their inheritance, Joshua’s work was done. The responsibility for continuing to drive out the Canaanites was given to the occupying tribes. They were “states” with no central form of government. Their leader was to be the Lord God Almighty. It didn’t take long for the tribes to lose their focus on God and begin to disobey His Laws and commands. I believe that is why Joshua gathered Israel together at the end of his life to renew their commitment to the Lord God. Continuing to live in apostasy would mean all their hard work and sacrifice to conquer the land would be in vain because God promised to remove them from the land if they disobeyed His Law and worshiped other gods. Therefore, Joshua challenges the people [much like Moses did] before his death with his famous line “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” [Joshua 24:15b].

In commenting on this book, I am returning to my “Lesson format” in that Joshua represents the chronological happenings of Joshua’s leadership of Israel. Chronologically, we go from Genesis to Exodus to Numbers to Joshua in the life of Israel from Abraham to their occupation of the Promised Land and being a blessed people of God. They are in position to know God’s special blessing, His Messiah, if they would only obey Him. Therefore, I have chosen to de-emphasize Israel’s victories on the battlefield and place more emphasis on Israel’s need to worship and obey God.

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