Lesson 1: Introduction

Beloved Lord God,
We thank You for Your faithful love for mankind and Your patience in continually calling men and women of every race and generation to salvation through Your Son, Jesus Christ. We ask You, Lord, to send Your Spirit to guide us in our study of Joshua's mission in leading the children of Israel in the conquest of the Promised Land. Give us, the faith, wisdom, and obedience of Your servant Joshua as we continue our journey to salvation, and help us to understand the conquest of Canaan as an event in Your Divine plan that prefigures Jesus' victory in leading the souls of the faithful into the Promised Land of Your heavenly kingdom. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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But Yahweh's faithful love [hesed] for those who fear him is from eternity and for ever; and his saving justice to their children's children; as long as they keep his covenant, and carefully obey his precepts.
Psalms 103:17-18

Stock of Abraham, his servant, children of Jacob whom he chose! He is Yahweh our God, his judgments touch the whole world. He remembers his covenant for ever, the promise he laid down for a thousand generations, which he concluded with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac. He established as a statute for Jacob, an everlasting covenant with Israel, saying, 'To you I give a land, Canaan, your allotted birthright [nahala, also translated "inheritance"].
Psalms 105:6-11

All Scripture quotations are from the New Jerusalem Bible translation (NJB) unless otherwise designated as NAB (New American Bible), RSV (Revised Standard Version Catholic edition), or IBHE (The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English; bracketed Hebrew words are from the IBHE). The NJB translation uses "Yahweh" to represent the consonants of the Divine Name YHWH as it is found in the Hebrew texts of the Old Testament; other translations use the word "LORD" to represent the Divine Name.

In the Jewish canon, the Book of Joshua is the first book in the second division after the five books of Moses (Torah), in the section known as Neviim, "the Prophets." This division includes the "historical books" Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings (but not Ruth) as well as the books that were written by prophets (Isaiah through Malachi but not Daniel). Jewish scholars also call this second section the "Former Prophets," distinguishing them from the third section known as "Latter Prophets," or Ketuvim (Writings), which comprised the remaining books of the Jewish canon.

In the Christian Old Testament, the Book of Joshua is also placed immediately after the five books of Moses, which Christians call the Pentateuch, in the section of the historical books that include : Joshua, Judges, 1st and 2nd Samuel, 1st and 2nd Kings, 1st and 2nd Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Tobit, Judith, Esther, 1st and 2nd Maccabees. While the Book of Joshua is considered the first of the historical books, it cannot be studied in isolation from the events that began with God's covenant promises to Abraham in Genesis, the events of the Exodus liberation and covenant formation at Mt. Sinai, and the events of the forty years of wilderness wandering that came to an end in the Book of Deuteronomy as the Israelites encamped on the east side of the Jordan River and prepared to invade Canaan.


He remembers his covenant for ever, the promise he laid down for a thousand generations, which he concluded with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac. He established it as a statute for Jacob, an everlasting covenant with Israel, saying, 'to you I give a land, Canaan, your allotted birthright.'
Psalms 105:8-11

In God's Fatherly Plan for mankind's salvation (the economy of salvation), He selected the twelve tribes of Jacob-Israel to be the vehicle to teach the other nations of the earth about the One True God and ultimately to call all men and women to salvation through His only begotten Son, Jesus of Nazareth, a descendant of Abraham and a son of the Israelite tribe of Judah. In that plan, God took the children of Israel from slavery under the Egyptian pharaoh and led them to freedom through His emissary Moses, to become the holy covenant nation of the One True God. It was a liberation and a promise of nationhood based on a covenant God made the Israelite's forefather, Abraham.

In the three-fold covenant God formed with Abraham, He promised to give Abraham's descendants land/a nation, numerous descendants and a world-wide blessing: Yahweh said to Abram, 'Leave your country, your kindred and your father's house for a country which I shall show you; and I shall make you a great nation; I shall bless you and make your name famous, you are to be a blessing! I shall bless those who bless you, and shall curse those who curse you, and all clans on earth will bless themselves by you (Gen 12:1-3). It was a covenant promise that was repeated to Abraham's son Isaac and Isaac's son Jacob (Gen 26:1-6; 28:13-15). God renamed Jacob Israel (Gen 32:29/28; 35:10), as He had renamed Abram Abraham (Gen 17:5), an act of God that shows a change in one's destiny. Jacob-Israel became the father of twelve sons who were the ancestors of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Read Genesis 15:1-12 ~ The Ritual Solemnizing the Covenant with Abram/Abraham: Some time later, the word of Yahweh came to Abram in a vision: 'Do not be afraid, Abram! I am your shield and shall give you a very great reward.' 2 'Lord Yahweh,' Abram replied, 'What use are your gifts, as I am going on my way childless? 3 Since you have given me no offspring, Abram continued, 'a member of my household will be my heir. 4 Then Yahweh's word came to him in reply, 'such a one will not be your heir; no, your heir will be the issue of your own body.' 5 Then taking him outside, he said, 'Look up at the sky and count the stars if you can. Just so will your descendants be,' he told him. 6 Abram put his faith in Yahweh and this was reckoned to him as uprightness. 7 He then said to him, 'I am Yahweh who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldaeans to give you this country as your possession.' 8 'Lord Yahweh,' Abram replied, 'How can I know that I shall possess it?' 9 He said to him, 'Bring me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old she-goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove and a young pigeon.' 10 He brought him all these, split the animals down the middle and placed each half opposite the other; but the birds he did not divide. 11 And whenever birds of prey swooped down on the carcasses, Abram drove them off. 12 Now, as the sun was on the point of setting, a trance fell on Abram, and a deep dark dread descended on him. 13 Then Yahweh said to Abram, 'Know this for certain, that your descendants will be exiles in a land not their own, and be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years. 14 But I shall bring judgment on the nation that enslaves them and after this they will leave, with many possessions. 15 For your part, you will join your ancestors in peace; you will be buried at a happy old age. 16 In the fourth generation they will come back here, for until then the iniquity of the Amorites will not have reached its full extent.' 17 When the sun had set and it was dark, there appeared a smoking firepot and a flaming torch passing between the animals' pieces. 18 That day Yahweh made [cut] a covenant with Abram in these terms: 'To your descendants I give this country [land], from the river of Egypt to the Great River, the River Euphrates, 19 the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, and the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the 21 Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.' [..]= literal translation IBHE.

Question: Yahweh sealed His covenant with Abram/Abraham in a blood ritual. What two of the three initial promises did Yahweh repeated to Abraham?
Answer: Yahweh repeated the promises to give Abraham numerous descendants who would become a nation and that these descendants would inherit the land of Canaan.

Question: What conditions were to take place before the promise concerning the gift of the land could be fulfilled? Read Genesis 15:13-16.

  1. Abraham's descendants will be exiles in a foreign land where they will be enslaved for four hundred years(1)
  2. God will bring judgment on the nation that enslaves them and after their liberation they will leave with many possessions.
  3. All this was to take place after Abraham's death.
  4. In the fourth generation, his descendants were to return to Canaan.
  5. The gift of the land to Abram/Abraham's descendants will not take place until the sins of the inhabitants of Canaan (singled out as the Amorites, probably the most numerous ethic group) reached its full extent.

In the covenant blood ritual in Genesis chapter 15, only the flame representing Yahweh's presence passed between the bodies of the sacrificed animals, signifying that this covenant was a unilateral pact without conditions imposed on Abraham-it was a "royal grant" covenant which God swore by an oath to fulfill.(2)

Question: In the formation of the covenant treaty with Abraham, what oath did God make concerning the gift of the land? Read Gen 15:17-21.

  1. Abraham's descendants were to receive the land from the River of Egypt to the River Euphrates.
  2. Ten different groups of peoples were to be dispossessed from the land.

The "River of Egypt" probably does not refer to the Nile but to the river that was the northeastern boundary of Egyptian territory, the Wadi el-Arish, a small river that divided Canaan from the Sinai and which may have been bigger in Abraham's time. The ten peoples named in Genesis 15:18 may have been a literal number of the different ethnic groups living in Canaan, but the number may also be symbolic. Ten is one of the so-called "perfect" numbers in Jewish tradition and represents the plan of God's Divine order (see the website document "The Significance of Numbers in Scripture"). In Deuteronomy 1:1 only seven different peoples are named. Seven is another of the "perfect numbers" and symbolizes perfect fulfillment.

As the Israelites' traveled out of Egypt to their rendezvous with the God of their forefathers at Mt. Sinai, God worked signs and wonders on their behalf. He parted the waters of the Red Sea, bringing salvation to the Israelites and judgment on their Egyptian enemies (Ex 14:15-31). He fed them quail and bread from heaven to nurture them, He gave them water from a rock to sustain them (Ex 16:4-36; 17:1-7), and He defeated a hostile army that attacked them (Ex 17:8-16). Every event on the journey taught the Israelites to have faith and trust in God and trained them in the necessity of obedience as they traveled to meet their destiny at Mt. Sinai. At Mt. Sinai God presented Himself to the children of Israel in thunder, fire and smoke. In the theophany at Mt. Sinai, Yahweh revealed Himself not only as the God of their forefathers but as their personal God, forming a corporate covenant in which a Israel become a unified holy covenant people who swore an oath to worship Yahweh as their Divine Father and Divine King.

Unlike the royal grant covenant God made with Abraham, the conditional covenant-treaty God made with the children of Israel at Mt. Sinai depended on the promises and obligations of both God and Israel. The conditions of Israel's covenant obedience as enumerated in the Ten Commandments and further explained in the expanded Law would result in blessings that included not only taking possession of the land (fulfilling the promised to the Patriarchs), but living under God's protection in the land. The time in salvation history that God had decreed in His oath to Abraham in Genesis 15:16 had come to fulfillment. God stayed His hand against the peoples who occupied the land of Canaan until His patience had come to an end and their iniquities against the innocent, which included ritualize prostitution and the abomination of child sacrifice, cried out to God for justice like the righteous blood of Abel and the sacrificed souls of the innocent under the altar in the heavenly Sanctuary (Gen 4:9-11; Rev 6:9-10). The "holy war" against the sinful Canaanite nations was fundamentally an ethical and judicial action issued from the heavenly Sanctuary that imposed the death penalty against the wicked Canaanites for sins against humanity.(3)

After leaving Mt. Sinai, God led the Israelites to the border of Canaan and commanded the tribes to begin the invasion. Fearful of the negative reports of the ten Israelite spies sent to reconnoiter the land, the Israelites refused to advance, planned to depose Moses and appoint a new leader, and schemed to return to their "happy life" in Egypt. Their lack of faith in God and their act of rebellion condemned them to forty years of wilderness wandering. At the end of the forty years, the new generation of the twelve tribes of Israel reached the end of their journey as they defeated the armies of two Amorite kings and set up their final encampment at Shittim, on the eastern side of the Jordan River.

Having taken the territory of their defeated enemies on the eastern side of the Jordan, Moses granted the request of the tribes of Reuben and Gad to settle in the newly conquered territory with the promise that they would leave their families and livestock behind to become the vanguard of the armies of the other tribes in the invasion of Canaan (Num 32:16-27).(4) As the new generation of Israel's holy warriors and their families camped on the east side of the Jordan River across from Canaan, the Book of Deuteronomy records the last three homilies Moses gave the children of Israelites in which he restated Israel's covenant obligations, imparted the amendments to the Law that pertained to living in the Promised Land, and outlined the plan for the conquest: It was in the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, that Moses told the Israelites everything that Yahweh had ordered him to tell them ... There, in Moab beyond the Jordan, Moses resolved to expound this Law (Dt 1:3, 5).

Moses announced the program of the conquest of Canaan in Deuteronomy chapter 7, speaking symbolically of the "seven nations" sentenced to destruction: When Yahweh your God has brought you into the country which you are going to make your own, many nations will fall before you: Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than yourselves. Yahweh your God will put them at your mercy and you will conquer them. You must put them under the curse of destruction (Dt 7:1-2). But God also warned the Israelites that those who apostatized from the covenant by repudiating God's sovereignty and authority over their lives in adopting the sinful practices of the Canaanites would also be condemned to the same judgment-death (read Dt 7:3-6; 13:1-18; 17:1-13):

Details on the extent of Israel's boundaries first given in Genesis chapter 15 are restated in Deuteronomy 11:22-25 (also see Num 34:1-15; Josh 14:1- 21:45 and Ez 47:13-21). In Deuteronomy chapter 11, Moses repeats God's promise concerning the Promised Land, tying the promise of keeping possession of the land and living under God's protection to the people's obedience to Yahweh and His Laws that are meant to be a tutor and guide to keep the people on the path of holiness: For if you faithfully keep and observe all these commandments that I enjoin on you today, loving Yahweh your God, following all his ways and holding fast to him, Yahweh will dispossess all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations greater and more powerful than yourselves. Wherever the sole of your foot treads will be yours; your territory will run from the desert all the way to the Lebanon; and from the River, from the River Euphrates, as far as the Western Sea, will be your territory. No one will be able to resist you; Yahweh your God will make you feared and dreaded throughout the territory you tread, as he has promised you (Dt 11:22-25).

The conquest of Canaan was not to be considered a national war of domination by the Israelites but was instead to be understood as a "holy war" fought for religious reasons-to atone for sins against humanity and to create a covenant nation organized by Divine Law. All the Canaanites were to be removed from the land: Yahweh spoke to Moses on the Plains of Moab, near the Jordan by Jericho, and said: 'Speak to the Israelites and say: "When you have crossed the Jordan into Canaan, you will drive out all the local inhabitants before you. You will destroy all their painted images, you will destroy all their metal statues and you will demolish all their high places. You will take possession of the country and settle in it, for I have given you the country as your property ... If, however, you do not drive out the local inhabitants before you, the ones you allow to remain will be thorns in your eyes and thistles in your sides and will harass you in the country where you are living, and I shall treat you as I intended to treat them"' (Num 33:50-54, 56).

Then in Deuteronomy chapter 20, Moses made it clear that God's judgment issued from the heavenly Sanctuary was central to the holy wars against the occupants of Canaan and against other nations outside the borders of Canaan.

Deuteronomy 20:1-4, 10-18 ~ Israel's Rules of Engagement
Moses told the people: 1 'When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than your own, you must not be afraid of them; Yahweh your God is with you, he who brought you out of Egypt. 2 When you are about to join battle, the priest must come forward and address the people. 3 He must say to them, "Listen, Israel: today you are about to join battle with your enemies. Do not be faint hearted. Let there be no fear or trembling or alarm as you face them. 4 Yahweh your God is marching with you, to fight your enemies for you and make you victorious" ... 10 'When you advance on a town to attack it, first offer it peace-terms. 11 If it accepts these and opens it gates to you, all the people inside will owe you forced labor and work for you. 12 But if it refuses peace and gives battle, you must besiege it. 13 Yahweh your God having handed it over to you, you will put the whole male population to the sword. 14 But the women, children, livestock and whatever the town contains by way of spoils, you may take for yourselves as booty. You will feed on the spoils of the enemies whom Yahweh your God has handed over to you. 15 That is how you will treat towns far away and not belonging to the nations near you. 16 But as regards the towns of those peoples whom Yahweh your God is giving you as your heritage, you must not spare the life of any living thing. 17 Instead, you must lay them under the curse of destruction [herem]: Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, as Yahweh your God has commanded, 18 so that they may not teach you to do all the detestable things which they do to honor their gods: in doing these, you would sin against Yahweh your God.
[..] =
literal translation IBHE, vol. I.

Question: What were the orders for the armies of Israel in engaging their enemies in a holy war that Moses outlined in Numbers 33:50-56 and in Deuteronomy 20:1-18?
Answer: Two conditions of war are listed: rules of engagement for pagan cities outside the borders of the Promised Land and rules of engagement for Canaanite cites during the conquest.

  1. All battles were to be consecrated by the priests to the glory of God (Dt 20:1-4).
  2. For Gentile cities outside of Canaan, an offer of peace was to be issued prior to conflict in which the Gentiles were allowed to surrender under the terms of a vassal treaty, offering their lives in service to the Israelites and as tribute to God (Dt 20:10-11).
  3. If the offer of peace was refused, only the male population of the city outside the boundaries of the Promised Land was to be put to the sword; women, children and material goods became booty acquired by the Israelites (Dt 20:13-14).
  4. The Israelites were to drive all the inhabitants of Canaan out of the land (Num 33:52). Those towns within the borders of Canaan that resisted were to be placed under the conditions of the curse of destruction; they were to receive the sentence of death for every human and all animals (Dt 20:16-17). No booty was to be acquired from the condemned town under God's Divine judgment and all pagan images and shrines were to be destroyed (Num 33:52).
  5. The Israelites must avoid being seduced into the hateful practices of the Canaanites or they will suffer a similar Divine judgment (Num 33:55-56; Dt 20:18).

The technical term for the "curse of destruction" is the Hebrew word herem (see also Dt 2:34 and 7:1-2). It is a word that also means "consecration." The wicked who opposed God were cursed with a judgment against their lives, but the innocent who were misled became "consecrated" to the One True God. Under the plan of salvation prior to the coming of the Messiah, these souls were not eternally lost. There was no "eternal" judgment until the Resurrection of the Messiah. Prior to that time, all souls remained in Sheol/Hades (the abode of the dead) and were offered the gift of Christ's salvation when He descended to the dead to preach His saving Gospel of eternal life after His death and prior to His Resurrection: Christ himself died once and for all for sins, the upright for the sake of the guilty, to lead us to God. In the body he was put to death, in the spirit he was raised to life and, in the spirit, he went to preach to the spirits in prison. They refused to believe long ago, while God patiently waited to receive them, in Noah's time when the ark was being built ... And this was why the gospel was brought to the dead as well, so that, though in their bodies they had undergone the judgment that faces all humanity, in their spirit they might enjoy the life of God (1 Pt 3:18-20; 4:6; also see CCC 632-35 and the Apostles' Creed).

Question: What are two reasons for such a harsh judgment against the Canaanite towns? The reasons are given in the texts of Numbers 33:50-56; Deuteronomy 9:4; 18:9-12 and 20:18.

  1. In the conquest of Canaan, God was not only fulfilling His promise to Abraham but the Israelites were also the instruments of God's Divine judgment against the sins of the Canaanites.
  2. The Israelites were to remain a holy people and must not become perverted by the sins that condemned the Canaanites to death. If the Canaanites lived as neighbors of the Israelites, their perverted religion, so deeply engrained in the entire population, would turn Israel away from serving God.

The second reason God gave is, by the way, exactly what happened (see Judges 2:7-13).

Question: What right did God have in dispossessing the people of Canaan from the land they occupied? See Gen 1:9-10; Lev 25:23; Dt 10:14; 32:8; Ps 24:1-2; 89:11; Is 66:1-2a; 1 Cor 10:26.
Answer: God created the earth and therefore all the land and everything on the land belongs to God. Those living on the land are only His tenants to whom He as partitioned out the land. If they abuse the land and sin against people living on the land, God will judge them unworthy and expel them from His land. It was for this reason that in fulfilling His promise of the gift of the land for the children of Israel that they were forbidden to ever sell the ancestral lands allotted to them or to pollute the land by unholy practices and unholy sacrifice.

God told Abraham that He would not dispossess the Canaanite peoples until their iniquities (accumulation of repeated sins) had reached its full extent. The Canaanites had at least half a millennium to reject human sacrifice and other sins against the innocent that cried out to God for justice.(6) The time for repentance had come to an end. It was time to fulfill the promise God made to the Patriarchs. As in the event of the Great Flood, God extended His gift of salvation to a faithful remnant of humanity in the midst of Divine judgment.

Question: Salvation in the midst of Divine judgment is a reoccurring theme in the Bible. What events in the Bible present this reoccurring theme?
Answer: Some examples:

  1. The Great Flood in which Noah and his family were saved by God in the Ark during the judgment against a sinful humanity (Gen 6:5-8, 23).
  2. The night of the tenth Egyptian plague in which the Israelite firstborn who ate the sacred meal of the Passover victim and had the sign of the sacrificial victim's blood across the doorways of their houses were saved while the Egyptian firstborn died (Ex 11:4-7; 12:29-30).
  3. The Israelites who were saved in the parted waters of the Red Sea and God's judgment on the Egyptian army that was destroyed when they tried to cross the waters (Ex 14:21-31).
  4. In the conquest of Canaan, God brought the Israelites to salvation in the land God promised to Abraham in the midst of God's Divine judgment against the inhabitants of Canaan for their sins (Num 33:50-34:1-2; Dt 9:5; 18:9-12).
  5. In the Babylonian conquest, Judea was conquered and Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed by fire in God's judgment against the population of Judea for centuries of violating God's covenant. However, a remnant of the people was spared and sent into exile (2Chr 36:14-21).
  6. In Jesus' prophecy of Divine judgment against His generation of Jews in the destruction of Jerusalem, He promised that the "chosen" would be saved (Mt 23:33-36 and 24:1-22).
  7. In the Final Judgment of all humanity, there will be faithful and obedient souls who will be saved (Mt 25:31-46; Rev 20:11-15).

In Scripture the sin most often cited that was an abomination to God was child sacrifice. It was the practice of the people of Canaan and other peoples in the region (like the Phoenicians) to sacrifice children who were buried alive or burned alive as an offering to the chief deity, Haddu/Hadad, more commonly called Baal (meaning "Lord" or "Master").(7) It was their hope that their offering would please the god who would grant them prosperity. The word "Molech" designated this specific form of sacrifice, but the word later came to be considered as synonymous with Hadad/Baal (i.e., Lev 18:21; 20:2-5; Dt 12:31; 18:10; 1 Kng 11:7; 2 Kng 23:10; Jer 32:35; etc.). God patiently waited for the people of Canaan to renounce this great evil, but eventually His patience came to an end and the Canaanites faced God's Divine judgment with Israelites being the instrument of His justice.

Abortion is the modern form of child sacrifice in which unborn children are sacrificed to the false gods of convenience and selfishness in the belief that the death of a child enhances economic prosperity and opportunity. If God judged the Canaanites as deserving the penalty of death for the communal sin of this horrific crime against the innocent, can the United States and other nations who legally allow abortion expect to be exempt from God's Divine justice?

Authorship and Date

Scripture and tradition identifies the inspired writer of the Pentateuch as Moses.(5) However, the name of the inspired writer of the Book of Joshua is not revealed in the text. The book is named for its principal character and records his leadership of the Israelites from Moses' death and until his own death at the end of the narrative. Joshua was Moses' adjutant who was originally named Hoshea. Moses renamed him Yahshua/Yehoshua, a Hebrew theophoric name meaning "Yahweh is salvation" or "Yahweh saves."(8) In the Greek translation of the Book of Joshua, his name is rendered Iesous; it is the same name as the Savior, in English "Jesus." According to the Jewish Talmud, the Book of Joshua was written by Joshua with the last parts of the book completed by the High Priest Eleazar and then the death of Eleazar and the conclusion was written by Eleazar's son and successor, the High Priest Phinehas (Josh 24:32-33). This is a tradition challenged by modern scholars.

Question: What does Scripture tell us about Hoshea, who Moses renamed Yahshua/Yehoshua (Joshua in English), prior to the conquest of Canaan? See Ex 17:8-10, 14; 24:13; 32:17; 33:7-11; Num 11:28; 13:1-8, 16; 14:5-9, 35-38; 27:18-23; Dt 31:1-3, 7-8, 23; 34:9; Josh 1:1-5.

  1. Joshua, who had served Moses since he was a boy, was the military commander of the armies of Israel.
  2. He waited on the side of Mt. Sinai the forty days Moses was with God on the mountain.
  3. Joshua guarded the Tent of Meeting where the presence of God resided during the building of the Tabernacle.
  4. Joshua was a descendant of Joseph son of Jacob-Israel. He was the son of Nun of the tribe of Ephraim and was one of the twelve men selected to reconnoiter the Promised Land and bring back a report.
  5. Moses changed his name from Hoshea ("salvation") to Yahshua ("Yahweh is salvation"/"Yahweh saves").
  6. Only Caleb of the tribe of Judah and Joshua of the tribe of Ephraim believed in God's promise that the Israelites could take possession of the Promised Land.
  7. God ordained that because of their faith that Caleb and Joshua would be the only men of the Exodus generation to live to enter the Promised Land.
  8. Moses announced to the people that Joshua was chosen by God as his successor.
  9. In the ceremony in which Joshua became the people's leader, the High Priest anointed him and Moses laid hands upon him as Joshua was filled with the spirit of the wisdom of God.
  10. Yahweh personally spoke to Joshua, giving him the mission to conquer the Promised Land of Canaan, and God promised to be with Joshua as He was with Moses.

With the courage and obedience of His selected agent Joshua, God gave the fledging nation of Israel a home in the land promised to the Patriarch Abraham at least 500 years earlier.

Many modern scholars date the Book of Joshua to the late 7th century BC and the final edition to the 6th century BC, many centuries after the events took place. However, scholars who prefer a much earlier date point to such evidence as the lists of Canaanite towns and city-states, battle tactics and cultural motifs that are found in ancient documents and recorded traditions of ancient Near Eastern cultures (including the 14th century BC Egyptian Amarna tablets) that are closer to the actual events described in the book, in the 2nd millennia BC. In addition, the book lists twelve personal names of non-Israelites that are well attested in ancient Near Eastern documents dating from or before the period of the conquest.

Typology in the Book of Joshua

Scriptural typology: A biblical person, thing, action, or event that foreshadows new truths, new actions, or new events. In the Old Testament, Melchizedech and Jonah are types of Jesus Christ. A likeness must exist between the type and the archetype, but the latter is always greater. Both are independent of each other.
Catholic Dictionary, John A. Hardon, S.J.

In the letters of the New Testament writers and continuing down through the centuries, the Church as studied and illuminated the unity of God's Divine Plan for man's salvation in the two Testaments through the study of typology. Typology compares God's works and events in the Old Testament to what is reveled in the fullness of the Divine Plan in the New Testament in the works of the Redeemer-Messiah, Jesus Christ (1 Cor 10:1-6, 11; Heb 10:1; 1 Pt 3:21)-"Christians therefore read the Old Testament in the light of Christ crucified and risen" (CCC 129; also see CCC 128 and 130). Biblical typology also demonstrates the relevance of the Old Testament to modern readers by revealing the unity of the two Testaments and linking those events, symbols, and people in the Old to the unity of God's plan and divine revelation in the Incarnation, ministry, death and Resurrection of the Messiah in the New Testament. As St. Augustine taught and as the Church repeats in the Vatican II document Dei Verbum 16: "... the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New" (Augustine, Quaestiones in Heptateuchum 2, 73).

It is sometimes difficult for those of us on this side of salvation history to reconcile the image of the "warrior God of judgment" in the Old Testament with the image of the "God of mercy and salvation" in the New Testament. However, one must remember that God is unchanged-He is the same God revealed in the Old as in the New Testament-He is the God of love but He is also the God of justice: Then Yahweh passed before him and called out, 'Yahweh, Yahweh, God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in faithful love and constancy, maintaining his faithful love to thousands, forgiving fault, crime and sin, yet letting nothing go unchecked, and punishing the parent's fault in the children and in the grandchildren to the third and fourth generation' (Ex 34:6-9).(9) God the Redeemer and God the Divine judge are not contradictory terms-both attributes of God express His love for humanity. Surely, it is the intervention of the "warrior God of justice" that gives humanity hope when the depravity and cruelty of men and nations threatens human freedom. When the lives of individuals or peoples are in peril, it is the prayer of men and nations that Divine justice will restore order out of chaos. We must be thankful that mankind is protected by the absolute power of the Divine Judge to intervene in human history to preserve the gift of man's integrity and freedom.

The plan of the conquest of Canaan and the promise of possessing the "Promised Land" can be seen as typological images of God's mission to offer the gift of salvation to the world. The Canaanites can be compared as a biblical "type" to individuals who refused to turn away from sin. God granted the Canaanites the time to turn away from their wickedness. He patiently persevered in withholding His Divine judgment against the pagan peoples of Canaan for half a millennium before He unleashed His judgment through the Israelite army. Ultimately, it was the accumulation of their sins that condemned the Canaanites. In the same way, God patiently perseveres in offering His gift of salvation to individuals throughout their earthly lives, giving them the opportunity to come to salvation and to possessing the "Promised Land" of heaven up until the very last moment when their lives on earth come to an end (1Tim 2:4; 2 Pt 3:9) when every human being must face Divine justice (Mt 25:31-46).

It is not a coincidence that God's anointed leader in the conquest of the Promised Land bore the same name that the angel Gabriel commanded the Virgin Mary to name the Son of God at the event of the Annunciation and the Incarnation of the Christ (Lk 1:31). It was a command that Mary and Joseph obediently fulfilled on the day baby Jesus was circumcised (Lk 2:21). Yahshua (the proto-Hebrew name) and Yehoshua (the rendering of the same name in the first century AD) is translated "Iesous" in Greek. In English Bible translations the name is rendered "Joshua" in the Old Testament and "Jesus" in the New Testament. The Fathers of the Church taught that Joshua son of Nun is a "type" of Christ who foreshadowed the mission of the Messiah. Noteworthy among the many writings of the Fathers that expounded on the typology of Joshua and Jesus is Origen's third century Homilies on Joshua, Lactantius' fourth century Epitome of the Divine Institutes, and St. John Chrysostom's fourth century Homilies on Hebrews.

Origen (185/200-254), the director of the famous Christian School of Theology in Alexandria, Egypt wrote: Since Moses changed his name from Hosea to "Jesus" (Joshua); he prefigured Christ by victoriously leading the Israelites into the Promised Land (Origen, Homilies on Joshua). ). And St. John Chrysostom (344/354-407), the revered Bishop of Constantinople who was noted for both his orthodoxy and his eloquence also wrote about Joshua as a "type" of Christ: The name of Jesus [Joshua] was a type. For this reason then, and because of the very name, the creation reverenced him. What then! Was no other person called Jesus [Joshua]? But this man was on this account so called as a type; for he used to be called Hoshea. Therefore the name was changed: for it was a prediction and a prophecy. He brought in the people into the Promised Land, as Jesus into heaven; not the law; since neither did Moses enter [the Promised Land] but remained outside. The law has not power to bring in, but grace (Homilies on Hebrews, 27.6).

Question: What similarities do you see between Joshua's mission and Jesus' mission? How is Joshua a "type" of Jesus Christ?

The Typology of Joshua and Jesus
"Yahweh is salvation"
"Yahweh is salvation"
Moses gave Hoshea the name Yahshua/Joshua. The angel Gabriel told Mary of Nazareth to name God's Son Yahshua/Jesus.
His name defined his mission as God's anointed. His name defined His mission as God's anointed.
Joshua's mission was to lead the children of Israel into the Promise Land of Canaan. Jesus' mission was to lead the children of God into the Promised Land of Heaven.
Joshua began his mission by crossing the Jordan River from the east to the west. Jesus began His mission after His baptism by crossing the Jordan River from the east to the west.
Joshua faithfully served God all of his life. Jesus faithfully served God the Father all of His earthly life and beyond.
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2012 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

Finally, the significant role played by the two men who were the only adult members of the Exodus generation to enter the Promised Land cannot be overlooked. After the rebellion at Kadesh Barnea and the refusal of the tribes of Israel to trust God and invade the Promised Land, God swore that none of that "corrupt generation" of the Exodus would enter the land of Canaan, condemning the Israelites to forty years of desert wandering until the adults of the Exodus generation had perished (Num 14:26-38). The only exception would be the two men who had urged the people to trust God and begin the invasion- Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.

Joshua was a member of the tribe of Ephraim and a descendant of Joseph son of Jacob-Israel. Caleb was the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite (Num 32:12). The Kenizzites were descendants of Esau (Gen 36:11, 15) who may have lived in the Negev and were one of the ten groups of peoples God promised to dispossess from the land of Canaan (Gen 15:19). Ethnically Caleb was a non-Israelite Gentile; he was a convert who had married into the tribe of Judah and became a trusted chieftain (Num 13:6; 32:12; Josh 14:6). These two valiant survivors of the Exodus generation and leaders of the conquest of the Promised Land of Canaan are a biblical "type" of the Jewish and Gentile men and women who will join together to form the New Covenant Church, becoming partners with Christ in liberating the world from Satan's control and who will become inheritors of the true "Promised Land" of heaven.

The Structure of the Book of Joshua

The Book of Joshua can be divided into three main parts:

  1. Conquest of the Promised Land (1:1-12:24)
  2. Allotment of the Tribal Lands (13:1-22:34)
  3. Israel's Future in the Promised Land (23:1-24:33)

See the summary chart of the book below:


BIBLICAL PERIOD #4 The Conquest of Canaan
COVENANT The Sinai Covenant
FOCUS Taking possession of the Promised Land and the covenant blessings
SCRIPTURE 1:1-------------------------------------------13:1----------------------------------------23:1-------------24:33
DIVISION OF TEXT Conquest of the Promised Land Allotment of Tribal Lands Israel's Future in the Promised Land
TOPIC Intro. and invasion plan Holy war of domination God's command to distribute the land Joshua's farewell address: 3 calls to covenant obedience
Review of distribution of tribes to the East of the Jordan River
(the Transjordan)
12 tribes preparing for holy war The 3 campaigns against the native population Distribution of land to tribes West of the Jordan River and reproaches against the eastern tribes Covenant renewal
LOCATION East side of the Jordan River West side of the Jordan River
Settlement in the Transjordan
= 2 1/2 Tribes

Settlement in Canaan
= 9 1/2 Tribes
Shechem in Canaan
TIME c. 1 month c. 7 years c. 25 years


Time Line from Abraham to the Exile

TIME LINE BC                                                                                      UNITED KINGDOM ------- DIVIDED KINGDOMS ----- EXILE-----------------

WORLD EMPIRE: EGYPT------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ASSYRIA ---------------------- BABYLON ----------

                     c. 2000?                ?                1300?                1212/1202                1000                930                722                587/6

                  Abraham            Moses      Conquest of         Merneptha              David                 Civil                \                    Southern Kingdom destroyed
                                                                  Canaan             Stele                        conquers           War =              \ Northern Kingdom destroyed
                                                                                            names the              Jerusalem          divided kingdoms

Key Words and Concepts in the Book of Joshua


The gift of the Promised Land is a gift that is generated by God's Divine hesed. HHesed is a Hebrew word that is difficult to define with one English word. Hesed expresses faithful and merciful love, especially in the context of covenant union-God's faithful, merciful love for us and our faithful love for Him in the context of our covenant relationship (for a few examples of the use of the word see Gen 19:19; 39:21; Ex 34:7; Dt 5:10; Josh 2:12 twice, 14; Ru 2:20; 3:10; Ps 17:7; 36:7; Jer 9:24). The NJB usually translates hesed into English as "faithful love." To reject God's Divine hesed is a grave sin.

Other key Hebrew words in the Book of Joshua are nahal (verb) and nahala (noun), which are translated "inherit," "inheritance," "heritage," "birthright." The concept of "inheritance" is used to describe God's gift of the land to Israel numerous times in the Book of Joshua (for example ten times in chapter 13 in verses 6, 7, 8, 14 twice, 23, 28, 32, 33 twice; and seven times in chapter 14 in verses 1, 2, 3 twice, 9, 13 and 14). The same words are used in the other Old Testament books for God's gift to Israel of the Promised Land (for example see Ex 32:13; Dt 1:38; 12:10; Ps 105:11). In in addition to what part of the earth God apportions to Israel, the Bible calls the allotted portions of the land to the other nations of the earth as an "inheritance" from God-He who created and "owns" the earth (Dt 32:8-9). God also calls Israel "my inheritance/heritage," suggesting a loving, Fatherly relationship with His covenant children for whom He provides (i.e., Is 19:25).

In the Book of Joshua, the theological meaning of "inheritance" is in the reality of the possession of the Promised Land which Joshua will cause Israel to inherit. This is a theological concept that is also important in the New Covenant and is used to express the promised spiritual blessings of eternal salvation that we "inherit" through our Savior, Christ Jesus: Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into a heritage [an inheritance] that can never be spoilt or soiled and never fade away. It is reserved in heaven for you who are being kept safe by God's power through faith until the salvation which has been prepared is revealed at the final point of time (1 Pt 1:3-5; emphasis added). Also see the same concept of an eternal inheritance expressed in Acts 26:18; Eph 1:11, 14, 18; 5:5; Col 1:12; 3:24; Heb 9:15.

The concept of taking responsibility for individual sins and collective communal sins is important in the Book of Joshua. Sin is viewed in its communal dimension both for the inhabitants of Canaan as a whole and for the Israelites as defined by Israel's collective covenant obligations to Yahweh under the Law of the Sinai Covenant (Ex 32; Dt 22:21). But sin is also addressed as an individual's personal failure to uphold the covenant by living in righteousness according to the Law. In Joshua chapter 7, the sin of Achan was generated by Achan's free-will choice to oppose the will of God (7:21), but his sin involved the entire community: When Achan son of Zerah was unfaithful to the curse of destruction, did not the retribution come down on the whole community of Israel, although he was only one man? Did he not have to die for his crime? (Josh 22:20; also see 7:1, 11). The community has the obligation to denounce sin within its ranks and to root it out, least the whole community fall into sin. The New Covenant in Christ in the New Testament also teaches both the communal and the individual aspects of sin and the necessity for accountability on both levels (CCC 1868-69).

The theme of this book can be expressed in the words "take possession" (Josh 1:11, 15 twice). "Taking possession" not only includes the obligation of the children of Israel whose mission was to "take possession" of the gift of the land God promised to their ancestors, but it also included "taking possession" of the promised blessings God made to them in the Sinai Covenant. Those covenant promises were based on the faith and obedience of the people who were to be partners with God in His plan for their salvation in the Promised Land and as the vehicle by which He was to reveal Himself to the other nations of the earth (Lev 26:3-13; Dt 28:1-14). This is the same theme that is being played out in the lives of men and women of every generation. God has promised eternal salvation to those who accept the sacrifice of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. The sacrifice is made and the gift of redemption has been promised, but the gift can only belong to those who have the faith and obedience to take possession of that eternal gift and to cooperate with the Most Holy Trinity in making their journey to eternal salvation. Each of us has the decision to make as to whether we will accept God's offer of peace and salvation or whether we will chose to reject the path of mercy and salvation-choosing to go our own way-a decision that only leaves us at the mercy of His Divine judgment.

Joshua is God's chosen, spiritually empowered agent to lead the Israelites in the conquest of Canaan, but the victories against the Canaanites will not be Joshua's or Israel's victories. Joshua is not the hero of this story-God is the true hero. Joshua and the Israelites are the instruments of God's power. The victories and the credit for success are God's alone (Dt 20:3-4; Josh 23:3). God is both merciful and gracious, but in the conquest of Canaan as in the conquest against sin in the world today, God's Divine forgiveness and His offer of salvation to men and women of all ages does not mean that He acquits the guilty, unrepentant sinner without judgment. Such a disregard of justice is not the act of a righteous and holy God who desires what is best for mankind-in the past and in the present: And now, Israel, what does Yahweh your God ask of you? Only this: to fear Yahweh your God, to follow all his ways, to love him, to serve Yahweh your God with all your heart and all your soul, to keep the commandments and laws of Yahweh, which I am laying down for you today for your own good (Dt 10:12-13).

In the time of Joshua, as today, God knows what is good for His people. We are destined for eternal salvation, but we must have the courage to exercise our free will by remaining obedient and cooperating with God's righteous plan for our victory, not over Canaanites but over what they represent in our present age-the wages of sin and death.

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2012 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.


1. The "four hundred years" of oppression is probably a rounded number. St. Paul wrote that the covenant at Sinai was four hundred and thirty years after Abraham (Gal 3:17).

2. God's covenant with Abraham was an unconditional covenant (also see Rom 4:1-5, 13; Heb 11:8-10). In ancient times, as in our New Covenant in Christ today, covenants were often solemnized by a ritual that included a blood sacrifice, oath swearing and eating a sacred meal. The ritual of walking down an aisle flanked by the pieces of the sacrificed animals in the covenant ratification between God and Abraham in Genesis chapter 15 has been discovered in documents recording covenant formation rituals in the ancient Near East (see Jer 34:18-19). This ritual signified that what happened to the animals should happen to the parties making the covenant treaty if they broke their covenant oaths. Ancient Mesopotamian Mari and Nuzi documents record formal oath swearing in covenants between two parties and ancient Hittite documents also record the blood ritual of passing between the pieces of a sacrifice in ratifying covenants. For examples of other covenant rituals in Genesis see 21:27-32 and 31:44-54.

3. Human sacrifice took place throughout the ancient Near East. The archaeological excavation of Canaanite cities has yielded thousands of ceramic urns containing the bones of children burnt alive in sacrifices dedicated to the god Baal (Molech). The urns were found in special cemeteries, called Tophet in the Bible, probably meaning "fire/burning place" in Hebrew (see 2 Kng 23:10; Jer 7:31). Most of the remains discovered are children between the ages of three and seven. In the city of Carthage, a Phoenician city that practiced child sacrifice to Baal, 20,000 jars have been discovered, with one to three burnt remains in each jar. Only portions of the Tophet in Carthage have been excavated (Archaeological Study Bible, page 182; Biblical Archaeological Review, "Child Sacrifice at Carthage," Jan/Feb 1984).

4. Two clans of Manasseh also received land on the east side of the river after driving out the Amorites living in Gilead (Num 32:39-42).

5. See the Chart "Evidence of Moses as the Inspired Writer of the Pentateuch in Scripture" in the Charts/Old Testament/Pentateuch section of the website. Moses' "Book of the Law (Torah)" or "Book of the Covenant" was written by Moses according to God's command (Ex 17:14; 24:4-7; Dt 31:9) and was a resource for Joshua (Josh 8:32-35; 23:6). He even added to the Book of the Law after the covenant renewal at Shechem (24:26).

6. Both Moses and St. Paul wrote the Israelites spent 430 years in Egypt (Ex 12:40-42; Gal 3:17), and then there were the 40 wilderness years, which brings the conquest of Canaan to 470 years after the migration into Egypt and perhaps 600 years after God's promise to Abraham.

7. Baal was the title of the storm god Haddu/Hadad, but it was used so frequently by the people that it came to be accepted as the god's name, as it is often used in the Bible. Its basic generic sense is reflected in the fact that in Scripture, when it isn't part of a personal name (1 Sam 14:49; 2 Sam 2:8; 1 Chr 8:39; 9:39, 40) without any idolatrous significance, or being used to simply mean "master/lord" in the general sense (see Hosea 2:18/16), it is always preceded by a definite article-"the Baal," as in a href ="">Hosea 2:19/17 and Judges 6:25-32.

8. A theophoric name is a personal name that contains the name of a deity-in this case the deity is Yahweh and the name Yahshua contains the first part of the Divine Name "Yah." Theophoric names could also have the deity's name as a suffix as in the name Elijah (the English "j" is the Hebrew "y").

9. ... punishing the parent's fault in the children and in the grandchildren to the third and fourth generation refers to generational sins that are learned by the next generation and passed on. Parents/grandparents will not only be judged on their personal sins but will be condemned for the sins they teach their children.

Catechism references:

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2012 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.