THE BOOK OF JOSHUA
Lesson 2: Chapters 1-3
The Plans for the Conquest and
The Israelite Spies Enter Jericho
The Exodus generation of the children of Israel failed in their vow of obedience to You and Your covenant. When adversity challenged them, they abandoned their gratitude to You and forgot the many miracles You worked on their behalf: leading them out of suffering and slavery in Egypt, defeating their enemies, feeding them bread from heaven, and giving water from the rock to sustain them on their journey. As Your New Covenant children, we pray that You will strengthen our faith and give us the perseverance to trust in You when we face hardships on our journey to salvation. In gratitude we thank you, Lord, for Your Son, Jesus Christ, who has given us victory over slavery to sin. He is the living bread from heaven and the Rock who nourishes us on our journey to salvation. Please send Your Holy Spirit to guide us in our study of Israel's new generation of holy warriors, preparing to cooperate in Your plan to take possession of the land You promised to their forefathers. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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Israel's song of
praise to Yahweh: In your faithful love [hesed] you led out the people you
had redeemed, in your strength you have guided them to your holy dwelling.
Hearing of this, the peoples tremble; pangs seize on the people of Philistia;
the chieftains of Edom are dismayed, Moab's princes "panic has seized them, all
the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away. On them fall terror and dread;
through the power of your arm they are still as stone while your people are
passing, Yahweh, while the people you have purchased are passing. You will
bring them in and plant them on the mountain which is your heritage, the place
which you, Yahweh, have made your dwelling, the sanctuary, Yahweh, prepared by
your own hands. Yahweh will be king for ever and ever.
Joshua and the children of Israel were encamped at the site they called Shittim, just east of the Jordan River, awaiting God's command to move forward into Canaan. The adults of the old Exodus generation who rebelled against God's command to take possession of the Promised Land and who were still emotionally and spiritually attached to Egypt were dead with the exception of Joshua of the tribe of Ephraim and the Gentile convert Caleb, a leader in the tribe of Judah (Num 13-14). The rest of the Israelites that were not placed under God's judgment forty years earlier were either under 20 years of age at the time, or they were the new generation that was born during the past forty years. This new generation (and those who were youngsters at the time of the judgment) had been hardened by the past forty years in the wilderness, and they had grown up depending on God to guide them, eating the heavenly bread God provided six days a week for their nourishment and living in obedience to the Law of the Sinai Covenant. They had been trained in the obedience of faith and were now prepared to cooperation with God's plan as His holy warriors.
There are two questions that must be answered concerning the selection of Israel as God's holy people and the selection of the land of Canaan as Israel's homeland.
Question: Why, out of all the peoples of the earth, did God choose the twelve tribes of Israel to be His holy covenant people? See Gen 3:15; 15:16-21; 22:16; 26:4; 28:14; Lev 18:21; Dt 4:37; 10:14-15; 12:31; 18:10; Ps 106:38; Is 7:14; 9:5/6-7/6; Lk 1:26-38.
Answer: God did not choose Israel because the people were more righteous or more beautiful or accomplished than the other peoples of the earth. There are three reasons why God chose Israel:
God did not choose Israel out of all the other nations of the earth for political reasons (Dt 4:37). They were to be His instruments of justice in a holy war to atone for the blood of the innocent that cried out to Yahweh for justice (as in Gen 4:10; Job 16:18-19; Rev 8:3-4). The bond that ties Israel to God is a covenant that is based upon God's faithful covenant love that is greater than a father's love for his child or a husband's love for his wife (Dt 10:12-15; CCC 219-220). It is a love that began with the oath God swore to Abraham (Gen 12:1-3; 15:18-21; 22:16). Israel is the fruit of that passionate love, but this is to be a reciprocal love affair; it is Israel's obligation to return God's love by living in obedience to His commandments and to be ready to bring forth the fruit of that love in the birth and mission of the Messiah.
The second intriguing question is why did God select the land of Canaan as His covenant gift to the descendants of Abraham? Consult a map of Canaan in the website maps section or a map of Canaan in a Bible atlas. The land is not watered by a great river that provides continuous irrigation like the lands of Egypt. The Jordan River is too shallow to provide adequate irrigation for the land during the entire growing season and the two small tributaries of the Jordan that flow into Canaan did not carry enough water to be useful for irrigating large portions of land.(1) The central portion of the land is traversed by a mountain chain that constitutes a section of a larger range extending from Lebanon into the Sinai peninsula. In the south, the Negeb is an area that is almost wholly an arid desert that embraces half the total land area. The climate of the Promised Land is arid to semiarid, with hot summers and mild winters along the coast but colder inland, and temperatures range from about 40 degrees F. to 105 degrees F in the desert zone. Maximum rainfall occurs between December and February, and the annual average rain fall ranges from about 37 inches in the fertile Galilee (in the north) to 1.2 inches in the harsh Negeb. It was a land with limited resources, and because of its long narrow shape Canaan had an unusually long frontier, making it difficult to defend against foreign invasion.
We cannot fully comprehend the reason God chose the land of Canaan in His Divine Plan for mankind's salvation, but we can determine that it was significant that the land of Canaan was a land bridge that connected Northern Africa to the Mediterranean world, to Mesopotamia and the lands to the east. Two of the region's major trade routes traversed its territory. The "Way of the Sea" (also the "Way of Horus" or the "Via Maris" in Roman times) originated in Heliopolis Egypt and passed through Canaan along the coastal plain into the region of the Galilee with branch routes that passed into Mesopotamia and Asia Minor. It was connected by east-west branch routes to the ancient Transjordan trade route known as the "King's Highway." The "King's Highway" extended from Egypt and Arabia up the east side of the Jordan River into Mesopotamia. Both routes ensured that the many peoples, passing back and forth between Africa, Asia Minor, Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean world and traveling along the land bridge that was Israel, were exposed to the Israelite's belief in one God. This unique feature of the Holy Land as a land bridge connecting different parts of the ancient world also ensured, in the 1st century AD, that many travelers witnessed the miracles of the Jewish Messiah who promised those who believed in Him the gift of eternal life. Those who witnessed the miracles of the Messiah took the news of what they saw back to their homelands. And after Jesus' Resurrection, His disciples carried the Gospel message of salvation along the ancient trade routes westward into Europe, eastward into the lands around the Caspian Sea and India, and throughout the known world.
Chapter 1: Preparing to Take Possession of the Promised Land
Mighty in war was
Joshua son of Nun, successor to Moses in the prophetic office, who well
deserved his name, and was a great savior of the chosen people, wreaking
vengeance on the enemies who opposed him, and so bringing Israel into its
inheritance. How splendid he was when, arms uplifted, he brandished his sword
There are an interesting number of repetitions in the Hebrew text of chapters 1-3. Word repetition was a literary device the ancient writers used to give added emphasis and expanded meaning to their narrative. Notice the underlined words in the biblical passages. Some significant repeats in Chapter 1 (IBHE, vol. I, page 557-9):
Joshua 1:1-9 ~ Yahweh's instructions to Joshua
1 When Moses, servant of Yahweh, was dead, Yahweh spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses' adjutant. He said, 2 Moses my servant is dead; go now and cross this Jordan, you and this whole people, into the country [land] which I am giving them (the Israelites) [to the sons of Israel]. 3 Every place you tread with the soles of your feet I shall give you, as I declared to Moses that I would. 4 From the desert and the Lebanon, to the Great River, the Euphrates (the entire country [land] of the Hittites), and as far as the Great Sea to westward, is to be your territory [border]. 5 As long as you live, no one will be able to resist you; I shall be with you as I was with Moses; I shall not fail you or desert you. 6 Be strong and stand firm, for you are the man to give this people possession of [cause to inherit] the land which I swore to their ancestors that I would give them. 7 Only be strong and stand very firm and be careful to keep the whole Law [torah = teaching/instruction] which my servant Moses had laid down for you. Do not swerve from this either to the right or to left, and then you will succeed wherever you go. 8 Have the book of this Law [torah = teaching/instruction] always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may carefully keep everything that is written in it. Then your undertakings will prosper, then you will have success. 9 Have I not told you; Be strong and stand firm? Be fearless and undaunted, for go where you may, Yahweh your God is with you.'
[..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. I, page 557; underlining added.
Joshua 1:1 When Moses, servant of Yahweh, was dead, Yahweh spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses' adjutant. The formula phrase "Yahweh spoke to Joshua/Yahweh said to Joshua" occurs (with slight variations) fourteen times in the Book of Joshua, most often as an introductory formula but sometimes within the body of the narrative ( 1:1; 3:7; 4:1, 8, 15; 5:2, 5:9; 6:2; 7:10; 8:1, 18; 10:8; 11:6; 22:1). In the significance of numbers in Scripture, fourteen is double the number of spiritual perfection. The phrase occurs eight times ( the number of salvation) before the conquest of Jericho as an introductory formula ( 1:1; 3:7; 4:1, 4:8, 15; 6:2) and as an introductory formula with a slight variation in 5:2 (At this time Yahweh spoke to Joshua) and also within the narrative in 5:9 (Yahweh then/Then Yahweh spoke to Joshua). God is communicating personally with Joshua as He did with Moses, encouraging Joshua in his mission to lead Israel into Canaan, to be "strong and stand firm," to be "undaunted"/ courageous, and assuring him that "Yahweh your God is with you." Yahweh isn't just Israel's God "His relationship with Joshua is personal "Yahweh is Joshua's God. See the same command for Joshua to be "strong and stand firm" at Joshua's commissioning before Moses' death (Dt 31:7 and 23).
Joshua is identified as Moses "adjutant" or "minister." The same Hebrew word is used to describe Joshua's relationship with Moses (Ex 24:13; 33:11; Num 11:28), the boy Samuel's service to God at the Sanctuary (1 Sam 3:1) and Elisha's relationship to the Prophet Elijah (1 Kng 19:21).
Question: God's words of assurance in verse 9 are
similar to what words of assurance given to New Covenant Christians in carrying
out their mission to spread the Gospel of salvation? See Mt 28:19-20.
Answer: After God the Son's resurrection, Jesus met with His Apostles, giving them their mission to make disciples of all nations, to baptize and to teach the commands Jesus gave during His earthly ministry. Jesus concluded by assuring them: And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.
Joshua 1:2 He said, Moses my servant is dead; go now and
cross this Jordan, you and this whole people, into the country [land]
which I am giving them (the Israelites).
Question: Verses 2 and 3 emphasize what about the nature of Israel taking possession of the land?
Answer: The land it is a gift from God. The gift of the land is not bound by Israel's obedience to the Sinai Covenant but God's binding royal grant covenant with Abraham.
God is repeating the theme of the "giving" of the land of promise. The patriarchal narratives use the verb "to give" with respect to God's oath concerning the land of Canaan (see Gen 12:7; 13:15; 15:18; 26:3-4). The point is that Israel has in no way earned the land "the Promised Land, like the gift of eternal salvation, is a gift of God's grace. However, as in the case of the gift of eternal salvation, the people of God must cooperate with God's plan "Israel must move forward and strive as individuals and as a unified people to possess the promised gift.
Joshua 1:3-4 Every place you tread with the soles of your feet I shall give you, as I declared to Moses that I would. 4 From the desert and the Lebanon, to the Great River, the Euphrates (the entire country [land] of the Hittites), and as far as the Great Sea to westward, is to be your territory [border]. This same promise was made to Moses in Deuteronomy 11:24-25. Placing one's foot on a plot of land is a sign of dominion/ownership as in Psalms 47:3: For Yahweh, the Most High, is glorious, the great king over all the earth. He brings peoples under our yoke and nations under our feet. Also see Ps 8:6 and 1 Kng 5:3 (Hebrew or KJV).
In verse 4 God repeats the extent of the land His is giving to Israel as He told both Abraham (Gen 15:18) and Moses (Dt 1:7 and 11:24-25). The boundaries are listed in their widest extent.(2) The Hittites mentioned in verse 4 established an empire which had its center in what is today the state of Turkey. The Hittite state flourished from c. the late 17th to the late 12th century BC, and Hittite influence extended into Canaan. There were Hittites living in Hebron (Kiriath-Arba) where Abraham purchased some land from them as a burial site for Sarah (Gen 23:1-20), and Abraham's grandson Esau married two Hittite women (Gen 26:34-35; 36:2)
Joshua 1:6-7 Be strong and stand firm, for you are the man to give this people possession of [cause to inherit] the land which I swore to their ancestors that I would give them. 7 Only be strong and stand very firm and be careful to keep the whole Law [torah = teaching/instruction] which my servant Moses had laid down for you. Do not swerve from this either to the right or to left, and then you will succeed wherever you go.
In the literal Hebrew the text reads For you shall cause this people to inherit the land which I swore to their fathers ... (IBHE, vol. I, page 557). As was mentioned in the Introduction Lesson, the word "inherit" is a key word in the Book of Joshua. The word "inherit" (nahal = verb, nahala = noun) is used in Joshua five times in 1:6; 11:23; 14:13; 16:4; 17:6 (also see the use of the same word associated with possession of the Promised Land in Dt 1:38; 12:10; Ps 37:29; etc.).
Question: What does it suggest when the Promised Land
is described as Israel's inheritance? See Gen 15:7-8; Gen 28:4; Ex 23:30 (all verses
cited have "inherit" in Hebrew text).
Answer: The land of Canna is described as Abraham's "inheritance" from God. The term also suggests that the Israelites have a claim on the land through an inheritance from their forefathers in the oath sworn by Yahweh to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the physical fathers of the children of Israel).
There are theological implications associated with the phrase "to inherit the land" for Christians. In the New Testament it becomes the term for those who receive the spiritual blessings of eternal salvation. For Christians eternal salvation is an inheritance from God the Son through whom we have been adopted in the Sacrament of Baptism as the sons and daughters of our Divine Father. For example:
Joshua 1:8 Have the book of this Law [torah = teaching/instruction] always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may carefully keep everything that is written in it. Then your undertakings will prosper, then you will have success.
The word in the Hebrew text is "torah," meaning "teaching" or "instruction." This is the title which the Jews have given to the five books of Moses (Christians generally call the first five books of the Old Testament the Pentateuch, a Greek term meaning "five-part book."
Question: What is the Book of the Law, also called
the Book of the Covenant and the Book of Moses? See
Dt Ex 17:14; 24:4, 7; 34:27-28;
Dt 6:6; 17:18; 28:58, 61; 29:21, 27; 30:10; 31:9, 24, 26;
Josh 8:31, 34; 23:6; 24:26.
Answer: It is the book in which the history of Israel and the commands and prohibitions of God's Divine Law was written down for the people. God first commanded Moses to write down the events of the Exodus after their victory over the Amalekites (before they reached Mt. Sinai). After the theophany at Sinai, Moses continued to record God's words to Israel, for example the Decalogue (Ex 20:1-21) and the expanded instruction immediately afterward (Ex 20:22-23:33). This is what Moses read to the people at the covenant ratification ceremony from the book which is also called "the Book of the Covenant" (Ex 24:7). As God continued to give His instruction to Moses, Moses continued to write down God's commands (Ex 34:27-28). When Joshua succeeded Moses, Joshua continued to read from the "Book of the Torah (teaching/instruction) of Moses" (Josh 8:34) and began to record the events of the conquest (Josh 24:26).
Jesus upheld the testimony of Sacred Scripture that it was Moses who wrote down the words of God and recorded the events in the Torah when He alluded to the typology of Christ in the Torah saying, Do not imagine that I am going to accuse you before the Father: you have placed your hopes on Moses and Moses will be the one who accused you. If you really believed him you would believe me too, since it was about me that he was writing... Jn 5:46).
God tells Joshua that the people are to keep the whole of the Law and not to swerve from this either to the right or to left. If they are obedient and keep God's commandments, they are promised success. Notice that verse 6 is bracketed by the command for Joshua to "be strong and brave/strong and stand firm," suggesting that like Moses, Joshua will be facing adversity. And, also like Moses, God will be with him and will not abandon him; so long as Joshua is obedient to the Law, he will be successful "the words of assurance conclude with the third repetition of the command to be brave and strong (verses 7-10).
Joshua 1:10-18 ~ Joshua's instructions to the Israelites
10 Joshua then gave the people's officials this instruction: 11 Go through the camp and give the people this order, "Make provisions ready, for in three days' time you will cross this Jordan and go on to take possession of the land which Yahweh your God is giving you as your own."' 12 Joshua then said to the Reubenites and Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, 13 Remember the order given to you by Moses, servant of Yahweh: Yahweh your God, in bringing you to rest, has given you the land where we are. 14 Your wives, your little ones and your cattle must stay in the country [land] given you by Moses beyond the Jordan. But all you fighting men must cross in battle formation at the head of your brothers and help them, 15 until Yahweh grants rest to your brothers and you alike, when they too have taken possession of the land which Yahweh your God is giving to them. Then you may go back and take possession of the land [and may possess it] which belongs to you and which Moses, servant of Yahweh, has given you on the eastern side of [beyond] the Jordan [toward the rising of the sun].' 16 They answered Joshua, We will do whatever your order us, and wherever you send us we will go. 17 We obeyed Moses in everything, and now we will obey you. Only may Yahweh your God be with you as he was with Moses! 18 If anyone rebels against your orders or will not listen to your commands, let him be put to death. Only be strong and stand firm.' [..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. I, page 557; underlining added.
There are also theological implications associated with the repetition of finding "rest" in the Promised Land found twice in chapter 1 in verses 13 and 15.
Question: When was the concept of entering into God's
"rest" first mentioned in Scripture? See Gen 2:1-3.
Answer: On the seventh day of Creation "rest" is used twice in Genesis 2:2 and 3 to define the purpose of the holy "seventh day" Sabbath in which mankind was invited to be free of his labors and to commune with God.
Question: What is the link between the invitation in
Genesis and Israel's entrance into the Promised Land?
Answer: As man was invited to enter into God's "rest" in Eden, he is also invited to enter into God's "rest" "to commune with God "in the Promised Land.
Question: What are the theological implications of
"entering into God's rest" for New Covenant Christians? See Mt 11:28-29; Heb 3:11, 18; 4:1-11.
Answer: With the Promised Land of Canaan serving as a "type" of the promise of the heavenly Kingdom, the theological implications extend to the promise of man's eternal "rest" in the presence of God in Heaven.
The Israelites who doubted God did not enter into the place of "rest" which was the Promised Land (Num 14:29; Ps 95:10-11). According to St. Paul (believed to be the inspired writer of the Letter to the Hebrews), this promise prefigured the invitation to Christians to enter into God's eternal "rest" in the Promised Land of Heaven; the "Promised Land" of Canaan being only a "type" of the future reality (Heb 3:17-4:11). In Hebrews 4:8-11 the inspired writer compares Joshua's mission to Jesus' mission, making the point that there was a promise of "a place of rest" beyond the temporal land of Canaan: If Joshua had led them into this place of rest, God would not later have spoken of another day. There must still be, therefore, a seventh-day rest reserved for God's people since to enter the place of rest is to rest after your works, as God did after his. Let us, then, press forward to enter this place of rest, or some of you might copy this example of refusal to believe and be lost.
The command to "possess" the land is repeated in the Hebrew text five times: Joshua 1:11 twice and verse 15 three times (IBHE, vol. I, page 558), and "land" is mentioned eight times in the Hebrew text (1:2, 4, 6, 11, 14 twice, 15 twice). In the significance of numbers in Scripture, five is the number of God's power and grace while eight is the number of salvation and rebirth (see the document "The Significance of Numbers in Scripture"). The Israelites will possess the land in obedience through the power and grace of God, and the land will be their salvation (temporal).
The phrase "to be strong and stand firm" (more literally translated "to be brave and strong" or "courageous and strong") will be repeated four times in this chapter "three times by God (verses 6, 7 and 9) and once by the Israelites (verse 18). Repetitions in Scripture are like underlining and point to the theme/s of the chapter and important concepts, which in this case is for Joshua to be brave and strong so he will be able to lead the Israelites to take possession of the land that is their inheritance.
God's advice to Joshua is good advice for all Christians in the struggles against sin and the corrupting influence of the secular world. Pachomius' (c. 292-347) advice for Christians in the 4th century AD is still relevant today: Still, toss all pride far from your side, and be valiant. Look: when Joshua [son] of Nun was valiant, God delivered his enemies into his hands. If you are faint-hearted, you become a stranger to the law of God. Faintheartedness fills you with pretexts for laziness, mistrust and negligence, until you are destroyed (Instructions, 21). "Faintheartedness" is evidence of a lack of faith and trust in God "trust and faith in God generates confidence.
Question: Why will this site on the east side of the
Jordan River near Jericho continue to be significant in salvation history?
What happened at this same site across from Jericho in 2 Kings 2:1-18 and in John 1:28.
Answer: This is the site where the prophet Elijah was taken up into heaven and where Jesus of Nazareth was baptized by St. John the Baptist.
The phrase "beyond the Jordan" is the same phrase in the Greek text of the Gospel of John in 1:28 where the site of St. John the Baptist's ministry is identified as "beyond the Jordan" on the eastern side of the river. Since St. John was given the "spirit and power of Elijah" (Lk 1:17) to conduct his ministry, which St. John chose to reflect in dressing like the prophet (2 Kng 1:8 and Mt 3:4), it is likely that St. John chose the eastern side of the river across from Jericho because of the historical connection to the crossing in the conquest and because it was the site from which the Old Testament prophet Elijah was taken by God into heaven.
Joshua orders the administrative officers to carry his instructions to the people. The same Hebrew word for the officers is also used for the assistants of the judges who hear legal disputes (see Dt 16:18). Later during the age of the monarchy the same world will be used for legal officials (1 Chr 23:4).
Question: How many days do the Israelites have to
prepare before crossing the Jordan River to invade Canaan? Why is this a
significant number of days according to significance of numbers in Scripture
and where has this number of days been repeated before in Scripture? See the
documents "The Significance of Numbers in Scripture" and "The Significance of
the Third Day" in the Documents section.
Answer: In Scripture the number three usually signifies that something important in salvation history is taking place. For example:
The ancients counted without the concept of zero as a place value; therefore, days, hours, etc. were counted with the first in the series being #1. This is why Scripture records that Jesus was in the tomb for three days from Friday to Sunday. By the way we count, Jesus was only in the tomb two days and the Israelites only had two days to prepare for the crossing. But as in most cases when numbers are used in Scripture, the symbolic significance of the number is often more important than the literal number. For more information see the document "The Significance of the Third Day." Other references to a three day period in Joshua are found in 2:16, 22; 3:2 and 9:16.
Question: What arrangements did the Reubenites and
Gadites make in order to be allowed to take possession of the conquered lands
on the east side of the Jordan River? See Num 32 and Dt 3:18-20.
Answer: If Moses (with God's blessing) would allow them to keep the conquered lands on the east side of the Jordan River, they agreed to leave their wives, children and flocks behind to be the vanguard/shock troops of the Israelite army.
When the two clans of Manasseh conquered the territory of the Gilead, Moses gave them the land (Num 32:39-42). They were also expected to take part as Israel's strike force in the invasion with the Reubenites and Gadites.
Joshua 1:15 ... until Yahweh grants rest to your brothers and you alike, when they too have taken (1)possession of the land which Yahweh your God is giving to them. Then you may go back and take (2) possession of the land [and may (3) possess it] which belongs to you and which Moses, servant of Yahweh, has given you on the eastern side of [beyond] the Jordan [toward the rising of the sun].'
The five times repetition of the word "possess/possession" in chapter 1 emphasizes the importance of Israel's action in moving forward to take possession of the land of Canaan. "Taking possession" is the theme of the Book of Joshua "literally taking possession of the Promised Land and spiritually taking possession of God's covenant promises through obedience to the Law.
In verses 16-17 the people make a vow of obedience to Joshua, pledging the penalty of death for anyone who acts contrary to God's commands through Joshua. They understand that their success in the conquests rests on their obedience to God and Joshua. Their declaration defining disobedience as a capital crime will come back to haunt them in chapter 7.
The chapter ends with another admonition to Joshua to "be strong and stand firm."
Chapter 2: The Israelite advance team goes into Jericho
Then, leaving the
Plains of Moab, Moses went up Mount Nebo, the peak of Pisgah opposite Jericho,
and Yahweh showed him the whole country: Gilead as far as Dan, the whole of
Naphtali, the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, the whole country of Judah as
far as the Eastern Sea, the Negeb, and the region of the Valley of Jericho,
city of palm trees, as far as Zoar.
Some significant repeats in chapter 2 (IBHE, vol. I, pages 560-61):
The importance of Jericho in the story of the conquest is reflected in the six chapters devoted to the description of the taking of the city compared to the four chapters that remain in the description of the continued conquest and the fourteen remaining chapters of the book's narratives. It is obvious that the inspired writer wants the reader to appreciate certain lessons learned from the events of the conquest of Jericho and the immediate aftermath.
Joshua 2:1-7 ~ Joshua sends spies to reconnoiter Jericho
1 From Shittim, Joshua son of Num secretly sent two men to reconnoiter. He said, Go and explore the country and Jericho.' They left; they went into the house of a prostitute called Rahab, to spend the night there. 2 The king of Jericho was told, Some men have come here tonight from the Israelites, to reconnoiter the country [land].' 3 The king of Jericho then sent a message to Rahab, Send out the men who came to you and are lodging in your house, for they have come to reconnoiter the whole country [land].' 4 But the woman took the two men and hid them. It is true,' she said, the men did come to me, but I did not know where they came from. 5 When the city gate was about to be closed at nightfall, the men went out and I cannot say where they have gone. Follow them quickly and you will overtake them.' 6 She had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under some stalks of flax which she had laid out there. 7 The men hurried in pursuit of them towards the Jordan, as far as the fords, and the gate was shut once the pursuers had gone through.
Shittim, "the Acacias" in Greek, indicates a forest of trees around which the Israelites encamped on the plains of Moab just to the northeast of the Dead Sea and probably a mile or two east of the Jordan River (Num 25:1; 33:49). Joshua decided to send two spies to reconnoiter the first objective in the campaign "the ancient city of Jericho. Jericho is located west of the Jordan River in the wide plain of the Jordan River Valley. It is about 16 km northwest of the north shore of the Dead Sea and just to the east of the Judean Mountains. There are in fact two cities of Jericho. The site of ancient Jericho is situated on a mound about 2 km northwest of the oasis of Jericho that dates to New Testament times. Human occupation on the ancient site dates to as early as 9,000 BC. Some scholars believe the name Jericho, Yareah in Hebrew, means "moon city," perhaps suggesting that Sin, the moon goddess, was worshiped there.
The Israelite spies seek refuge at the house or inn of a prostitute named Rahab. Ritual prostitution was common in Canaanite cities and it is uncertain if Rahab is a temple prostitute or if her home is a brothel. Attempts by certain Bible translators to redeem Rahab by making her an "innkeeper" is an abuse of the text. In the Hebrew text she is identified as zona, a word that may refer to either secular or cultic prostitution (Boling and Wright, Joshua, page 144), and in the Greek New Testament passages of Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25 she is identified in the Greek text as a porne "a prostitute.
Question: Why did the Israelites decide to stay the
house of a prostitute?
Answer: It is possible that they believed they would draw less attention to themselves staying in a place frequented by strangers like themselves non-citizens of Jericho. It also might be suggested that the lure of "illicit commerce" played a part in their choice.
It is interesting that the Greek Septuagint translation and the modern Jewish Tanach (Jewish Old Testament) identify the spies as "young men;" perhaps suggesting the likelihood of the temptation of younger men to visit a house of disrepute.(3) However, ancient documents from the second millennium BC suggests that the owner of an Inn who was also female was expected to run a brothel (Biblica: The Bible Atlas, A Social and Historical journey through the lands of the Bible, Dr. Barry J. Beitzel chief consultant, Global Book Publishers, 2006, page 171).
Jericho was a walled city with gates that were guarded by a day and night watch. Apparently the gate guards notified the king that two strangers they believed were Israelites had entered the city; the guards may have even directed them to Rahab's house. This is not surprising since news of the Israelites' Exodus from Egypt and their defeat of Amorite kings Sihon and Og had reached Jericho and the king was obviously concerned (Ex 15:13-18 and Josh 2:9-11). The Babylonian laws, known as the "Code of Hammurabi", written centuries before these events (c. 19th century BC), assumes a female innkeeper is a brothel keeper and commands her to report any conspiracies she overhears to the king on pain of death (Ancient Near Eastern Tests Relating to the Old Testament, James Pritchard editor, Princeton University Press, 1969, "Code of Hammurabi," #109). Jericho may have had a similar law.
Question: What message does the king send to Rahab
and what is her response?
Answer: The King of Jericho demands that Rahab turn over the men to him, but she lies about their whereabouts and hides the men on the roof of her house.
She hid the men under the flax plants that had been harvested and were drying on the flat roof of her house. Flax is harvested in the early spring. That the guards of Jericho looked for the men in the direction of the Jordan River probably indicates that they suspected the men were Israelites and knew that the Israelites were camped across the river.
Joshua 2:8-13 ~ Rabah offers to help the Israelites
8 The two men had not yet settled down for the night when Rahab came up to them on the roof. 9 She said to them, I know that Yahweh has given you this country [land], that we are afraid of you and that everyone living in this country [land] has been seized with terror at your approach; 10 for we have heard how Yahweh dried up the Sea of Reeds before you when you came out of Egypt and what you did to the two Amorite kings across the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you put under the curse of destruction [herem]. 11 When we heard of this, our hearts failed us, and now no one has any courage left to resist you, since Yahweh your God is God both in heaven above and on earth beneath. 12 So, swear to me now by Yahweh, since I have been kind [hesed] to you, 13 that you in your turn will be kind [hesed] to my father's family; and give me a sure sign of this: that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters and all who belong to them, and will preserve us from death.' [..] =literal translation, IBHE, vol. 1, page 560.
Question: Why did Rahab defy her king and hide the
Answer: She believes in the power of Israel's God and that the Israelites, with the help of their God, will conquer her city. In exchange for her help, she wants the men to promise to spare her family when they capture the city.
In fact, Rahab confesses her belief in the power of Israel's God as "the God of heaven and earth" in verse 11 "stepping away from her pagan roots and significantly using God's covenant name: since Yahweh your God is God both in heaven above and on earth beneath. Then she asks the men to make a covenant bond with her by swearing a solemn oath in the name of Yahweh to extend faithfulness (hesed) in protecting her family.
The Hebrew word hesed is difficult to translate into English; it principally means the kind of love extended through a covenant relationship, as in Psalms 103:17-18, but it also expresses the notion of mercy and compassion, as Yahweh defines His attributes in Exodus 34:6-7 as gracious, compassionate, demonstrating loving-kindness, constancy in His faithfulness, and just: Then Yahweh passed before him and called out, Yahweh, Yahweh, God of tenderness [hen = gracious] and compassion [rachum], slow to anger, rich in faithful love [hesed we'emet] and constancy, maintaining his faithful love [hesed] to thousands, forgiving fault, crime and sin, yet letting nothing go unchecked, and punishing the parent's fault in the children and the grandchildren to the third and fourth generation!" The last line refers to God justice when families fail to repent generational sins.
Rahab's recounting of the rumors she has heard concerning Israel and Israel's God confirms the promise God made to the Israelites in Exodus 24:27: I shall send terror of myself ahead of you; I shall throw all the peoples you encounter into confusion, and make all your enemies take to their heels.
Question: As proof of their intentions in their oath
swearing what does Rahab ask for?
Answer: She asks for a sign.
Formal Biblical covenants are formed by oath swearing and the sign of blood sacrifice followed by a sacred meal (Gen 31:44, 53-54; Ex 24:5-11). In this situation, it is not possible for the men and Rahab to seal a formal covenant, and therefore she needs a sign that will make them accountable to God if they break their oath.
Joshua 2:14-24 ~ The Israelites make a covenant with
14 The men replied, We pledge you our lives, provided that you say nothing about our mission. When Yahweh has given us the country [land], we shall treat you kindly and faithfully [hesed we'emet]. 15 She then let them down from the window on a rope, as her house was against the city wall and she actually lived in the wall. 16 Make for the hills,' she said, or you may run into your pursuers. Hide there for three days, until your pursuers have come back, and then go on your way.' 17 The men said, This is how we shall fulfill the oath which you have made us swear: 18 when we invade the country [land], you must tie this scarlet cord to the window from which you let us down, and collect your father, mother, brothers and entire family inside your house. 19 If anyone goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood will be on his own head and we shall not be to blame; but the blood of all staying inside the house with you will be on our heads if a hand is laid on any of them. 20 But if you divulge our mission in the meanwhile, we shall be free of the oath which you have made us swear.' 21 She replied, Let it be as you say.' She let them go, and they left. She then tied the scarlet cord to the window. 22 They left and made for the hills. They stayed there for three days, until their pursuers had gone home, having scoured the countryside without finding them. 23 The two men then came down again from the hills, crossed over, and going to Joshua son of Nun, told him everything that had happened to them. 24 To Joshua they said, Yahweh has put the whole country [land] at our mercy, and its inhabitants are all panic-stricken at our approach.'
The men agree to make the covenant with Rahab, promising her their faithful, covenant-love and pledging their lives "meaning if they failed to keep their oath to protect Rahab and her family they will forfeit their lives to Yahweh as the Divine judge. The literal Hebrew is "our life instead of you to die" (Woudstra, The Book of Joshua, page 74). The expression used in verse 14, hesed we'emet, "covenant love and loyalty," is the standard biblical expression for acts of loyalty and mercy shown in connection with a covenant agreement (Gen 24:27, 49; 32:10; 34:6).
Question: What condition do the Israelites place on
Rahab in her covenant obligation to them?
Answer: They pledge Rahab to utter secrecy as her part of the covenant obligation.
Joshua 2:15 She then let them down from the window on a rope, as her house was against the city wall and she actually lived in the wall. The literal translation is "in the wall of the wall," meaning "between the walls," which suggests Jericho was a double walled city.
This detail in the story that Rahab's house was part of the city wall is well attested by archaeology for walled cities in the ancient near east dating to the period of the Early Bronze Age. Garstang, an archaeologist who excavated at Jericho, discovered evidence of a double wall and houses within the double wall at Jericho, which he dated to the late Bronze Age, the time of the conquest (Boling and Wright, Joshua, page 148).
Question: What advice does Rahab give the Israelites
and why is her advice wise?
Answer: She advises them not to go to the river, which will be where the soldiers of Jericho will be looking for them, but to go into the mountain country and wait for three days before trying to ford the river.
She may have been directing them to Jebel Qarantal, a mountainous region full of caves and crevices northwest of Jericho and identified by the Crusaders as the Mount of Temptation where Jesus was tempted by Satan after His baptism. Before leaving the spies restate their obligation to her and the conditions under which they would be freed of their oath. Then they give Rahab the "sign" she requested in verse 13.
Question: What is the sign and why is it
Answer: A red cord is to be the sign of her salvation, marking her house as under Israelite protection.
Red/scarlet fabric figures in the rites of the Sinai Covenant: That is why even the earlier covenant was inaugurated with blood, and why, after Moses had promulgated all the commandments of the Law to the people, he took the calves' blood, the goat's blood and some water, and with these he sprinkled the book itself and all the people, using scarlet wool and hyssop; saying as he did so: This is the blood of the covenant that God has made with you (Heb 9:18-20). Scarlet/red wool was also used in the ritual purification rites (Lev 14:4, 6, 49, 51, 52; Num 19:6). The red/scarlet cord may have symbolized the blood of the sacrifice to bind their covenant. Some Fathers of the Church believed the red cord that was a sign by which she and her family would be saved from death to be a symbol of the blood of Christ. It must be admitted that Rahab's conversion prefigured Gentile men and women entering the New Covenant "saved by the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ. In this episode, Rahab becomes a biblical "type" of the conversion of the Gentiles.
Rahab is listed among the "Heroes of the Faith" in the Book of Hebrews: It was through faith that the walls of Jericho fell down when the people had marched round them for seven days. It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute welcomed the spies and so was not killed with the unbelievers (Heb 11:30-31). And in the Letter of St. James, she is identified as an example of living, active faith: You see now that it is by deeds, and not only by faith alone that someone is justified. There is another example of the same king: Rahab the prostitute, was she not justified by her deeds because she welcomed the messengers and showed them a different way to leave? (James 2:24-25 NAB).
Question: What happened to Rahab after the
destruction of her city? See Mt 1:1-6, 16; Ex 6:23; Num 10:13-14; Ru 4:18-22.
Answer: She married into the tribe of Judah, marrying Salmon, the son of Prince Nahshon, the brother-in-law of the High Priest Aaron and the leader of the march of the Israelite tribes. Her descendants were King David and Jesus of Nazareth.
Chapter 3: Preparing to cross the Jordan River
He gave them the
territories of nations, they reaped the fruit of other people's labors, on
condition that they kept his statutes, and remained obedient to his laws.
Some significant repeats in chapter 3: The Ark of the Covenant dominates this part of the narrative and is mentioned ten times in the Hebrew text in 3:3, 6 twice, 8, 11, 13, 14, 15 twice and 17 (IBHE, vol. I, pages 562-4).
Joshua 3:1-6 ~ The Israelites move their camp to the
banks of the Jordan River
1 Early in the morning, Joshua struck camp and set out from Shittim with all the Israelites. They went as far as the Jordan and there they camped before they crossed. 2 Three days later, the officials went through the camp 3 and gave the people these instructions, When you see the Ark of the covenant of Yahweh your God being carried by the Levitical priests, you will leave your position and follow it, so that you may know which way to take, since you have never gone this way before. 4 Between you and the Ark, however, keep a distance of about two thousand cubits: do not go near it.' 5 Joshua said to the people, Sanctify yourselves, since tomorrow Yahweh will work wonders among you.' Joshua then said to the priests, Take up the Ark of the Covenant and cross at the head of the people.' They took up the Ark of the Covenant and moved to the head of the people.
Having heard the report from the two spies and realizing that the King of Jericho knows they are encamped across the river, Joshua begins the invasion plan without delay. Just as Moses told the people to sanctify (ritually purify) themselves at Mt. Sinai prior to their rendezvous with God, Joshua gives orders for the people to sanctify themselves before beginning their march across the Jordan River. The invasion is not a military conquest "it is a holy war ordained by God and the Israelites are His instruments of justice.
The people are told to follow the Ark of the Covenant carried by "the Levitical priests" (verse 3). All men of the ministerial order, both the chief priests who were the descendants of Aaron (Moses' brother and the first high priest) and the lesser ministers who served them (designated "the Levites") were from the tribe of Levi (Num 3:1-13). Both the chief priests and the Kohath clan of the Levites (Moses and Aaron's clan) had duties associated with the Ark (Num 4:1-20). The Kohath and the other clans of Levi who are designated the lesser ministers are never called priests and were forbidden to serve at the altar, to offer the sacrifices, to forgive sins or to enter the Tabernacle. Normally, the chief priests were charged with preparing the Ark for transport and the Levites of Kohath were entrusted with the duty of carrying the Ark (Num 4:4, 15). This order of custom is observed in Dt 10:8; 31:25; 1 Sam 6:15; 2 Chr 5:4 and 35:3. However, on other occasions the chief priests performed the duty of transporting the Ark as in Dt 31:9; 1 Kng 8:3, 6 and on in the march across the Jordan to begin the conquest.
The Ark of the Covenant is mentioned a significant ten times in the Hebrew text (3:3, 6 twice, 8, 11, 13, 14, 15 twice and 17). Special precaution had to be made in transporting the Ark. The priests had to prepare the Ark by covering it with three layers of material. First the priests took down the screening curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies and placed it over the Ark, next they put a covering of fine leather followed by a blue cloth. Then poles were fixed to the Ark for transporting it (Num 4:5-6).
Question: Why was the Ark of the Covenant Israel's
national treasure? Name the three functions of the Ark. See Ex 25:10-22; 26:34;
40:20; Lev 16:1-16; Num 7:89.
Answer: The Ark of the Covenant housed Israel's most prized possession and served 3 purposes:
Joshua 3:4 Between you and the ark, however, keep a distance of about two thousand cubits: do not go near it. 2,000 cubits is approximately the distance of a half mile or about 1 km.(4)
Question: Why were the people commanded to keep a
distance of 2000 cubits from the Ark? Was
there danger associated with coming in contact with the Ark? See Ex 19:21-23; Num 4:15, 17-20; 2 Sam 6:4-7.
Answer: The people were warned to observe the sanctity of the Ark. Yahweh dwelled in the midst of His people above the Mercy-seat of the Ark. It was dangerous for a person contaminated by sin to approach the Presence of God.
A secondary reason may have been that in keeping a distance from the Ark it was continually within view of the people, since their movement forward was directed by the Ark. Marten Woudstra writes that the distance of 2000 cubits was about the distance from the outer bank of the Jordan to the inner bed; and therefore " the people would still be on the outer bank while the feet of the priests touched the water's edge" (The Book of Joshua, page 81). If this was the case, the people were able to have a good view of the miracle of the waters parting as the priests carrying the Ark stepped into the water, and the people would have felt safe in moving forward.
Joshua 3:7-13 ~ The final instructions
7 Yahweh said to Joshua, This very day, I shall begin to make you great in the eyes of all Israel so that they will know that, as I was with Moses, so I shall be with you. 8 Now, give this order to the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant. "When you have reached the brink of the waters of the Jordan, you must halt in the Jordan itself."' 9 To the Israelites, Joshua then said, Come closer and hear the words of Yahweh your God.' 10 Joshua said, By this, you are to know that the living God is with you and without a doubt will expel the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites before you. 11 Look, the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord of the whole earth is about to move into the Jordan at your head. 12 Now choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one man from each tribe. 13 As soon as the priests carrying the Ark of Yahweh, Lord of the whole earth, have set the soles of their feet in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan will be cut off, the upper waters flowing down will stop as a single mass.'
Joshua tells the priests carrying the Ark that as soon as they step into the waters of the river they must stop and stand still until they see the waters of the Jordan backing up to open a path across the River. Joshua also gives the Israelites God's solemn promise that He will be with the people and they will be successful in driving out the residents of Canaan. Again seven different ethnic groups are named, whereas ten were named in Genesis chapter 15:19-21. The ten peoples named indicated the plan of God's Divine order in the number of people to be expelled while the seven named peoples reflects the promised fulfillment of God's plan (in Scripture ten is the number of ordinal perfection and seven is the number signifying fulfillment and spiritual perfection).
Joshua 3:12 Now choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one man from each tribe. We will learn the reason for selecting the men from each of the twelve tribes in chapter 4.
Joshua 3:14-17 ~ The Israelites cross the Jordan River into
14 Accordingly, when the people left their tents to cross the Jordan, the priests carried the Ark of the Covenant ahead of the people. 15 As soon as the bearers of the Ark reached the Jordan and the feet of the priests carrying the Ark touched the waters "the Jordan is in spate throughout the harvest season "16 the upper waters stood still and formed a single mass over a great distance, at Adam, the town near Zarethan, while those flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely separated. The people crossed opposite Jericho. 17 The priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh stood firm on dry ground in mid-Jordan, while all Israel crossed on dry ground, until the whole nation had completed its crossing of the Jordan.
Question: The inspired writer provides what details
concerning the crossing?
Question: What previous miracle does this miracle
water crossing call to mind?
Answer: The miracle the Israelites experienced when they crossed the Red Sea/Sea of Reeds out of Egypt in the Exodus.
Question: What similarities do you see between the miracle
crossing of the Red Sea/Sea of Reeds in the Exodus out of Egypt and the miracle
crossing of the Jordan River into Canaan? What are the differences? See Ex 14:15-31.
|God miraculously parted the waters of the Red Sea and the Jordan River; the Israelites passed through a corridor of a wall of water on either side (Ex 14:21-22; Josh 3:16).||In the Exodus miracle, the Glory cloud was the sign of God's Presence among His people, but in the Jordan crossing the Ark of the Covenant was the dwelling place of God (Ex 14:19; Ex 25:22; Josh 3:3, 18, 14).|
|The people crossed over on dry ground (Ex 14:16, 22; Josh 3:17).||The Israelites who crossed the Jordan were not being pursued by an enemy as in the Exodus crossing "they were the enemy (Ex 14:6; Josh 1:15; 3:10).|
The miracles both took place in the spring
(Ex 13:4; Josh 3:15).
|There were no deaths as a result of the Jordan River crossing. In the Exodus the Egyptian charioteers perished in the flood of the closing waters of the sea (Ex 14:27-28).|
Question: Why does the inspired writer make this
deliberate comparison to the miracle at the Red Sea/Sea of Reeds?
Answer: We cannot know for certain, but it is interesting that the entire Exodus experience and the forty years of wilderness wandering until the beginning of the conquest has been bracketed by these two similar miracles that demonstrate the power of God in the protection of His covenant people.
1. In 1957 the modern state of Israel completed the drainage of Lake Hule and its surrounding swamp lands along the Syrian border as part of a reclamation project. The lake now consists of a series of channels through which the Jordan River flows, solving the problem of a continuous supply of water in northern Israel by providing irrigation in that section of the state. In the Negeb the problem of irrigation was solved by accessing a huge underground reservoir of salty water that helped to produce some of the best fruits and vegetables available for the world market.
2. It was only during the period of the United Kingdom under the reigns of David and Solomon that Israel approximated these boundaries. The Euphrates is also called simply "the River" in Gen 31:21 (Hebrew translation); Ex 23:31 (Heb.); and Num 22:5. King David's territorial expansion toward the Euphrates is mentioned in 2 Sam 8:1-12.
3. The passage in 2:1-5 is redolent with sexual innuendo. For example, Rahab's name in Hebrew rhb means "broad," as in wide or capacious, but applied to a woman (as in English) it means sexually experienced. In Ugaritic, a language related to ancient Hebrew, rhb refers to female sexual organs.
Questions for group discussion:
Israel's covenant with Yahweh was based upon promises God made concerning Israel's destiny: occupation of the Promised Land and peace, security and prosperity in the land for Israel and the future generations of her children. In return, Israel promised to be obedient to God's commands and prohibitions "the Law which was "the way of life" for God's covenant people.
Question: How do you view the dynamics of your covenant relationship with God? What covenant promises has God made to you concerning your eternal destiny and what do you feel that you owe God in return?
The Old Covenant people were continually warned to keep the whole Law (Dt 5:31/28-33/29; Josh 1:6), just as Jesus commanded His disciples to "teach them to observe all the commands I gave you" (Mt 28:20).
Question: How obedient are you to God's New Covenant Law and His Church? Do you follow the whole of the New Covenant law of love for God and neighbor as Jesus laid out in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7) and as interpreted by Mother Church, or do you pick and choose what you feel like obeying? How do you evaluate your faithfulness to the five precepts of the Catholic Church, the minimum required of a practicing Catholic (see CCC 2041-43)?
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2012 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.
Introduction to Lesson 2: CCC 59-60, 62, 487-89, 2258-61
Josh 1:6 CCC 2823
Josh 1:13, 15 CCC 624
Josh 3:3-17 CCC 2058
Josh 3:10 CCC 2112