Joshua: Conquest of Canaan

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Conquest of Canaan

Conquest and Settlement of the Promised Land.

Background: During the time of the Judges, an eyewitness records the events under Joshua, successor to Moses
Theme: The LORD is faithful in giving Canaan to the Israelites
Outline: The Conquest and Settlement of the land of Canaan
Key Verse: Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (Josh 1:8, NIV)

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These notes are based on the New International Version of the Bible and incorporate a basic outline from the Bible Knowledge Commentary.  The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Vol I, Old Testament) is an excellent resource and is referred to (in the notes) as the BKC.

I. Invasion of Canaan (1:1-5:12)

A. Commissioning of Joshua (1)

1:6 This is the theme of Joshua, Israel will now inherit the land promised to the Patriarchs.

1:6-9 The triple use of "Be strong and courageous" gives three reasons as the basis for our confidence; God's promises, the Scripture as a guide, and the LORD's presence with us.

1:7-8 Excellent guidelines for us: to talk about the Scriptures, to meditate (read and think about) on them, and to obey them. This study falls in the area of meditation. We must go beyond that to sharing with others, perhaps family and friends, what we are learning. Certainly we must change our lives to live according to what God is teaching us.

1:17 The second sentence may be taken as a condition or qualifier for the pledged obedience (although some interpret it simply as a prayer or blessing). If a condition, this may be a valid test of leadership for the Church as well as Israel. This is not to say we must constantly question every minute decision, but perhaps someone being elected or ordained to a place of leadership is not sufficient to make us blindly follow. If there is evidence that the LORD is leading, we are to follow.

1:18 Under military conditions the authority given to Joshua is appropriate. The sentence of death for those who disobey will be demonstrated in the case of Achan (Chapter 7).

B. Spying on Jericho (2)

2:1 Jericho was an impressive fortress on the pass leading through the mountain region. This pass was the trade route into central Canaan.

2:1 The word translated 'prostitute' in the NIV could also be translated 'innkeeper' (NIV margin note). The view of Rahab expressed by ancient authors (Josephus and others) that she was an innkeeper and the New Testament statement of her immoral profession (Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25) could both be true. It could be that room and board, as well as strong drink, were available along with her other services. The New Testament word is not ambiguous as the Hebrew word.

2:8-11 At this point Rahab declared, "For the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below." Saving faith goes beyond this amazing ‘head knowledge’ to a personal commitment. For Israel it was a national covenant combined with personal faith. Rahab’s protection of the spies and her bargain with them was her entrance into the community of faith — her ‘covenant’ with God made through the spies.

In a similar way, it is not enough to know today that Jesus is God’s son, and who God is and what He expects. We each must make a personal commitment to Him and acknowledge him as Lord. In prayer we admit that we have sinned (fallen short of the glory of God), that Jesus took our sin penalty on the cross (died in our place for our sins), and acknowledge Jesus as our Lord and Savior. This becomes our ‘covenant’ with God. This is the core of the New Testament (testament is a synonym for covenant).

2:9 Fear falling on the Canaanites was predicted in Exodus 15:15-16, "The people of Canaan will melt away; terror and dread will fall upon them.

2:22 We see that the spies trusted Rahab enough to completely follow her instructions

C. Crossing the Jordan (3)

3:1 A ten mile or one day journey.

3:4 This distance is over 1/2 mile!

3:16 The great distance away was about twenty miles upstream. It is possible that God used a landslide to create a temporary dam at that point. This does not preclude God performing a miracle, as the timing of the crossing is not a coincidence. It does allow that God can work using secondary means (a landslide and dam) rather than a more direct intervention (holding water back with an invisible wall or by the power of his word).

3:17 The Hebrew word for "dry ground" does not mean absolutely dry, but ground not covered by water. In 4:18 we see the same word "as soon as they set their feet on dry ground" to describe the priests carrying the ark stepping onto the bank of the Jordan (and out of the river bed).

D. Erecting Memorials (4)

4:9 The NIV Marginal reading, "Joshua set up twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan" is quite different from the main text, "Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been in the middle of the Jordan". The marginal reading follows the main interpretation of the Masoretic Text, which gives two memorials. This is clarified by the LXX which interpolates 'other stones'. I favor two memorials as the translation.

E. Consecration of Israel (5:1-12)

II. Conquest of Canaan (5:13-12:24)

A. The Divine Commander (5:13-15)

5:7 The 'children' of the wanderings entering the land is in fulfillment of Numbers 14:31.

5:8 Israel trusted God for protection during this time of weakness. Humanly speaking, it would have made more sense to do this before crossing the Jordan. Spiritually speaking, they trusted God for their safety. Remember what happened to Shechem in Genesis 34.

5:10 No circumcision or Passover meal was observed during the wanderings, we do not know why. Also, they must be circumcised to participate in the Passover.

5:12 Remember that it is the harvest season.

5:14 The commander of the LORD’s army may have been the LORD himself (a theophany) appearing in human form, the preincarnate Christ (Christophany as in BKC), or simply an angelic being. If an angelic being, then the falling to the ground of Joshua should not be taken as worship but as submission (he called him Lord, not LORD). The LORD speaking in 6:2 would be speaking through the angel, as He later spoke through prophets. In favor of a theophany or preincarnate Christ in the interpretation of Joshua falling down as worship, and the holiness of the ground at that spot.

He was not there primarily for the purposes of Israel or the Canaanites, but for the purposes of the LORD.

B. Central Campaign (6-8)

6:2 We are ‘soldiers of Christ’ in a sense today. God does not simply observe and stand by to help when we ask. He is ready to direct our lives in His spiritual war today against the powers of darkness and ungodliness. He has a definite plan for our lives as individuals and as a church - we need to seek His counsel. Here the commander did not only ‘help’ Joshua when needed; he directed the strategy with the LORD’s resources!

6.3 The ancient world had five methods for conquest of a walled city: 1) Go over the walls, 2) Go under the walls, 3) Go through the walls, 4) Starve them out, and 5) Trick them. The LORD used a different method - knock the walls down. Perhaps the people inside could have repented during the daily marches? They clearly saw the size of the army, yet did not parley for surrender.

6.5 It is not human wisdom to go on a long march, seven times around a city, perhaps causing fatigue before a major battle. The LORD's wisdom and His power operate on other principles.

6:25 Rahab was apparently still living at the time Joshua was recorded, although some take this as meaning that Rahab's family line was still in Israel (since she was in the line of Jesus, this could go pretty late).

6:26 Hiel will fulfill this curse (I Kings 16:32) during the reign of Ahab.

7:2 The name Ai means 'ruins' and was probably given to the city after the events of Chapter 8.

7:3 Joshua sent the higher number suggested. It was a 15 mile climb from Jericho (800 feet below sea level) to Ai (2500 feet above sea level). Ai soldiers also had the advantage of a walled city and higher ground. The spies and Joshua are confident because of their recent victory, but there is no mention of them seeking the Lord's counsel.

7:11 This verse is emphatic in Hebrew, "Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant which I commanded them to obey; and also they have taken of the devoted things; and also they have stolen; and also they have lied; and also they have put them with their own things." The repeated 'and also' is in the Hebrew, but not the NIV (perhaps to make the text flow easier).

7:17 The battle evidently included Bethel as well as Ai.

7:20 Achan did not confess until he was already caught. This confession does not show repentance. The fact that he hid the items shows that he knew he was doing wrong.

8:29 The king of Ai was killed and then hung up or impaled on a tree or pole (not killed by hanging). The point is to make a public display of the humiliation of the enemy of Israel.

8:34 In my opinion, the Book of the Law that Joshua read was Deuteronomy.

C. Southern Campaign (9-10)

9:9 The NIV 'fame' is literally 'name'. Regardless of the deceit, they came because of the name (which includes God's being and character) of the LORD. As Joel 2:32 later stated, "And everyone who callus upon the name of the LORD shall be saved".

9:12-13 Not only did they deceive by looking worn out, these verses are deliberate lies.

9:18-19 We often find that the wording of a sales agreement we did not fully understand is binding. The agreement here is not that much different from major decisions in our lives - we may find out too late that things are not as they seemed!

9:20 Saul later broke faith with the Gibeonites, resulting in wrath on Israel (2 Sam 21:1-9).

9:20-27 Although they did not remain free men, at least they kept themselves and their families alive! Overall, a bargain compared to the other Canaanites that fought against the LORD’s army.

10:1 Hundreds of years earlier Abraham paid a tithe to the king of Salem, Melchizedek (King of Righteousness). This later ruler, Adoni-Zedek (Lord of Righteousness), probably ruled the same city but gave the lie to his name. It takes more than a name to make a reality. The earlier Melchizedek was a truly righteous person, a priest of God. As evidence that sin had progressed in Canaan, this later named ‘lord of righteousness’ was false, and formed an alliance against the LORD.

10:7 This is a 20 mile march with an ascent of 3300 feet in elevation from Gilgal to Gibeon.

10:11 The Canaanites worshiped nature, but 'nature' under the control of the LORD defeated them with hailstones and the miracle of the sun.

10:24 This practice is alluded to in Psalm 110:1, "The LORD says to my Lord, 'Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.'"

D. Northern Campaign (11:1-5)

11:3 "As numerous as the sand on the seashore."  Literal interpretation must take into account the Grammatical-Historical principle, that the words mean what they meant to Joshua. We do not calculate the sand in a cubic foot of seashore and multiply it by an area of beach to determine the size of the army, as a slave to irrational literalism. The words simply meant a vast, uncountable army. The literary device is called 'hyperbole'. Hyperbole is demonstrated by a hungry person saying, "I could eat a horse!"

11:9 I am reminded that horses and chariots were not successful against the LORD's army at the Red Sea years earlier.

11:11 We should take the "anything that breathed" as referring to people, that is, "anyone that breathed".

E. Review of Victories (11:16-12:24)

11:16 Joshua gained control of the whole country, but did not conquer every isolated city.

12:9 Some of the cities in this list were not mentioned in the story. This indicated that the journal of conquest is a summary account of selected battles.

III. Division of Canaan (13-21)

A. Portions for 2 1/2 Tribes (13)

13:1 Perhaps Joshua is about 85 years old at this point, as is Caleb in 14:10.

13:6 The Hebrew word translated 'allocate' in the NIV literally means 'let fall' and directly refers to the method of dividing by the casting of lots.

13:8 The writer includes the land East of the Jordan, conquered in Numbers and Deuteronomy. This emphasizes that Israel is one people and nation, comprised of tribes and lands on both sides of the Jordan river.

13:29 The 'half-tribe' is defined here as being one half of the tribe of Manasseh. Both sons of Joseph (Manasseh and Ephriam) are counted as full tribes to make the number of twelve, since Levi is not counted in the land distribution.

B. Portion for Caleb (14)

14:6-9 Although his father was an 'outsider,' Caleb had sufficient standing forty years earlier to be the representative of the tribe of Judah on the spying mission. Another interpretation is that Kenite simply refers to a Hebrew ancestor with the name Kenan.

14:10 The other ten spies died in the wilderness while Joshua and Caleb were preserved alive.

C. Portion for 9 1/2 Tribes (15-19:48)

15:7 This is the Othniel who is mentioned as a judge in Judges chapter 3.

15:63 Jerusalem was assigned to Benjamin, not Judah.

16:10 The continuance of Canaanites in the land was a failure on the part of Israel, who were to put all Canaanites to the sword.

17:14 The allotment to Joseph was quite large (as was Judah's). It also included some of the most fertile land in Canaan. Joshua correctly challenged them to take complete possession of their own territory rather than look for more land (presumably uninhabited).

18:3 Apparently the seven remaining tribes have become complacent and are not pushing to fight for their land. Meanwhile, the tribes from the east of the Jordan cannot go home until the conquest is finished!

D. Other Portions (19:49-21:45)

19:49 The account of the land division began with Caleb, and ends with the other faithful spy, Joshua.

20:6 The city of refuge provided for a fair trial. A murderer would lose refuge after a trial while a manslaughter would remain in the city.

21:43 This is a very significant statement as to the extent of the land promised to Abraham and the extent given to Israel. The LORD gave 'all' the land he had promised to Abraham.

IV. Conclusion (22-24)

22:5 Joshua gives a summary of the LORD's commands:

  • Love the LORD your God.
  • Walk in His ways.
  • Obey His commands.
  • Hold fast to Him.
  • And serve Him with all your heart and soul.

A. Border Dispute (22)

22:19 The nine and one half tribes are willing to share their own portions of land in Canaan if that will help the situation.

B. Last Days of Joshua (23-24:28)

23:1 The 'long time' was 25 years from the end of the Conquest, based upon Joshua's age of 110 in verse 29.

23:14 "The way of all the earth" is quite an interesting phrase for dying.

24 This chapter includes elements of a covenant, as did Deuteronomy. They are: Mediator (v2, Joshua), History (v2-13, what the LORD has done), Stipulations (v25 decrees and laws), Ratification (v14-24 "Choose this day"), and Continuance (v25-27 recording in a book and setting up a memorial).

24:12 What was the hornet? Three interpretations are an insect, Pharaoh who had fought there and weakened the Canaanites, or the terror of the LORD. The insect is the most literal and quite possible. Pharaoh is possible, the author would not mention his name and would only give glory to the LORD if the LORD had sent Pharaoh. The terror of the LORD was sent, the spies saw this at Jericho, but why would the LORD call this a hornet? I prefer the insect interpretation as I do not see sufficient reasons to accept a figurative interpretation here.

24:14 After the Exodus, wanderings, conquest and settlement, Joshua still has to exhort the people to "throw away the gods (idols) that your forefathers worshipped."

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Updated March 2012

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