From the Editor’s Notebook: Historical Books, Joshua

From the Editor’s Notebook

W. Ross Rainey

In the last five issues of “Food for the Flock” magazine, the editor has presented brief summary studies on the Pentateuch (GENESIS - DEUTERONOMY), the first major section of the Old Testament. It is my purpose in this final issue of 1988 to begin a series of studies which will highlight the historical books of the Old Testament (JOSHUA - ESTHER), its second major section. The twelve books of this section provide us with a basic history of the nation Israel. JOSHUA concerns the entrance into and possession of the land; JUDGES and RUTH center on the early history of the nation; 1 SAMUEL - 2 CHRONICLES focus on the united and divided kingdoms; and EZRA - ESTHER deal with Israel’s exile and return.

Highlights on the Historical Books of the Bible

Joshua: The Book of Possession

Key Word: Possession,

Message: The faithfulness of God declared and demonstrated.

Key Verses: 1:3 — “Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses.” 21:45 — “There failed not ought of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.”


The book of Joshua receives its name from its leading character, around whom all of its history revolves. The Talmud asserts that Joshua wrote all but the last five verses, and that those were added by Phineus (see 24:33). The name Joshua means “Jehovah is salvation,” being equivalent to the name JESUS in the New Testament (Heb. 4:8), of whom Joshua is a splendid type in both name and work. He was born a slave in Egypt, he was 40 years old at the time of the “exodus” (he was one of the spies), he was 80 years old when commissioned by the Lord to succeed Moses, and he was 110 years old at his death. In his Bible history Joshua is seen as a son, slave, soldier, servant, spy, sojourner, saint, saviour and statesman, and though his body has long been dead, his warrior-soul marches on.

It has been rightly said that “God’s best method is a man,” and in every crises which arises God always has a thoroughly prepared human leader to carry out His purposes. Just as Moses was prepared to lead the people out of Egypt, so Joshua was prepared to lead them into Canaan.

Joshua takes an unchallenged place among the great military leaders of the world, and would that all soldiers were like him (cf. Ex. 33:11; Josh. 5:13-15). As to the book itself, it is filled with encouragement, wisdom, instruction, and invigoration for the spiritual soldier, its counterparts in the New Testament being Acts and Ephesians. These two books declare and demonstrate the presence, power and possessions of the Christian in his living Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, while the book of Joshua typifies the spiritual warfare of the Christian, pulsating with the same divine truths.

Over and over again Joshua’s written record reveals the secret of the life that overcomes. The book abounds with action and aggression, disclosing the land to be possessed, conditions for successful operations, deadly enemies, the Jordan crossing, conflicts, conquest, and the division of the land — all being vitally significant and instructive to the mind of the Christian. It is filled with thrilling sights and sounds, the tramp of marching feet and the noise of trumpets, cries and clashes, the din and desolation of war, the sobs of the vanquished and the songs of the victors, revealing throughout God’s presence and His wonder-working power.

Commenting on the book of Joshua, W. Graham Scroggie has said: “This book goes on from where DEUTERONOMY leaves off; Joshua completes what Moses commenced. The great event in Moses’ life was the passage through the Red Sea, and the great event in Joshua’s life was the passage through the Jordan. The one tells of deliverance from bondage, and the other of entrance into blessing. Moses’ symbol was the rod, but Joshua’s was the spear. The connection between DEUTERONOMY and JOSHUA is instructive. In the one is a prospect, but in the other, an experience. In the one is the vision of faith, and in the other, the venture of faith. In the one is Israel’s inheritance, and in the other, Israel’s possession. In the one is the call to conflict, and in the other is the clash of conflict. In the one is faith in principle, and in the other, faith in action. In the one is the ideal to become actual, and in the other the ideal becomes actual. In the one is possibility, and in the other realization.”1


1. Introduction (1-2)

2. Entering the Land (3-5)

3. Conquering the Land (6-12)

4. Dividing the Land (13-22)

5. Joshua’s Farewell Address (23-24)

In his book entitled, Exploring the Scriptures, John Phillips outlines Joshua’s historical account under the following main headings:

1. Claiming the Land (1-5)

2. Conquering the Land (6-11)

3. Colonizing the Land (12-24)2

Notable Notes

The book of Joshua covers a period of some 25 years, occupying the approximate dates of 1451-1425 B.C. It is much more than a record of Israel’s conflicts in possessing the land of Canaan, thrilling as that history is. Robert Lee has pointed out that it has a fourfold message:

1. The primary message of the book is the faithfulness of God, being a divine classic on this theme (Josh. 23:14) .

2. The book has a definite design — “possessing the land.” It is most helpful to compare what the Letter to the Ephesians is to the Church and what the book of Joshua was to Israel. To enjoy God’s gifts we must appropriate them (Josh. 1:3; 1 Cor. 10:11).

3. Joshua’s written record shows God’s horror and hatred of sin. Israel’s campaign in Canaan was punitive. The inhabitants of the land were so sunken in sin, and so given up and over to sins and vices of the most awful description and nature, that God’s flaming sword of judgment and justice had to be unsheathed.

4. Israel’s military campaign typifies our spiritual conflict. The Canaanites represent our lusts, besetting sins and spiritual enemies, and in the record we discover the secret of being “more than conquerors.”3

In the fierce and bloody conflict involving the finest in military strategy, Joshua records the defeat of 31 kings and their tribes, but always in such a way as to remind Israel that their victories were not won by their own strength or power, but by “the Captain of the Lord’s hosts” (Josh. 5:15), who fought for them.

As to the punitive aspect of the book, Alvin E. Bell has said: “It is a fearful story of the extermination of nations whose sins had become a stench. Israel was God’s instrument for the punishment of the Canaanites, just as later the Assyrian and Roman were his tools in punishing the Jews for their apostasy.”4

One especially notable fact concerning the book of Joshua is its introduction to a new method of teaching. Up to this time God had spoken in dreams, visions, or by angelic ministry; now there is the Book of the Law written by Moses, and the Israelites were exhorted to hear and heed God’s voice in and through that book (see Josh. 1:8). This arrangement continues to this present hour, only the written record we have now is much larger than the one Joshua possessed, though just as authoritative. How much do we really value it?5

Destructive critics of the Bible have sought to link Joshua with the Pentateuch, but there is no convincing evidence to alter the conservative position and truth of the words: “And Joshua wrote these words” (Josh. 24:26).

If the second book in the Bible should be called Exodus, then this one should be called Eisodus.

The charge and challenge of Joshua 24:15 is sorely needed in the world today: “… as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

In the book of Joshua the LORD JESUS CHRIST is seen as “THE CAPTAIN OF THE LORD’S HOST” (5:14-15).

1 W. Graham Scroggie, Know Your Bible, pp. 50-51.

2 John Phillips, Exploring the Scriptures, p. 50.

3 Robert Lee, The Outlined Bible.

4 Alvin E. Bell, The Gist of the Bible, p. 25

5 Lee, op. cit.