Series: Best Book In the BibleEvery Christian knows the importance of reading their Bible, but many are overwhelmed with the task of devouring such a monstrous book! Often times, when Christians lose steam in their yearly reading plans, they can become frustrated and feel defeated. It is for this reason that individual book studies can be a lifesaver. In the Best Book in the Bible series, we will provide entry points into faithful study through “selling” you on why you should fall in love with the various books of the Bible.
Everyone loves to read about heroes. Too often in the Bible, however, we find ourselves reading about heartache due to the sinfulness of mankind. But God always has His servants, whether they are a great military leader like Joshua, or an unlikely seeker like Rahab. The story of Joshua follows Israel through a period of conquest and victory. For many, Joshua is the best book in the Bible.
Main themes: God’s Victory Through Israel
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Josh. 1:9)
“Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.” (Josh. 21:45)
“…choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Josh. 24:15)
Israel is about to cross over into the Promised Land and take it by force. Moses has died, and his successor, Joshua, is taking his place as national leader. This book chronicles their early years of conquest.
1:1—5:15. The opening chapters witness the torch being passed to Joshua and the reconnaissance mission of the Israeli spies in cohort with Rahab (2:1-24). In chapter 3, we see Israel miraculously crossing the Jordan River and then commemorating the crossing with stone monuments (ch. 4). Before the armies are to fight, all the males who have not yet been circumcised do so in obedience to the commands of God in Genesis 17.
6:1—12:24. These chapters cover Israel’s military victories to take over the land promised to them. The glorious account of Joshua leading Israel to victory against the city of Jericho is recorded in chapter 6. There is a sad note in chapter 7, as we see how the sin of Achan cripples the nation. In this, we see the seriousness of sin. By chapter 11, we see the conquest of the northern portion of Canaan. It becomes very apparent that their victories are due to the power of God, and not the strength of their army.
13:1—24:33. The last section of the book covers the dividing of the land between the twelve tribes of Israel. In essence, this is Israel’s inheritance. While the reader may be tempted to skim these chapters, it’s important to take note, as this will be the land that will be contested for the next 35 centuries. Further, when things heat up in the coming years, it’s important to remember what God had intended for the tribes. Take note of the fact that the tribe of Levi receives no land inheritance, but is given several cities, as well as a tenth of all of Israel’s wealth. The end of Joshua 24 makes note of his solemn promise to serve the Lord, he and all his house (24:15).
What Makes This Book So Great:
This is a hero’s narrative, but the main hero—despite Joshua and Caleb’s integrity and bravery—is actually God. A popular contention we hear these days is: “How is it fair or just that a big, huge Israeli army plow through Palestine and wipe out whole nations?!” Well, a look at Joshua helps this out. Joshua 21:43-45 summarizes God’s faithful plan for Israel, stating, “So the Lord gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they possessed it and lived in it… Not one of the good promises which the Lord made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.” It was the Lord’s prerogative to give the land to the people. And He enabled them to fight and win victories. When you consider the absolute wickedness and brutality of the Canaanite religion (forced prostitution, infant sacrifice, religious syncretism, etc.), the goodness of God shines even brighter. For the first time in centuries, God’s righteous rule will come to this pagan land. And if they obey Him, peace will reign.
The book of Joshua teaches the Christian about the blessings of obedience, as well as the disastrous effects of sin. A closer examination of the story of Achan (ch. 7) reveals the sad reality of spiritual contamination through sin and how it thwarts even the best efforts. Yes, Joshua is not only history, but also serves as Christian allegory, mirroring our own lives of victory and struggle. In every case, it is apparent that God is our divine warrior, who strives with believers, and promises to remain with them wherever they go.
It is helpful to break the reading up into manageable sections, but take special note of certain towering events. When you get to Rahab, the crossing of the Jordan, the walls of Jericho, the sin of Achan, etc., slow down and work to visualize the events themselves. This will help solidify them in your mind for future pondering. With regards to Joshua and Caleb, study them out and note their character and obedience. What of their faith can you imitate for the sake of godliness? Lastly, examine the heartbreaking story of Achan. Apply it. Is there sin in your own camp that will ruin you unless it is confronted? Greater men and women have fallen by seemingly small sins; we would do well to examine ourselves with trembling.
- John J. Davis & John Whitcomb, Israel from Conquest to Exile: A Commentary on Joshua – 2 Kings. B&H, 1994.
This is a great commentary on these historical books.
- Dale Ralph Davis, Joshua: No Falling Words. Christian Focus, 2006.
A helpful, readable commentary by a capable scholar.
- Marten H. Woudstra. The Book of Joshua (NICOT). Eerdmans, 1981.
One of the best scholarly commentaries in print.
Note: Find the rest of the Best Book in the Bible series here: EntreatingFavor.com/BestBookSeries