Like Moses, Joshua was born and brought up in Egypt. He became Moses’ chief assistant on the journey from Egypt to Canaan and, when Moses died, became Israel’s new leader and led the people into Canaan. The name Joshua means ‘Yahweh (Jehovah) saves’. Translated via the Aramaic into Greek, the name becomes ‘Jesus’.

Assistant to Moses

Joshua’s leadership qualities became evident soon after the Israelites left Egypt. When some raiding Amalekites attacked the Israelite procession, Moses hurriedly appointed Joshua to form and command a fighting force. Through courage and prayer, Israel won its first battle (Exod 17:8-14). As Moses’ chief assistant, Joshua kept watch when Moses entered God’s presence on Mt Sinai (Exod 24:13) and when Moses spoke face to face with God in his tent (Exod 33:11). Joshua was so loyal to Moses that he wanted Moses to silence two men who prophesied, lest people listen to them and ignore Moses (Num 11:26-29). When Moses sent representatives from the twelve tribes to spy out Canaan, Joshua was the representative from the tribe of Ephraim. Only he and Caleb, the representative from the tribe of Judah, believed that God could give Israel victory over the Canaanites. The people chose to accept the report of the ten unbelieving spies and tried to kill Joshua and Caleb. God announced that Israel would therefore remain in the wilderness for the next forty years, till all those currently over twenty years of age (except Joshua and Caleb) had died, and a new generation had grown up (Num 13:1-16; 14:6-10; 14:26-30).

Conqueror of Canaan

Forty years later, when the new generation was ready to enter Canaan, Moses appointed Joshua as his divinely chosen successor (Num 27:18-22; Deut 31:14; 34:9). Joshua would direct the conquest of Canaan and, with Eleazar the high priest, oversee the division of the land among Israel’s tribes (Num 34:17; Deut 1:38; 3:28; 31:23). After Moses’ death, God gave Joshua special encouragement for the tasks ahead (Josh 1:5-9). Joshua’s proven faith, combined with his long experience as an administrator and army general, enabled him to carry out the work entrusted to him.

He organized the people and sought out information for the advance into Canaan (Josh 1:10-11; 2:1); he ensured that people and priests carried out the rituals God required of them (Josh 3:7-13; 5:2-3); and he submitted totally to God’s directions (Josh 5:13-15). The book of Joshua records how Israel crossed the Jordan River, conquered Canaan and divided the land among its tribes (see JOSHUA, BOOK OF). The entire operation for the conquest and division of Canaan showed Joshua’s courage, faith, obedience and honesty (Josh 6:15-16; Heb 11:30). When he found wilful disobedience among the people, he dealt promptly with the guilty person (Josh 7:10-12,16,25). Victory followed, whereupon Joshua led the Israelites to Shechem, where they renewed their promise of obedience to God and his covenant demands (Josh 8:30-35). Joshua then attacked to the south, but the people of Gibeon saved themselves by tricking the Israelites into making a peace treaty with them. The reason for the Israelites’ mistake was their failure to ask God’s direction; but, having made an agreement, they kept it (Josh 9:14-19). The outcome was that soon they had to defend the Gibeonites against an attack by hostile neighbours, but in doing so they experienced miraculous exhibitions of God’s power (Josh 10:1-14). From this victory Joshua went on to conquer all southern Canaan (Josh 10:28-43), and then northern Canaan (Josh 11:1-15).

A godly administrator

After the conquest of Canaan, the Israelite tribes settled in their respective areas (Josh 14:1). But Joshua had constantly to remind the individual tribes to drive out the Canaanites from the scattered areas they still occupied (Josh 13:1; 17:16-18; 18:3). Joshua himself settled in a district that he had chosen, by God’s permission, within the territory of his own tribe, Ephraim (Josh 19:49-50). Nothing is recorded of Joshua’s life till the occasion of his address to the nation just before his death (Josh 23:1). The people followed God throughout Joshua’s time and the time of those he had trained, showing that he was as strong and godly a leader in civilian affairs as he had been in military affairs (Josh 24:31). In his final address he warned of the dangers of idolatry and challenged the people to maintain their faithfulness to God (Josh 24:14-15). He died at 110 years of age and was buried on his home property (Josh 24:29-30).

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