About the Author
J. I. Packer (1926–2020) served as the Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology at Regent College. He authored numerous books, including the classic best seller Knowing God. Packer served as general editor for the English Standard Version Bible and as theological editor for the ESV Study Bible.
Dane C. Ortlund (PhD, Wheaton College) serves as senior pastor of Naperville Presbyterian Church in Naperville, Illinois. He is an editor for the Knowing the Bible series and the Short Studies in Biblical Theology series, and is the author of several books, including Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers. Dane lives with his wife, Stacey, and their five children in Naperville, Illinois.
Lane T. Dennis (PhD, Northwestern University) is CEO of Crossway, formerly called Good News Publishers. Before joining Good News Publishers in 1974, he served as a pastor in campus ministry at the University of Michigan (Sault Ste. Marie) and as the managing director of Verlag Grosse Freude in Switzerland. He is the author and/or editor of three books, including the Gold Medallion-award-winning book Letters of Francis A. Schaeffer, and he is the former chairman of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. Dennis has served as the chairman of the ESV (English Standard Version) Bible Translation Oversight Committee and as the executive editor of the ESV Study Bible. Lane and his wife, Ebeth, live in Wheaton, Illinois.
Read an Excerpt
An obscure, landless people invade a land with fortified cities, trained armies, and powerful kings? This is exactly what Israel did — with great success! — under Joshua's leadership. Joshua is a fascinating narrative, but it is not easy to read, and its significance for the Christian can be difficult to grasp. There are familiar lines in this book, including God's famous command to Joshua ("Be strong and courageous"; 1:9) and Joshua's covenantal vow ("As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD"; 24:15). While these verses have meaning for Christians today, as we will see later their immediate context is very different from our own: Joshua is the leader of a nation commanded by God to invade the ancient land of Canaan and kill all of its inhabitants. It can be difficult to understand why this kind of story is in the Bible — for the questions it raises and for the obscurity of its ancient history.
For many, the Bible presents enigmatic challenges, especially in the narrative portions of the Old Testament, like Joshua. Nevertheless, according to God's wisdom, this book is in the Bible and is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (see 2 Tim. 3:16). As we will see, Joshua is as marvelous as it is at first mysterious. Joshua will teach us about the unfailing promises of God springing from his unfailing faithfulness. It will teach us about the justice of God against sin and the great mercy of God toward sinners.
In fact, you might be surprised to learn that this is a book about heaven and hell, sin and salvation; it is about Jesus — and it is about you, the twenty-first-century reader. What Israel ultimately needs is something much greater than a plot of land on which to live. Joshua and the people will settle the land, but they will also die there because of sin's curse. What they need is a cross and a new creation. And while the story of Joshua doesn't get us all the way there, it makes us long for that eschatological reality. It makes us long with great expectation for this cross and for a city whose maker and builder is God, for a heavenly city, for a new creation in which everything is right and everything is at rest.
It will take some work to follow the Bible's lead in making these connections, but we will make them before we're done, and the journey will be worth it. As we read and study together, may we rejoice in a fuller vision of the kind of Savior Christ is, the kind of people Christ saves, and the kind of salvation Christ brings.
Placing It in the Larger Story
Central to the book of Joshua is God's promise of land. The very structure of the story makes this clear, as seen in the outline provided below. Though often in a more subtle fashion, this theme stretches from the first page of the Bible to the last. The promise of the land of Canaan has its origin in God's promise to Abraham (Gen. 12:1–3). God called Abraham from among the nations and gave him several promises, including land, a nation, and blessing to the rest of the nations through him. The story of Joshua develops each of these promises, but its focus and emphasis is clearly on God's promise of land.
Frequently in Joshua we'll see references to the promises given to Abraham and his offspring. And yet God's promise of land has a certain broader context. The land theme goes further back than Abraham. God made Adam in his image and placed him in Eden. Adam and his race were to multiply and fill the earth, exercising dominion over it. But that didn't happen. Instead, Adam turned from trusting God. As promised, God cursed Adam with death and sent the first human pair outside the garden. This is where the story of land begins. The entire salvation story of the Bible is a response to what happened in Eden. When God promised Abraham a place of blessing, he essentially promised him what was lost in the fall — a place for the enjoyment of God's presence, a return to Eden. This is why the land of promise is regularly referred to as "like the garden of Eden" (Gen. 13:10; Isa. 51:3; Ezek. 36:35; Joel 2:3).
Orbiting around the theme of land in Joshua are numerous other themes crucial to the Bible's salvation story:
In the land, God's people will experience rest.
The land is a gift from God promised to his people.
God's covenants with Abraham and Moses provide the context for the story of Israel inheriting the land.
Obedience is required for entrance into the blessing of the land, even as disobedience will lead to cursing and failure to take the land.
The Lord judges the Canaanite inhabitants in the land by means of his people.
The Lord fights for his people as the Divine Warrior to judge and drive out the inhabitants of the land.
The land is never fully obtained, evidencing a tension in the storyline leading us to Christ by showing our need for a new covenant with a fully obedient covenant mediator.
The book of Joshua is a story of salvation within the Bible's larger story of salvation through Christ, and each of these themes has a part to play in pulling the story along. Indeed, Jesus will come as a new Joshua to "save his people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21). Through the story of Joshua, God is advancing his promise to bless his people with rest in the land. He will do this through his man Joshua, as Joshua and the people entrust themselves to the Lord with full obedience to his Word.
"The Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there." (Josh. 21:43)
Date and Historical Background
The historical setting for the book of Joshua is given in the first line of the book: "After the death of Moses" (1:1). This time marker indicates the situation of God's people. Forty years had passed since the exodus, years spent wandering and waiting to cross the Jordan and inherit the land promised by God. Like a sequel to a movie, this book opens on the cusp of the rest of the story. As the first book written after the death of Moses, Joshua picks up and develops many of the themes established in the first five books of the Bible.
The author of Joshua is not specified. And while some have suggested Joshua as the author, the recurring phrase "to this day" (4:9; 5:9; 6:25; etc.) seems to indicate that the book was written later, or at least that an editor updated the book at a later date.
I. Crossing into the Land (1:1–5:15)
A. Joshua receives and gives his marching orders (1:1–18)
B. Joshua sends in the spies and receives good news (2:1–24)
C. Israel crosses the Jordan and God does wonders (3:1–4:24)
D. Israel renews the covenant and Joshua meets the Lord's commander (5:1–15)
II. Taking the Land (6:1–12:24)
A. Joshua takes Jericho, a paradigm for victory (6:1–27)
B. Achan sins and Israel falls at Ai, a paradigm for defeat (7:1–26)
C. Israel deals with Achan and takes Ai (8:1–35)
D. Israel covenants with some Gibeonites and thus Gentiles get in on salvation (9:1–27)
E. Joshua defends Gibeon and takes the south (10:1–43)
F. Joshua takes the north and the author takes an inventory of kings (11:1–12:24)
III. Dividing the Land (13:1–21:45)
A. Allotments for the eastern territories (13:1–33)
B. Allotments for the western territories (14:1–19:51)
C. Provision for justice and worship (20:1–21:45)
IV. Serving the Lord in the Land (22:1–24:33)
A. Joshua's parting speech to the eastern tribes (22:1–34)
B. Joshua's parting speech to Israel's leaders (23:1–16)
C. Joshua's parting speech to the nation (24:1–33)
As You Get Started
One way to get a sense of Joshua's message is to grasp its context. Read Deuteronomy 32:44–47. What was Israel to do and why? Next, read the first and last chapters of Joshua; write down the key words you expect to emerge time and again throughout the book.
Based on your current understanding, how are the themes of land and rest fulfilled in Jesus Christ? What significance do these themes have for the Christian?
From what you know so far about the book of Joshua, what excites you? What confuses you? What questions do you hope to answer through this study?
As You Finish This Unit ...
Take a few minutes to ask for God's help to grasp the story and significance of the book of Joshua, with all of its promises and commands. Ask for a clearer vision of the kind of Savior Christ is, the kind of people Christ saves, and the kind of salvation Christ brings.
1 Eschatology – Study of the end times as described in the Bible. Includes such topics as the return of Christ, the period of tribulation, the resurrection and judgment of all people, and the millennial reign of Christ on earth.
2 Covenant – A binding agreement between two parties, typically involving a formal statement of their relationship, a list of stipulations and obligations for both parties, a list of witnesses to the agreement, and a list of curses for unfaithfulness and blessings for faithfulness to the agreement. The OT is more properly understood as the old covenant, meaning the agreement established between God and his people prior to the coming of Jesus Christ and the establishment of the new covenant (NT).CHAPTER 2
An Old Promise, A New Leader
The Place of the Passage
The first chapter of Joshua establishes the setting and agenda for the book. This chapter has been compared to the pistol shot at the beginning of a race, with all the action in the rest of the book starting from the people, commands, and promises introduced in this chapter. Of course, this chapter doesn't begin in isolation from the rest of the Bible's story. As we've considered, the book of Joshua is like the opening scene in a movie sequel. Here the characters and themes from the Pentateuch are carried forward. At the end of the Pentateuch, Moses died. This is where Joshua 1 begins.
The Big Picture
With Moses departed, the Lord commissions Joshua to lead his people into the land with courage and obedience to Moses' law — a daunting but achievable task, given the certainty of God's promises and presence.
Reflection and Discussion
Read through Joshua 1:1–18, then engage this section of Scripture with the questions below. (For further background, see the ESV Study Bible, pages 394–395; available online at www.esvbible.org.)
1. God's Marching Orders for Joshua (1:1–9)
The first nine verses introduce a number of characters. Read these verses and write down the name of each character or group represented, along with what we learn about them. For background on Moses, read Deuteronomy 34.
Because of his sin against God (Numbers 20), Moses was not allowed to lead his people into the land. Now that Moses has died, God leads his people through Joshua. In a sentence, what is God commanding Joshua to do? What verse expresses the key to Joshua's success?
Joshua receives an order, and we have every reason to hear it as a difficult charge. How many times does God command Joshua, "Be strong and courageous"? What was there to fear? (See Numbers 13 for context.)
Joshua had good reasons to be afraid, but God gave him better reasons to be courageous. List the reasons God gave Joshua to be "strong and courageous." What is the main reason?
Having spent some time in the passage, we can't escape the presence of Moses. There are important points of continuity between God's dealing with his people under Joshua and under Moses. What assurances does this afford Joshua?
2. Joshua's Marching Orders for the Nation (1:10–18)
The people of Israel would have been waiting their whole lives, quite literally, for this moment. What emotions do you think they experienced when Joshua's men gave the orders to begin preparations?
This chapter is specifically structured to communicate a certain logic about how God leads his people. How does God speak to and lead his people?
Throughout the book we'll encounter many easy-to-forget people. In 1:12, however, we meet a set of three tribes: "the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh." Understanding their backstory will help us understand parts of this book. Read Numbers 32 and write down the reason these people have made a home east of the Jordan.
In Joshua's speech he uses an important word to interpret God's gift of land. What word does he use, and what do you suppose this means?
In light of the Bible's story to this point, what is surprising about the people's response in Joshua 1:16–18? For a comparison, read Numbers 14:36–38 for a summary of how the previous generation responded to the same task.
The chapter ends with another command to Joshua to "be strong and courageous" (Josh. 1:18), this time from the lips of the people. Courage is possible because of God's promise: "I will not leave you or forsake you" (1:5). How does Hebrews 13:5–6 apply this promise to Christians?
Excerpted from "Knowing the Bible: Joshua, A 12-Week Study"
Copyright © 2016 Crossway.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
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Table of Contents
Series Preface J. I. Packer Lane T. Dennis 6
Week 1 Overview 7
Week 2 An Old Promise, a New Leader (1:1-18) 13
Week 3 Sending in the Spies, Finding a Surprise (2:1-24) 21
Week 4 Crossing the Jordan, Getting Right with God (3:1-5:15) 29
Week 5 A Foolish Plan, a Decisive Outcome (6:1-27) 37
Week 6 Two Piles of Stones, One Crucial Lesson (7:1-8:35) 45
Week 7 Taking More Land, Hanging More Kings (9:1-12:24) 53
Week 8 Putting Down Roots, Receiving God's Inheritance (13:1-19:51) 61
Week 9 Cities for Justice, People for Worship (20:1-21:45) 69
Week 10 An Altar of Remembrance, an Unforgettable Altercation (22:1-34) 75
Week 11 Joshua Dies in the Land, the Promise of Rest Lives On (23:1-24:33) 83
Week 12 Summary and Conclusion 91
What People are Saying About This
“This Knowing the Bible series is a tremendous resource for those wanting to study and teach the Bible with an understanding of how the gospel is woven throughout Scripture. Here are Gospel-minded pastors and scholars doing Gospel business from all the scriptures—this is a biblical and theological feast preparing God’s people to apply the entire Bible to all of life with heart and mind wholly committed to Christ’s priorities.”
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