Summary of Joshua
Joshua is the story of the Israelites’ entry into Canaan (the promised land) after forty years of wandering in the wilderness. Led by Joshua, the successor to Moses, the Israelites conquer the Canaanites and then redistribute the land to the twelve tribes of Israel. The book ends with a covenant renewal ceremony, in which both Joshua and the Israelites declare, “We will serve the LORD” (JoshuaThe successor of Moses, Joshua led the Israelites into Canaan More 24:21).
The book of Joshua tells of God’s fulfillment of God’s promises, the promises to AbrahamGod promised that Abraham would become the father of a great nation, receive a land, and bring blessing to all nations. More in Genesis 12 that he will be blessed with many descendants and with the land of Canaan. Abraham, IsaacSon born to Abraham and Sarah in fulfillment of God’s promise More, and JacobThe son of Isaac and Rebekah, renamed Israel, became the father of the twelve tribal families More never see the fulfillment of those promises, and their descendants become slaves in Egypt. God frees them from that slavery, but the end of the PentateuchThe Pentateuch is a Christian term the first five books of the Old Testament. These books contain stories of Israel’s early history, God’s covenants, and many laws such as the Ten Commandments). More finds the Israelites still in the wilderness, outside the land of promise. The book of Joshua, then, is the fulfillment of centuries of longing and waiting on the part of Israel. As such, it is a witness to God’s faithfulness to God’s people, both then and now.
WHERE DO I FIND IT?
Joshua is the sixth book of the Bible. Following the five books of the Pentateuch, Joshua begins the story of Israel’s life in the land of Canaan.
WHO WROTE IT?
Joshua is part of a larger literary work called by scholars the “Deuteronomistic History” (Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings). This work has a unified theological outlook and tells the story of Israel from the time of Moses to the time of the Babylonian exile. The composition of the whole work is attributed to the “Deuteronomist,” an individual or group of individuals who used the laws and stories of Deuteronomy as the basis of their theology. Many scholars argue for the existence of at least two Deuteronomists, the first writing during the reign of King JosiahJudean king noted for his reforms of Israel’s worship in the time of Jeremiah More in the last half of the seventh century B.C.E. and the second writing and revising during the Babylonian exile of the sixth century B.C.E.
WHEN WAS IT WRITTEN?
It is generally agreed by scholars that Joshua reached its final form during the Babylonian exile in the sixth century B.C.E., though the book obviously contains older material. The many occurrences of the phrase “to this day,” to refer to structures or practices existing in preexilic Israel, would argue that some “edition” of the book was completed prior to the exile (see 4:9; 5:9; 7:26; 8:28-29; 9:27; 13:13; 14:14; 15:63; 16:10). The use of the phrase would also imply that the author is writing for an audience living well after the time of Joshua. Many scholars place this first “edition” of Joshua in the reign of King Josiah, in the last half of the seventh century B.C.E.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
The book of Joshua tells the story of Israel’s entry into Canaan after forty years in the wilderness: their conquering of the land and its inhabitants; the redistribution of the land to the twelve tribes; and the renewal of the covenantA covenant is a promise or agreement. In the Bible the promises made between God and God’s people are known as covenants; they state or imply a relationship of commitment and obedience. More between the Lord and Israel.
HOW DO I READ IT?
Joshua is the first book of what scholars call the Deuteronomistic HistoryDeuteronomistic history refers to the narrative contained in the books of Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings. This narrative, probably written in the age of Israel’s exile (mid-6th century B.C.E.), recounts Israel’s history prior to the exile. More (Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 SamuelThe judge who anointed the first two kings of Israel More, and 1 and 2 Kings), which tells the story of Israel from the death of MosesProphet who led Israel out of Egypt to the Promised Land and received the law at Sinai More to the time of the Babylonian exile. Despite its name, the Deuteronomistic History should not be read in the same way one reads modern history books. The biblical books do certainly contain historical accounts, but they also contain many other types of literary work: songs, liturgies, confessions, folktales, hero legends, administrative lists, etc. You should read Joshua, knowing that its primary concern is not with historical dates and events, but with telling the story of how God fulfills God’s promises, both to Joshua’s generation and to each subsequent generation of the book’s readers.