Lesson 5 of 5
In Progress

Theological Themes in Joshua

Covenant loyalty

The book of Joshua calls the Israelites, and later readers of the book, to covenant loyalty. The most powerful articulation of that call comes at the end of the book, in Joshua 24:15, “Choose this day whom you will serve….But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD”–though, a careful reading of the text makes clear that such choice takes effect only if Israel refuses to serve the Lord, who has already chosen them. Covenant loyalty entails the rejection of all other gods except the Lord (22:10-29; 23:1-16; 24:1-28).

Faithful leadership

The first verse of Joshua notes the death of Moses, the great leader of Israel. The people are not left bereft, however. God raises up a new leader, Joshua, who is a second Moses–faithful, strong, courageous, proclaiming the word of God to the people, and leading them to fulfill their covenant obligations (1:1-9, 16-18; 3:7; 5:1-15; 8:30-35; 23; 24).

God’s faithfulness

After forty years of wandering in the wilderness, after the death of the first generation of Israelites to be freed from slavery in Egypt, the people of Israel finally enter Canaan, the land promised to them by God since the time of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-9). God fulfills God’s promises. This is one of the central claims of the book of Joshua (Joshua 1:3-6; 21:43-45; 23:14).

God’s presence

The Israelites are successful in their battles because God is with them and fights for them (10:14). The ark of the covenant is a sign of the divine presence (3:10-11; 6:6; 8:33). At the very beginning of the book, God promises to be with Joshua just as God was with Moses (1:5, 9; 3:7); in the rest of the book, God keeps that promise.


God calls for obedience on the part of the people. They are told to march around Jericho in a manner no military commander would have devised; but when they obey, they are rewarded with victory (Joshua 6). On the other hand, when they disobey the Lord’s commands (as does Achan in chapter 7), God punishes them. Obedience brings blessing, and disobedience brings punishment (23:14-16).

Passing on the faith

Joshua, like Deuteronomy before it, emphasizes the need to pass on the faith to the next generation (see Deuteronomy 4:9-10; 6:4-9). The stones at Gilgal are to serve as a teaching tool for telling generations to come about the parting of the Jordan’s waters (4:5-7, 19-24; see also 8:35; 22:24-29).


Deuteronomy states that God chose Israel as the Lord’s people not because they were more numerous than any other people, but because God loved them (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). Joshua continues that theme. God promises to give the people the land in fulfillment of God’s promises to their ancestors, and not because of anything they have done themselves (Joshua 1:3; 24:13).