Book of Joshua
I'm beginning this verse by verse study outside the first five books of the Bible, the five books of Moses, which are to many of us very dry and repetitive (not to mention sometimes feeling removed from our lives as Christians). In addition to these issues I feel as though there are too many questions to do with cosmology and earth age which the creation narrative raises that are best answered outside of Genesis.
Even debate over the author of Genesis' use of the world “day” (or yom) is answered more thoroughly elsewhere. Reading Genesis can raise creation conundrums which are sometimes resolved within the material itself, like how light existed before the sun (for which I bring John 1 into focus). Yet even that takes us far afield of the first five books. For just one other creation conundrum. After an initial six days of God creating the author of Genesis explained (Gen 2:4):
“These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens,"
Young earth against old earth creationism (or the more important law versus grace) topic deserves to be the central focus of an altogether different study rather than being a peripheral fringe. So in my estimation it's better for the sake of a Bible study to begin elsewhere, having behind us the groundwork of the five books already being there to dip a toe into if the need should arise.
Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister, saying, ‘Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you, and all this people, to the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread on, that have I given to you, as I said to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon even to the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast.
There shall not any man be able to stand before you all the days of your life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with you: I will not fail you, nor forsake you. Be strong and of a good courage: for to this people shall you divide for an inheritance the land, which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be you strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded you: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; but you shall meditate therein day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success. Have not I commanded you? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be you dismayed: for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.’
So those were verses 1 through to verse 9, as we sometimes parse them in our modern translations. And it's a well done little section, being parsed just before Joshua goes out to issue commands to the captains of Israel, having this new authority given to him by God. And on many occasions in both the Old and the New testament we're taught about God commissioning people to do some great work. Moses, Job, Paul and even Christ in a sense at His baptism were each commissioned by the Father to various forms of ministry, though often reluctantly. Paul even wrote “I wasn't disobedient to the heavenly vision,” implying that he believed disobedience was an option.
Moses when first commissioned by God in the form of a burning bush insisted He choose somebody else because he had a kind of speech deficiency, “chevad peh,” which means to stammer in the French, according to the Jewish commentator Rashi (although the nature of Moses' speech isn't clarified in the Bible). Still if Joshua were to neglect this commissioning I imagine like in the case of Job God would have His way by some clever means. Sea storms, blinding lights, leprous arms and big fish are only a small sampling of the ways in which God gets His man (dead or alive in Job's case).
Returning again to verse one of chapter one. God is referred to as “the LORD,” at least according to many of our modern translations. That's done by the original copyists because they didn't want to risk sinning against God by writing His actual name (which some people refer to as the tetragrammaton). To add an extra layer of clarification, the tetragrammaton is not God's name, it's a name for God's name. The tetragrammaton simply means “cosisting of four”, meaning the four letters that make up God's actual name. A name He told Moses at the burning bush.
So whereas we have a name, and that's simply our name, God not only has a name, one which we don't say in vein, but also by way of our traditions God's name has a name. The Jews sometimes use the word Hashem in the Hebrew (which simply means “The name”). I'll be writing a lot more about this in the unabridged commentary. For people reading now who might think it strange to go through lengthy naming practises like this it's important to understand that God's given a command to honour His name. It's actually one of the ten commandments. This is to do with His holiness, His separateness from often wicked people. And more often than not being set at a distance from the God who describes Himself as “a consuming fire” happens for our own safety.
So again we have God commissioning Joshua. Encouraging him even. Why's Joshua needing encouragement? He's told multiple times to be strong and of good courage, both in the opener by God and towards the end by three of the twelve tribes. Christians sometimes assume Joshua must not have been a very courageous fella because he seems so in need of encouragement, coddling. Still that can't be right since he's already seen two wars against two kings and was one of the only brave spies who returned to Moses with a good report of the land. So while ten of the twelve spies dishearted the nation and whined to Moses about giant grapes and giant men Joshua wasn't bothered by either.
Now in verse two we have God telling Joshua to cross over the Jordon. The Jordon was going to be a show of Joshua's leadership to the nation in the same way that the red sea was an opportunity for God to impress Moses and his authority on the nation. The Jordon's got width but not much depth to it, supposedly being between three and five foot deep depending on the time of year and where you're crossing the river. When you think about if they'd been crossing at the three feet section that wouldn't have discomforted many of the men involved. Although at this time of the Jewish travels the river had already burst its banks, so the depth of the river was probably that of a man's height or higher.
Suddenly the Jordon's starting to look like a challenge, an obstacle. Just imagine if you had to cross the river with a wife, children and animals. We've all read those terrible stories about young people who've jumped into rivers to rescue the family dog. When people get into an awful situation like that the waters, which at a glance looked so shallow, feel deep. The waters are deeper and darker than they first expected and they're not so strong in the water as they first thought. I write that as a rubbish swimmer. I can swim from my childhood but remember distinctly hating it.
In verse three we have God saying that the nation have dominion up until certain places. Although the people have to first claim these lands by walking uponthem. They have a responsibility too. So the righteous Israelite has dominion over the land but he may not have possession of it. These places were occupied, and God's saying you need to take my promises by faith (and by foot). You need to walk over the inheritance. The Jewish nation didn't do this. The Jews didn't drive out several people groups who were in the land beforehand. The nation didn't travel so far as to the Euphrates.
Now David & King Solomon fought for the area roundabout the Euphrates (even making the people who occupied this territory give tribute to their kingdom). Meaning they claimed the promises. An important note here is that the nation of Jewish people don't have this land indefinitely. It's conditional, meaning:
1. “If you do X, then Y will happen.”
2. “But if you don't do that then this other thing will happen.”
So God's the landlord, and He's got a nation of tenants.
God is saying I'm handing this land over to you. These are the boundaries. If you don't treat this land and treat yourselves in the way I command I'll set the earth against you and you'll be driven out. And this happens more than once in the Old Testament. The Jewish nation had their lands taken away several times and were even carried off with their property into Babylon.
God teaches the land is vomiting out the previous inhabitance (and to you Israelites it can do likewise). His covenant (also known as a contract) is to be respected and honoured. We're tenants and not home owners, God has full right to evict wicked tenants. That's what the parable of the wicked tenants is all about. This is an eternal conditional promise. People sometimes think eternity takes unconditional along for the ride but that's not true.
Again in verse eight there's something very similar, “do not turn from it to the right or to the left”, only “then” will the people prosper. A nation's success is conditioned on its relationship with God. The Lord is saying you be faithful and He'll be successful.
In verse eight we see how although Joshua had a very public office he's still called to study God's commands diligently, in addition to his other duties. I can guess it's not in spite of our leadership roles that we study God's word perhaps more than others, but rather because of the role. We have all seen people pose as sincere Christians only for the sake of a temporary gain, like in the case of US presidential politics, though after they're sworn into power the decisions they make and the rhetoric they're producing is positively antichrist.
Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, Pass through the host, and command the people, saying, Prepare you victuals; for within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land, which the Lord your God giveth you to possess it.
And to the Reubenites, and to the Gadites, and to half the tribe of Manasseh, spake Joshua, saying, Remember the word which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, saying, The Lord your God hath given you rest, and hath given you this land. Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle, shall remain in the land which Moses gave you on this side Jordan; but ye shall pass before your brethren armed, all the mighty men of valour, and help them; Until the Lord have given your brethren rest, as he hath given you, and they also have possessed the land which the Lord your God giveth them: then ye shall return unto the land of your possession, and enjoy it, which Moses the Lord's servant gave you on this side Jordan toward the sunrising.
And they answered Joshua, saying, All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go. According as we hearkened unto Moses in all things, so will we hearken unto thee: only the Lord thy God be with thee, as he was with Moses. Whosoever he be that doth rebel against thy commandment, and will not hearken unto thy words in all that thou commandest him, he shall be put to death: only be strong and of a good courage.
In verses ten and onwards Joshua commands the captains of the nation, and since immediately afterwards the half tribe and two of the full tribes are approached by Joshua to talk about settling before they cross the Jordan, I suppose each tribe had captains of their very own, and every one set upon making their interests safe. Now in verse twelve we read how Joshua reinstituted the word of the Lord as in the days of Moses, at least as it pertained to these groups and their wanting to settle. Again he's taking on him the authority.
The tribes reasoned that the land which they'd already claimed and had been given to them as a possession by God were a “land for cattle, and your servants have cattle:” (Numbers 32:4). Now although Joshua cites the authority of Moses while promising these tribes land before the Jordan crossing, Moses, and Joshua I'd suppose, were both distrustful of the motivation behind their request to settle in the land. Moses was adamant that this was another attempt at disheartening the nation and rejecting God's inheritance for them. The tribes used against Moses the fact that God had given them the land they won prior to the Jordon river crossing, they classed this as a kind of pre inheritance promise which they'd claim for themselves because the land was so suitable for their cattle.