James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister, saying,Joshua 1:1-2:24
JOSHUA IN COMMAND
This book might have for a secondary name, The Book of Conquest and Division, with reference to the events it records. The marginal chronology indicates that it covered a period of about twenty-five years, but we have seen that this chronology is not part of the inspired text, and is not to be taken as absolute authority. It is safer to say that we do not know how long a period may have been covered by these events. According to Martin Anstey’s “The Romance of Chronology,” seven years elapsed from the entry into Canaan to the division of the land.
The book is a record of a military campaign, and criticisms of it from that point of view have placed Joshua in the first rank of military leaders.
THE CALL OF JOSHUA (Joshua 1:1-9)
Here note that “the Lord spake unto Joshua” (Joshua 1:1), just how we do not know, but as He may have spoken unto Moses out of the cloud of glory, or by Urim and Thummin (Numbers 27:21).
Note also the renewal of the promise of the land which had been given to Moses and to Abraham (Joshua 1:2-4), and with this a reassurance of the divine support to Joshua as it had been with his predecessor.
Observe the reference to the Hittites. They were the dominant nation of Canaan and rivals of Egypt, and to merely human eyes it seemed preposterous that Israel could dispossess them, but, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Notwithstanding the greatness of the Hittites secular history has known nothing about them until recently, and archaeological discoveries revealing their record have been one of the triumphs of the past century and one of the strongest evidences to the historicity of the Old Testament.
Only one condition is required of Joshua for the fulfillment of these promises strength and courage. But this strength and courage is not physical, but the moral quality found in obedience to God. And even this is narrowed to one thing the observance of the written law, knowledge of and meditation upon which will produce this virtue within him (Joshua 1:6-9). Thus God provides our requirements and rewards us for exercising them!
THE PREPARATION OF THE PEOPLE (Joshua 1:10-18)
The victuals in Joshua 1:11 could scarcely have been the manna, which would have spoiled in the keeping, but the corn, cattle, etc., which may have been gotten in the enemies’ country through which they had passed.
The reference to the two and a half tribes (Joshua 1:12-16) recalls their wish to Moses and his consent that they might locate east of the Jordan for the sake of their flocks; provided, that leaving their families for the time being, the men of war should cross the river and aid in the conquest of the land (Numbers 32:1-42).
The point that strikes one here is the relation of faith and works in the execution of God’s plans by His people. Why should these tribes be required to cross the Jordan since in one sense they were not necessary? Could not God have conquered Canaan without them? But God does not work miracles unnecessarily, and what man himself can do, consistently with the divine glory, he is obligated to do, a principle which has a wide sphere of application.
THE RECONNOITERING OF JERICHO (Joshua 2)
We cannot pass by Rahab’s falsehood (Joshua 2:1-7), which we must not suppose God endorsed, notwithstanding the commendations she received in Hebrews 11:31 and Jam 2:25. It is her faith that is spoken of in those instances, but God was no more pleased with her lie than her unchastity. Lying is a common vice among the heathen, and Rahab probably had no consciousness of its moral guilt.
Rahab’s faith was very simple (Joshua 2:8-14). Like the heathen round about, she believed that each nation had its own god, and that some gods were stronger than others. The god of the Hebrews seemed the strongest of all, for she had heard what He had done for them (Joshua 2:10). Her city could not stand before such a God and hence she surrendered at once. The other inhabitants of Jericho from the king down had the same evidence as she, but did not act on it. In other words she had faith and they had not. There was fear mingled with her faith, and ignorance, and superstition, and selfishness, but God overlooked these things.
In the same way we are not expected to have a perfectly intelligent faith in our Lord Jesus Christ before we can be saved, nor must we know the whole Bible, or be able to explain its great mysteries. Do we apprehend our danger, and are we disposed to fly to the refuge He offers, that is all.
Every Christian is impressed with the symbolism of the red cord in the window (Joshua 2:15-22). It forces itself upon us in the light of all the Bible teaches about the blood of Jesus Christ and the token of our salvation from the more awful destruction than that awaiting Jericho. It was Rahab’s sign of the covenant the men had made with her. It was her mark of identification as one to be saved in the day of calamity. And it was that which her deliverers required as the condition of the fulfillment of their pledge. The story affords many points of resemblance to that of our redemption through Christ, and will repay a study as a basis for a Bible reading or address.
1. Give a secondary name to this book.
2. How has Joshua been estimated?
3. What can you say about the Hittites?
4. What gives moral courage to men?
5. Give an illustration of how God uses second causes.
6. Does God commend men for bad deeds?
7. Describe the nature of Rahab’s faith?