New American Bible Revised Edition

* [1:2–9] The beginning of the Book of Joshua strongly emphasizes the credentials of Joshua as Moses’ worthy successor (vv. 2, 3, 4, 7; cf. v. 17; 3:7; 4:14; 5:15). The movement Joshua leads, whereby the Israelites take possession of the land of Canaan, is thus made continuous with the exodus from Egypt, even though (except for Joshua and Caleb) the generation that left Egypt under Moses’ leadership has died out (5:4, 6), and the people who will make the land of Canaan the land of Israel are a new generation. Thus the book is at pains to establish the continuity between exodus and conquest.

* [1:4] The frontiers are as follows: in the south the wilderness of Sinai, in the north the Lebanon range, in the east the Euphrates, and in the west the Great Sea, the Mediterranean. These boundaries are ideal rather than actual.

* [2:6] Stalks of flax spread out: to dry in the sun, after they had been soaked in water, according to the ancient process of preparing flax for linen-making. In the Near East the flax harvest occurs near the time of the feast of the Passover (4:19; 5:10); cf. Ex 9:31.

* [2:9–11] Rahab’s speech is Deuteronomic in content and style. Through her, the author expresses a theological conviction: the Lord, the God of Israel, is God above all gods; the formation of the people Israel and its success is the Lord’s doing; and all the rulers of the neighboring nations do well to panic at what the Lord is doing (cf. 5:1). Rahab the prostitute is pointedly mentioned in the Matthean genealogy of Jesus (Mt 1:5) and in Jas 2:25.

* [2:15] A house built into the city wall: the city wall formed the back wall of the house; remains of such houses have been found at ancient sites. The upper story of Rahab’s house was evidently higher than the city wall. It was through the window of such a house that St. Paul escaped from Damascus; cf. Acts 9:25; 2 Cor 11:33.

* [3:13] Heap: Heb. nēd, the same word found in Ex 15:8; the narrative echoes the ancient Song of Miriam (Ex 15:1–18), which celebrates the crossing of the Red Sea. Thus the language provides another parallel between Joshua and Moses, conquest and exodus.

* [3:15] Season of the harvest: toward the end of March and the beginning of April, when the barley and other crops that grew during the rainy season of winter were reaped. The crossing took place “on the tenth day of the first month” of the Hebrew year, which began with the first new moon after the spring equinox; cf. 4:19. At this time of the year the Jordan would be swollen as a result of the winter rains and the melting snow of Mount Hermon.

* [3:16] Some scholars have suggested that this account may reflect an annual ritual reenactment of the event near the sanctuary of Gilgal.

* [4:6] When your children ask you: reminiscent of the question and response at the Passover meal, Ex 12:26–27.

* [4:10–18] After the digression about the memorial stones, the author resumes the narrative by briefly repeating the story of the crossing, which had already been told in 3:14–17.

* [5:3] Gibeath-haaraloth: “Hill of the Foreskins.”

* [5:9] The place is called Gilgal: by popular etymology, because of the similarity of sound with the Hebrew word gallothi, “I have removed.” Gilgal probably means “circle,” i.e., the place of the circle of standing stones. Cf. 4:4–8.

* [5:10] The month: the first month of the year, later called Nisan; see note on 3:15. The crossing of the Jordan occurred, therefore, about the same time of the year as did the crossing of the Red Sea; cf. Ex 12–14.

* [5:13–6:26] The account of the siege of Jericho embraces: (1) the command of the Lord to Joshua (5:13–6:5); (2) Joshua’s instructions to the Israelites, with a brief summary of how these orders were carried out (6:6–11); (3) a description of the action on each of the first six days (6:12–14); (4) the events on the seventh day (6:15–26).

* [5:14] Commander: the leader of the heavenly army of the Lord of hosts is either the Lord or an angelic warrior; if the latter, he is a messenger who speaks in the person of the one who sent him. I have come: the solemn language of theophany; cf., e.g., Ps 50:3; 96:13.

* [6:18] Under the ban: doomed to destruction; see notes on Lv 27:28; Nm 18:14; 21:3.

* [6:20] The blowing of the horns and the shouting, features of the ritual procession with the ark of the covenant (cf. 1 Chr 15:28; 2 Chr 5:11–14), are the people’s counterpart of the Lord’s theophany; cf. note on Jgs 5:4–5; and Jgs 7:15–22; 2 Chr 13:15. The Lord gives the victory; this is the theological point of the story.

* [6:25] The genealogy of Jesus in Matthew (1:2–16) presents Rahab the prostitute as the wife of Salmon (1:5) and so the ancestor of David (Ru 4:18–22) and of Jesus.

* [6:26] At the cost of his firstborn…its gates: this curse was fulfilled when Hiel rebuilt Jericho as a fortified city during the reign of Ahab, king of Israel; cf. 1 Kgs 16:34.

* [7:11] Transgressed the covenant: the Hebrew word translated “transgressed” appears frequently in the first five chapters where it is used to describe how Israel “crossed” the Jordan River. There is a wordplay here to emphasize Israel’s responsibility to follow God to the promised land and so to obey and not transgress the divine command.

* [7:16–18] Was designated: probably by means of the Urim and Thummim; cf. 1 Sm 14:38–42. See note on Ex 28:30.

* [7:26] Achor: “misery,” or “disaster.” The reference is to the saying of Joshua in v. 25, with an allusion also to the similar-sounding name of Achan.

* [8:3] Thirty thousand warriors: this figure of the Hebrew text, which seems extremely high, may be due to a copyist’s error; some manuscripts of the Septuagint have “three thousand,” which is the number of the whole army in the first, unsuccessful attack (7:4); the variant reading in v. 12 mentions “five thousand.” More likely, the word for “thousand” here and in other military contexts may designate a squad or fighting unit, itself composed of significantly fewer warriors.

* [8:30–35] These ceremonies were prescribed in Dt 11:29 and 27:2–26.

* [9:7] The Hivites: apparently the Gibeonites belonged to this larger ethnic group (cf. also 11:19), although in 2 Sm 21:2 they are classed as Amorites; both groups are listed among the seven nations of Canaan whom, according to Dt 7:1–2, the Israelites were to dispossess.

* [9:21] Hewers of wood and drawers of water: proverbial terms for those who do menial work; cf. Dt 29:10–11.

* [9:26–27] Later on, Saul violated the immunity of the Gibeonites, but David vindicated it; cf. 2 Sm 21:1–9.

* [10:5] Hebron…Eglon: these four cities were to the south and southwest of Jerusalem.

* [10:11] Great stones from the heavens: the hailstones mentioned in the next sentence.

* [10:13] This is recorded: the reference is to the preceding poetic passage. Evidently the Book of Jashar, like the Book of the Wars of the Lord (Nm 21:14), recounted in epic style the exploits of Israel’s early heroes. The sun halted: lit., “the sun stood”; this obscure passage may suppose a longer than natural day caused when the sun stopped moving across the sky, or it may refer to the sun stopping its light-giving function, perhaps through an eclipse. In any case it was seen as a sign that God fought Israel’s battle (v. 42; cf. Ex 14:14).

* [10:41] Goshen: a town and its surrounding district at the southern end of the Judean mountains (cf. 11:16; 15:51); not to be confused with the land of Goshen in northeastern Egypt (Gn 45:10).

* [11:1–3] Hazor, Madon, Shimron, and Chinneroth: cities and their surrounding districts in eastern Galilee. Achshaph and Naphath-dor: southwest of Galilee. The mountain regions: in central and northern Galilee.

* [11:5] The waters of Merom: of uncertain identification, perhaps Tel Qarnei Hittin, about seven and a half kilometers west of modern Tiberias.

* [11:21–23] Most of the land assigned to the tribe of Judah was not conquered by it until the early period of the Judges. See note on Jgs 1:1–36.

* [11:23] The land had rest from war: later passages (15:13–17; 17:12–13) show individual tribes still fighting against the remaining Canaanites. This verse forms the conclusion to the first part of the book.

* [12:1–24] This chapter, inserted between the two principal parts of the book (chaps. 1–11 and 13–21), resembles the lists of conquered cities which are inscribed on monuments of Egyptian and Assyrian rulers. Perhaps this list was copied here from some such public Israelite record.

* [13:2] Geshur: not to be confused with the large Aramean district of the same name in Bashan (vv. 11–13; Dt 3:14); here it is a region to the south of the Philistine country, since vv. 2–5 list the unconquered lands along the coast from south to north; cf. also 1 Sm 27:8.

* [14:11] War…other tasks: lit., “to go forth and to come in,” i.e., to conduct military expeditions and to return after victory; cf. 1 Sm 18:16; 2 Sm 5:2.

* [15:2] Salt Sea: the Dead Sea. The “tongue,” a prominent feature of the landscape, is a spit of land thrusting into the Dead Sea from its eastern shore; it is now called by its Arabic name, ’el lisân, “tongue.”

* [15:4] Wadi of Egypt: the natural boundary between Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula.

* [15:8] The Valley of Ben-hinnom: the southern limit of Jerusalem. Ben-hinnom means “son of Hinnom.” The place was also called Valley of Hinnom, in Hebrew ge-hinnom, whence the word “Gehenna” is derived.

* [15:12] Great Sea: the Mediterranean.

* [15:17–19] The story of Othniel is told again in Jgs 1:13–15; cf. also Jgs 3:9–11.

* [15:20–62] This elaborate list of the cities of Judah was probably taken from a document made originally for administrative purposes; the cities are divided into four provincial districts, some of which have further subdivisions. For similar lists of the cities of Judah, cf. 19:2–7; 1 Chr 4:28–32; Neh 11:25–30. This list has suffered in transmission, so that the totals given in vv. 32 and 36 are not exact; many of the cities cannot be identified.

* [15:61] In the wilderness: in the Jordan rift near the Dead Sea.

* [16:1–17:18] After the boundaries and cities of Judah, the most important tribe, are given, the land of the next most important group, the two Joseph tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, is described, though it was separated from Judah by the territories of Benjamin (18:11–20) and Dan (19:40–48).

* [16:1–3] This line formed the southern boundary of Ephraim and the northern boundaries of Benjamin and of Dan.

* [16:5] The dividing line: separating Ephraim from Manasseh. Ephraim’s northern border (v. 5) is given in an east-to-west direction; its eastern border (vv. 6–7) in a north-to-south direction.

* [17:7] Manasseh bordered on Asher: only at the extreme northwestern section of Manasseh’s territory. The boundary given in the following sentences (vv. 7–10) is a more detailed description of the one already mentioned in 16:5–7, as separating Manasseh from Ephraim.

* [18:12–20] Benjamin’s northern boundary (vv. 12–13) corresponded to part of the southern boundary of Ephraim (16:1–2). Their western border (v. 14) was the eastern border of Dan (cf. 19:40–47). Their southern boundary (vv. 15–19) corresponded to part of the northern boundary of Judah (15:5–9).

* [19:10–16] Zebulun’s territory was in the central section of the Jezreel Valley and of southern Galilee; it was bounded on the south by Manasseh, on the southeast by Issachar, on the northeast and north by Naphtali, and on the west by Asher. The site of the later city of Nazareth was within its borders. Bethlehem of Zebulun was, of course, distinct from the city of the same name in Judah. Twelve cities: apparently seven of the names are missing from v. 15, unless some of the places mentioned in vv. 12–14 are to be included in the number.

* [19:17–23] Issachar’s land was on the eastern watershed of the Jezreel Valley, but also included the southeastern end of the Galilean mountains. It was surrounded by Manasseh on the south and east, by Naphtali on the north, and by Zebulun on the west. Jezreel (v. 18) dominated the valley to which it gave its name, the later form of which was Esdraelon.

* [19:24–31] Asher inherited the western slope of the Galilean hills as far as the Mediterranean, with Manasseh to the south, Zebulun and Naphtali to the east, and Phoenicia to the north.

* [19:32–39] Naphtali received eastern Galilee; Asher was to the west and Zebulun and Issachar were to the south, while the upper Jordan and Mount Hermon formed the eastern border. Part of the tribe of Dan later on occupied the northern extremity of Naphtali’s lands, at the sources of the Jordan (v. 47).

* [19:40–46] The original territory of Dan was a small enclave between Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and the Philistines.

* [19:47] Leshem: called Laish in Jgs 18, where the story of the migration of the Danites is told at greater length.

* [20:1–9] The laws concerning the cities of refuge are given in Nm 35:9–28; Dt 19:1–13; see notes on Nm 35:16–25; Dt 19:2.

* [21:1] The order to establish special cities for the Levites is given in Nm 35:1–8. The forty-eight cities listed here were hardly the exclusive possession of the Levites; at least the more important of them, such as Hebron, Shechem, and Ramoth in Gilead, were certainly peopled for the most part by the tribe in whose territory they were situated. But in all these cities the Levites had special property rights which they did not possess in other cities; cf. Lv 25:32–34.

* [22:11] In the region of the Jordan facing the land of Canaan: on the eastern side of the Jordan valley. The river itself formed the boundary between these eastern tribes and the rest of the tribes who lived in what was formerly Canaan—though the term “Canaan” could also be used of both sides of the Jordan valley (cf. v. 10). The Transjordan tribes naturally built their altar in their own territory.

* [22:12] To take military action against them: the western Israelites considered this altar, which seemed to violate the customary unity of the sanctuary (cf. Lv 17:1–9; Dt 12:4–14), as constituting rebellion against the Lord and compromising national unity.

* [22:19] Unclean: not sanctified by the tabernacle.

* [22:20] Achan…did not perish alone: his guilt caused the failure of the first attack on Ai (7:4–23); this fact is adduced as an argument for the solidarity and mutual responsibility of all the Israelites.

* [22:22] The Lord, the God of gods: the Hebrew, which cannot be adequately rendered in English here, adds to the divine name Yhwh (“the Lord”) two synonymous words for “God,” ’el and ’elohim. The repetition of these three sacred words adds force to the protestations of fidelity and innocence.

* [22:28] To witness: far from being destined to form a rival sanctuary, the copy of the altar is intended by the eastern tribes solely as a means of teaching their children to be faithful to the one true sanctuary beyond the Jordan.

* [22:34] The name of this altar was the Hebrew word for “witness,” ‘ed.

* [23:14] Going the way of all the earth: drawing near to death, the inevitable end of all; cf. 1 Kgs 2:1–2.

* [23:15] Every threat: mentioned especially in the list of curses in Dt 28:15–68.

* [24:2] Beyond the River: east of the Euphrates; cf. Gn 11:28–31.

* [24:12] The hornets: see note on Ex 23:28.

* [24:30] Following this verse the Greek translation of the Bible (the Septuagint) adds: “They laid with him there, in the tomb where they buried him, the flint knives with which he had circumcised the Israelites at Gilgal, when he brought them out of Egypt, as Yhwh commanded them. There they are to this very day.”

* [24:32] Joseph’s bones (Gn 50:24–26) and Jacob’s purchase of the burial ground (Gn 33:18–20) relate Joshua with Genesis. A hundred pieces of money: see note on Gn 33:19.

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Scripture texts, prefaces, introductions, footnotes and cross references used in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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