Enduring Word Bible Commentary Joshua Chapter 1 (2024)

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Joshua 1 – God’s Commission to Joshua

A. The historical setting of the book of Joshua.

1. God made a covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), which was passed on to Isaac, Jacob, and the 12 sons of Jacob (Israel).

a. The covenant God made with Abraham and his covenant descendants promised them a land, a nation, and a blessing that would extend to all nations.

b. In the time of Jacob (Israel) and his sons, the family moved to Egypt. They were first received as honored guests but eventually became slaves in Egypt.

2. After approximately 400 years, Israel was delivered from their slavery in Egypt. Led by Moses, the people of Israel left Egypt and came to Mount Sinai, where Israel received God’s covenant.

a. Israel’s deliverance from Egypt became the central act of redemption in the Old Testament. God often reminded Israel that He had delivered them from Egypt’s bondage, and the feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Tabernacles were instituted to remind Israel of God’s deliverance.

b. The exodus and everything associated with it were real historical events, but their meaning is greater than mere past events. God spoke through history to give an example of the greater deliverance of His people from the bondage of sin through the new covenant, a better covenant (1 Corinthians 10:6, 11).

c. The covenant God made with Israel at Sinai included His law, the system of sacrifice, and the choice of blessing or cursing for Israel.

3. After a year at Mount Sinai, God offered Israel the opportunity to enter Canaan by faith, trusting in Him to conquer the people of Canaan.

a. At Kadesh Barnea, Israel failed to take the opportunity by faith, refusing to enter the land God promised them, and declaring their desire to return to Egypt.

b. Because of their unbelief and rebellion, God decreed that Israel would remain in the wilderness for another 38 years, until the generation of unbelief died, and a new generation was willing to take Canaan by faith.

c. God miraculously sustained Israel in the wilderness until a new generation was ready to trust God’s promise for Canaan. The book of Joshua is the story of the generation of faith taking the Promised Land.

d. Therefore, the land of Canaan was a real place that the people of God conquered and possessed under the leadership of Joshua. In a spiritual sense, Canaan also represents the destination God intends for His people, a place of promised rest. This is not a representation of heaven, but a place of rest and security that may be enjoyed by every believer under the new covenant. This is the promise of rest of Hebrew 4:1, the rest that remains for the people of God (Hebrews 4:9) that Joshua pointed to but did not completely fulfill (Hebrews 4:8).

i. Canaan “is a far better emblem of that state and condition of soul in which a man is found when he has become a believer, and by believing has entered into rest, but not into an absolutely perfect deliverance from sin.” (Spurgeon)

ii. In this sense, the book of Joshua relates to the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians in the New Testament. Ephesians describes a spiritual walk of promise, wealth, and security for the believer in Jesus Christ. The book of Joshua is the story of God’s material provision in fulfillment of His promise to Israel in the land of Canaan.

iii. Even as Mount Sinai (the place the law was given) or the wilderness were not the intended destinations for Israel under the old covenant, so the law is not God’s intended destination for His people under the new covenant. The abundant life God intends for His people is not found by focusing on the law but on the promise fulfilled in Jesus, whom Joshua points to.

iv. The Hebrew name Joshua translates as “Jesus” in the Greek language of New Testament times. Joshua is an enduring picture or type of Jesus, leading God’s people into the fulfillment of God’s promises. Whatever Israel received in the Promised Land, they received through the hand of Joshua; whatever believers receive from God in the new covenant is received through Jesus Christ, our Joshua.

B. God commissions Joshua’s work.

1. (1) After the passing of Moses, God speaks to Joshua.

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’ assistant, saying:

a. After the death of Moses: Moses was the great servant of the LORD and leader of Israel. His death is recorded in Deuteronomy 34. As great as Moses was, he would never lead the people of God into the land of promise.

i. “No man is indispensable. God’s work goes on uninterrupted. The instruments are changed, but the Master-hand is the same, and lays one tool aside and takes another out of the tool-chest as He will.” (Maclaren)

ii. Moses the servant of the LORD: The phrase servant of the LORD is used of Moses at least 12 times in Joshua; it is used of Joshua himself only once, at the end of the book (Joshua 24:29). Abraham and David also received this honored title.

b. The LORD spoke to Joshua: Joshua – who was not a young man at this time – had spent his entire career previously as the assistant of Moses. Joshua found that now it was his time to lead, but only after God had prepared him.

i. Joshua was the leader of the group of 12 spies sent to Canaan before Israel’s opportunity to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 13:4-16). The Numbers 13 passage explains that Joshua was originally named Hoshea (salvation) but Moses changed his name to Joshua (Yahweh is salvation). Among those 12 spies, only Caleb and Joshua returned from Canaan with a faith-filled report, confident God would empower Israel to overcome the challenges in the conquest of Canaan. Because of their faithfulness, Joshua and Caleb were the only adult Israelites of the generation that left Egypt to survive the wilderness years and enter Canaan (Numbers 14:30). Some 38 years before the events of Joshua 1, Joshua believed God would work through Israel to give them the land, and he still believed it. Moses was not allowed to lead Israel into the Promised Land because of his disobedience (Numbers 27:12-14).

ii. “Joshua’s name usually is given in the Hebrew Bible as ‘Yehoshua,’ which means ‘Yahweh saves/delivers.’ His name is rendered in the Greek traditions (LXX) as Iesous, which is the same form as Jesus’ name in the New Testament. His original name was ‘Hoshea,’ which means ‘salvation’ or ‘deliverance’ (Numbers 13:8 and Deuteronomy 32:44). Numbers 13:16 explains that Moses himself gave Hoshea his new name ‘Joshua.’” (Howard)

iii. “The Conqueror of Canaan and the Redeemer of the world bear the same name. The Jesus whom we trust was a Joshua.” (Maclaren)

c. Moses’ assistant: At God’s command, Moses had already formally recognized Joshua as his successor to lead Israel (Numbers 27:18-23). Though Joshua was not of noble birth or a literal son of Moses, there were many things that qualified him to be the successor of Moses.

· Joshua had led the army of Israel against the Amalekites (Exodus 17:8-16).

· Joshua was an assistant to Moses (Exodus 24:13).

· Joshua helped Moses at the tabernacle after the golden calf disaster (Exodus 33:7-11).

· Joshua was zealous to preserve the authority and leadership of Moses (Numbers 11:28).

· Joshua was one of the two faith-filled spies among the total of twelve who spied out the land of Canaan (Numbers 13:30-14:38).

· Joshua was a “man in whom is the Spirit” (Numbers 27:18), the most important qualification of all. The Holy Spirit would empower and enable him to fulfill the challenging role of leading the nation into Canaan.

i. God used the consistent, demonstrated faithfulness of Joshua in many small things to prepare him for this essential role of leading Israel into Canaan; land with strong enemies reluctant to leave their land.

ii. “Joshua was a soldier. He was a brilliant soldier, one of the most extraordinary military commanders of all time. But he was not an exciting person, as far as we can tell. He was probably just a bit of a plugger, a rather straightforward man who was chiefly concerned with carrying out his divine commission to the letter. He had no great sins and made very few mistakes. In short, he was not the kind of person who would make a good hero for a novel. Yet Joshua was eminently God’s man.” (Boice)

2. (2-3) God’s promise of land to Joshua and all Israel.

“Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses.

a. Moses My servant is dead: God recognized the transition of leadership from Moses to Joshua. Moses had been appropriately mourned (Deuteronomy 34:8); now it was time to look ahead at the new work God would do through Israel’s new leader.

i. God’s “instruments are men, and high indeed is the honour of being such. Each will take up a work already begun, and will leave it unfinished. Each is a debtor to those who have gone before, and creditor to those who are to follow. Therefore it behoves us to be filled with humility and restfulness.” (Morgan)

ii. “Is it not strange that at the death of Moses utter despair had not overwhelmed the whole camp, as he whom they expected to give them rest had died before any conquest was made in Canaan? We find, however, that they are not discouraged; he who gave them Moses, has now given them Joshua in his place; and they had now fully learned that if God be for them, none could be successfully against them.” (Clarke)

iii. Joshua 1:2-4 gives an outline of the book of Joshua.

· Go over this Jordan: the crossing of the Jordan (Joshua 1:5-5:12).

· The land which I am giving: the conquest of Canaan (Joshua 5:13-12:24).

· The boundaries of the land in Joshua 1:4 imply the distribution of the land in 13:1-22:34.

b. To the land which I am giving to them: God promised this land to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the sons of Jacob (Israel). These promises are prominent in the book of Genesis (Genesis 12:1-3, 12:7, 13:14-17, 15:7, 15:18-21, 17:8, 24:7, 26:3-4, 28:3-4, 28:13-14, 35:9-13, 48:3-4, 50:24). By title deed, the people of Israel had never possessed any of the land of Canaan except the burial place of the patriarchs in Hebron (Genesis 23:19-20). They had not lived in the land of Canaan for about 400 years. Yet it was the land God had promised to Israel, that He was now giving to them.

c. I have given you: The whole land was given to Joshua and Israel, but they could only possess that which they claimed (every place that the sole of your foot will tread). What they possessed must be fought for against determined opposition.

i. Even as the inheritance of Canaan was entrusted to a leader, a representative, so it is true for God’s people under the new covenant. All they spiritually possess, they have in Jesus Christ who is both their leader and representative.

ii. Israel could only possess the land as God worked in them and through them; they could never conquer Canaan in their own wisdom and strength. Yet, God would not eliminate their enemies as Israel sat passively by; He called Israel into partnership with Himself to see His will done.

iii. “All the land was given, but every inch of it had to be claimed. Israel had to put her foot down upon the land, whether wilderness or Lebanon, plain or hill, and say, ‘This is mine by the gift of God.’ And as the right was asserted, God made it good.” (Meyer)

iv. Because taking the land took effort, the challenge ahead was not for those content with Egypt, but for those who would press ahead for what God had called them to possess.

v. “In the Hebrew text nearly the same wording is found in Joshua 1:3–5a as in Deuteronomy 11:24–25a. This is another of the many ties between Joshua and the Pentateuch, especially Deuteronomy. The author has taken pains to demonstrate that the work of Joshua is the fulfillment of the Pentateuch.” (Madvig)

3. (4-5) The promise: victory is assured because Joshua is called by God.

From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as 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 territory. No man shall 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 leave you nor forsake you.

a. From the wilderness…as far as the great river: This describes the precise territory of the land God gave to Israel. The specific geographical boundaries show this was not a spiritual land, but a material land with real wilderness and rivers and earth.

i. “The literal and complete fulfillment of this promise was not experienced by Israel until the reigns of David and Solomon (see 1 Kings 4:21, 24) and then once again in the time of Uzziah and Jeroboam.” (Madvig)

ii. Land of the Hittites: “Palestine was referred to as ‘the Hittite country’ by both Egypt and Babylonia even after the Hittites had withdrawn from the area (cf. Judges 1:26).” (Madvig)

iii. Though this refers to a literal land, it has spiritual application. “All that is in Christ is meant for all believers, and therefore all believers may have all that is in Christ, who is all in all. We should not be content with pence when he endows us with pounds.” (Spurgeon)

b. As I was with Moses: Moses was one of the great men of the Bible, with an important role in God’s unfolding plan of the ages. The work of Moses was finished, and now the work of Joshua would begin.

i. Moses, who represented the law, could not lead Israel into the Promised Land. Miriam, who represented the prophets, could not lead God’s people into the Promised Land. Aaron, who represented the priesthood, could not lead Israel into the Promised Land. Only Joshua, that is, JESUS, could lead them into the land of God’s promise.

c. I will be with you: Israel was assured of success, but not because Joshua was a great leader, or because Israel was a great nation. They would triumph because God is a great God, and He promised Joshua, I will be with you. This is enough for anyone who seeks to do God’s will.

i. I will not leave you nor forsake you: This was what God said to all Israel (including Joshua) in Deuteronomy 31:6 and is quoted in Hebrews 13:5, applying it to all believers.

ii. “Therefore the Lord said, ‘I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.’ What more was needed? Surely, in the presence of God, Anakim become dwarfs, strongholds become as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, and chariots of iron are as thistle-down upon the hillside driven before the blast. What is strong against the Most High?” (Spurgeon)

4. (6-9) The conditions of the promise of victory.

Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn 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 from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

a. Be strong and of good courage: Joshua was called to be bold in God. The emphasis given to this command (Joshua 1:6, 1:7, 1:9, 1:18) suggests that Joshua needed this strong encouragement. He would need God’s strength and courage to conquer Canaan and divide the land as an inheritance to Israel.

i. The sense is that Joshua would find this strength and courage in Yahweh, not in himself. As Paul would later explain in Ephesians 6:10, Joshua was to be strong in the LORD and in the power of His might. This is a pattern for believers, to find their strength in God and not in self.

ii. “Joshua seems to have been afraid of this responsibility. I say this because the most repeated words in the chapter are those commanding him not to be afraid. God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous three times (Joshua 1:6, 7, 9), then adds, ‘Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged’ (Joshua 1:9). At the end of the chapter, the people tell Joshua the same thing: ‘Only be strong and courageous!’ (Joshua 1:18). In spite of what must therefore have been a very acute sense of inadequacy, Joshua did indeed take charge. From the very first, he showed that he was the Lord’s man for this hour.” (Boice)

b. That you may observe to do according to all the law: As a people, Israel was bound to God in covenant (Exodus 24:3-8). A significant part of the covenant was God’s promise to bless an obedient Israel (Leviticus 26:1-13, Deuteronomy 28:1-14) and to curse a disobedient Israel (Leviticus 26:14-46, Deuteronomy 28:15-68). When Israel and their leadership did according to all the law, they were invincible with God’s blessing and strength.

i. This promise to Joshua and Israel repeated a promise God made to Israel at Mount Sinai. There, God promised to defeat the Canaanites and give Israel their land (Exodus 23:22-31), if Israel would obey Him: if you indeed obey His voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries (Exodus 23:22).

ii. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left: “There is sure to be a right hand, there is sure to be a left hand, and both are probably wrong. There will be extremes on either side. I believe that this is true in ten thousand things in ordinary life, and also true in spiritual things in very many respects.” (Spurgeon)

c. This Book of the Law: Since obedience to God’s law was required for Israel’s success, it was important to know and value God’s word. Joshua did not only need to read God’s word. It had to be on his lips (shall not depart from your mouth), in his mind (meditate in it day and night), and he had to do it (observe to do according to all that is written).

i. “The Hebrew word translated ‘meditate’ (hagah) literally means ‘mutter.’ When one continually mutters God’s Word to himself, he is constantly thinking about it.” (Madvig)

ii. “Though there was a copy of the law laid up in the sanctuary, yet this was not sufficient. Joshua must have a copy for himself, and he was to consult it incessantly, that his way might be made prosperous, and that he might have good success.” (Clarke)

iii. Joshua was “a book-man as well as a sword-man.” (Trapp)

iv. “It is true that in this ancient period before Gutenberg or before scribes were able to make a reasonable number of copies of Moses’s text, the people did not have their own Bibles. But this did not mean that the Bible was inaccessible to them or that they had an excuse for not knowing it. Joshua was to read the book. Later on, as at the ceremony conducted on Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, the Law was to be read in its entirety in the hearing of all the people (see Deuteronomy 31:11–13).” (Boice)

v. “Joshua’s relation to the book teaches us an important lesson about how the canon grew and was accepted. Joshua knew Moses, the writer of the Pentateuch, personally. Joshua knew his strengths and weaknesses as a man; he knew that Moses was a sinner, that Moses made mistakes, that Moses was just a man. Nonetheless, immediately after Moses’ death Joshua accepted the Pentateuch as more than the writing of Moses. He accepted it as the writing of God.” (Shaeffer)

d. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success: This promise to prosper and give success to an obedient Israel repeated themes God had previously spoken to Israel.

i. Prosperous…success: “Nothing at all is said here about financial success. In fact, of the fifty-nine times that slh refers to success, and the ten to eleven times that slh does, only once are finances even remotely in view. This is in Ezekiel 16:13.” (Howard)

ii. Under the new covenant, God’s people are not blessed primarily because of their obedience, but because of their relationship of love and trust in Jesus Christ. Yet because God’s commands are inherently good and wise, there is a built-in blessing in conforming to this good and wise design. There is a great blessing for the believer in knowing and obeying God’s word.

e. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go: The final encouragement, repeated from Joshua 1:5, reminds us that Joshua’s success did not depend solely on his ability to keep God’s word. The presence of God with him was an even greater factor.

C. Preparations to cross the Jordan.

1. (10-11) Command to the officers.

Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, “Pass through the camp and command the people, saying, ‘Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you will cross over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you to possess.’”

a. Prepare provisions for yourselves: Israel had arrived at this general area on the eastern side of the Jordan River back in Numbers 20. After remaining here through the rest of the book of Numbers and the entire book of Deuteronomy, Israel was about to cross over this Jordan and enter Canaan.

i. Joshua’s call to the people “was characterized by urgency and dispatch; ‘within three days’ the hosts were to move forward toward all the conflict and difficulty which had long ago frightened their fathers and turned them back into the wilderness.” (Morgan)

ii. The officers of the people: “The roles of these ‘officers’ form a secular counterpart to those of the priests. Joshua will address both, beginning with the officers, whose tasks are greater since they involve all the people.” (Hess)

iii. The events of verse 10 happened after the spies returned from the mission described in Joshua 2. Like many books of the Bible, the story of the book of Joshua isn’t presented in strict chronological order.

b. To possess the land: This possession would come by conquest. The wars of conquest against the Canaanites began in Numbers 21, with the victory over Arad the Canaanite.

i. Ahead of Israel were many battles with the Canaanites, to take the land that God promised to Israel, and to carry out a unique war of judgment against the Canaanites. The tribal groups of Canaan were particularly sinful and depraved people, whom God literally gave hundreds of years to repent (Genesis 15:13-16). Just as God sometimes used other nations to bring judgment against Israel, in this period the LORD used His people to bring judgment against the Canaanites.

ii. “Alas! many of God’s people are still in this unsatisfactory condition: they have come out of Egypt, the depths have swallowed up their adversaries, and they are on the way to the promised heritage; but they have not yet entered into rest. They will, we trust, ultimately reach the peace of God which passeth all understanding, for they have faith sufficient to prove them to be God’s people, and, therefore, the Lord will surely bring them in; but, assuredly, they make a great deal of marching for very small progress. For lack of faith they go about, when, with a step, they might possess the promised Canaan.” (Spurgeon)

2. (12-15) Reminder to the eastern tribes.

And to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh Joshua spoke, saying, “Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, ‘The LORD your God is giving you rest and is giving you this land.’ Your wives, your little ones, and your livestock shall remain in the land which Moses gave you on this side of the Jordan. But you shall pass before your brethren armed, all your mighty men of valor, and help them, until the LORD has given your brethren rest, as He gave you, and they also have taken possession of the land which the LORD your God is giving them. Then you shall return to the land of your possession and enjoy it, which Moses the LORD’sservant gave you on this side of the Jordan toward the sunrise.”

a. And to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh Joshua spoke: These were the tribes which chose to settle on the east side of the Jordan, land that Israel had already conquered. These two and a half tribes had promised to cross over and help the rest of the nation take the land on the west side of the Jordan River (Numbers 32:16-32).

b. But you shall pass before your brethren armed, all your mighty men of valor, and help them: This was the fulfillment of the promise these two and a half tribes had made in Numbers 32. Though these tribes already occupied their land, they were to help their brothers who had yet to conquer their lands.

i. This same principle operates in the body of Christ. When one member has a need, it is the common need of the body (1 Corinthians 12:25-26). Believers should never refuse to help a brother in need because their own state is settled.

3. (16-18) The eastern tribes promise their allegiance to Joshua.

So they answered Joshua, saying, “All that you command us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we heeded Moses in all things, so we will heed you. Only the LORD your God be with you, as He was with Moses. Whoever rebels against your command and does not heed your words, in all that you command him, shall be put to death. Only be strong and of good courage.”

a. All that you command us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go: This was a display of unity in Israel that was essential to fulfill God’s calling and promise for them. They overcame the temptation to see the eastern tribes as separate from the rest of Israel.

b. Just as we heeded Moses in all things, so we will heed you: The willingness of the people to receive Joshua as their leader, replacing Moses, was a confirmation of the LORD’s words to Joshua previously in the chapter.

c. Only be strong and of good courage: The representatives from the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh spoke the same thing to Joshua that he previously heard from the LORD (Joshua 1:6, 7, 9). This is an example of God’s people encouraging one another with God’s word.

© 2024 TheEnduring WordBible Commentary by David Guzik –ewm@enduringword.com


Enduring Word Bible Commentary Joshua Chapter 1 (2024)
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