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Bible: What Does Joshua 1-3 Teach Us About Joshua, Rahab and the Spies, and the Crossing of the Jordan?

Updated on August 21, 2016

Moses with Caleb and Joshua


The Book of the Law



After Moses' death, God gives Joshua the responsibility to lead His people across the Jordan River into their promised land of inheritance (vv. 1-2).

The LORD provides specific details as to the extent of Israel’s territory (vv. 3-4)—two boundaries being the Mediterranean Sea and the River Euphrates—as well as encouragement regarding Joshua's ability (under God’s guidance) to “possess” the land (v. 5).

Four times Israel's new leader hears the exhortation: "Be strong and of good courage" (vv. 6, 7, 9, 18). On the first three of those occasions Yahweh commands his obedience.

Representatives from the two and one-half tribes (which had chosen to reside apart from the other nine and one-half on "this side of the Jordan") repeat the LORD's admonition at chapter’s end.

For what specific reasons does Joshua need divine strength and courage?

The first instance revolves around his dividing the inheritance to "this people" (v. 6).

If the text is emphasizing "this people," then God may be warning His man that the task would not be easy, because Israel's natural rebelliousness and selfishness would set up major roadblocks to his leadership.

For him to lead "this people" successfully would require supernatural strength.

Second, Joshua himself needs spiritual help to maintain total obedience to Yahweh’s law (v. 7). What would be his human responsibility in this endeavor?

He must repeatedly meditate upon Torah so that he would know what God expected from him (v. 8).

As a closing reminder, the LORD instructs fearful Joshua that His presence would be with him; therefore, he had no rational reason to be afraid (v. 9).

[What does “meditate” mean?]

After commanding Israel to get ready to enter Canaan (vv. 10-11), Joshua obediently directs the two and one-half tribes to fight alongside the other Israelites first before returning to their present location to settle down with their families and livestock (vv. 12-15).

[This incident is his first test as mediatorial ruler.

Will the seemingly more independent tribes follow his lead, or will they rebel?]

Their reply—an oath of complete obedience and loyalty to him as God's replacement for Moses—certainly must have encouraged this new leader.

They, too, expected him to lead with strength and courage (vv. 16-18).

[God takes a naturally fearful man, and He commands him to lead a great host of recalcitrant people into a new land.

Joshua needed to read and study Yahweh's word as well as depend on His presence in order to be successful.

Does what you must do to "succeed" in life differ from what he had to do?]

Rahab and the Two Spies



Is it ever permissible to lie?

See results

Joshua 2

Joshua's two spies "visit" Rahab in Jericho.

[Why did they go to her?]

The city’s "secret service" detects their presence, and surmises (in its eyes) that the men are “up to no good" (vv. 1-2).

[How did the “police” know the spies’ nationality?

Apparently, Israelite physical features or cultural differences are significant enough to make it easy to spot them].

Rahab hides the spies on her roof, but tells the king's soldiers that they left the city at sunset (vv. 3-7).

[Might this be an example of ethical hierarchicalism?

Rahab chose the lesser sin (lying) to prevent the greater sin (murder).

See Geisler, Ethics-Alternatives and Issues, 123].

Having heard about the LORD's reputation in the land of Egypt, as well as His latter exploits and plans for Israel to conquer Canaan, Rahab pleads that the warriors spare her family (vv. 8-13).

Joshua's spies pledge their lives in exchange for hers and her relatives if any harm should come to them. But the latter must meet three conditions:

(1) She and her family must remain mum on Israel's purposes;

(2) Rahab must bind a line of scarlet cord in the window; and

(3) She must bring her family into her house (vv. 14, 18, 20).

After eluding Jericho's pursuers, the spies return to Joshua and report joyfully what they now believed about Israel’s future in Canaan (vv. 22-24).

[On the one hand, God's victories on our behalf truly give us confidence to move ahead for Him; on the other, they terrify our enemies].

Crossing the Jordan


Joshua 3

Three days after Israel leaves Acacia Grove [a camp location where Israel later runs into trouble with God, see Num. 25:1; 33:49] and approaches the Jordan, Joshua's officers instruct the people to follow the ark when the Levites begin to transport it.

However, they must keep their distance (about one thousand yards) [vv. 1-4].

[The text says that they must not get too close, because "they have not passed this way before."

Their admonition showed their concern for "national security."].

Joshua, anticipating a great miracle, tells the Israelites to prepare themselves spiritually for the next day (v. 5).

[Although the text does not say, "On the next day," it is logical to assume that verse six reports what occurs at that time].

Obeying orders, the priests carry the ark before the people with instructions to stand in the raging, flooding Jordan (vv. 6, 8).

[At this point, the reader should try to imagine the emotional impact of this event.

Possibly even Joshua needed some divine reassurance, for the LORD tells him that He is using this act of obedience to give him "clout" with His people (v. 7)].

Fully believing that God is about to perform a great wonder, Joshua gathers Israel and reveals the LORD's intentions.

The miraculous "heaping up" of the Jordan will provide the people with ample proof that Yahweh can rout the inhabitants of Canaan and give Israel their land (vv. 8-13).

[A smaller miracle than the Sea of Reeds’ “heaping up,” it is a work of God which Bible expositors often neglect to mention].

Verses 14-17 report the details of the miracle and all Israel's successful crossing of the river into the Land.

[One often wonders what the Israelites were thinking.

Did they have the full assurance of faith, or were they afraid and somewhat doubtful?

When life leads you into unknown territory and possible threats to your well being, do you unwaveringly trust that the Sovereign Lord goes before you and will guide you safely to “the other side”?]

© 2013 glynch1


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    • glynch1 profile image

      glynch1 4 years ago

      You have written a good hub with some interesting observations.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for this study. Your last question is great for a whole session in meditation. Previously, I also wrote about Rahab, but from a different perspective. I'll share the link in case you care.