Joshua the Human, Jesus the Divine. Perfecting the Imperfect.
Jesus has been likened to some Old Testament figures in a bid to show that he perfects the imperfect roles they played with regards to the actualization of the salvation of the people of God. Jesus is called the last Adam, the new Moses and the new David. There is however another Old Testament figure that shares a resemblance to Jesus in the salvation of God’s people. This figure shares the same name with Jesus and has a close affinity to him in works and deeds. He is Joshua, the son of Nun.
Joshua first appear in the book of Exodus, and then remained with Moses through to Deuteronomy. However, most of his deeds are written in the book of Joshua. The general theme and purpose of this book is to give an account of the historical fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to the patriarchs to give Israel the land of Canaan. The land was indeed possessed by God’s chosen as led by Joshua. However due to sin, infidelity, and the worship of foreign gods, Israel lost the Promised Land. But Israel must possess the land forever according to the promise made by God. This will require the service of a second Joshua. This restoration was prophesized by Isaiah (Isa 49:8). This time, the possession will last for all eternity.
Joshua lived between 1500-1390BCE. There are several characteristics between Joshua and Jesus including: having the same name, having the same role as leader of Israel, having the same mission of peace, having the same number of appointed men (twelve), and having the same representations of twelve stones for the appointed twelve. They were both ordained by God and worked miraculous deeds. More importantly was their mission to see the people of God safely to the Promised Land that God had earlier announced.
The same name
The book of Numbers (13:16) tells us that Moses changed Joshua’s name, for he was previously known as Hoshea. The name Hoshea means “salvation”; derived from the Hebrew root word “Yasha”. Before the advent of the expedition to Canaan by the Israelite spies, Moses renamed him Yehoshua, appending the Hebrew letter Yod, to make his name begin with a divine prefix. The Talmud states that Moses foresaw the treachery and faithlessness of the spies and appended the Yod to remind Hoshea that Yahweh must come first. This renaming of Hoshea was clearly prophetic, since Joshua was chosen to be the successor of Moses who would finally lead the people into the Promised Land.
The name Yehoshua means “Yahweh is salvation”. It is taken from the roots “yeho” referring to the Hebrew God and “yasha” meaning “to save”. In the Septuagint, all instances of the word “yehoshua” are rendered as “Iesous” which is the closest Greek pronunciation of the Aramaic “Yeshua” (Neh 8:17). Thus in Greek Joshua is called “Jesus son of Nun” to differentiate him from Jesus Christ. The English Joshua is a rendering of the Hebrew language “Yehoshua” meaning “Yahweh is salvation”.
Jesus is a Latinization of the Aramaic Jeshua or Yeshua, which is in turn taken from the Hebrew Yehoshua. Thus Jesus was named after the Old Testament hero. Joshua and Jesus are all essentially the same name. Jesus is usually preferred in the New Testament because it is a transliteration of the Greek “Iesous.” Some people prefer “Yehoshua” or “Joshua” because they believe that it is the true root name prior to its translation into Aramaic and Greek. Other prefer “Yeshua” because they believe that is what Jesus was actually called by those who knew him.
The Choosing of the twelve
As the leader of the people of Israel, Joshua appointed men who worked with him and to be a point of contact to the future generation of the happenings that were occurring. Joshua appointed twelve men from each tribe: So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites (Josh 4:4). Like the twelve Apostles of Jesus who testify about Jesus and his words and deeds among them, these twelve men too will serve as heralders to the future generation (Josh 4:6). Jesus appointed twelve disciples (Mark 3:16-19). They too were the concrete evangelizers that propagated the salvation of God wrought in Christ after his death and resurrection.
Similar geographical paths
Scholars say that the lives of Joshua and Jesus followed remarkably similar paths geographically. One of such significant location was at Jericho/The Jordan. Other memorable places both trod were Hazor/Capernaum, Aijalon/Emmaus. It was like a sort of regeneration for those places at the second visitation, for Jesus healed, cured and restored salvation to people in these very places where Joshua had killed.
Entrance into the Promised Land.
The forty years journey of the Israelites from Egypt culminated with their entrance into their promised inheritance, the land of Canaan. All their hopes in Egypt and all their toils through the hard journey was to gain entrance into their promised rest. Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, but it was Joshua who delivered the possession of the land to the Israelites. As Joshua led Israel to victory over her enemies and into possession of the Promised Land, and as he intercede for the nation after it had sinned and been defeated, so does Jesus. He brings the people of God into the promised rest (Heb 4:8-9); intercedes for his own continually (Rom 8:34; Heb 7:25); and enables them to defeat their enemies (Rom 8:37; Heb 2:14-15).
Leaders of Israel
Jesus and Joshua were both leaders of the people of Israel. Their roles as leaders was spoken of before they assumed it. Moses in explaining his ordeal to the people of Israel proclaimed Joshua as their leader, he said: “The Lord was angry with me as well because of you, and he said to me: ‘Neither will you enter there; but your assistant, Joshua son of Nun will enter there. Encourage him, because he will be the one to give Israel its inheritance’ (Deut 1:37-38). Jesus was also proclaimed as the leader of his people. Summoning all the high ranking priests and experts of the Law, Herod sought to know who the new born child Jesus was. They said to him: “This is what the prophet wrote: ‘And But You, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel” (Mt 2:6).
Identical mission of Peace
The need and essence of the Promised Land was to bring about a peaceful dwelling for the Israelites, free from the oppression of the nations. The land flowing with milk and honey will bring peace and prosperity to the people. This show of peace was extended to all who sort the protection of the Lord. Joshua accepted to live in peace with the Gibeonites. Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath (Josh 9:14-15). Jesus as prophesized by Isaiah will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isa 9:6). The world has no peace to offer, Christ only is the one who gives the true peace and the Kingdom of God is of peace. St Paul tells us that Jesus came to bring peace to those who are near and those who are far off (Eph 2:17).
Ordained by God
Jesus and Joshua were faithful leaders of Israel and directly ordained by God. Moses said to the Lord, “may the Lord, God of the spirits that give life to all living creatures, appoint a leader for this community...The Lord said to Moses, Take Joshua, son of Nun, a man in whom the spirit dwells, and lay your hands on him (Num 27:16-20). The call of Joshua was divinely or miraculously announced to Moses, and known to Joshua himself. He was richly endowed with the right attitude and grace and full of wisdom and fortitude. Moses laid his hands on his head before he died and prayed God to enrich him plentifully with His spirit. Of Jesus, it was spoken, “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight. I have put my spirit upon him, and he will bring justice to the nations” (Isa 42:1). Jesus is the begotten son of God sent by God to bring salvation to the world, he is the last of the prophets, and through him God has spoken definitively to us (John 3:16; Heb 1:1-2).
Various miraculous works were ascribed to Joshua, all were carried out in the exercise of the mission to bring the people to the Promised Land. He made the Israelites cross the Jordan on dry land, the wall of Jericho crumbled before him and on his request the sun stood still over the earth (Josh 3:16-17; 6:20; 10:13). The gospels are filled with the miraculous works of Jesus, works that were clear attestation to his person and mission. He healed the sick, cured lepers, open the eyes of the blind and raised the dead (Jn 5:7-9, Mt 8:2-3; 20: 33-34, Jn 11: 43-44).
Faithfulness to God
Total faithfulness and obedience to God at all times marked the lives of these two great figures of salvation. Joshua always kept God and his commandments before him even till his dying days. In the face of seeming disloyalty to God, he encouraged the Israelites to be faithful to God. Choose who you will serve this very day, for as for me and my house we will serve the Lord (Josh 24:15). Jesus’ faithfulness to God and his will was seen throughout his mission on earth. He was always in contact with the father in prayer and he accepted the father’s will to suffer and to die on the cross (Lk 22:42).
Perfecting the imperfect
It should be taken into account that everything that Joshua stood for and represented was perfected by Jesus the true salvation of God. We can see that the imperfection in Joshua was made perfect in Jesus Christ. Joshua fought with physical and carnal weapons and won victories against mortal enemies with swords and spears; Christ however fought only with spiritual weapons, against the enemies of our souls, and his conquest is the triumph of truth and grace. He came to equip us with the necessary aid to fight the evil ones, for we fight not against flesh and blood, but powers and principalities in high places.
Joshua led the people into a promised land which was a temporary inheritance; this is true because the deliverance from their enemies, the peace expected, and the everlasting dwelling that the Promised Land was meant to be was temporal. The true Promised Land is the eternal city of God where God’s children will live in peace and tranquility forever. There will be no sound of weeping in the streets, no death, and no evil. The redeeming Lord Jesus leads the human race into the everlasting habitations, into the one city which is eternal. He himself shall prepare the dwelling for us and leads us joyfully into it.
Salvation refers to a healing, a bringing to health or a making whole and well. It is a transition from one state to another. Salvation is the redemption of God from sin and evil. The salvation of Joshua was temporal, for they only moved from a state of slavery to a state of freeborn. However, the transformation wasn’t complete for the regeneration from slavery to sonship is not only physical but spiritual. We must be transformed from slavery to sin to freedom as God’s children. However the salvation of Jesus was whole, entire, and eternal. The transformation and regeneration is complete.
The salvation of Joshua was but for a few, the chosen tribes of Israel. This was just a section of God’s people. However, the Psalmist says: “The Lord’s is the earth and its fullness, the world and all its peoples” (Ps 23:1). The Promised Land is opened to all god’s people. This salvation Christ accomplished, for Christ carried out the work of salvation for all peoples. The sacrifice for salvation undertaken by Joshua was imperfect, but Christ was the one perfect sacrifice for our salvation; for Jews and Gentiles, and indeed for the whole creation.
The work of deliverance and entry into the Promised Land was temporal. It was imperfect and incomplete, thus there was the need for a perfect one. Joshua was engaged in the work of his life for at least thirty years while Jesus for at most three years. Yet Joshua himself had fears that by his death his life work would be undone. The transformation wasn’t whole and complete and he felt the relapse to old ways and sin in the Israelites. The covenant renewal at Shechem was a bid to keep the people from falling back. Jesus however knew that by his death his life work would be sealed and crowned. Thus, while on the cross he proclaimed, “It is complete”.
A Midrash while comparing Joshua and Jesus says that when Yehoshua was born, no one took notice of his birth, but when he died all of Israel took note. This is an apt description of Yeshua whose birth went unnoticed to the world except to the handful of people moved by faith; but his death and resurrection indeed shook the world.
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