- Religion and Philosophy»
- Christianity, the Bible & Jesus
The Book of Joshua
Joshua and the Battle of Jericho
What is the book of Joshua about?
After wandering the desert for forty years, the Israelites were finally ready to enter the Promised Land. Under the command of Joshua, Moses chosen successor, the Israelites rampaged through Canaan, bringing death and destruction to the cities unfortunate enough to be in their way.
The book ends with death and internment of Joshua. By this time, the Israelites have captured enough land for the twelve tribes to have permanent living spaces assigned to them.
A book of Hope
The Bible does not give history for its own sake. Rather, it presents practical and spiritual lessons. Fortunately, Joshua’s lessons are overwhelmingly positive ones. Guided by God, the nation of Israel met with unprecedented.
The book of Joshua gives fresh breeze of hope. Writers of hymns and spirituals have often gone back to it to try to recapture the spirit of success that swept over God’s people those first few years in the new land. It can work; people can follow God. Joshua shows how.
Who wrote the book of Joshua?
Hebrew tradition states that the main character in the book, Joshua himself, wrote most of the book of Joshua. Of course, someone else wrote the few verses following his death. Based on Biblical chronology, Joshua lived around 1500-1390 B.C.
As we started earlier, Joshua is part of the Deuteronomistic history. It shares a common theological themes with Deuteronomy, which include faithfulness to God, the covenant, and God's mercy to the Israelites.
According to the "dual redaction model" proposed by Frank Cross, the Deuteronomistic History was assembled as part of King Josiah's reform program around 620 B.C. When Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians two decades later, it was further edited by a second redactor.
Some scholars do not accept the concept of multiple redactors; for example Richard Friedman, the author of Who wrote the Bible?, argued that there was only one redactor.
Honestly speaking, it is very complicated to identify of which who is the original author of Joshua or in other words, the exact author of Joshua. If the dual redaction model is correct, the initial redactor probably edited the books between 640-580 B.C.
Israelite style: a total war
In their conquest of Canaan, the Israelites waged a war of extermination against the Canaanites. Everyone was killed: man, woman and child. All property crops, and animals are completel destroyed.
Modern readers would consider this as a genocide which means a crime against humanity. Although this practice is called a herem, it is not uncommon in the Middle East during the time.
The main purpose of herem was to ensure that the Israelites would not adopt the lifestyles, culture or belief systems of the Canaanites. This is why so God was so harsh on Achan, and punished the Israelites in the battle of Ai.
Readers and viewers must take note that this type of warfare exception in Judaism. It is definitely not the general rule!
A new spirit and a new leader
Older Israelites with fearful, slave mentalities had died off in the desert which is all the older generation except Joshua and Caleb in which, these are the two legendary warriors.
The book of Joshua contains not a word about rebellion against a leader or grumbling against fatalism of Deuteronomy. What a difference 40 years has made!
As newly appointed leader of the Israelites, Joshua took on two main tasks. First, he was to direct a military campaign to take control of the land God had promised. Then, he would parcel out the conquered land among all the tribes.