Book of Joshua

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The Book of Joshua is the sixth book in the Old Testament. This book describes the conquest of Israel of the Promised Land.

Read Matthew Henry's Concise Bible Commentary on Book of Joshua




The conquest of the land

A. Preparations for the conquest (1:1-5:12)

B. Program of conquest (5:13-12:24)

The division of the land

A. The apportioning of Trans-Jordan (13:1-33)

B. The apportioning of Canaan (14:1-19:51)

The directions for the land

A. The command concerning the cities of refuge (20:1-9)

B. The command concerning the Levitical cities (21:1-45)

C. The compromise with the eastern tribes (22:1-34)

D. The commander's farewell (23:1-24:33)

Difficulties in understanding the Conquest

Inconsistencies of the conquest of Canaan in the Old Testament are sometimes cited by readers. On the one hand, Joshua shows the conquest as rapid and successful (see for example Joshua 21). On the other hand, the Book of Judges shows the conquest as prolonged and unsuccessful. However, as many some Christians scholars note, the Biblical data can be considered consistent when considering the different perspectives of the books. In Joshua, God's faithfulness is emphasized, whereas in Judges, Isreal's flawed response is emphasized.

Joshua uses hyperbole, that is, exaggeration. When the book describes that "all" was destroyed, it does not always mean that there was complete annihilation. A similar modern day example would be general descriptions of the Jewish Holocaust, where a historian might say that the Nazis rounded up all the Jews in the city - it is clear that all may not mean every Jew because some may have been hiding and others may have fled the city.

Another reason for the apparent difference between the books is the way in which the books consider the events in a permanent or a temporary sense. Some of these differences are apparent only if a person believes that the accounts in Joshua always represent permanent conquests. For example, a city may be taken in battle, but later lost.

Finally, it can be argued that there is not even an apparent difference between the books, and that they are entirely consistent with each other. For example, although Joshua does say that all of the land was captured, it also states that "much land needs to be taken" and other races "continue to live there this day" in Joshua 13.

It seems likely that Joshua's work broke the back of resistance in Canaan giving the land to Israel, even though there were pockets of resistance. The Book of Judges makes it clear that although the conquest was initially successful to a certain extent, it ultimately failed to be completed because of the people's disobedience to God, in particular in following other gods (for example Joshua 3).

Archeological evidence

Archeological evidence of a conquest of Canaan is hotly debated and inconclusive either way.

Some archeologists have suggested a slow immigration model where the Jews slowly immigrated into Israel. Other archeologists have suggested a model of multiple waves of conquest by Jews. None of these models are consistent with Biblical model.

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