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The book of Joshua continues the account of Israel as it begins to enter the Promised Land, up to the time of Joshua’s death. You can see the book outline and other introductory details in Constable’s notes, so we’ll be focusing on key points in the text.

Joshua 1-2

Joshua is now the new leader of Israel, by the direct command of God and with a reaffirmation of the physical, literal boundaries of the Promised Land. This land will not simply be handed to them though; they will have to conquer it, of course with God’s help, if they remain obedient.

As mentioned in the study on Deuteronomy, there are some topics where the otherwise astute Dr. Constable makes statements in his notes that contradict scripture, which is why we need to pay attention to the account of Rahab. It is reasonable to deduce, as he does here, that Rahab knew about the God of Israel, since some of the patriarchs had been in the area before, and news of their exploits had spread throughout the region.

There is some question about whether she simply ran an inn or was also a prostitute. But her mention in scripture is noteworthy, not only because she is never described in derogatoy terms, but also because she will turn out to be an ancestor of King David and ultimately the Messiah. This should be a cautionary lesson for modern Christians who look down on those they deem worse sinners than themselves. On the other hand, it’s almost comical that Constable is less concerned with her occupation than the fact that she lied to protect the Israelites who came to secretly scope out the land before their attack. As you read this section of scripture, you’ll see that all the people were terrified of Israel because they knew they served the most powerful God. So Rahab pleads with the spies to swear they will spare her and her family, and the deal is made in verse 20.

But what of this issue of lying? We recall the account of the two Hebrew midwives in Egypt, who at the very least didn’t give all the facts to Pharaoh, and a technical half-truth still violates the spirit of the law when it comes to intent to deceive. The full truth was that they had no intention of obeying Pharaoh’s orders, so this was a legal loophole and cover story. And what about 1 Sam. 16, where Samuel is told to go to the house of Jesse to anoint the replacement for King Saul, who would kill him if he found out about it? God himself tells Samuel to use a cover story. Is this not deception? Constable doesn’t comment on this question in his notes on 1 Samuel.

To argue, as Constable does, that the evil that was mixed with the good was not imputed to her, is to say that the end justifies the means. There is no escaping the fact that scripture is condoning this, if indeed Rahab sinned by lying. To say that God did not sanction her lie, and that he probably intended for the spies to die, is putting words in God’s mouth and playing the judge against Rahab.

There is much debate about this issue, but my personal opinion is that the key to sinful lying is intent to harm, or the attempt to cover one’s own sin. The midwives were not trying to subvert the government of Egypt; Samuel was not trying to start an insurrection; Rahab was not trying to betray her people. All of them were trying to serve God and his chosen people.

I find Constable’s notes very puzzling at times. After cautioning the reader not to overestimate Rahab’s confession of faith, he states that God spared her because of her faith, and that her actions proved her sincerity and confidence of rescue! I’m not quite sure what else Rahab would have had to say or do in order to merit approval for her confession of faith.

Joshua 3-5

Now to ch. 3, where Israel prepares to cross the Jordan River. God tells Joshua that he will perform a miracle so the people respect him as the replacement for Moses. As soon as the feet of the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant touch the water, it will pile up and allow them to cross on dry ground, just as the Red Sea parted for Moses. Verse 16 states that it piled up at a town far upstream, and the priests stood in the riverbed with the Ark until the whole nation had gone across.

As we near ch. 6, Israel is about to face the destruction of Jericho. But just before they get there, Joshua sees a man with a drawn sword, so he asks which side he belongs to. But the answer was that this was the commander of the Lord’s army. Similar to the burning bush incident for Moses, the man tells him to remove his shoes because he’s standing on holy ground. So again we see echoes of the calling of Moses.

Joshua 6

6:3 says that only the warriors actually marched around Jericho, rather than the whole nation as some presume. They were to march around the city once per day for six days, along with priests carrying the Ark and blowing rams’ horns. On the seventh day they would march around seven times, and then the rams’ horns were to signal the army to attack. Once again we see that the last trump is a signal for God’s people to move. The seventh trumpet of Revelation is never called the last trump.

As they were about to shout, Joshua tells them that all the plunder belongs to the temple treasury, and that Rahab and her family are to be spared. Then they shout and the walls collapse, apparently just crumbling rather than being pushed in or out as has often been claimed.

It is the two spies who were saved by Rahab who are to get her and her family safely out of the city, and according to verse 25 she was still alive at the time this account was written. Then Joshua pronounces a curse on anyone who would ever try to rebuild Jericho. This curse would come true when someone named Hiel rebuilds the fortifications as stated in 1 Kings 16:34.

Joshua 7

However, not everyone obeyed the command to turn over all the loot to the temple treasury. The victory over Jericho was clearly God’s doing, but this didn’t mean there would be no consequences for disrespecting God afterwards. A man named Achan keeps some of the riches for himself, but God is furious with the nation as a whole, showing again that God does indeed treat a group as a single entity and not merely a collection of individuals.

Meanwhile, Joshua had sent spies ahead to a place called Ai, and they reported that it would be a pushover so the whole army wouldn’t be needed. But the self-confident army was routed by Ai. So Joshua, not knowing why this happened, whines to God and asks him if he brought Israel across the Jordan just to destroy them— an echo of the faithless generation that kept wanting to return to Egypt.

Then God snaps at Joshua to get up off his face, because it was not God’s but Israel’s own fault that this happened. The people are to prepare themselves for God’s wrath the next day, after he sets up a method by which the individual responsible would be outed.

The penalty for the perpetrator would be the burning of himself and all his property, though we’ll see shortly that they would first be stoned to death. God never sanctioned the burning, hanging, impalement, or torture of any living person. Many had died because of Achan’s theft of what belonged to God, so the penalty was appropriate; he and all his family were stoned to death and then burned. This would also impress upon the rest of the nation how seriously God takes his honor and their compliance.

Joshua 8

Now Israel’s entire army is sent to destroy Ai, but this time God would allow them to keep the spoils of war. We should learn from this that timing is much a part of God’s will as action, because what is forbidden today may be allowed tomorrow— if we’re patient. Failure to wait on God’s timing can be deadly.

Notice the strategy of the attack: They used the earlier defeat to fool the army of Ai into thinking it was winning again because Israel was retreating. So they begin chasing Israel’s army and leave no soldiers behind to protect the city. At that moment Joshua signals the soldiers hiding on the west side to attack and burn the city. When the army of Ai realizes what happened, they freeze in the realization of their tactical blunder and are then attacked from both sides.

Joshua 9

If the region was terrified of Israel before, it was much more so now. So various nations form an alliance, and a clever plan is hatched by the army of Gibeon: They would send out a delegation pretending to have been on a long journey from a distant land, who had heard of Israel’s exploits and wanted to make peace with them.

But though Joshua asks them many questions, he forgets the biggest one: to ask God. So they make a treaty and seal it with an oath. It took a few days to find out they’d been fooled, and it prevented them from carrying out God’s command to destroy their people. So they made them slaves instead.

The lesson for us here is that we cannot keep God in a box we only open on Sundays. Major decisions should always be brought to him, especially regarding the modern habit of blindly accepting into our Christian fellowship anyone who tells us what we want to hear. In our desire to present ourselves as ultra-loving and accepting, we invite wolves through the main gate to mingle with the sheep— and the wolves don’t even have to wear sheep’s clothing anymore. We have neglected the command to test the spirits, yet we act surprised when we see the Christian community rotting from within.

But Constable raises a good question: Doesn’t the deception of the Gibeonites parallel that of Rahab? The enslaved Gibeonites turned out to remain faithful to Israel and God throughout Israel’s history, though their people had been marked by God for total destruction, just as Jericho was. So can we say that their profession of faith was insincere? Or, I would ask Constable, should we be careful not to overestimate that profession of faith? I would also point out that unlike Gibeon, Rahab did not try to deceive Israel or God, but her own condemned people.

Be that as it may, we as Christians must never make alliances or partnerships with those who are openly hostile to God, the Bible, or the Christian faith; not only from this example but also from the warning about an unhealthy interest in other religions. The word pastor simply means shepherd, and the job of the shepherd is to not only nurture the sheep but also guard them from spiritual damage. But instead of guardians, many of them have become hired hands on more than one level, leaving the bulk of the Christian community defenseless and ineffective. Christians need more than comfort and encouragement.

Joshua 10-24

Moving on to ch. 10, we see the city of Jerusalem mentioned for the first time in scripture. Because Gibeon had made peace with Israel, the cities who expected to be conqurered next formed an alliance to attack Gibeon. But because Israel owned them as slaves, they had the right to ask for help, and God tells Joshua to give it.

Verse 11 says that in addition to the army of Israel routing the enemy, God threw down large hailstones from the sky. Rather than some kind of meteor shower it seems to be hail as we know it, though larger stones than we’d ordinarily expect. Still, the true miracle is that it only killed the enemy, not Israel.

Now we come to the famous incident of God making the sun and moon stand still so Joshua and his army could have more time to finish off the enemy. Constable’s notes simply present several views on this incident, without really reaching a satisfying conclusion. The Hebrew text then directs the reader to something called the book of the upright, the accurate meaning of Jasher, for more detail.

All of the theories presented in the notes presume that modern cosmology is correct, such that the sun and moon only appear to move across the sky because the earth is a spinning ball. If instead we take Biblical cosmology as presented throughout both testaments, the need to speculate evaporates; the sun and moon move over a stationary earth, and they stopped moving for about a day’s worth of time. That would be the simplest explanation.

Yet the need to find extra-Biblical reports of this long day remains. The problem in either case is that the tool we would use to calculate this long day involve the movements of heavenly luminaries— which is the problem we’re trying to solve. As far as I’ve been able to determine, there are some possible corroborating accounts, such as the Greek myth of Apollo’s son Phaethon altering the sun’s course for a day, and the myths of the Maori and Mexican people where there was an abnormally long night.

At any rate, attempts to explain how this worked under modern cosmological theory are equally mythical, such as that it was some kind of trick of light. Another theory, variation in earth’s wobble or rotation speed, would have been reported in the historical records of cultures across the world as a devastating and uncanny event. In the case of rotation speed, a sudden stop would send everything on the surface flying off at a tangent; if a change in wobble, the sloshing oceans would have created massive tidal waves on all the coastlands. In fact, something similar is predicted in Revelation as the roaring and tossing of the sea that causes people’s hearts to fail from fear, though the same effect would result if God shook a flat earth as one might shake a bowl of water.

This all impacts how we approach the Bible: Should it bow to popular cosmological theory that forbids anyone to question it, or should such theory bow to the Bible? Astrophysics, and what is called science in general, prides itself on always changing but has a history of self-embarrassment. Today’s indisputable scientific fact is often tomorrow’s laugable ignorance. In contrast, the Bible has a history of being proved right and accurate again and again. This is not about engineering or medicine, but about the philosophies called astrophysics and evolution that are masquerading as science. In fact, empirical science is the enemy of evolution and all that stems from it.


What this study hasn’t covered is primarily the mopping up of Canaan during Joshua’s lifetime, though much more would remain to be done after his death. We see once again that God clearly marks out the boundaries of the Promised Land and each tribe’s territory in physical, geographical terms; this distinguishes it from claims of spiritual allegory or that the Promised Land is actually somewhere else in the world, such as Africa or even the north pole.

Joshua echoes the life of Moses one more time by making sure the people understand, remember, and commit to the law. Then he dies at the age of 110, the same lifespan as Joseph. But as the end of the book records, Israel’s respect for the elders and God only lasts as long as the elders do, and they never again return to this level of obedience and blessing. The next phase of Israel’s history will be a shift from the time of the patriarchs to the time of the Judges.

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