(Joshʹu·a) [shortened form of Jehoshua, meaning “Jehovah Is Salvation”].
1. Son of Nun; an Ephraimite who ministered to Moses and was later appointed as his successor. (Ex 33:11; De 34:9; Jos 1:1, 2) The Scriptures portray Joshua as a bold and fearless leader, one who was confident in the certainty of Jehovah’s promises, obedient to divine direction, and determined to serve Jehovah in faithfulness. His original name was Hoshea, but Moses called him Joshua or Jehoshua. (Nu 13:8, 16) The Bible record, however, does not reveal just when Hoshea came to be known as Joshua.
Leads Fight Against the Amalekites. In the year 1513 B.C.E., when the Israelites encamped at Rephidim shortly after their miraculous deliverance from Egypt’s military might at the Red Sea, the Amalekites launched an unprovoked attack on them. Joshua was then appointed by Moses as commander in the fight against the Amalekites. Under his able leadership, the Israelites, with divine assistance, vanquished the foe. Subsequently Jehovah decreed ultimate annihilation for the Amalekites, instructing Moses to make a written record about this and to propound it to Joshua.—Ex 17:8-16.
Serves as Moses’ Attendant. Later, at Mount Sinai, Joshua, as Moses’ attendant, likely was one of the 70 older men who were privileged to see a magnificent vision of Jehovah’s glory. Thereafter Joshua accompanied Moses partway up Mount Sinai but apparently did not enter the cloud, since Moses alone was commanded to do so. (Ex 24:9-18) Both he and Moses remained on Mount Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights. At the end of this period, while descending Mount Sinai with Moses, Joshua mistook the sound of Israel’s singing in connection with their idolatrous calf worship as “a noise of battle.” Doubtless he shared Moses’ indignation when he caught sight of the golden calf and perhaps even assisted in its destruction.—Ex 32:15-20.
By engaging in calf worship, the Israelites broke the solemn covenant they had made with Jehovah God. This may have prompted Moses to move his tent (“the tent of meeting”) from the area where the people encamped, as Jehovah had not yet forgiven them for their sin and was therefore no longer in the midst of Israel. Perhaps to prevent Israelites from entering the tent of meeting in their unclean state, Joshua remained there whenever Moses returned to the Israelite camp.—Ex 33:7-11; 34:9.
At a later time, when Moses, on account of the murmurings of the people, felt that his load was too great, Jehovah directed that he select 70 older men to assist him. These older men were then to go to the tent of meeting. But two of them, Eldad and Medad, doubtless for a valid reason, remained in the camp. When God’s spirit became operative upon the 68 assembled at the tent of meeting, Eldad and Medad likewise began acting as prophets in the camp. News of this was quickly brought to Moses. Then Joshua, feeling jealous for his lord, urged that Moses restrain them. Since Eldad and Medad had apparently received the spirit apart from Moses’ mediation, Joshua may have felt that this detracted from the authority of his lord. But Moses corrected Joshua, saying: “I wish that all of Jehovah’s people were prophets, because Jehovah would put his spirit upon them.”—Nu 11:10-29; compare Mr 9:38, 39.
Spies Out the Promised Land. It was sometime after this that the Israelites encamped in the Wilderness of Paran. From there Moses sent out 12 men to spy out the Promised Land, one of these men being Joshua (Hoshea, or Jehoshua). Forty days later only Joshua and Caleb brought back a good report. The other ten spies disheartened the people, claiming that Israel could never hope to defeat the powerful inhabitants of Canaan. Consequently rebellious murmuring broke out in the camp. Joshua and Caleb then ripped their garments apart and, as they tried to allay the people’s fears, cautioned them against rebellion. But their courageous words reflecting full confidence in Jehovah’s ability to fulfill his word were to no avail. In fact, “all the assembly talked of pelting them with stones.”—Nu 13:2, 3, 8, 16, 25–14:10.
For their rebellion Jehovah sentenced the Israelites to wander in the wilderness for 40 years until all the registered males (not including the Levites, who were not registered among the other Israelites for military duty; Nu 1:2, 3, 47) from 20 years old upward died off. Of the registered males, Joshua and Caleb alone were to enter the Promised Land, whereas the ten unfaithful spies were to die by a scourge from Jehovah.—Nu 14:27-38; compare Nu 26:65; 32:11, 12.
Appointed as Moses’ Successor. Toward the close of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness, Moses and Aaron, for failing to sanctify Jehovah respecting the miraculous provision of water at Kadesh, also lost the privilege of entering the Promised Land. (Nu 20:1-13) Therefore, Jehovah instructed Moses to commission Joshua as his successor. In the immediate presence of the new high priest, Aaron’s son Eleazar, and before the assembly of Israel, Moses placed his hands upon Joshua. Although appointed as Moses’ successor, Joshua was not to be like him in knowing Jehovah “face to face.” Not all of Moses’ dignity was transferred to Joshua but only that which was needed for him to have the respect of the nation. Rather than the more direct communication Moses had been able to enjoy with Jehovah, “face to face” as it were, Joshua was to consult the high priest, to whom had been entrusted the Urim and Thummim by which the divine will could be ascertained.—Nu 27:18-23; De 1:37, 38; 31:3; 34:9, 10.
As divinely directed, Moses gave certain instructions and encouragement to Joshua so that he might faithfully discharge his commission. (De 3:21, 22, 28; 31:7, 8) Finally, as the time of his death was nearing, Moses was to station himself with Joshua at the tent of meeting. Jehovah then commissioned Joshua, confirming the earlier appointment made by the imposition of Moses’ hands. (De 31:14, 15, 23) Subsequently Joshua participated in some way in writing and teaching the Israelites the song that was given to Moses by inspiration.—De 31:19; 32:44.
Activities as Moses’ Successor. After Moses’ death Joshua prepared to enter the Promised Land. He dispatched officers so that these might instruct the Israelites about getting ready to cross the Jordan three days from then; he reminded the Gadites, Reubenites, and the half tribe of Manasseh of their obligation to assist in the conquest of the land; and he sent out two men to spy out Jericho and the surrounding area.—Jos 1:1–2:1.
Following the return of the two spies, the Israelites left Shittim and encamped near the Jordan. On the next day Jehovah miraculously dammed up the Jordan, permitting the nation to cross on dry ground. To memorialize this event, Joshua set up 12 stones in the middle of the riverbed and 12 stones at Gilgal, Israel’s first encampment W of the Jordan. He also made flint knives for circumcising all the Israelite males born in the wilderness. Thus some four days later they were in a fit condition to observe the Passover.—Jos 2:23–5:11.
Thereafter, while near Jericho, Joshua met an angelic prince from whom he received instruction about the procedure to be followed in taking that city. Joshua handled matters accordingly and, after devoting Jericho to destruction, pronounced a prophetic curse on its future rebuilder, which was fulfilled over 500 years later. (Jos 5:13–6:26; 1Ki 16:34) Next he moved against Ai. At first, the Israelite force of some 3,000 men suffered defeat, Jehovah having withheld his aid because of Achan’s disobediently taking spoil from Jericho for personal use. Subsequent to Israel’s stoning of Achan and his household for this sin, Joshua employed an ambush against Ai and reduced the city to a desolate mound.—Jos 7:1–8:29.
It was then that the entire congregation of Israel, including women, children, and alien residents, went to the vicinity of Mount Ebal. There at Mount Ebal, Joshua built an altar according to the specifications outlined in the Law. As half of the congregation stood in front of Mount Gerizim and the other half in front of Mount Ebal, Joshua read to them the “law, the blessing and the malediction.” “There proved to be not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read aloud.”—Jos 8:30-35.
After returning to their Gilgal camp, Joshua and the chieftains of Israel had a visit from Gibeonite messengers. Recognizing that Jehovah was fighting for the Israelites, the Gibeonites, through trickery, succeeded in concluding a covenant of peace with Joshua. When the actual facts came to light, however, Joshua constituted them slaves. News of what the Gibeonites had done also reached Adoni-zedek the king of Jerusalem. For this reason he and four other Canaanite kings launched a punitive expedition against them. In response to an appeal from the Gibeonites for aid, Joshua staged an all-night march from Gilgal. Jehovah then fought for Israel in defense of the Gibeonites, indicating that he did not disapprove of the covenant that had earlier been made with them. More of the enemy forces perished as a result of a miraculous hailstorm than died in the actual warfare. Jehovah even listened to Joshua’s voice in lengthening the daylight hours for the battle.—Jos 9:3–10:14.
Joshua followed up this God-given victory by capturing Makkedah, Libnah, Lachish, Eglon, Hebron, and Debir, thus breaking the power of the Canaanites in the southern part of the land. Next, the northern Canaanite kings, under the leadership of Jabin the king of Hazor, assembled their forces at the waters of Merom to fight against Israel. Though faced with horses and chariots, Joshua was divinely encouraged not to give way to fear. Again Jehovah granted victory to the Israelites. As instructed, Joshua hamstrung the horses and burned the chariots of the enemy. Hazor itself was consigned to the fire. (Jos 10:16–11:23) Thus, within a period of about six years (compare Nu 10:11; 13:2, 6; 14:34-38; Jos 14:6-10), Joshua defeated 31 kings and subjugated large sections of the Promised Land.—Jos 12:7-24; MAP, Vol. 1, p. 737.
Now came the time for distributing the land to the individual tribes. This was done initially from Gilgal, under the supervision of Joshua, High Priest Eleazar, and ten other divinely appointed representatives. (Jos 13:7; 14:1, 2, 6; Nu 34:17-29) After the tabernacle was located at Shiloh, the apportioning of the land by lot continued from there. (Jos 18:1, 8-10) Joshua himself received the city of Timnath-serah in the mountainous region of Ephraim.—Jos 19:49, 50.
Final Admonition to Israelites, and Death. Toward the end of his life, Joshua assembled Israel’s older men, its heads, judges, and officers, admonishing them to serve Jehovah in faithfulness and warning them of the consequences of disobedience. (Jos 23:1-16) He also called together the entire congregation of Israel, reviewed Jehovah’s past dealings with their forefathers and the nation, and then appealed to them to serve Jehovah. Said Joshua: “Now if it is bad in your eyes to serve Jehovah, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve, whether the gods that your forefathers who were on the other side of the River served or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are dwelling. But as for me and my household, we shall serve Jehovah.” (Jos 24:1-15) Thereafter the Israelites renewed their covenant to obey Jehovah.—Jos 24:16-28.
At the age of 110 years, Joshua died and was buried at Timnath-serah. The good effect of his unswerving loyalty to Jehovah is evident from the fact that “Israel continued to serve Jehovah all the days of Joshua and all the days of the older men who extended their days after Joshua.”—Jos 24:29-31; Jg 2:7-9.
3. Chief of Jerusalem in the time of King Josiah. It appears that high places used for false worship were located near Joshua’s residence, but Josiah had these pulled down.—2Ki 23:8.
4. Son of Jehozadak; the first high priest to serve the repatriated Israelites following their return from Babylonian exile. (Hag 1:1, 12, 14; 2:2-4; Zec 3:1-9; 6:11) In the Bible books of Ezra and Nehemiah, he is called Jeshua.—See JESHUA No. 4.