Joshua Testifies to Jehovah’s Faithfulness
THE dependability of the faithful universal Sovereign Jehovah God stands in striking contrast to the failure of human rulers to keep promises. He is a God who always keeps his promises, fulfills his part of any covenant that he makes with his creatures. Rightly, the prophet Moses spoke of him as “a God of faithfulness.”—Deut. 32:4.
Joshua, the sixth book of the Bible, is really a record of how Jehovah God faithfully fulfilled the promises that he made to the nation of Israel and to their forefathers. Time and again he promised to give them the land of Canaan. In fact, it came to be called the Promised Land.* Moreover, Jehovah assured Joshua of success in all his undertakings, on condition that he adhere to God’s law. Joshua did obey and, true to his promise, Jehovah caused him to be successful.—Josh. 1:8.
AUTHENTICITY AND WRITERSHIP
Like many other books of the Hebrew Scriptures, the book of Joshua has been the object of attack. Some term it a “romance,” others claim that it is “utterly unhistorical.” But their attacks lack sound basis. How could this book be a fraudulent piece of writing in view of the way it honors the Creator, Jehovah God, as the Keeper of Promises? How could such a claim be made in view of the book’s earnest exhortations to faithfulness and the candor with which it records the failings of God’s people? Furthermore, the book has all the earmarks of a contemporary account. This is apparent from the many details provided both as to time and the geographical location of the happenings narrated.
Also strongly testifying to its authenticity are the many references that later Bible writers make to the events recorded in the book of Joshua. Time and again the psalmists make mention of these, and so do Governor Nehemiah, the prophet Isaiah, the first Christian martyr Stephen, the apostle Paul and the disciple James.* Certainly these inspired writers would not have done so had there been any question as to the factualness of the events recorded in the book. Then, too, at 1 Kings 16:34, we find the fulfillment of the curse that Joshua pronounced on any man that would rebuild Jericho.—Josh. 6:26.
That it was none other than Joshua who wrote the book is a most reasonable conclusion. Since he succeeded Moses as the leader of Israel, he would logically continue the record of the history of his people begun by Moses. This has been the firm conviction of Jewish scholars in times past as well as that of the early Christians. Furthermore, some dozen times the expression ‘down until this day’ occurs, indicating that the writer was a contemporary of the events he records. Then, too, we have the direct testimony: “Joshua wrote these words in the book of God’s law and took a great stone and set it up there under the massive tree that is by the sanctuary of Jehovah.”—Josh. 24:26.
The book of Joshua appears to fall into four main divisions: Jos Chapters 1 to 5 deal with events from the death of Moses to the beginning of the conquest of the land; chapters 6 to 12 tell of the conquest of Canaan; chapters 13 to 22 deal with the division of the land; and chapters 23 and 24 contain Joshua’s farewell messages, calling to our minds Moses’ farewell addresses to Israel.
EVENTS PRECEDING JERICHO’S FALL
This book by Moses’ successor begins with the assurance that Jehovah would be with Joshua even as He had been with Moses—if he faithfully perused God’s Word day and night and acted in harmony with it. (Josh. 1:1-9) Having received this encouragement, Joshua ordered his people to get ready to cross the Jordan. First, however, he sent two men to spy out the land and particularly Jericho. These entered the house that may well have been an inn operated by Rahab the harlot. The woman told them how all Jericho had become fearful of the Israelites and about her faith in Jehovah God. Because of having hidden the two spies from the men sent by the king to take them, she elicited a promise that when the Israelites took Jericho she and her household would be spared.—Josh. 1:10–2:24.
After the spies had reported to him, Joshua, together with all his people, rose early to cross the Jordan. In the front were the priests bearing the ark of the covenant. As they moved forward, and actually stepped into the waters of the Jordan, which was at flood stage, Jehovah, true to his promise, parted the waters, enabling the Israelites to cross over on dry ground. To commemorate this miracle, Joshua had stones taken from the midst of the Jordan set up as a pillar at the camping place for that day. Next, Joshua ordered all the males to be circumcised, after which the Passover was celebrated. At this point they began eating of the produce of the land, and Jehovah ceased to provide manna for them. Joshua was reassured by the appearance before him of the angelic “prince of the army of Jehovah.”—Josh. 3:1–5:15.
THE CONQUEST OF CANAAN
In obedience to divine instructions, the Israelites marched around Jericho once a day for six days. On the seventh day they marched around the city seven times. The procession consisted of a well-equipped army, and also the priests, blowing on rams’ horns, accompanying the ark of the covenant. When, on the last time around on that final day, the priests blew their horns, the people shouted and, true to Jehovah’s word, the walls of Jericho fell. The Israelite soldiers marched straight in and put to the sword all the inhabitants, as well as all the livestock, and burned the city with fire. Only Rahab and the relatives in her house were spared.—Josh. 6:1-27.
Joshua and his people next proceeded against Ai. However, here, to their great consternation, they met with defeat. Joshua prostrated himself before Jehovah, and asked the meaning of this reversal. Especially was he concerned about what would happen to Jehovah’s name if his people were destroyed. Jehovah answered by telling him that unfaithfulness had been committed in connection with the destruction of Jericho. By means of lots, Joshua ferreted out the guilty one, Achan of the tribe of Judah, who had taken spoils contrary to Jehovah’s explicit instructions. After Achan and his family and all his belongings were destroyed, Israel again met with success, taking both Ai and the city of Bethel. Then, in obedience to Moses’ instruction, the Israelites were stationed, six tribes in front of Mount Gerizim and six tribes in front of Mount Ebal, while Joshua pronounced to them the blessing and the malediction.—Deut. 11:29; Josh. 7:1–8:35.
Next, we read of how the men of Gibeon sued for peace with Israel. Because of this the surrounding nations set out to attack the Gibeonites, who then called on Joshua for help. By a forced march, Joshua came to their rescue. It was during this battle that Joshua asked the sun and the moon to stand still. This they did for about a whole day, enabling Israel to complete their rout of the combined forces that had threatened the Gibeonites. Here again Jehovah proved to be the faithful God. Not only did he answer Joshua’s request but He sent down great hailstones, which killed more of the foe than the Israelite warriors did.—Josh. 9:1–10:15.
Thereafter Joshua and his army conquered the Canaanites in the south and the west and then in the north. Repeatedly Israel gained the victory over combined enemy forces. All told, 31 kings were defeated.—Josh. 10:16–12:24.
THE DIVISION OF THE LAND
In recording the division of the land, Joshua logically began by rehearsing that the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half of the tribe of Manasseh had received their inheritance east of the Jordan (at their own request, as it was ideal pastureland and they had large flocks). All the land west of the Jordan was divided by lot, beginning with the tribe of Judah. Provision was made for six cities of refuge, havens for accidental manslayers. These were included in the 48 cities assigned to the tribe of Levi that had no separate inheritance in the land.—Josh. 13:1–21:42.
In concluding the account of the division of the land, Joshua stressed: “Jehovah gave Israel all the land that he had sworn to give to their forefathers . . . Not a promise failed out of all the good promise that Jehovah had made to the house of Israel; it all came true.”—Josh. 21:43-45.
After this the warriors of the two and a half tribes whose territory lay east of Jordan, but who had helped fellow Israelites to take possession of the land, returned to their own inheritance. Their building an altar as a monument was misunderstood as an act of apostasy and caused a temporary crisis. But when it was explained that the altar simply was to serve as a witness before Jehovah, and was not for sacrifice, all the other Israelites were satisfied.—Josh. 22:1-34.
JOSHUA’S FAREWELL ADDRESSES
Sensing that he did not have much longer to live, Joshua summoned all the older men, the heads, judges and officers of Israel to him. He reminded them of what Jehovah had done for them, even as He had promised, and then urged: “Be very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses by never turning away from it to the right or to the left.” After warning them what would befall them if they proved unfaithful, he again reminded them: “You well know with all your hearts and with all your souls that not one word out of all the good words that Jehovah your God has spoken to you has failed. They have all come true for you. Not one word of them has failed.”—Josh. 23:1-16.
Then, upon convening all Israel at Shechem, Joshua gave them Jehovah’s message in which Jehovah recounted their history, from the time of Abraham on to the time that they came up out of Egypt, their sojourn in the wilderness, their crossing of the Jordan and now their success in taking the land of Canaan. In view of all of this, Joshua urged his people to fear Jehovah God and to worship him alone. But, “if it is bad in your eyes to serve Jehovah, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve. . . . But as for me and my household, we shall serve Jehovah.” Appreciatively the people answered that it would be unthinkable for them to serve any god other than Jehovah.—Josh. 24:1-18.
However, Joshua did not let it go at that. Rather, he reminded them: “You are not able to serve Jehovah, for he is a holy God; he is a God exacting exclusive devotion. He will not pardon your revolting and your sins.” In turn the people insisted: “No, but Jehovah we shall serve!” To that Joshua replied: “You are witnesses against yourselves that you of your own accord have chosen Jehovah for yourselves, to serve him.” To this they replied: “We are witnesses.” So Joshua concluded a covenant with the people to that effect.—Josh. 24:19-28.
Not long thereafter Joshua died at the age of 110 years. And we read 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 and who had known all the work of Jehovah that he did for Israel.” (Josh. 24:29-31) All of these had certainly seen how faithful is Jehovah God, true to all his promises.
We today stand to profit from the book of Joshua, even as the apostle Paul noted: “All the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.” Yes, the book of Joshua strengthens our hope that whatever Jehovah God has promised he will certainly perform.—Rom. 15:4.
To Abraham (Gen. 13:15); to Isaac (Gen. 26:3); to Jacob (Gen. 35:12); to Moses (Ex. 3:8). See also Moses’ references to this promise, as at Leviticus 25:2; Numbers 14:31; Deuteronomy 4:22; 5:33; 6:10; 7:1; and so forth.
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Joshua faithfully studied Jehovah’s laws ‘day and night’