By now, you probably know the drill. If you are new to this, this series, as you may have deciphered, is an outline of the entire Bible, book by good ol’ book. Here are the previous sections: Part 1 | Genesis, Part 2 | Exodus, Part 3 | Leviticus, Part 4.1 | Numbers 1-8, Part 4.2 | Numbers 9-19, Part 4.3 | Numbers 20-27, Part 4.4 | Numbers 28-36, Part 5.1 | Deuteronomy 1-11, Part 5.2 | Deuteronomy 12-20, Part 5.3 | Deuteronomy 21-34
Part 6.1 | Joshua 1-12 – In the first half of Joshua, we clearly see the might, faithfulness, and judgement of the Lord displayed. He, through the nation of Israel, conquers nation after nation with ease. Despite their unfaithfulness at times, the Lord continues to deliver kings into the Israelite’s hands. The Israelites have conquered many nations, and the inheritance is almost theirs. As we continue to read the book of Joshua, we will see the promise finally fulfilled and we will learn of the allotment of the long awaited land to the respective tribes of Israel after a long and arduous journey.
Part 6.2 | Joshua 13-19 – Chapters 13 to 19 of Joshua completely document in detail the division of the promise land to all 12 tribes of Israel. This land stretched from the east of Jordan to the west, and it was intently divided.
JOSHUA – Before Moses’ death at the end of Deuteronomy, Joshua is identified as his successor. The book of Joshua simply chronicles the appointed leadership of Joshua over the Israelites. At the beginning of this book, we see Joshua finally take on the mantle of leader and we follow his journey as he leads the Israelites in conquering the land promised to them by the Lord. The long, eventful, and sometimes radical conquest takes place through the book of Joshua. After it’s all said and done, we see the promised land allotted to the tribes of Israel. The book of Joshua celebrates the fulfillment of the Lord’s promises while also portraying the severity of His righteous judgement that comes to pass by His unquestionable power. The Israelites could not have conquered the land without the clear and unwavering strength of the Lord.
- Joshua 20 | The cities of refuge are established: We learned in Numbers 35 and Deuteronomy 19 of the cities of refuge that were to be established to protect those that did not murder “with intent.” These people, whether an Israelite or a sojourner, could flee to the cities of refuge for protection from revenge until they could come before the congregation. Here are the list of the cities: Kedesh in the land of Naphtali, Shechem in the land of Ephraim, Hebron in the land of Judah, Bezer in the land of Reuben, Ramoth in the land of Gad, and Golan in the land of Manasseh.
- Joshua 21 | The Levites are allotted cities from each tribe, and the Lord’s promise is fulfilled: In Joshua 14 we were reminded that the inheritance of the Levites was not included among the inheritance of the other tribes. The Levites were set apart completely for the Lord, and their inheritance was a portion of all that was offered to the Lord. When it came to the land that was divided to each tribe, this chapter documents in detail the cities that they were given to the three clans of the Levites (The Kohathites, Gershonites, and Merarites) from each tribe of Israel, which totaled 48! As all tribes have finally found a portion of the promise land as home, the chapter ends with a declaration of the fulfillment of the promises of the Lord:
Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers and they took possession of it, and they settled there. And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. | Joshua 21:43-45
These words resonate wonderfully with our own lives! We struggle day-to-day like the Israelites throughout their long and challenging journey. We find and often put ourselves in circumstances that cause us to doubt. But after the dust settles we will always realize and clearly see that the Lord fulfills all of His good promises. Not one word will fail. In the end, all circumstances, from the good times and the bad, and all creation, from men to animals to plants to stars, testify to the glory of God.
- Joshua 22 | Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh leave, civil war, the importance of the tabernacle, and the altar called “Witness”: The two and a half tribes that claimed their territory east of the Jordan had fulfilled the commandment of the Lord to fight with the Israelites as they conquered the land. Joshua blessed them and sent them on their way to the east of the Jordan. Not long after their return to the east, the Israelites to the west see an altar built by the two and half tribes at the “frontier of the land of Canaan, in the region about the Jordan, on the side that belongs to the people of Israel,” and this unsanctioned altar causes Israel to prepare for civil war. They are up in arms and they send Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, and one chief from each tribe to confront the two and a half tribes to the east of the Jordan. They come in anger and fear of the Lord. They claim that there is only one altar, in the tabernacle, and that any other altar is rebellion to the Lord that will cause the anger of the Lord to fall on the entire congregation. However, the two and a half tribes explain that this altar was not built to sacrifice, it was built as a sign to future generations of their relationship with God and with the chosen people of Israel. They wanted their children to know that although they are to the east of the Jordan, they are wholly devoted to the Lord and are a part of His promise. The congregation understands their premise and they proclaim the altar as “Witness.” This account brings up some interesting questions! Are you in a strange land? Have you built an altar in rebellion against the Lord? Or have you built an altar of Witness?
- Joshua 23 | A warning for the nation set apart: Near the end of his life, we see Joshua gather together all of Israel and all of the elders. He praises the good and powerful work of the Lord to drive out great nations from the midst of the Israelites, but he also warns the Israelites to be strong and to follow the law completely. He warns them that mixing with the nations that the Lord has driven out would be a trap:
Therefore, be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left, that you may not mix with these nations remaining among you or make mention of the names of their gods or swear by them or bow down to them, but you shall cling to the Lord your God just as you have done to this day. For the Lord has driven out before you great and strong nations. And as for you, no man has been able to stand before you to this day. One man of you puts to flight a thousand, since it is the Lord your God who fights for you, just as he promised you. Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God. For if you turn back and cling to the remnant of these nations remaining among you and make marriages with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you, but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good ground that the Lord your God has given you. | Joshua 23:6-13
In these verses we see the stage effectively set for the book of Judges.
- Joshua 24 | All the Lord has brought them through, the decision of whom to serve, and the death of Joshua and Eleazar: Chapter 24 is an awesome chapter. The beginning verses list all the mighty work that the Lord has done for the Israelites from their very beginning with Abraham. The Lord tells them through Joshua that long ago their forefathers served other gods, but the Lord brought their father, Abraham, into His kingdom and blessed him. The Lord brought them through Egypt and the wilderness and He gave the Israelites the strength to overcome mighty nations. The list of what the Lord has done is quite extensive, and it ends with this revelation:
‘I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant. Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, wether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’ | Joshua 24:13-15
They have experienced the immense goodness of the Lord, but they are still given a choice. The Israelites immediately responded and chose to serve the Lord. Joshua again warns them to put away all other gods and to incline their heart to the Lord (verse 23), and they make it clear that they will serve Him and obey His voice. As the chapter and book comes to an end, we read of the death and burial of both Joshua and Eleazar the priest. We also read verse 31 which seems to foreshadow events to come.
Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work that the Lord did for Israel. | Joshua 24: 31
This verse makes me question what happened after those who knew the work of the Lord died? Did they forget?
The book of Joshua takes us through the completion of the Lord’s great promise to the Israelites. Joshua is blessed with completing what Moses had been tasked with, and the Lord continues to be faithful and mighty through it all. Ultimately, this book can be summarized with two key points. First, the Israelites finally conquer the land and move into it after a long process of dividing it. Second, they are all warned to completely follow the law of the Lord given to them through Moses. This warning proves to be a key as we continue to read of the life of the Israelites in their new land in the book of Judges.