Jason L. Kortering is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Grandville, Michigan.
The first main division in the Book of Joshua covers,Joshua 1:1-12:24, and describes the entrance of Israel into the land of Canaan and the conquest of all its parts. We continue this outline from Joshua 1:9.
Joshua instructs the officers to tell the people to prepare food, for they will cross the Jordan in three days. He also reminds the men of Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh to fulfill their promise to go with the people over the Jordan to help the others possess their place in the land. All the men assure Joshua of their allegiance, even express their willingness to put to death any who will not hearken to his words. They express the desire that Jehovah God be present with Joshua as He was with Moses (Joshua 1:10-18). Joshua secretly sends out two spies to enter Jericho and view the land. They enter the harlot Rahab’s house and soon the messengers of the king of Jericho come and order Rahab to bring forth the men who are accused of being spies.
Rahab had hid the spies on the roof among the stalks of flax. She told the messengers that there had been men present, but that they left when it was dark, just prior to the closing of the gate. They pursued after them in vain. In the meanwhile, Rahab expresses her faith in Jehovah by telling the spies of the terror that is fallen upon the city when they heard of the great works of Jehovah in Egypt and on the other side of Jordan. She asked them to show her mercy by saving her and her family alive. They agree that if she keep still and bind the scarlet line in the window and have all the relatives in her house when they return, she and they shall be spared. If not, they are free of their oath. The spies left, spent three days in the mountains until their pursuers returned to the city, and then returned to Joshua. Their testimony was, “Truly, the Lord hath delivered into our hands all the land; for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us,” (Joshua 2:1-24). Joshua rose early on the third day and led Israel from Shittim to the edge of the Jordan. The people are instructed to sanctify themselves this day and on the morrow to follow the ark, leaving some distance between them when they see it pass before them. The next day Jehovah assures Joshua that He will magnify him in the sight of the people for the wonder He will do. The people are called to the edge of the river and instructed that when the feet of the priests that bear the ark touch the waters of the Jordan it will part and form a wall and they will cross on dry land. The priests which carry the ark lead the way into the midst of the river and stand there as all the people pass safely over (Joshua 3:1-17). A memorial is erected as God had instructed. According to that divine instruction, one man from each tribe selected a large stone from the area in the river where the priests stood holding the ark, carried these stones to the place of encampment in Gilgal, and placed them on a pile for a reminder of what God had done. They are specifically instructed to use the occasion of questioning children to tell them the great wonders which God had done. In addition, twelve stones are also piled in the midst of the river where the priests stood. When everything is finished, and all the people passed over, including the men of Reuben, Gad, and half tribe of Manasseh, as well as an army of 40,000 men ready for battle, Jehovah instructed Joshua to command the priests to come out of the river. When the soles of their feet touched the dry land, the waters returned (Joshua 4:1-24).
Mention is-made of the fear (their heart melted) of the Amorites and the kings of Canaan when they heard of this miraculous crossing (Joshua 5:1). At Gilgal, God instructed Joshua to renew the rite of circumcision. During the forty years of wilderness sojourn, the old generation died off and they had not circumcised the new generation which was born. In this way the reproach of Egypt was rolled away (Joshua 5:2-9). Also at this time they enjoyed the passover in the plains of Jericho (Joshua 5:10, 11). Mention is made that manna ceased, since they had the old corn of the land for food (Joshua 5:12). The captain of the Lord’s host appears to Joshua. At first Joshua is afraid, not knowing if he is an enemy or not. He assures Joshua that He is come to serve as captain, and thereupon instructs Joshua to take his shoe from off his foot for the place is holy (Joshua 5:13-15). Now Jehovah instructs Joshua in the method whereby they will take Jericho. They are to compass the city once each day for six days. At the head of this parade, seven priests are to carry trumpets of rams’ horns as they walk ahead of the ark of the covenant, preceded and followed by the men of war. On the seventh day they are to encircle the city seven times. After the seventh time, the priests are to give a long blast from the trumpets and the people are to shout, and the walls of the city will fall down flat. Each soldier must then go straight before him into the city and take it. This knowledge Joshua now passed on to the people. On each of the succeeding six days they carry out this strange parade about the city of Jericho, the sound of the trumpets blasting each day. On the seventh day this takes place seven times. At the seventh time the priests blew with their trumpets, the people shouted and the walls fell down flat. Joshua had instructed the people that with the exception of Rahab the harlot and her family, all the inhabitants and possessions of the city .had to be destroyed, it was accursed of God. The soldiers killed all the people and animals and burnt the city with fire. Only the silver and gold and vessels of brass and iron they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord. Joshua pronounces a curse upon any man who will rebuild this city. Rahab and her family are taken into the congregation of Israel (Joshua 6:1-27).
During the conquest of Jericho, Achan of the tribe of Judah stole of the accursed thing, and God’s anger was kindled against Israel. This became evident when Israel attempted to take the city of Ai. After spies were sent out to view the city and the report came back that it could easily be taken with about two or three thousand men of war, Joshua directed them to take the city, but instead they fled before the army of Ai, and thirty-six men of Israel were killed. Joshua was overcome with fear. He and the elders put dust on their heads and rent their clothes before Jehovah. Joshua pleaded for the people, for this will give the enemy opportunity to rejoice. Jehovah told Joshua to arise. Israel has sinned, for the accursed thing of Jericho has been stolen. God instructed Joshua to call the people together by tribes and cast the lot to determine who has done this, for that person must be burnt with fire. The next day, they assembled before Joshua. The tribe of Judah was taken by lot. The family of the Zarhites was taken, and among them Zabdi was exposed, and finally Achan of that family. Achan admitted that he had taken a goodly Babylonish garment, 200 shekels of silver and a 50-shekel-weight wedge of gold. These were buried in the midst of his tent and were uncovered and brought to Joshua. Achan, his family, all his possessions were then taken to the valley of Achor and stoned and burned with fire. A heap of stones testifies of Jehovah’s fierce anger against all evil in Israel (Joshua 7:1-26). Eyes are now set upon Ai once again. The instructions are clearly given: in this instance they are to kill all the inhabitants, only they may keep the cattle and spoil for themselves. Now Joshua with the whole army, marched toward Ai. He assigned thirty thousand to lie in ambush against the city while he took about five thousand with him and approached the gate. They pretended that they were afraid once again, and ran away. Out of the city poured the armies of Ai, and thus allowed those who lay in ambush to enter the city. They did this when they saw Joshua raise his spear as a pre-arranged sign. The men of Ai looked back and saw the smoke of the city raise heavenward. Joshua and his men saw this as well. They stopped and turned against the men of Ai, who by now were trapped between the forces of Israel on either side. The army of Israel slew all the men of Ai in. the field and all the inhabitants of the city, about 12,000 men and women. The city was burned with fire, the king he hanged on a tree and they buried his corpse beneath a heap of stones. The cattle and spoil the people took for themselves. After this Joshua built an altar of stone and offered burnt offerings to God. He also publicly read the law which Joshua had received from Moses and rehearsed them all in the ears of the people as they stood before Ebal and Gerizim, as Moses had instructed him (Joshua 8:1-35).
The kings of Canaan now confederated together to fight Israel. The exceptions to this were the inhabitants of Gibeon who sued for peace with Israel. They did this by deception. They placed old sacks upon their asses and took old wine bottles, old shoes and garments, and dry and moldy bread to make it look as if they traveled many miles. They made a big display of how far they traveled and how they heard about the great wonders the God of Israel did in Egypt and to Sihon and Og the kings to the east. They offered to be their servants if they would spare their lives. Without consulting the Lord, Joshua and the people made a league with them. Later they learned that they were neighbors, close by them. The congregation was dismayed that Joshua and the princes had made this oath with them. They consulted among each other and agreed that they could not now kill them, after they had made this oath. Rather, they would make them their servants, hewers of wood and drawers of water unto all the congregation. this news Joshua publicly conveyed to them, and they excused their deception as being motivated by fear for survival; but that they were satisfied to be Israel’s servants (Joshua 9:1-27). Apart from Gibeon, five other kings now join forces against Israel: the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, Eglon prepare for battle against Gibeon. Gibeon quickly calls Israel for help. The Lord discomfited them and slew them, and as they fled, huge hailstones killed even more. While Israel pursued them, the sun stood still and there was a great slaughter. Subsequently, the five kings which fled and hid in a cave were taken out. The princes put their feet on their necks while Joshua killed them. Their bodies were hanged on trees for a day and then buried under stones in the cave (Joshua 10:1-27).