Moses’ successor was Joshua. Let us get before us the early career of this man of God—that part of his career that endeth with the death of Moses. In the first book of the Chronicles () Joshua’s pedigree reaches back through eight generations and over a period of four hundred years to Ephraim. He thus had Joseph as his ancestor; and of the two sons of Joseph he was sprung from the one who, though the younger, would be the greater. He was a scion of the chief family of the tribe, as his grandfather, Elishama ( ), was head of his tribe and thus also of the whole camp of Ephraim which, in addition to his own tribe, included Manasseh and Benjamin. At Rephidim, in the early days of the wilderness sojourn, the Amalekites, wandering desert tribes, swooped down upon the stragglers—upon the sick and infirm—of the marching host ( ). Joshua was selected by the Lord to repel the attack; and was even allowed to choose the men by which this was to be done. Under his command, God fought for His people and gave complete victory. From God’s throne, through Moses’ elevated hand, in which was the rod of God, victorious power and confidence flowed into the host of warriors. Amalek’s treacherous doing, his discomforture, and the expressed determination of the Lord eventually to put out his remembrance from under heaven, were written in a book and rehearsed in the ears of Joshua—so the Lord had commanded—in token that the future extirpation of the Amalekites was entrusted to him; and so it became evident, even now at this early date, that he was destined to be the successor of Moses. ( ). His former name, Hoshea (help or salvation) was enriched by the insertion of a syllable of the divine name. ( ). “And Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun, Jehoshua” or Joshua (Jehovah is help or salvation). It was this present victory that in all likelihood occasioned the change.
After this Moses selected Joshua to be his personal servant and attendant. He was with Moses during the time that the latter received the law on the top of the mount, as appears from the notice at. The Lord commanded Moses to come up to Him on the mount (vs. 12). “Then Moses rose up, and his minister Joshua: and Moses went up into the mount of God” (vs. 13). Here again Joshua was signally honored. He was placed before the congregation who, in its, approach to God, was permitted to progress only to the base of the mount ( ). He was preferred, on this occasion, even above Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy of the elders of Israel. The latter were called to ascend to a certain height and worship afar off; while Moses, accompanied by Joshua, went up into the mount of God ( ). However, it is not clear from the narrative whether Joshua was with Moses all the time, also when the latter was in the immediate presence of God. The fact of the matter is probably this: The whole company—Moses, Joshua, Aaron and his sons and the seventy elders—went unto a certain part of the mount, where all came to rest and “saw the God of Israel and did eat and drink” ( ). Then Moses was summoned to ascend still higher, and only Joshua accompanied him ( ) and was with him “when the glory of the Lord abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days” ( ). Again God called Moses to ascend still higher, and “Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the mount” (vs. 18), with Joshua remaining behind in a place midway between the spot where all had seen and fellowshipped with God and the summit where Moses was alone with God for forty days. But we deal here with a probability. No statements occur in the narrative that militate against the view that Joshua went with Moses even into “the midst of the cloud.” Yet it does not seem likely, that when Moses stood face to face with God in the holiest (the very summit), a third party was present. It would seem that Joshua; did not move from his intermediate position on the slope of the mount all the forty days and forty nights when Moses was with God. That, certainly, was a case of remarkable obedience, of a wonderful devotion of a servant to his master and to the cause that the master was espousing—the cause of God and His people.
At long last Moses left God’s presence, either in company with Joshua or, if the latter of the two views just presented is correct, to rejoin him. As they proceeded to the foot of the mountain, a noise was heard from afar. Joshua thought it was the noise of war in the camp. No, says Moses, who had been told by God what went on below, they are not sounds such as the victorious and the conquered utter but they are the sounds of them that sing, the antiphonies of a new worship, the shouts of unholy and shameful riot. And so it was. For when he reached the camp, he saw the calf and the dancing.
During all the crisis that followed, Joshua remained faithful to Moses. When Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp, afar off, Joshua was with him, and departed not out of the tabernacle (). Whether he ascended the mount with Moses the second time, we are not told. But it is likely that he did. Be this as it may, he was much with Moses at this, formative period of his life. His impression of the true nobility of Moses’ great soul, of his wisdom and faith, his consecration to God and devotion to His people, his steadfastness, and meekness—must have been deep. And, being a child of grace, his desire to be like him, must have waxed stronger and stronger, but his great attachment for his master was not untainted by fanatical zeal. Moses had complained to the Lord that the burden of the people was erasing him ( ). When the Spirit descended upon the seventy elders, appointed to assist Moses in bearing the burden of the people, they prophesied around the tabernacle. Two of the men that had been summoned had remained in the camp; but even they began to prophesy. Joshua, on hearing this, showed great zeal. They seemed not to be ordained by his honored master. Their failure to appear at the tabernacle at the time specified for their ordination struck him as indifference to the presence of their head. So he hurried to inform Moses thinking that he would interfere to forbid them and to censure their irregularity. But the wrong zeal of youth was shamed by a memorable rebuke from the leader. “Wilt thou be a zealot for me? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit, upon them” ( ).
Not long after Joshua was appointed one of twelve spies that were sent to search (the land of Canaan. When they came back, the ten spies raised their voice against any attempt to take possession of the land. But Caleb resented the notion that the people were net able to take possession and urged them to go up at once. But the mischief had been done.
The cry of the people, “Let us make a captain, and let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt,” shows how strongly the tide of unbelief was flowing. Overwhelmed, Moses and Aaron fall on their faces before the congregation. And the two faithful spies? With rent clothes they made their way among the people, speaking words calculated to arrest fear and stimulate faith in God. “The land is an exceeding good land,” they said. “The Lord will give it us. . . Rebel not against the Lord. . . .Fear ye not the people of the land, for their defense is departed from them.” But it was all in vain. “All the congregation bade stone them with stones.” The cry would have been heeded, had not, the spectacle of the glory of the Lord, appearing in the tabernacle, made them afraid.
For this great sin, the penalty was severe. The congregation were to wander in the wilderness for forty years, till all that generation be wasted in the wilderness. The ten unfaithful spies were to die at once from the plague. But Joshua and Caleb were honored. Their lives were preserved and they alone were to enter and be established in the promised land.
Upon the events of the next 38 or 40 years in the life of Joshua an unbroken silence falls. Like Moses he suffers a long burial in the wilderness, and then he reappears on the stage of Israel’s history end does a great work, comparable with that of Moses. The first we read of him, after his long eclipse, is in connection with the notice of the death of Moses (). God virtually appoints him to succeed Moses, and orders both of them to present themselves in the tabernacle of the congregation. The Lord through Moses gives him a charge and says: “Be strong and of good courage: for thou shalt bring the children of Israel into the land which I sware unto them: and I will be with thee” ( ).
We might desire to know how Joshua was further prepared for his work in those thirty and eight years; we might desire to know more of him in the years that follow. But this is denied us. He stands out simply as a military hero of faith, and his faith was not excelled by that of Moses himself.
Was the descent from Moses to Joshua very great? In a sense it was. He was no legislator and no prophet as was Moses who through his revelations laid the foundation of all later prophecy, and whose name therefore reappears, constantly, in the psalms, in the gospels and in the epistles. Joshua did not rank with Moses. Of all the prophets, Moses was the greatest. Yet in a sense he did rank with Moses. If Moses brought instrumentally the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt, out of the housie of bondage, Joshua gave them rest—the rest of the earthy Canaan.
Immediately after Moses’ death, the Lord called Joshua to activity—“Arise, go over this Jordon, thou and all this people, unto the land which I do give unto them (). The history of the conquest of the land of Canaan commences here and forms the first part of the book of Joshua.
God announced further that He was now in the act of fulfilling His promise,—that the land pledged to Abraham was now to become the possession of his seed. Having expatiated on its boundaries, the Lord encourages and admonishes Joshua. There shall not any man be able to stand before him all the days of his life. As the Lord was with Moses, so He will be with him; He will not fail him nor forsake him. Let him be strong and of good courage: for he shall divide for an inheritance the land unto this people. He shall bake a careful observance of the law, in order that the great work assigned to him by the Lord may be accomplished. The book of the law shall continually be in his mouth. He must speak to the people the words of the law and impress upon them its sacred design; and he must also ground himself more deeply therein. Therefore it is added: “Thou shalt meditate therein day and night. . . .” He is to penetrate into its meaning more deeply and thus become qualified to speak God’s word to the people. Observing to do according to all that is written in the law, he shall make his way prosperous, and then he shall have good success. Once more he is commanded to be strong and of good courage, not to be afraid nor to be dismayed in that God will be with him whithersoever he goes ().
Joshua now commanded the officers to charge the people. They are to prepare them victuals, as in three days they shall pass over Jordon to appropriate through warfare the land given them by their God. Now follows verses 12-18, a special demand of Joshua upon the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half tribe of Manassah. They had, on account of their flocks and herds, been given their portions in the land east of the Jordon on the condition that they should help (the others in the conquest of Canaan proper. They are now asked to fulfill that condition, which they also promise to do.