I. Introduction (Joshua 1:1-18)
A. The Lord Commissions Joshua (Joshua 1:1-9)
After the death of Moses (recorded in the last chapter of Deuteronomy), the Lord commissions Joshua son of Nun to lead the Israelites across the Jordan into the land the Lord is giving them. The Lord promises to be with Joshua and commands him to "be strong and courageous."
B. Joshua Prepares the People (Joshua 1:10-18)
Joshua instructs the Israelites to prepare for the crossing of the Jordan. He commissions the three tribes with land east of the Jordan to help their fellow Israelites in conquering the land west of the Jordan. The people promise obedience to Joshua and echo God's command to him to "be strong and courageous."
II. The Israelite Spies and Rahab (Joshua 2:1-24)
Two Israelite spies enter Jericho and stay with the prostitute Rahab, who knows and confesses that God has given the land to Israel. She hides the spies from the king of Jericho and, in return, they promise to save her and her family from destruction when the Israelites conquer the city.
III. Israel Crosses the Jordan River (Joshua 3:1-5:1)
The Israelites cross the Jordan River from east to west, into the land of promise, following the priests who carry the ark of the covenant. As at the Red Sea, God parts the waters for the Israelites so that they cross on dry ground. Joshua and the Israelites set up twelve stones as a memorial at Gilgal, where they camp after crossing the Jordan.
IV. Circumcision and Passover (Joshua 5:2-12)
The Israelites, all born during the wilderness wanderings, are circumcised at Gilgal because--unlike their parents' generation--they were not circumcised in the wilderness. They also keep the Passover and start eating the produce of the land. The supply of manna that sustained them in the wilderness for forty years ceases.
V. The Commander of the Army of the Lord (Joshua 5:13-15)
Joshua has a vision of the commander of the army of the Lord, equipped for battle. In an echo of Moses' vision at the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-6), the heavenly emissary tells Joshua to remove the sandals from his feet, for the ground on which he is standing is holy.
VI. The Fall of Jericho (Joshua 6:1-27)
Acting on instructions from God, the Israelites march around the city of Jericho every day for seven days. On the seventh day, the walls of the city miraculously fall down, and the Israelites destroy Jericho and everyone in it, except Rahab and her family.
VII. The Sin of Achan (Joshua 7:1-26)
After failing to take the city of Ai, the Israelites learn that God is angry, because one of them has taken booty from Jericho that should have been "devoted to destruction." God reveals the culprit to be Achan, of the tribe of Judah, and he and his household are killed as punishment.
VIII. The Destruction of the City of Ai (Joshua 8:1-29)
The Israelites capture the city of Ai and kill all its inhabitants. They are allowed to take the livestock and other things from the city as spoils of war.
IX. Covenant Renewal (Joshua 8:30-35)
The Israelites fulfill Moses' instructions from Deuteronomy 27 to hold a covenant renewal ceremony at Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim (see also Deuteronomy 11:29-30). The people assemble, Joshua builds an altar, the priests offer sacrifices, and Joshua writes out the law of Moses and reads it to the Israelites.
X. Treaty with the Gibeonites (Joshua 9:1-27)
Through trickery, the Gibeonites of central Canaan persuade the Israelites to make a treaty with them, so that they and their cities will not be destroyed. When the Israelites discover the trick, they honor the treaty, but consign the Gibeonites to be "hewers of wood and drawers of water" for the sanctuary.
XI. Continued War with the Peoples of the Land (Joshua 10:1-11:23)
A. The Sun Stands Still as Israel Fights the Amorites (Joshua 10:1-15)
Joshua and his forces, with miraculous intervention by God, defeat five Amorite kings who have attacked Gibeon. At Joshua's request, the sun stands still for a day so that the victory can be accomplished.
B. Five Amorite Kings Killed (Joshua 10:16-27)
The five Amorite kings flee and hide in a cave. Joshua finds them and kills them as a symbol of what will happen to all of Israel's enemies.
C. Victories for Israel (Joshua 10:28-11:15)
Joshua and the Israelites capture and destroy many cities. They also defeat a large army mustered by northern Canaanite kings against Israel. In all this, Joshua is obeying the commands of the Lord to Moses (11:15).
D. Summary of Joshua's Victories (Joshua 11:16-23)
These verses are a summary statement of all the land that Joshua and the Israelites conquered in Canaan. The passage describes the boundaries of Israel at the height of the Davidic kingdom. The summary ends, "And the land had rest from war" (11:23).
E. The Kings Conquered by Moses (Joshua 12:1-6)
These verses list the lands and kings conquered by Moses and the Israelites east of the Jordan River.
F. The Kings Conquered by Joshua (Joshua 12:7-24)
These verses list the lands and the thirty-one kings conquered by Joshua and the Israelites west of the Jordan River.
XII. Dividing the Land for an Inheritance (Joshua 13:1-21:45)
The land captured by Israel, both east and west of the Jordan River, is divided among the twelve tribes of Israel.
A. Introduction: The Land Still Unconquered and the Command to Divide the Land (Joshua 13:1-7)
The Lord lists for Joshua the parts of Canaan still unconquered by the Israelites and promises to drive out the inhabitants of those lands. The Lord also commands Joshua to divide the land of Canaan for an inheritance to nine and a half tribes of Israel.
B. The Land East of the Jordan Given by Moses to Israelite Tribes (Joshua 13:8-33)
The text lists the lands and cities east of the Jordan River given by Moses to the other two and a half tribes of Israel: Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh.
C. The Land West of the Jordan Given by Eleazar and Joshua to Israelite Tribes (Joshua 14:1-19:51)
The land of Canaan, west of the Jordan, is divided by lot and given by Joshua and the priest Eleazar (son of Aaron) to nine and a half Israelite tribes: Judah, Ephraim, the other half-tribe of Manasseh, Benjamin, Simeon, Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, Naphtali, and Dan. Joshua and Caleb, the only people still living of the generation that came out of Egypt, are given their own individual allotments of land.
D. The Cities of Refuge (Joshua 20:1-9)
The Lord commands Israel to set aside "cities of refuge," where a person who has killed someone unintentionally can take refuge from those who would seek revenge. The Israelites designate six cities throughout their territory as cities of refuge.
E. Cities for the Levites (Joshua 21:1-42)
The priestly tribe of Levi, which possesses no land because "the LORD God of Israel is their inheritance" (13:33), is allotted forty-eight towns scattered throughout the territory of the other tribes. These towns include the six cities of refuge.
F. Promises Fulfilled (Joshua 21:43-45)
These verses are a summary statement of the fulfillment of God's promises to Israel concerning the land. It ends, "Not one of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass" (21:45).
XIII. An Altar Built and a War Prevented (Joshua 22:1-34)
The eastern tribes--Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh--return to their territory after having helped the other tribes conquer Canaan. They build a memorial altar on the western bank of the Jordan River. The other tribes interpret the building of the altar as rebellion against the Lord and threaten war, but the eastern tribes explain that the altar is meant to serve as a witness in generations to come that they, too, worship the same God as the rest of Israel.
XIV. Joshua's Exhortation (Joshua 23:1-16)
Joshua has grown old and is about to die. He calls all Israel to him and exhorts them to obey the commands of the book of the law of Moses, so that they might not be enticed by the nations around them to forsake the covenant.
XV. Covenant Ceremony (Joshua 24:1-28)
Joshua calls all Israel to him at Shechem, where he asks them to serve the Lord--the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob--rather than other gods. They reaffirm their allegiance to the Lord, and Joshua makes a covenant with them there, erecting a stone as a memorial of the covenant.
XVI. Death of Joshua and Death of Eleazar (Joshua 24:29-33)
Joshua dies at 110 years of age and is buried in the land he received as an inheritance. The bones of Joseph, which the Israelites brought out of Egypt, are buried at Shechem. The priest Eleazar, son of Aaron, dies and is buried at Gibeah.
AUTHOR: Kathryn Schifferdecker, Associate Professor of Old Testament