Joshua :: Catholic News Agency

Author: Unknown

Date: 1406-517 BC


The book of Joshua takes the biblical storyline from the plains of Moab into the promised land.  It narrates Israel's history from the crossing of the Jordan River to the fall of Jericho to the conquest of the land.  The book tells us how the land was divided among the tribes and includes Joshua's last speech to the people before his death.


At the beginning of the book, the Lord commissions Joshua to take on the leadership of Israel as the successor of Moses.  Before his death, Moses and the people had defeated two kings east of the Jordan: Sihon of Heshbon and Og of Bashan.  He gave their land to Reuben, Manasseh and Gad on the condition that their men would help the other tribes conquer the rest of the promised land (Deut 3).  Joshua reminds them of their commitment (Josh 1).


Then Joshua sends a group of spies into Jericho and they stay at the house of Rahab, making a deal with her that when the people of Israel conquer Jericho they will not kill anyone in her house (2).  When the people cross the Jordan, the Lord miraculously parts the waters by having the Levites with the Ark of the Covenant stand in the middle of the river bed.  Just as at the Red Sea, the people cross with dry feet (3).


The people set up camp on the west side of the Jordan at Gilgal.  There they celebrate the Passover, the men are circumcised and the miraculous manna ceases (5).  Joshua has an angelic vision in which he receives the Lord's "battle plan" for taking Jericho.  The people are to walk around the city with the Ark for six days in silence and then on the seventh day they are to shout loudly as they walk around (6).  When they follow these instructions, the walls of Jericho collapse.


Ch. 7-13 tell of the conquering of the land.  Achan steals spoil from Jericho, which causes the people to lose a battle until his treason is discovered and he is executed (7).  The people perform the covenant renewal ceremony which Moses mandated in Deuteronomy.  Some of the people in the land deceive Joshua and the Israelites into making a covenant, which prevents them from conquering the whole land (9).  Joshua conquers a group of five kings and then an entire alliance.  The people conquer 33 kings in all, but the Lord makes it clear that they are not finished (12-13).


In the next section (14-21), Joshua apportions the land to the various tribes.  Depending on the size and requests of each tribe, they get different portions.  Yet most of the land is distributed by casting lots at Shiloh (18).  In this section, Joshua also establishes cities of refuge and cities for the Levites.  The land distribution was very important for an ancient agrarian society because it determined the livelihood and wealth potential of each family.


In Ch. 22, the tribes who had land to the east of the Jordan build an altar, which sparks the other tribes to prepare for war against them because they see the construction of the altar as an act of defiance against the Lord.  When the tribes west of Jordan send envoys, the eastern tribes explain that the altar was not intended for sacrifices but to be a witness of their unity with the other tribes and of their fidelity to the Lord.  The western tribes accept this explanation and avoid war.


Joshua then shares his last thoughts with the leaders and people of Israel: to drive out the other peoples from the land, to avoid intermarrying, to follow the Law and to reject idol worship.  Most of all, he urges them to serve the Lord and they pledge themselves to be faithful to him.  The book of Joshua illustrates the people's struggle with fulfilling God's calling, but also shows his fidelity to his promises.  It is a call for us to be faithful to him who is faithful to us.


By Mark Giszczak


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