Joshua, the first of the twelve historical books (Joshua—Esther), forges a link between the days of Moses and the remainder of Israel’s history. Through three major military campaigns involving more than thirty enemy armies, the people of Israel learn a crucial lesson under Joshua’s capable leadership: Victory comes through faith in God and obedience to His word, rather than through military might or numerical superiority.
The events narrated in Joshua take place over a period of about fifty years. In that span of time Israel goes from a group of squabbling refugees to a cooperative nation comprised of twelve distinct tribes that work together to claim the land God has given them.
Unlike the previous generation, this group of Israelites obeys God’s word to cross the Jordan River. They do so partly in response to the Lord’s word to Joshua at the beginning of the book: “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you” (1:5). As if to bring home that message, through a miracle the Lord allows the nation to cross into the Promised Land on dry ground (3).
The book does not record an unbroken string of military successes and conquests, but instead chronicles both the high and low points of the nation’s growing possession of Canaan. By the end of the book, Joshua has become an old man—and yet his faithful, God-honoring spirit remains as strong as ever as he tells his people, “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of 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” (24:15).
Theme: Listening to God is essential to walking with God. God told Joshua to be brave and to trust Him. Joshua obeyed, and the rest is history.
Author: Probably Joshua himself (Josh. 24:26).
Time: Moses died about 1407 B.C., at which time Joshua assumed command and led the Israelites in the occupation of Canaan. The Book of Joshua closes with Joshua’s farewell address and his death.
Structure: Chapters 1–12 of the Book of Joshua cover the invasion and conquest of Canaan; chapters 13–22 tell of the division of the territories among the tribes of Israel; chapters 23–24 record Joshua’s farewell address to his people.
Charles F. Stanley, The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles, 2005), Jos.