Today we started and finishing reading all of Joshua, and the first ten chapters of Judges. Reading Joshua and Judges (a partial extension of Joshua) is helpful if we have a basic understanding of the geography throughout the conquest, the twelve tribes becoming established, and the progression of the judges in Israel.
The first five books of the Bible (the Torah) anticipate the conquering of the Promised Land. In the last five days, we've seen God's promise to Israel, beginning with Abraham, and spreading through all the patriarchs, then Joseph and his father Jacob (Israel), and into the story of Moses and the Hebrews (Israelites). In about 1400 B.C. (or 1220 if considering the late exodus, though the leading scholarship heavily favors an earlier exodus), Joshua led the twelve tribes of Israel into Canaan.
At the opening of Joshua, before anyone crosses the Jordan into the Promised Land, Joshua reminds Israel to "Remember the word that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, saying, ‘The Lord your God is providing you a place of rest and will give you this land'" (Joshua 1:13). The Israelites respond positively, saying they will obey Joshua's word from God just as they "obeyed Moses in all things" (Joshua 1:17). Of course, the Israelites did not obey Moses in all things; however, it's inspiring to see the Israelites' hearts as they move toward conquering the land of Canaan.
God made a promise and he had a plan. His promise to Abraham in Genesis 15 was that Abraham’s descendants would receive the Promised Land. But Moses disobeyed-- now what? The first-generation would not enter the Promised Land “because of their unbelief,” like Hebrews 3:19 and 4:6 both say. But God cannot lie, and his promises are faithful. Moses’ disobedience would not fault the promises of God. God just had to choose someone else to fulfill his plan.
Joshua was filled with the same spirit of wisdom that Moses had, and the Israelites were charged to follow him just as they followed Moses.
Joshua 1 is God’s reassurance to Joshua to be strong and courageous, not terrified, or discouraged. God reassures Joshua that he will be with him no matter what. How often can we be so timid, so scared, so hesitant to change the world as God calls us to? Joshua has a huge task at hand. Moses, the leader of Israel and the man who spoke face to face with God, passed the reigns on to Joshua. Now it was Joshua’s responsibility to lead Israel into the promised land. What an unbelievable task!
Are we ever faced with a task we feel we are unprepared for? What is our response to these circumstances? Do we shrink back and cower in fear, or do we boldly move forth, knowing God will be with us, and most importantly knowing his character, that he does fulfill his promises?
Just as Moses did in Numbers 13, Joshua sent spies to scout the land in Joshua 2.
The sending of spies to scope the land of Canaan is characteristic of Moses and Joshua.
In Number 13-14, Moses sent 12 men from the wilderness of Paran at Kadesh Barnea, one from each tribe. They scouted the whole land. Caleb and Joshua are included in these 12 people, and Caleb and Joshua are the only ones that aren't terrified of the Canaanites.
Joshua trusted God, and remained strong and courageous. Do we trust God to be faithful with his promises? Do we shrink back, or do we inspire others to lead and to be the best they can be for God? Does our devotion to Christ and our obedience to God’s commands inspire others to follow God?
Joshua sent two spies who went into Rahab’s house, a prostitute, or inn-keeper, or harlot. Even in the adorned Jericho, it may have been a matter of oriental hospitality that the king didn’t order them to storm into the woman’s apartment. Perhaps the king expected Rahab to do her civic, patriotic duty and turn the spies in. However, as we know the story goes, Rahab conceals the two spies, and the king's men come pounding at her door.
In the Code of Hammurabi, the Babylonian code of laws dating back to 1754 B.C., it says: If felons are banded together in an ale-wife’s (prostitute; inn-keeper) house and she has not haled them to the palace, that ale-wife shall be put to death.” Rahab was being hospitable and generous; this was actually quite common during this age; however, Rahab also proved her faith in God (a God she likely did not worship on her own. In response to the spies' faith, she grew in her own faith).
As we remember from Deuteronomy, Moses led the people Israel right up to the point of crossing the Jordan and entering the Promised Land, Canaan. However, because of Moses' disobedience in Numbers 20, he and Aaron would not be leading the first-generation Exodus Israelites into the Promised Land. Rather, Joshua succeeded Moses as the leader of Israel to lead them into the Promised land. The map below is of the exodus and the conquest of Canaan in conjunction (see the legend for color identification). If you haven't read Joshua already, this map, as well as the other map in this recap will be helpful as you read and identify the movement of Israel.
In Joshua 5, the Lord commands Joshua to circumcise the new generation. The second generation was never circumcised, and this was a covenant for the people Israel, to be set apart. Circumcision is a theme throughout the whole Old Testament, a continued requirement for God's holy people (circumcision of the heart in the New Testament).
Joshua commanded the circumcision of the second generation at Gilgal, which is just to the west of the Jordan River, and south of Jericho.
Likewise, the Israelites celebrate the Passover there in Gilgal.
In Joshua 6, the Israelites march around the city of Jericho once a day for six days, then seven times through on the seventh day. Afterward, seven priests were to blow seven horns before the ark of the covenant, which would make the walls of Jericho fall down flat. Wow! Amazing. The Israelites were commanded to keep themselves from the things in Jericho devoted to destruction. Likewise, Rahab and her whole family were saved from sure destruction, because Rahab hid the two spies sent to Canaan in Joshua 2.
In Joshua 8, Joshua renews the covenant with Israel. Joshua 8:35 says "There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the sojourners who lives among them." Joshua held on tightly to God's word; so tightly that he felt he needed to read every single word of the law to the new generation. Again, incredible!
These chapters are about the specific geographical divisions of the twelve tribes of Israel in Canaan. Each tribe was given their allotment and inheritance, and the map below shows their boundaries. Take note of Judah in the south (bordered by Benjamin), as well as the location of Jerusalem (the border of Judah and Benjamin), and Bethlehem (south of Jerusalem). Feel free to study the map a little. Understanding a few important locations will help clarify much of the Bible's teaching. Especially in 1 Kings 12, understanding the basic location of Judah in respect to the rest of Israel will help when Rehoboam causes Israel to split into two.
The book of Judges begins with Joshua still begin alive (even though he dies at the end of Joshua). The first two chapters primarily focus on the continued conquest of Canaan, as well as the reason the Lord pronounced judges over Israel. The Book of Judges involves some overlap with the end of Joshua, and regards the individuals who were made leaders of Israel following Joshua's death up until Samuel is charged to appoint the first king of Israel. Each chapter represents a dichotomy. Israel sins and is disobedient to God. They begin to worship Baal and other foreign gods (due to the influence of the Canaanites as well as their unrelenting hearts). Time and time again, the Israelites sin, are stuck in their own sin, and then call out to God for help. Then God sends a judge who saves them from the hands of their enemy. The book shows that the Israelites "did what was right in their own eyes" (17:6; 21:25), instead of what was right in God's eyes.
A short passage that may easily summarize the theme of the entire Book of Judges is chapter 3:16-23:
"16 Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them. 17 Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the Lord, and they did not do so.18 Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them.19 But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways. 20 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he said, “Because this people have transgressed my covenant that I commanded their fathers and have not obeyed my voice, 21 I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations that Joshua left when he died, 22 in order to test Israel by them, whether they will take care to walk in the way of the Lord as their fathers did, or not.” 23 So the Lord left those nations, not driving them out quickly, and he did not give them into the hand of Joshua."
There are many judges from whom we can learn from.
Othniel, son of Kenaz (Caleb's younger brother) was vigorous, and the "Spirit of the Lord was upon him" (Judges 3:10).
Ehud was fearless.
Shamgar was a lot of things. He killed 600 Philistines with an oxgoad. He was courageous, fearless, confident, strong. The Bible doesn't say much about him, but I'm inspired by him.
Deborah and Barak were witty.
Gideon was a prayer warrior.
As we finish Joshua tomorrow, let's take note of the characteristics of each judge; some may be commendable, while others perhaps frightening. The Book of Judges shows us that God works powerfully through people who are faithful, and he sometimes works powerfully through those who are knuckleheads. Either way, it is God who works, and it is God who saves.