The Lord Commands Joshua, 1-18
Jos 1:1 After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide:
After the exodus from Egypt, Israel wandered for 40 years in the desert, with failing faith and refusal to obey the Lord. Finally, a new generation was ready to enter the promised land. Only Joshua and Caleb survived amongst those who had left Egypt. Joshua had already demonstrated that he was a man of faith and courage, Nu 13:30-14:9, and it was he who was chosen by God to lead the people into Canaan.
The book open with the Israelites camped along the east bank of the Jordan. They were at the very edge of the promised land, and were completing the period of mourning for Moses, who had just died, Deut 34:7-8.
This chapter serves as an introduction to the whole book, and introduces a number of themes and motifs which will be important later.
After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord – Moses will be named over fifty times in this book. This expression occurred in Deut 34:5, and will recur another thirteen times in this book. The title is also applied to Abraham, Gen 26:24; David, 1 Kings 8:66; and even Nebuchadnezzar, Jer 25:9. The title assumes special significance in the ‘Servant Songs’ of Isaiah (Isa 42:1-4; 49:1-7; 50:4-11; 52:13-53:12). Joshua himself is referred to as the servant of the Lord, but not until Jos 24:29.
‘The opening words indicate both the historical starting point of the book and the theological crisis with which it deals.’ (New Geneva)
‘Spiritual leadership is a matter of superior spiritual power, and it can never be self-generated. There is no such thing as a self-made spiritual leader.’ (J.O. Sanders)
‘Although the servant of the Lord was an honoured position in the Old Testament, Jesus introduces a whole new category of relationship. In Jn 15:15, he explicitly rejects the term servants for his disciples and replaces it with friends. For all those who follow Christ, this describes a new and fuller relationship with him. At the same time, the response of the apostle Paul is to continue to recognise that he is a slave of Christ. (Rom 1:1 1 Cor 7:22 Eph 6:6) Thus the Christian, elevated by Jesus to a new relationship, willingly submits to the discipleship to which God calls believers.’ (Hess)
‘On the death of Moses a sad change seemed impending; the people were left like a body with its head lopped off. While thus in danger of dispersion, not only did the truth of God prove itself to be immortal, but it was shown in the person of Joshua as in a bright mirror, that when God takes away those whom he has adorned with special gifts, he has others in readiness to supply their place, and that though he is pleased for a time to give excellent gifts to some, his mighty power is not tied down to them, but he is able, as often as seems to him good, to find fit successors, nay, to raise up from the very stones persons qualified to perform illustrious deeds.’ (Calvin)
Although there is no criticism here of Moses as a leader, we recall that through his own disobedience he forfeited the opportunity of entry into Canaan, Heb 3:18-19 4:1.
‘Although the servant of the Lord was an honoured position in the Old Testament, Jesus introduces a whole new category of relationship. In Jn 15:15, he explicitly rejects the term servants for his disicples and replaces it with friends. For all those who follow Christ, this describes a new and fuller relationship with him. At the same time, the response of the apostle Paul is to continue to recognise that he is a “slave” of Christ, Rom 1:1 1 Cor 7:22 Eph 6:6. Thus the Christian, elevated by Jesus to a new relationship, willingly submits to the discipleship to which God calls believers.’ (Hess)
The Lord said to Joshua – Since Joshua has been mentioned frequently in the Pentateuch, he is introduced here as son of Nun without further detail. Joshua was appointed leader by divine commission, Nu 27:15-23 Deut 3:21-22 31:1-8 “Spiritual leaders are not made by election or appointment, by any combination of men, nor by conferences or synods. Only God can make them.” (J. Oswald Sanders) we are not told exactly how God communicated with Joshua.
‘Instructions are given him by Infinite Wisdom, and encouragements by the God of all consolation.’ (MHC)
Joshua … Moses’ aide – ‘Joshua’s title, Moses’ assistant, (cf. 1 Sam 3:1; 1 Kings 19:21) recalls that Joshua had been groomed for this leadership by gift, training and experience (cf. Ex 17:8-15; 24:12-13; Nu 14:6-12; 27:12-23; 32:12; Dt. 1:37-38; 34:9).’ (NBC)
A summary of Joshua’s life as recorded in the Pentateuch:-
- He appears as a victorious general in the war against the Amalekites, Ex 17:8-13
- He ascends the mountain of God with Moses, and is designated the latter’s ‘assistant’, Ex 24:13
- Moses speaks with him about the noise in the camp when Moses returns from the summit, Ex 32:17
- He is described as ‘the son of Nun’, Ex 33:11
- He protests against the prophesyings of the Israelites not selected by Moses (but Moses rejects the protest), Nu 11:28
- We learn that Moses had renamed Hoshea from the tribe of Ephraim as Joshua, Nu 13:16 Deut 32:44
- Of the 12 spies, on Joshua and Caleb returned with a positive report and are spared the plague that destroyed the other spies, Nu 14:6,30,38.
- He is commissioned to succeed Moses in Nu 27:18-23
- It becomes clear that his work will involve the assignment of the Promised Land, Nu 34:17
- Moses is commanded to ‘strengthen’ Joshua, Deut 1:38. (Retold in Deut 3:28, the verb ‘to encourage’ is added, creating the form ‘strengthen and encourage’, cf 31:6,7,23)
- In Deut 32:44 he accompanies Moses as the latter teaches the people the song of that chapter
- Joshua is filled with the spirit of wisdom as Moses lays his hands on him, Deut 34:9
Hess, from whom the above is condensed, adds: ‘For the Christian, this background exemplifies the preparation of a leader for Christian ministry. The leader is someone who, like Joshua, has already undertaken specific tasks successfully and who has demonstrated a loyalty to God’s Word even when that means standing out from the crowd. Such a leader, who acts with independent judgement, can make mistakes. However, it is important to learn from those mistakes. A leader like Joshua is someone recognised by the people of God and, most important of all, someone whom God clearly chooses.’ (Hess)
“Joshua learned how to obey as a servant before he commanded as a general; he was first a servant and then a ruler.”He (Mt 25:21) who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander,”wrote Aristotle in his Politics.” (Wiersbe)
This description of Joshua occurred in Ex 24:13 and 33:11, when he ascended the mountain of God with Moses, and in Nu 11:28, when Joshua served as Moses assistant in the wilderness. The use of two different terms, one to describe Moses relationship with the Lord, and the other to describe Joshuas relationship with Moses, serve to underline the difference between the two relationships.
‘Who is your Moses? Who is your Joshua? You are part of the chain of God’s ongoing work in the world. You are modeling yourself after others, and others are patterning their lives after you. How important is God to those you want to be like? Do those who are watching you see God reflected in every area of your life? Ask God to lead you to a trustworthy Moses. Ask him to make you a good Joshua.’ (Life Application)
‘That opening speech virtually outlines the entire book. “Arise, go over Jordan” (1:2) points to the preparation for conquest (chs. 1-5). “No man shall be able to stand before you” (1:5) announces in advance the result of the Israelite-Canaanite clash (chs. 6-12). “You shall cause this people to possess this land which I swore to give to their fathers” (1:6) is prophetic of what is described in chapters 13-22. The exhortation “Be strong … to guard to do i.e., to carefully do according to all the law which Moses my servant commanded you” (1:7) anticipates the concluding hortatory section of the book (chs. 23-24) in which Joshua pleads with the people to be faithful to the Lord.’ (OT Survey)
Joshua’s qualifications for leadership:-
- He had been appointed by God, Nu 27:18-23
- He was one of only two remaining eyewitnesses to the Egyptian plagues and the exodus from Egypt
- He had been Moses’ personal assistant for 40 years
- Of the 12 spies, only he and Caleb gave a positive report that God would enable them to conquer the land
Jos 1:2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them-to the Israelites.”
‘Joshua begins with words the reader has begun to wonder if he would ever hear…the rest of the book then has the land as its principal theme: its invasion, conquest and division. It ends in the same way as Deuteronomy with a renewal of the covenant, but with one of its promises now an accomplished fact, no longer a future hope.’ (Chris Wright, Living as the People of God, 48)
‘One cannot escape the emphasis here that God is about to act for Israel. The great acts of God for Israel in the Exodus are to be continued since salvation is not complete until the people are brought into the inheritance.’ (Goldsworthy, Gospel and Kingdom, 68)
The section 1:2-5 summarises the book as a whole: v2 describes the crossing of the Jordan (1:1-5:12). Verse 3 outlines the conquest of 5:13-12:24. Verse 4 hints at the distribution of the land in 13:1-22:34. Verse 5 refers to ‘all the days’ of Joshua’s life, the end of which is emphasised in chapters 23-24.
“Moses my servant is dead” – “God will own his servants, will confess them in the great day. But Moses, though God’s servant, and one that could ill be spared, is dead; for God will change hands, to show that whatever instruments he uses he is not tied to any. Moses, when he has done his work as a servant, dies and goes to rest from his labours, and enters into the joy of his Lord. Observe, God takes notice of the death of his servants. It is precious in his sight, Ps 116:15” (MHC)
A smooth transition from one leader to another is not easy to achieve. It takes trust, humility, and foresight to begin to prepare a successor. Too many organisations – and too many churches – deteriorate after their founder has died, because no replacement had been planned for, and everyone had become too dependent.
‘What a daunting prospect those words would conjure up in Joshua’s mind. No longer could he lean on his old mentor. He was left with God alone. And who could step into the shoes of a man of such massive stature and personality? He would be engulfed in the sense of his own inadequacy. When some outstanding leader dies, it always seems as though he or she is irreplaceable. But time soon proves, in a most humbling fashion, that no man is indispensable to the purposes of God. God is dependent on no one human instrument, however great or gifted. God buries his workmen, but his work goes on unhindered by the change in personnel. Moses dies, but God has his Joshua ready to assume leadership.’ (J.O. Sanders)
‘All good men are God’s servants; and it is no disparagement, but an honour, to the greatest of men to be so: angels themselves are his ministers. Moses was called to extraordinary work, was a steward in God’s house, and in the discharge of the trusts reposed in him he served not himself but God who employed him; he was faithful as a servant, and with an eye to the Son, as is intimated, Heb 3:5, where what he did is said to be for a testimony of the things that should be spoken after. God will own his servants, will confess them in the great day. But Moses, though God’s servant, and one that could ill be spared, is dead; for God will change hands, to show that whatever instruments he uses he is not tied to any. Moses, when he has done his work as a servant, dies and goes to rest from his labours, and enters into the joy of his Lord.’ (MHC)
“Now then” – This verse reads literally, “Now arise, cross..” (i.e. cross immediately, without delay.”) There is a sense of urgency in this verse. God’s workers are buried, but God’s work continues. “Christ commands the church: Follow me, and he too allows no procrastination.” (cf. Lk 9:59-62) (NBC)
Gods plan for his people has not been altered by the death of Moses.
“You and all these people”– The people are to act in unity and as a totality. This is illustrated in the participation of the Transjordan tribes and in the sin of Achan.
“Get ready to cross the Jordan River”– ‘The people are east of the river, (Deut 1:1) which has a deep valley and forms a formidable boundary between them and the land God has promised to the west.’ (New Geneva)
‘The river Jordan had a separating rather than a connecting function, running through a deep gorge which be called the earth’s deepest valley. The Jordan flows into the Dead Sea, which lies 1286 feet below sea level. The river runs through a wider trough called the Ghor, within which is a narrower depression of one hundred feet or more in depth, forming the actual river bottom. In addition to these forbidding features the absolute level of the river valley is greatly enhanced by the mountains on both sides. The slopes are generally steep and sudden, sometimes forming huge precipices.’ (Woudstra) 3:15 notes in addition that the river was in flood at the time of the crossing.
On not clinging to the past: “Would that life were like the shadow cast by a wall or a tree,” says the Talmud, “but it is like the shadow of a bird in flight.” Trying to clutch the past to our hearts is as futile as trying to embrace the passing shadow of a bird in flight.” (Wiersbe)
“God promised Joshua that Israel would enter the land. (Jos 1:3-4) Over the centuries God had reaffirmed this promise, from his first words to Abraham Gen. 12 to his last words to Moses Deut 34:4. God would take them over the Jordan and into enemy territory. He then would enable them to claim for themselves the land that he had promised them.” (Wiersbe)
“The lesson for God’s people today is clear: God has given us”all spiritual blessings…in Christ,” (Eph 1:3) and we must step out by faith and claim them. He has set before his church an open door that nobody can close, (Rev 3:8) and we must walk through that door by faith and claim new territory for the Lord. It is impossible to a stand still in Christian life and service; for when you stand still, you immediately start going backward.”Let us go on!”is God’s challenge to his church, (Heb 6:1) and that means moving ahead into new territory.” (Wiersbe)
“The land”– ‘The word land1 is found eighty-seven times in the Book of Joshua because this book is the record of Israels entering, conquering, and claiming the Promised Land. God promised to give the land to Abraham, (Ge 12:1-7 13:15-17 15:7,18 17:8 24:7) and he reaffirmed the promise to Isaac, (Ge 26:1-5) Jacob, (Ge 28:4,13,15 35:12) and their descendants. (Ge 50:24) The Exodus narrative gives many reaffirmations of the promise, (Ex 3:8,17 6:4,8 12:25 13:5,11 16:35 23:20-33 33:1-3 34:10-16) and these are repeated in Leviticus (14:34; 18:3; 19:23; 20:22-24; 23:10; 25:2, 38) and Numbers (11:12; 15:2, 18; 16:13-14; 20:12, 24; 27:12; 33:53; 34:2, 12). (See also 1 Chron 16:14-18)’ (Wiersbe)
The land belongs to the Lord, Le 25:23. The Lord’s people receive as a heritage, Ex 15:17 1 Sam 26:19 16:18 50:11???. But it does not belong to them: they are tenants and ‘strangers’. The NT takes up this terminology, 1 Pet 1:4 Heb 11:13 Rom 8:17. The promise of the land must not be lifted directly into the Christian era, for the NT, though holding out some expectation of a restoration of the ancient people of God, Rom 11:25f, does not link this with a repossession of the land.
‘A possible line may be drawn between the land of Canaan, possessed by Israel, and the whole earth, possessed by the people of God in the New Dispensation (compare Ps 37:1 with Mt 5:5).’ (Woudstra,
Jos 1:3 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.
“I will give you every place…”– God promises them the land, but they must take it for themselves. And it is the whole land that is given – when the land came to be distributed, there were to be no gaps between the different territories. The NT counterpart is Eph 1:3.
“As I promised Moses”– The promise of land was first made to the patriarchs, eg Gen 15:18, and reaffirmed to Moses in Deut 34:4. The mention of Moses here emphasises that Joshua is Moses’ successor.
Joshua’s generation proved the dominant theme of this history; namely, the Lord kept his promise to the patriarchs and gave Israel the land and rest. It is stated and restated at key points in the book: in the prologue before the conquest (1:1-9), after the conquest (11:23), and after the distribution of the land (21:43-45). The burial notices at the end of the book also symbolize this truth (24:28-33). This sacred history establishes Israel’s confession, ‘The LORD is God’ (22:22), and the motivation for keeping his covenant (chs. 23-24). It encourages the faithful to possess the land that remains (13:1-7; 14:6-15; 19:49-50), while leaving the unfaithful without excuse (18:3), and sobers all with the dark realization that God also keeps the curses of his covenant (23:15-16; 24:19-24).
Israel for its part must fulfil its covenant obligations by taking, allotting, and retaining the land through the obedience of faith in the LORD, showing their faith in him by obeying his law. (NBC)
Jos 1:4 your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates-all the Hittite country-to the Great Sea on the west.
In this verse ‘the outmost boundaries of the land are defined, though the southern boundary is sketchy. Only during the reign of Solomon did Israel control such an area (see 13:1-7). The desert refers to the eastern desert that begins in Transjordan. Lebanon is included in the promised land in Jos 13:5.’ (NBC)
“The desert” is that region to the west and south of the Jordan.
“Lebanon” – forms the region to the west and north of the Jordan.
“The Great Sea” is, of course, the Mediterranean.
Jos 1:5 No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.
“As I was with Moses, so I will be with you” – What God has been in the past is the guarantee of what he will be in the future. The Book of Joshua picks up where Deuteronomy left off.
“I will never leave you nor forsake you”– “God had given a similar promise to Jacob, (Ge 28:15) and Moses had repeated God’s promise to Joshua. (Deut 31:1-8) God would one day give this same promise to Gideon (Jud 6:16) and to the Jewish exiles returning from Babylon to their land; (Isa 41:10 43:5) and David would give it to his son Solomon. (1 Chron 28:20) But best of all, God has given this promise to his people today! The Gospel of Matthew opens with”Emmanuel…God with us”Mt 1:23 and closes with Jesus saying,”Lo, I am with you always.” (Mt 28:20, NKJV) The writer of Heb 13:5 quotes Jos 1:5 and applies it to Christians today: “I will never leave you nor forsake you”(NKJV).” (Wiersbe)
‘This promise here made to Joshua is applied to all believers, and improved as an argument against covetousness, Heb 13:5, Be content with such things as you have, for he hath said, I will never leave thee.’ (MHC)
God’s promised presence as a basis for their trust anticipates our Lord’s promise in Mt 28:18-20, which forms the basis for the Great Commission.
How often do we feel anxious or disheartened about coming events? We can apply to ourselves the Lord’s promise to his people.
The Unity of the Founding Generation
‘The author aims to link Joshua with Moses and to identify the people that entered the land as the representatives of those that came out of Egypt (see 24:7, 17). Though the exodus and conquest lasted over two generations, the author of Joshua treats those founding generations as one. He links Moses and his assistant Joshua throughout the book. For example, God promised to be with both (1:5); both lead Israel across a formidable body of water that amazingly dries up and so are exalted in the eyes of the people (3:7); both take off their shoes in the presence of the LORD (5:13-15); both intercede for the people when they sin (7:7); both possess the land and distribute it (12:7-8; 14:1-5); both bless the people (22:6); and both mediate the old covenant (ch. 24). The generation under these two leaders saw the LORD’s amazing wonders in the exodus and the conquest (24:7, 17) and entered into covenant with him; they are the first leaders of the nation ruled by God.’ (NBC)
Jos 1:6 “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.”
“Be strong and courageous”– This encouragement is given four times in this one chapter (vv6,7,9,18). “It is to be noted that God placed on Joshua himself the onus of being strong and courageous. This was his responsibility, not God’s. But does it not seem a hollow mockery to tell a man in the grip of weakness and fear to be strong and unafraid? How can he help fearing? But all God’s commands are enablings. We can do all God commands us to do, for he does not fail or for sake us. Joshua’s courage and fearlessness were not self-generated but were derived from the realised presence of God. They were the product of conscious weakness and constant dependence. This exhortation implies that he felt weak, afraid, helpless, dismayed. It is reassuring that God has room in his army for those who are not strangers to these emotions, provided only that they draw on him for strength and courage.” (J. Oswald Sanders)
“Divine sovereignty is not a substitute for human responsibility. God’s sovereign Word is an encouragement to God’s servants to believe God and obey his commands. As Charles Spurgeon put it, Joshua”was not to use the promise as a couch upon which his indolence might luxuriate, but as a girdle wherewith to gird up his loins for future activity”(Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 14, p. 97). In short, God’s promises are prods, not pillows.” (Wiersbe)
“Joshua had long since signalized his valour, in the war with Amalek, and in his dissent from the report of the evil spies; and yet God sees fit thus to inculcate this precept upon him. Those that have grace have need to be called upon again and again to exercise grace and to improve in it. Joshua was humble and low in his own eyes, not distrustful of God, and his power, and promise, but diffident of himself, and of his own wisdom, and strength, and sufficiency for the work, especially coming after so great a man as Moses; and therefore God repeats this so often, “Be strong and of a good courage; let not the sense of thy own infirmities dishearten thee; God is all-sufficient.” (MHC)
“Inherit” ‘is of rich theological significance. It has subsequently become a NT term for the enjoyment of spiritual blessings of salvation. (eg 1 Pet 1:4) The word is used in Jos 11:23 14:13 16:4 17:6…It suggests that Israel has a claim upon the land vis-a-vis its former inhabitants. It also suggests the durative aspect of the possession of the land, and that of individual apportionment.’ (Woudstra)
“The land I swore to their forefathers to give them” – God’s faithfulness to his covenant promise is one of the leading themes of the book.
Jos 1:7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.
The third charge, to be courageous and meditate on the law, vs 7-8, shows that possessing the land depends on faith’s obedience to the Book of the Law. Trust and obedience kiss, not fight, Rom 1:5 16:26 Jas 2:14-26. Though Joshua was groomed for this war, obedience, not might, guaranteed the success of the operation. Christians under the new covenant have the two-fold advantage that Christ satisfied the law’s demands and promises Mt 5:17 Rom 3:21-26 and through the Spirit has written the law upon their hearts 2 Cor 3:3-6 Heb 8:7-13 10:15-18″ (NBC)
‘The Christian of all men needs courage and resolution. Indeed there is nothing that he does as a Christian, or can do, but is an act of valour. A cowardly spirit is beneath the lowest duty of a Christian, ‘be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest’-What? stand in battle against those warlike nations? No, but that thou mayest ‘observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee,’ Jos 1:7. It requires more prowess and greatness of spirit to obey God faithfully, than to command an army of men; to be a Christian than a captain. What seems less, than for a Christian to pray? yet this cannot be performed aright without a princely spirit: as Jacob is said to behave himself like a prince, when he did but pray; for which he came out of the field God’s banneret. Indeed if you call that prayer, which a carnal person performs, nothing is more poor and dastardlike. Such an one is as great a stranger to this enterprise, as the craven soldier to the exploits of a valiant chieftain. The Christian in prayer comes up close to God, with a humble boldness of faith, and takes hold of him, wrestles with him; yea, will not let him go without a blessing, and all this in the face of his own sins, and divine justice, which let fly upon him from the fiery mouth of the law; while the other’s boldness in prayer is but the child, either of ignorance in his mind, or hardness in his heart; whereby not feeling his sins, and not knowing his danger, he rushes upon duty with a blind confidence, which soon quails when conscience awakes, and gives him the alarm, that his sins are upon him, as the Philistines on Samson: alas, then in a fright the poorspirited wretch throws down his weapon, flies the presence of God with guilty Adam, and dares not look him in the face. Indeed there is no duty in the Christian’s whole course of walking with God, or acting for God but is lined with many difficulties, which shoot like enemies through the hedges at him, while he is marching towards heaven: so that he is put to dispute every inch of ground as he goes. They are only a few noblespirited souls, who dare take heaven by force, that are fit for this calling.’ (Gurnall)
“The law”– ‘The Hebrew word is broader in meaning than the English word “law.” It may include both promises and commands, as well as records of God’s activity.’ (New Geneva) It may wel be that the Deuteronomic law is especially in mind, given the close relationship between that book and Joshua, and given the very frequent reference in Deuteronomy of the warning not to turn to he right or to the left. (Deut 2:27 5:29 17:11,20 28:14)
Although Joshua was now to lead the people into new territory, this involved no break with the past, but, rather, a steadfast adherence to the Mosaic instructions.
‘For Christian leaders, the importance of the study of God’s Word was recognised in the apostle’s charge to Timothy. (1 Tim 4:11-14) In Romans 5-6, Paul also addresses the role of God’s grace in forgiveness and salvation and as a means to victory over sin. Like Joshua, Christians do not succeed spiritually because they obey God’s law. Instead, God through Christ enables them to have victory over sin.’ (1 Cor 15:57) (Hess)
Jos 1:8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
“This Book of the Law” – “During the years of his leadership, Moses kept a written record of God’s words and acts and committed this record to the care of the priests. (Deut 31:9) he wrote in it a reminder to Joshua to wipe out the Amalekites. (Ex 17:14) Among other things, the”Book of the Law”included”the Book of the Covenant”(24:4, 7), a record of the journeys of the people from Egypt to Canaan, (Nu 33:2) special regulations dealing with inheritance, (Nu 36:13) and the song that Moses taught the people. (Deut 31:19) Moses kept adding material to this record until it included everything God wanted in it. (Jos 1:24) we have reason to believe the entire five Books of Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy) comprised”the Book of the Law,”the greatest legacy Moses could leave to his successor.” (Wiersbe)
“Your mouth” – “The Hebrew word translated”meditate”means”to mutter.”It was the practice of the Jews to read Scripture aloud (Ac 8:26-40) and talk about it to themselves and to one another. (Deut 6:6-9) This explains why God warned Joshua that the Book of the Law was not to depart out of his mouth.” (Jos 1:8) (Wiersbe)
“The study of the law must be assiduous; because, when it is omitted even for a short time, many errors slip in, and our memory grows rusty. Besides, when continuous study is neglected, many things become strange and difficult to practice. Therefore, God orders his servant to persist in the daily study of the law and never cease to pursue it as long as he lives. Whence it follows that those who show contempt for this study are blinded by their intolerable arrogance. But why does God forbid the law to depart from his mouth rather than from his eyes?…I am certain that the word mouth applies primarily to a man who studies not only for himself but also for the benefit of a whole people whose government; is his responsibility. So he is commanded to attend to the teaching of the law, in order that when he speaks about it, he may be able to do so with benefit to the people as a whole, as his responsibility requires. Meanwhile, he is commanded by his own teachableness to give others an example of obedience. For there are many who have the law in their mouths in public, while at the same time they are the worst keepers of it. Joshua is therefore given both commands: to teach others and to conform his own conduct and himself wholly to the same standard.” (Calvin)
‘All his orders to the people, and his judgments upon appeals made to him, must be consonant to the law of God; upon all occasions he must speak according to this rule, Isa 8:20. Joshua was to maintain and carry on the work that Moses had begun, and therefore he must not only complete the salvation Moses had wrought for them, but must uphold the holy religion he had established among them. There was no occasion to make new laws; but that good thing which was committed to him he must carefully and faithfully keep, 2 Tim 1:14.’ (MHC)
“Meditate on it day and night” – Cf. Psa 1. ‘This concern with the written word is not late, nor is it an evidence of a growing petrifiction of living religion, or of a more “rigid” view of the canon…Although the danger of a mere book-religion is always present, the biblical concern for the Book is not opposed to vital religion. Soggin…correctly observes that “we are faced here with something which rather resembles the sola scriptura of the Reformation, in the sense of a concrete basis…opposed to all romantic and mystical enthusiasm and to all human traditionalism.”‘ (Woudstra, p63)
‘This habit of meditation on the law which Joshua was instructed to practise was of great value to one who was to lead a busy life. No mere cursory perusal of a book of law can secure the ends for which it is given. The memory is treacherous, the heart is careless, and the power of worldly objects to withdraw attention is proverbial. We must be continually in contact with the Book of God. The practice enjoined on Joshua has kept its ground among a limited class during all the intervening generations. In every age of the Church it has been impressed on all devout and earnest hearts that there can be no spiritual prosperity and progress without daily meditation on the Word of God. It would be hard to believe in the genuine Christianity. of any one who did not make a practice morning and evening of bringing his soul into contact with some portion of that Word. And wherever an eminent degree of piety has been reached, we shall find that an eminently close study of the Word has been practised.’ (Expositor’s Bible)
‘If ever any man’s business might have excused him from meditation, and other acts of devotion, one would think Joshua’s might at this time. It was a great trust that was lodged in his hands; the care of it was enough to fill him, if he had had ten souls, and yet he must find time and thoughts for meditation. Whatever affairs of this world we have to mind, we must not neglect the one thing needful.’ (MHC)
‘If a friend should tell you that you kept so many servants and retainers as would beggar you, would you not listen to his counsel, and rather turn them out of doors, than keep them still to eat you out of them? And wilt thou not be as careful of thy soul? Wilt thou keep such a rout of worldly occasions, as will eat up all thoughts of God and heaven? Certainly thou must either discharge thyself of these, or else fairly dismiss thy hope of salvation. But why should I speak so much to these? This ordinarily is but a cover to men’s sloth. If they had hearts, they would find time to converse with the word in the greatest throng of their worldly occasions. These can find time to eat and sleep, to sport and recreate themselves, but no time for God and his word. Would they but allow their souls those broken ends of time to search the Scripture, which they spend in pastimes, idle visits, reading of empty pamphlets, it would not be long but they might give a happy account of their proficiency in their spiritual knowledge. What calling more encumbering than a soldier’s? And of all soldiers the general’s, to whom all resort? Such a one was Joshua, yet a strict command to study the Scripture: ‘This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night,’ Jos 1:8. Must Joshua, in the midst of drums and trumpets, and distractions of war, find time to meditate on the law of God? And shall thy shop or plough, a few trivial occasions in thy private calling, discharge thee from the same duty? Dost thou think that the closet is such an enemy to thy shop, and the time spent with God a thief to thy temporal estate? God, I am sure, intends his people better; as appears in the former place, “Then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.”‘ (Gurnall)
“So that you may be careful to do everything written in it” – ‘It is not enough to hear and read the word, to commend and admire it, to know and remember it, to talk and discourse of it, but we must do it.’ (MHC)
“Then you will be prosperous and successful” – “In the life of the Christian believer, prosperity and success aren’t to be measured by the standards of the world. These blessings are the by-products of a life devoted to God and his Word. If you set out on your own to become prosperous and successful, you may achieve your goal and live to regret it.”In whatever man does without God,”wrote Scottish novelist George MacDonald,”he must fail miserably, or succeed more miserably.”The questions God’s people need to ask are: Did we obey the will of God? Were we empowered by the Spirit of God? Did we serve to the glory of God? If we can answer yes to these questions, then our ministry has been successful in God’s eyes, no matter what people may think.” (Wiersbe)
“The fundamental requirement of the Christian leader is not a knowledge of where the stream of popular opinion is flowing but a knowledge of where the stream of God’s truth lies.” (David F. Wells)
In summary: teach the Law, meditate upon it, obey it.
Jos 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
“Have I not commanded you?” – ‘When we are in the way of our duty we have reason to be strong and very courageous; and it will help very much to animate and embolden us if we keep our eye upon the divine warrant, and hear God saying, “Have not I commanded thee? I will therefore help thee, succeed thee, accept thee, reward thee.” Our Lord Jesus, as Joshua here, was borne up under his sufferings by a regard to the will of God and the commandment he had received from his Father, Jn 10:18.’ (MHC)
‘Joshua 1:1-9 introduces the entire book with promises and instructions for Joshua and for all Israel. The literary relationship with Deuteronomy suggests that what follows is the implementation of the Deuteronomic programme. These opening verses summarise the instruction of God to Moses by repeating it to Joshua. They also serve a political purpose which is found throughout the first few chapters, that Joshua is the leader of Israel recognised by God as the successor to Moses. Times of transition in leadership are occasions of potential instability and disaster for the security of any group. In these opening chapters of Joshua, the reader finds text after text that legitimises Joshua’s authority and thus guarantees that Moses’ passing would not be the beginning of a struggle for power, as had occurred repeatedly in the wilderness. Instead, the texts show Joshua as successor to Moses, receiving the divine promises and instructions for the leadership of the people which had also been given to Moses. Joshua’s leadership roles in political, military and religious matters are in evidence before the crossing of the Jordan takes place.’ (Hess)
“Do not be terrified” – ‘Be careful not to leave God out of your thinking. Joshua’s new job consisted of leading more than two million people into a strange new land and conquering it. What a challenge-even for a man of Joshua’s caliber! Every new job is a challenge. Without God it can be frightening. With God it can be a great adventure. Just as God was with Joshua, he is with us as we face our new challenges. We may not conquer nations, but every day we face tough situations, difficult people, and temptations. However, God promises that he will never abandon us or fail to help us. By asking God to direct us we can conquer many of life’s challenges.’ (HBA)
Obedience to the covenant involved Israel fighting according to the rules of holy war given in Deuteronomy. The LORD initiates the battle and, if Israel obeys wholeheartedly, ensures its success (Jos 1:2-9; cf. Nu 27:18-21), intervening on occasion in the most amazing ways as at Jericho (Jos 6:20) and Gibeon (10:11, 14). While encouraging Israel to be strong in its faith in him, God destroys his enemies before battle begins by striking panic into their hearts (2:9-11, 24).
‘To the victor belong the spoils’, and so all the wicked Canaanites must be ‘devoted’ (Heb. herem) to the LORD. (Jos 6:17) The extermination of the Canaanites was designed to save Israel from temptation (Dt. 7:1-5). As G. A. Cooke describes it, ‘anything which might endanger the religious life of the community was put out of harm’s way by being prohibited to human use; to secure this effectively it must be utterly destroyed’. When Achan failed to devote to the LORD what was rightfully his, Achan and all he possessed were destroyed. (Jos 7:15) Sometimes the LORD reserved the plunder to himself and at other times he rewarded his army with it (8:27). The Canaanites were exterminated because the righteous judgment of the Lord was at hand, not because of Israel’s thirst for blood. The prostitute Rahab repented and found a permanent place in Israel (6:25). For the most part, however, God hardened the hearts of the Canaanites who were ripe for judgment (11:19-20). Their destruction prefigures the eternal punishment of the wicked, (Mt 25:46) as had the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah centuries before. Israel possessed their land because the Lord aimed to sanctify it. That is why the author places the account of the covenant renewal at Shechem right in the heart of the battle stories (8:30-34). If we do not recognize these parallels between Israel’s judgment on the Canaanites and the last judgment we shall fail to see why Israel was instructed to act in this way. (NBC)
Jos 1:10 So Joshua ordered the officers of the people:
A key theme of vv10-18 is that all Israel is to participate in the conquest.
Joshua’s commands, both to the officers (10-11) and to the eastern tribes (12-15), echo Deuteronomy. Compare v 11 with e.g. Dt. 1:8; 4:1; 6:18; 8:1; 9:1, note that as the text itself states, Joshua’s instruction to the eastern tribes is taken almost word for word from Moses command Dt 3:18-20; cf. Nu 32″ (NBC)
The order is: God encouraged Joshua; then Joshua encouraged the people. “Moses didn’t assemble the leaders to ask for their advice but to give them God’s orders. There are times when leaders must consult with their officers, but this was not one of them. God had spoken, his will was clear, and the nation had to be ready to obey…There is a place in Christian service for godly counsel, but a committee report is no substitute for the clear commandment of God.” (Wiersbe) “Note that Joshua’s words to his leaders were words of faith and encouragement.”You shall pass over! You shall possess the land! The Lord will give it to you!”Joshua had made a similar speech forty years before, but that generation of leaders wouldn’t listen. Now that generation was dead and the new generation was ready to believe God and conquer the land. It’s unfortunate but true that sometimes the only way a ministry can move forward is by conducting a few funerals. A pastor friend of mine pleaded with his church board to build a new educational plant to house an exploding Sunday School. One of the long-time members of the board, a prominent businessman in the city, said to him,”You’ll do this over my dead body!”And they did! A few days later, that officer had a heart attack and died; and the church moved ahead and built the much-needed educational plant. The older we get, the more danger there is that we’ll get set in our ways and become”sanctified obstructionists;”but it doesn’t have to happen. Caleb and Joshua were the oldest men in the camp, and yet they were enthusiastic about trusting God and entering the land. It isn’t a matter of age; it’s a matter of faith; and faith comes from meditating on the Word of God. (1:8 Rom 10:17) How I thank God for the”senior saints”who have been a part of my ministry and have encouraged me to trust the Lord and move forward.” (Wiersbe)
The encouragement and instruction over (until 3:7f), Joshua now turns to complete five tasks: (a) he commissions officers to direct and organise the peple; (b) he confirms the participation of the Transjordanian tribes in the conquest of the land; (c) he sends messengers to spy out the land; (d) he addresses the people concerning preparation for crossing the river; (e) he addresses the priests regarding the crossing.
Jos 1:11 “Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get your supplies ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the LORD your God is giving you for your own.'”
“Get your supplies ready” – ‘The narrator’s concern with spiritual preparation, the real cause of victory, not with martial details, the apparent cause of success, is reflected in the lack of specificity about supplies in v 10 (covering everything needed for violent war) and the lack of detail in the command.’ (NBC)
‘The narrative of Joshua is not arranged in a strictly chronological order (Introduction: Characteristics and Themes). It is possible that the command of Jos 1:11 was spoken after 3:1, but is recorded here to indicate Joshua’s role as the people’s leader by divine appointment. It is also possible that “three days” is not a precise expression and means “a few days.”‘ (New Geneva)
Jos 1:12 But to the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua said,
‘Num. 32 shows how the Reubenites, Gadites, and half-tribe of Manasseh (13:8 note) had already received their portion of land east of the Jordan. It was understood that they would also join in Israel’s conquest of the western portion of the Promised Land. (Nu 32:16-32; Deut 3:18-20) All Israel must participate in taking possession of the land as a whole.’ (NBC)
During the previous year, the tribes of Reuban and Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh had sought permission from Moses to settle just east of the Jordan, Num 32. The land here was good for pasture and could support large flocks. Moses agreed, on condition that they help the other tribes to enter and conquer Canaan. Only after the land had been conquered could they return home. Now it was time for them to fulfil their side of the agreement.
‘Interest would make the other tribes glad to go over Jordan, but in these it was an act of self-denial, and against the grain; therefore it was needful to produce the agreement which Moses had made with them, when he gave them their possession before their brethren: (Jos 1:13) Remember the word which Moses commanded you. Some of them perhaps were ready to think now that Moses was dead, who they thought was too hard upon them in this matter, they might find some excuse or other to release themselves from this engagement, or might prevail with Joshua to dispense with them; but he holds them to it, and lets them know that, though Moses was dead, his commands and their promises were still in full force.’ (MHC)
Jos 1:13 “Remember the command that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: ‘The LORD your God is giving you rest and has granted you this land.'”
“The Lord is giving you rest” – Now commences a near-quotation from Deut 3:18-20 “God promised his people rest, that is, peace from enemy attacks, after taking possession of the land. The promise of rest comes out of the covenant relationship with God Ex 33:12-16. The rest into which Moses and Joshua led Israel prefigures the final and perfect rest into which Jesus leads his faithful church.” (Heb 4:1-11) (NBC)
‘The goal of God’s gift of the land is often referred to as “rest” (Josh 11:23; 21:44; 22:4; 23:1), a condition or state that links the land with God’s purposes in creation. (Gen 2:2,3) For the New Testament extension of the idea see Heb 3:7-4:11.’ (New Geneva)
The imminent prospect of rest was wonderful news for people who had been on the move for their entire lives.
Interest would make the other tribes glad to go over Jordan, but in these it was an act of self-denial, and against the grain; therefore it was needful to produce the agreement which Moses had made with them, when he gave them their possession before their brethren: (Jos 1:13) Remember the word which Moses commanded you. Some of them perhaps were ready to think now that Moses was dead, who they thought was too hard upon them in this matter, they might find some excuse or other to release themselves from this engagement, or might prevail with Joshua to dispense with them; but he holds them to it, and lets them know that, though Moses was dead, his commands and their promises were still in full force.” (MHC)
“Note, When God by his providence has given us rest we ought to consider how we may honour him with the advantages of it, and what service we may do to our brethren who are unsettled, or not so well settled as we are. When God had given David rest, (2 Sam 7:1) see how restless he was till he had found out a habitation for the ark, Ps 132:4,5. When God has given us rest, we must take heed of slothfulness and of settling upon our lees.” (MHC)
“Joshua was leading Israel into their inheritance, into their rest. (Deut 3:20 12:10 25:19 Jos 1:13,15 14:15 21:44 22:4) But at best, it was a temporary rest from enemies, for Israel would have many more foes in the centuries ahead. Although Yahweh had secured an inheritance for his people, it could still be taken away from them, and eventually would be when both northern and southern kingdoms were carried into exile. There is an open-endedness about the book of Joshua: the people have an inheritance, but there is land still as yet not possessed. (Jos 13:1-7 15:63 17:12) From the vantage of the New Testament, Joshua’s successes were only partial at best, and therefore they pointed beyond themselves to a time when Joshua’s greater namesake, Jesus, would bring Gods people into an inheritance that could not be taken away from them 1 Pet 1:3-5. Jesus would provide the rest Joshua had not attained.” (Heb 3:11,5:18 4:1-11???) (Dillard & Longman, An Introduction to the Old Testament)
Josh 1:14 Your wives, your children and your livestock may stay in the land that Moses gave you east of the Jordan, but all your fighting men, fully armed, must cross over ahead of your brothers. You are to help your brothers
Josh 1:15 until the LORD gives them rest, as he has done for you, and until they too have taken possession of the land that the LORD your God is giving them. After that, you may go back and occupy your own land, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you east of the Jordan toward the sunrise.”
Jos 1:16 Then they answered Joshua, “Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go.”
The Lord encourages Joshua; Joshua encourages his officers; now the officers encourage Joshua, vv16f.
(a) The officers encouraged Joshua by pledging their complete obedience. The church today could do with the same level of commitment that is expressed in this verse! “In his novel The Marquis of Lossie, author George MacDonald has one of the characters say,”I find the doing of the will of God leaves me no time for disputing about his plan.”That’s the attitude Joshua’s officers displayed.” (Wiersbe)
If everyone had tried to conquer the promised land his own way, chaos would have ensued. In order to secure victory, each one had to agree to the leader’s plan and offer him support and trust.
‘We must not so magnify those that are gone, how eminent soever they were, either in the magistracy or in the ministry, as to be wanting in the honour and duty we owe to those that survive and succeed them, though in gifts they may come short of them. Obedience for conscience’ sake will continue, though Providence change the hands by which it rules and acts.’ (MHC)
Jos 1:17 Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the LORD your God be with you as he was with Moses.
(b) The officers encouraged Joshua by praying for him. Corrie Ten Boom’s question applies particularly to Christian leaders: “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tyre?”
(c) The officers encouraged Joshua by reminding him of God’s word.
On not abandoning the past. “A wise leader doesn’t completely abandon the past but builds on it as he or she moves toward the future. Moses is mentioned fifty-seven times in the Book of Joshua, evidence that Joshua respected Moses and what he had done for Israel. Joshua worshiped the same God that Moses had worshiped, and he obeyed the same Word that Moses had given to the nation. There was continuity from one leader to the next, but there wasn’t always conformity; for each leader is different and must maintain his or her individuality. Twice in these verses Moses is called God’s servant, but Joshua was also the servant of God. (Jos 24:29) The important thing is not the servant but the Master.” (Wiersbe)
Honour the living as well as the dead. “Note, we must not so magnify those that are gone, how eminent soever they were, either in the magistracy or in the ministry, as to be wanting in the honour and duty we owe to those that survive and succeed them, though in gifts they may come short of them. Obedience for conscience sake will continue, though Providence change the hands by which it rules and acts.” (MHC)
Jos 1:18 “Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey your words, whatever you may command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous!”
“Whoever rebels…” – ‘Perhaps if such a law had been made in Moses’s time it might have prevented many of the rebellions that were formed against him; for most men fear the sword of the magistrate more than the justice of God.’ (MHC)
“Be strong and courageous!” – “Four times in this chapter you find the words”be strong and of good courage.” (Jos 1:6-7,9,18) If we are to conquer the enemy and claim our inheritance in Christ, we must have spiritual strength and spiritual courage.”Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might”.” (Eph 6:10) (Wiersbe)
‘They animate him to go on with cheerfulness in the work to which God had called him; and, in desiring that he would be strong and of a good courage, they did in effect promise him that they would do all they could, by an exact, bold, and cheerful observance of all his orders, to encourage him. It very much heartens those that lead in a good work to see those that follow follow with a good will. Joshua, though of approved valour, did not take it as an affront, but as a great kindness, for the people to bid him be strong and of a good courage.’ (MHC)
‘For Christians, this opening chapter teaches that leadership of God’s people must be recognised by the people as God’s choice. The test for all such ministry is found in the knowledge of and obedience to God’s word, something that can meet the practical needs of God’s people. (1 Tim 3:1-10 Tit 1:6-9) Joshua’s command to the Transjordanian tribes and their loyal promise provides an example of the importance of the unity of God’s people and their support of his chosen leadership, as well as a sober note on the seriousness of any division. (Jos 22 Jn 17 Acts 5:1-11 1 Cor 3) (Hess)