Highlights of the Bible: Book of Joshua

Highlights From the Book of Joshua - Information for personal study

Joshua ‒ Historical context


This Bible book provides a vital link in the history of the Israelites by showing how God’s promises to the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were fulfilled. Probably covering a period of more than 20 years (1473-c. 1450 B.C.E.), it tells of the conquest of Canaan, followed by the distribution of the land to the Israelites; and it concludes with Joshua’s discourses encouraging faithfulness to Jehovah.
The fact that the book contains ancient names for cities (Jos 14:15; 15:15) and detailed instructions and then relates how these were carried out indicates that it is a contemporary record. (For examples see Jos 1:11-18; 2:14-22; 3:2–4:24; 6:22, 23.) In fact, the writer identifies himself as living at the same time as Rahab of Jericho and therefore as an eyewitness.—6:25.
Authenticity. In the estimation of some, however, the book of Joshua is not true history. This view is primarily based on the assumption that, since the miracles mentioned in the book are foreign to recent human experience, they could not have happened. It therefore calls into question God’s ability to perform miracles, if not also his existence, as well as the writer’s integrity. For the writer to have embellished his account with fiction while presenting himself as an eyewitness would have made him guilty of deliberate deceit. Surely it is illogical to conclude that a book that honors God as the Fulfiller of his word (Jos 21:43-45), encourages faithfulness to him (23:6-16; 24:14, 15, 19, 20, 23), and openly acknowledges Israel’s failures was produced by a false witness.—7:1-5; 18:3.
No one can deny that the Israelite nation came into existence and occupied the land described in the book of Joshua. Likewise, there is no valid basis for challenging the truthfulness of that book’s account concerning the way in which the Israelites gained possession of Canaan. Neither the psalmists (Ps 44:1-3; 78:54, 55; 105:42-45; 135:10-12; 136:17-22), nor Nehemiah (Ne 9:22-25), nor the first Christian martyr Stephen (Ac 7:45), nor the disciple James (Jas 2:25), nor the learned apostle Paul (Ac 13:19; Heb 4:8; 11:30, 31) doubted its authenticity. And 1 Kings 16:34 records the fulfillment of Joshua’s prophetic curse uttered about 500 years earlier at the time of Jericho’s destruction.—Jos 6:26.


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