Introduction to Joshua


The book of Deuteronomy concludes the portion of the Bible referred to as the Torah or Pentateuch. The book of Joshua begins the portion of the Bible referred to as the Historical Books, which includes Joshua through Esther. David Platt notes in his Survey of the Old Testament that these books are fairly chronological, but follow a three book pattern: two books which continue the story, punctuated by a “spotlight” book describing a particular time period occurring in one of the two previous books. Platt explains: 1) For the pre-monarchy period, Joshua and Judges continue the story followed by the book of Ruth detailing events possibly taking place around the time of Judges 10. 2) During the monarchy period, Samuel and Kings continue the story followed by Chronicles detailing events around the Davidic kingdom. 3) For the post-monarchy period, Ezra and Nehemiah continue the story followed by Esther detailing events taking place during the time of Ezra.

On the authorship of Joshua, the NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “Nowhere does the book of Joshua claim that Joshua was its author. Both the frequent occurrence of the phrase ‘to this day’ and the reference to The Book of Jashar as a source for Joshua indicate that the book was written after his death. Yet, the occurrence of the pronoun ‘we’ in the portions of the narrative provides evidence that at least some of the book is based on personal recollections of Joshua and those under his command. It is likely that the book of Joshua existed in more or less its present form no later than Israel’s early monarchy (the time of David and Solomon). The human author or authors of Joshua remain anonymous.”

Assigning a historical time period for the events recorded in Joshua depends on what date one holds to for the exodus. Some hold to a late date for the exodus (around 1270 BC). However, as I’ve mentioned before, I find the case for an early date of the exodus far more compelling (around 1446 BC). This leaves Israel entering the Promised Land around 1406 BC. The HCSB writes, “Joshua apparently supports an early date for the exodus. The book refers to places and peoples best situated in the middle of the second millennium BC (e.g., the mention in Joshua 13:6 of the Sidonians rather than the later more powerful people of Tyre).”

Anti-supernatural bias leads some critics to reject the reliability of Joshua. However, the HCSB aptly draws a sharp contrast between biblical miracles and ancient mythologies, “…biblical narratives do not portray an indiscriminately saturated world of miracles. That is, the Bible does not read like the pagan mythologies of antiquity in which gods are constantly interrupting and disrupting ordinary human affairs. Biblical supernaturalism stands out in contrast because its miracles are not commonplace. The relative infrequency of biblical miracles may be seen in the fact that they constitute a small, albeit important, part of the narratives spanning approximately two millennia from the time of Abraham through the apostolic era.”

The NLT Illustrated Study Bible describes the setting at the opening of the book of Joshua as follows, “The disbelieving generation died and a new generation came of age. The new generation finally believed God’s promises and was ready to invade the land of Canaan. Much of Canaan was organized into small city-states, each with its own king. These city- states were grouped in ever-shifting coalitions. The assembling of a southern and then a northern coalition against the invading Israelites was as close to total unity as these city-states ever came.”

The gotquestions survey of the book of Joshua groups the 24 chapters which cover an “approximately 20 years of Joshua’s leadership of the people after Moses anointed him at the end of Deuteronomy” accordingly:

Chapters 1-12: Entering and conquering the Promised Land.

Chapters 13-22: Instructions for distributing the portions of the Promised Land

Chapters 23-24: Joshua’s farewell address.

Click here to go to chapter 1