Joshua Chapter 16: Total Obedience

The children of Joseph receive their blessing. The land is allocated and represented geographically. The main idea to note in this chapter is the recurring theme found once again in verse 10: 
“And they did not drive out the Canaanites who dwelt in Gezer; but the Canaanites dwell among the Ephraimites to this day and have become forced laborers.”

Why did the Lord allow the Israelites not to drive out all of the people? This is not the first time it has been mentioned in Joshua. In the coming years, the Israelites will allow the indigenous peoples to influence their worship habits, despite the people’s status as a subservient class or even as slaves.

One reason could be prophecy. We know from Genesis 3 that God knew from the beginning that Jesus’s sacrifice would be forthcoming for the redemption of man. Did God allow the Israelites not to drive them out so that the Israelites would prove the old law ineffectual? Did He allow it so that the remnants of these pagans would ultimately be exposed to the gospel as gentiles? We don’t know.

What we do know, however, is that the Israelites disobeyed God by not driving out all of the people as God commanded. And because of this, the people turned away from God and it sorrowed Him greatly. 

It is important that I follow through with the totality of God’s commandments. It is imperative that I understand what He desires for me in my life. It is paramount that I use my talents to serve Him to the best of my ability. God is great and has done everything. That which I am able to do, I owe it to Him to do it.

What are those things that I should be doing? How should I order my thoughts? Read also Colossians 3:1-17. 

Joshua Chapter 15: Judah’s Allocation & Caleb’s Blessing

Here we have the land and the cities of Judah listed and allocated. Caleb is mentioned again, occupying Hebron as he had inherited it in the previous chapter. In verse 63, we see again an emerging theme of the children of Israel not driving all of the inhabitants out of the land. God had said that they were to drive everyone out, so we will have to be careful to look for clues in the coming text as to whether Israel will have any consequences for this.

Remember how Caleb had requested Hebron? He asked and he received this valuable land. In verses 16-19, Caleb makes an offer that is congruent with the Lord’s will and is in the spirit of giving: Caleb offers that he will give his daughter as wife to the one that is able to conquer Kirjath Sepher. This is a commendable offer on Caleb’s part because it a) affirms God’s plan for the inhabitants to be driven out of the land and b) shows that Caleb, having received a blessing, is willing to bless in return. Caleb did not hoard, nor was he selfish with his blessing. Granted, he is giving to his daughter and new son-in-law (also apparently his brother, vs. 17), but the fact that he willingly gives and his reasons for it indicate a pure heart that is serving the Lord.

Caleb’s actions in this instance can serve as a mirror for our own behavior. We are exceedingly blessed with Jesus’s blood to redeem our sins, loving families, etc. We could go on and on and never be able to catalogue the ways God has blessed us. The mirror of Caleb’s actions shows me either how I am a good steward of God’s blessings or perhaps where I might be able to improve.

Joshua Chapter 14: Caleb’s Request 

In this chapter we first have a description of the land being divided west of the Jordan. The land was divided and assigned by casting lots. This does not mean that it was assigned by chance; rather it means that this was the method that God used to assign the land.

Then we have Caleb, proclaiming his faith and obedience to God. This he holds as evidence for God to grant a special request he makes about the land. God grants the request. Caleb’s reception of this blessing indicates God’s approval of his faith and obedience. 

Caleb was blessed in this life because of his obedience. We can also expect God’s blessings for our faith and obedience, but it may not necessarily be in this life. We may only experience heavenly blessings after we leave this life. 

The idea of delayed blessings is powerful and worthy of contemplation. Indeed, we ought to “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” as Paul wrote in Philippians‬ ‭3:14‬.

God is so good to each of us. How can I look for ways to serve Him?

Joshua Chapter 13: Yet to be Conquered and Conquered 

Upon first reading this chapter, one might think that there is not a lot of spiritual meaning to be had. We read about the land that is still left to be conquered and the land that was conquered by Moses. But, with a little thought, I think we can see that there is always something of substance that can be gleaned from God’s word.

Verses 1-7: Joshua was aging and God remind him of this. In spite of all he had done, there ware still some inhabitants in the land. In the end, God tells Joshua to divide the land. Despite his age, there was still much for Joshua to do. This must have strengthened his faith. When we are old, our faculties and abilities lessen, which leaves us with less to accomplish. God had helped Joshua so much, Joshua still knew that God would accomplish the taking of the rest of the land. Even if Joshua were to die, God still would have accomplished all He had promised. God’s will is greater than our lives. If we are so blessed, we are able to play a part, however small, towards the furthering of His divine plan. And we may not live long enough to see the fruit of our works our the fulfillment of God’s plan.

Verses 8-33: In this section, the land that Moses helped conquer is divided among the tribes. The locations, geography and owners are specified. The tribe of Levi is left out, perhaps to indicate the priestly tribe as one not meant to rely on or treasure in physical things. For the other tribes, they were given specific areas, individually allotted. No one was given above or beyond that which was meant for them. Likewise, we should be happy with what we have. Am I satisfied with what I have? All I really need is food, clothing and shelter. Surely everything else is a bonus blessing? It should be for me.

Matthew Henry’s commentary was referenced for this post.

Joshua Chapter 12: Conquering of Kings

Verses 1-6: These first kings and lands mentioned are those that were conquered by Moses. These lands were fruitful and abundant in blessings for the Israelites, but did not represent the totality of God’s ability to bless. 

Verses 7-24: These are the lands that Joshua defeated. As we read through this list, we should see some familiar names from the past few weeks. Joshua handily defeated all, only having trouble when one of His own disobeyed God without Joshua’s knowledge (Achan that buried the spoils and was later punished). 

Although this chapter is short and reads like a list, there are two important lessons we can learn from it: 

1. Moses represents the old law in his conquering of the land outside the Jordan: Just as the old law was only able to do so much for mankind in terms of salvation and bringing Israel close to God, Moses could only bring the Israelites so far. But Joshua brought them into the promised land, vanquishing enemies and preparing the land for their habitation. In this way, Jesus brought us along closer to God than the old law ever could have.

2. The defeat of the kings and kingdoms that occurred just as God directed communicates how deeply God abhors sin. Utter destruction for the sinners. Lack of mercy. The death of every living thing in some cases.

Is my attitude towards sin in line with God’s? Do I understand how much he hates it? Why would I dabble or continue in something that God, who created me, despises?

[Matthew Henry’s commentary was referenced for this post]

Joshua Chapter 11: Defining Faith & Fulfillment 

Verses 1-15: Joshua by now has shown a pattern of faith and fortitude. Without fail he has obeyed God and went up against enemies that should have beaten the Israelitete army. The successes of Israel have now spread even further in the land and attracted the attention of yet more kings and armies. In this instance, the armies that amass and travel to fight Israel is the greatest number yet. 
God does not waver in his commitment to His people and again tells Joshua not to be afraid, but to be confident and brave. Joshua is to handicap their horses and burn their chariots. This, along with another reference in Deuteronomy 20:1, and the fact that the Israelites left Egypt on foot with their livestock (Exodus 12:35-38), strongly suggests that the Israelites did not have cavalry of their own. This only adds to God’s power on behalf of aiding His people. Think of it – the Israelites have been decimating armies and kingdoms that are stronger than them, armies with horses and chariots – and Israel had been winning with confidence and outright success (aside from the ordeal with Achan in chapter 7).

Joshua defeated these armies and then went to their kingdoms and defeated the men there, leaving no man breathing. Remember also that these victories and their manner were in accordance with the commandments that God gave to Moses. Prophecy and faith begets progress and fulfillment of God’s plan.

Think of the fulfillment here, it is no mistake that Moses is mentioned after having been dead for some time. The point is that God is keeping His Word. God will not let the Israelites down. Consider also the reciprocity. The Israelites and their leader had to follow and obey Him and have no doubts whatsoever while doing so. 

Verses 16-23: Joshua continues to seek out and defeat armies that are in the land. Utter defeat occurs and finally Joshua retains the land and gives it to the Israelites, dividing out among the tribes. The final line of this chapter, “Then the land rested from war,” reads like an exhalation after so much bloodshed and conflict.

When I think of fulfilling my end of the spiritual plan God has set for me, do I do so proudly? Do I do it with as much confidence and tenacity as Joshua did? Do I trust God so absolutely? 

He gave us Christ, what else are we to do but have nothing but total confidence and faith in Him that He will save us? I have to keep my end of the bargain, though. This means study and obedience. This requires my commitment to His Word.

Joshua Chapter 10: Faith, Obedience & Conquest: Joshua’s Fearless Leadership

Verses 1-15: The nations in the land take notice and precaution as the reputation of God’s people as conquered spreads. Five kings of five kingdoms, led by Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem, descend upon Gibeon to attack it because it made peace with Joshua. As you might expect, Gibeon seeks protection from Israel in accordance with the agreement they made in Chapter 9. Joshua comes from Gilgal without hesitation and defeats the armies, with help in the form of hail from the Lord. Verses 8 and 9 show us how God told Joshua not to be afraid and how Joshua was confident in his conquest of these foes. Joshua is so inspired to complete their defeat that he speaks to the Lord so that the sun would stay in the sky until all the enemies would be defeated. Verse 14 is almost chilling in its relation to God’s power and desire for mankind: “And there has been no day like that, before it or after it, that the LORD heeded the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel.”
Joshua had a special relationship with God and God approved of Joshua’s actions. Still, it is daunting to consider making a statement to God as Joshua did at the end of verse 12. Joshua must have been confident and sure that this statement was in parallel with God’s will for the Israelites’ conquest. 

Is my relationship to God such that my requests to Him align to His Word and His will?

Verses 16-27: The kings fled to a cave and Joshua heard of this, so he had men go and shut off the mouth of the cave with large stones. Then, rather than waiting, these men were to chase the remainder of the armies that had attacked Gibeon and slaughter them. After this slaughter and the kings’ captivity on the cave, note the latter part of verse 21: “No one moved his tongue against any of the children of Israel.” 

Then Joshua fortified the strength of his men’s faith by having them participate in the kings’ punishment. No fear was to be had against these, or any of the enemies they fight, because the Lord was with them. Joshua then killed them and much like the king of Ai, he had their bodies hanged from trees until sunset. After that, their bodies were put back into and sealed within the cave.

Verses 28-43: In these verses, we see Joshua going to each one of the five kingdoms and utterly destroying “all that breathed.” Each of the kingdoms of the kings mentioned above was conquered, along with Gezer, whose king had come to the aid of one of them. Aside from the dramatic details of the sun stopping and the ordeal with the kings fleeing to a cave, verse 42 serves as a summary for the entire chapter: “All these kings and their land Joshua took at one time, because the LORD God of Israel fought for Israel.” 

Without Joshua’s faith and bold action, this success in conquest and display of God’s power might not have happened. Indeed, Joshua’s every action follows God and builds up faith in those following Joshua. 

When I lead, do I lead with as much confidence as Joshua? When I trust in God, do I do so with confidence that He will see me through?

Joshua Chapter 9: Seeking Counsel and Keeping Your Word

Verses 1-15: Many kings and nations on this side of the Jordan heard what Joshua and the Israelites did to Jericho and Ai. They prepared to fight them. But the people of Gibeon had a different idea. They sought to become allies of Israel through deceit. They wanted an agreement from Joshua that he would not attack them, but they knew that Joshua would probably not agree if he knew that they dwelt close by. So they made themselves appear road weary and disheveled, as if they had traveled from afar. Despite their appearance, Joshua still asked for an explanation when they asked for the agreement. The people from Gibson explained their torn clothes and moldy bread as evidence of a long journey, and Joshua believed and agreed not to harm them. The most telling verse in this section is verse 14, where it says: ” . . . but they did not ask counsel of the Lord.”

Verses 15-27: Somehow Joshua and the rulers came to know that these men were not really from afar, but were living in the land not far from the Israelites. Before they knew this, Joshua could have/would have conquered them as they had the other kingdoms. However, Joshua stuck to the agreement and did not harm them. But they were made water carriers and woodcutters, slaves of Israel. The people of Gibeon did not resist this fate, for they were more fearful of experiencing the same fate as Jericho and Ai. 

The people of Gibeon lied for advantage, but the consequences were not as great as they would have been if they had tried to fight or resist Israel. They were (lucky? blessed?) that Joshua kept his agreement. To live as a slave was, in this case, preferable to death at least for the people of Gibeon. It makes one wonder, too, if Joshua sought the Lord’s counsel before agreeing, what would the Lord have advised? It reminds me of the words of Jesus from Matthew 5:33-37: ““Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.”

The fact that others have sinned does not give us permission to cut moral corners or to be less watchful. When people that I know or work with sin, it should cause me to be more watchful of my thoughts and actions, lest I fall into a trap set by temptation or pride.

Joshua Chapter 8: Taking Ai

Verses 1-13: Now that Achan’s sin has been resolved, God tells Joshua to take Ai. God assures Joshua of success, telling him to not be afraid. Presumably Joshua would have remembered how Israel had been defeated initially, and would have been fearful to try again, but God knows that the source of sin had been removed and therefore He helps to strengthen Joshua’s resolve in taking Ai. 
In comparison to marching around the walls of Jericho, there are war tactics and a strategy involved in taking Ai. A large army was to be hidden at the rear of the city while a smaller faction was to “attack” from the front. Once the “attackers” in front of the city were engaged by the Ai army, they were to immediately retreat, drawing Ai’s battle resources away from the city. Once this happened, Israel’s larger faction laying in wait at the rear was to advance upon the city, take it, and burn it. This time however, and unlike with Jericho, the Israelites could take spoils.

Verses 14-29: The action takes place in these verses. The plan unfolds and is accomplished just as God instructed. Some additional details come up as well. God tells Joshua to raise up his hand with a spear when it is time for the large rear army to advance on Ai. Joshua keeps his hand with the spear raised throughout the conquest of the city. The warriors of Ai are caught in between the Israelites once the city is taken and burning. They are hunted down and destroyed, as are the city’s inhabitants. Only the king of Ai is kept alive. His end, however, is unpleasant. He is hung from a tree until the sun goes down, then is taken down and a great mound of stones heaped over him. God had assisted the Israelites in utterly destroying Ai. He was giving them the promised land.

Verses 30-35: Joshua renews the covenant with God and the people by building a proper altar and producing sacrifices. He also rewrites the law of Moses and has it read among all the people, in the presence of the ark of the covenant, the elders, officers, judges, priests and levites. 

Take a moment and envision this scene. This is an action taken by a great leader to reaffirm faith and allegiance to God, who helped them. To do it in the presence of all, Joshua was spreading his faith to others, showing them to honor and obey God. Joshua was not ashamed and nor did he delay in this reaffirmation. Have I properly honored God for the things He has done for me?

Was God testing the people with Jericho at first by not allowing them to keep any spoils? We can’t know for sure, but it seems to explain why He would let them take spoils from Ai. 

An important lesson we can take from this chapter is obedience. When Achan sinned in Chapter 7, many people suffered. When all obeyed Joshua in this chapter, who took his orders from God, everyone benefited! Then, as is just, as is proper, God was honored and glorified by Joshua in the midst of all the people.

Joshua Chapter 7: The Sorrow of Defeat & Achan’s Sin

Verses 1-9: Achan disobeyed God and took of accused things from Jericho. Because of his sin, God punished the people with defeat. When spies went to see Ai, they reported back that only 2 or 3 thousand men would be needed to defeat Ai, because they were few. But instead Ai easily defeats Israel in this case, killing 36 men. 
Joshua and the elders lament to the Lord, wondering why they were defeated. Joshua did not yet know of how Achan’s sin had created this situation.

Verses 10-26: God tells Joshua the reason for the defeat and also instructs on how to find the culprit. Achan and his family are quickly identified and to his credit, Achan comes clean. He did not seem to show much remorse, however. One wonders if he would have shown more sorrow had he known what was soon to become of him and his family. They are all taken to a valley, stoned, burned and buried in rocks for how Achan had taken the accursed things. 

This chapter gives us a clear picture of sin leading directly to consequence. Achan took the materials knowing fully that they were forbidden. Why else would he bury them? The consequences of his greed reached far, resulting in the unnecessary deaths of not only 36 men, but also all of Achan’s family, which included his sons and daughters. 

Sometimes we find ourselves in temptation, honestly considering moving ahead with the sin. Whether just for the pleasure of it, or because we have somehow justified it, we start to weigh the consequences before going through with the sin, just to see if it would be worth it. How often do we think about others in this scenario? My guess would be rarely. Our sin not only affects us, but also can create an unwanted environment for those around us. 

Achan learned the hard way! Let us learn from this example the next time we are faced with a temptation.