Joshua, Book of



1. Invasion and Conquest of Western Palestine

2. Allotment of the Country to the Tribes of Israel


1. The Book of Joshua as History

2. Chronology



1. Parallel Narratives

2. Omissions in the History



1. The Greek

2. Other Ancient Versions



See also the McClintock and Strong Biblical Cyclopedia.

I. Title and Authorship.

The name Joshua signifies "Yahweh is deliverance" or "salvation" (see JOSHUA). The Greek form of the name is Jesus (Iesous, Ac 7:45; Heb 4:8). In later Jewish history the name appears to have become popular, and is even found with a local significance, as the designation of a small town in Southern Palestine (yeshua`], Ne 11:26). The use of the title by the Jews to denote the Book of Joshua did not imply a belief that the book was actually written or dictated by him; or even that the narratives themselves were in substance derived from him, and owed their authenticity and reliability to his sanction and control. In the earliest Jewish literature the association of a name with a book was not intended in any case to indicate authorship. And the Book of Joshua is no exception to the rule that such early writings, especially when their contents are of a historical nature, are usually anonymous. The title is intended to describe, not authorship, but theme; and to represent that the life and deeds of Joshua form the main subject with which the book is concerned.

II. Contents.

With regard to the contents of Joshua, it will be found to consist of two well-marked divisions, in the first of which (Jos 1:1-18-Jos 2:1-24) are narrated the invasion and gradual conquest under the command of Joshua of the land on the West of the Jordan; while the Jos 2:1-24nd part describes in detail the allotment of the country to the several tribes with the boundaries of their territories, and concludes with a brief notice of the death and burial of Joshua himself.

1. Invasion and Conquest of Western Palestine:

Jos 1:1-18: Renewal of the Divine promise to Joshua and exhortation to fearlessness and courage (Jos 1:1-9); directions to the people to prepare for the passage of the river, and a reminder to the eastern tribes (Reuben, Gad, and half and Manasseh) of the condition under which they held their possession beyond Jordan; the renewal by these tribes of their pledge of loyalty to Moses' successor (Jos 1:10-18).

Jos 2:1-24: The sending of the two spies from Shittim and their escape from Jericho through the stratagem of Rahab.

Jos 3:1-17: The passage of Jordan by the people over against Jericho, the priests bearing the ark, and standing in the dry bed of the river until all the people had crossed over.

Jos 4:1-24: Erection of Jos 12:1-24 memorial stones on the other side of Jordan, where the people encamped after the passage of the river (Jos 4:1-14); the priests with the Ark of the Covenant ascend in their turn from out of the river-bed, and the waters return into their wonted course (Jos 4:15-24).

Jos 5:1-15: Alarm excited among the kings on the West of Jordan by the news of the successful crossing of the river (Jos 5:1); circumcision of the people at Gilgal (Jos 5:2-9); celebration of the Passover at Gilgal in the plains of Jericho (Jos 5:10-11); cessation of the supply of the manna (Jos 5:12); appearance to Joshua of the captain of the Lord's host (Jos 5:13-15).

Jos 6:1-27: Directions given to Joshua for the siege and taking of Jericho (Jos 6:1-5); capture of the city, which is destroyed by fire, Rahab and her household alone being saved (Jos 6:6-25); a curse is pronounced on the man who rebuilds Jericho (Jos 6:26).

Jos 7:1-26: The crime and punishment of Achan, who stole for himself part of the spoil of the captured city (Jos 7:1,16-26); incidentally his sin is the cause of a disastrous defeat before Ai (Jos 7:2-12).

Jos 8:1-35: The taking of Ai by a stratagem, destruction of the city, and death of its king (Jos 8:1-29); erection of an altar on Mt. Ebal, and reading of the Law before the assembled people (Jos 8:30-35).

Jos 9:1-27: Gathering of the peoples of Palestine to oppose Joshua (Jos 9:1-2); a covenant of peace made with the Gibeonites, who represent themselves as strangers from a far country (Jos 9:3-26); they are, however, reduced to a condition of servitude (Jos 9:27).

Jos 10:1-43: Combination of 5 kings of the Amorites to punish the inhabitants of Gibeon for their defection, and defeat and rout of the kings by Joshua at Beth-horon (Jos 10:1-14); return of the Israelites to Gilgal (Jos 10:15); capture and death by hanging of the 5 kings at Makkedah (Jos 10:16-27); taking and destruction of Makkedah (Jos 10:28), Libnah (Jos 10:29-30), Lachish (Jos 10:31-32), Gezer (Jos 10:33), Eglon (Jos 10:34-35), Hebron (Jos 10:36-37), Debir (Jos 10:38-39), and summarily all the land, defined as from Kadesh-barnea unto Gaza, and as far North as Gibeon (Jos 10:40-42); return to Gilgal (Jos 10:43).

Jos 11:1-23: Defeat of Jabin, king of Hazor, and allied kings at the waters of Merom (Jos 11:1-9); destruction of Hazor (Jos 11:10-15); reiterated summary of Joshua's conquests (Jos 11:16-23).

Jos 12:1-24: Final summary of the Israelite conquests in Canaan, of Sihon and Og on the East of the Jordan under the leadership of Moses (Jos 12:1-6); of 31 kings and their cities on the West of the river under Joshua (12:7-24).

2. Allotment of the Country to the Tribes of Israel:

Jos 13:1-33: Command to Joshua to allot the land on the West of the Jordan, even that which was still unsubdued, to the nine and a half tribes (Jos 13:1-7); recapitulation of the inheritance given by Moses on the East of the river (Jos 13:8-13,32); the border of Reuben (Jos 13:15-23), of Gad (Jos 13:24-28), of the half-tribe of Manasseh (Jos 13:29-31); the tribe of Levi alone received no the landed inheritance (Jos 13:14,33).

Jos 14:1-15: Renewed statement of the principle on which the division of the land had been made (Jos 14:1-5); Hebron given to Caleb for his inheritance (Jos 14:6-15).

Jos 15:1-63. The inheritance of Judah, and the boundaries of his territory (Jos 15:1-20), including that of Caleb (Jos 15:13-19); enumeration of the cities of Judah (Jos 15:21-63).

Jos 16:1-10: Inheritance of the sons of Joseph (Jos 16:1-4); the border of Ephraim (Jos 16:5-10).

Jos 17:1-18: Inheritance of Manasseh and the border of the half-tribe on the West of the Jordan (Jos 17:1-13); complaint of the sons of Joseph of the insufficiency of their inheritance, and grant to them by Joshua of an extension of territory (Jos 17:14-18).

Jos 18:1-28: The land yet unsubdued divided by lot into 7 portions for the remaining 7 tribes (Jos 18:1-10); inheritance of the sons of Benjamin and the border of their territory (Jos 18:11-20); enumeration of their cities (Jos 18:21-28).

Jos 19:1-51: Inheritance of Simeon and his border (Jos 19:1-9); of Zebulun and his border (Jos 19:10-16); of Issachar and his border (Jos 19:17-23); of Asher and his border (Jos 19:24-31); of Naphtali and his border (Jos 19:32-39); and of Dan and his border (Jos 19:40-48); inheritance of Joshua (Jos 19:49-50); concluding statement (Jos 19:51).

Jos 20:1-9: Cities of Refuge appointed, three on each side of the Jordan.

Jos 21:1-45: 48 cities with their suburbs given to the Levites out of the territories of the several tribes (Jos 21:1-41); the people had rest in the land, their enemies being subdued, according to the Divine promise (Jos 21:43-45).

Jos 22:1-34: Dismissal of the eastern tribes to their inheritance, their duty to their brethren having been fulfilled (Jos 22:1-9); the erection by them of a great altar by the side of the Jordan aroused the suspicion of the western tribes, who feared that they intended to separate themselves from the common cause (Jos 22:10-20); their reply that the altar is to serve the purpose of a witness between themselves and their brethren (Jos 22:21-34).

Jos 23:1-16: Joshua's address of encouragement and warning to the people.

Jos 24:1-33: Second address of Joshua, recalling to the people their history, and the Divine interventions on their behalf (Jos 24:1-23); the people's pledge of loyalty to the Lord, and formal covenant in Shechem (Jos 24:24-25); the book of the law of God is committed to writing, and a stone is erected as a permanent memorial (Jos 24:26-28); death and burial of Joshua (Jos 24:29-31); burial in Shechem of the bones of Joseph, brought from Egypt (Jos 24:32); death and burial of Eleazar, son of Aaron (Jos 24:33).

III. Historical Character and Chronology.

1. The Book of Joshua as History:

As a historical narrative, therefore, detailing the steps taken to secure the conquest and possession of Canaan, Joshua is incomplete and is marked by many omissions, and in some instances at least includes phrases or expressions which seem to imply the existence of parallel or even divergent accounts of the same event, e.g. in the passage of the Jordan and the erection of memorial stones (Jos 3:1-17; 4:1-24), the summary of the conquests of Joshua (Jos 10:40-43; 11:16-23), or the references to Moses' victories over the Amorite kings on the East of the Jordan.

This last fact suggests, what is in itself sufficiently probable, that the writer or compiler of the book made use of previously existing records or narratives, not necessarily in every instance written, but probably also oral and traditional, upon which he relied and out of which by means of excerpts with modifications and omissions, the resultant history was composed. The incomplete and defective character of the book therefore, considered merely as a history of the conquest of Western Palestine and its allotment among the new settlers, would seem to indicate that the "sources" available for the writer's use were fragmentary also in their nature, and did not present a complete view either of the life of Joshua or of the experiences of Israel while under his direction.

2. Chronology:

Within the limits of the book itself, moreover, notifications of chronological sequence, or of the length of time occupied in the various campaigns, are almost entirely wanting. Almost the only references to date or period are the statements that Joshua himself was 110 years old at the time of his death (24:29), and that his wars lasted "a long time" (11:18; compare 23:1). Caleb also, the son of Jephunneh, companion of Joshua in the mission of the spies from Kadesh-barnea, describes himself as 85 years old, when he receives Hebron as his inheritance (14:10; compare 15:13 ff); the inference would be, assuming 40 years for the wanderings in the desert, that 5 years had then elapsed since the passage of the Jordan "on the tenth day of the first month" (4:19). No indication, however, is given of the chronological relation of this event to the rest of the history; and 5 years would be too short a period for the conquest of Palestine, if it is to be understood that the whole was carried out in consecutive campaigns under the immediate command of Joshua himself. On the other hand, "very much land" remained still unsubdued at his death (13:1). Christian tradition seems to have assumed that Joshua was about the same age as Caleb, although no definite statement to that effect is made in the book itself; and that, therefore, a quarter of a century, more or less, elapsed between the settlement of the latter at Hebron and Joshua's death (14:10; 24:29). The entire period from the crossing of the Jordan would then be reckoned at from 28 to 30 years.

IV. Sources of the Written Narrative.

The attempt to define the "sources" of Joshua as it now exists, and to disentangle them one from another, presents considerably more difficulty than is to be encountered for the most part in the Pentateuch. The distinguishing criteria upon which scholars rely and which have led serious students of the book to conclude that there may be traced here also the use of the same "documents" or "documentary sources" as are to be found in the Pentateuch, are essentially the same. Existing and traditional accounts, however, have been used apparently with greater freedom, and the writer has allowed himself a fuller liberty of adaptation and combination, while the personal element has been permitted wider scope in molding the resultant form which the composition should take. For the most part, therefore, the broad line of distinction between the various "sources" which have been utilized may easily be discerned on the ground of their characteristic traits, in style, vocabulary or general conception; in regard to detail, however, the precise point at which one "source" has been abandoned for another, or the writer himself has supplied deficiencies and bridged over gaps, there is frequent uncertainty, and the evidence available is insufficient to justify an absolute conclusion. The fusion of material has been more complete than in the 5 books of the law, perhaps because the latter were hedged about with a more reverential regard for the letter, and at an earlier period attained the standing of canonicity.

A detailed analysis of the sources as they have been distinguished and related to one another by scholars is here unnecessary. A complete discussion of the subject will be found in Dr. Driver's LOT6, 105 ff, in other Introductions, or in the Commentaries on Joshua. Not seldom in the ultimate detail the distinctions are precarious, and there are differences of opinion among scholars themselves as to the precise limit or limits of the use made of any given source, or at what point the dividing line should be drawn. It is only in a broad and general sense that in Joshua especially the literary theory of the use of "documents," as generally understood and as interpreted in the case of the Pentateuch, can be shown to be well founded. In itself, however, such a theory is eminently reasonable, and is both in harmony with the general usage and methods of ancient composition, and affords ground for additional confidence in the good faith and reliability of the narrative as a whole.

V. Relation to the Book of Judges.

1. Parallel Narratives:

A comparison moreover of the history recorded in Joshua with the brief parallel account in Judges furnishes ground for believing that a detailed or chronological narrative was not contemplated by the writer or writers themselves. The introductory verses of Judges (1:1 through 2:5) are in part a summary of incidents recorded in Joshua, and in part supply new details or present a different view of the whole. The original notices that are added relate almost entirely to the invasion and conquest of Southern Palestine by the united or allied tribes of Judah and Simeon and the destruction of Bethel by the "house of Joseph." The action of the remaining tribes is narrated in a few words, the brief record closing in each case with reference to the condition of servitude to which the original inhabitants of the land were reduced. And the general scheme of the invasion as there represented is apparently that of a series of disconnected raids or campaigns undertaken by the several tribes independently, each having for its object the subjection of the territory assigned to the individual tribe. A general and comprehensive plan of conquest under the supreme leadership of Joshua appears to be entirely wanting. In detail, however, the only real inconsistency between the two narratives would appear to be that in Jdg (1:21) the failure to expel the Jebusites from Jerusalem is laid to the account of the Benjamites, while in Jos 15:63 it is charged against the children of Judah. The difficulties in the way of the formation of a clear conception of the incidents attending the capture of Jerusalem are perhaps insuperable upon any hypothesis; and the variation of the tribal name in the two texts may be no more than a copyist's error.

2. Omissions in the History:

A perhaps more striking omission in both narratives is the absence of any reference to the conquest of Central Palestine. The narrative of the overthrow of Bethel and Ai (Jos 6:1 through Jos 8:29) is followed immediately by the record of the building of an altar on Mt. Ebal and the recitation of the Law before the people of Israel assembled in front of Mts. Ebal and Gerizim (Jos 8:30 ff). Joshua then turns aside to defeat at Beth-horon the combination of the Amorite kings, and completes the conquest of the southern country as far south as Kadesh-barnea (Jos 10:41). Immediately thereafter he is engaged in overthrowing a confederacy in the far north (Jos 11:1-15), a work which clearly could not have been undertaken or successfully accomplished, unless the central region had been already subdued; but of its reduction no account is given. It has been supposed that the silence of the narrator is an indication that at the period of the invasion this district was in the occupation of tribes friendly or even related to the Israelite clans; and in support of the conjecture reference has been made to the mention of Israel on the stele of Merenptah, the Egyptian ruler in whose reign, according to the most probable view, the exodus took place. In this record the nation or a part thereof is regarded as already settled in Palestine at a date earlier by half a century than their appearance under Moses and Joshua on the borders of the Promised Land. The explanation is possible, but perhaps hardly probable. The defects of the historical record are irremediable at this distance of time, and it must be acknowledged that with the available material no complete and consistent narrative of the events of the Israelite conquest of Palestine can be constructed.

VI. Place of Joshua in the Hebrew Canon.

In the Hebrew Canon Joshua is the first in order of the prophetical books, and the first of the group of 4, namely, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, which form the "Earlier Prophets" (nebhi'im ri'shonim). These books, the contents of which are history, not prophecy in the ordinary sense of the term, were assigned by the Jews to the 2nd division of their sacred Canon, and found a place by the side of the great writings of the "Later Prophets" (nebhi'im 'acharonim). This position was given to them in part perhaps because they were believed to have been written or composed by prophets, but mainly because Jewish history was regarded as in purpose and intent "prophetic," being directed and presided over by Yahweh Himself, and conveying direct spiritual instruction and example. The Canon of the Law, moreover, was already closed; and however patent and striking might be the resemblance of Joshua in style and method of composition to the books of the Pentateuch, it was impossible to admit it therein, or to give a place within the Torah, a group of writings which were regarded as of Mosaic authorship, to a narrative of events which occurred after Moses' death. Later criticism reviewed and reversed the verdict as to the true character of the book. In every Canon except the Hebrew, its historical nature was recognized, and the work was classified accordingly. Modern criticism has gone further, and, with increasing consciousness of its close literary relationship to the books of the Law, has united it with them in a Hexateuch, or even under the more comprehensive title of Octateuch combines together the books of Jdg and Ruth with the preceding six on the ground of similarity of origin and style.

VII. Greek and Other Ancient Versions.

1. The Greek:

In the ancient versions of Joshua there is not much that is of interest. The Greek translation bears witness to a Hebrew original differing little from the Massoretic Text. In their renderings, however, and general treatment of the Hebrew text, the translators seem to have felt themselves at liberty to take up a position of greater independence and freedom than in dealing with the 5 books of the Law. Probably also the rendering of Joshua into Greek is not to be ascribed to the same authors as the translation of the Pentateuch. While faithful to the Hebrew, it is less constantly and exactly literal, and contains many slight variations, the most important of which are found in the last 6 chapters.

Jos 19:1-51: The Septuagint transposes 19:47,48, and, omitting the first clause of 19:47, refers the whole to the sons of Judah, without mention of Dan; it further adds 19:47a,48a on the relation between the Amorites and Ephraim, and the Amorites and the Danites respectively. With 19:47a compare 16:10 and Jg 1:29, and with Jg 19:30a compare Jg 19:30 (Hebrew) and Jg 1:34.

Jos 20:4-6 inclusive are omitted in B, except a clause from Jos 20:6; A, however, inserts them in full. Compare Driver, LOT 6, 112, who, on the ground of their Deuteronomic tone, regards it as probable that the verses are an addition to the Priestly Code (P), and therefore did not form part of the original text as used by the Greek translators.

Jos 21:36-37, which give the names of the Levitical cities in Judah, are omitted in the Hebrew printed text although found in many Hebrew manuscripts. Four verses also are added after Jos 21:42, the first three of which repeat Jos 19:50 f, and the last is a reminiscence of Jos 5:3.

Jos 24:29 f which narrate the death and burial of Joshua are placed in the Greek text after 24:31; and a verse is inserted after 24:30 recording that the stone knives used for the purposes of the circumcision (5:2 ff) were buried with Joshua in his tomb (compare 21:42). After 24:33 also two new verses appear, apparently a miscellany from Jg 2:6,11-15; 3:7,12,14, with a statement of the death and burial of Phinehas, son and successor of Eleazar, of the idolatrous worship by the children of Israel of Astarte and Ashtaroth, and the oppression under Eglon, king of Moab.

2. Other Ancient Versions:

The other VSS, with the exception of Jerome's translation from the Hebrew, are secondary, derived mediately through the Greek. The Old Latin is contained in a manuscript at Lyons, Cod. Lugdunensis, which is referred to the 6th century. Of the Coptic version only small portions are extant; they have been published by G. Maspero, Memoires de la mission archeologique frantsaise, tom. VI, fasc. 1, le Caire, 1892, and elsewhere. A Sam translation also is known, for parts of which at least an early origin and an independent derivation from the Hebrew have been claimed. The ancient character of the version, however, is contested, and it has been shown that the arguments on which reliance was placed are insufficient to justify the conclusions drawn. The translation appears to be in reality of quite recent date, and to have been made originally from the Arabic, perhaps in part compared with and corrected by the Massoretic Text. The subject was fully and conclusively discussed by Dr. Yehuda of Berlin, at the Oriental Congress in the summer of 1908, and in a separate pamphlet subsequently published. It was even stated that the author of the version was still living, and his name was given. Dr. Gaster, the original discoverer of the Sam MS, in various articles and letters maintains his contention that the translation is really antique, and therefore of great value, but he has failed to convince scholars. (See M. Gaster in JRAS (1908), 795 ff, 1148 ff; E. N. Adler, ib, 1143 ff. The text of the manuscript was published by Dr. Caster in ZDMG (1908), 209 ff, and a specimen chapter with English rendering and notes in PSBA, XXXI (1909), 115 ff, 149 ff.)

VIII. Religious Purpose and Teaching.

As a whole, then, Joshua is dominated by the same religious and hortatory purpose as the earlier writings of the Pentateuch; and in this respect as well as in authorship and structure the classification which assigns to it a place by the side of the 5 books of Moses and gives to the whole the title of Hexateuch is not unjustified. The author or authors had in view not merely the narration of incident, nor the record of events in the past history of their people of which they judged it desirable that a correct account should be preserved, but they endeavored in all to subserve a practical and religious aim. The history is not for its own sake, or for the sake of the literal facts which it enshrines, but for the sake of the moral and spiritual lessons which may be elucidated therein, and enforced from its teaching. The Divine leading in history is the first thought with the writer. And the record of Israel's past presents itself as of interest to him, not because it is a record of events that actually happened, but because he sees in it the ever-present guidance and overruling determination of God, and would draw from it instruction and warning for the men of his own time and for those that come after him. Not the history itself, but the meaning and interpretation of the history are of value. Its importance lies in the illustrations it affords of the controlling working of a Divine Ruler who is faithful to His promises, loving righteousness and hating iniquity, and swaying the destinies of men in truth. Thus the selection of materials, and the form and arrangement of the book are determined by a definite aim: to set forth and enforce moral lessons, and to exhibit Israel's past as the working out of a Divine purpose which has chosen the nation to be the recipient of the Divine favor, and the instrument for the carrying forward of His purposes upon earth.


A Complete bibliography of the literature up to date will be found in the dictionaries, under the word "Joshua," DB2, 1893, HDB, II, 1899, EB, II, 1901; compare W. H. Bennett, "The Book of Josh," in SBOT, Leipzig, 1895; W.G. Blaikie, "Joshua," in Expositor's Bible, 1893; A. Dillmann, Nu, Dt u. Josua2, Leipzig, 1886; H. Holzinger, "Das Buch Josua," in Kurzer Hand-Comm. zum A T, Tubingen, 1901; C. Steuernagel, "Josua," in Nowack's Handcommentar zum Altes Testament, 1899; S. Oettli, "Deuteronomy, Josua u. Richter," in Kurzgef. Komm, Munchen, 1893; W.J. Deane, Joshua, His Life and Times, in "Men of the Bible Series," London.

A. S. Geden

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