Understanding the Book of Joshua
Joshua’s military campaign finds its placement in the Scripture immediately following the Pentateuch. The book begins with the passing of the leadership torch from Moses to Joshua. Moses led the children of Israel out of the land of bondage in Egypt into the wilderness where they learned how to worship Yahweh for the next forty years. Now, Joshua has been given the leadership charge to take the Israelites across the Jordan River into the land of promise, Canaan.
Spies were sent to determine what problems the first city in Canaan would present to Joshua and his army, but after the spies return (thanks to a Gentile prostitute named Rahab), they determine that God will give Jericho into their hands. Jericho becomes the first battle in the land of Canaan and the book of Joshua chronicles many subsequent battles used by the Lord to rid Canaan of the pagan nations who would attempt to lead the Israelites’ hearts away from God.
Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho…Jericho…Jericho…
The Commander of the Lord’s Army appears to Joshua in Joshua 5 and 6 to give orders for how the Israelites were to take the city. The army was to march in silence around the city walls once per day for six days while trumpets played. Then, on the seventh day the army was to march around the city walls seven times, and conclude with a great shout. The Lord would give the city to Joshua and his army, and they were to plunder the entire city, except for the family of Rahab, the prostitute who saved the spies from capture.
The Lord used Joshua and his army to bring swift and severe judgment upon the Canaanites in Jericho. Their wickedness deserved punishment, and Joshua was God’s instrument to bring it about. Yet in God’s judgment, he also offered salvation to an unlikely woman and her household. The Gentile prostitute who had saved the Israelites spies in Joshua 2 was to be rescued, along with her household. The God of righteous justice revealed himself also as the God of gracious salvation.
Jesus, the True and Better Joshua
God’s judgment and salvation came through the hands of his mighty warrior, Joshua. The battle was the Lord’s, but the victory came through a human agent. God used Joshua. It was Joshua who destroyed the city. It was Joshua who saved Rahab.
But Joshua points to a true and better Joshua – Jesus, who brings about a greater judgment and salvation.
Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4 that Jesus will return to earth with a shout and the blow of a trumpet, similar to the sounds heard in Jericho on the day of battle. Just like Joshua brought justice when the shouts came and the horns blew, Jesus will return with a sword of justice. He will destroy those who have rejected his gospel, and they will suffer eternal judgment.
Like Joshua, Jesus offers salvation. Joshua, whose name means “The Lord saves”, rescued Rahab. But Jesus, the Greek name for Joshua, offers a better salvation. Jesus brings salvation through his battle, not with Jericho, but with the powers of sin, death, and Satan. Jesus defeated the enemy through his perfect life, substitutionary death, and victorious resurrection. Now, like Joshua, through the power of his Spirit he leads his people into battle against sin and the powers of darkness (Eph 6:12).