Notes on Joshua 1

by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)

Joshua chapter 1

I God’s message to Joshua

Jos 1:1-2, KJV 1 Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister, saying, 2 Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, (even) to the children of Israel.

The Weeping

The Israelites had mourned for Moses for 30 days (Deuteronomy 34:9). Compare this with the 70 days of mourning for Jacob (Genesis 50:3) and 30 days for Aaron (Numbers 20:29).

The warrant

God graciously allowed the Israelites to express their grief over Moses. Joshua had been appointed previously (Deut. 31:23) and now he had the responsibility to lead these people into the Promised Land.

3 Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses.

This promise is restricted to those Israelites who had survived the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness due to the great sin of unbelief (Numbers 13). Only Joshua, Caleb, and those who were younger than 20 years of age, at that time, were alive to complete this journey to the Promised Land.

4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast.

The nation’s new boundaries are specified here. The “great sea” refers to the Mediterranean. Compare this area of land, promised to Israel in Joshua’s day, with the portions for each tribe in the future (see Ezekiel 47:13-48:35)

5 There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, (so) I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.

There is a combined promise and warning in this verse. Note that God only promised that no man could stand before Joshua (and the nation Israel, by extension) during Joshua’s lifetime. Israel had already experienced some victories and defeats during the wilderness journey but here, God promises nothing but success during Joshua’s lifetime. The warning is implied that it may be different after Joshua dies.

6 Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them. 7 Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it (to) the right hand or (to) the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.

God gives another set of promises here. Note the command to observe all the Law and not depart from it in any way.

8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

Several times, God commanded the Israelites to be familiar with the Scripture they had in those days. Note the commands given in Deuteronomy 6:6-9 alone: memorize (v. 6), oral communication (v. 7), and written words in the house and gates (v. 9). God also told Moses to instruct the nation that when they crossed the Jordan River to set up “great stones” and then write all the words of the Law on them (Deut. 27:2-5). The command to write the words on the stones was repeated in Deut. 27:8.

Very little of God’s Word existed then, in print, thus it was important to keep this knowledge alive in the hearts of the next generation.

9 Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God (is) with thee whithersoever thou goest.

God closes this message to Joshua with a question, a challenge, and a promise.

II Joshua’s message to the people

10 Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying,

Joshua was blessed to have a group of faithful officers. It isn’t known if these officers were the same as the rulers over various amounts of people as suggested by Jethro (Exodus 18:17-23) or captains over various amounts of people, as described by Moses (Deut. 1:15 ff). Joshua was thus informing and involving the entire nation at this time.

11 Pass through the host, and command the people, saying, Prepare you victuals; for within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land, which the LORD your God giveth you to possess it.

The people were still eating manna at this time plus any other provisions which God had provided. These other provisions are not specified here but in earlier times, God had given quail for the people to eat. They, unfortunately, got more than they expected, as God’s wrath was kindled against some of the people and an unspecified number of the people died (Numbers 11:33-35). This news had to be a cause of rejoicing among the people: the journeys were over and they were so, so close to the Promised Land.

12 And to the Reubenites, and to the Gadites, and to half the tribe of Manasseh, spake Joshua, saying,

These two-and-a-half tribes had decided to settle on the eastern side of the Jordan (see Numbers 32). Israel had spent at least some time in their wilderness journeys on the east side of Jordan, where they had defeated Og, king of Bashan (Num. 21:33-35, Deut. 3:1-7).

13 Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, The LORD your God hath given you rest, and hath given you this land. 14 Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle, shall remain in the land which Moses gave you on this side Jordan; but ye shall pass before your brethren armed, all the mighty men of valour, and help them; 15 Until the LORD have given your brethren rest, as (he hath given) you, and they also have possessed the land which the LORD your God giveth them: then ye shall return unto the land of your possession, and enjoy it, which Moses the LORD'S servant gave you on this side Jordan toward the sunrising.

This is a repetition of the command in Numbers 32 for the tribes of Reuben and Gad, plus the half-tribe of Manasseh, to assist the other tribes in conquering the land.

III The people’s reply to Joshua

16 And they answered Joshua, saying, All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go. 17 According as we hearkened unto Moses in all things, so will we hearken unto thee: only the LORD thy God be with thee, as he was with Moses. 18 Whosoever (he be) that doth rebel against thy commandment, and will not hearken unto thy words in all that thou commandest him, he shall be put to death: only be strong and of a good courage.

Note that here, at least, there was no murmuring or grumbling among the people. Moses had endured a great deal of the grumbling, murmuring, and even outright rebellion by the Israelites any number of times as he led the people as far as God allowed him. The Israelites had seen what obedience had brought and what disobedience had brought during the last 40 years.

Now they were ready to obey and follow the commands of God through Joshua.

Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV)

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