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Op-Ed

Joshua, his book and namesake

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By EMN Updated: Jan 11, 2014 9:13 pm
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Jack T. Chakhesang

[dropcap]N[/dropcap]ot so long ago, a second son was born to my first son. I was out of station at that point of time but I got an SMS saying the newly born weighed 4 kgs and had been named Joshua.
When I came back home, I happened to enquire as to why the name Joshua?
As far as I know, there have been two prominent men in the Bible whose names were Joshua. One was the Lieutenant of Moses who took over after leadership of the Israelites during their exile in the Sinai desert after the leader chosen by God to establish Israel as a nation passed away. BOOK OF JOSHUA
The subject of the book of Joshua is the conquest and division of the land of Canaan. Moses, who had led the people for the previous forty years, died before the people entered Canaan (his death being recorded in the previous book, Deuteronomy.) He was succeeded by the man from whom the book of Joshua takes its name.
AUTHORSHIP, STYLE AND PURPOSE
There is no statement in the book of Joshua telling us who wrote it, though some of the material may have been based on what Joshua himself wrote (e.g. Josh 24:25-26). The writer probably also used other historical books of that era (Josh 10:13), along with national and tribal records (Josh 18:8, 9).
Although it outlines the conquest of Canaan, the book of Joshua does not give a detailed record of events. The battle for Canaan lasted a long time (Josh 11:18), at least five years (Josh 14:7, 10), yet some of the more extensive battle campaigns are passed over in a few verses. By contrast, events of apparently little military importance are sometimes given in considerable detail.
The reason for this unevenness of treatment is that the book was intended to be not a chronological record of facts, but a prophetical interpretation of an important era of Israel’s history. The writer’s man concern was to show how God was revealing himself and his purposes through the experiences of his people Israel. (Prophets?)
SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
Chapters 1 to 5 deal with Israel’s entry into Canaan. From the outset the emphasis is on the fact tat God is giving the Land to Israel. Nevertheless, the people, and particularly Joshua, must be courageous, trusting and obedient to God if their invasion is to be successful (1:1-18).
After spying out the land in order to plan the invasion intelligently (2:1-24), the Israelites crossed the Jordan River and set up camp at Gilgal. To impress upon the people the religious significance of the invasion, the narrative emphasizes such matters in the ritual cleansing of the people, the leadership of the protests, the prominences of the ark of the covenant, and the miraculous crossing of the Jordan, and the obedience of the covenant commands by those who were till then uncircumcised
The appearance of the angel of the Lord further demonstrated that the entire operation was divinely directed (Josh 4:1-5; 15)
Israel’s entrance into Canaan was the beginning of a new way of life, and Joshua set up a memorial at Gilgal to mark the occasion. He also arranged for the circumcision of all those who had been born during the years in the wilderness but had not yet been circumcised. The significance of this mass ceremony was the sign of the covenant under which Israel inherited the land.
At Gilgal the Israelite kept their first Passover in Canaan, The forty years journey from Egypt was now formally over, and the daily supply of manna ceased (Josh 5:10-12). Gilgal was the administrative centre of Israel throughout the war and in the early days of the settlement programme (Josh 10:6, 9, 15, 43; 14:6) The headquarters was then transferred to Shiloh (Josh 18:1, 8-10).
The overthrow of Jericho gave more examples of the religious significance of Israel conquests: the role of the priests and the ark, the repeated use of the symbolic number “seven” in the proceedings, and the judgment that followed disobedience to God’s commands (Josh 6:1-7: 26). Only after the leaders dealt with the sin, did Israel make further advances into central Canaan (Josh8:1-29). The people then reaffirmed their obedience to the covenant by which God had given to them (Josh 8: 30-35).
Having split Canaan by their drive through the central region, the Israelites then conquered the south (Josh 9::1-10; 43) and the north (Josh 11:1-15).
The summary that follow emphasizes again that Israel’s occupation of Canaan was the fulfillment of God’s promises (Josh 11: 16-13; 24) .
With Canaan now the possession of Israel, Joshua, together with the high priest and the tribal leaders, began the task of dividing the land between the twelve tribes. the area west of Jordan (Canaan itself) was divided between nine and a half tribes (Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh) received their inheritance in the land east of Jordan that Israel had conquered in the time of Moses (13:1-14:5).
Of the area west of Jordan, the largest and best portions went also to two and half tribes – Judah (14:6-15:63 and the remainder of the Joseph tribes, Ephraim and the other half of Manasseh (16:1-17:18).
The seven smaller tribes then received their tribal allotments (18:1-19:15). The Levities, who had no tribal area of their own, were given towns in all the other tribes (20:1-21:45). Apart from the story of an early misunderstanding between the eastern and western tribes (22:1-34), nothing more is recorded of the era till the time of Joshua’s final address to the nation many years later (23:1-16). Before he died, Joshua called Israel’s leader to assemble for another covenant renewable ceremony. Through them he reminded the people that if they wanted to enjoy the blessings of the covenant, they had to be obedient to its requirement (24:1-33). What is most relevant about this Joshua is that he was absolutely loyal to Abraham and by extension the Israelites. In a sense, he was a far greater leader than Abraham himself although he tried to efface himself through humility. However, his name in the annals of Christianity is ennobled in black and white. And I am privileged to have a grandson of the same name. There is another Moses, the son of Jehozadak, who was a high priest, However, I leave his story for another day.

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By EMN Updated: Jan 11, 2014 9:13:11 pm