THE PROPHET JOSHUA

Who Was Joshua?

  • Joshua was the son of Nun, of the tribe of Ephraim (Numbers 13:8,16). As a young man, Joshua was a servant of Moses (Numbers 11:28).
  • He was originally called Oshea or Hoshea, which means “savior” or “salvation” (Numbers 13:16). Moses changed his name to Joshua, meaning “he shall save” or “salvation of Jehovah” (Deut. 32:44).
  • In the Septuagint version of the scriptures, he is called “Jesus.” In the New Testament he is also specifically called “Jesus” (Acts 7:45).
  • In the original Hebrew, Jesus and Joshua are the same name (Hebrews 4:8). He therefore had the same name as our Savior, Jesus Christ.

The Greatness of Joshua

  • Joshua distinguished himself as a general in a battle against the Amalekites (Exodus 17).
  • Joshua was among the 70 elders who saw the Lord at the foot of Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:9–11).
  • Joshua accompanied Moses into the higher reaches of Mount Sinai, patiently waiting until his leader returned from talking with the Lord (Exodus 24:12–18).
  • Joshua was one of twelve spies sent by Moses into Canaan to search it out (Numbers 13:1–2). Only he and Caleb showed faith in God in reporting their findings (Numbers 14:6–10).
  • Joshua was divinely designated as Moses’ successor (Deut. 1:37–38), and he was solemnly consecrated by Moses to be so (Numbers 27:18–23).

THE ISRAELITES ENTER CANAAN

The Lord’s Charge and Israel’s Covenant

  • The Lord charged Joshua to serve with courage and faithfulness (Joshua 1:1–9).
    • The Lord defined the extent of the Promised Land (v. 4).
    • Joshua had the power and authority of Moses (v. 5).
    • He was to make the law the basis of all he did (vv. 7–8). He was not to vary from it, and it was not to depart out of his mouth—that is, all that he spoke was to conform to it, and he was to meditate upon it constantly.
  • The tribes with inheritances east of Jordan—Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh—had covenanted to assist the others in conquering Canaan (Joshua 1:10–18).

Rahab Assists Israelite Spies

  • Israelite spies were aided by Rahab in Jericho (Joshua 2:1–7).
  • This story illustrates the value placed upon an oath or promise by men of ancient times (Joshua 2:8–24). Unfortunately, men of that day were more faithful to their covenants with other men than they were to those made with God.
  • A token was agreed upon as proof of their intention to protect Rahab and her family from destruction—a “line of scarlet thread” in the window of her house (v. 18).

Crossing the Jordan River

  • The miracle at the Jordan River was very significant for a number of reasons (Joshua 3:7–4:14).
    • The significance of this event in the eyes of the people. Just as Moses had parted the waters as Israel came out of Egypt, these waters were parted under Joshua’s leadership.
    • The significance of the location. The point at which they crossed the Jordan is just north of the Dead Sea in what is possibly the lowest place on earth (was below sea level). It is at or very near the place where Jesus was baptized, descending “below all things.”
    • The significance of Israel’s submersion in water as they entered the Promised Land. In a sense their passing through the water was a “baptism” of the children of Israel.
    • The significance of the date. Israel passed over the River Jordan on the first day of the Passover (Joshua 3:17; 4:19).
  • Twelve memorial stones are set up to commemorate this miracle (Joshua 4:7). The stones were taken from the riverbed and placed where all the people could see them and be reminded of God’s miracle there.

Circumcision Is Renewed and Manna Ceases

  • Canaan’s inhabitants were in the Israelites’ hands, so long as they kept their covenants with the Lord (Jacob 5:1).
  • The covenant of circumcision was renewed at this time (Joshua 5:1–9). The Israelites needed circumcision (vv. 2–8). Israel had wandered forty years in the wilderness because they were not faithful in their covenant with God. It is not surprising, then, that during that period they had failed to continue the practice of circumcision, which was the symbol of their covenant. The Lord required them to re-institute this physical token at this time.
  • Manna ended after 40 years. The Israelites had been tenderly nursed with manna for 40 years—more than 12,000 times—but now they were to eat the bread of the land obtained from their own labor (Joshua 5:10–12).

THE CONQUEST OF CANAAN BEGINS

The Lord Is Israel’s Captain

  • Joshua received a visit from the “captain of the Lord’s host” (Joshua 5:13–15). Most scholars assume either a mortal servant of God or an angel came to strengthen Joshua and Israel as they prepared for their first battle. Two things, however, suggest that Joshua may actually have seen Jehovah:
    • First, when Joshua fell down to worship him, no attempt was made to stop him. Yet the mortal servants of God and even angels are quick to prevent others from worshiping them, even when they have demonstrated great power (Acts 10:25–26; 14:8–18; Alma 18:15–17;Revelation 22:9; 19:10; Judges 13:16).
    • Second, the personage commanded Joshua to remove his shoes because he was standing on holy ground—the same instructions Jehovah gave to Moses on Mount Sinai (Exodus 3:5).

The Battle of Jericho

  • The Fall of Jericho (Joshua 6:4–8).
    • The inhabitants of Jericho knew of the powerful destruction that Israel had directed against the kingdom of the Amorites east of Jordan (v. 1). Therefore, it is no surprise that they shut up their walled city against Israel.
    • The prevalence of the number seven in the Lord’s dealing with Jericho’s defense is significant. Throughout the law of Moses, seven was used numerous times to signify the covenant. Its association with the covenant probably stems from the idea that “seven…is associated with completion, fulfilment, and perfection.”1 By patterning the conquest of Jericho in sevens, the Lord taught Israel that their success lay in the covenant with Jehovah; his perfect power brought conquest, not their own.
    • The Hebrew shofar, or ram’s horn was the oldest musical instrument in Israel (vv. 4–6). After being flattened by heat, the horn of a ram was forced to turn up at the ends. This shape thus created a most unusual and easily recognizable sound. In early times the horn was used to warn of approaching armies, to give the signal for attack, or to dismiss troops from the field.
    • Just as the ark of the covenant symbolized the presence of God in the tabernacle’s Holy of Holies, so it symbolized his leadership of the armies of Israel as they carried it before them while they marched around the city (vv. 4, 6–8). This was not a mere mortal conflict: Canaan was to be destroyed by the very God of Israel. This truth was impressively taught to Israel by the presence of the ark.
  • Great care was given to honoring every detail of the oath that had been given to Rahab (vv. 22–23).
  • What caused the walls of Jericho to fall? (Joshua 6:20). Elder James E. Talmage said, “May we not believe that when Israel encompassed Jericho, the captain of the Lord’s host and his heavenly train were there, and that before their super-mortal agency, sustained by the faith and obedience of the human army, the walls were leveled? Some of the latest and highest achievements of man in the utilization of natural forces approach the conditions of spiritual operations. To count the ticking of a watch thousands of miles away; to speak in but an ordinary tone and be heard across the continent; to signal from one hemisphere and be understood on the other though oceans roll and roar between; to bring the lightning into our homes and make it serve as fire and torch; to navigate the air and to travel beneath the ocean surface; to make chemical and atomic energies obey our will—are not these miracles? The possibility of such would not have been received with credence before their actual accomplishment. Nevertheless, these and all other miracles are accomplished through the operation of the laws of nature, which are the laws of God.”2
  • Jericho and its inhabitants were utterly destroyed (Joshua 6:21–27).

JOSHUA’S FAREWELL SPEECHES

For many years, Joshua led the children of Israel in their battles to conquer the Promised Land. So long as they remained faithful, they prevailed against their enemies. Then, as Joshua’s life drew toward its end, he gave his final counsel to the tribes of Israel.

Joshua’s First Address: Separation from the World

  • Joshua’s first farewell address appealed to Israel to keep themselves separate from the world (Joshua 23).
  • Joshua warned Israel of three things in the event that some heathen nations, including those that surrounded them, were allowed to:

Joshua’s Second Address: Agency and Consequences

  • Joshua’s second farewell address caused the people to renew their covenants with God (Joshua 24:1–27).
  • “Choose you this day whom ye will serve,” he said, “but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14–15).

Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said:

“Now, my brethren and sisters, in this time of peace-I do not know how long it will last—in this day of prosperity let us be humble and remember the Lord and keep his commandments and feel that the dangers before us are far greater than they are in the days of trial and tribulation. Do not think for a moment that the days of trial are over. They are not. If we keep the commandments of the Lord, we shall prosper, we shall be blessed; the plagues, the calamities that have been promised will be poured out upon the peoples of the earth, and we shall escape them, yea, they shall pass us by.

“But remember the Lord says if we fail to keep his word, if we walk in the ways of the world, they will not pass us by, but we shall be visited with floods and with fire, with sword and with plague and destruction. We may escape these things through faithfulness. Israel of old might have escaped through faithfulness, but they refused to keep the commandments of the Lord and they were not saved. . . .

“We have the means of escape through obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Will we escape? When I see, even among the Latter-day Saints the violation of the laws of the Lord, I fear and I tremble. I have been crying repentance among the stakes of Zion for 30 years, calling upon the people to turn to the Lord, keep his commandments, observe the Sabbath day, pay their honest tithing, do everything the Lord has commanded them to do, to live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God. By doing this we shall escape the calamities.

“I am going to repeat what I have said before, for which I have been severely criticized from certain quarters, that even in this country we have no grounds by which we may escape, no sure foundation upon which we can stand, and by which we may escape from the calamities and destruction and the plagues and the pestilences, and even the devouring fire by sword and by war, unless we repent and we keep the commandments of the Lord, for it is written here in these revelations.

“I cry repentance to the Latter-day Saints, and I cry repentance to the people of the United States, as well as to the people of all the earth.”3

  • We are free to choose (2 Nephi 2:27). We have moral agency as a gift—with consequences or blessings according to our choices.
  • Satan seeks to take away our agency by making us think that our decisions have no consequences. He does his insidious work through subtlety, lies, and half-truths (2 Nephi 28:7–9; Moses 4:4; 3 Nephi 2:2; Alma 12:4).

THE END OF AN ERA

Joshua and Eleazar Die

The Bones of Joseph

  • An ancient promise to Joseph was kept (Joshua 24:32).
    • When Joseph, Jacob’s son, was dying, he extracted a promise from the children of Israel that they would take his body with them when they left Egypt (Genesis 50:25).
    • Most likely his body had been embalmed in the Egyptian manner. Upon Israel’s departure from Egypt, Moses honored the promise and “took the bones of Joseph with him” (Exodus 13:19).
    • Following Israel’s arrival and settlement in the promised land, Joseph’s remains were interred, as recorded in verse 32.

Notes:

  1. Douglas, New Bible Dictionary, s.v. “number,” 898.
  2. The Articles of Faith, 12th ed. [1924], 222–223.
  3. Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Elder Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 3:34.
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