BIBLE STUDY SERIES #545, 546 and 547

5 May, 2002

JOSHUA - INTRODUCTION - PART I

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

We have been conducting a series of Bible Studies for just over ten years now; starting with a Bible Study that began back in Genesis 12, with God's Call to Abram. The sequence, with occasional digressions, took up the Scriptures contained within the first five Books of The Bible consecutively from that point to the end of Deuteronomy.

As our latest Bible studies, we have been taking up a short series of five studies on the topic "Testing Times." We reviewed some causes of questions that have been mulled over for centuries, and millennia. We saw that The Almighty God, in the passage of Scripture found in Isaiah 45:7, claims that He is the creator of evil, and we had looked for the answers to some of the questions which such a statement raises. That quotation from Isaiah reads: "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things." It is, indeed, an essential component of God's overall Great Plan which is totally logical and sequential, and which is designed to emerge in an eventual spreading of God's Kingdom throughout the whole earth, as Daniel 2:34-35, and 45 explains.

Today, we are moving from the Mosaic Book of Deuteronomy to the next Book in the Bible, that which records the further experiences of the Tribes of ancient Israel as, under the direction of their new national leader, Joshua, they made active preparation to cross over the Jordan River. This they did, in response to the directions of The Almighty God, Whom the older generation, now deceased, had agreed to serve at Sinai. That former generation had rejected God's offer to move into the Promised Land Under Moses, and this precipitated the waiting period which would extend to forty years, until that former generation was now practically eliminated by death with the notable exceptions of Caleb and Joshua, and the younger generation, more willing to move in, had taken their places in the ranks of the nation. Now these hardened children of the wilderness were positioned to enter that portion of Canaan lying to the west of the Jordan, and under Joshua, they were ready to do what their parents had feared to accomplish.

It may make the whole subject more interesting for many of our readers if they understand that we, of the British-Israel-World Federation assert, with supportive evidence, that the vast majority of the present-day descendants of these same Israelites are now literally found within the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples of the British Isles, and adjacent nations of continental Europe, together with extensions of these same peoples throughout the world, in the U.S.A. and various dominions. As the main body of these generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples had been deported by the Assyrians about 721 BC to the areas of Persia in which the Aryan language group originated, one mark of expected evidence will be the persistence of traits of that language system by contact, within some languages presently spoken by these peoples. Indeed the modern name, "Iran" reflects that history! Many Israelite tribesmen had traversed Europe via the Caucasus, moving from the east by various land corridors. Thus it will be understood that some remnant families and groups were willing to stop and continue to reside in more fertile pockets scattered along the migration routes. Others, like the Scots of Zara-Judah (they of the Red-Hand) came by sea, via Spain and Ireland.

The prophecies to Joseph's two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh in Genesis 48 and to all of Jacob's sons in Genesis 49, were specifically promised to become operative "in the last days." The expression "latter" or "last" days means that these will be seen in the days in which we are now living, and not those which preceded Christ's First Advent. Moreover, it means that each tribal blessing will operate selectively, independently and identifiably in the tribal descendants to which it is assigned. The Ten and a half Tribes of the Northern House of Israel, and also 200,150 of the fenced cities of the Southern Tribes of the nation of the House of Judah had been deported far to the north by Assyria. Only those inhabitants within the walled city of Jerusalem were preserved from Assyrian deportation, and only this remnant remained to become the victims of the new world power, Babylon, about 130 years later, after Assyria fell. These were remnants of only three tribes: Judah, Benjamin and Levi, with a few stragglers from other tribes, like the family from whom the aged Prophetess, Anna descended at the time of Christ's First Advent.

To put the matter quite bluntly, the Jewish State called "Israel" in today's Palestine is far too tiny, and the population far too diverse and insufficient to fulfil the vast and extensive prophetic promises which were bestowed unconditionally upon Jacob's progeny, tribe by tribe. (As just one example. of this diversity within the populace of Jewry in the time of Our Lord's First Advent, we can cite the following. To shore up the vastly depleted Jewish population, descended from the remnant of the remnant deported to Babylon, and which seventy years after had in part returned under Ezra and Nehemiah, John Hyrcanus, about 125 BC, had defeated the Edomites of Mount Seir, and forced their conversion to Judaism. From these Idumaeans came the likes of the half-Samaritan, half-Idumaean King Herod, and his retinue.) With this brief digression into a few facts of history, we might say that it is no wonder that Christian pastors sometimes lose their way when attempting to apply prophetic statements which belong solely to the Northern House of Israel (the Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples) to the present Jewish state, which cannot correctly be heaped upon it. The present troubles afflicting that sorry land can be, in great measure ascribed to the misunderstandings which we have just outlined.

Now, let us return to the Book of Joshua. The five books of Moses are followed, as Keil and Delitzsch explain, "in the Hebrew canon by the writings of the "'earlier prophets' ... This collective name is given to the four historical books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings, which trace, in the light of divine revelation, and of the gradual unfolding of the plan of salvation, the historical development of this kingdom of God from the death of Moses, the mediator of the old covenant, or from the entrance of the people of Israel into the land of Canaan promised to their fathers, till the dissolution of the kingdom of Judah, and the Babylonian captivity; the whole embracing a period of nearly nine hundred years. The names given to these books are taken from the men whom the God-king of Israel called and appointed at different times as the leaders and rulers of His people and kingdom, and indicate, very suitably on the whole, the historical periods to which the books refer.

The book of Joshua describes the introduction of the people of Israel into the promised land of Canaan, through the conquest effected by Joshua, and the division of the land among the tribes of Israel. As Joshua only completed what Moses had commenced but had not been permitted to carry out, on account of his sin at the water of strife (Num. xx. 12); and as he had not only been called by the Lord, and consecrated by the laying on of the hands of Moses, to accomplish this work, but had also been favoured with direct revelations from God, and with His miraculous help in the execution of it; the book which is named after him, and contains the account of what he did in the power of the Lord, is more closely related to the Pentateuch, both in its form and contents, than any other book of the Old Testament. In this respect, therefore, it might be regarded as an appendix, although it was never actually joined to it so as to form part of the same work, but was from the very first a separate writing, and simply stood in the same dependent relation to the writings of Moses, as that in which Joshua stood to Moses himself, of whom he was both the servant and successor."

The New Bible Commentary introduces the work in these words: "It has been said that the history of the world is the history of its great men. To be applied to history as a whole, that statement would require considerable qualification, but it can be set down as an accurate description of the kind of history to be found in the book of Joshua which, quite literally, is the "book of Joshua'. It begins with his divine call and commission, and it ends with the record of his death. It is his leadership that binds the story of Israel's conquest of Canaan into a coherent whole." We shall return to that reference later.

The Companion Bible notes of the Title, Joshua, Heb. Jehoshua = "Jehovah the Saviour". In Greek "Jesus". See Acts 7:45, Heb. 4:8 (Those N.T. verses use the name "Jesus" in the context of a verse referring to Joshua). It adds "The great subject is the Land as that of the Pentateuch was the People."

We might just read the first few verses to see how the Book begins:

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 movement which had been promised to Abraham hundreds of years before was now to take place. We shall pick up the subject on the next Bible Study, with further examination of the background of Joshua, the man and his task.

12 May, 2002

JOSHUA - INTRODUCTION - PART II

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

We have been conducting a series of Bible Studies for just over ten years now; starting with a Bible Study that began back in Genesis 12, with God's Call to Abram. The sequence, with occasional digressions, took up the Scriptures contained within the first five Books of The Bible consecutively from that point to the end of Deuteronomy.

As our latest Bible studies, we have been taking up a short series of five studies on the topic "Testing Times." We reviewed some causes of questions that have been mulled over for centuries, and millennia. We saw that The Almighty God, in the passage of Scripture found in Isaiah 45:7, claims that He is the creator of evil, and we had looked for the answers to some of the questions which such a statement raises. That quotation from Isaiah reads: "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things." It is, indeed, an essential component of God's overall Great Plan which is totally logical and sequential, and which is designed to emerge in an eventual spreading of God's Kingdom throughout the whole earth, as Daniel 2:34-35, and 45 explains.

On our last Study, we were moving from the Mosaic Book of Deuteronomy to the next Book in the Bible; that which records the further experiences of the Tribes of ancient Israel as, under the direction of their new national leader, Joshua, they made active preparation to cross over the Jordan River. From the older generation, only Joshua and Caleb had now survived, to provide that leadership and continuity of understanding which would be needed as the Tribes of Israel came across The Jordan River into the Promised Land.

We had examined some introductory notes by Keil and Delitzsch and as found in The New Bible Commentary, on the last Study, and we shall be picking up some further thoughts from these sources today.

Under the heading "The Man And His Task", The New Bible Commentary commences a note which we would do well to hear. It says: "Many things marked Joshua out for leadership. He was of the house of Joseph, which commanded most authority at this stage in the history of Israel: his grandfather, Elishama, had led the tribe of Ephraim through the wilderness and possibly had had the care of the embalmed body of his great ancestor, carried up for interment in the Promised Land. His contact with Egyptian civilization and culture - for he had been born in Egypt and had taken part in the exodus (Nu. xxxii. 11f.) - also fitted him, as it had fitted Moses, for the task of forging his people into a nation. It is significant in this connection that one of his last appeals in his final message to the people reminded them how their fathers had served other gods in Egypt (Jos. xxiv. 14). As Moses' personal attendant and colleague, in closest contact with him in the leadership of the people, Joshua had been naturally marked out as his successor, and he must have learned much from his master and from his own experience during the years of wandering in the wilderness. His faith and courage had been amply revealed in the minority report submitted by Caleb and himself in favour of an invasion of Canaan from Kadesh, in contrast to the timid report of the other ten spies: 'The Lord will bring us into this land, and give it us.' He had also already shown his prowess as a military commander in leading the forces of Israel which repelled the attack of the Amalekites at Rephidim, when they fell upon the rear of the Hebrew host, which was encumbered with women, children and baggage (Dt. xxv. 18). He won a decisive victory, and his generalship was the human channel through which came the answer to the prayers of Moses on the mountaintop (Ex. xvii. 8ff.). This was the man, so highly qualified by nature, by training and by experience, whom God raised up to lead the Hebrew tribes into Palestine. But his supreme qualification lay in the fact that all his gifts and training and experience were fused into a dynamic force by the touch of God. It was at the call of God that all his potentialities were called forth, and that call brought to the leadership of Israel a man assured of his divine commission; it summoned to the task a soldier who had put on the whole armour of God."

Here, we may take notice of some well-organized thoughts by Keil and Delitzsch with regard to the component parts in the organization of the Book of Joshua. After pointing out that the Book of Joshua "derives its name ... not from its author, but from its contents, viz. the history of the guidance of Israel into the land of Canaan, the land promised to the fathers, by Joshua the son of Nun", they proceed to the description of the contents, stating what now follows. Although their style carries forward without a break through a lengthy passage, it will repay us to place it on record for future reference. They proceed to describe the Book of Joshua thus:

"It commences immediately after the death of Moses, with the command addressed by the Lord to Joshua, to lead the children of Israel over the Jordan into Canaan, and not only to take possession of this land, but to divide it among the tribes of Israel (chap. i. 1-9), and closes with the death and burial of Joshua and his contemporary, the high priest Eleazar (chap. xxiv. 29-33).

The contents may be divided into two parts of nearly equal length, - the conquest of Canaan (chap. i. - xii.),
and the division of it among the tribes of Israel (chap. xii. - xxiv.);
chap. i. 1-9 forming the introduction, and chap. xxiv. 29-33 the conclusion.

After the introductory notice, that when Moses was dead the Lord commanded Joshua, who had been called to be the leader of Israel in his stead, to carry out the work entrusted to him, and encouraged him by the promise of His omnipotent help in the completion of it (chap. i. 1 -9), the history opens in the first part,

(1) with the preparations made by Joshua for advancing into Canaan; viz.
(a) the command of Joshua to the people to prepare for crossing the Jordan, the summons to the two tribes and a half to help their brethren to conquer Canaan (chap. i. 10-18),
and the dispatch of spies to Jericho (chap. ii.);
(b) the crossing of the river, which had been laid dry by a divine miracle (chap. iii. and iv.); and
(c) the preparation of Israel for the conquest of the land, by the performance of circumcision and the passover at Gilgal (chap. v. 1-12). Then follow

(2) the conquest and subjugation of Canaan; viz.
(a) the commencement of it by the miraculous fall of Jericho (chap. v. 13 - vi. 27), the attack upon Ai, and capture of that town, after the expiation of the guilt that had been brought upon the congregation through the sin of Achan against the ban (chap. vii. - viii. 29),
and the solemn act of setting up the law in the land on Ebal and Gerizim (chap. viii. 30 - 35),
(b) the further conquest of the land through the subjugation of the Gibeonites, who had succeeded surreptitiously in obtaining a treaty from Israel which guaranteed their safety (chap ix.); the two great victories over the allied kings of Canaan in the south (chap. x.) and north (chap. xi.), with the capture of the fortified towns of the land;
and lastly, at the close of the first part, the list of the conquered kings (chap. xii.).

- The second part commences with the command of God to Joshua to divide the whole land among the nine tribes and a half for a possession, although several parts of it still remained unconquered;
as two tribes and a half had already received from Moses their inheritance on the eastern side of the Jordan, the boundaries and towns of which are then described (chap. xiii.).

Accordingly Joshua, with the heads of the people appointed for the purpose, proceeded to the distribution of the land, first of all
(a) in the camp at Gilgal, where Caleb was the first to receive his inheritance (chap. xiv.),
and then, according to the lot, the tribes of Judah (chap. xv.) and Joseph, i.e. Ephraim and (half) Manasseh (chap. xvi. and xvii.); and afterwards
(b) at Shiloh, where the tabernacle was first of all erected, and a description of the land to be divided written down (chap. xviii. 11-28),
Simeon, Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, Naphtali, and Dan (chap. xix.) - received their inheritance,
after which the cities of refuge were selected (chap. xx.), and forty-eight cities were given up by the twelve tribes for the Levites to occupy (chap. xxi.); and finally,
(c) the warriors belonging to the tribes beyond Jordan were sent back by Joshua to their own inheritance (chap. xxii.).

To this there is appended, in the next place, an account of what Joshua did towards the end of his life to establish the tribes of Israel securely in their inheritance: viz.

(a) an exhortation to the heads of the tribes, who were gathered round him, to carry out their calling with fidelity (chap. xxiii.); and
(b) the renewal of the covenant at the diet at Shechem (chap. xxiv. 1-28).
This is followed by an account of the close of Joshua's life, and the conclusion of the whole book (chap. xxiv. 29-33).

Thus the two parts or halves of the book correspond exactly to one another, both in form and in contents."

We shall continue the Study next week.

19 May, 2002

JOSHUA - INTRODUCTION - PART III

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

We have been conducting a series of Bible Studies for just over ten years now; starting with a Bible Study that began back in Genesis 12, with God's Call to Abram. The sequence, with occasional digressions, took up the Scriptures contained within the first five Books of The Bible consecutively from that point to the end of Deuteronomy.

For a few recent Bible studies, we had digressed to take up a short series of five studies on the topic "Testing Times", and then we had moved, on our last two Studies, from the Mosaic Book of Deuteronomy to the next Book in the Bible; that which records the further experiences of the Tribes of ancient Israel as, under the direction of their new national leader, Joshua, they are to make active preparation to cross over the Jordan River.

From the older generation, only Joshua and Caleb had now survived, to provide that leadership and continuity of understanding which would be needed as the Tribes of Israel came across The Jordan River into the Promised Land.

We had examined some introductory notes as found in The New Bible Commentary, in which we had learned something of Joshua himself, under the heading "The Man And His Task", and some additional thoughts by Keil and Delitzsch, on the last Study relating to the construction of the Book of Joshua, and we shall be picking up some further thoughts from these sources later. However, let us begin today's Study by reading the opening verses from the Book of Joshua. You may wish to have your Bibles open to that first chapter of the Book of Joshua, in order to follow the points in the commentaries as they are raised.

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

Here we should note the fact that the whole land belongs, not to the Canaanites, nor to the Israelites, but to The Almighty God, Creator of all things, and conditional ownership goes to whomsoever He chooses to deliver the land under His guidance and oversight.

After a discussion which notes lines of evidence which uphold the traditional general date of authorship the New Bible Commentary takes up the question of the moral problem in Israel's warfare in Canaan. This note is worth repeating:

"The indiscriminate extermination of the Canaanites recorded in the book of Joshua has proved a stumbling-block to many who accept the divine inspiration of the scriptural record. Can we believe that God really commanded the Israelites utterly to destroy the inhabitants of the land? If He did, is such a revelation of His character consistent with the revelation of the Father that Christ has given us? Modern criticism has two ways of cutting the Gordian knot. Some maintain that the accounts of the extermination of the Canaanites were written long after the events which they profess to describe, and that they give an ideal picture of what later ages considered should have happened if the worship of Jehovah was to be kept pure. In other words, the atrocities described never really happened. Others assert that the revelation of God that we have in the early religious history of Israel is His revelation of Himself limited by the capacity of those who had to receive it, and that the conception of His commanding the destruction of the Canaanites represents a very primitive stage of religious development. In our consideration of the authorship and authenticity of Joshua we have already given reasons for dismissing the former of these two explanations: the latter now demands some attention. The theory holds that the Israelites of this period mistakenly thought of Jehovah as their tribal God, who naturally commanded the destruction of His people's enemies. Later revelation (e.g. the book of Jonah) was to show that God has purposes of love and mercy for nations outside the commonwealth of Israel, and so the earlier revelation was transcended. But this theory, however inviting it may seem, does not really give a satisfying explanation of the problem. It is true that the knowledge of God had to grow from more to more as His people were able to bear it, and that the Old Testament at best could give but a partial revelation of Him; but we cannot believe that a later revelation should flatly contradict an earlier one. God may reveal Himself progressively; He must reveal Himself consistently, if we are to accept His revelation of Himself at all.

Can we then find an explanation which does honour both to the inspiration of the record and to the God whom it reveals? It is necessary at the outset to get a clear idea of what was involved in the devotion of the Canaanites to destruction. To take Jericho as an example, the city, its inhabitants and all that it contained were 'devoted' or 'put to the ban' (Heb. berem, AV 'accursed'). This meant, ... that 'anything which might endanger the religious life of the community was put out of harm's way by being prohibited to human use; to secure this effectively it must be utterly destroyed.' It seems therefore that the ban had a religious and a prophylactic function - it was a religious service, and it was a protection for the religious life of Israel. It is along these two lines that a solution of our problem must be sought. First, then, the destruction of the Canaanites was, as the record again and again proclaims it to be, a religious service. The people of Israel were the instrument by which God exercised judgment on the wickedness of the people of the land. Just as He had destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for the same kind of unspeakable corruption, without the instrumentality of human hands, so He used the Israelites to punish and root out the cancerous depravity of the Canaanites. And if there be a moral government of the world at all, such a dread possibility of judgment and divine surgery, however executed, cannot be excluded. Incidentally, it is noteworthy that the ban, being a religious service, imposed a moral restraint against the looting and excesses which were the normal, more terrible accompaniments of the warfare of the times. This was no lust for booty or for blood; it was a divine duty which must be performed. The second function of the ban was, as we have said, prophylactic. If the religion of the Hebrews was to be kept pure and untainted, all possibility of infection by the abominations of the heathen must be removed. The means of removing the dread infection was a drastic one, but, in view of the revelation that the Hebrews were to transmit to the world, who will say that it was unjustified? And where there was failure in Israel's high task, the reason is seen in their failure to carry out the divine command of extermination. And so, for the sake of God's moral government of the world, for the sake of Israel, and for the sake of the message that Israel was to bring to the world, it was necessary that an evil nation should be utterly destroyed."

The Commentary notes three aspects of God's relationship to man: His faithfulness, His holiness, and His Salvation. The Canaanites will be removed, and this is in accordance with God's words to Abram in Genesis 15:16 where He had stated that it would be four hundred years until the iniquity of the Amorites would be full. It notes that God judged the original inhabitants of the land and Israel became the human instrument of His punishment. "But God's holiness is seen no less in His insistence that His instrument of judgment must be holy. Again and again it is insisted that this is a holy war, and that Israel will succeed in the task committed to her only as every evil thing is put away from her." and the name Joshua means "Jehovah is salvation." and it is the Hebrew form of Jesus. Christians have often thought of "crossing the Jordan" as entrance to death, but it is much more helpful and true to the facts to think of it as an entrance to a life of fullness of blessing, "to which the Captain of the Lord's host brings us."

Here, then, we are to learn of the directions which Joshua, their new commander, has issued to the leaders and the people of the Tribes of Israel, preparing to cross over the Jordan River into their Promised Land. We shall be examining further in this Book of Joshua on our next Study.

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