Location & Date: Covers 1422 - 1372 BC
The book of Joshua is the Old Testament’s book of triumph and victory. It tells the story of the embattled conquest and division of the land of Canaan. It is God’s fulfillment of His promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3. The book covers the time period from April 4, 1422 BC, when God instructed Joshua (Joshua 1), to the time of Joshua’s death in late October 1372 BC.
The end of Joshua tells of the deaths of Joshua, Eleazar and the elders who had outlived Joshua (Joshua 24:31). Therefore the book was finished sometime after that conquering generation died. The repeated phrase “to this day” (Joshua 4:9; 5:9; 6:25; 7:26; 8:28, 29; 9:27; 13:13; 14:14; 15:63; 16:10) indicates that the work was edited to its final composition after the lifetime of Joshua. The reference to Rahab the harlot (6:25) means that her family continued in Israel to that day. Use of archaic names for Canaanite cities (13:4-6; 15:9, 13, 49; 19:28) along with their Hebrew substitutes demonstrates a lapse of time between the events and their descriptions.
Some narratives were added later, such as Othniel’s capture of Kirjath Sepher (Joshua 15:13-19), Dan’s migration to the north (19:47; Judges 1:1, 9-13, 18:27-29), and Joshua’s death and burial (Joshua 24:29-33). The editor of Joshua’s war memoirs was possibly Samuel the prophet.[i] Samuel wrote other historical books such as Judges, Ruth, and the first part of Samuel. The emphasis in Joshua on the word of the Lord (Joshua 1:8) shows an influence of Samuel’s life message.
Joshua begins the second division of the Old Testament: the Histories which cover seven hundred years to the book of Esther. Henrietta Mears says, “No book has more encouragement and wisdom for the soldier of the cross than this book of Joshua. It is full of spiritual truth.”
In the book’s action, the Israelites cross the Jordan River from Shittim and go in to conquer the Promised Land. Israelite forces first target Jericho, a strategic city controlling the passes leading to Canaan’s central highlands. From their base camp at Gilgal on the Jordan River, Joshua launched two major campaigns. First, he strikes south to defeat a coalition of Amorite city-states at Jerusalem, Hebron, Jamut, Lachish, and Eglon. Then they focused on the north, against a more powerful force of mixed Canaanites from Hazor, Madon, and other northern cities. These campaigns did not completely destroy the Canaanites, but they ended organized resistance. However, Israel occupied only part of the Promised Land at this time. Tribal groups were expected to drive out the remaining Canaanites as they needed land for expansion.