A Profile in Character


Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
August 2019

We have been studying the book of Ephesians in our class for some time.  Today, we begin a new book study.  We begin a study of the Book of Joshua.  It is the sixth book of the Bible.  Joshua is the second inspired author.  Moses wrote the first five books.  Joshua wrote the next book of the Bible.

Parallels Between Joshua and Ephesians

Ephesians is very similar to Joshua.  It is like the spiritual version of Joshua.  There are all kinds of similarities between the two books.

  • Both mention war.  Both say that we are in a war.  Joshua was engaged in a physical battle. We are engaged in a spiritual conflict, a spiritual battle.
  • Both mention weapons. Joshua used physical weapons, a literal sword. We use spiritual weapons (e.g., the Sword of the Spirit).
  • Both mention enemies. Joshua’s enemy was physical (the Canaanites). We have with spiritual enemies (demonic).  Paul says that our enemy is not flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12).
  • Both mention blessings.  The book of Joshua is all about physical blessings in a physical Promise Land. It is about a physical inheritance for the Twelve Tribes.  We have spiritual blessings as Christians.  God has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies (Ephesians 1:3).
  • Both mention strength.  Joshua is told to be strong and very courageous (Joshua 1:7).  Christians to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might (Ephesians 6:11).

Why Read Joshua Today?

Next time, we will look at Joshua 1.  It will be very practical. Today, we will do an introduction to the book, especially since many Christians today do not have a firm grasp on the OT.  Many do not read the OT that much.  Who was Joshua?  What kind of book is the Book of Joshua?  Why should Christians be interested in this book?

1) Jesus is in this book

Joshua was a type of Christ.  How is Joshua a picture of Jesus?  There are several parallels.

  • Joshua did what Moses could not do. Moses could bring them to the promise land but could not take them in.  Only Joshua could take them into the land.  Moses gave them the law but could not save them.  Only Jesus could save them.
  • Joshua crossed the Jordan.  Jesus was baptized in the Jordan.
  • Joshua’s father was Nun.  Jesus’ human father was None (because of the Virgin Birth).
  • Joshua gave rest and Jesus gives rest (Matthew 11:28; Hebrews 4:8-11).

After wandering for forty years in the wilderness, they finally get to rest (Joshua 11:23; 14:15; 21:44; 23:1).  We see that word twice in this first chapter. “Remember the command that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you after he said, ‘The Lord your God will give you REST by giving you this land.’ (Joshua 1:13 NIV).  Until the Lord gives them REST, as he has done for you, and until they too have taken possession of the land the Lord your God is giving them (Joshua 1:15 NIV)

Not only was Joshua a TYPE of Christ but they had the same NAME.  Joshua in Greek is Ἰησοῦς (which also happens to be the name of Jesus in Greek).[1]  This book of the Bible has the same name as our Savior.

In Joshua 5, Joshua meets Jesus, the commanded of the Lord’s army with a drawn sword.  Joshua asks him if he is for him or his enemies.  He says, “Neither but I am commander of the Lord’s army” and Joshua falls facedown on the ground and worships (Joshua 5:14).  He tells him to take his shoes off, because he was standing on holy ground.  Joshua was in the presence of God.

Moses met God at the burning bush and was also told to take his shoes of because he was standing on holy ground.  The OT Joshua meets the real Joshua.  Joshua was not only a type of Jesus and had the same name as Jesus but he actually met Jesus.

2) It is a book of miracles.

Some of the most famous miracles in the Bible are found in this book. We may not all be familiar with some of these stories.  Joshua contains the story about the parting of the Jordan River.  In Exodus, we see the great miracle of the parting of the Red Sea.  In Joshua, we see the parting of the Jordan River at flood stage and two million people walk across it on dry ground (Joshua 3:17).

Jericho was first town attacked by the Israelites under Joshua after they crossed the Jordan River (Joshua 6).  Today, it is in the West Bank.  It is controlled by the Palestinians.  In Joshua’s day, it was a walled city.  Every child in Sunday School knows what happened to the walls of Jericho.  It is a famous story.  Every kid in VBS knows it.

The Hebrews marched around the city thirteen times and shouted (Joshua 6).  That is a strange way to conquer a city. The priests blew trumpets, the people shouted, and the heavy walls came down. They fell down flat (Joshua 6:20) and then forty thousand soldiers streamed into the city.  That was an unconventional approach to battle.  This was no typical war conquest.  It made absolutely no sense militarily to do this.  It involved incredible faith to do something this.

Joshua also contains the famous story about the Sun standing still.  He commands the Sun to stand still.  In one of his battles, it was getting dark and Joshua could not finish the job, so he prayed for God to make the Sun stand still (Joshua 10).  Some have called that one of the most doubted miracles in the Bible.  How could that happen?  Joshua dared to ask God for the impossible.  He had the kind of prayer that stopped the Sun.  That is incredible faith.

3) It is a book about God’s faithfulness

The book of Joshua is all about God being faithful to His promises.  It is about God keeping His promises to His people.  The word “promise” appears fourteen times in the book.  We say that promises are made to be broken.  God says that they are made to be kept.  He promised Abraham that his ancestors would inherit this land.

Notice Joshua 1:6. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I SWORE to their ancestors to give them.  When did Abraham live?  He lived around 2000 BC?  When did Joshua live?  He lived around 1400 BC.  It is six hundred years later, and God is keeping His promise.

4) It is a book of action

There is a lot of action in this book.   There is a lot of adventure in it. It is not a book of doctrine. It is a book of action.  People talk about taking the Joshua Challenge.  This book is all about putting your faith into action.  God gave them the land but there was one problem.

There were people living in the land at the time and they were not planning to leave. They thought it was their land and they were armed to the teeth, ready to fight for it.

God gives.  Israel inherits but the Jews still had to fight for the land.  They still had to possess it.  This book is all about “possessing your possessions” (cf. Obadiah 17 KJV).  In fact, Joshua 1:15 says, “Then you shall return to the land of your possession and shall possess it (ESV)

We also see the action, not only of the Hebrews but of one of the Canaanites.  We see the action of Rahab (Joshua 2).  She was marginalized her day.  She was at the bottom of the social ladder.  She had three strikes against her.  She was a woman (in a male dominated society).  She was a Canaanite, an outsider.  She was a prostitute and yet she had genuine faith and that faith caused her to do some things.  She protected the spies.  She saved their lives and even defied her own leader, the king of Jericho.  The NT uses that as an example of faith in action.  James uses it to show that faith without works is dead.

5) It is a book of conquest.

It is a military book.  It is not a love story, like the Book of Ruth.  It is a war story.  It is a fight for the conquest of Canaan (modern day Israel) in 1400 BC. This conquest took place in stages.  It did not happen all at once.

The Israelites conquered the middle part, then the south and finally the northern part.  There are three military campaigns in this book.  The first military campaign is in Joshua 6-8.  The second one is in Joshua 9-10.  The third one is in Joshua 11-12.

The Israelites did not come as tourists or pilgrims but as invaders, as Chuck Missler points out.[2]  Joshua describes an invasion.  They came to take over the land and kick out the inhabitants.  It was not just a conquest, it was a violent conquest. In fact, many were killed.  The Canaanites were slaughtered.  Notice Joshua 6:21.

Then they devoted all in the city to destruction, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys, with the edge of the sword. (ESV)

Critics say that this book not only contains genocide in it, it contains religious genocide.  In contains divinely sanctioned genocide.  God does not just allow it.  He commands it. An entire chapter is devoted to the destruction of Jericho (Joshua 6).  Does Joshua support genocide?  How could a loving God do this?  Does this book justify religious violence today?  We will look at this as we study Joshua.

Biography of Joshua

What do we know about the man Joshua?  The book begins with his call and ends with his death and burial (Joshua 24:29-33) but who was he? What do we know about him?  We know several things about him.

1) Joshua’s Name

His real name was not Joshua.  He was not born with that name.  Moses gave him that name.  Numbers 13:16 says, “These are the names of the men Moses sent to explore the land. (Moses gave Hoshea son of Nun the name Joshua” (NIV).  He was born with the name Hosea.  Hosea means “salvation”.  It was later changed to Joshua (God’s salvation).  Moses renamed him.

2) Joshua’s Family

One of his parents was named Nun.  He is called “the son of Nun.”  He was not the son of a woman who wears all black and lives in a monastery.  Those nuns don’t have any kids.  This Nun was his father.  Joshua was his firstborn son.  He was the only son of the family, according to I Chronicles 7:27.  That means that he would have survived the tenth plague.

3) Joshua’s Background

He was born a slave.  Joshua was born in Egypt. The Bible does not say that but we can infer it from the text.  He came out of Egypt during the Exodus.  That is the first time we see him in the Bible and all of the Hebrews in Egypt were slaves.

4) Joshua’s Ancestry

He was from the Tribe of Ephraim.  We know this from I Chronicles 7:20-27.  Who was Ephraim?  Ephraim was one of Joseph’s sons, so he was a descendant of Joseph, the most spiritual of Jacob’s twelve sons.  Joseph had two sons from his Egyptian wife.  Ephraim was his younger son.  Joshua was the tenth generation from Joseph and the ninth generation from Ephraim.

5) Joshua’s Occupation

10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. (Exodus 17:10-13 NIV).

The first time he is mentioned in the Bible is in Exodus 17.  Joshua goes from a slave to a solider.  In fact, the first time we see Joshua in the Bible is not as a slave but as the one leading the army of God.  Moses sent him out to fight the Amalekites.  He gave him a military assignment.  He was a general, a military commander.

Joshua was a descendant of Joseph.  Both had some similarities.  Both came out of obscurity to do important things.  Joseph went from a prisoner to a prince.  Joshua went from a slave to a soldier and later a statesman but the two were also different.  His ancestor Joseph was an administrator.  He was an executive.  Joshua was a warrior.  He was a fighter.  He was a solider.

6) Joshua’s Mission

The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.”

3 So at the Lord’s command Moses sent them out from the Desert of Paran. All of them were leaders of the Israelites. 

16 These are the names of the men Moses sent to explore the land. (Moses gave Hoshea son of Nun the name Joshua.)

17 When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. 18 See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. 19 What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? 20 How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.” (Numbers 13:1-3, 16-20 NIV)

Joshua was sent on a special mission.  Only twelve men in the country were chosen for this special top-secret mission and Joshua was one of them.  He was one of the top twelve leaders in the country.  He was not only a slave and a soldier but he was also a spy, a spy for God.  He was the first James Bond.  He was a Jewish James Bond.

He was not a spy, like we think of one today.  He did not go into the country to steal state secrets (e.g., nuclear secrets).  He was not an espionage agent.  He did go undercover but was more of what we would call today an intelligence agent.

Joshua is known for his incredible bravery.  He was brave to fight as a solider.  He did hand-to-hand combat with a sword.  He was brave to go on this top-secret mission behind enemy lines, risking his life.  He was also brave not to care about peer pressure. He did not care what other people thought.  He was not afraid to be in the minority (Numbers 14).

All twelve spies saw the same thing but ten of them came back negative and pessimistic.  They were full of doubt and fear, doom and gloom.  Two came back positive and optimistic.  They came back full of confidence, courage and faith. They all agreed on the FACTS.  They disagreed on the INTERPRETATION of those facts.

Joshua did not go along with what everyone else was saying.  He thought for himself.  He was an independent thinker. The crowd went with the majority report.  That is one of the big problems with majorities.  They are not always right.

Today, no one even remembers any of the names of the ten spies who gave the bad report: Shammau, Shaphat, Igal, Palti, Gaddiel, Gaddi, Ammiel, Sethur, Nahbi, and Geuel (Numbers 13:4-15).  We only remember the name of the two good spies, the two righteous spies.

7) Joshua’s Reward

Joshua and Caleb were given a unique honor by God that no one else was given.

The Lord replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked. 21 Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, 22 NOT ONE of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times— 23 NOT ONE of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. NO ONE who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. (Numbers 14:20-23 NIV)

34 For forty years—one year for each of the forty days you explored the land—you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.’ 35 I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will surely do these things to this whole wicked community, which has banded together against me. They will meet their end in this wilderness; here they will die.” (Numbers 14:34-35 NIV) 

Because they have not followed me wholeheartedly, not one of those who were twenty years old or more when they came up out of Egypt will see the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob— not one except Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua son of Nun, for they followed the LORD WHOLEHEARTEDLY.’ (Numbers 32:11-12 NIV)

God is pretty strict.  The ten spies who gave the bad report and spread this bad report among the land (Numbers 13:31-33) all mysteriously dropped dead (Numbers 13:36-37).  None of the adults were able to enter the Promise Land, not one.  Not even Moses made it into the Promise Land.  He saw it from a hill before he died.  God rewards faithfulness.  Joshua and Caleb followed the Lord wholeheartedly.

Does that describe us?  Do we follow the Lord wholeheartedly?  Do we follow the Lord with our whole heart? Are we completely sold out for God?  Is that the way we will be known after we die?  You might think that no one can serve God with all of their heart but the Bible says it can be done and people did it.

Most military people are not known for their spirituality.  They usually tend to be a little rough.  They are not too spiritually sensitive, but Joshua was a godly man.  He was filled with the Spirit.  The LORD replied, “Take Joshua son of Nun, who has the Spirit in him, and lay your hands on him. (Numbers 27:18 NIV).  This OT man, this military man, this soldier was Spirit-filled (cf. Deuteronomy 34:9) and he was faithful to God.

8) Joshua’s Training

Before he became a leader, he had to be prepared.  God had to prepare Moses for his job and He also prepared Joshua.  Joshua was trained not in some military academy but by working directly under Moses.

He was his servant.  After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide (Joshua 1:1 NIV).  The KJV reads “Moses’ minister”.  That is misleading.  It might give the impression that Joshua was Moses’ pastor.  He wasn’t.  The ESV calls Joshua “Moses’ assistant.”  He was his servant.

Whatever Moses asked him to do, he did it.  If Moses asked him to fight the Amalekites, he went out and fought them, even if he had not fought before.  He did not complain.  He did it.

When Moses went up to get the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai, Joshua went with him (Exodus 24:13 ff).  Moses went into a cloud at the top of a mountain for forty days and forty nights (Exodus 24:18).  Joshua waited for him.  That must have been hard.  He didn’t go anywhere.

Joshua learned how to take orders before he gave them.  He knew what it was like to play second fiddle.  He did it for a long time.  He did it for forty years.  For forty years, he was Moses’ servant.  He did not care if the spotlight was on him.  That requires a great deal of humility.

9) Joshua’s Promotion

Joshua became the successor to Moses.  What he did was just as important as what Moses did.  Next time, we will look at his call to ministry.

Joshua in Hebrew is YehoSHUah which was often shorted to YeSHUah, just as Mike is short for Michael.



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