Chapter 1

1 The Lord appointeth Joshua to succeed Moses. 3 The borders of the promised land. 5, 9 God promiseth to assist Joshua. 8 He giveth him instructions. 10 He prepareth the people to pass over Jordan. 12 Joshua putteth the two tribes and half in mind of their promise to Moses. 16 They promise him fealty.

1. Now. Or, “and it came to pass,” as in Num. 7:1; etc. “And,” the first word in Hebrew, may imply that the narrative of Joshua is a continuation of that of Deuteronomy. This suggests Joshua as the writer of the last chapter of Deuteronomy; here he takes up the story and continues with an account of his own experiences. The time here referred to must have been after the 30 days of mourning mentioned in Deut. 34:8.

Servant. The word thus translated often denotes a person completely in subjection to his master. Here it indicates one in complete submission to God and obedient to His biddings. Thus Paul commonly spoke of himself (Rom. 1:1; etc.). A “servant of the Lord” is under bonds to Christ, who has redeemed him from bondage of sin. So it had been with Moses. Joshua, who had served as prime minister to Moses, was now confirmed by God as leader of Israel. His quiet, unpretending fidelity and steadfastness had given evidence of his fitness to succeed Moses. Joshua was born probably a few years before Moses’ flight from Egypt to the wilds of Midian. It did not seem likely then that Moses would ever become the emancipator of a nation. But Providence foresees and prepares long in advance to meet the needs of His people. God holds in reserve agents and forces of which we are unaware until the time comes. How was an unknown university professor, for instance, to shake all Europe and cause the pope to tremble on his throne? Nothing seemed more impossible; yet Frederick, prince of Saxony, was placed by God upon his throne, ready to help when the time should come. And long before Luther was born, Providence ordained the printing press, which was to become Luther’s deadliest artillery. God’s plans are perfect, and for the accomplishment of His every purpose there comes the hour, and with it, the man for the hour.

God’s plans are never dependent on one man alone. When a Moses dies, God has a Joshua ready. Moses was best qualified to stand before Pharaoh; Joshua, to stand before the Canaanites. God’s choice of a man is made with respect to four factors: (1) His temperament and disposition. Joshua had a natural capacity for military affairs. He was bold and firm (Num. 14:6–9) and wielded a powerful personal influence (Joshua 24:31). (2) His previous training. Joshua had already served for 40 years as a responsible leader (Ex. 17:9, 10; Num. 13:2, 3, 8). Training and experience are essential. (3) His reputation. He and Caleb had stood alone for an unpopular cause. (4) The task to be accomplished. To dispossess the Canaanites, a soldier was needed. The man and the need must correspond.

Moses’ minister. In Hebrew as in English the term “minister” is not used exclusively of religious service. It indicates a voluntary attendant, one who waits on another, in contrast with a “servant,” who is under obligation for one reason or other.

2. Jordan. Heb. Yarden, from the verb yarad, “to go down.” The name aptly describes the swift current of the river, which rises on the slopes of the 9,232 ft. (2,814 m.) Mt. Hermon, and descends at the rate of 60 ft. to the mile, to the Sea of Galilee, 686 ft. (209 m.) below sea level. After it leaves the Sea of Galilee the rate of fall is much less, approximately 10 ft. (3 m.) to the mile. In spring, when the snows on Mt. Hermon are melting, it overflows its banks and becomes a rushing torrent all the way from Hermon to the Dead Sea, about 1,300 ft. (400 m.) below sea level, the lowest body of water on earth. The reason for its Hebrew name, “the descender,” is obvious. It was over this river that Joshua was to lead Israel.

I do give. God places emphasis on the fact that it is He who gives them title to the land of Canaan. The promise made to Abraham (Gen. 13:15) was now to be fulfilled to his descendants (see Gen. 15:16–21). The iniquity of the Amorites was “full,” and they were to be dispossessed. The conquest of Canaan, however, was to be progressive. It was to be theirs only as in faith and obedience they should go forward to possess it. Thus it is with all of God’s promises. They are ours only as we press forward to obtain them. His gifts are greater in proportion to our capacity to receive them. Our capacity for receiving increases with each added gift, and God’s resources are unlimited. His ability to give is limited only by our capacity to receive.

3. Every place. It has been supposed that v. 3 was intended to imply the ease with which the Israelites were to conquer the whole land, as illustrated by the taking of Jericho. It was only their unfaithfulness to God that, in any instance,as later at Ai, rendered the conquest more difficult than it would otherwise have been.

The sole of your foot. It was primitive custom to measure out by foot the land to be cultivated or built upon. The footprint was regarded as the symbol of possession, denoting that the land had been marked out by the foot of the supposed owner, who thereby acquired it as his own property. This still holds, figuratively, in the taking of a homestead.

The implication, then, is that they must do something to gain possession of the land. The Israelites were to have only as much of the land as they actually trod with the soles of their feet. Theirs was a bountiful promise, but it was to be realized only by their own exertion. It is a divine law, as true of our spiritual inheritance as of the ancient inheritance of literal Israel, that only as we march forward in faith, claiming the promises, do they become ours. We have the Bible, and may think we know it well; yet of this vast field of unlimited treasures we may in reality possess no more than a mere fragment. Only the “place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon” is yours. Only that which we appropriate to ourselves is our own. Large neglected areas await our possession. The same is true of the privilege and blessings of grace. It is limited only by the bounds we ourselves put upon it. What a vast, unclaimed, untrodden land of promise it is There is, finally, the heavenly Canaan, which God has promised to all true Israelites down through the ages.

4. Land of the Hittites. This expression is omitted in the LXX, perhaps because the memory of Hittite greatness had already been forgotten when that translation was made. Prior to the recovery of knowledge about the Hittites, with the excavation of Khattushash (Boghazkцy), the old Hittite capital, critics challenged the accuracy of the Scripture record in ascribing so extensive a dominion to the Hittites. Until the late 19th century only the Bible had preserved so much as even the name of this people, who at one time exercised almost as great an influence as Egypt or Assyria.

Now we know that the Hittite empire arose toward the close of the 17th century b.c. under its King Labarna. In the second half of the 16th century, under their King Murshilish I, the Hittites raided Babylonia and sacked the capital.

The Hittite empire reached its zenith under Shubbiluliuma,its greatest ruler, about 1375–1335 b.c. About 1200 b.c. the Hittite empire was destroyed by the Sea Peoples (see pp. 30–33). At one time the Hittite territory included Asia Minor and extended southward to Damascus, from Lebanon to the Euphrates. During the 14th century a king with the Hittite name Abdu-Khepa ruled in Jerusalem. There were also, no doubt, city states under Hittite control in Palestine proper. Jerusalem seems to have been founded by Amorites and Hittites (Eze. 16:45). There were proto-Hittites in Hebron at the time of Abraham (see Gen. 23:3). The Hittites were one of the seven nations whose land was promised to Abraham (Gen. 15:20). This ancient nation thus provides us with a noteworthy example of the historical accuracy of God’s Word. The archeologist’s spade confirms, and does not contradict, Scripture.

5. Stand before thee. Literally, “set himself up against thee,” that is, “successfully oppose thee.” God promised Joshua no more than He promises the Christian today. The Creator of the universe, the Father of eternity, has pledged all His resources to see us through; He promised no more than that to Joshua. God never makes provision for the Christian to retreat. He clears the way to Canaan if we go ahead; to retreat is often to die.

Fail thee. Literally, “slacken the hand from thee,” that is, “not give thee up.”

Nor forsake thee. The two Hebrew words reflected in the expressions “fail thee” and “forsake thee” are synonymous, and are used together here for emphasis. Any man may conquer who has the Lord on his side. Victory is then as certain in one place as in another. Joshua faced a great task with a people who had so often failed in the past. God here promises that He would not get them into a situation and then leave them there. He would see them through to the end. The same holds true for Christians (Matt. 28:20).

6. Good courage. To lack courage is to lack faith, and “without faith it is impossible to please him” (Heb. 11:6). One of the greatest wants of the day is courage—courage to confess Christ in word and deed upon all occasions, courage to believe the Bible and to live in harmony with it, courage to express and to follow our convictions when in the minority. Satan has no dread of learning, of influence, or of riches; but he quails before the dauntless courage of a humble soul who presses forward in faith. Divinely inspired courage arms the soul with invincible power. God was preparing Joshua for a task that would require full faith and trust in Him.

But though it is our privilege to have boundless confidence in God, we are ever to fear and distrust ourselves. Fear as we look within is to be quelled by courage as we look up to God. Joshua was no doubt conscious of his own inadequacy. He had not aspired to the high honor and great responsibility that were now his. He sought them not. When, therefore, the call came to him to assume the office left vacant by Moses, his courage may have failed him momentarily, and he needed encouragement from both God and man. It is when men sense truly their own inadequacy that God considers them qualified to undertake great and sometimes even overwhelming responsibilities. Often we are too self-confident for Him to use us effectively, too full of our own schemes and ways of doing things—like Abraham (Gen. 12:11–13; 16:1–3) and Moses (Ex. 2:12).

Shalt thou divide. “Thou” is emphatic in the Hebrew. “Divide” means “cause to possess.” In a secondary sense this would also include the dividing of the land, probably a more difficult process than taking possession of it. It would call for sound leadership to do this to the satisfaction of all. The apparent absence of even one serious complaint indicates that Joshua was guided by wisdom from God as he proceeded with the delicate task. Do we lean so heavily on divine guidance that those under us feel satisfied, or does our leadership produce grumbling and complaining?

7. Only be thou strong. The exhortation of v. 7 reads, literally, “Only be strong and very courageous in observing all the instructions [torah],” etc. This was the condition of success: complete surrender to God and cooperation with His expressed will. The task was such that he could not accomplish it by himself; divine power must be united with human effort. God’s plan ensured success. Joshua could not follow his own devices and still expect God’s favor. So it is with salvation, with victory over sin. We too must “be strong and very courageous in observing all the instructions” of the Lord.

Turn not from it. If God in His wisdom has given a command, every detail of it is as sacred as the whole. It would be a challenge to God’s integrity to ignore “one of these least commandments” (Matt. 5:19). We may, perhaps, think we agree with the general principle, yet fail to see the importance of certain details. In so doing we are obeying not God but ourselves. Thus the seeming minutiae become the real test of full allegiance to God.

Joshua needed God with him in such an undertaking as the conquest of Canaan; hence, he was warned not to go his own way in the least degree. “Turn not from it to the right hand or to the left.” The path of obedience is the middle path. There is always a bypath to the right, and one to the left; both are undoubtedly wrong. A person may go to extremes on either side of the pathway of duty. The evil one is as content for a Christian to take the right-hand path of fanaticism as the left-hand path of liberalism. Both lead to destruction. Compare Deut. 5:32 for similar instruction referring to the Ten Commandments.

Prosper. Or, “be prudent.” “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10). Prosperity comes as a result of wise action. A man can act wisely only when and to the extent that he cooperates with the Source of all wisdom.

8. Not depart. “After the settlement in Canaan, the divine precepts were to be repeated daily in every home” (PK 464). Joshua himself was expected to do what the people had been commanded, not as an arbitrary decree, but because it would be the key to his own success. This was also the instruction of God to Israel’s king, when they should have one (Deut. 17:18–20). He was to have his own copy transcribed from the one preserved in the sanctuary. Here is evidence of a copy of the Pentateuch made for the priests. Now Joshua was given similar instructions (see on Deut. 17:18). Pursuant to the command of Deut. 31:10–13, providing for a public rehearsal of the words of the book of the law every seven years, other copies were made. This process was both expensive and tedious, and the number of copies was limited. From such a copy Joshua read all the words of the law before the entire congregation (Joshua 8:35).

That the people might commit the law to memory, they were to write it on the doorposts and to teach it continually to their children (Deut. 11:18–12). Today everyone may have his own copy of “the law.” Wonderful privilege If it was important for Joshua ever to have these words on his lips, it is today an equally important and sacred duty. Obedience to the law of life is still the key to success, for it attunes us to the harmony of heaven. Created in God’s image, we were formed to live in harmony with God’s laws. Obedience to them assures both physical and spiritual success (see DA 827).

Meditate. The Hebrew word thus translated implies the kind of mental cogitation that may at times vent itself in an audible voice—the result of intense concentration. If man’s business might ever excuse him from meditation and other acts of devotion, for lack of time, Joshua might qualify. In spite of the great trust and responsibilities vested in him, he must yet find time for meditation. How much our hurried lives lose for lack of meditation We pass so rapidly over texts of Scripture that we often lose gems of rare value. If we would take a phrase and meditate upon it, shutting out the world and permitting God to speak to us and direct our minds, we would discover wondrous truths we never dreamed were there. “One passage studied until its significance is clear to the mind, and its relation to the plan of salvation is evident, is of more value than the perusal of many chapters with no definite purpose in view and no positive instruction gained” (SC 95). Meditation logically results in, and is to be followed by, appropriate conduct—“that thou mayest observe.”

9. Be strong. For the third time God gives this command (see vs. 6, 7). Joshua had shown courage in years gone by, yet God repeats this precept again and again. Joshua was humble in his own eyes, not distrustful of God’s power and His promises, but diffident of himself and of his own wisdom, and strength, and sufficiency for the task that lay ahead. Perhaps this feeling was due in part to association with so great a man as Moses. God highly esteems a humble spirit, for God can work for and with such a person (see Isa. 57:15). The very humility of Joshua testifies eloquently to his fitness for the sacred task committed to him.

10. Then. From the same word usually translated “and.” This indicates a close connection between the command and its execution. Joshua did not procrastinate. Immediately upon receiving orders he proceeded to execute them.

Officers. That is, “scribes.” These were lesser administrative officials who carried out the commands of the leaders.

11. Victuals. From a word whose root meaning is “to hunt.” The derived masculine noun means “venison.” Through usage it had come to mean “provisions” in general, as for a journey. This could not refer to the manna, for that fell daily (Ex. 16:4); yet soon it would cease forever (Joshua 5:11, 12). Joshua’s command probably anticipated that day as well as the crossing of the Jordan.

Within three days. The question naturally arises, How can it be said that Israel was to cross the Jordan “within three days” when the spies, who seem not to have been sent out as yet, remained three days in the mountains (ch. 2:22), and the people seem not to have passed over for another three days (ch. 3:2)? Some say the time statements are not exact; others claim that chs. 1:11 and 3:2 cannot be identified as to time. Still others attempt to shorten the three days of the spies to parts of days, and thus harmonize the two statements; and others, that the word “within” did not mean that they would pass over “within three days,” but only leave Shittim within that time (see ch. 3:1). The further explanation has been made that Joshua intended to pass over “within three days,” but that his plan was frustrated by the delay the two spies experienced. None of these explanations, however, are satisfactory.

The word translated “within” is a combination of Фod, “continuation,” “duration,” and the preposition be, “within” or “in the continuation of.” The LXX renders “within three days” (ch. 1:11) as “yet three days,” and the Syriac, “from this time to three days,” or “within three days.” The word translated “after” in ch. 3:2 is from the preposition min, “from,” “after,” and qaseh, “end” or “extremity.” It thus reads, literally, “from the end of” the three days. In either case both “within” (ch. 1:11) and “after” (ch. 3:2) refer to approximately the same time. Two facts are clear: (1) The spies were sent out from Shittim and returned to Shittim (chs. 2:1 and 2:23 to 3:1). (2) The morning after their return the people left Shittim for the Jordan, some 7 mi. away, and lodged there 3 days (ch. 3:2) before crossing. See pp. 136, 137.

The command of ch. 1:10, 11, though recorded here, was not actually issued till after the return of the spies (PP 483). Thus the account of ch. 2, concerning the two spies, precedes the command of ch. 1:10, 11. Such proleptic transpositions are frequent in Scripture (see on Gen. 38:1; 39:1). Their purpose is to preserve continuity. Here Joshua’s purpose was to let it be known that he did issue orders in harmony with the command he had just received from God (vs. 1–9), and that without undue delay. For a chronological analysis of the sequence of events, see on ch. 3:2.

13. Remember the word. Joshua proceeded immediately to carry out Moses’ program. He did not feel it necessary to alter the general plan and initiate a new program of his own, to make a name for himself, as so often happens today in both the political and the religious world. He did not, for instance, seek to win friends for himself by releasing the two and one half tribes from their obligation. Rather, he reminded them of their promise. They kept their word at no small cost of toil and danger, and furnished thereby a perpetual lesson for those, who, having made a promise under great pressure, are tempted to retire from it when the pressure is removed.

14. Armed. Heb. chamushim. Considerable question has arisen as to the meaning of this word. It appears in Ex. 13:18 as “harnessed” (“by five in a rank,” margin), in Joshua 4:12 as “armed,” and in Judges 7:11 as “armed” (“ranks by five,” margin). In a parallel passage (Num. 32:17) the word appears as chushim, with the middle consonant m of chamushim omitted. This was probably a copyist’s error, for the word as it stands should be translated “haste” or “quick,” neither of which makes sense. English translations, therefore, follow the LXX and the Vulgate, which read “armed.” The Syriac reads, “We will conquer.” There seems to be no authority for translating chamushim as either “armed” or “harnessed.” It seems to refer to an orderly manner of marching (see on Ex. 13:18). Thus, the two and a half tribes were to proceed in an organized manner, submitting to the leadership of Joshua.

All the mighty men. That is, of the two and a half tribes. All must be ready and willing to go. According to ch. 4:13, only some 40,000 went over to battle. But there were about 110,580 from the two and a half tribes eligible for military service (Num. 26:7, 18, 34). Thus, more than 70,000 must have remained behind to protect their families and flocks.

16. They answered. Theirs was a fourfold reply: (1) They promised him obedience. (2) They prayed for the presence of God with him, or perhaps expressed confidence that God would be with him (v. 17). (3) They decreed death for anyone who disobeyed him (v. 18). (4) They encouraged and admonished him to be strong and courageous. Though God had promised Israel divine assistance, He also insisted on their cooperation. Today He requires the use of every talent and ability He has given us. The two and a half tribes stand forth a commendable example of cooperation with God and His appointed leaders.

17. Only. Or, “surely,” as it is elsewhere translated (Gen. 20:11; Deut. 4:6; etc.).

Be with thee. More accurately, “will be with thee.” With confidence in this fact they expressed their complete submission to Joshua’s commands.

18. Be strong. As the people had a part to perform, so Joshua, as leader, had a responsibility to carry out. It was the solemn sense of this responsibility that made him hesitate and shrink from the chief place of leadership. Many are charmed by what they consider the glory of leadership, but fail to sense its solemn responsibilities and personal sacrifice. With every privilege there is always an equal responsibility. A leader must be strong even when others weaken. He must have courage when others are discouraged, and be able to inspire others with courage. He must gather warmth from the coldness of others. A leader for God must live close to the Lord, that he may be able to encourage those associated with him. Sensing his fellowship with God, they would be the more ready to cooperate with him, and there would thus exist in the church the unity for which Jesus prayed (John 17). With such unity the conquest of Canaan could not fail. Leaders must be men who have an “understanding of the times” and “know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chron. 12:32), who merit the confidence of those who follow, and who inspire their followers with joy in working together as a united force. Followers, for their part, must be people who know how to cooperate cheerfully with their leader and with one another.

Ellen G. White comments

1–18PP 481–483; SR 175

2, 3 PP 482

5     MH 405; PP 482, 485; 4T 156

6     7T 185

6–8PP 482

7     ML 120; 4T 157

8     PK 465; 5T 328

9     MH 405; ML 10

11   SR 175

16, 17  PP 483

16–18SR 175; 4T 157