INTRODUCTION TO JOSHUA

 

 

In the Book of Genesis Israel was born. In the Book of Exodus Israel was chosen.

In the Book of Numbers the nation was proven. In the Book of Leviticus it was

brought nigh by the blood. In Deuteronomy it was instructed. Now in the Book

of Joshua it faces conflict and conquest.

 

The Book of Joshua completes the redemption of Israel that was begun in Exodus.

Exodus is the book of redemption out of Egypt; Joshua is the book of redemption

into the Promised Land.

 

The key word in the Book of Joshua is possession. God had given the children of

Israel their land in an unconditional covenant. To Abraham He had said, “And I

will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger,

all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God”

(Genesis17:8). However, Israel’s possession of the land was conditional. There

was conflict and there was conquest. They had to fight battles and lay hold of

their possessions. And, as Joshua reminded them in his final message before his

death, their obedience to the Word of God would determine their continued

possession of the land.

 

The Talmud says that Joshua wrote all but the concluding five verses, which were

written by Phinehas. Joshua was the successor to Moses. He was a great general.

Born a slave in Egypt, he was forty years old at the time of the Exodus out of Egypt.

He was eighty years old when he received his commission as Moses’ successor and

one hundred ten years old at his death. Joshua had already gained prominence during

the wilderness wanderings. When they were attacked by the army of Amalek, it was

Joshua who organized the men into an army that fought off Amalek. Joshua served as

a minister or servant to Moses. References to him in that connection reveal his loyalty

to Moses and his devotion to God. At Kadesh–barnea he was one of the twelve men

who went to spy out the land of Canaan. He is one of the two spies that returned with

a favorable report in full confidence that God would give them the land.

 

Joshua’s name means “Jehovah saves.” The same word in the New Testament

is Jesus. Joshua was a man of courage, dependence upon God, faith, leadership,

enthusiasm, and fidelity. He is a type of Christ in his name and in his work. As another

has said, “Joshua shows that a man of average ability may become a leader in the

church. Joshua received his call not in flaming letters written across the sky, but from

an older man who knew God and knew Joshua, and saw that he was fitted by God

to be a leader.”

 

The Book of Joshua has a very practical application to the believer today. The

Promised Land cannot be a type of heaven since heaven is not a place of conflict and

conquest. Heaven is received as a gift of the grace of God. Rather, the Promised Land

represents the place to which believers are brought right here in this world today. The

Book of Joshua corresponds to the Epistle to the Ephesians in the New Testament

where we see that the believer is blessed with all spiritual blessings. The practical

possession and experience of them depends upon conflict and conquest. These are

never attained through the energy of the flesh, but through the power of the Holy

Spirit in the yielded life of the believer. The Book of Joshua is the pattern, and it

illustrates the method by which the believer can possess what God has given to him.

 

(Excerpt from J. Vernon McGee’s Thru the Bible)

 

 

 

     NOTES ON THE ORIGINAL INHABITANTS OF PALESTINE

 

The people who inhabited Palestine at the time of the Israelite invasion are

regarded in history from two very opposite points of view. To the

Israelites, in whom the moral sense strongly predominated over culture,

they appeared as monsters of iniquity, deserving of nothing but absolute

extirpation. To profane history, regarding mankind from a more material

point of view, they appear as the parents of civilization, the founders of

literature and science, the pioneers of commerce, the colonists of the

Mediterranean. These views may be to a certain extent harmonized. It is

not necessary to regard the Jews as the opponents of all culture, because

they were stern avengers of moral depravity. The time when the Phoenician

power attained its utmost height was coincident, as recent discoveries

show, with the time of the Israelite sojourn in Egypt. Civilization, as it

usually does, brought luxury, and LUXURY DEMORALIZATION and the

same fate attended the Phoenician supremacy which attended the supremacy

of all the great empires of the ancient world, a DISSOLUTION OF MORALS

and CONSEQUENT DECAY!  (See note below on The Religion of the

Canaanites)  The severe lesson taught by Joshua’s invasion seems not to have

been without its effect upon the Sidonians and Tyrians, who retained their

commercial preeminence to a considerably later date.   But the rest of Phoenicia

seems gradually to have sunk from that time, and her supremacy in literature and

the arts was irrecoverably gone.

 

Modern research has only just recovered for us a great deal of the history

of the Phoenicians which had long been lost. We knew of them as the race

who introduced letters to the Greeks from the legend of Cadmus, and the

ancient Hebrew letters were no doubt borrowed from their system. We

knew that Phoenician colonies had been found at Cyprus, Rhodes, Crete,

Asia Minor, Sicily, Sardinia; and that Carthage derived its appellation of

Punic, and even its language, from them.   We knew from the Bible that

they were a Turanian race  (Genesis 9:18; 10:15-18).  But what we did

not know was that under the name of Hittites, or rather Chittites (a name

preserved at the town of Citium, now Chitti, in the Phoenician colony of

Cyprus, the abode, according to Scripture, of the Chittim), they were

among the leading peoples of the world at an early period; that Carchemish

was their capital, and that they had there held a position of equality both

with the Babylonian and Egyptian powers. The recent researches at Carchemish,

discovered in 1874-75 by Mr. Skene, the British consul at Aleppo, on the west

bank of the Euphrates, have established this fact. Previous to these discoveries

the only authentic account of them, as distinct from tradition, was to be found

in the monuments and records of those who had subdued them.  They

appear to have been originally known to the Egyptians as Ruten or

Rutennu.  Afterwards they were known as the Kheta or Khatti, and many

fierce and destructive wars were waged against them by the Babylonians

and Egyptians.  Their power received a rude shock in the occupation of

the southwestern portion of their empire under Joshua, and the final blow

to their preeminence was dealt by Rameses II. in his expedition against the

Syrians.   Their Turanian origin cannot be said to be disproved by their

adoption of the Semitic language. In whatever difficulties such a theory

may involve us, we are not entitled to contradict the plain assertion of

Scripture (see above). It is corroborated by the fact that traces of a

Turanian occupation of Palestine are to be found in Phoenician words.

Moreover, that Turanians and Semites were much intermingled in those

regions is an admitted fact. Recent investigation has conclusively

established the truth of the Scripture statement, that Babylon was originally

inhabited by a Turanian race, and that this race was afterwards

subjugated by a Semitic one.  Instances of nations abandoning their

language and adopting another are not unknown. The Bulgarians and the

Northmen are cases in point.  Lenormant thinks that though their

language can scarcely be distinguished from Hebrew, it was not necessarily

confined to the Semitic races, and he remarks on similar phenomena, as

they appear to him, in the languages of ancient Babylonia. Movers, who

inclines on the whole to regard them as the primitive inhabitants of the

land, in spite of the Greek traditions which speak of their having emigrated

from the shores of the Red Sea, notices that they were not connected

together by any very close genealogical ties.   He remarksf38 that the fact

that the Israelites, while they speak of the B’ney, or sons of Israel, Moab,

Ammon, always, with one remarkable exception, speak of the inhabitants

of the land as the Canaanite, Amorite, Jebusite, etc. The one exception is

the B’ney Khet, or Heth, which is in accordance with what we know from

other sources, that they were a powerful people beyond the borders of

Palestine. This view is confirmed, he believes, by the thirty-one kingly

cities which are mentioned in Joshua 12:9-24, as having been taken by

Joshua. It is still farther confirmed by the fact that Gibeon was differently

governed from the rest,  as well as by another fact which Movers points

out, that the Hivites were scattered over Palestine. T  he term Canaanite is

regarded by Movers as referring, not to a genealogical descent, but to the

situation of the inhabitants in the lowlands of Palestine, while Perizzite in

his opinion means the separated or scattered agricultural families (see

Joshua 3:10). Thus it seems not at all improbable that a variety of races

may have emigrated to the shores of the Mediterranean, have adopted the

same language, manners, and religious customs, and constituted what has

been known to history as the Phoenician people.

 

The Phoenician religion seems to have been the parent of the religions of

Greece and Rome. Baal seems to have been equivalent to Zeus, and

Ashtaroth to have combined the characteristics of Artemis and

Aphrodite. Asherah was the prototype of Rhea or Cybele, and her rites

seem to have consisted in a combination of the phallic worship with the

idea of the fecundity of nature. The worship of Moloch was not known to

the Israelites till later times, and he is thought by some to have been an

Ammonite deity and identical with Milcom. Yet it is probable that in the

worship of the Phoenician representatives of Crones, the bloody rites

ascribed in the Scripture to Moloch were observed. Thammuz,  known

later as Adonis, was fabled to have died on Lebanon, and the temple at

Apheka, or Aphaca, was dedicated to the mourning Aphrodite. The

remainder of the chief deities known to Greece had their place in the

Phoenician, as they appear to have done also in the Babylonian, pantheon.

The general character of the worship, as described by Lenormant in his

‘Manual of the Ancient History of the East,’ fully justifies all that is said of

it in the books of Moses. “The Canaanites,” he says, “were remarkable for

the atrocious cruelty that stamped all the ceremonies of their worship,

and the precepts of their religion. No other people ever rivaled them in the

mixture of bloodshed and debauchery with which they thought to honor

the deity. As the celebrated Creuzer has said, ‘Terror was the inherent

principle of this religion; all its rites were bloodstained, and all its

ceremonies were surrounded by bloody images.’”

 

Of their political institutions we know but little. They seem, like ancient

Greece, to have been split up into a number of separate states, the great

majority of which seem to have adopted a monarchical, but some, as

Gibeon, a republican government. Society, as has been intimated, was

highly organized among them. They had already reached a high degree of

civilization and culture. The land had long fallen into the hands of private

landholders. The slight glimpses we get (as in Joshua 2:1-2; 9:1; 10:1,

3, 5; 11:1-2) into the interior life of the cities leads us to believe that the

kings possessed autocratic power, nor do we read of any assembly of their

people in the Book of Joshua. This agrees with the picture of a king given

in Deuteronomy 17:14-18, taken, no doubt, from the kings of Canaan.

The character of the inhabitants seems on the whole to have been peaceful,

as we might naturally expect from their mercantile pursuits, though there

seems to have been considerable cohesion among them, since the leagues

formed by the northern and southern tribes after Joshua’s invasion were

apparently formed without any difficulty. This slight tendency to defection,

however, may have been due to Joshua’s unconcealed purpose of

extermination, of which the Gibeonites were obviously aware (II Samuel 21).

It seems probable that the kings of Palestine had owed a sort of feudal allegiance

to their Hittite head at Carchemish. But he seems to have had no power to aid

them in the time of Joshua. Possibly, therefore, the great Hittite power was

already on the wane. The center was losing its hold on the extremities, and

the confederacies of which Jerusalem and Hazor were the heads had

become in a great measure independent of the central power. This accounts

for the fact which otherwise would be surprising, that no attempt was

made by the Hittites beyond Palestine to regain their lost territory. Of their

literary activity we know but little. Yet the legend of Cadmus, the ancient

name of Debir, Kirjath-Sepher, the city of the book, as well as the recent

discoveries at Carchemish, prove them to have attained a high pitch of

cultivation. Their commercial achievements are better known. Tyre and

Sidon retained to a much later period their mercantile preeminence.

The colonial development of the Phoenicians arose out of the

commercial. It was for trading purposes that these settlements were

formed. And so enterprising were they, that while other nations — the

Jews among the rest — sought the seas with fear and trembling, the

Phoenicians ventured beyond the Pillars of Hercules, and set on foot a

brisk trade with the inhabitants of these otherwise unknown islands for tin

and other metals. Against such a people was Joshua’s memorable

expedition directed. Of its leader, and the singular military skill he

displayed in the choice of a spot for the invasion, and in his conduct of the

enterprise, nothing need be said here. Those subjects will be found fully

discussed in the notes. The moral aspect of the invasion has already been

considered. It remains only to add that, many as are the memorable

conquests on record, conquests whose results have had an abiding

influence upon after ages, this one is the most memorable of all. The

occupation of this small strip of territory, in modern terms, about the

size of New Jersey, though it led to no further results in the way of conquest,

has nevertheless to a great extent MOLDED THE MORAL AND

RELIGIOUS HISTORY OF THE WORLD.  Christianity and

Mohammedanism have alike sprung from it; and though at first the latter

seemed to have surpassed the former in political and warlike activity,

supremacy has at length fallen unchallenged into Christian hands.

Thus the Israelite conquest of Canaan was in fact an event of primary

importance to mankind. It was one which might well have been ushered in

with portent and prodigy, and certainly it was one which will always

occupy a foremost place in men’s minds. No amount of destructive

criticism can dispose of the fact that the subjugation of Palestine was

achieved by a people without a rival in the influence it has exerted on the

destinies of the human race.

 

 

 

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THE RELIGION OF THE CANAANITES

 

            In excavations  at  Gezer, Macalister, of the Palestine Exploration

            Fund  (1904-09), found, in the Canaanite stratum, which had

            preceded Israelite occupation, of about 1500 B.C., the ruins of

            a “high place” which had been a temple in which they worshipped

            their god Baal and their goddess Ashtoreth (Astarte).

 

           

            It was an enclosure 150 x 120 feet, surrounded by a wall, open

            to the sky, where the inhabitants held their religious festivals.

            Within the walls were ten rude stone pillars, five to eleven feet

            high, before which the sacrifices were offered.

 

            Under the debris, in this “high place,” Macalister found great

            numbers of jars containing the remains of children who had

            been sacrificed to Baal.  The whole area proved to be a

            cemetery for new-born babies.  Under the rubbish were

            found enormous quantities of images and plagues of

            Ashtoreth with rudely exaggerated sex organs, designed to

            foster sensual feelings.

 

            Another horrible practice was what they called “foundation

            sacrifices.”  When a house was to be built, a child would be

            sacrificed, and its body built into the wall, to bring good luck

            to the rest of the family.  Many of these were found in Gezer.

            They have been found also at Megiddo, Jericho and other

            places.  (I recommend browsing  web sites of archaeological

            excavations at Gezer, Megiddo and Jericho – CY – 2011)

 

            So, Canaanites worshiped, by immoral indulgence, as a

            religious rite, in the presence of their gods; and then, by

            murdering their first-born children, as a sacrifice to these

            same gods.

 

            It seems that, in a large measure, the land of Canaan had

            become a sort of Sodom and Gomorrah on a national scale!

            (I once again recommend arkdiscovery.com and check

            out the section on Sodom and Gomorrah who to this day

            “suffer the vengeance of eternal fire” [Jude 1:7] – CY – 2011)

 

            God’s object, in the command to exterminate the Canaanites,

            besides being a judgment on the Canaanites, was to keep

            Israel from Idolatry and its shameful practices.  God was

            founding the Israelite nation for the one grand specific purpose

            of paving the way for the Coming of Christ, by establishing

            in the world the IDEA that there is One True Living God!

            If Israel fell into idolatry, then there ceased to be a reason

            for its existence as a nation.  As a matter of precaution, it

            was needful to clean the land of the last vestige of Idolatrous

            Worship.  In this matter Joshua gave Israel a good start.

            If only Israel  had kept it up, what a different story there

            would have been to tell!  (Of all the words of tongue or

            pen, the saddest are these, “Oh, what might have been.”

            - origin – unknown – CY – 2011)

 

(Excerpt Halley’s Bible Handbook pp.166-67)