Joshua Part One: Deep Dive
THE OLD TESTAMENT: IN REVIEW
| RYAN KERRISON
The book of Joshua is an incredibly fascinating book, full of prophetic undertones, leadership advice, and epic historical narrative. It serves the bridge between the Pentateuch and the rest of the biblical corpus known by Jewish communities as the Tanak (Torah - Instruction), Nebiim (Prophets), and, Ketibim (Writings), or for Christians; the Old Testament. Joshua is known by biblical scholars as the final book in the Hexateuch (the relationship theory that Joshua alongside the first five books of the Bible was once a single literary work), and as one scholar puts it, “presents as complex a literary problem as any book in the Bible”. This Deep Dive, however, shall focus less on these aspects and rather on the story so far…
The story of Israel and all of creation for that matter begins, aptly in Genesis. The story of creation, initial human-divine relationships, the lapsarian state of humanity (sin’s entrance into the world) and the establishment of lineage from Seth to Abram. The story continues with the establishment of the holy covenant (Abrahamic Covenant) between Yahweh and Abraham. Further along, there is an incredibly symbolic act of faith by Abraham concerning his son Isaac, whose life is spared and goes on to raise two sons, one of whom, Jacob, would go on to father the heads of the 12 Tribes of Israel, the other, Esau, not so much.
Exodus picks up with the growing Jewish Nation becoming enslaved by an Egyptian Pharaoh, who plots to kill all newborn Hebrews for fear of them growing strong and joining foreign armies to oppose him, however, this is where the story of Moses begins. Moses is kept alive and raised as an Egyptian in the Pharaoh’s palace, from where he eventually escapes and is called by Yahweh to lead His people into the Promised Land. After a series of plagues, Moses leads the Lord’s people into the wilderness where he cares and provides for them. It is here where the Lord reveals to them His names, attributes, liturgical methodologies, and His Law. Moses is given the 10 Commandments and instructions for building the Ark of the Covenant. All while this is taking place, and the Lord’s redemptive hand is moving gracefully, the people of Israel grow wicked. They rebel, and commit idol worship, and complain bitterly towards Yahweh. It is towards the close of this book that Moses reiterates, to the people of Israel, the Law, reminds them of the Promises of the Lord, and prepares a place for the presence of the Lord to inhabit.
The book of Leviticus is considered a close continuation of Exodus and is where the reader finds instructions on tabernacle worship for the Levites to partake in. The key text of this book is “Be Holy, as I am holy”.
Rather than being regarded as a book full of litigation and regulations, Leviticus is a “utopian literary work”, designed and prescribed by Yahweh for an ideal society. Ranging from worship practices to cultural and ceremonial rituals, the book of Leviticus is like the Prime Directive, presented almost as divine citations from the Lord Himself.
In contrast to the book’s name, this book has scarcely anything to do with numerology or the actual numeric value of the nation of Israel. Rather, the focus is on the progression of the narrative of Israel. Beginning soon after the administration of the Law at Sinai, the nation of Israel proceeds to wander the wilderness near Kadesh for almost 40 years. This is due to their own unwillingness to participate in the divine plans of Yahweh, and stubbornness and unfaithfulness concerning obedience to the Law. This results in further punishment from the Lord towards His chosen people, not the least of which is committed by Moses, in the striking of the rock… Twice. This deeply symbolic act caused Moses to become unable to enter the Promised Land. However, the Lord proves faithful evermore and delivers the nation from plagues, their enemies, and into the Promised Land. The Lord also once again, proclaims the Messianic promise to be fulfilled through this nation.
This book, literally translated meaning second-law, is a compilation of the already given law and serves as a covenantal renewal document for the people of Israel as they begin to settle within the Promise Land. Incidentally, it is this book from which Jesus quotes most in his New Testament teachings. In addition to the instructive discourses delivered by Moses, there are two prophetic poems concerning Israel’s future, (Ch. 31 & 32). In its closing, the book serves as a succession narrative as the leadership is passed on from Moses to Joshua, and the emphasis of unity between the Old and New Testaments is echoed again. The only hope for the issue of idolatry and disobedience within the heart is the powerful moving of the heart by the power of God, and the display of fervent love is the only proper response appropriate for Israel.
Finally, we arrive at Joshua. Ready to pick up the baton from Moses, and be used by God, to fulfill the promises made by Yahweh to His people. The book of Joshua requires a careful and prayerful reader, it is theologically rich and often breathtaking but does not allow the final word of the Lord to be spoken without caution, and exhortation; to cling to the Lord, and to love Him.