Joshua Part Two: Deep Dive
LAND, LEADERSHIP & LORD
| RYAN KERRISON
To frame this Deep Dive, a brief survey of the pivotal events that have occurred between God, and the people of Israel is in order. At the forefront of those events stand the Abrahamic Covenant, arguably the most prominent covenant made by God to humanity. Here is an excerpt from the first time we see it at the beginning of Genesis 12:
“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Throughout this story, this covenant is enlarged and grows in depth of detail in places like Chapters 13 & 15. In Chapter 17 of Genesis, the addition is this:
“And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”
It is in these holy and unconditional promises of Yahweh, that this Deep Dive finds its origin, in the exploration of three significant themes available to the readers of the book of Joshua.
Brevard Childs, an Old Testament scholar says that “the concrete possession of the land remained of fundamental importance in the entire Old Testament.” With this in mind, the historical narrative begins after what was likely a month of grieving for the death of Moses. The Israelites are now being led by Joshua. However, the emphasis has shifted from ‘being led into ‘the Promised Land; rather it is now ‘being led through’. The nation of Israel is literally realising the covenant promise given to Abraham, passed down through oral tradition, ceremony, and through the very community of belief present in their heritage. An excerpt from Taylor offers a four-point rubric to establish the significance of the land in the book of Joshua. (1) the land as promised; (2) the land as gift; (3) crossing into the land; and (4) conquest of the land. But these ideas are not separated in the text. There is no true separation, for instance, between the land as promised and the land as a gift. Furthermore, Martens writes that Yahweh’s primary purposes were to deliver Israel, to invite them into the knowability of Him and to be blessed with abundant life. This notion is picked up again in John Chapter 10, which when explored, leads back to the knowability and enjoyment of God in the fullest. However, the major caveat, present in the text of Joshua, is that victory and possession of the Land comes only from loyal obedience to Yahweh.
The next theme to be examined is that of servant leadership. Whilst this expression may be an evangelical buzzword, it’s foundations are deeply and anciently biblical. The preparation and characteristics of Joshua’s leadership begin much before his military conquests. His birth-name Hosea means ‘salvation’ however Moses calls him, Jehoshua, meaning ‘Yahweh is salvation’ the Greek equivalent to this name is borne by Jesus in the New Testament. Joshua was Moses’ assistant and guardian of the tabernacle in Ex. 33:11. An important fact to recollect is also that Yahweh commissioned Joshua to lead when Moses died, and even though Joshua was a fierce warrior and a brilliant commander, he was ultimately a servant of Yahweh, a faithful and righteous man, obedient to God and wise. Joshua serves as the only political and military hero whose story is untainted. Joshua is the mouthpiece and foot soldier for the bringing about of the Lord’s promise of abundant life and makes a way for the people of Israel and the descendant of Moses to partake in that same life.
Aligning for a moment with the theory of the Hexateuch, the Book of Joshua like the rest of the Torah unflinchingly and monolithically declares the name of Yahweh as supreme. For a review of how Israel experienced Yahweh see here. It would be remiss not to, even if briefly, explore the notion of Holy War, and the modern assertion of its moral incompatibility with God’s nature. The theology of Divine Warfare is not a simple one and requires much thoughtfulness and understanding. Thomas writes, “If we listen to the music of "holy wars" without the full symphony of Scripture, we will likely distort both.” This portion will highlight a few points to consider when engaging in this discussion. Firstly, “Holy War” is non-biblical language, an alternative is “Divine War”, representing “non-repeatable actions in the history of Israel.” Secondly, the command to engage in divine war is an act of a patient and merciful God, a God who had waited over 400 years for repentance. Thirdly, divine war is not an act of genocide, rather it is an elimination of false worship. This apologetic could extend further however in closing one must remember the context and time of these events, the land-deity relationships of the Ancient Near-East, and the New Covenant command from Christ to His subjects. To love their enemies, and to serve them with the good news of the kingdom. For a more extensive overview of this subject, see here. The wider point here is not only that Yahweh’s character and purposes in this book are impeccable and remain unblemished, but over and above that, Yahweh remains faithful to the covenant of Abraham. He is a jealous, yet simultaneously a merciful and long-suffering King, and finally He is a God, who rests. Yahweh does not elongate suffering in vain but arranges for loving purposes with a tangible fulfillment.
 Brevard S. Childs, Old Testament Theology in a Canonical Context (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985), 243.
 Larry M. Taylor, Theological Themes in The Book of Joshua, Southwestern Journal of Theology. Vol. 41 - Fall 1998.
 Elmer A. Martens, The Flowering of Old Testament Theology, (Winona Lake: Isenbrauns, 1992.308).
 John L. McKenzie The Theology of the Old Testament, 1974.
 Heath Thomas, The Old Testament, "Holy War" And Christian Morality, The Summit Institute 2011.
 Craig Bartholomew, Ryan O'Dowd, Old Testament Wisdom Literature: A Theological Introduction, (IVP Academic), 2011.