Book of Joshua Summary
The Short Story
Moses is dead. What a way to start a book, right? Joshua, his ordained-by-God successor, is ready to bring the Israelites into the Promised Land. But Houston, we have a problem. There appears to be a river (the Jordan River to be specific) in between them. Joshua, being the clever duck that he is, sends two spies ahead of the group to scout the land.
The two spies wind up in the city of Jericho and conveniently convene in a brothel (wink wink). There, they meet a sultry goddess of a prostitute named Rahab who offers them sanctuary and aid for the siege of Jericho if they promise to spare her family. The spies agree and return to Joshua to tell him the good news.
Although Joshua and the Israelites enjoyed their time down by the river, the Israelites cross the river Jordan. The Israelites' first task is to lay waste to the city of Jericho. So after six days of scare tactics involving horns and a box filled with God (a.k.a. the Ark of the Covenant), the Israelites take the city of Jericho and burn it to the ground, sparing Rahab and her family as promised.
What follows is a succession of sieges all across Canaan as the Israelites conquer the land. Once they're all tuckered out from the epic conquering they've done, Joshua goes about dividing the land up between the twelve tribes. Years pass without any battles to fight because God loves them and stuff. Near the end of his life, Joshua makes a final speech reminiscent of all the great speeches in movie history and promptly dies, hoping Israel will keep their end of the covenant with God.
God Commissions Joshua To Be Awesome
- As the Book of Joshua opens, Moses is dead and God gets it in His mind that the Israelites need a new leader.
- Enter: Joshua, son of Nun.
- For clarification, when we say Nun, we mean Joshua's father, not a lady in a headpiece. Or, for that matter, without a headpiece. Capisce?
- Joshua's first duty is to have the Israelites cross the River Jordan.
- It is unclear if Joshua wonders why they have to do this, but God clarifies anyway by saying that "every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and the Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, to the Great Sea in the west shall be your territory" (1:1-4). Oh, okay. Thanks, God.
- Now that Joshua has his mission, he's ready to begin. Or his he? Apparently, God isn't done talking. He seems to want to be sure Joshua knows He's got his back (1:5-7). Let's just say God might be a little wordy, too. We guess when you're an omnipotent being and you control all time and space, though, there's really no reason not to take up a few extra seconds.
- Now that Joshua is assured, he's ready to hit the road.
- Except he doesn't.
- Joshua goes through the camp commanding the people to pack up because in three days it's gonna be river crossing time.
- Remember three things: (1) the number three is important in the Bible, (2) the Israelites are nomads so they have very little possessions to get ready, and (3) there is no number three. We're just emphasizing that the number three is important. See number one for clarification.
- After Joshua is done telling everyone what to do, the people of Israel decide to say in perfect unison (as is the biblical way), "Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you. Only may The Lord your God be with you, as he was with Moses" (1:17).
- That quote right there is irony, ladies and gentleman. If you remember from Exodus and Deuteronomy, the Israelites were notoriously bad at following Moses's directions. To be fair, Moses was pretty bad at following his own directions too, though.
- The Israelites finish their speech to Joshua by saying "Only be strong and courageous" (1:18).
- This phrase comes up a lot in the first chapter of Joshua. We think it's safe to bet that "strong and courageous" might be a central theme of this story.
- Remember, the Israelites at this point in their history are a warrior nation, and warriors pride themselves on being strong and courageous.
Oh Look! A Friendly Prostitute
- Joshua sends two spies over the River Jordan to scout the territory, especially Jericho.
- Upon entering Jericho, the spies immediately hit up the house of the prostitute, Rahab, and spend the night there. This may seem like a strange thing to do, but hear us out.
- At this time, brothels were the secret-keepers of the age. Everything said inside a brothel stayed in the brothel. So logically, if Israelite spies wanted to stay hidden but gather information, the brothel is the perfect place to do that.
- The king of Jericho gets wind of the fact that there are spies on his turf and orders Rahab to surrender them immediately.
- We guess brothels aren't as a safe as we thought—yes, we know what we just said.
- Rahab hides the Israelite spies on the roof (clever girl) and covers for them, explaining they were there but had fled.
- While the soldiers go off in search of the Israelites, Rahab goes to her roof to cut a deal with the two spies. She explains that "all the inhabitants of the land melt in fear before you" (9) because of what was done by Moses to the Egyptians, as well as the "Amorites that were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og" (10).
- Rahab then swears her fealty to Israel for the protection of her family. As it turns out, Rahab is a prostitute with a heart of gold.
- The Israelite spies return in kind, and are all like, Don't worry, Rahab, we won't hurt your family.
- On one condition.
- There's always a condition.
- Rahab must tie a crimson cord in the window on the day of the Israelite invasion, otherwise her family will be killed along with the rest of the city (17-20).
- The Israelite—in a total spy move—scale down her great wall of Jericho on the crimson cord hung outside Rahab's window. Rahab, not taking any chances, leaves the cord right where it is.
- The Israelites report back to Joshua on all that has happened.
- Joshua and the Israelites pack up their gear and head toward the Jordan River as they prepare for their big water crossing.
- They set up camp for the night and Joshua tells Israel that they must sanctify themselves. Also, heads up Israelites—you are to follow the Ark of the Covenant at a distance of two thousand cubits.
- The Ark of the Covenant probably should have one of those giant orange warning labels on it. It might say something helpful like Warning: standing close to the Ark of the Covenant when not sanctified may result in melting flesh or death.
- God says to Joshua "This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, so that they may know that I will be with you as I was with Moses" (7).
- If should be abundantly clear to the Israelites at this point that Joshua is the new Moses.
- As Israel is preparing to cross the Jordan, one man from each tribe is selected to carry the Ark into the water.
- The book notes that the Jordan River is in flood at this point in time, otherwise this wouldn't be so impressive.
- When the feet of the ark bearers enter the water, the Jordan begins to flow like a wall to their right and to their left, just like the Red Sea in Exodus. We love it when things tie together like that and, if we're being honest, we're suckers for a good old fashioned miracle.
- Once all of Israel has made it to dry land, the priests bearing the Ark step out of the Jordan and its waters return to normal. Very cool.
The Israelites Miss Building Pyramids
- The Israelites select one man from each tribe to select a stone from the middle of the Jordan River (you know, where the priests stood) to build a memorial. When their children ask what it means, they will tell them how God parted the waters of the Jordan and allowed the Israelites to cross over into the Promised Land (1-8). Memories.
- The stones are piled in the middle of the river, so that when the water is not in flood, they can serve as a reminder of the power of God.
- We guess the Israelites hadn't quite figured out that water erodes stone. So much for a permanent monument, you guys.
- Now the Israelites cross the river Jordan while the priests hold the Ark, keeping the water at bay.
- Wait a second. What? Didn't we just do this?
- Oh yes. But see, the book of Joshua is like that time traveling island from Lost. In verses 10-24, the authors of the book of Joshua retell the same exact event you just read about. At first we thought this was a practical joke—you know, we sit there convinced we're reading the same thing over and over again, never getting anywhere, while the authors peer around the corner laughing—but then we thought better. This is the Bible after all, and we're pretty sure it never would have been written if its various authors didn't think it was serious business.
- Worry not—a flashback is here to set us straight again. Through this flashback we learn that the tribe has done as Moses and then Joshua commanded (1:14; Deuteronomy 3:18). We also learn that the Lord is as pleased with Joshua as he was with Moses.
- Okay—we get it. The whole point is that there are some pretty significant parallels going on here between Joshua and Moses. Duly noted.
- Now that we're off the cosmic treadmill (a hearty high five to anyone who knows what that is without clicking the link), let's get back to the present.
Fear And Loathing In Las Promised Land
- All the kings of the Amorites and Canaanites hear about the miracle of the Jordan River and their hearts melt in fear. Okay, not really. We're being metaphoric.
- While all the kings are freaking out, God orders Joshua to "circumcise the Israelites a second time."
- God orders this second circumcision for what could be three reasons: (1) to lessen the failure of the older generation, or (2) to witness the obligation set forth in Genesis 17:9-14, or (3) to reiterate Joshua as the new Moses.
- Once all the circumcising is done, the Israelites rest at a place called Gilgal.
- While they're camped, the Israelites observe Passover. The day after, they eat "produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain."
- Their manna days are finally over. Bring on the produce.
- This change from manna to produce signifies Israel's relocation from the wilderness to the land promised to them. While this is a pretty significant shift, we're guessing the Israelites were also pretty excited to change their diet after 40 years of manna.
- Once Joshua is by Jericho, he looks up and sees (gasp!) a man with a drawn sword.
- Joshua, being a gentleman, kindly asks the guy whether he is a friend or foe.
- Apparently, the man is the commander of the army of the Lord. He commands Joshua to "remove the sandals from your feet for the place where you stand is holy."
- This is a nice little parallel to that time God appeared to Moses as a burning piece of shrubbery in the desert.
The Walls Come Tumblin' Down
- Jericho is in lock down for fear of the Israelites—no one gets in and no one gets outs.
- God gives Joshua very specific instructions. The Israelite warriors must march around Jericho for six days with seven priests carrying trumpets made from rams's horns.
- On the seventh day, the warriors should march seven times around the city blowing on the trumpets. When they make a long blast, then all the people should shout and the walls of the city will fall so Israel can charge forward (3-5).
- Joshua gives these orders to the Israelites, making explicit instructions to make no sound for six days. In case you were wondering, we'd totally fail this assignment.
- The Israelites do as God commands and march around Jericho for six days.
- How tired were their legs? Super tired. But when God says march, you march.
- On the seventh day before the siege, Joshua gives a rousing speech that is totally reminiscent of Aragorn's speech in Return of the King even though Tolkien wasn't even a glimmer in his mother's eye at this point.
- Joshua tells the Israelites that they cannot harm Rahab or her family.
- The Israelites must practice herem, meaning that they must destroy everything as a sacrifice to God and keep nothing for themselves… unless, of course, they want to bring destruction to their nation. Which they probably don't.
- At Joshua's command, the Israelites let their voices ring and the walls of Jericho come tumbling down.
- Once the walls are down, the Israelites charge and completely destroy Jericho.
- Then the Israelites make good with Rahab and bring her and her family out so they can be free among the Israelites.
- Joshua then curses the land (as one does) to make sure no one can build there again. All in a day's work.
Surprise Attacks Are Full Of Surprises
- Achan, the son of Carmi and a soldier in the Israelite army, decides that he doesn't want to participate in the herem and keeps trinkets for himself. Tsk tsk.
- God saw, of course, on account of being omniscient. Not surprisingly, he wasn't pleased.
- Joshua sends spies into Ai (pronounced "eye") and they report that just a small contingent of men should be able to halt the people of Ai.
- So Joshua sends a measly three thousand men to tackle Ai. Looks like the spies didn't really do their job, though, and thirty six soldiers are slaughtered while the rest flee.
- As the men of Ai rejoice, the people of Shmoop wonder what happened that three thousand men fled after thirty six died. Did the Cylons show up?
- We learn "the hearts of the people melted and turned to water" (5).
- Upon hearing the news of defeat, Joshua tears his clothes in true manly style (we don't really know what that means), prays before the Ark, and puts dust on his head along with the elders.
- In case you were wondering, this is a traditional expression of grief.
- It also gives you a reason to shower, which usually makes you feel better.
- Joshua asks God why He had the Israelites come to Canaan just to die.
- God answers by telling him to stand up and be a man.
- He also mentions that someone didn't obey the herem.
- The next morning, Joshua discovers, through a very careful process of guessing, that Achan is the reason why Israel has sinned.
- Achan confesses like a champ and is brought with all his possessions and sons and daughters, both stolen and rightfully owned, to the Valley of Achor.
- The Israelites then stone them all to death and burn them along with their possessions.
- God is now satisfied and the herem is completed.
An Ai For An Eye
- The Israelites prepare for a rematch with Ai.
- God tells Joshua to take all the booty. By booty, we're obviously referring to Ai's treasures. Duh.
- God decides that this time the herem will allow for some booty to be kept. Whatever you say, God.
- The Israelites plan to ambush the city from behind, kind of like that time Han Solo and the Ewoks tried to ambush the Empire on Endor.
- The king of Ai and all his warriors come out to meet the Israelites in battle.
- Remembering the last time they met, the men of Ai and their king rush out and chase the Israelites, leaving Ai virtually unprotected.
- Obviously, the king of Ai never read Sun Tzu's The Art of War.
- God tells Joshua to stretch out his sword arm toward arm, much like Moses stretches out his staff in Exodus 14:15-16.
- At this point, the Israelites stop running and turn around and charge.
- The soldiers of Ai see their city burning and the other half of the Israelite army charging toward them.
- To Ai, this is like being caught in the trash compactor on the Death Star.
- Yes, we know we made two Star Wars references in one chapter summary, but you know what? We don't care. Because Star Wars.
- The Israelites kill 12,000 men and women and hang the king of Ai outside the city ruins as a warning to not mess with the best.
- Joshua then builds an altar to God on Mount Ebal just as it was instructed to Moses in Deuteronomy 27:4-7.
- Joshua, just to be more like Moses, writes a copy of the Law of Moses on stones and reads it to everyone.
Why Fight When You Can Eat Moldy Bread?
- The kings of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizites, Hivities and the Jebusites hear about the Israelites, and gather together to form a super cool kings club to fight Joshua.
- When the citizens of Gibeon aren't invited to join the super cool kings club, they decide to trick the Israelites instead of fight them. They do this through the clever use of disguises and tomfoolery.
- The Gibeonites, in 21st century fashion style, give all their clothing a "worn" look to fool the Israelites into thinking they are travelers from a far away land.
- Maybe they hope the Israelites will go "Wow! Us too! This is so random!"
- The Gibeonites are apparently Hivites according to 9:7. We know, this confuses us too. Don't feel bad, it also confuses scholars. Let this be a lesson on the importance of proofreading.
- The Hivite/Gibeonite hybrid group explains to Joshua that they have heard of the God of Israel and wish to make treaty with the Israelites.
- Deuteronomy 20:15 states that the Israelites must be more lenient with far away peoples than the ones they're conquering at the moment.
- So Joshua accepts the treaty (i.e. moldy bread) and doesn't ask for God's wisdom on this matter.
- Here's the thing, though. Skipping a quick chat with God is always a mistake for the Israelites. Pro tip: If you have access to an omnipotent being, take a moment to ask him what's what.
- Three days pass and the Israelites discover the Gibeonites's ruse. The Gibeonites readily admit they're a bunch of liars because they know the Israelites have to honor the treaty they all made because it was sworn before the God of Israel. It pays to know the laws of your enemy, kids.
- Joshua, being an honorable man, does not kill the Gibeonites, but rather has them become hewers of wood and drawers of water.
- This may sound like a slave status, but Deuteronomy 20:16-18 explicitly erases the distinctions between classes, so don't worry.
Five Guys Hang Out
- King Adoni-zedek of Jerusalem hears about the sieges of Jericho and Ai, as well as the treaty of Gibeon, and becomes incredibly frightened.
- He calls the kings of Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon to make war against Gibeon and get back at them for making peace with Joshua. The kings agree and everyone sets up their war camps. We're thinking there wasn't too much s'more making around those campfires.
- The Gibeonites send word to Joshua that they are going to be attacked, and Joshua and his army ride through the night to help out because, in case you hadn't noticed, they're pretty hardcore.
- The opposing army panics at the sight of the Israelites, and flees into a hailstorm that kills most of them. Seems like dying was on the agenda no matter what that day.
- The text backtracks for a moment to let us know that the reason God was so on top of things for this fight was because Joshua got in touch and was all like, Hey, God—help an army out. And God listened, which is a pretty big deal since Joshua's just a lowly human.
- Verse 13 mentions the Book of Jasher. The thing about Jasher, though, is that you won't be able to find it anywhere in the Bible. Not these days anyway. The general consensus amongst scholars and religious types, though, is that Jasher was—at one time—another of the biblical books.
- The Israelites return to Gilgal where they were originally camped.
- Word reaches Joshua that the five kings are hiding in a cave at Makkedah.
- Joshua decides that if they want to hide, they can stay hidden. So he orders some guys to roll a large stone in front of the cave to block the kings inside. Olly Olly oxen free?
- This is the least fun version of seven minutes in heaven we can think of.
- The Israelites are told to hunt down the remaining warriors and lay waste to them, which of course they do.
- When Joshua orders the stone rolled away from the cave, he also orders the kings brought before him. Uh-oh, kings…
- Joshua totally smites all five of them and hangs them each from their own tree.
- When the sun starts to set, Joshua has those five dead kings tossed back into the cave and the cave sealed up again with stones. Word on the street is that those stones remain to this day.
- You know when sportscasters rehash a big game play-by-play after it ends? That's what the rest of this chapter is.
- Even the biblical writers knew you must always end your writing with a proper, well thought out conclusion.
Give It A Rest, Will You?
- King Jabin of Hazor hears of the Israelites further conquests and gathers together the kings of Madon, Shimron, and Achshaph, along with the wandering tribes of the Chinneroth, Naphoth-dor, Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Hivites and Mizpah.
- We dare you to say that list five times fast.
- Okay, welcome back.
- This hodgepodge of an army gathers together at Merom to fight Israel.
- This strategy didn't work for the last guys who challenged Israel, but for some reason this crew thinks it'll work for them. Good luck…
- God tells Joshua not to fear for all their enemies would be vanquished.
- Joshua leads the Israelites and slays the opposing army—shocking.
- Joshua personally slays the king of Hazor and burns him, probably just to make sure he's really dead. People have a tendency to come back to life in the Bible (we're looking at you, Lazarus).
- The Israelites take all the booty they can find.
- In case you'd forgotten, Joshua is kind of like Moses 2.0: "Just as the Lord had commanded Moses his servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did. He left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded Moses" (15).
- Only two tribes make peace with Israel: the Gibeonites and some of the Hivites.
- Generally speaking, the Canaanites didn't stand a chance of making peace with Israel, since God had "harden[ed] their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle" (20). Gee thanks, God.
- Heart hardening is a bit of a pastime for God. He did the same thing to the Pharaoh back in Exodus.
- The war of Canaan is finally over.
- Joshua gives all the tribes their allotment of land.
- He probably also takes a nap. A power nap.
Let's Read Some Lists
- Chapter 12 retells the conquest of Canaan in rapid succession.
- We move from one conquered place to the next without any embellishing.
- It reminds us of when we got into trouble in the fourth grade and had to copy out of the dictionary. No embellishing in the dictionary.
- This summary references a few battle narratives not mentioned in the previous chapters to highlight additional theological and ideological ideas.
- And that's a wrap, folks.
Divide, Already Conquered
- Joshua is now advanced in years.
- We imagine some type of battle-hardened Clint Eastwood type character.
- Or maybe Stallone?
- God tells Joshua that he's old and that he needs to get a move on divvying up the land to the twelve tribes of Israel.
- Apparently God is not known for his tact.
- The book discusses that the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had already received their land. The nine other tribes and the half-tribe of Manasseh are waiting to receive their territories. Duly noted.
- The Levites receive no inheritance. Instead they receive delicious meat products meant as a sacrifice. Ron Swanson would have no beef with this arrangement (pun totally intended).
- The next chunk of this chapter is basically a verbal map, letting us know which tribe gets which parcels of land. We can't help noticing that after marching through all of Canaan, the Israelites have basically just gone back to the Jordan River to settle.
- This very fancy map shows the tribe allotments of Israel during this splendid time. It also shows the other nations that remain in the land (29-33).
Joshua Declares Only Even Numbers are Allowed
- The chief priest Eleazar, Joshua, and the heads of the tribal families oversee the allotment of the Promised Land among the twelve tribes.
- Joshua likes even numbers, so to cope with the fact that the Levites don't receive any land (because they're priests), the people of Joseph are counted into two tribes: Manasseh and Ephraim.
- The people of Judah, led by Caleb, come to Joshua first.
- Caleb was one of the original twelve spies sent into Canaan. See Numbers 13:30; 14:24. He is now 85 years old. What a champ.
- Joshua blesses him and gives the tribe Hebron (1-15).
Marrying Your Cousin Is The Cool Thing To Do
- Chapter 15 is the real juicy center of the Book of Joshua.
- Okay—not really. That's a total lie.
- This chapter mainly concerns the geography of Canaan and the divvying up of land amongst the remaining tribes. Prepare to be wowed.
- The geography is described counter-clockwise using Judah as the starting point.
- We're not sure why it's told south, east, north, and west, but it is. Maybe it's because the sun sets in the west? Let's go with that.
- We're not going to bore you with the written geography of Canaan when you can look at this handy dandy map (1-12).
- Verses 13-19 take a break from the geography lesson (thank goodness) and give us vignettes about Judah's heroes.
- Remember from the previous chapter that the tribe of Judah is given the land of Hebron.
- Joshua gives Caleb part of Hebron. Caleb promptly drives out the three sons of Anak—Sheshai, Ahiman, and Talmai—before marching on Debir, the city formally known as Kiriath Sepher.
- Instead of taking Debir himself, though, Caleb offers his daughter, Achsah, to whoever defeats the city. Gee thanks, Dad.
- Surprise! Caleb's nephew, Othniel, is totally up for the challenge. He takes the city and then collects his wife/cousin. Good times.
- Achsah, totally cool with marrying her cousin but not with living in the desert, asks her dad for land with springs of water.
- Caleb, being a reasonable fellow, gives her the land with upper and lower springs (13-19).
- The narrative resumes listing the towns of Judah (20-62). If only we could get Patrick Stewart or Morgan Freeman to read it out loud for us. Those two can make anything interesting.
- The chapter ends with an explanation that the people of Judah could not drive the Jebusites out of Jerusalem (63).
- That's totally okay though. We know from 2 Samuel 5:6-9 that David will totally capture that city and make it the capital of Israel.
- This chapter deals primarily with land that is given to the Josephites, or more specifically, the Ephraims (1-9).
- Joseph, if you don't recall, was the favorite son of Jacob who was sold into slavery by his brothers.
- The last verse of the chapter tells us that the Ephraims were unable to drive out the Canaanites who lived in their land so they forced the Canaanites to become servants instead (10).
- This is an odd contrast considering the first twelve chapters of Joshua make the reader think that the Israelites had no problem conquering the Promised Land.
Ancient Feminism And A Bunch Of Complainers
- Joshua divides land in Canaan for the Manasseh, the other half of the Josephites (1-2).
- The daughters of Zelophehad go before Joshua and Eleazar and say that God commanded that they receive an inheritance along with their male kin.
- Joshua, being an equal opportunist, divides ten portions to the Manassites besides the land of Gilead and Bashan.
- As was the case for the Emphraims, the Manassites are unable to occupy their land because the Canaanites are still living there. Worry not, though. Eventually the Israelites grew stronger and subjected the Canaanites to forced labor. Phew.
- To be clear, this whole forced-labor move seems a little backwards to us considering the fact that the Israelites left Egypt to escape forced labor, but alas, that is the way the cookie crumbles (7-13).
- The Josephites complain to Joshua that they don't have enough land. Joshua isn't hearing it, though, and tells them to man up and take some more land by invading the forest.
- The Josephites complain (seriously, you guys, get a grip already) that there are Canaanites on this land, to which Joshua basically responds by repeating his initial response of man up.
- This is called delegating.
Gambling Is An Effective Business Strategy
- The whole of the Israelites assemble at Shiloh.
- Joshua tells the crowd that there are seven tribes that haven't received land yet. He requests that scouts be sent out to survey and document the land. Once they return, the land will be divided seven ways, with Joshua casting lots to see who gets what.
- That is the mark of a true leader—make everyone else do the work, then gamble with their lives and futures. Good move.
- We're kidding; this is actually a very concise way to divvy up some land (1-10).
- The rest of the chapter describes the land that is cast to the tribe of Benjamin (11-26).
Lots For Lives
- More descriptions of land divisions, this time describing the remaining six lots left in the land of Canaan.
- The lots appear in this order: (1) Benjamin, (2) Simeon, (3) Zebulun, (4) Issachar, (5) Ashar, (6) Naphtali, (7) Dan.
- When Joshua finishes distributing the land as inheritances, the Israelites give an inheritance to Joshua. Awww.
- Joshua gets the town of Timnath-serah in the hill country of Emphraim.
- He rebuilds the town and settles down. Dude deserves a rest.
Sanctuary From The Avenger Of Blood
- God requests that Joshua set aside cities of refuge for those guilty of accidentally causing someone's death. He told Moses to do the same thing (check out Numbers chapter 35).
- God then explains the rules for these cities of refuge.
- If a fugitive is pursued by an avenger of blood (coolest name ever), they are safe from harm in a refuge city.
- This makes them sanctuaries.
- A trial should be held to prove that the death was definitely accidental. If proven, the killer is deemed innocent. They can't return home, though, until the death of the high priest.
- Refuge cities are established in Kedesh in Galilee (where Jesus is from), Shechem in Ephraim, and Kiriath Arba in Judah (7-9).
- You might want to jot that information down somewhere. You know, just in case.
Priests Can Have Homes Too
- Finally, the moment that everyone's been waiting for: the Levitical cities.
- We know you were starting to worry about where the priests will live.
- The short of it is that the Levites, though receiving no inheritance of their own, are still able to build towns and cities amid the lands of other tribes.
- The Israelites give the Levites 48 cities all together. In case you're bad at math, this is a multiple of twelve. And, in case you're bad at remembering things, there are twelve tribes… and twelve apostles… and twelve days of Christmas.
- The text claims that Israel settled into the land of Canaan without any strife after the war, which doesn't quite add up with all of the battles we've been reading about. Maybe it's just a bit of clarification that, with God on your side, it's all good at the end of the day.
The Israelites Miss War
- Do you remember what happens in Joshua 1:12-18? The Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh promise to help the rest of the Israelites in battle, so long as their women and children and such can stay put on the eastern side of the Jordan.
- All the rest of the Israelites live over on on the western side of the river.
- Anyway, now that the war and allotments are over, and because these three tribes made good on their battle promises, they are allowed to return to their lands.
- The Gadites, Manasseh and Reubenites all return home with their spoils and booty (1-9).
- But then these three tribes decide to build an altar on the western side of the Jordan on their way home, and the Israelites on the western side are all like Oh no you didn't. They think this whole altar-building business is pretty offensive to God and get ready to fight.
- Fortunately, someone has the foresight to let Phinehas the priest try to peacefully resolve this dispute.
- He accuses the three tribes of blasphemy and rebellion by building an altar.
- Pro tip: When trying to speak peacefully, do not accuse people of dishonor, blasphemy, and rebellion.
- Phinehas mentions Achan from Joshua 7. He notes that Achan's whole family and belongings were destroyed for his sins.
- The other Israelites are ready to kill these tribes (13-20).
- The three tribes huddle together and claim that the altar was built as a memorial, not as a sacrificial place. Good save, guys.
- The writers of Joshua want to emphasize to future generations that the proper place to sacrifice to God is at the temple in Jerusalem.
- The three tribes explain that they built the altar to symbolize how the tribes are now part of a nation and do not stand alone. Phinehas and the tribes accept this explanation and return home.
- High fives all around for averting a civil war (21-34).
Old Man Joshua Spews Words of Wisdom
- Here we find Joshua in the last days of his life.
- Joshua calls all the tribes together to review their accomplishments with God. This is a nice little callback to what Moses did at the end of Deuteronomy (1-2).
- Joshua states that the Lord fought for Israel and drove out the other nations, and Joshua divided the land among the tribes.
- Wait a tick. Didn't we learn that there are some other tribes living in Canaan? Well apparently, they're gone now. Or maybe Joshua is senile since he's so old.
- The theme of courage is echoed here like in chapter one (6-10). For more on courage, hop on over to our "Themes" section.
- Joshua warns the Israelites that they are not to marry outside of the Israelite nation. If they do, God will be unable to aid the Israelites in driving them out (11-13). This becomes a central problem for the Israelites later in their history. See: Samson.
- Joshua knows his time has come and he's about to enter the great moon bounce in the sky. For the record, we're pretty sure heaven is not a moon bounce and that was a joke. Don't hate.
- Joshua warns the Israelites that God will provide as long as they follow the covenant, but that the anger of God will be upon them if they fail (14-16).
- Joshua calls together all the tribes of Israel to Shechem.
- In true old man style, Joshua recounts the stories found in the books of Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, and of course, the conquest of Canaan.
- Joshua is trying to get the Israelites to understand the greatness they have been a part of all thanks to the favor of God (1-13).
- Joshua tells the people not to serve other gods, specifically the gods beyond the Euphrates that Abraham's father served, the gods of Egypt, and the gods of the Amorites. The people promise that they will not serve other gods. They recount the things that God has done for them (14-18).
- Joshua tells the Israelites that they will fail in their endeavor to only worship God (19-20).
- Thanks for the vote of confidence, Josh.
- The Israelites again promise that they will serve God. Joshua says that it's up to them to follow the covenant written in the Law (21-26).
- Joshua uses a stone to serve as a witness against Israel.
- Landmarks that serve as witnesses of God's greatness or covenants appear throughout the book. We have already seen stones at the Jordan River (chapter 4) and the altar built by the tribes (chapter 22) on the other side of the Jordan. For more, check out the section on monuments and altars in the "Analysis" section of this learning guide.
- Joshua sends the people away. Then he dies and is buried at the ripe old age of 110. What a beast. (29-31)
- At the end of Genesis, Joseph commanded the Israelites to return his bones to the Promised Land. While the Israelites were making their exodus out of Egypt, they made sure to take Joseph's bones with them so he could be buried in the land of his ancestors (32). Joseph's are buried in Shechem.
- The Book of Joshua ends with the death of Eleazar the priest and son of Aaron. Though an odd way to end the book, this death is a symbolic close to the story of Moses and Aaron. As the dynamic duo of Moses and Aaron have passed, so too has the next generation tag team of Joshua and Eleazar (33).