“Introduction to the Book of Joshua,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)
“Joshua,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual
Introduction to the Book of Joshua
Why study this book?
The book of Joshua recounts the Israelites’ entrance into the promised land under the leadership of the prophet Joshua. As students study this book, they will learn principles that can help them to have courage and be strong in the midst of opposition. Students can also learn important lessons from the successes the Israelites experienced because of their obedience to the Lord and from the failures they experienced because of their disobedience.
Who wrote this book?
We do not know for certain who wrote the book of Joshua. The book is named for Joshua—its principal figure and Moses’s successor as the Lord’s prophet to Israel (see Numbers 27:18–23). Near the end of Joshua’s ministry, after the Israelites had entered into a covenant to not serve false gods in the promised land, the book’s narrator reports that “Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God” (Joshua 24:26). This passage may indicate that Joshua wrote at least a portion of the book that is named for him.
Like many of the Lord’s prophets in the Old Testament, Joshua’s ministry symbolically foreshadowed that of the Son of God: “Just as Moses, in his role as prophet, lawgiver, mediator, and deliverer, was a type of Jesus Christ, so Joshua, who led Israel into the promised land, was also a type of Jesus, who leads all the faithful into the ultimate land of promise, the celestial kingdom [see Alma 37:45]” (Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, 3rd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 236).
When and where was it written?
There are varying opinions on when the book of Joshua was written. Some details within the book of Joshua suggest the book may have been written during or shortly after Joshua’s lifetime (which some scholars date to sometime between the 15th and 13th centuries B.C.). For example, Joshua 6:25 states that Rahab, who was saved from Jericho, “dwelleth in Israel even unto this day”—indicating that Rahab and other contemporaries of Joshua were still alive when this book was written. The book was likely written in the land of Canaan.
What are some distinctive features of this book?
The book of Joshua is a continuation of the five books of Moses (Genesis–Deuteronomy) and describes how the Lord helped the Israelites obtain the promised land. The account of the conquest shows that as the Israelites strictly obeyed the Lord’s commandments, the Lord made them victorious over their enemies. The book’s final two chapters (Joshua 23–24) emphasize the importance of serving the Lord rather than the false gods in the land of Canaan, foreshadowing an important problem the Israelites would struggle with in the future, as recorded in the book of Judges and many other books of the Old Testament.
Joshua 1–6 The children of Israel miraculously cross the Jordan River and enter the promised land. They begin their conquest of the land by destroying the city of Jericho.
Joshua 7–12 Israel loses a battle against the people of Ai because of disobedience. After repenting of their disobedience, the Israelites prosper in battle as the Lord fights for them. They gain control of the promised land.
Joshua 13–21 The promised land is divided among the tribes of Israel. However, not all of the wicked inhabitants are driven out of the land. The Israelites set up the tabernacle in a place called Shiloh. Certain cities are designated as cities of refuge.
Joshua 22–24 Prior to his death, Joshua exhorts the people to have courage, keep the Lord’s commandments, and love the Lord. He and the people covenant to choose the Lord and serve only Him. Joshua and Eleazar, the third son of Aaron, die.