New European Commentary


About | PDFs | Mobile formats | Word formats | Other languages | Contact Us | What is the Gospel? | Support the work | Carelinks Ministries | | The Real Christ | The Real Devil | "Bible Companion" Daily Bible reading plan

Deeper Commentary


Jos 1:1 After the death of Moses the servant of Yahweh, Yahweh spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying-
I would consider the book of Joshua to have largely been written by Joshua, under Divine inspiration, although edited [again under Divine inspiration] for the exiles. And the book of Judges likewise. For the exiles too were set to reestablish God's Kingdom in the land and to inherit it again as the Israelites first did. The phrase "to this day" occurs several times in Joshua / Judges, and appears to have different points of historical reference (Josh. 4:9; 5:9; 6:25; 7:26; 8:28,29; 9:27; 10:27; 13:13; 14:14; 15:63; 16:10; 22:3; 23:8,9; Jud. 1:26; 6:24; 10:4; 15:19; 18:12). I would explain this by saying that the book was edited a number of times and the remains of those edits remain in the text. For God's word is living and made relevant by Him to every generation.

Jos 1:2 Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise-
The Messianic prophecy of Dt. 18:18 had a potential Messianic and primary fulfillment in Joshua: “I will raise them up [God ‘rose up’ Joshua- s.w. Josh. 1:2; 7:10,13; 8:1,3]  a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee [Joshua’s life was framed to be like that of Moses- e.g. he too was told to remove his shoe when on holy ground, also held his hands up whilst Israel fought their enemies]; and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him [Joshua is constantly presented as telling Israel what God commanded him- Josh. 4:8,10,17; 6:10; 8:8: “according to the commandment of the Lord shall ye do. See, I have commanded you”; Josh. 8:27]. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him”. 

Go over this Jordan, you, and all this people, to the land which I give to them, even to the children of Israel-
This was a primary fulfilment of the promises to Abraham, and we too experience that. For the covenant is not only about 'jam tomorrow'. In a sense, the promises that the seed would inherit the land, and that God would be their God were fulfilled straight after God said them. He became Isaac's God (Gen. 31:42,53 refer to this), the God of Abraham's son. Time and again God reminds Israel that He is their God. And that land in a sense was given to the Jewish fathers (Gen. 15:18; Dt. 28:63; 30:5 NIV; Josh. 1:2-9; 21:43; 1 Kings 4:20,21). David could praise God simply because He was ''my God'' (Ps. 118:28)- an allusion back to the Abrahamic promise. Of course, the main fulfillment of this promise will be in the Kingdom; but in principle, the promise has already been fulfilled to Abraham's seed- i.e., us!

Jos 1:3 I have given you every place that the sole of your foot will tread on, as I told Moses-
This meant that according to their spiritual ambition, so would be their inheritance of the Kingdom, as Moses had told them (Dt. 11:24,25). The temptation for them, as for us, was to consider that once we have our small inheritance, our farmstead and secure land, as it was for them- then we need have no wider vision. For to go onwards from that parochial mentality and tread upon the entire land (:4) up to the Euphrates was a vision only worth pursuing if they had a vision of collective inheritance of the Kingdom. To seek to get others there is a call which few really perceive. See on Josh. 3:13. 

Jos 1:4 From the wilderness, and this Lebanon, even to the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your border-
God’s opening commission to Joshua was that the people were to possess the whole land promised to Abraham, right up to the Euphrates. But Joshua ended up drawing up the borders of the land far smaller than these; he didn’t even seek to subdue the territory up to the Euphrates, even though God had promised him potential success and even commanded him to do so. See on :3,6,15.

Jos 1:5 No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not fail you nor forsake you-
But these very words are quoted in Heb. 13:5 as the grounds of our matchless confidence that the Lord God will be with us too! As He was with Moses- not just in power, but in wondrous patience and gentleness- so He will be with us too. Not only did God encourage Joshua to see himself as in Moses' shoes; He inspired Jeremiah likewise (Jer. 21:8 = Dt. 30:15,19), and Ezekiel (Ez. 2:3 = Dt. 31:27; Neh. 9:17; Num. 17:10); and He wishes us to also see Moses' God as our God. But if Moses' God is to be ours in truth in the daily round of life, we must rise up to the dedication of Moses; as he was a faithful steward, thoroughly dedicated to God's ecclesia (Heb. 3:5), so we are invited follow his example (1 Cor. 4:2; Mt. 24:45). Note that the promise of Moses that God would not fail nor forsake Joshua, but would be with him (Dt. 31:8) was similar to the very promise given to Moses which he had earlier doubted (Ex. 3:12; 4:12,15). Such exhortation is so much the stronger from someone who has themselves doubted and then come to believe.

We may boldly say that we will not be fearful, as Joshua was, because God has addressed to us the very words which He did to Joshua: “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5,6). In this especially, Joshua is our example. When Heb. 13:13 speaks of us going forth outside the camp, perhaps there is a reference to Joshua who dwelt with Moses outside the camp- thus making Joshua symbolic of us all.

Watch out for quotations and allusions within Scripture; there are connections not only between New and Old Testaments, but also (e.g.) between Paul's letters; Peter alludes to Paul's writings, Paul frequently alludes to the words of John the Baptist; Jeremiah often refers to Job's words and experiences. Note the context of the source quotation, because this often sheds light on the passage in which it is quoted. Be aware that many NT passages mix a number of OT passages in one 'quotation'; e.g. "The deliverer will come from Zion" (Rom. 11:26) is a conflated quotation of Ps. 14:7; 53:6 and Is. 59:20. And Heb. 13:5 combines quotes from Gen. 28:15; Josh. 1:5 and Dt. 31:16. Heb. 13:5 doesn’t quote any of them exactly, but mixes them together.

Jos 1:6 Be strong and courageous; for you shall cause this people to inherit the land which I swore to their fathers to give them-
God’s opening commission to Joshua was that the people were to possess the whole land promised to Abraham, right up to the Euphrates (Josh. 1:4). But Joshua ended up drawing up the borders of the land far smaller than these; he didn’t even seek to subdue the territory up to the Euphrates, even though God had promised him potential success and even commanded him to do so. Joshua was to divide up the whole land promised to Abraham, amongst the tribes of Israel (Josh. 1:6). And yet in the extensive descriptions of Joshua dividing up the land, we don’t find him dividing up that whole territory up to the Euphrates. He seems to have lacked that vision, and fallen into the mire of minimalism, just content with a utilitarian, small scale conquest, rather than seeing the bigger picture of the potential Kingdom which God wanted to give His people. See on :3,4,15.

Joshua is repeatedly made parallel with Israel; his victories were theirs; what he achieved is counted to them. In the same way, the people of the Lord Jesus are counted as Him. Joshua was to be strong and possess the land (Josh. 1:6), just as they had been told to do, using the same Hebrew words (Dt. 11:8). Indeed, Israel and Joshua are given parallel charges, to be strong and of good courage to take the land (Dt. 31:6,7). Both Israel and Joshua are given the same charge to keep the words of the covenant, that they might “prosper” (Dt. 29:9; Josh. 1:7).  

Jos 1:7 Only be strong and very courageous to observe to do according to all the law which Moses my servant commanded you. Don’t turn from it to the right hand or to the left-
Joshua is repeatedly made parallel with Israel; his victories were theirs; what he achieved is counted to them. In the same way, the people of the Lord Jesus are counted as Him. Joshua was to be strong and possess the land (Josh. 1:6), just as they had been told to do, using the same Hebrew words (Dt. 11:8). Indeed, Israel and Joshua are given parallel charges, to be strong and of good courage to take the land (Dt. 31:6,7). Both Israel and Joshua are given the same charge to keep the words of the covenant, that they might “prosper” (Dt. 29:9; Josh. 1:7). See on Is. 59:21.

As God charged him to be courageous and obedient to the book of the Law, so Joshua on his deathbed charged his people (Josh. 1:7,8 cp. 23:6). Joshua had faithfully followed, and now he became the leader who was to be faithfully followed. Likewise, he led the Israelites in battle whilst Moses stood on the hill with arms uplifted in prayer for his success. And in capturing Ai, it was Joshua’s turn to stand on a hill with arms uplifted [also in prayer?] whilst Israel fought.

That you may prosper wherever you go-
Joshua potentially could have been the Jesus-Messiah figure, leading Israel into what could have become the Kingdom of God. He could have given the people rest; but he didn’t. Yet the possibilities and prophecies relating to Joshua were then reinterpreted and fulfilled in another ‘Jesus’, the Son of God. Solomon was another case of this. God’s servant Joshua was intended to “prosper” (Josh. 1:7); but in the end it was the Lord Jesus through His death who was the servant who would “deal prudently” [s.w. ‘prosper’, Is. 52:13]. And so, in His foreknowledge, God spoke of “another day” when His begotten Son would give “rest”, fulfilling what Joshua could potentially have achieved, and so much more (Heb. 4:8). The lesson for us is that so much has been potentially prepared for us to achieve. Our salvation may not necessarily depend upon achieving all those things, but all the same, so much potentially is possible which we refuse to reach up to, because we are petty minimalists, like Israel, satisfied with their little farm in the valley, rather than seeking to possess the fullness of the Kingdom prepared for them.

Jos 1:8 This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written therein. Thus you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success-
In Ps. 1:1-3, David makes several allusions to Joshua. He speaks of how the man who meditates in God’s word day and night will prosper in his ways; and he uses the very same Hebrew words as found in Josh. 1:8 in recounting God’s charge to Joshua. But David’s point is that the man who does these things will not “walk in the counsel of the ungodly”- he won't give in to peer pressure. The fact that Joshua was wrongly influenced by his peers in later life would indicate that he didn’t keep the charge given to him.

Try to memorize Scripture, run through verses as you go about life, play tapes of Bible studies or Bible reading in the background (instead of the mindless radio). Much of Scripture was probably memorized by various contemporary believers. "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth" (Josh. 1:8) presumably means that Joshua was commanded to keep reciting it to himself in daily life, so that he would be obedient to it. The way Jeremiah consciously and unconsciously quotes and alludes to Job would suggest that he had memorized that book. And many of the Psalms are written in such a way (in Hebrew) as to be easily memorized. David memorized God's law and meditated upon it (hardly the easiest part of Scripture to memorize, at least to Western eyes; Ps. 119:16). He recited it to himself in the night seasons.

As Joshua had been told to be strong and of good courage in order to take the land, so he had to tell others (Josh. 10:25).

This connection between Joshua and Israel is developed in Is. 59:21, which describes the new covenant which God will make with Israel in the Messianic Kingdom in terms evidently reminiscent of Joshua- as if the new covenant was made with him, thereby enabling him potentially to be part of a Messianic Kingdom even in his day:  “And as for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord: my Spirit that is upon thee [“Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him” Dt. 34:9; Num. 27:18-23] , and my words which I have put in thy mouth [Dt. 18:18- God’s words were put in Joshua’s mouth], shall not depart out of thy mouth [“this book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth”, Josh. 1:8, s.w.], nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever”. 

Jos 1:9 Haven’t I commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Don’t be afraid, neither be dismayed: for Yahweh your God is with you wherever you go-
The idea being, as discussed on :3, that wherever they went, they would have victory and take the land for themselves. The various towns in our lives may be alcoholism, the struggle to forgive, gentleness, patience, or whatever seems so insuperable. It is God's eager desire that we should inherit the Kingdom, and so we need not fear (Lk 12:32). The command to be strong and courageous is understood by David as meaning "be of good courage, and He will strengthen your heart" (Ps. 27:4; 31:24). It is not so much a call for human strength and bravery, as to open our hearts to the strengthening of His Spirit. 

Jos 1:10 Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying-
"Officers" is literally 'the scribes'. It could refer to those who had a record of the people from the latest census, and could therefore better organize them. But we wonder if it refers to those who had already been set up to keep copies of God's law and interpret it to the people. And yet their work was not academic, just as true Bible study can never be an academic discipline. They were to in practice prepare the people to enter the land and conquer Canaan.

Jos 1:11 Pass through the midst of the camp, and command the people, saying, ‘Prepare food; for within three days you are to pass over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land, which Yahweh your God gives you to possess’-
The "three days" period sends the mind to the Lord's resurrection, which was what gives us ultimate entry into Canaan. Preparing food in advance was a new discipline for people who had lived for decades on the daily provision of manna by God every morning. That this need to "prepare food" should be recorded gives absolute circumstantial credibility to the record. Such a command would have been absolutely necessary. These things really happened. The exodus from Egypt had been in haste, so that they had no time to "prepare food" (Ex. 12:39). They had left Egypt because of push factors. Now, they were to be motivated by the pull factor of the Kingdom, and were not being thrust out in haste, but rather entering the Kingdom on their own terms.

These three days may be those of Josh. 3:1,2. The order to prepare food was given on 7th Nisan, as they crossed Jordan on the 10th. The spies would have been on their mission between the 5th and 8th Nisan.       

Jos 1:12 Joshua spoke to the Reubenites and to the Gadites and to the half-tribe of Manasseh saying-
They had received their inheritance to the east of Jordan, because they were attracted by the rich pasture there for their many flocks and herds  (Num. 32:16,24). This had been on the agreement that they would help the rest of Israel to inherit their inheritances too.

Jos 1:13 Remember the word which Moses the servant of Yahweh commanded you saying, ‘Yahweh your God will give you rest, and will give you this land-
After the pattern of the Reubenites, we have been given the promised rest of the Kingdom here and now (Josh. 1:13 cp. Heb. 4:3); but we will, like them, only take possession of that inheritance after we have ensured that our brethren have received their possession (Josh. 1:15). Josh. 1:13,15 present a paradox: the Reubenites were given their "rest", but they would only get their "rest" once their brethren had. Those Reubenites really were symbols of us: for this passage is surely behind the reasoning of Heb. 4, where we are told that we have entered into rest, but that we must labour if we want to enter into it.

Jos 1:14 Your wives, your little ones and your livestock shall live in the land which Moses gave you beyond the Jordan; but all your mighty men of valour shall pass over before your brothers, armed, and shall help them-
This was no small sacrifice, because it left their much beloved flocks, as well as their women and children, without protection. That is the significance of the agreement that "all" their soldiers were to pass over Jordan. And they were to be in the front line, "before your brothers", forming the vanguard. Further, their inheritances east of Jordan were huge, and included areas inhabited by giants and strong enemies. So the agreement required them to live by faith in God's protection far more than did the other tribes. Their attempted short cut to the Kingdom didn't work, it ended up with far greater challenge to their faith. And that is true to this day. 

Jos 1:15 until Yahweh has given your brothers rest, as He has given you, and they have also possessed the land which Yahweh your God gives them. Then you shall return to the land of your possession and settle it, which Moses the servant of Yahweh gave you beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise’-
See on :13. Joshua didn’t give the people rest (Heb. 4:8); but he said he had (Josh. 22:4). He failed to fulfil the potential of Josh. 1:13-15- that he would lead the people to “rest”. The Messianic Kingdom could, perhaps, have come through Joshua-Jesus; but both Joshua and Israel would not. Dt. 1:38 states clearly that “Joshua… he shall cause Israel to inherit [s.w. possess]” the land. Yet by the end of Joshua’s life, Israel were not inheriting the land in totality. He didn’t live up to his potential. Note, in passing, that God’s prophecy here was conditional, although no condition is actually stated at the time. See on :4,6.

Jos 1:16 They answered Joshua saying, All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go-
As noted on :14, the demands on them were a great test of faith. That they agreed and didn't seek to renege on the agreement is therefore the more commendable.

Jos 1:17 Just as we listened to Moses in all things, so will we listen to you. Only may Yahweh your God be with you as He was with Moses-
This was surely an exaggeration, as Israel had not been obedient to Moses "in all things".

Jos 1:18 Whoever rebels against your commandment, and doesn’t listen to your words in all that you command him, he shall be put to death. Only be strong and courageous-
They now encourage Joshua themselves, perhaps sensing his weakness and nervousness. There is repeated encouragement to be strong and of a good courage and not be fearful (Dt. 31:23; Josh. 1:6,7,8,18). What does this imply about Joshua? He could perhaps have potentially been 'Jesus', as his name means, the Messiah figure. But he failed, perhaps because of his fear, and so this possibility was reapplied and rescheduled to the Lord Jesus. Hebrews effectively makes this point, saying that although Joshua gave the people "rest", in fact he didn't ultimately; and so his work was fulfilled only in the Lord Jesus.

Joshua had been charged to be strong, of good courage, not fearful nor be dismayed. Yet he had a tendency to forget those charges, the implications of his having been called by God for a purpose; and needed to be reminded of them as he forgot or lost faith in them. Perhaps this is why he is an otherwise surprising omission from the list of faithful men and women in Hebrews 11. And here of course is the challenge to us. We too have been given commissions and callings. Whether it be to raise a Godly family, to establish an ecclesia in a certain place, to overcome a specific vice…the obstacles will flee before us, every place where the soles of our feet rest, will be blessed…if we truly believe in God’s purpose with us. Yet like Joshua, we usually fail to have a full faith in this. We get distracted by the views of others, peer pressure, worried by lack of resources, discouraged by setbacks; when it is belief in God’s most basic initial promises to us that will overcome them. Joshua’s fear is all the more reprehensible when we consider the testimony of Ps. 91. Here Moses speaks about Joshua, the one who dwelt in the secret place or tabernacle of God (Ps. 91:1 = Ex. 33:11), and who therefore was miraculously preserved throughout the wilderness wanderings. Thousands of Joshua’s generation died at his side from the various plagues which wasted out his generation during those wanderings; but they never came near him (Ps. 91:5-8). As a result of this, he was commanded by Moses to “not be afraid” (Ps. 91:5), perhaps Moses was thinking specifically about peer pressure, with the assurance that truly God would hear Joshua’s prayers (Ps. 91:14,15). His amazing preservation during the wilderness years ought to have instilled a faith and lack of fearfulness within him; and yet the implication is that he did very often fall prey to fearfulness in later life. Just as with us, the circumstances of earlier life are controlled by the Father to give us faith with which to cope with later crises; but we don’t always learn the lessons we are intended to.