Commentary on Joshua Chapters 1 to 7

Joshua 1

Joshua 1:21–18, A New Leader; A New Beginning

The children of Israel have come to the end of their forty year wilderness journey. Now YHVH’s people must go forward in possessing the land and the inheritance that he has for them. This is a new beginning for the Israelites. They must go forth and carry with them into the Promised Land YHVH’s teachings or instructions in righteousness—the Torah—as well as the lessons they have learned in their wilderness experience. This principle applies to us as much as it did to the ancient Israelites, for as Paul said, “these things happened to them for examples [or types] and they are written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the world [or ages] are come” (1 Cor 10:11).

The saga of YHVH dealing with Israel did not end with the death of Moses. Similarly, the life of a believer does not start and end at the work of Yeshua at his first coming (whom Moses foreshadowed, see Deut 18:15–18). No, as the death of Moses signaled a new beginning for Israel, so Yeshua’s death on the cross marks a new beginning for redeemed believers as they make their way into their spiritual Promised Land. As Joshua (in Hebrew, Yehoshua meaning “YHVH saves”) led Israel into their physical Promised Land, so Yeshua (the Hebrew word for salvation) at his second coming will lead the saints into the “Promised Land” of his millennial kingdom, and then eventually into the spiritual kingdom of the New Heaven and Earth and the New Jerusalem 1000 years later. Read Hebrews chapters three and four for insights and understanding into how Moses and Joshua were prophetic shadow pictures of Yeshua at his two advents.

Joshua 1:1, Joshua … Moses’ servant. For how long was Joshua Moses’ servant before he became the leader of Israel? What does this teach us about YHVH’s discipleship program? How many other servants of YHVH’s does Scripture reveal spent years in training for the ultimate mission YHVH had for them as leaders of his people? How long was Joseph, Moses, Samuel, David, the disciples of Yeshua and Paul in training, to name a few, before YHVH was ready to use them for his special purposes? As Matthew Henry says in his commentary on this verse, “Those are fittest to rule, who have learned to obey.”

Joshua 1:6, 7, 9, 18, Be strong and of a good courage. Four times in the first chapter YHVH encourages the Israelites with this phrase. Why the fourfold repetition of this admonition at this juncture in Israel’s sojourn? Be strong is the Hebrew word chazak/קזח meaning “to strengthen, prevail, harden, be strong, become strong, be courageous, be firm, grow firm, and be resolute.”According to The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, the majority of times chazak is used in Scripture it refers to “being strong in battle.”This word can also mean “to harden one’s heart”against YHVH’s purposes as was the case with Pharaoh twelve times between Exodus chapters 4 and 14. Good courage is the Hebrew word amats/ץמא‭ ‬meaning “to be strong, alert, courageous, brave, stout, bold, solid, hard.”The aspect of this word that means “to harden one’s heart” can have both a good and bad connotation. One can harden or secure one’s heart with the resolve to obey YHVH, or contrariwise, choose to disobey him with an obstinate heart as well. Examples in Scripture where amats is used in the negative sense are Deuteronomy 2:30 and Amos 2:14. These two words, chazak and amats almost appear to be synonyms. Why would YHVH use two words with only slight variation in meaning in admonishing the Israelites as they were about to enter the Promised Land? Was he trying to emphasize a point? Perhaps he anticipated that eventually they would grow faint and weary battling the onslaught of evil around them and succumb to the influences of the surrounding pagan nations leading to their apostasy. Perhaps the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews had these two Hebrew words in mind when he wrote the following:

12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living Elohim. 13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we are made partakers of Messiah, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end; 15 While it is said, “Today if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.” 16 For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. 17 But with whom was he grieved forty years? Was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom swore he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. (Heb 3:12–19)

The Israelites crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land.

What can we learn from our ancient forefathers in this regard as we face the challenges of remaining faithful to YHVH in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation?

Joshua 1:8, Make your way prosperous…you shall have good [Heb. sakal] success.The expanded meaning of the word prosperous is literally “to press through, to break out”or “to accomplish satisfactorily what is intended” (according to The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament). The TWOT continues, “Real prosperity results from the work of God in the life of one who seeks God with all his heart (2 Chr 31:21; Ps 1:3, vol. 2, p. 766). The word success literally meansunderstanding, prudence, good sense, insight, prosperity.” An alternate rendering of this last phrase of Joshua 1:8 reads, “Make your way successful, and then you will act wisely” (The ArtScroll Stone Edition Tanach).

But how is that prosperity and success achieved? The answer is to be found in the first part of verse eight where four keys to success are given. They are:

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Rahab is a prophetic picture of you and me

Joshua 2:1, Rahab. Rahab, the non-Israelite innkeeper and inhabitant of Jericho, was a woman of faith who became a sincere convert to the Israelites’ religion, and ended up becoming an ancestor of David and Yeshua. Throughout Scripture, there are examples of righteous non-Israelites confessing their faith in the Elohim of Israel, choosing to leave behind their pagan cultures and being grafted into the nation of Israel. Who are some other examples of this in Scripture? (See Gen 41:45; Exod 12:38,48–49; Lev 18:26; Num 15:16; Deut 10:19; 31:12; Ruth 1:16.) Rahab was a stranger or alien seeking to be grafted into Israel. What does Scripture say about this class of people?

Stranger (Foreigner or Alien; Heb. nekar). Rahab was a stranger or foreigner to Israel. She is a prophetic picture of Gentiles who come to faith in the Elohim of Israel and are grafted into that nation.

Scripturally the Hebrew word nekar (Strong’s H5236/TWOT 1368b) is used in reference to anything or anyone that is foreign to the religion or people of Israel (Exod 12:43; Deut 31:16; 32:16; Judg 10:16; Neh 9:2; Isa 60:10; Ezek 44:7).

Nekar can also refer to people who forsake their foreign or alien ways and join themselves to the people and to Elohim, the God of Israel, and who take hold of the covenants of Israel (Isa 56:3–6; cp. Eph 2:11–14). In Exodus 12:43 and 48, the KJV uses the word stranger, though in each verse they are two different Hebrew words. In the former, the word nekar is used in reference to those who are not allowed to partake in Passover. In the latter verse, the Hebrew word for stranger is ger (Strong’s H1616/TWOT 330a) meaning “a temporary inhabitant, or a newcomer.”

This word is also translated in the KJV as stranger, or alien, but also carries with it the connotation of “a sojourner.” The TWOT defines a ger as follows: “The root means to live among people who are not blood relatives; thus, rather than enjoying native civil rights, the ger was dependent on the hospitality that played an important role in the ancient near east.… The ger in Israel was largely regarded as a proselyte. He was to be present for the solemn reading of the [Torah] Law (Deut 31:12) showing that he was exposed to its demands. The law concerning unleavened bread applied to him as well as the native (Exod 12:19) and a circumcised ger could keep Passover (Exod 12:48f.; Num 9:14).” He was also included in the celebration of the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:29), the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths (Deut 16:14), like the native he was forbidden from worshipping foreign gods (Lev 17:8), and was forbidden from eating blood (Lev 17:10, 12, 13). The laws of sexual chastity applied to him as well as to the native (Lev 18:26) along with the Sabbath laws (Exod 20:10; 23:12). He experienced the same legal and civil rights as a native Israelite (Deut 1:16; 24:17; 27:19) and Israel was to not oppress the ger (Exod 22:21; Deut 10:19) but to love him as themselves (Lev 19:34) (The TWOT, vol. 1, pp. 155–156)

In brief, Israel’s treatment of the ger was a means of evangelizing the world with the message of YHVH’s Torah-truth. All could come into a spiritual relationship with the Elohim of Israel without respect to ethnicity and there was one Torah (i.e., YHVH’s instructions, teachings or precepts in righteousness) for both Israelite and non-Israelite. Indeed, this was the driving force behind Paul’s passion for the Gentiles (or people of the nations).

Realizing the basis of evangelism from the Tanakh and the command to make proselytes by bringing aliens and strangers into the covenants and commonwealth of Israel and into a righteous relationship with the Elohim of Israel may help us to understand Paul’s statements in Ephesians 2:11–19 (cp. 1 Pet 2:8–11).

As we study the concept of the stranger’s relationship to Elohim, to the people and Torah covenants of Israel, it is interesting to note that Scripture nowhere indicates that YHVH would ever make a new or different covenant with the Gentiles or have different standards of righteousness for them than for Israel. Rather, the Gentiles were expected to assimilate into Israel, become Israel, follow the laws of Israel and be treated as Israel. This rule of law for the people of El never changed even through the apostolic age despite what most Christian biblicists teach to the contrary. Remember, YHVH stated clearly that he does not change (Mal 3:6), and Yeshua taught that any religious tradition of men that nullifies the Word of YHVH should be ignored (Mark 7:7–9).