Joshua - Possessing God's Promises



The name Joshua means "Jehovah Saves", and Joshua's life is appropriate for his name. We will learn in this study all the ways God carried His people through to victory and how we can have victory today. The book of Joshua can be studied from many angles, but we will concentrate on three things: the choices people made in a situation, the consequences of their choices, and God's provision for His people. One reason we want to study Joshua is to see how God dealt with his people back then in order to be encouraged, warned, and instructed on how God deals with us today. A second, equally important reason, is as a reminder to us to "let go and let God": to stop making our plans and using our methods, and do God's will with God's methods.


The NIV Study Bible gives a good, brief description of Joshua. "Joshua's remarkable life was filled with excitement, variety, success, and honor. He was known for his deep trust in God and as 'a man in whom is the spirit' (Num 27:18). As a youth he lived through the bitter realities of slavery in Egypt, but he also witnessed the supernatural plagues and the miracle of Israel's escape from the army of the Egyptian as when the waters of the sea opened before them. In the Sinai peninsula it was Joshua who led the troops of Israel to victory over the Amalekites (Ex 17:8-13). He alone was allowed to accompany Moses up the holy mountain where the tablets of the law were received (Ex 24:13-14). And it was he who stood watch at the temporary tent of meeting Moses set up before the tabernacle was erected (Ex 33:11)."


Joshua was an extraordinary man and somewhat of a mysterious man. We look at Joshua and can scarcely imagine the courage, faith, and perseverance of this leader of Israel for thirty-eight years. After the death of Moses, how could someone else just rise up and do the things he did?


As with most great men of God, Joshua seems somewhat less an enigma if we take time to look at the people and things in his background that helped him become the way he was. Today we are going to "play psychologist"; by examining the Bible we want to see just why Joshua turned out to be the man he was. We want to get inside Joshua's mind and try to determine just what made him tick. Finally we are going to ask how we should alter our lives based on what we can learn about the man Joshua.


An Outline of the Book of Joshua



Profiles of the Peoples ¾ ¾ ¾ ¾

Joshua: the Character of a Leader Joshua 1

Rahab and the Spies: When Sinners Trust God Joshua 2

The War Begins - Crossing the Jordan Joshua 3-4

Circumcision at Gilgal and a Jericho Victory Joshua 5-6

When the Power is Gone - Defeat at Ai Joshua 7

The Power Returns and the Covenant is Renewed Joshua 8

The Counsel of Man and the Blessing of God

- The Gibeonites Joshua 9

Joshua's Long Day and Southern Victories Joshua 10

Northern Victories over Combined Forces Joshua 11

A Review of Victories Joshua 12



Land to Be Taken and a Quiz to be Conquered Joshua 13-13:7

Dividing the Land, and How to Be Fair Joshua 13-19

How Present Choices Affect Future Destiny Joshua 13-19

Cities of Refuge: Fairness, Justice, and Mercy Joshua 20

And What Do We Give God and His Ministers? Joshua 21

A Divisive Altar of Unity Joshua 22

The Testimony of Joshua and the People Joshua 23-24



Background of the Israelites


According to some scholars the Exodus occurred around 1446 BC. and the Israelites crossed into the promised land about 1407 BC. Other scholars think the Exodus took place around 1280 BC., and Joshua entered the Canaan about 1234 BC. A majority of the evidence supports the first view. Either way the total number of Israelites is estimated at 2.45 million, about the same as inhabited Canaan and just over half the population of Egypt.


During the 430 years the Israelites dwelt in Egypt, their average annual population growth rate was 2.17%. While developing countries today are higher (~2.5%), that was a phenomenal rate for ancient times, where in many places over 1/3 of the children died before they were fifteen. The Israelites having no war, and having midwifes to deliver babies explains a small part of that increase. Of all ancient peoples, the Egyptians were by far the most hygiene conscious, and perhaps the Israelites learned some of that. However these reasons alone are insufficient to explain the growth that the Egyptians dreaded in Exodus 1:9-10,12,20. For that rapid a growth to have occurred, God must have diminished the disease and famine among them.


1. The people travelled to the border of Canaan in only around six years. Then God told the Moses to send some men to explore Canaan to prepare to enter in (Num 13-14). What happened then?



2. The spies told of both the land's bounty and the difficulty in possessing it. Joshua and Caleb had one perspective, and the other ten spies had another. What were the two points of view? Given the situation, what choice was made by the people? What were the consequences? What was God's provision?



3. How do you think God felt?



4. What happened to the ten spies anyway? See Numbers 14:36-37.


5. Joshua and Caleb did not deserve the wander for forty years with the rest of the people. How do you think they felt? Did they complain about the people who complained?


6. It is interesting that the census taken right before entering Canaan was almost the same (0.1% less) as the total census of Israelite soldiers right before their disobedience. In other words, the Israelites did not have any larger an army by wandering for forty years. Any speculation as to the reason?



7. Did God originally want the children of Israel to wander for forty-six years? What lesson can we learn from this?


8. After eating the same manna for forty-six years, why would honey be appealing? After being out of God's will for a period of time, wouldn't it feel great to come back to his will?


Background of the Canaanites


Canaan is a fertile land with a history older than Abraham. Many inscriptions and pieces of pottery from the time of Joshua have been found. Interestingly, archaeologists have found tablets of letters at Tell-el-Amarna in Egypt from Canaan describing threatening invaders called Hapiru or Habiru.


Many peoples called Canaan home. Colonies of Hittites and Amorites came from Asia Minor. A few Philistines and Sea peoples came at that time from the northwest. One of the more unusual peoples was the Anakim. Bones have been found that showed some of them to be 10 1/2 feet tall. Most of the Canaanites though, are thought to have come from northern Arabia. A people living today are believed to be "cousins" of the Canaanites; they live in the nation of Qatar.


Canaan was governed by a large number of small city-states; they were experienced in war with each other. Their city walls were thicker than Israelite city walls, built centuries later. Both the northern and southern parts of Canaan paid tribute to Egypt. Joshua conquered thirty-one Kings in both parts. However the plains were not conquered because the Canaanites used chariots, which were effective weapons on the plains.


The religion of the Canaanites was both decadent and cruel. Each region worshipped a local lord, or Baal. The Canaanites also venerated the goddess Ashtarte (or Ishtar) the goddess of sex and war. They believed her husband, the god Tammuz, was sent to hell by her (nice lady!). Three attractive elements of this religion were sex, violence, and materialism. They not only sacrificed animals, but their firstborn children had to "pass through the fire". Each temple supported itself by sacrifices and partly by the "holy" prostitution of priestesses. Since the Canaanites had a more sophisticated civilization and their religion certainly appealed to the flesh more than the worship of God, it was a great temptation to the Israelites to turn from the Living God.


It is easy to look at the infant murder and prostitution and overlook seeing another really evil thing. A few people murder and become prostitutes in most cultures, but the great evil is this: if a Canaanite were to sincerely desire to seek the Creator and live a good, moral life, he was taught the only way was by killing your firstborn and committing fornication. Can you imagine how nearly impossible it would be to seek after a moral God if the only was you knew was by these ungodly deeds?


Because of the Canaanites' great sin (Gen 15:16), and because of the temptation (Deut 7:16), God ordered them to be totally destroyed(Deut 20:16-18). We can ponder how bad sin must become before God annihilates a people, but we really cannot question God's right to do with His own creation as He wishes.



Joshua's Past


Joshua's father was named Nun and was from the tribe of Ephraim (Num 11:28). Joshua was not his original name; his parents gave him the name Hoshea, which means salvation. Moses renamed him Joshua, which means "Jehovah saves" or "Jehovah is salvation". In Zechariah 3 there was a high priest named Joshua, whom Zechariah said was symbolic of the Messiah (Zech 3:8). Jesus' name was actually pronounced the same as Joshua. There is no question that Joshua is a type of Christ.


1. From Numbers 11:28, when did Joshua become an assistant to Moses? Since Joshua was around 72 when Moses died, how much older was Moses than Joshua?





2. As Moses' aide, what supernatural things would Joshua have seen? (Exodus 24:1,2,9-15, Exodus 33:11)





3. What failures of Moses would Joshua have seen?





4. For about how many years was Joshua in training? How good was that training? Who did Joshua train? How good was that training?





5. What were three main themes of Joshua's life?




A Profile of Joshua


There is much we do not know about Joshua's thinking, but by searching scripture we can deduce some clues. Psychologists have used historical records to psychoanalyze past U.S. presidents, and we can do the same to probe the mind of Joshua.


1. Joshua died when he was 110 (Joshua 24:29) and had been in the promised land for 38 years. How old was he when the Exodus began? What were probably his strongest childhood impressions?


2. How old was Joshua when he spied out Canaan? How do you think his past faith affected him? How did his present faith, as he assumed command, affected his future?


3. There were two attitudes at that time because there were two ways to look. They could look back and remember _________ , or they could look ahead and worry about _________ . (Deut 7:17)


4. Just how tall were the giants? Taller than the waves of the sea the Egyptian army drowned in? Today, what causes us to give up on God's will and say that it is just too hard? Did Joshua ever once do that?

5. What did Joshua think about the wisdom of sending out spies? See Joshua 2:1 and Joshua 7:2.


6. When Moses turned the command over to Joshua, what did Moses tell him (Deut 31:7-8)? What did the LORD tell Joshua (Joshua 1:1-9)? What did Joshua tell everyone (Joshua 1:10-15)? What did the people tell Joshua (Joshua 1:16-18)? How is that advice applicable today?


7. It is interesting to see how Joshua handled God's honoring him in the sight of the people in Joshua 3:7, 4:1-7, and 4:14. What did Joshua do right that a lesser man might have erred in?


8. Also fascinating is to picture the solemn ceremony at the two peaks of Ebal and Gerazim in Joshua 8:30-35. Joshua needed to do this sometime to obey God (Deut 27). He did it as soon as possible though, while some of us might have done it later. Are there times when we say we will do God's will, but we keep putting it off until the last moment? Did Joshua have this problem?


We will examine Joshua's attitude shown in his public speech at the end of his life as well as other situations. However these will have to wait until later in the study.


9. In the man Joshua, do you see any: feelings of inferiority? conceit? over-confidence? lack of confidence? greed? laziness?



Summarize in your own words what the man Joshua was like.



Rahab and the Spies: When Sinners Trust God (Joshua 2)


Intelligence Report on Jericho


Jericho is one of the oldest known cities of the world. It was first built roughly 7000 BC., abandoned about 4000 BC., and rebuilt around 3200 BC. It was one of many cities destroyed by Amorites circa 2300 BC., rebuilt by them, and destroyed again about 1400 BC. Jericho had a guard tower and two walls: an inner wall 12 feet thick and an outer wall 6 feet thick and 35 feet high. The inner wall was 5 to 10 feet inside of the outer one. Residents built houses on planks between the walls, and Rahab's house was likely that way. Thus the spies could climb out her window to flee the town. Jericho was a small to medium-sized city in Palestine on an 11 ft high hill 200 x 400 yards. The hill had a 35 degree slope, and thus battering rams could not break down the walls very well. Jericho occupied 8 acres; by contrast Megiddo occupied 14 acres, and Hazor, the largest city, was 200 acres. At most 10,000 people lived in Jericho. A spring inside the city supplied water, and Jericho was heavily fortified; it would be difficult to capture. These facts the two spies would have observed and reported to Joshua.


According to Numbers 26:51,62 the total number of Israelite warriors was 624,730. It was not so much a matter of conquering Jericho, a city of 10,000, as of conquering it without great loss of Israelite life, and doing so promptly before the armies of the other 140 or so cities of Canaan combined together. The spies left from Shittim, where the Israelites were camped.


1. Rahab, who housed the spies, was a prostitute. It is possible that the word could be translated "innkeeper" instead, and that would make Rahab's life a little more palatable to us. What do you think of the theory of her being an innkeeper instead of a prostitute? See Heb 11:31, James 2:25. There is no ambiguity between these words in the Greek language.



2. What were the two reasons Rahab gave of why everyone was afraid of the Israelites? (Joshua 2:10) What was probably a third reason that was not given?



3. Who did Rahab become the wife of? (Matt 1:5). Who did Rahab become the mother of? (Matt 1:5) Who is Rahab the great-great grandmother of? (Matt 1:6)



4. What were the consequences of Rahab's sin of being a prostitute? In addition, Rahab presumably worshipped the local gods that everyone else worshipped. Compare that with the consequences of Achan's sin (Joshua 7:1,4,25,26). Does that mean that Rahab's sin was less? Can you support your answer in light of Num 25:1-9?



5. What did Rahab do in Joshua 2:4-6? Does the Bible say if that was right or not? What we were in a similar situation, what should we do?



6. Rahab is a "hero of the faith" mentioned in Hebrews 11:31. However she is probably one of the heroes we are least comfortable with. While Rahab came to believe in God, with her past as a prostitute, we humanly put her as a hero. If we were writing the Bible, (and thank goodness we did not) we certainly would not look up to Rahab with pride as the author of Hebrews does. Yet God's ways are not our ways. When God says in Isaiah 1:18, "though our sins are as scarlet, they shall be white as snow" He means that. No matter what past a person has had, once she has committed herself to following God she is a new creation. We should treat her as such, and yes we should look up to Rahab with pride as a genuine hero of our faith. What do you think about Rahab?



7. Knowing what we know about how Jericho fell, were the spies really necessary? What purpose of God do you think they served?



8. Why did Joshua probably want to send the spies?



9. Are there times in our lives when we insist on sending spies for confidence, even though the will of the Lord is already clear to us? God is very patient with us, but just as the Israelites were delayed by the spies mission, sometimes are our lives are delayed by waiting for confirmation when the signals are already clear?




The NIV Study Bible mentions that the scarlet thread hanging out the window is reminiscent of the blood of the passover lamb the Israelites in Egypt put on their doors.



10. What do you think of Rahab's faith? Given her unique circumstances, certain aspects of her faith are shown that usually are not seen in other people's faith. Have you ever met anyone with a faith similar to Rahab's? In your life has your faith ever expressed itself in a way similar to Rahab's?



11. Rahab had a very limited knowledge of God, but she acted on and followed the knowledge she had. Because she believed, what were the consequences for her and her family?




Background on the Jordan River


The Israelites were preparing to cross the Jordan River. According the NIV Study Bible, the Jordan was 80-100 feet wide at Jericho most of the year, but during the spring flood it filled its riverbed, which was a mile wide in places. The spies could cross at shallow, ~3 feet deep, fords, where only a few people can cross at a time. It would seem the Israelites would need a very large ford, or else make a long detour. However, God had a quicker way, which Joshua told the people in Joshua 3:9-13.


There is a theme in Christian songs of crossing the Jordan. The theme means dying and peacefully entering the Promised Land of heaven. However, this is not an accurate reflection of what the Jordan meant to the Israelites. Crossing the Jordan to them meant beginning to fight the battle to claim what God promised them for their own. It was going to be hard work! God told the Israelites they could possess the Promised land, but obviously the Canaanites did not get the message. Likewise in our lives, God promises things that we want, but Satan does not seem willing to relinquish his hold. Just like the Israelites, we need to be bold and claim what has been promised. Like Joshua, we should not compromise, but by obedience and hard work we must conquer the difficulties ahead.


Since Joshua's crossing, the Jordan River has stopped its flow at other times too. In 1927 a landslide near the town of Adam blocked the river for 20 hours. However, for the Jordan River bed to be dry ground just after the priests stepped into the Jordan River is unexplainable without the power of God. It must have been amazing to be one of the Israelites watching the river suddenly dry up, and according to Joshua 4:18 just as suddenly return to their place.


While we do not know the exact location where Jesus was baptized, it was probably very close to here. One might say that for both the Israelites and us, we have to go by Jesus' path to get to the promised land.


1. For what two reasons do you think the people had to stay 1,000 yards behind the ark? What parallel do you see today to the attitude to have towards God, the church, and God's name?


2. We are to exalt God. Does God ever exalt His servants in the eyes of other people? (Joshua 3:7, Ps 18:48) Does God always? See Is 53:3, Ps 22:6-8.



3. It has been said that if God wants to test a person He sends him adversity. But, if God wants to test a person more severely, God sends Him success. What do you think of this statement?



4. How did Joshua handle being honored by God in the eyes of the people? (Joshua 3:9-10) Contrast this with the way Gideon handled being honored by the people (Judges 8:22-27). What do you think was the difference between these two men of God?



5. What is the significance of the twelve stones? (Joshua 4:4-5) Do you have any memorials of God's working in your life? Why?



6. Suppose you were one of the Israelites. When Joshua asked for twelve people to go back in the middle of the River to collect a stone, would you volunteer? Remember, the only security you had that the River would not flood back was seeing the priests and the ark in the middle of the riverbed.



7. Does Joshua 4:6 & 22 say the priests were supposed to tell future generations about this? Why or why not?



8. God did not have to stop the waters of the Jordan. He could have used a less miraculous way and had the Israelites make a long detour. Why exactly did God choose this way? There is one reason given and a second reason hinted at in Joshua 4:23-24.



9. The twelve stones were finally laid down at a place about 2 miles northeast of Jericho that will be prominent in the future as a place of remembrance. This place is Gilgal. Have you ever had a special place you went to remember God's work in your life? If you do have a place, tell what it means to you.




Gilgal figured prominently in the history of Israel. It was the place of:


the first passover in the promised land

the manna stopped

God appeared to Joshua

The Israelites were first circumcised after forty years

An Idolatrous place in Judges

Saul and Samuel (1 Sam 7:16)

David was received by Judah

Elijah was translated to heaven

An Idolatrous place in the time of Kings


CIRCUMCISION at Gilgal and A JERICHO Victory (Joshua 5 & 6 )


Joshua had the courage to obey God; but by obeying God, he often did things that would seem foolish in the eyes of the world. Two examples are in these two chapters.


1. What was the psychological state of the Canaanite kings in Joshua 5? By the world's standards, what should Joshua have done? From the world's view, what danger would there have been in obeying God in Joshua 5? What are some things we should do today that are wise in God's eyes but foolish in the world's?


2. Why did God give circumcision? Today we are supposed to circumcise our hearts. What does that mean? If physical circumcision is painful, can spiritual circumcision also be painful?


3. Why did the Israelites have to be circumcised now? What does it mean that "the reproach of Egypt has been rolled away"?


4. The word Gilgal means "roll". What significance does "roll" have here? What application is there for today?


5. What two things did they do at Gilgal in Joshua 5? What stopped then? Why do you think "it" stopped? What application do you see for God's provision for our lives?


6. In Joshua 5:13-15 Joshua saw an unusual person. Was that person on the Israelites side or the Canaanites side?


7. When Joshua figured out what was going on what was his first response? What was his second? Why not reverse the order? How do people today respond when they encounter "The Commander"?


8. Exactly who is The Commander?


9. All this time some Israelites might have thought Joshua was the commander, but Joshua knew who the real Commander was. What are ways in which we want to lead and have God follow, rather than follow God's leading?



The NIV Study Bible points out that Jericho may mean "Moon City", and it may have been a center of worship of the moon god.


10. What would seem foolish about the battle tactics?


11. Why were all the valuable items to be devoted to the Lord's treasury?.


12. In Joshua 6:21, the Israelites obeyed what God said in Deut 20:16-18 and destroyed every living thing. We discussed that command somewhat in the first lesson. Any additional thoughts?


13. Why do you think Joshua wanted to utter the curse in Joshua 6:26-27? Read 1 Kings 16:34 for the fulfillment of the curse.


When the Power is Missing - Defeat at Ai (Joshua 7)


Ai was ten to fifteen miles northwest from Jericho, but the exact location has not been found. Ai had around 12,000 people according to Joshua 8:25. Earlier, the spies probably underestimated the population. Ai was the first city conquered where the Israelites fought against a walled city. The spies suggested taking only a few men as to not weary the people. This idea sounded reasonable for while Ai was at most 15 miles northwest from Jericho, it probably around 1,700 ft higher than Jericho: a long climb. Since from now on the Israelites had to scale the walls and ramparts of the cities, one might say it was all uphill from here!


1. When the Israelites were defeated at Ai, Joshua's primary concern was not that 36 men were killed out of 601,730 men (Num 26:51). He was likely somewhat concerned somewhat that a long siege against Ai would give the rest of the Canaanites a chance to come together. However, his greatest worry was probably that the power that had caused the Jordan River to part and had caused the walls of Jericho to fall was no longer with them. God told them to take possession of the land, but there were many strong cities and without that power they themselves would be destroyed. Have you ever had difficulties trying to do God's will without God's power, only your own?




2. God told Joshua to be careful to obey His laws, and God promised Joshua that no one would stand up against him (Joshua 1:5). God promised Joshua he would be prosperous and successful (if ...) in Joshua 1:8. Nevertheless the plain fact was Ai had stood against Joshua. Joshua was unsuccessful. Of course we can understand the reason by looking ahead and reading Joshua 7, but Joshua could not do that. Have there been times in your life where the facts appear to contradict what God has promised you? How do you react when that happens?




3. Let's see how Joshua reacted in this situation. It is enlightening to examine Joshua's prayer in Joshua 7:6-9. What TWO concerns did Joshua bring before the Lord? What did Joshua say he wished for in Joshua 7:7?




4. As John Walvoord's Bible Knowledge Commentary points out, Joshua seemed to blame God for the defeat and did not consider that the cause may lie elsewhere. If we are sincerely following God, and something does not go well, how do we react? Do we blame God? Do we feel guilty, even though we cannot find a specific reason to feel guilty about? Who do we blame, or do we even have to blame? Fortunately Joshua turned to God for help, almost with an attitude of simply "What now, Lord" and God told him what to do.



5. This is perhaps the one time Joshua's courage was at a low ebb. Joshua asked for help, not comfort, and that is what God gave. Look at God's counsel, and notice the faith the Israelites had to promptly obey.




6. As John Walvoord remarks, God could have simply told Joshua Achan's name and quickly exposed the him. However this way perhaps the situation's seriousness was emphasized as the proceeding dragged on. Imagine yourself as Achan. How would you feel as the lots were cast? Perhaps you thought you might get away if you just acted normal? Walvoord points out that the reason for this lengthy process possibly might have been to give Achan a chance to repent, which he did not do. God is very patient, but be sure to repent, before destruction comes.




7. John Walvoord has another interesting comment: just like the sins of Adam and Eve, and David, Achan saw, coveted, and took. Francis Shaeffer mentions that the things Achan took are the same kinds of things people would take today. The gold and silver are pure materialism, and the robe from Babylon would probably be very stylish. The Promised Land was not enough for Achan; he wanted more, because he was not content with God's providing. Are there times in our lives when we are dissatisfied with God's care of us? Sometimes do we want more?




8. Another tragic aspect of Achan is that in the battle of Ai and all subsequent battles, the Israelites were allowed to keep the valuable goods! If only Achan had waited, he could have collected the treasure of many cities. Are there times you know of where you missed out on God's blessing because you would not wait and obey God. Why do you think people do that?



9. The sin of one man and his family's complicity hurt the entire nation. The lesson, that Achan was not the only one who died for his sin, was not lost on the Israelites (Josh 22:20). It is interesting to ponder other examples where the sin of one hurts many. But concerning Adam and Christ, "while the sin of one hurt many the righteousness of One saves any --who believe." What do you think about the spiritual principle of "representative righteousness", that is the conduct of one affecting many? See also 1 Sam 24, especially verse 17.




10. Achan the Israelite was destroyed like the Canaanites were, while Rahab the Canaanite and her family went on to live with the Israelites: -- a sort of switching of destinies. Even today, we pick our destiny by "choosing this day whom we will serve". Why is it that some people are like Rahab; even against almost impossible odds they come to God? Why are others like Achan, who in men's eyes appear to have it made, yet totally blow it?





Ai was allied with Bethel, and though the Bible does not specifically record the conquest of Bethel, it was probably conquered at this time too and is mentioned in Joshua 12:16.


1. After the Israelites got rid of the sin in their camp, God promised Joshua He would deliver Ai into his hands (Josh 8:1). Since God would do that, what was the point of the complex strategy Joshua used? If God would conquer Ai, why could not Joshua's army just drop their weapons, lie down, and watch?




2. Why can't we just lie down and wait on God today? What do you think is the balance between relying on God to do His work and doing the work God gave us to do?




3. In the natural world, Joshua's next step of detouring to renew the covenant looks foolish. Time is important, so that the Canaanites can be conquered before they all combine together. However, Joshua knew that without God's sustained power there was no point in going on. When are times in our lives where it is wise to do something that looks foolish to the world?




4. Was Joshua acting on his own initiative here? See Deut 27.




5. The Israelites were not making a new covenant with God at Mount Ebal, but renewing an existing covenant. What is the difference between renewing a covenant and making a new covenant?




6. Have you ever renewed your covenant with the Lord? This was the time for the Israelites to renew their covenant. In your opinion, when is someone's time today renew their covenant?




7. It is interesting that aliens lived among the Israelites according to Joshua 8:35 and 14:6. One tribe of aliens were Kenites, descended from the Midianites. Moses' first wife was a Kenite. These aliens listened to and presumably obeyed the law just like the Israelites. These people were not given the promises of the Israelites yet they followed anyway. How do you react when you are trying to serve God and other believers seem to get many more blessings than you?




(Joshua 9)


Gibeon was a major city founded circa 3100 BC. It was 20-25 miles west of Gilgal and 4,000 feet higher. There were numerous springs and pools inside the city, so it could withstand a long siege. Gibeon was the head of a league of cities including Kearoth-Jearim, Kephirah, and Beeroth. The total population might be around 50,000. After seeing the destruction of Jericho and Ai, they decided to make peace with God's people. Today's chapter is interesting, because it is two totally separate studies, both using the same chapter. First we will study the passage from the Israelites' point of view, then we will look at the passage from the Gibeonites' point of view.



The Perspective of the Israelites


1. The Israelites were not careless; the thought occurred to them that the Gibeonites might be deceiving them (Joshua 9:7). Why do you think they did not inquire of God? Do we tend to inquire of God about some things more readily than other things?




2. After the Israelites found out about their error, the whole assembly grumbled against the leaders? Why?




3. If you make an agreement in the name of the Lord, you did not pray about it, and the other party used fraud, should you honor it? When and when not?




4. What did God think about the Israelites honoring their word with the Gibeonites? (See 2 Samuel 21:1-6)




5. The Israelites now could not completely obey God's command to rid the land of Canaanites due to their oath? They were not rebelling against God, and they did not sin from ignorance of God's command, they were trapped. Do you think there is any trap God cannot keep you from falling into? What is the difference between a trap and being persecuted for your faith?



6. What is an example today of people doing something outside of God's will, and after it is done, they have to live with their oath?


The Perspective of the Gibeonites


Now let's change our focus and look at the Gibeonites. The Gibeonites and their allies were not Amorites like most other Canaanites, they were Hivites (probably Hittite colonists from the Hittite Empire in Asia Minor). The Hittites were a somewhat tall Indo-European people (men avg 5'7" women 5'2"). Their religion was different from the Canaanites; it was relatively more moral, though that is not saying much. It had no human sacrifice, and little religious prostitution.


7. What was the reason the Gibeonites took their action (Joshua 9:24-25)?




8. The Gibeonites were known as good fighters (Joshua 10:2). It is remarkable that they would trust their lives completely to Joshua (Joshua 9:25). It is easy for people with no strength of their own to trust in God's power; it is more difficult for those who are strong to do so. In your opinion, what do you think it is that convinced the Gibeonites, and can convince strong people today to trust in the strength of the Lord?




9. The Gibeonites prospered in later centuries. When the exiles returned from Babylon, some Gibeonites possibly may have returned at gatekeepers (Neh 7:45-56, 11:19, Ezra 2:42-54). Apparently by serving at the Temple, some descendents of the Gibeonites delighted in the worship of the Lord. Do you think non-Christians who come to your church are positively influenced? What positive influences are there?




10. Isn't it wonderful that the Gibeonites salvation came even through the Israelites' sin. God not only uses good things for His glory, He can even uses our mistakes too! Give an example you know of today where God worked through someone's mistakes.


Joshua's Long Day and Southern Victories (Joshua 10)


The still unconquered parts of the promised land had a population of 2 million ' 30%. Joshua attacked in the center to separate the 1.1 million in the north from the 900,000 in the south. It is interesting that Joshua's strategy of first attacking Canaan in the center to divide the north and south was apparently known to British Field Marshall Edmund H. Allenby. He used the same strategy in World War I to free Palestine from the Turks, and he too was victorious. The next part of Joshua's campaign is not of his doing though; he is forced to react to his enemies' attack. We do not know how large the combined army of the five Kings was, but it was probably in the neighborhood of 75,000 soldiers.


1. When the five Kings joined forces and attacked Gibeon, the Israelites could have conveniently delayed until the Gibeonites were destroyed, and then they would not have to live with the Gibeonites. They would not have broken the "letter of the law" in their treaty with the Gibeonites, but what would have been wrong in doing that?




2. What strategy did Joshua use? Why would this strategy be especially good against a combination of different forces?




3. What did God do in verse 11? Are there times today when though we are obedient and use a successful strategy, God steps in and does more than we possibly could have done ourselves?




4. An interesting miracle is described in verses 12-14. There are many speculations people have about this miracle. Comment on the first theory: the planet stopped rotating temporary, and God did a further miracle by temporarily suspending the laws of physics so that there would be no massive jerk from the sudden stop.




5. Comment on the second theory, that the sun and moon simply slowed down, thus minimizing the need for the second miracle.




6. Comment on the 3rd theory, that the miracle was an optical effect. The earth's rotation did not change, but God miraculously caused the light to change.




7. Comment on Keil and Delitzsch's theory, that it seemed like the sun stopped since the work of two days was done in one day. After all, if the sun stopped moving how could they measure how long it stopped?




8. Comment on the E.W. Maunders and Robert Dick Wilson's theory that since the word "stand still" can mean "leave off", that Joshua's prayer was a request to stop the sun's heat.




9. Comment on Hugh J. Blair's theory, that since the original attack was in the early morning, Joshua's prayer was really to delay the darkness for the surprise attack, and God answered with a selective hailstorm.




10. Joshua 10:13 says more is written of this in the book of Jashar. The book of Jashar is not in the Bible; we have no copies today, and according to the New Bible Dictionary any modern "copies" are fabrications. Does this mean that the Book of Jashar must be a book of scripture that has been lost? If we did have the Book of Jashar, would we have to add it to the Bible? What other reasonable explanation is there for how we should view the lost book of Jashar?




11. Why was Joshua wise to merely trap the five Kings in the cave at Makkadeh and not deal with them immediately? How should we prioritize today?




12. What minor setback did the Israelites have in verse 20? How did they respond to the setbacks? (See verses 29-39).




13. Why do you think Joshua would have the army commanders put their feet on the necks of the Kings? (See verses 25-26)




14. Find all the cities mentioned in Joshua 10 on a map.




A point to remember is that some Christians draw close to God when things are down, but when things go well they tend to lose their sense of purpose, and their first priority is forgotten. Joshua never did, and neither should we.


Northern Victories over Combined Forces (Joshua 11)


After the defeat of the southern army, (though all the south was not captured), Joshua turned to the north and the city of Hazor. Hazor was the largest city in all Canaan with an area of 175 to 200 acres and a maximum population of 40,000. Hazor had unusual shape. There was an inner bastion of around 14 acres, and a double wall on the far end with 100 feet between the two walls. It was 1542 feet (5 football fields) long, and 574 feet wide at its widest.


Hazor actually was burned three times according to archaeologists: 1400 BC., 1300 BC. by Pharaoh Seti I, and 1230 BC. Who might have burned Hazor the last time (Judges 14:2,15,16)? Today we actually still have a letter from I-eha-enu (Jabin?) of Hazor to the Pharaoh asking for aid at this time. The Egyptians did not come: apparently fifty years earlier they had enough of trying to swim against the tide of God's will.


The Sea of Kinnereth is an ancient name for the Sea of Galilee. According to the NIV Study Bible, Kinnereth means "harp", and the Sea of Galilee is shaped like an ancient harp.


1. Joshua 11:1-3 tells of all the people that combined forces. In addition to the northern Canaanites, one of these groups of people was with the southern Canaanites too. Though the southern army was defeated, this southern city was not captured. Which group of people and which city was that? Are there examples today of situations where someone does not deal with an evil, and it keeps coming back again and again?




2. When Joshua fought the northern Kings, it was a very different situation from fighting against Jericho or Ai. All these Kings were combined. According to Josephus, the northern Canaanite army consisted of 20,000 chariots, 100,000 cavalry, and 300,000 foot soldiers. His estimate is probably a little high though, unless almost all the Canaanite men in all the region were assembled. If the population that had united was 810,000 to 1.1 million, the army might have been 240,000 total, unless old men and young boys also fought. What advantages did the Canaanites have? (there are at least three) What natural advantages did the Israelites have? (there are at least three) What other overwhelming advantage did the Israelites have?




3. In verses 5-8, the Canaanite army assembled at the waters of Merom, probably because it was convenient. Joshua chose to attack them there instead of another place. He also chose the time for battle and attacked them suddenly. Why was it important for Joshua to chose the time and place instead of the Canaanites?




4. Are there times today when we are in the fight for God, and it is important for victory for us to chose the time and place? Give some examples.




5. In verses 6 and 9, Joshua was told to hamstring their horses and burn their chariots. Hamstringing horses means to cut the "Achilles tendon" connecting the muscles in the back of the lower leg with the foot. The horses would still live, but they could not run and would be useless for war. Why do you think the chariots should be burned?




6. From your knowledge of geography and Joshua 11:16-17, what two areas are not mentioned, which Joshua did not in fact conquer. Can you figure out before reading Joshua 13:2-6?




7. Verses 19 and 20 say that no cities made a treaty with God's people except for the Hivites around Gibeon. There are probably many reasons why no other Canaanites approached the Israelites, but verse 20 gives a root cause. What does it mean for someone to have a hardened heart? See also Ex 14:17, Rom 9:17-18, and Rom 11:7,25.




8. How can God still be fair and harden someone's heart? See Rom 9:19-21). Christians often look at the analogy of the potter in Romans, see a great truth, and stop there. What TWO truths can we learn from the analogy of the potter?.



9. Who were the Anakites in verse 22? What famous person from Gath was probably descended from the Anakites? The Raphaites were either the same or else related to the Anakites. Who else was a Rephaite (Joshua 12:4, 14:14)?





The end of chapter 11 is the end of the fighting in Joshua. There is one more place where a civil war among the Israelites almost occurred, but we will learn about that later. The second half of the book is taking inventory of what was conquered, and what was still unconquered, and dividing up the land for the people to live on.


Of all the regions they were allowed to conquer (not the Ammonites, Edomites, or Moabites), I estimate that they conquered 55% of the people and 38% of the physical land. Joshua worked hard, and the time was coming for new leaders, but the job was not finished yet.


Below are the defeated kings, though their cities were not all captured.





Amorite city captured before crossing the Jordan.


Amorite city with very good cattle grazing nearby.




A strongly fortified Amorite city of 10,000.


Amorite city by Bethel. The site has not been found.


This Jebusite (Amorite) city was most probably the strongest


fortified city in Joshua's time and later.It occupied 14 acres back then. It was not captured (Joshua 15:63) until some of David's men sneaked up the water supply tunnel.


A captured Amorite city also called Kiriath Arba. Some Anakites lived here. The graves of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Rebekah, and Leah are there.


A small captured Amorite city: 7 acres.


Impressive captured Amorite fort occupying 18 acres.


An Amorite and later Philistine city.


Defeated but not captured (Joshua 15:63) until Pharaoh

sacked it and gave it as a wedding gift to his

daughter, Solomon's bride (1 Kings 9:16). Sacrified

infants' remains were found in buried jars there.


Probably Kenizzite. Caleb's father, Jephunneh, was a

Kennizzite. It was 9 acres in size & built ~2200 BC.


Not much known about this southern city.


The Israelites were defeated here before they wandered for forty years. Captured under Joshua.


Southern city.


Captured in the southern campaign. It was thoroughly burned ~1230 BC.


Captured in the southern campaign.


Captured in the southern campaign.


Important city captured in Judges 1:22-25. It is the second most often mentioned city in scripture.





There were two Tappuahs. The northern one is likely meant here; the one in Judah was a small village.


Not much known about this city.


Large city of 40 acres founded 2000 BC., just after Abraham.


Not much is known about this city.


Mentioned in the list of Canaanite cities of Pharoah Thtutmose III.


Largest city of Canaan, it was 175 - 200 acres. Population <= 40,000. -burned 1400, 1300, & 1230 BC.


Meron: Not much known about this city.


Probably not captured by Joshua. Later this city was allied with Hazor against Israel in Judges.


Near Megiddo, this well-fortified city was not taken though its army was defeated.


This city was never captured. It was a small, strong fort of 6 hectares with 6 feet wide walls.


Later became a city of refuge for the Levites.


In Carmel. Likely also mentioned in the list of Canaanite cities of Pharaoh Thutmose III.


City was not captured (Judges 1:27).


Little is known about this city.


600x300 ft mound (larger than Megiddo) not captured. It was first built around 4000 BC.





Joshua conquered Canaan; can you conquer this quiz? You have only twenty minutes, so you must be lightning quick, like Joshua. Write only a few words for each question; partial answers are given full credit. Every question but the first is worth 10 points. The scale at the end tells you how victorious you were.


1. (25 points) If someone said they did not understand why a loving God would tell Joshua to wipe out the Canaanites, what THREE things could you say to her?


2. What kind of training did Joshua have?


3. Summarize one lesson we can apply today from Joshua 1.


4. Describe briefly the faith of Rahab in Joshua 2.


5. Summarize one lesson we can apply today from Joshua 2.


6. How did the Israelites cross the Jordan in Joshua 3 & 4?


7. Summarize one lesson we can apply today from Joshua 3 & 4.


8. In Joshua 6, how was the city of Jericho defeated?


9. Summarize one lesson we can apply today from Joshua 5 & 6.


10. What was Achan's sin in chapter 7? What were the two consequences?


11. Summarize one lesson we can apply today from Joshua 7.


12. In Joshua 8, on what mountains was the covenant renewed?


13. Summarize one lesson we can apply today from Joshua 8.


14. Who did the Israelites make a treaty with in Joshua 9 and why?


15. Summarize one lesson we can apply today from Joshua 9.


16. In Joshua 10, what happened during Joshua's "long day"?


17. Summarize one lesson we can apply today from Joshua 10.


18. Where did Joshua defeat the northern armies in Joshua 11?


19. Summarize one lesson we can apply today from Joshua 11.




Scoring: 25 points for #1, 10 points each for the others.


145-205 -Commander, you have learned from Joshua well. You should

be leading a conquest for the Lord too.



115-144 -You should have been a captain in the Israelite army. The

Canaanites fled screaming when they saw you.



85-114 -You could be a valiant soldier in the army. Wise and tough,

the Canaanites had better watch out for you.



65-84 -You would be a young soldier in the army. You're young and

quick, and semi-tough, but you could be tougher.



55-64 -Like the Gibeonites, you became a waterboy/girl. --It sure

beats being on the other side.



45-54 -You did not fight during Joshua's long day, because you

were afraid of getting sunburned.



35-44 -You are afraid of heights, so you did not renew the covenant.

You only follow God's truth if it's "plain".



25-34 -You got tired of walking so you did not make it to Ai. Doesn't

someone need to stay and guard Jericho's ashes?



17-24 -You got lost going to Jericho. Helpful Canaanites drew you a map,

and the next thing you know you were in Syria.


9-16 -You overslept, but then you swam across yourself. (You must be

an Olympic swimmer)



0-8 -You overslept when the Israelites crossed the Jordan and you

wondered where everybody went.





Today we are going to survey the distribution of the land in Joshua 13:8 to Joshua 19:51; this is a lot of ground to cover. There are only five simple questions we are going to explore, but finding the answers will take some time. The questions we want to answer by the end of class are:


Who distributed the land? Was the distribution of land by

God and without error, or by men with fallible fairness?


Was the distribution of land fair to all the tribes?


How would you have done it more fairly?


What should we do when things seem unfair?


How can we do things more fairly today?



1. Two people should list down prophecies made about each tribe that hint at where they will live.


Gen 49:5-7 Simeon and Levi:


Gen 49:13 Zebulun:


Deut 33:20-21 Gad:


Deut 33:22 Dan:


Deut 33:23 Naphtali:


See the promise made to Joseph in Gen 48:5-6 and explained in 1 Chr 5:1-2.


Read what was agreed upon in Num 32:1-5 and Deut 3:12-17.


2. Of the twelve spies in Moses' time, the two good spies were Joshua and Caleb. What tribes were they from, and did their tribes get good portions of land?


3. Exactly who assigned the land? See Deut 34:19-29. If God commanded someone to do something, does that guarantee that they will be done perfectly? If we have a God-anointed leader over us, should we expect perfection?



4. How did they divide part of it in Joshua 18:3-10?




Was the Division Fair or Not?


5. For each tribe count the number of cities, and then find the % of of the total. Divide this job up among the class.







Asher 53,400 8.9 Good 5 0

Benjamin 45,600 7.6 Good 1 83

Dan 64,400 10.7 Good 1 11

Ephraim 32,500 5.4 Good 3 96

Gad 40,500 6.7 Mediocre 10 100

Issachar 64,300 10.7 Good 1 17

Judah 76,500 12.7 Mediocre 42 21

Manasseh 52,700 8.8 Mediocre 24 20

Naphtali 45,400 7.5 Good 4 96

Reuben 43,730 7.3 Mediocre 5 100

Simeon 22,200 3.7 Mediocre 3 74

Zebulun 60,500 10.1 Good 1 14


SUBTOTAL 601,730 100 Varied 100 38 100

Levi>1 mnth 23,000 ~1.9 Varied Scattered


TOTAL 624,730 101.9


If the average age was 20, there were 2.45 million Israelites.


6. If you do not think the land was divided up optimally, can you do it better? Using the map show how to distribute the land more fairly. Remember all prophecies and promises made. Do not look just at the land area, but also do not forget the towns, the land's fertility, the % already conquered, the difficulty to conquer the rest, and the potential if all is conquered. The the men who actually did this did not have a map like you do.



7. How did one group of Israelites react to the division in Joshua 17:14-18?


8. Caleb was with the tribe of Judah (Num 13:6), but his father was Jephunneh, a Kenizzite (Joshua 14:6). Here a foreigner had decided to become part of Israel. A mixed multitude left Egypt with Israel (Exodus 12:38). Some probably decided to become Israelites and intermarry. What was unusual about Caleb's request given that he was 85? Contrast Caleb's faith with the faith of Ephraim and Manasseh.



9. How did another group of Israelites react to a shortage of land in Joshua 19:47? Did Moses predict that? (See Deut 33:22)



10. When limited resources must be divided, list things to consider. How should we make difficult decisions fairly?


How Present Choices Affect Future Destiny (Joshua 14-19)


Today we are going to look at the fate of the twelve tribes and see how their choices of land affected their destiny. From this, we hope to see examples of how today people's choices affect their destiny on earth and after death. First we will review some general history of Israel and Judah. Then we will look at the fate of each of the twelve tribes as best we know. Then we will see how their land affected their destiny. Finally, we will see how this applies today. This will be an interesting study, for while at the beginning it will appear there is no relevance to modern life, at the end, we will see an important but often overlooked truth that affects everyone today.



First, we need to review some general history of Israel and Judah. While you may not know all the dates the general theme should be review. The dates from Saul on may be off by 1 year.

1876 BC. Jacob and his sons enter Egypt.

1446 BC. The Exodus

1400 BC. Joshua Crossed the Jordan

1125 BC. Song of Deborah the Judge

1051 BC. Saul begins to reign

1011 BC. David begins to reign over Judah

Population of Israel roughly 2.1 million (from 1 Chr 12:23-27).

971 BC. Solomon begins to reign

967 BC. Solomon begins to Build Temple ( 1 Ki 6:1)

931 BC. God splits kingdom in: Rehoboam-south, Jeroboam-north

885 BC. Northern Israel ravaged by Ben-hadad I of Syria

830 BC. 7,000 Israelites (mostly Gadites) sacrificed by Moab

732 BC. Assyria deports Naphtali & probably Dan (2 Ki 15:29)

722 BC. Assyrians capture Samaria. Northern tribes in exile,

never to return.

721 BC. Second deportation of Israel: 27,290 people (Assyria)

701 BC. Jerusalem besieged but miraculously saved by God

2/3 of population perished or exiled (New Bible Dict)

200,150 Judeans taken by Assyria (New Bible Dict.)

3/16/597 BC. Babylonians capture Jerusalem

4/597 BC. Judean captives taken to Babylon

587 BC. Babylonians destroy Jerusalem

4,600 people from Jerusalem exiled (Jer 52:30)

538 BC. 50,000 return from Exile (Ez 2:64-66, Neh 7:66-69)


Because of Solomon's sin, God took ten tribes (1 Ki 11:35) away from Solomon's descendents and gave them to Jeroboam. Jeroboam led the northern tribes into worship of two golden calves (1 Ki 11:29-33, 1 Ki 12:22-24,28-33). Thus one tribe, Judah stayed with Rehoboam (1 Ki 11:36, 12:20). While the ten tribes were bad, Judah was equally evil. They worshipped Asherah and had both female and male shrine prostitutes like the Canaanites had (1 Ki 14:22-24).



Fate of the Twelve Tribes


Judah made up the major part of the kingdom of Judah, which existed until the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in 587 BC.


Simeon was absorbed as part of the nation of Judah (1 Chr 4:28-34,41-43).


Most of the Benjamites were killed in a civil war chronicled in Judges 20,21. They grew back, but they were the smallest tribe (1 Sam 9:21). When the kingdom was split in two, many (though not all of them) sided with Rehoboam (2 Chr 11:1).


Reuben existed as a tribe until the Assyrians exiled the northern tribes (1 Chr 5:6). They often fought against the Ammonites and Aramaeans.


The Gadites fought against Aramaeans and others. They occupied the land until exile (1 Chr 5:22). Gad (but not Reuben) is mentioned in the Moabite stone 830 BC.


The eastern half of Manasseh was commonly unfaithful to God. They still lived in their land though, until the Assyrian exile (1 Chr 25-26). They were exiled to Halah, Habor, Hara, and the river of Gozan, where they stayed in the time of Chronicles (1 Chr 5:25-26).


Part of the Kohahite Levites dwelt in Judah and near Jerusalem. (1 Chr 6:15,55-60). The rest of the Levites had towns among the ten other tribes. When the kingdoms split however, most of the northern Levites left their lands and came to Judah. (2 Chr 11: 13-14). This is because Jeroboam had rejected them as priests.


The Asherites never really occupied their land. A few people from Asher, along with Zebulun and Naphtali, lived in Israel after the deportation and worshipped with Hezekiah in Jerusalem (2 Chr 30:11).


1. Speculate what might have happened if the land had been divided up as in Ezekiel 48. Why is it certain that this was not the way to split up the land in Joshua's time?


The Return from Exile


David had available more than 536,000 warriors (1 Chr 12:23-27), which would make a total population of around 2.2 million. After the exile, only about 50,000 people came back to Judah according to Ez 2:64-65 and Neh 7:66-69.


Most of the returning remnant were of Judah (Ezra 1:5, 4:1, Neh 11:4), Benjamin (Ezra 1:5, 4:1, Neh 11:31), and Levi (1 Chr 9:2, Ezra 1:5, 2:36-40, Neh 11:10,15). Another prominent group of people were temple servants (Neh 7:46-56,60, 11:28). These were probably the Gibeonites Joshua had made a Treaty with. Men from Gibeon and near by Mizpeh helped repair the walls of Jerusalem (Neh 3:7). They might be Gibeonite Canaanites, Benjamites and Levites whose fathers dwelt in Gibeon, or more likely both. Some people from other tribes came back, however. Anna, who blessed Jesus, was from Asher (Luke 2:36).


All of the Canaanites were never driven out. In the time of Solomon, when most of the land that was going was be controlled by Israel was controlled, there were still 153,000 adult male aliens in Israel (2 Chr 2:17). This may or may not include Gibeonites, but as they were made by Solomon to do various jobs, this number probably excluded the Gibeonites.


2. Looking at Joshua 13-19, write down how the land for each tribe was determined for each tribe.


Caleb's family of Judah




Reuben, Gad, & Makirite Manasseh


Ephraim and the rest of Manasseh


Simeon, Benjamin, Simeon, Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, & Naphtali.


Where did Dan live? Where else did Dan live?


3. How can you see that these decisions affected the destiny of the tribes?


4. Give examples of how people born today are affected by where they are raised.


5. How are people affected by where they spend their time?


6. How are people affected by who they hang around with?


7. How are people affected by the kind of church they are in?



Cities of Refuge: Fairness, Justice, and Mercy (Joshua 20)


Today we will combine two short studies of two chapters. So many people on juries have undeveloped and "unfair" concepts of fairness, that more study on fairness are needed. The concept of cities of refuge is an interesting one in Old Testament Law. It is first mentioned in Deut 19:1-13. We are going to learn the rationale for it, and how it worked well for that time.


1. Find the six cities of refuge; only five of them are on the map we made. What can you say about their distribution?




2. Who would flee to one of these cities? Would he or she automatically be offered sanctuary? (Deut 19:11-13)




3. Compare this with Manuel Noriega of Panama in 1990 fleeing to the Vatican Embassy. What did the Catholic church say, and what was different there?




4. If someone kills another and claims it was accidental, maybe that is true or maybe it is not. Maybe there were witnesses or maybe there were not. Our law has a court decide if it was accidental or not, and then meet out just punishment. How was it done differently? Did they escape trial? (Josh 20:4-6,9)




5. Who has the role of avenger of blood in New Testament times and today? (Rom 13:2-4)




6. How could the fact that the person given refuge be free once the high priest dies be a type of Christ?





And What Do We Give God and His Ministers? (Joshua 21)


In Joshua 21, a list of 48 towns is given for the Levites. There were about 50,000 Levites, and they shared these towns with other Israelites and the Gibeonites. A third of these were important cities, and so the Levites were in no way cheated by not having any land. The cities of refuge were all belonged to the Levites. According to the New Bible dictionary, someone has estimated that every Israelite lived within ten miles of a Levite town, so godly advice and help in understanding scripture were never far away.


1. What should God's ministers be given today?



2. Since a minister's job is serving God full-time, should he get paid less than others since he is sacrificing for God?



3. A Christian leader heading a multi-million dollar Christian organization needs the leadership and administrative skills of the head of a multi-million dollar company. Do you think he should be paid the same as the head of a multi-million dollar secular company? Why or why not?



4. Since Christians are supposed to be honest, should Christian organizations be subject to audits and held accountable for how they spend their money? Why or why not?



5. If a Christian leader said, "I am accountable only to God", what would you think about his viewpoint?



6. One time I heard of a church that automatically deducted a tithe out of the minister's salary. What do you think about that? --After all, the minister should an example and tithe.



7. In the Old Testament, what offerings were a "free offering" given freely and generously, and what offerings were an "obligation" like a tax?



8. If no Old Testament offerings were given, who did not eat? Why do you think most of the priests and Levites went to Judah when the kingdom was split in two? If no one in the church offered money today, who would not eat? Who else?



9. In what respects are offerings today a "free-will" kind of offering? In what respects are offerings today an "obligation"?





The study today is an interesting, though challenging one, on people's motivations. We are going to try to analyze the mindset of both groups of Israelites. In the end, we are going to see how the Bible really is a mirror; these motivations, both good and bad, are present in the same form in Christians today.


After Joshua's conquest, the eastern tribes realized something: by requesting land east of the Jordan they were not actually in the promised land and somewhat isolated from the rest of Israel. Though it was all right now, they could clearly see that in the future the situation favored their descendants and the rest of Israel drifting apart. (It's too bad some believers today cannot see as clearly things that may make them drift apart.) Anyway, they had an idea to help this problem: an altar.


Before going on however, we need to understand the many purposes altars can have. Below are all the times building an altar to God is mentioned in the Bible up to Joshua.

Gen 8:20 Noah after the flood

Gen 12:7 Abram at Shechem when God promised the land

Gen 12:8 Abram built an altar between Bethel and Ai

Gen 13:4 Abram returned to between Bethel and Ai

Gen 13:8 Abram at the trees of Mamre in Hebron

Gen 15:8-11 Abram made a sacrifice

Gen 22:9 Abraham built an altar to sacrifice Isaac

Gen 26:23-25 Isaac in Beersheba after God appeared to him

Gen 28:16-22 Jacob set up a stone as a pillar at Bethel

Gen 31:45-54 Jacob & Laban erect a witness heap at Mizpeh

Gen 33:17-20 Jacob sets up an altar at Shechem

Gen 35:1-5 Jacob moves to Bethel and sets up an altar

Ex 30 The altar of incense in the Tabernacle

Ex 35-36 The Tabernacle and the Ark in the Wilderness

Josh 4 Crossing the Jordan at Gilgal

Josh 7:26 Not an altar but a rock heap over Achan's family

Josh 8:30-31 Altar on Mount Ebal as commanded in Deuteronomy


Altars are not necessarily good, beautiful things. Firstborn babies were killed on Canaanite altars. The following are religious altars that were not built to God:

Gen 11:4 Tower of Babel (unfinished).

Gen 32:5 Altar in front of the golden calf at Sinai.

The Canaanites, Egyptians, Sumerians and Babylonians were very religious people and had countless altars to their many idols.


In Joshua's time the Israelite tribes west of the Jordan had the Ark and the Tabernacle (Josh 22:19), and they had the altar at Mount Ebal, but there was no altar east of the Jordan. The purpose of this eastern altar was not explained before it was built. The others could easily wonder: was this imposing alter (Josh 22:10) erected to the true God or to an idol god? Notice that no where does it say God commanded that it be built.


The rest of the Israelites naturally assumed that it was an idolatrous altar. Since idolatry could not be tolerated, all the rest of Israel prepared to fight against the eastern tribes (Josh 22:12). First though, they wisely sent eleven delegates to talk with the two and a half eastern tribes (Josh 22:13-14).


1. Joshua 22:11 says the altar was on the Israelite side. Which side was that? Which side was "more Israelite"?


2. Summarize the message of the eleven men in Josh 22:15-20.


3. In Joshua 22:19, the Israelites thought the eastern tribes were rebelling from ________ and ________; building an altar to ________, other than ________. Do people today do all of those?


4. Given what the delegates knew, was their concern justified or should they have just minded their own business?


5. Summarize the reply in Joshua 22:21-29. Was it idolatrous?


6. What did Phinehas and the others feel in Joshua 22:30-34?


7. Look at the altars listed on the previous page and briefly summarize the purpose of each. Now summarize this one.


8. Almost every altar has religious sacrifices. - Does this one, according to Joshua 22:26,29? Why?


9. This altar was built as a witness between which three groups of people? (Joshua 22:27)


10. What was the fear of the eastern tribes in Joshua 22:24-25? What was its purpose to be and to prevent in Joshua 22:26-27?



11. The altar was built to prevent future disunity. Was the altar built with the blessing or even knowledge of the other tribes? Does the Bible mention if they prayed before building the altar? How could you argue that though the motive was good, building this altar showed there was some drifting already? Today do people ever build "altars to unity" instead of to God?



12. The misunderstanding arose because one group of people did something without any regard to how the other group interpreted their actions. That was a bad thing to do, but it is good that this never ever occurs today. --- Right?



13. Do you think the altar was built for all Israel or just the eastern tribes? How do Christians today sometimes exclude other true Christians?



14. It is curious that this altar is never spoken of again. Are there times today when mere good motives can bring disharmony?


The Testimony of Joshua and the People (Joshua 23-24)


As we come to the close of this action-packed, book the best summary is likely given by Joshua himself. It must have been moving to hear the farewell sermon of this mighty man of God. Who could have imagined that this ex-slave, this young aide to Moses who would not leave the Tabernacle, could come this far? If we decide to take God seriously from this time on, who can imagine how far we can go in achieving great victories for God?


1. Everyone has different ideas of what is important. List what Joshua thought was important in his farewell speech.



2. Make a list of what Joshua could say about his life.



3. Unless the rapture comes first, someday you too will go the way of all the earth. When that time comes, if someone in heaven asks you, what would you like to be able to say about your life? You can borrow ideas from what Joshua said.


4. All Christians today are either set up for victory, set up for defeat and failure, or else at least not set up for the triumph they could be having. What are ways that Christians can be set up for victory or defeat today?


5. In Joshua 23:12-13, how will God deal differently with the Israelites if they make treaties with the Canaanites? How might God deal with us if we ally ourselves with evil?

6. In Joshua 23:14-15, what does this tell us about relying on the promises of God?


7. Who really conquered Canaan (Joshua 23:3, 24:8,12-13)?


8. Since Joshua spoke verses 24:14,23, do you think 100% of the people served God faithfully. Does this disappoint you?


9. According to Joshua what is the central decision (24:14-15)?


Let's look at these examples of a making and renewing covenants

Gen 9:9,11,12 God with Noah and all life on earth

sacrifice of clean animals & birds, rainbow

Gen 15:18 God with Abraham and descendants

sacrifice of heifer, goat ram, dove, pigeon

Gen 17:2,4,7 confirmed covenant between God and Abraham:

no sacrifice, sign is circumcision

Exodus 19:5,24:7-8 God with the Israel at Mt. Sinai: consecrate

selves, wash clothes, sacrifice bulls

Num 25:12-13 God with Phinehas,descendants: no sacrifice

Joshua 8:30-34 covenant renewed at Mt. Gerizim and Ebal

burnt & fellowship offerings

Joshua 24:25 at Shechem, to serve the Lord. no sacrifice

Jer 31:31-34 God's future covenant with Israel and Judah

10. Young people for the first time made a covenant themselves at Shechem; older people renewed their covenant at Shechem. If you have not ever made a covenant with God, why not? If you have, it is important to periodically renew your covenant. When is it a good time to renew your covenant with God?




11. In conclusion, Joshua decided at an early age to uncompromisingly serve God all the day's of his life. He was faithful to his decision, and even though he waited forty years without being able to do much, in the end look what he accomplished. Are you on the road to accomplishing great things for God, or have you sort of given up? why?




12. Now, privately list the things that stand in the way of you being an extremely victorious christian. This list may include too low goals, competing desires, lack of skills (Bible knowledge and others), little strength in prayer and faith, lack of discipline, and disobedience. Pray about these hindrances, because the Holy Spirit may show you more you are not aware of.





13. When weeds are pulled, they grow right back if the roots are not pulled too. If these problems are corrected, they will grow right back if the root causes are not solved. Four root causes to consider on your list are lack of contentment and joy, lack of godly ambition, lack of love, and lack of discipline.





14. If you are serious about accomplishing great things pray to God and make a plan-of-action list of how you and He together are going to break down these barriers.





15. Do you think you will succeed? We often need help from fellow Christians. Pick a serious believer for you to be accountable to. Tell him or her your list. Have him or her weekly ask how your walk with God is. Accountability to each other is the difference between victory and defeat here. (See James 5:16)





16. God transforms. If you and your christian friends together are diligent to pray and carry out this plan-of-action, you can look back on your life today six years or six millenia from now and say that from this time on God truly made you more Christ-like in these things. Do you believe the Holy Spirit can work this in your life?


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 December 2016 version. Copyright (c) Christian Debater(tm) 1997-2017. All rights reserved except as given in the copyright notice. 

by Steven M. Morrison, PhD.