Numbers & Joshua – Dare to Believe

1. Authorship and Background
– This book is named after its chief character Joshua, of the tribe of Ephraim. His name was originally Hosea, “salvation” (Num 13.8), but Mosses changed it to Joshua (Jehoshua), “Yahweh is salvation” (Num 13.16).
– Jewish tradition attributed the authorship to Joshua. He was already 80 years old at this point of history having spend the 1st 40 years in Egypt, followed by another 40 years in the wilderness and finally 25 years in subduing the Promised Land.
– Israel was at the end of its 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. The Israelites waited for God’s direction to conquer the Promised Land. The Lord will give Israel the land by conquest, primarily to fulfill the covenant.

Joshua 24:26
– Joshua wrote these commands in the book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up under the oak tree in the Lord’s sanctuary.

2. Person and Character
– The book of Joshua is both history and biography, for the story of Joshua’s life is intermingled with the history of Israel during the time of the conquest of Canaan. Hence, a study of the book would not be complete without a proper understanding of the person of Joshua & how God prepared him for spiritual leadership.
– If one look up Joshua’s name as it appears progressively in the Pentateuch, one can possibly assemble a basic theology of spiritual leadership; starting from Ex 17:8,9 to Ex 24:9-18 to Ex 33 to Num 11:24 to Num 13-14 to Num 27:18-23 to Deut 34:7,8 ie. where lies the real power of a Christian leader, importance of having a vision in leadership, spending time alone with God, true leadership is supportive leadership and not self-promoting, prepared to go against majority opinion, pre-requisite of a leader is to be filled with the Holy Spirit and lastly, a leader is dispensable.

Lessons from Joshua’s Leadership
– Real power of a Christian leader – Ex 17:8,9
– Importance of having a vision – Ex 24:9-18
– Spending time alone with God – Ex 33
– True leadership is not self promoting – Num 11:24
– Going against majority opinion – Num 13-14
– Be filled with the Holy Spirit – Num 27:18-23
– A leader is dispensable – Deut 34:7,8

a. Man of Courage and Faith

  • Joshua is pictured as a man of courage and faith. Together with Caleb he had earlier submitted a minority report contrary to the discouraging account of the other ten spies and confidently declared victory over the gigantic enemies. Just before making the miraculous crossing of the Jordan River, Joshua’s faith was so strong that it assured him of the impending and amazing work of God.
  • In his farewell address at Shechem, Joshua said, “Honour the Lord and serve Him sincerely and faithfully … Get rid of those foreign gods and pledge your loyalty to the Lord, the God of Israel.”
Joshua 23:14, 15
– “Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all you heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed. But just as every good promise of the Lord your God has come true, so the Lord will bring on you all the evil he has threatened, until he has destroyed you from this good land he has given you”

b. An Appointed Leader

  • Moses prayed to God for a man who can lead the people and command them in battle. The Lord commanded Moses to take Joshua, a capable man, and proclaim him as a successor before the whole community (Num 27: 15-23).
Joshua 1:6 – “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.”

c. A Capable Military Commander

  • Joshua carefully selected his best warriors and gave them clear orders in capturing Ai while he led a decoy party of fighting men to lure the men of Ai away from the city. In another battle against the 5 Amorites kings, Joshua led his entire army to defend Gibeon and eventually overcame them by surprise.

Joshua 8:3 – So Joshua and the whole army moved out to attack Ai. He chose 30,000 of his best fighting men.

Joshua 10:9 – After an all-night march from Gilgal, Joshua took them by surprise.

d. A Wise Leader

  • Joshua 11:23
    So Joshua took the entire land, just as the Lord had directed Moses, and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions.
  • In Joshua 22:1-4
    Joshua paid tribute to the tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh who contributed 40,000 fighting men to help their fellow brothers in the other 9½ tribes conquer the Promised Land, while their families & livestock remained on the other side of the Jordan.

3. Contents
a. The initial 12 chapters of the book of Joshua recounts the amazing story of Rahab, the prostitute and the miraculous crossing of the Jordan River, followed by the successes of Israel’s conquests of Canaan. All these underlined God’s faithfulness in the fulfillment of His divine promise made years before.

The Conquest of Canaan (1:1 to 12:24)
– Joshua commissioned;
– Army mobilized;
– Spies sent.
– Jordan crossed;
– Twelve stones of memorial erected.
– Israel circumcised;
– Passover celebrated;
– Unseen Captain present.
– Jericho captured.
– Fall of Ai.
– Monument erected on Mt. Ebal.
– Deception of the Gibeonites.
– Victory over the five kings.
– Conquest of southern and northern Canaan;
– Summary of conquests.
– List of the conquered kings.

b. Chapters 13 to 22 – Partition of the Land

Joshua 13:6 – You must divide the land among the Israelites, just as I have commanded you to do.

Joshua 21:44 – The Lord gave them peace throughout the land, just as He had promised their ancestors & the Lord gave the Israelites victory over all their enemies.

  • The next 10 chapters focused on the distribution of the land among the 12 tribes.
    The Lord said to Joshua: “I will drive these people (the Canaanites) out as the people of Israel advance. You must divide the land among the Israelites, just as I have commanded you to do.” (13:6).
  • The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh were given the land east of the Jordan River. Hebron was given to Caleb just as the Lord promised to Moses. Territory was assigned to Judah, Ephraim, West Manasseh, Benjamin, Simeon, Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, Napthali, and Dan.
  • Also, the tribe of Levi was given no inheritance as the Lord the God of Israel is their inheritance; they were to receive a share of the sacrifices burned on the alter to the Lord – Joshua 13:33).
    This section has a remarkable ending which provides an exemplary model on how potential disputes can be resolved in a God-honouring manner.

c. Josh 23:10 & 24:15 – Farewell address of Joshua

  • Here we have Joshua giving his farewell advice in 2 installments – in Shiloh and Shechem respectively.
    • The 1st part is to remind his people not to fall away from their faith in God for they are prone to wander.
    • The 2nd part of his advice called upon his people to a life of commitment and service to God. “…for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (24.15).
Joshua 23:10 – “One of you routs a thousand, because the Lord your God fights for you, just as He promised.”
  • The farewell address of Joshua. 22.1-24.33:
    • His last words to the two and a half tribes of the east Canaan,
    • Their altar at Jordan,
    • the protest by the other tribes,
    • the apology of the two and a half tribes for erecting the altar,
    • Joshua’s last words to the tribes of west Canaan,
    • a rehearsal of the benefits, the promised blessings, and warning,
    • Joshua’s message to the twelve tribe: his own covenant, ” … for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (24.15),
    • death and burial of Joshua,
    • burial of Joseph’s bones,
    • death and burial of Eleazar,
    • appointed to the priests and Levities.

4. The Conquests
a. The conquering of the land of Canaan in order for the Israelites to possess the land promised to Moses could only be done by divine intervention. For this to happen Joshua and his people had to fully obey the instructions given them by God and to remain truly faithful. In Joshua (3: 10) the Israelites strength lies in the Lord. It also identifies who their enemies were ie. Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites.

  • Crossing the Jordan River & Central Campaign – Jericho
    • The Opening Salvo of the war was the taking of Jericho.
      Joshua ( 6 : 1 – 27) – there was a very unique seven day event – that required the encircling of the city with the Ark of the Lord, the blowing of trumpets, and finally a shout that resulted collapse of the walls of Jericho. This the Israelites did in obedience to the Lord’s instruction.
    • At Ai (Joshua 8)- after the 1st battle at Ai, where the Israelites were soundly defeated, the Lord told Joshua that Israel had sinned and therefore they could not withstand the enemy. After the punishment of Achan and his family, God’s Power returns and the Covenant is renewed. All Joshua need to do is to hold up his spear, in obedience to the Lord’s command and he did not put it down until every one in Ai had been killed.
    • At Gibeon we learn of the deception of man and the condemnation by God (Joshua 9) – the Gibeonites fearing destruction, tricked Joshua into allowing them become allies but still the Gibeonites ended up being condemned to slavery, cutting wood and carrying water for the people of Israel and for the Lord’s altar.
  • Southern Campaign
    • The Sun Stands Still (Joshua 10). 5 Kings formed an alliance but in an extraordinary long day Joshua again defeated these kings, utterly destroying their armies and hanging them on five trees. The Lord caused the sun to stand still and did not go down for a whole day until all the enemies were destroyed.
    • The pattern of victory continued on to the south with Joshua defeating the kings of Makkedah, Libnah, Lachish, and Gezer. Joshua conquered all these kings and their territory in one campaign because the Lord, Israel’s God, was fighting for Israel.
  • Northern Campaign
    • In the northern campaign (Joshua 11) the kings of the north are united against Joshua and they had many horses and chariots. The Lord again encourages Joshua not to be afraid of them (Joshua 11:6).
    • The northern campaign covered the lands of Canaanite to east and west.
      Joshua achieved victories by crippling the enemies’ horses, burning the chariots and slaying their armies with the sword, until none of the enemy was left alive, just as the Lord had commanded. The Lord had made the enemies of Israel determined to fight the Israelites so that they would be condemned to total destruction and all shall be killed without mercy (10:20).

b. Outcomes of Campaigns
Success of the Campaigns were based on the acts of Faith and Obedience by the Israelites during the military campaigns worked together to conquer the land of Canaan :

  • Faith in God
    • Crossing the Jordan (Joshua 3 & 4). God gave specific instructions on the order in which the people of Israelites should cross the Jordan river. (Joshua 3 : 1-8) the priests led the Israelites into the Jordan river. God performed a miracle by stopping the stream water from flowing and stand up in a heap (3 : 15).
  • Obedience to God
    • God instructed the Israelites to circumcise all the men who have been born during the 40 years in wilderness – this was done as an act of obedience. So that God said “This day I have rolled away the reproached of Egypt from you.” (Joshua 5 : 9).

5. Lessons and Applications

  • God’s Promise
    • Just as God had promised the people of Israel the inheritance of Canaan in the Old Testament, God has promised Joshua that He will never leave him nor forsake him (Joshua 1:5). Later, Joshua attested in Joshua 21:45 – “Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.”
We can, therefore, hold fast to all the promises from God including our eternal life.
  • God’s power and presence
    • God’s assurance of empowerment to Joshua was absolute. This was amply demonstrated throughout Israel’s journey to the Promised Land particularly in overcoming numerous obstacles including its enemies. We need to recognize that God is omnipotent and our success in life is assured if we abide in Him always.
    • Joshua 1:5 – “No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
God will not allow us to be tempted or tried above the point we are able to bear.
  • God’s Law
    • Joshua 8:35 “There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the whole assembly of Israel, including the women and children and the aliens who lived among them.” This verse is a strong testimony of Joshua’s full commitment to God’s Law as commanded by Moses. Despite his great responsibilities and heavy work commitments, Joshua devoted a great portion of his time in meditating God’s Word and speaking to his people. We must meditate on the word of God and live by it, then our lives will enjoy spiritual prosperity and our lives will be mightily used by Him.
Psalms 1:2 – “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”
  • God is the Commander
    • Though Joshua had achieved many military victories, he submitted himself willingly to God as his Commander-in-Chief (Joshua 5:14-15). He even verbalized his commitment to God “I am your servant Sir. What you want to do, I will do.” to the effect like “Lord, You say it, I’ll do it.”
Joshua 5:14 – “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”
  • Israel’s sin
    • Joshua 7:11  “Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied,they have put them with their own possessions.”
    • No sin can be hidden from God for He knows everything (Psalm 139:24). The consequence of sin is not only confined to the sinner but may spread to others including the leaders causing them to fall (eg. Joshua fell into despair and momentary lapse of faith).
No sin can remain unpunished in the sight of God.
  • God’s victory
    • Joshua 24:11,12 – “Then you crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho. The citizens of Jericho fought against you … But I gave them into your hands. I sent the hornet ahead of you, which drove them out before you, also the two Amorites kings You did not do it with your own sword and bow.”
    • The Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them, I have already given you the victory. None of them will be able to stand against you.” (10:8). God’s victory is achieved through God’s way and not man’s way. His heavenly mobilization of military resources foreshadows any limitations that we might face (eg. Elisha in 2 Ki 6:16-17). Hence, we do not fight with conventional weapons (2 Cor 10:3-4)
Heb 11:30 – ” By faith, the walls of Jericho fell down”
God will provide us the needed resources to fight our spiritual battles so long as we rely on Him fully.
  • Man’s choice
    • Joshua 24:15 – “then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve … But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord”
    • No man can serve two masters; its either God or mammon. Joshua made a clear choice for himself and his family to serve God wholeheartedly.
We are called to make a clear choice to serve God wholeheartedly.
  • A Type Of Christ
    • Two larger-than-life characters emerged from the study of these 2 books – Moses and Joshua. It is unavoidable that one is drawn to compare these characters as a type of Christ when we look at their lives, the nature and preparation of their calling, their difficulties encountered and their accomplishments through sole dependence on God. As Moses said in Deut 18:15“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him”, we can see from these words that we are not being too imaginative to contemplate Moses as a type of Christ. So, it is when we compare Moses’ birth with Christ’s during the time when Pharaoh and king Herod wanted all Hebrew children killed, or the rejection and suffering endured by Moses and Christ in their respective calling, their priestly roles, their shepherding roles, their mediatorial roles, their intercessory roles, their covenant engagements and so on.
    • Similarly, Joshua and Jesus have the same name which means “he will save”; Joshua provided temporal salvation while eternal salvation is provided by Jesus Christ. Both Joshua and Jesus were God-appointed leaders of Israel and both appointed 12 men (one from each tribe and the other apostles), both faced wars with Joshua having to wage ferocious wars to conquer the Promised Land while Jesus declared in Rom 12:19 – “vengeance is mine”, their weapons in warfare rest in the same Lord, Joshua trusted God when he encountered difficult and even impossible tasks like crossing the flooding Jordan River or breaking down the walls of Jericho while we can rest our faith solely in Jesus to overcome all our difficulties. Another example is, God instructed Joshua to build a memorial to remind their children on the momentous event of the crossing of Jordan River while Jesus has given us a memorial of the gospel to reach out to future generations with the good news.
    • Hence, our study of these 2 books will be further enriched when we begin to understand these characters as a type of Christ and learn appreciate the many facets of this unfolding history of God’s people which have profound relevance to all levels of our church leadership as well as members of our Sunday School classes.

The MacArthur Study Bible
The Lion HandBook to the Bible (third edition)
Numbers by Gordon Keddie
The MacArthur Bible Commentary by John MacArthur
Dare to Believe – a study of Numbers and Joshua : Teacher’s Manual
Willmington’s Guide to the Bible
Living on the Cutting Edge by R. Kent Hughes