The Book of Joshua

The name of the hero of this book was originally Hoshea, meaning “salvation.” Moses changed this name to
Joshua or Yehoshua`, by prefixing the name of Yahweh to the root word yasha, “safe.”1
The name Joshua,
therefore, signifies “Yahweh is salvation.” Yehoshua` is also the Hebrew form of the name Jesus.2
The Pulpit Commentary presents a rather extensive comparison between Joshua and Jesus, stating:
“If we look on Joshua as the ‘minister of Moses,’ he is even in that a type of Christ, ‘the minister of the circumcision for the truth of God.’ If we look on him as the successor of Moses, in that he represented Jesus,
inasmuch as ‘the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.’ If we look on him as
judge and ruler of Israel, there is scarce an action which is not predictive of our Savior. He begins his office
at the banks of Jordan, where Christ was baptized and enters upon the public exercise of His prophetical
office; he chooses there twelve men out of the people to carry twelve stones over with them, as our Jesus
thence began to choose His twelve apostles, those foundation stones in the Church of God (…Revelation
21:14). Joshua smote the Amalekites and subdued the Canaanites, by the first making way to enter the land,
by the second giving possession of it. And Jesus in like manner goes in and out before us against our spiritual enemies, subduing sin and Satan, and so opening and clearing our way to heaven; destroying the last
enemy, death, and so giving us possession of eternal life.”
Richard S. Hess, in his commentary Joshua,
remarks, “Moses’ act of renaming may be compared with
God’s action in renaming the patriarchs Abram and Jacob. In such cases, a quality of the person’s character
or future role is discerned. Is this a confession of a special act of God’s salvation of Joshua or a desire by
Moses to affirm the salvation that the Lord has given to Israel?”
Joshua’s name appears in the Bible for the first time in the Book of Exodus, where we meet him, without any
introduction, as the commander in chief of Israel’s army. We read: “Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose some of
our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in
my hands.’ ”4
Since Joshua is never properly introduced to us, we do not know how he distinguished himself to the point
that Moses picked him to become Israel’s chief military man. We get a brief glimpse of Joshua’s spiritual
maturity, in spite of his young age, in the display of his hunger for the glory of God. We read: “The LORD
would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp,
but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.”5 The words David would pen centuries later
could be applied to Joshua: “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house
of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.”6
We see in him a young man who learned from his elderly master what it means to have fellowship with God.
Joshua must have begun by admiring Moses, which drove him to search for the secret of this master’s life.
He found it and clung to it to the end.
Joshua accompanied Moses when he climbed Mount Sinai, but, evidently, he did not enter the cloud that
covered Moses when God spoke to him. He must have waited on the mountain, close to the top for the forty
days Moses spent there, while the others who had accompanied Moses returned to the camp. We read: “Then
Moses set out with Joshua his aide, and Moses went up on the mountain of God. He said to the elders, ‘Wait
here for us until we come back to you. Aaron and Hur are with you, and anyone involved in a dispute can go
to them.’ ”7 When Moses came out of the cloud, he found Joshua waiting for him. The latter was unaware of
what happened in the camp during that time, while the Israelites fabricated the gold calf and celebrated its
worship. During their descent from the mountain the noise of that orgy came up to them, which Joshua
wrongly interpreted as “the sound of war.” We read: “When Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting,
1. See Num. 13:16.
2. The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament uses the name Jesus for Joshua.
3. Part of the series Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries.
4. Ex. 17:9
5. Ex. 33:11
6. Ps. 27:4
7. Ex. 24:13,14
he said to Moses, ‘There is the sound of war in the camp.’ Moses replied: ‘It is not the sound of victory, it is
not the sound of defeat; it is the sound of singing that I hear.’ ”1
In a sense Joshua was more right than Moses
at this point. There had been a war, a spiritual battle, and Israel had been defeated.
At one point, when Moses faced a public uprising because of the people’s being malcontent about their meat
supply, and he complained to the Lord about his heavy burden, God sent His spirit upon seventy of Israel’s
elders to lighten Moses’ load. Two of those seventy had not bothered to assemble with the others at the tent
of meeting but God’s Spirit came upon them anyhow and they prophesied like the others. Joshua saw this as
a diminishing of Moses’ importance as leader in the camp and he protested.2 We read: “Joshua son of Nun,
who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, ‘Moses, my lord, stop them!’ But Moses replied,
‘Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would
put his Spirit on them!’ ”3
Joshua was one of the twelve spies Moses had sent out to survey the Promised Land. Together with Caleb
son of Jephunneh, Joshua distinguished himself by voting against the majority of the delegation of spies and
of the nation as a whole, thus risking his life. The ten other spies told the people, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” The record states, “And they spread among the Israelites a bad report
about the land they had explored. They said, ‘The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people
we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the
Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.’ ” We read that
the people were ready to stone Joshua and Caleb.4
Their dissenting opinion paid off in that they were the only two people who ultimately survived the desert
crossing and were allowed to enter the Promised Land. God said to the whole nation of Israel that had left
Egypt: “Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son
of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.”5
Before Moses died, he asked God to appoint his successor and God told him to lay his hands on Joshua. We
read: “So the LORD said to Moses, ‘Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay your hand
on him. Have him stand before Eleazar the priest and the entire assembly and commission him in their presence. Give him some of your authority so the whole Israelite community will obey him. He is to stand before
Eleazar the priest, who will obtain decisions for him by inquiring of the Urim before the LORD. At his command he and the entire community of the Israelites will go out, and at his command they will come in.’
Moses did as the LORD commanded him. He took Joshua and had him stand before Eleazar the priest and
the whole assembly. Then he laid his hands on him and commissioned him, as the LORD instructed through
Moses.”6 When the Book of Joshua opens, Moses has died and Joshua has become the leader of the nation
with the responsibility to lead them into the Promised Land.