Moses died on Mt. Nebo, and God buried him in “in the valley opposite Beth Peor.” Moses was the only leader the nation of Israel had ever known. God allowed Israel to grieve for thirty days, and then said to them all: “Moses is dead. It’s time to go.”
Joshua, Moses’ assistant, took his place and the book that bears his name covers his leadership of the invasion, conquest, and occupation of the land of Canaan.
The name “Joshua” means “The Lord is Salvation.” Richard Hess writes: “The book of Joshua is foremost the story of God, who works powerfully on behalf of Israel and Joshua, fulfilling His covenant promises. It is God who leads Israel across the Jordan, defeats Israel’s enemies and presides over the apportionment of the land. And so, in the final chapter, it is God who receives Israel’s worshipful re-commitment at Shechem.”
The book is called “Joshua,” and it says Joshua recorded the events in the “Book of the Law of God.” But I have wondered whether Joshua actually wrote the book of Joshua (no text actually says he did – he’s just the main character). There are things in it Joshua likely wouldn’t have written, like this passage in Joshua 24: “After these things, Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten. And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Serah in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash. Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel.”
Notice the last phrase. It points us to a time after Joshua’s death and after the death of the leading men of Joshua’s day. Additionally, the writer points to proofs confirming his story that remain to his own time (“to this day”- the phrase occurs 11 times in the book). This is an important point. The account found in Joshua is a true account, as evidenced by the author’s references to the “proofs” of the stories that the reader could “check out” for himself. Likely, the stories themselves were originally written by Joshua himself. But the final form of the book would have been prepared by someone other than Joshua.
More important than the author, however, is this question: why was the book written?
Everything from Genesis to Deuteronomy points to an unrealized promise of God – that he would give the descendants of Abraham a land of their own. This promise becomes a reality in the story of Joshua. Four hundred years before, Joseph had reminded his family of the promise, and made them commit to burying him in Shechem when the promise came true. Joshua ends with the story of Joseph’s burial at Shechem and with reminders that “not one of the Lord’s good promises to the house of Israel failed, every one was fulfilled” (21:45 and see 22:4; 23:14-15). The message for Israel in Joshua was that God is with His people, and He will keep His word to them. They, in turn, must be obedient.
It is a message every generation of God’s people would do well to hear and follow. Joshua can be outlined as follows:
I) Conquest of the land (Joshua 1-12)
II) Allotment of the land (Joshua 13-22)
III) A call to faithfulness (Joshua 23-24).