- The entrance into and the conquest of the land (1:1 - 12:24)
- The division of the land of Canaan (13:1 - 21:45)
- Joshua's farewell and charge to Israel (22:1 - 24:33)
Authorship, date, and background This book was named for Joshua, the chief personage involved in the events which are described in it. Undoubtedly large sections of the book were written by Joshua himself. Many items in the work could have been known only by Joshua, who included them in the book or passed them on to others who included them. Some of the material, however, such as the decease of Joshua and a few events which took place subsequent to Joshua's death, have led scholars to conclude that the book was written after Joshua's death. Eleazar and Phinehas, his son, have been suggested as possible inspired writers under the Holy Spirit who brought the full work to fruition.
Liberal critics formulated the theory that the first six books of the Old Testament, that is, the five Books of Moses and Joshua, formed the Hexateuch (or six books) comprising materials from Moses and Joshua which were reworked or redacted. The final editing took place in the seventh century B.C. At that time the anonymous compiler of Deuteronomy incorporated Joshua into the five Books of Moses, forming the Hexateuch. Conservatives scholars, however, are in agreement that the five Books of Moses were written by Moses and that Joshua was written shortly after the death of Joshua (fourteenth century B.C.) but not later than the twelfth century B.C. in any event.
The children of Israel had spent forty years in the wilderness because of their refusal to enter the Promised Land when ten of the twelve spies reported unfavorably on the possibility of subduing its occupants. Now Moses had died and Joshua, their new leader, was ready to bring the people into the land which God had promised them. The, the book of Joshua is a continuation of the history o Israel, covering the period from the entrance into Canaan, the distribution of the land of the twelve tribes, and the pacification of the land, up to the period of the Judges.
Characteristics and content The book of Joshua tells the story of Israel's triumphant occupation of the land of promise. In it the mighty power of God is manifested over the enemies who inhabit the land. The Canaanites living in the land are pictured in all of their degeneracy, which consists of polytheism, religious prostitution, and other abominations which anger God and occasion his command for the Israelites to exterminate the seven heathen nations. Some scholars say that venereal disease was rampant among the heathen due to sexual license. Surely the Israelites need to be kept from contact with the Canaanites which will result in spiritual degeneration as well as the possibility of contracting their loathsome diseases. God wants the Canaanites destroyed.
The first part of Joshua tells of the conquest of the land and includes Joshua's commission by God, the miraculous crossing of the Jordan River, the capture of Jericho, the failure at Ai, and the erection of an altar at Mount Ebal where the law I solemnly read to the people. The crafty Gibeonites manage to preserve themselves in the land by deception due to the failure of Joshua to seek God's guidance before making a treaty with them. A most unusual event occurs during the conquest of southern Canaan in the battle of Gibeon when the "sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day" (10:13). The text leaves no other alternative than that the earth stopped rotating on its axis. Thus God performs a stupendous miracle. But it takes no greater power for God to do this than for him to perform any other miracle, since he is the almighty God.
The latter half of Joshua describes the division of the land among the tribes. The book concludes with Joshua's final charge to Israel wherein he points out that the Israelites are a covenant people who are to trust God and who are not to permit sins of disobedience to mar their relationship to him, lest they incur God's anger and feel the lash of his judgement upon them.