Christian Churches of God
Joshua Succeeds Moses
(Edition 2.0 20060311-20061127)
After the death of Moses the Lord spoke to Joshua and told him that he was now Israel’s leader and he was to get the people ready and lead them across the Jordan River to take possession of the Promised Land. This paper has been adapted from Chapters 50 and 51 of The Bible Story Volume II by Basil Wolverton, published by Ambassador College Press. Some Scriptures were taken from the Holy Bible New International Version, Copyright 1973,1978,1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Joshua Succeeds Moses
We continue here from the paper Numbering a New Generation (No. CB50).
Moses went out and said to the people: “I am now one hundred and twenty years old and I am no longer able to lead you. The Lord told me that I would not cross over the Jordan River. The Lord will cross over ahead of you and will destroy the nations before you, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua also will cross over ahead of you as the Lord said. The Lord will deliver your enemies to you and you must do to them all that I have commanded you. Be strong and courageous, and do not be afraid or terrified because of them. The Lord will never leave you or forsake you” (Deut. 31:1-6).
Then Moses said to Joshua in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance.”
All the Laws God had recently given to Moses to pass on to the people were written down at another time by Moses and presented to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the Ark of the Covenant. Copies also were given to the elders. Moses commanded them to read the whole Book of the Law to the people every seven years when Israel assembled at the Feast of Tabernacles during the year of release, which is the Seventh (or Sabbath) year in the cycle. This was so the people could listen and learn to fear their God and to carefully follow all the words of the Law (Deut. 31:9-13). The Book of the Law was to be placed beside the Ark of the Covenant to remain as a witness against the Israelites who had often been disobedient and broke God’s Laws in the past (vv. 24-29).
Today we are to have the Law of God within our hearts. We are the Temple of God and the Law of God should always be leading us. It should be a lamp unto our feet. God's Law should give us direction, purpose and answers to all our questions.
The priests and Levites were also commanded to teach the people portions of the Law yearly at the festivals and throughout the year in all their cities (Deut. 33:8-10; 2Chr. 17:7-9; 35:1-3; Neh. 8:1-8; Acts 15:21).
Moses and Joshua were told to present themselves at the Tent of Meeting and the Lord appeared in a pillar of cloud, and the cloud stood over the entrance to the Tent (Deut. 31:14-15).
“Before your life ends,” the Lord told Moses, “there are more things for you to do. One is to write a song to teach to the people. I know they shall go after other gods and shall forget my laws and break my covenant. Then evil days shall fall on them, and though they shall seek my help, I shall let them suffer. The verses I give you must become a national song to be taught from generation to generation. The people shall remember it, and it shall become a witness against them because of their sins” (vv. 16-21).
As soon as Moses and Joshua left the Tabernacle, Moses hurried to his tent to write down the matters that were to be made into a song to teach to Israel (Deut. 31:22).
Later, Moses went with Joshua before the people and spoke all the words of this song. It was to remind the Israelites of their faults, shortcomings, responsibilities, obligations and the matters that would come up in the future. The verses mentioned God’s perfect justice, mercy and great works, and showed how sinful Israel had become in spite of God’s wonderful ways. The people were reminded of how patiently God had dealt with them during their travels in the desert, and of the terrible warnings that had repeatedly been given to them. The verses pointed out that if Israel were wise enough to obey, all enemies would be overcome, but that lack of wisdom would result in great affliction (misery) for Israel. It was shown that Israel would have great reason to rejoice in the far future, but only after the people would have undergone a time of terrible tribulation and finally would have repented (Deut. 32:1-43; also see the paper The Song of Moses (No. CB98)).
When Moses finished reciting all these words he said to the Israelites, “Take to heart all the words I have declared to you this day, so that you may teach your children to carefully obey all the words of this Law. If you obey the Law of God you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess” (vv. 44-47).
Moses then pronounced a lengthy blessing on the various tribes of Israel, at the same time telling some of the things they would accomplish in the distant future (Deut. 33).
Moses then realised that the time had come for him to go to Mt. Pisgah to look across the Jordan and view the land of Canaan, which he would never enter. There the Lord showed him the whole land – from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes but you will not cross over into it” (Deut. 34:1-4).
Then Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. Possibly God caused him to fall into a deep sleep and then took his life. The Lord (i.e. the god of Israel, the Angel who appeared to Moses on many occasions) then buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is (vv. 5-6).
If Moses had died in Israel the people would have made idols of his remains. For this reason the archangel Michael struggled with Satan for the body of Moses (Jude 9). God carefully hid the burial place from man, so that no one would ever be tempted to regard the body or the place as something sacred that should be worshiped.
Some readers might think that it would be a very extreme thing to worship a dead body. But even today, when we are supposed to be enlightened and intelligent, millions of people in the professing Christian world regard the relics – dried bones and shriveled flesh – of certain long-dead individuals as something to be revered and considered holy; even pieces of wood or material are considered relics by some.
Thus the life of Moses, one of God’s most outstanding servants of all time, ended at one hundred and twenty years. Just before he died, Moses was as healthy and strong as when he was eighty years of age. Even his eyes were as keen as they had been in his youth (Deut. 34:7).
No other leader of Israel accomplished such great deeds as Moses had done (vv. 10-12). Because he was so close to God, he enjoyed the great privilege of leading millions of his people out of slavery, bringing God’s wonderful Laws to them, and leading them to the entrance of the Promised Land.
Although there were too many times when they ignored God by ignoring Moses, all Israel was very sad to lose such a wonderful leader. For the next thirty days the people mourned Moses’ death (v. 8).
Today, many people, including a host of outstanding religious leaders, consider the vitally important times and events of ancient Israel as an old tale having to do only with the Jews. They think of Moses simply as one who, not too successfully, may have led a few Jews out of Egypt and into Canaan, and who started the present Jewish religion.
Moses didn’t start the Jewish religion. The word Jews is not even mentioned in the Bible until long after Moses’ time, and where the Jews were referred to as being at war with Israel! (2Kgs. 16:6). Those who assume that the words Jew and Israelite always mean the same thing find it impossible to understand some of the most important parts of the Bible – especially prophecy.
It is a shame that people who sincerely want to learn how best to live are taught by blinded or stubborn leaders that the Laws of God are only “Jewish” rules blotted out by Christ’s death. They are misled to believe we have been “freed” to do as our conscience pleases.
Happily, according to prophecy for these last days, God is gradually opening the understanding of more and more people to the startling fact that those who defiantly teach that God’s Laws are no longer in force are as guilty in God’s sight as the most rebellious men mentioned throughout the Scriptures. Unless they repent, the fate of such people, referred to as false shepherds, will be horrible – because of their deceitful posing as true ministers of God (Ezek. 34:2, 7-10; 2Pet. 2:12).
After the death of Moses (the servant of the Lord) the Lord contacted Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ aide (or minister). The Lord told Joshua that he was now Israel’s leader and he was to get the people ready and lead them across the Jordan River to take possession of the Promised Land. He urged Joshua to have courage and promised success in defeating their enemies, but only if Israel obeyed the Laws of God (Jos. 1:1-4). So if Israel obeyed the Law they were successful but if they disobeyed they failed (see Deut. 28 and the paper Blessing and Curses from Deuteronomy 28 (No. CB68)).
The name “Joshua” or Yahoshua means Salvation of God. Joshua was the son of Nun. Nun means endurance. Thus, Joshua ben (son of) Nun means, salvation of God is born through endurance. Joshua (or Yahoshua) was also the name of the Christ.
The Lord said to Joshua, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not fail you nor forsake you as long as you carry on in accord with the laws that came to you through my servant Moses. Meditate on those laws so that they will become so familiar to you that you can’t forget them. Be strong in this office that has been given to you. Be of great courage; don’t be afraid or dismayed. Remember that your God is with you wherever you go” (Jos. 1:5-9; Deut. 31:6).
As soon as the mourning period of thirty days for Moses was over, Joshua gave orders to his officers to make an announcement to the people. “Be prepared on notice to break camp within three days,” the officers told the surprised people. “Prepare extra food and supplies for a sudden trip over the Jordan River and into the land promised to us by God” (vv. 10-11).
Joshua then spoke to the heads of the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh – who had by this time returned from settling their families east of the Jordan – to remind them of their obligation to their brethren in the other tribes.
“I want to remind you of your promise to send the best soldiers of your tribes to help take over all of Canaan,” Joshua told them. “We’ll be moving across the Jordan very soon, and your soldiers should lead the way, since they will not have their families with them. After we’ve taken the land, your warriors shall be free to return to their towns and families on this side of the river” (Jos.1:12-15).
The leaders replied, “We shall carry out our promise. Our soldiers will go wherever you send them and obey every command. Every soldier that we send will know that if he fails to obey you, he will be put to death” (vv. 16-18). Here we see these men showing respect and obedience to their leader.
Joshua realised that God wasn’t necessarily going to protect Israel if any foolish moves were made. He knew that he was to use sound judgment and strategy. Because of this, he had already secretly sent two spies to Jericho to try to find out how well the city was armed, the condition of the walls and the gates, what forces were close to Jericho and the morale of the people within the city. So the spies went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there (Jos. 2:1).
Sending out the two spies relates to the Two Witnesses of the Last Days. Also in the Church it relates to where we are sent out two by two to deal with different areas to use the people who have been given salvation. Here, Rahab was being given the opportunity to become a member of Israel and be saved under the system. Rahab pointed to the salvation of the gentiles through being baptised and brought into the Church.
The king of Jericho was told, “Look! Some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.” So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land” (Jos. 2:2-3, NIV).
But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, the men left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.” (But she had taken the spies up on the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid there.) So the men set out after the spies on the road that leads to the fords of the Jordan, and as soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gates were shut (vv. 4-7, NIV).
The flax and barley harvest are at the same time; this tells us it was the time of the Passover.
Rahab lied about these things, but God makes use of all kinds of people to bring about His purposes. In this matter He was using a Canaanite woman, who had never been taught God’s Commandments. Rahab was prepared to hide the servants of God and face what might happen to her from the anger of her own people. We are also required to provide help to those who assist us.
Before the spies lay down for the night, Rahab went up on the roof and said to them, “You’re safe for now. They won’t be back for a while. We Canaanites are well aware of your intention of taking over our country. I know that your powerful God will give you this land. Our whole city is frightened because you have so swiftly overcome nations to the east and southeast. We have been dreading the day when your soldiers come over the Jordan. Our terror is so great that no one has any courage left. Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and that you will save us from death” (vv. 8-13).
“We promise to do as you ask,” the Israelites told her. “If you will agree not to mention to anyone what has taken place here tonight, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the Lord gives us the land” (v. 14).
Rahab was given understanding through the Holy Spirit that Israel would take over the land.
She asked that they enter into an agreement. Rahab solemnly assured the spies that she would keep the matter to herself. The Israelites then instructed her that she should tie a red cord in the window of her house, and that all her relatives should seek protection there when the soldiers of Israel reached Jericho.
“Our soldiers will be told to spare the place where the red cord is,” Rahab was told, “but if any of your family is outside your doors when we attack, we won’t be responsible for them. On the other hand, if any of your family within your doors is harmed, we shall be responsible before God for that harm” (vv. 17-20).
The red cord was a sign of God’s protection. The function of the red cord was similar to that of the blood of the Passover lamb when the Israelites smeared blood on their doorposts before the death angel passed through the land of Egypt at midnight and killed every firstborn – both of men and animals (cf. Ex. 12:12-13,22-23). A condition of the protection offered to Rahab and her family was that they remain inside their house when the Israelite army came to conquer. In the same way the Israelites were to remain indoors when the death angel passed over Egypt. Both incidents are related to the Passover system.
Rahab eventually became a very famous woman. She is honoured in the New Testament for her faith (Heb. 11:31) and her good works (Jas. 2:25). Rahab married Salmon a prince of the tribe of Judah (Ruth 4:21; 1Chr. 2:11; Mat. 1:5). She became the great great-grandmother of King David.
Rahab let the two men down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived on was part of the city wall. “Don’t try to return to your camp now,” Rahab warned. “The area between here and the river will be swarming with our soldiers for many hours. Hurry to the hills west of here and stay there for three days. By that time it should be much safer for you to go back” (Jos. 2:15-16).
When they left, the spies went into the hills and stayed there for three days, until the pursuers had searched all along the road and returned without finding them (v. 22, NIV).
The number three (3) denotes completeness in the sense of three lines to a figure. It was also used in the structure of the satanic system of the Triune God. Noah had 3 sons; Pharaoh had a dream where 3 was a very significant number and Joseph interpreted the dream after gaining understanding from God; Moses was hidden by his mother for 3 months. There are many references to 3, but two other very important references include: Messiah was 3 days (and 3 nights) in the tomb before he was resurrected; three days also applies to the time the Witnesses are to lie dead in the streets of Jerusalem.
At the end of three days the two men set out eastward during darkness to successfully reach the Jordan. There they waited for daylight, and again managed to swim the river. From there it was only a short distance to the Israelite camp and safety.
Joshua was pleased at the report of the scouts, especially because it showed the shattered morale of the Canaanites. As for Rahab and her family, Joshua readily agreed to the promise that this one Canaanite family would be spared (vv. 23-24). Joshua knew that God’s death sentence upon Canaanites did not apply to those who willingly forsook their heathen gods and put their faith in the One True God. After all, the reason God had condemned the Canaanites was because they were the worst sort of idolaters (Deut. 9:4; 12:29-32). Those few who repented, as Rahab did, were to be shown mercy (Gen. 12:3).
As soon as Joshua had finished hearing the report, he told his officers to take word to the people that they should prepare to break camp next day.
Early next morning the Israelites finished breaking camp at Shittim and set out for the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. After three days the officers went about the camp giving orders to the people: “When you see the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go. But keep a distance of about a thousand yards between you and the Ark; do not go near it” (Jos. 3:1-4, NIV).
The Ark of the Covenant symbolised the fact that the power of God would go before the Israelites. Originally the Ark contained a number of things including the tablets of the Law, Aaron’s rod and the manna. We are to always keep the Law of God.
Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you” (v. 5).
Next morning Joshua told the priests they should personally take up the Ark of the Covenant and carry it to the river ahead of the Israelites and then stand in the river (vv. 6-8). Ordinarily the Ark was carried in the centre of the mass of people, and was borne by Levites who were the sons of Kohath (Num. 2:1-31; 4:15).
Meanwhile, Joshua asked the people to gather together to listen to what he had to say.
Joshua said to the Israelites, “Now be assured that God will again prove to us His power by taking us safely over the river”. Joshua then instructed the tribal leaders to choose twelve men, one from each of the tribes and send them to him for a special task. “As soon as the priests who carry the Ark of the Lord set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap (Jos. 3:9-13).
When the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests started out with the Ark ahead of them. Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest, yet, as soon as the priests reached there and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away while the water flowing down to the sea was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. The priests who carried the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord stood firmly on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan River, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground (vv. 3:14-17, NIV).
One probably would wonder how men could remain standing so long, especially while holding the Ark. Perhaps God gave them special strength to stand for such a long period while bearing a weight. The priests had the responsibility to protect and prepare the nation to take up its inheritance. In the same way we need to be taught the truth and shown how to take up our inheritance (salvation) in the Kingdom of God.
Except for the priests, the last to pass over the riverbed were Joshua, his aides and the twelve men who had been picked to obtain stones from the middle of the riverbed for a monument on the west side of the river. Before they picked the stones for that purpose, Joshua had them erect a twelve-stone memorial in the Jordan where the priests had stood so long with the Ark. After the monument in the river was finished, each of the twelve men took up from the riverbed a stone as large as he could carry and walked out to the bank.
There were two sets of twelve stones representing the twelve apostles and the twelve judges of Israel; twenty-four stones in all. Twenty-four is the number of the elders with Christ around the Throne of God. Another symbolism is that the twelve stones in the river could represent the number of elders who rebelled and would not enter the Kindgom of God (or the Promised Land).
When the whole nation finished crossing the Jordan, Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the tribes and told them what the Lord commanded him they must do. They did as Joshua asked and carried the twelve stones over with them to their camp where they put them down. Joshua set up the twelve stones as a monument (Jos. 4:1-9). A stone monument was commonly used as a memorial to remind future generations of what had happened at that place.
The priests who carried the Ark remained standing in the middle of the Jordan until everything the Lord had commanded Joshua was done. The people hurried over and as soon as all of them had crossed, the Lord commanded Joshua to tell the priests to come up out of the Jordan. No sooner had the priests set their feet on dry ground than the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and ran at flood stage as before (vv. 10-18, NIV).
This mighty miracle of God plainly foretold by Joshua, had a deep effect on the Israelites. They realised now that Joshua, like Moses, had been chosen by God as an outstanding leader. Their respect for him was very great from that day on (v. 14). The Israelites also realised that God had now completely fulfilled His promise to take all of this new generation over the Jordan into the Promised Land.
On the Tenth day of the First month (Abib or Nisan and not January) the people went up from the Jordan and camped at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho. This is the day for choosing the Passover lamb. The tenth day of the First month was also the date Messiah entered Jerusalem to be crucified. It was on this day that the twelve stones carried from the Jordan were stacked up into a monument. Gilgal means to roll away. Hence, Joshua the Messiah rolled away the sins of the world (vv. 19-20).
Joshua then came before the crowd to speak to them: “This heap of stones is to be a reminder of God’s great miracle in bringing us across the river,” he announced. “Tell your children in time to come what it means. Remind them that God also brought Israel across a much greater body of water – the Red Sea. This monument is also to remind all peoples who see it or learn of it that our God is to be greatly feared and respected” (vv. 21-24).
When all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings along the coast heard how the Lord had dried up the Jordan before the Israelites until they crossed over, they became afraid and no longer had the courage to face the Israelites (Jos. 5:1).
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