Joshua, the first of the twelve historical books (Joshua—Esther), forges a link between the Pentateuch and the remainder of Israel's history. Through three major military campaigns, the people of Israel learn a crucial lesson under Joshua's capable leadership: victory comes through faith in Yahweh and obedience to His word, rather than through numerical or military superiority.

This theme is underscored by the name of the book itself. Joshua's name, which means "Yahweh is Salvation," is symbolic of the fact that although he is the leader of Israel during the conquest, the Yahweh is the Conqueror.

Author: Jewish tradition assigns authorship of this book to Joshua himself, and there is little doubt that portions of the book are to be ascribed to him (Jos 24:26LEB). Some narratives were added later, however, such as Othniel's capture of Kirjath Sepher (Jos 15:13-19LEB), Dan's migration to the north (Jos 19:47LEB), and the account of Joshua's death and burial (Jos 24:29-33LEB). In addition, the recurring phrase "to this day" (Jos 5:9LEB; Jos 13:13LEB; Jos 15:63LEB) indicates a time of writing later than the events themselves. Thus, the final composition of the book was completed after the lifetime of Joshua, perhaps as late as the early kingdom period under Saul.

Date: While a precise date for the composition of Joshua is uncertain, the events described take place between the beginning of the Conquest (1405 B.C.) and the death of Joshua (c. 1390 B.C.). If the later date of the Exodus is accepted (see Exodus), however, the beginning of the Conquest would date to c. 1250-1200 B.C.

Themes and Literary Structure: The book of Joshua divides neatly into two principal sections: chapters 1-12 record the Conquest; chapters 13-24 describe the assignment of tribal territories and the dispersal of the tribes throughout the Land of Promise.

The theme of conquest and occupation pervades the book of Joshua. The setting of the first five chapters begins east of the Jordan River as Joshua replaces Moses, and Israel crosses the Jordan on dry land and prepares for war. Like a wise general, Joshua utilizes a divide-and-conquer strategy. His campaign begins in central Canaan (chs. 6-8), thus preventing a massive Canaanite alliance against Israel. Then Joshua moves to southern Canaan (chs. 9, 10), and finally to northern Canaan (chs. 11, 12).

Though there are no direct messianic prophecies in the book, Joshua is clearly a type of Yashua. His name Yashua ("Yahweh is Salvation") is the Hebrew equivalent of the name "Jesus." In his role of triumphantly leading the people into their possessions, he foreshadows the One who will bring "many Sons to glory" (Heb 2:10LEB).

The scarlet cord, which provided safety for Rahab and her house (Jos 2:17-21LEB), portrays safety through the blood of Yashua (Heb 9:19-22LEB). Amazingly, this gentile woman is found in the genealogy of Yashua (Mat 1:5LEB).