Understanding The Bible
The History of Israel:  Part 3b of 9
(1400-1370 B.C.)
Joshua I - 24


Return to Syllabus

Dr. Clarence E. Mason, Jr.
Philadelphia College of Bible


Purpose of the book of Joshua
The book connects Israel in the desert with Israel in Canaan, i.e., gives the history of the conquest and settlement of the Promised Land. It shows that God is faithful to His promise key verses, 21:43,45); hence, the book is full of miracles. A comparison of O.T. and N.T. is instructive:

Pentateuch - promise; Gospels - promise Joshua - fulfillment;   Acts - fulfillment

Israel is now a nation; she must have a land to live in. This period of Hebrew history sees the tribes capture Palestine and settle in it. The events take place under Joshua's leadership and are recorded in the book of Joshua, a period of some 30 years. Joshua probably died at about 1370 B.C.


1.   Military strategy of Joshua, 3
Joshua's campaign was excellent military strategy. Palestine had never been invaded from the East, for the Jordan poses an impassable barrier to an army. Since Israel's passage of it was unexpected, the Israelites encountered little opposition here. The city of Jericho was the key to Palestine. Situated on the edge of the Jordan plain, it dominates the roads to the central highlands – the main part of Palestine. With Jericho captured the way to the heart of Palestine was open.

On the Jordan crossing, see Free, pp.  128-129.

2.   Confirmation of the fall of Jericho, 6
The 0. T. city of Jericho has been excavated, and the findings fit well into the account of Joshua. The city was surrounded by two walls, the outer one some six feet thick, separated by a moat. Rahab's house, like many others there, was built on and between these walls. The walls had tumbled outward, the inner one filling the moat and the outer one sliding down the hill. As the Scripture said, "The wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him." Although much grain and

other provisions were found, there was no metal (cp. 6:18-19). There was a layer of ashes over it (6:24) and it was not rebuilt until the period of the divided kingdom (6:24; 1 Ki. 16:34).

You will be interested in reading more about this in:
Free, pp.130-135.
Finegan, pp.133-136.
Garstang and Garstang. The Story of Jericho. London: 1948
Marston, pp.124-150.

3.   The ethics of the destruction of the Canaanites Two approaches are helpful:

a.   Biblical explanation
Before the death of Moses, God commanded Israel that when they entered Palestine they should utterly destroy the in­habitants (Dt. 7:2; 12:2; 13:15). This command must be understood in the light of Genesis 15:16, and of the heathenish practices which Israel adopted from the Canaanites when she failed to obey this command. (Judges Is full of such practices.) God Is the moral ruler of the world and when a nation, because of its sin, is ripe for judgment, terrible judgment comes.

b.   Archaeological confirmation
The discoveries in the ruins of Palestinian cities at 1400 confirm the Biblical statements that Canaan was ripe for judgment. The religion of the Canaanites was utterly corrupt, involving child sacrifice (2 Ki. 3:27; 21:6; 23:10) and sacred prostitution (2 Ki. 23:7; Hos. 4:14) – these things done as part of the religious cult. Clay fertility plaques, portraying the nude female form and used by the women to induce fertility, are found in every town and city, even from Israelite times.

Chief deities of Canaan: (1) El, the chief god; (2) Asherah, his wife (1 Ki. 16:22; 18:19, ASV); (3) Hadad (Baal - "Lord"), the storm god, Lord of heaven and earth (1 Ki. 18, and many others); (4) Baal's wife Anath (Astarte, or Ashtoreth), goddess of love, war, and fertility, who is Venus in classical mythol­ogy Oud. 2:13; 1 Sam. 31:10; 1 Ki. 11:5). Certainly God's righteousness in giving the command for complete destruction of this corrupt civilization needs no apology. See WHA, pp.33-36; G. E. Wright's "How Did Early Israel Differ From Her Neighbors?" Bib. Arch. February, 1943, VI, 1, 1-20; "The Temple in Palestine - Syria," Bib. Arch. December, 1944, VII, 4, 65-88. The Ugaritic literature is the best contemporary statement of Canaanite religion and mythology. See Cyrus Gordon's Ugaritic Literature. Rome: 1949; Pritchard, pp.129-155; J. P. Hyatt's "Canaanite Ugarit – Modern Ras Shamra," Bib. Arch. February, 1939, II, 1, 1-8; H.   L. Ginsberg's "UgarThtic Studies and the Bible,” Bib. Arch. May, 1945, VIII, 2, 41-58.

4.   The Gibeonite treaty, 9
This treaty is most important for Israelite history. It will be noted that the four Gibeonite towns (v.17) are situated in the central Palestinian hill country. The main roads North and South go through Gibeonite territory. Israel disobeyed God and failed to destroy the Canaanites with the result that the Gibeonites, remaining an alien island in the middle of Israel, helped to isolate the two elements of the nation and to foster the sectional feeling (North versus South) which later led to the divided kingdom. Such alienation is already apparent by the time of the Judges. It is not at all surprising that when the kingdom was divided in the time of Jeroboam I, the common boundary of the two Hebrew nations lay near the Gibeonite tetrapolis territory. So this "small" act of disobedience produced tremendous consequences.

Note: The fulfillment of Genesis 9:25 is seen in Joshua 9:21-23,27.

5.   The two campaigns – Southern, 10; Northern, 11; summary. 12 Joshua's plan was a surprisingly modern one – blitzkrieg – lightning warfare. In two great battles in the country, not against walled cities – one against the southern coalition of Canaanites and one against the northern coalition – the inhabitants of the land were defeated. Speed and economy were the strong points of this method; its weakness was that if it were not followed up by the patient taking of each Canaanite fortress city, the battle would be lost after all. This is exactly what happened, and this fact explains the reason why, when the book of Judges opens, much of the land is still in enemy hands.


This is a difficult section and should be studied with constant reference to a map showing the division of the land among the tribes. Many of the places here mentioned were little border towns and are unknown today.


Declension had already set in (23:11-13), 50 Joshua lays it on the line (23:15-16; 24:15, 19-24). Joshua 24:22 emphasizes that it is a solemn thing to publicly state our purpose to serve the Lord. We witness against ourselves when we promise and do not come through.


Return to Syllabus


"Mason's Notes"

(formerly Philadelphia Biblical University, Philadelphia College of Bible.)
Copyright © 2012 to present,
All rights reserved.

Cairn University

200 Manor Avenue
Langhorne, PA 19047
United States of America
"Mason's Notes" Study materials on this website are made available here free, through the generosity of Cairn University, and may be copied for use in Bible study groups, in limited numbers, providing that no charge is made for them.  No further distribution or use of these materials is allowable under U.S. or International Copyright Law without the express permission of Cairn University.