The “Historical Books” of the Old Testament, which come after the Pentateuch (the first 5 books, known also as the Law), tell the story of Israel’s entry into the Promised Land of Canaan, their life in that land under the rule of the judges and kings, the division of Israel into two kingdoms, their downfall due to their sin, their destruction and being taken into captivity, and eventually their return to rebuild Jerusalem.
All of these books are a big part of God’s big picture and the overall storyline of the Bible. If you go back to the very beginning, God created the world and mankind. Adam and Eve sinned by eating from the tree of knowledge. When they did this, they brought sin into the world. Before God could allow Adam and Eve to eat from the tree of life (Gen. 3:22), he had to send them out of the Garden of Eden so they wouldn’t experience sin for all of eternity.
In the first five books of the Old Testament, God gave his people, the Israelites, the Law so they would know good from evil. The Historical Books (starting with Joshua) recount the Israelites’ attempts to follow the Law on their own. They were completely incapable of following the Law, and they were doomed to spend eternity apart from God. However, God so loved the world that he sent his Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. Because mankind could not save himself or remain pure by himself, God would send his Son to die for us and rescue us, so that we could live in joy forever.
The Setting of Joshua
Forty years before this historical story begins, God had used his servant Moses to lead the Israelites out of captivity. The Israelites made the long journey to the land of Canaan, the land where God had promised them they would settle. However, Moses sent a group of spies into the land (recorded in Numbers 13), and they came back in fear. They said the land was flowing with milk and honey, but the people who lived there were too big and strong to defeat.
Only Joshua and Caleb were full of faith in the Lord. Joshua said, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” (Numbers 14:7-9)
The book of Joshua is about how God is sovereign, and he rewards those who faithfully follow him. Even the title of the book shows how God rewards us. Joshua (along with his sidekick Caleb) was the only one who spoke up in faith and said the Israelites should be obedient to God and enter the Promised Land. The Israelites rebelled and refused to enter Canaan, and as a result God made them wander in the wilderness for forty years. No one who was living at the time of the rebellion except Joshua and Caleb lived long enough to enter the Promised Land. God awarded Joshua for his faithfulness.
Tomorrow, we’ll spend one more day looking at the context of Joshua, and then we’ll begin our study of this incredible book.