Joshua: Chapter 1 - Strength and Courage

Bible Study @ Hurst Gospel Hall

Author: John Whitmarsh
Added: 2007-08-16

1-9 God's personal message to Joshua PROSPER

10-11 Joshua speaks to the officers PREPARE

12-15 Joshua speaks to the two and a half tribes POSSESS

16-18 The people answer PROMISE

In many ways chapter 1 is introductory. There is no conquest made in this first chapter. There are no spies sent. God marks Joshua out as the leader to succeed Moses who has died at the start of the book. Instructions are given to him, which are eventually relayed to others. There was to be no failing him neither forsaking. Joshua had witnessed, at close quarters, the way by which God had stood with Moses and supported him. The same was to happen to Joshua. This was God's personal assurance for Joshua.

Having received the message from the Lord, Joshua tells the officers to get the people prepared to go into the land (verse 10-11). This was to take place some three days after the message was given so that food had to be prepared. Then there were others to whom he spoke (verses 12-15). The two and half tribes were to remember that they had committed themselves to the task of possessing the land even though they were going to live on the eastern side of Jordan. The fact that they were not going to live in the land beyond Jordan did not mean that their men folk were not to join in the task of possessing the land.

We are not told exactly who the group are at the end of the chapter (verses 16-18). It could well be that the group is just the two and half tribes from the previous four verses (verses 12-15). But the term 'commanded ' is used which indicates that the group is much larger than just these tribes as the word says that Joshua had spoken to them but does not use the word 'commanded.'

So that the words that can be written over chapter 1 are arise, be strong, courage, do wisely, prosper, be not afraid, be not dismayed, prepare, remember, help, possess, and command.

1.1 Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister, saying,

1. The Lord speaks to Joshua

The previous chapter has told of Moses' death. Deuteronomy 34.5-6 says, 'So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-Peor; but no man knoweth of his sepulchre to this day.' Moses had gone up Mount Nebo to the top of Pisgah that was near to Jericho. He had been shown all the land with the details of the various areas given at the start of Deuteronomy 34. God had said that as he had trespassed against God among the children of Israel at the waters of Meribah-Kadesh that he was to see the land but he was not to go into it (Deuteronomy 1 and 32.48-52). Perhaps it would be wise to read Deuteronomy 1 before attempting to read the book of Joshua.

Now all that God had said would happen had happened. Moses was 120 years old when he died - his eye was not dim nor his natural force abated. No sooner are we told that Moses died in Deuteronomy 34 that we are told of Joshua that he was a man full of the spirit of wisdom for Moses had laid his hands on him. It was going to be hard to step into Moses' shoes for 'there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.' And yet in a sense Joshua was not to fill Moses' shoes. This was a new experience. Moses never led the people into the Promised Land. He may well have led them out of Egypt with a view to leading the people into the Promised Land. It should have only taken 11 days to travel from Horeb by the way of mount Seir unto Kadesh- Barnea according to Deuteronomy 1.2 but it had taken 40 years. Now Moses was dead and the Jordan had not been crossed. That they were about to is not in doubt. But it was a new man who was to lead them over the river and into the land.

Moses is described as the 'servant of the Lord' in verse 1 and this is not the only time that he is called such in the book. In verses 2 and 7 God refers to Moses as His servant. In verses 13 and 15 Joshua refers to Moses as the Lord's servant and this is just the first chapter of the book and Moses is dead!! He was not to be forgotten. Never think that because he failed in the matter of Meribah that God had no time for Moses. Five times over in this first chapter of the book of Joshua - Joshua, mark you - Moses is referred to as God's servant. 13 more times in the book Moses is referred to as the Lord's servant (8.31 and 33, 9.24, 11.12 and 15, 12.6 (twice), 13.8, 14.7, 18.7, 22.2, 4 and5). Joshua is described as Moses' minister. Exodus 24.13 refers to Joshua as such. He is often called Moses' servant. But the end of the book refers to Joshua himself as the servant of the Lord a title that is carried into the book of Judges and chapter 2. It is good when God's servants are remembered long after they are gone for their great work. We are not to forget them nor what they taught us. They may have served their generation and fell on sleep but that does not mean to say that we do not hold them in our memories.

Joshua was the son of Nun. Nun means 'perpetuity'.

The very first 'and it came to pass' is found in the very first verse in the book. And what came to pass? God spoke directly to Joshua. This is a personal message. Some of these have been said already in earlier books whether by Moses to Joshua, or Moses to the people or God to the people. Notice that God speaks, more often than not, (see the mention of 'the Lord thy God' in verse 9 but otherwise He spoke in the first person) using terms like 'I will', 'I will not', etc.

1:2 Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.

The words are directed to Joshua - 'thou and all this people'. The message is to 'arise.' Moses may be dead but that does not mean to say that the people have to languish and be languid in the wilderness. This was a time for energy. This was a time for moving forward. Any mourning for Moses was now over. They had to get up. It was not Joshua alone who had to arise but the people with him. The message may have come as a personal message to the one chosen to be the leader but he was not to be alone in rising up to go into the land. They had left the land of Egypt for this very purpose. It may have been a new generation of people that were to go into the land compared to the people that came out from Egypt but that did not mean that they were to be slack in any way as far as possession of the land was concerned. Many of them did not know the taskmaster's whip. All those above twenty at the time of the spies were sent into the land were to perish in the wilderness (Numbers 14.29). Many of the group had been born in the wilderness. It was a new start with a new people and with a new leader.

Jordan is very significant in this book. No other book in the Bible mentions it as much. There are 154 references to the Jordan by name in the AV of the scriptures so that almost 50 of the references occur in Joshua. Many feel that Jordan refers to physical death:

When I tread the verge of Jordan

Bid my anxious fears subside

Bear me through the swelling current

Land me safe on Canaan's side

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live!

If Jordan above me shall roll,

No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life

Thou wilt whisper sweet peace to my soul.

Many others feel that Jordan represents death to self with rest coming as the result:

My Saviour, Thou hast offered rest:

Oh, give it then to me;

The rest of ceasing from myself,

To find my all in Thee.

This cruel self, oh, how it strives

And works within my breast

To come between Thee and my soul,

And keep me back from rest.

There has to be some significance attached to Jordan. It is such a pivotal point in the children of Israel's history that there is some spiritual lesson to be learnt from it. Perhaps we will form our opinion as to its real meaning as we move through the book.

1:3 Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses.

This verse and the next are spoken to Joshua but embrace the whole of the children of Israel even the word 'foot' is in the singular. The personal pronoun switches from 'thee' to 'your', which is plural. Though Joshua is being addressed the Lord includes the entire nation in the promise that every place that their foot treads on was to be theirs. The same promise was given to Moses. Deuteronomy 11.24 says (and notice the plural - feet), 'Every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread shall be yours: from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the river Euphrates, even unto the uttermost sea, shall your coast be.' There was also a personal promise to Joshua. Joshua 14.9 recounts the day when Joshua spied out the land, 'And Moses sware on that day, saying, Surely the land whereon thy feet (Joshua's feet) have trodden shall be thine inheritance, and thy children's for ever, because thou hast wholly followed the Lord thy God.' Thus the promise made to Moses and for the benefit of the children of Israel as Moses was not to go into the land is reiterated in verse 3 and even expanded on into the next verse. There is one little practical matter here. God doesn't make promises and then break them. Neither does He forget them either. We are so used to broken promises in human relationships that we struggle with the concept of One who is absolutely trustworthy and will never anyone down. In fact the promise was not going to be kept. It had been kept already because the tense used in the last part of verse three is the past tense. 'Every place that the sole of your foot shall (future definite) tread upon, I have given to you.' The land was already theirs. It was not as good as theirs but it was theirs. All that was needed was for the land to be claimed. Whatever this land stands to represent we must ever remember that it is not as good as ours but it is ours.

1:4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast.

There is a little extra information in this verse compared to the equivalent verse from Moses' time - all the land of the Hittites. This seems strange, as the land of the Hittites is present day Turkey. And yet the scripture says, 'all the land of the Hittites.' It is not just some part at the edge of its kingdom but all the land belonging to it. With the promised land stretching over to the Euphrates the land was to be much larger than Israel currently occupies.

Lebanon means 'whiteness.' It is a wooded mountain range on the northern border of Israel. The wilderness was the wilderness through which they had journeyed for the past forty years. The Euphrates is referred to as the great river with the Mediterranean Sea being called the great sea. This is how these two geographical features would have been known in antiquity. The word 'coast' is translated such 69 times in the Old Testament but 158 times as 'border' so that where we read border, and we do so 63 times in Joshua, the same word is used in the Hebrew text. Coast and border are, then, interchangeable without losing any meaning even though the 'coast' may not be sea bound.

This area of land was not for Joshua alone and so the AV is careful in its use of the personal pronoun. The text says, 'your coast.'

1:5 There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.

Jehovah reverts to the personal pronouns 'thee' and 'thy' here. This is a personal word to Joshua. True, he may have needed the help of his fellow Israelites, but essentially God was saying to Joshua that there would not be any man that was able to stand before Joshua. It did not matter whether the man was a giant or a king - he would not be able to stand. Joshua was to get this message right from the start of his tenure as leader of the people of God. This was so important. Jeremiah had to get a similar sort of message before he embarked on a forty year long term as prophet, God knowing full well that there were difficulties ahead especially in the light of the message he was to bring as he was the prophet of doom.

That said we must remember that God had said in Deuteronomy 7.24, 'And he shall deliver their kings into thine hand, and thou shalt destroy their name from under heaven: there shall no man be able to stand before thee, until thou have destroyed them.' Deuteronomy 7 is to do with the nation as a whole. Sometimes God refers to them in the plural and at others in the singular as a whole.

But the word in Joshua 1 says, 'As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee.' It does not say that as He was with the children of Israel, so he would be with this generation of the children of Israel.' True, He was going to be with them but we must see that God is a personal God. We often lift these types of promises and print them onto our calendars and make them the verse for the day. They are to be taken as personal promises from God to us. Often the verses that are chosen are taken out of context and are clearly promises or precious thoughts that were directed to a group of people. Isaiah 43 comes into this category by way of an example though it must be made clear that there is no harm done in lifting these verses from their context and applying them to ourselves as individuals. 'But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.' Though he refers to a group of people, the singular personal pronoun 'thee' is used there because the nation of Israel is viewed as a whole.

This verse in Joshua is definitely personal and can be interpreted and applied as such. In the same way that God promised that he would not fail nor forsake Joshua so God will not fail each and every child of God. Neither will He forsake any of us. Perhaps it is this particular verse that is quoted in Hebrews 13.5, Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, 'I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.' In Hebrews the idea is 'I have Christ: what need I more?' This verse is followed by this, 'So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man may do unto me.' In Joshua 1 the idea is that it is does not matter what was to assail Joshua, he was guaranteed of God's personal presence and interest in all that he did. Whether we look at things the Hebrews way or the Joshua 1 way both are true for the individual believer in this day. We've no need to look elsewhere at what others have or don't have; we look to the Lord for His help and presence.

These precious promises to Joshua were recorded so that others might know that our God is a personal God. As individuals we do well to be acquainted with them and to hold onto them in times of trouble. Joshua may not have faced any trouble as yet as leader but there would be days when that trouble would be upon him and then he was to remember these words. So too with us when we are in any form of trouble. Best that we hold onto these promises at all times - even when we are not in trouble so that when we are we can be assured of His care and concern and presence.

1:6 Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them.

Again, an individual and personal word. Joshua was the individual who was to be responsible for the division (though 'divide' it is not mentioned in the Hebrew text but has been added here) of the land. Strength would be needed. There is no mention of strength and courage in verse 5 when the word concerns the one standing against him. It is connected with the division of the land!! Sometimes there is more strength and courage needed when dealing with the people of God than there is when dealing with the folks outside!! We must ever remember that the entrance in to the land was not just an entrance into the land for its own sake but in order to take up the possessions of the land and distribute them fairly and equally. Literally the first phrase is 'be strong and courageous'.

Deuteronomy 31.7 says, 'And Moses called unto Joshua, and said unto him in the sight of all Israel, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou must go with this people unto the land which the Lord hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it.' Later in that same chapter we read, 'And he gave Joshua the son of Nun a charge, and said, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou shalt bring the children of Israel into the land which I sware unto them: and I will be with thee.' Moses spoke the way that God spoke and God reiterated what Moses had already said.

The land was a promised land for God had sworn unto this people's forbears that they would have a land of their own (Genesis 12.7; 28.23 - notice that God says that He will give the land just as in this verse). The land was to be a land of milk and honey though that truth was not revealed unto the children of Israel were down in Egypt (Exodus 3.8 is the first mention)

1:7 Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.

Again the command is to be strong and courageous (the two words are the same in Hebrew as used in verse 6) only this time there is the emphasis upon very courageous. It was very important for Joshua to have strength and great courage. He had to take heed to do according to all the law that Moses, God's servant, commanded him. Numbers 27.22-23 says, 'And Moses did as the Lord commanded him: and he took Joshua, and set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation: and he laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge, as the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses.' Now God repeats the message directly to Joshua.

In Deuteronomy 28 we read of the general directives that God gave to the whole nation via Moses. There was to be blessing for them if they hearkened diligently to the voice of the Lord, to observe and to do all His commandments. The section finishes at verse 14 with these words, 'And thou shalt not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.' It is an earlier chapter of Deuteronomy that says, 'Ye shall observe to do therefore as the Lord your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. Ye shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess.'

The word for prosper is 'to do wisely'. It is the same word as found in Deuteronomy 29.9, 'Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do.' The word in both verses is sakal which means to behave wisely. It is the same word that is translated four times over in I Samuel 18 as 'behave wisely.' Thus the message here is not so much that by doing all that God commanded that there would be prosperity in the sense of material blessing but that by being obedient there would be wise behaviour as a consequence. It is not so much length of days as in the promise from Deuteronomy 5 but that wise listening and a wise attitude leads to wise behaviour.

1:8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

Yet another statement that has been made elsewhere. This time it is Deuteronomy 17 in relation to the king upon his throne. In Joshua 1.8 the word translated 'prosperous' has been translated correctly but the word 'success' is the same word as in verse 7 meaning 'behave wisely.' It is the blessed man of Psalm 1 who meditates in the law of the Lord day and night. It is his delight. The word in Joshua 1 is that the book of the law was not to depart out of Joshua's mouth. Joshua was not the king - he was to come later according to all that God had predicted in Deuteronomy 17. The king of that chapter was to read therein (in the book of the law of the Lord) all the days of his life that he might learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them. Joshua was commanded to continually speak of the law (the law shall not depart from thy mouth). In Proverbs 4 the words and the sayings of the Lord are not to depart from the eyes.

How important it was for the leader not to allow the law of the Lord to depart from the mouth. In the same way it is important that leaders are men and women of the word of God. They are people who talk continually of the word. They constantly meditate upon the word. They are never satisfied with their present level of understanding but it is not understanding for understanding's sake but so that all that is written in the word might be put into practice. It is important for all of God's people of this present time to do as they have been told to do in the word. But there is a particular responsibility for the leader to do aright. What joy there is in doing that which is right.

1:9 Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.

God makes it clear that this that He has said is not a soft option. For there to be correct and wise behaviour and prosperity these things that have been said must be considered as an order. Moses gave Joshua a charge according to Deuteronomy 31. Now God does the same to Joshua. He reiterates the command that was given him by Moses by asking this searching question. It is as if He asks him to recall that this charge was already given. It may have been Moses who spoke but he was speaking God's words.

But perhaps the question mark should appear at the end of the word courageous (as in John Darby's translation). Viewed this way then God reminds Joshua that He has already told him to be strong and courageous (the word 'good' is superfluous). This is the third time that God has used this same phrase.

Many of us remember the chorus that we used to sing when we were very young:

Be thou strong and very courageous for I have commanded thee

Be not afraid; be not dismayed; thou shalt have victory.

I will be with thee whate'er betide

Captain and leader, friend and guide

The word for 'afraid' is very strong and means 'to tremble'. He wasn't to tremble. Think of it. Think of Jericho. Think of Ai. He wasn't to tremble. What was true for him was true for all the people but he had the responsibility of leading the people. How imperative it is for the people of God to make it easy for the leader. That is Hebrews 13 truth, 'Obey them (in the sense of joyfully obey) that have the rule over you (your leaders or, better, guides) and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable to you.' The guides have the responsibility of giving account for the way that they have lead God's people.

Joshua was not to be dismayed either and then God speaks of Himself (i.e. in the second person). Wherever he was to go it was incumbent upon him to remember that the Lord his God was with him.

1:10 Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying,

2. Joshua speaks to the officers

The Lord has finished talking with Joshua and commanding him for the moment and now it was Joshua's turn to speak by way of command to the officers of the people. We go back to Deuteronomy for the explanation of the term 'officers' - 1.15 says, 'So I took the chief of your tribes, wise men, and known, and made them heads over you, captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, and captains over fifties, and captains over tens, and officers among your tribes.' The word that is used for officers is the same as that used throughout Deuteronomy. It is always in the plural. In Deuteronomy 20 and verses 5, 8 and 9 it is clear that the officers were to communicate to the people. This is exactly what Joshua commanded them to do. He commanded them to pass on his command to the people.

1:11 Pass through the host, and command the people, saying, Prepare you victuals; for within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land, which the LORD your God giveth you to possess it.

They were to pass through the host or the camp and command the people. Command (same Hebrew word) has already appeared in verses 7, 9, and 10 of this chapter so that it is a theme that runs throughout this chapter. Indeed it runs throughout the book as this same word is used over forty times. The command was to prepare. Food was to be prepared. The root word for 'victuals' (pronounced vittels) is the chase, game, venison.

Three days - 3.2 says, 'And it came to pass after three days, that the officers went through the host (through the midst of the camp); and they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it.' Jordan is mentioned 70 times in the book and this is the first of them. It has significance but what is the significance? Canaan is the promised land. Ultimately the promised land is heaven for the believer in the Lord Jesus. Jordan means 'descender.' The root word has to do with going down into the lower regions. Jordan is a picture of death as recognised by so many in the hymns that we sing. Life in Canaan is life beyond death in picture. The first generation, those that came out of Egypt perished in the wilderness. They died there. It was a new group of people who went into the land.

And yet we realise that there are battles to be fought in the land. There is land to be claimed. It is suggested that the picture of the land of Canaan is the enjoyment of spiritual things, heavenly things if we like in an alien world. It is the triumph over spiritual wickedness in heavenly places. To enjoy such things there must be death as far as other things are concerned. There must be death as far as the world is concerned. There must be death as far as the flesh is concerned to be in the real enjoyment of spiritual things. The people of God had already passed through the Red Sea. That, too, was a picture of being identified with the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. There was an old life in Egypt and a new life in the wilderness. The Red sea cut them off from Egypt. They could not be touched by the taskmasters again. They did not miss that. They could not eat its melons and cucumbers and the like but how they hankered after them.

Perhaps this picture could be considered as illustrative of Romans 6-8 truth. The section from Romans 3.21 - 5.21 (that's a total of 57 verses) shows how that the matter of sin is dealt with in justification. Some would even say that the section is narrower than this in that it finishes half way through chapter 5. But the three chapters (6-8) form a trilogy of chapters within the epistle and there are a total of 87 verses on this practical aspect of dealing with the power of sin. Broadly speaking they can be viewed as:

6. The practical realisation of our position in Christ

7. The practical realisation of the poverty of the flesh

8. The practical realisation of the power of the Spirit

Another way of considering these chapters is:

6. What God requires of me as a Christian God's requirements

7. Why that requirement is a battle for me as a Christian My struggle

8. How to live a victorious Christian life. The victorious life

God wants us to enjoy our position in Christ (sin shall not have dominion over you) but the flesh is in the way. The end of chapter seven makes for really sad reading. In verse 24 he says, 'O wretched, miserable man that I am. Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?' The question is not 'How shall I deliver myself?' but who shall deliver, who shall rescue me? It has been 'I this' and 'I that' and 'I the other' for the major part of the chapter but he has found no relief. 'I' and 'me' and 'my' have led to failure and to defeat and he knew that he needed someone outside of himself to help him as he was going under in the struggle. We have to get there under the hand of God. We must come to this point in our experience when we realise that left to our devices we will never win in the struggle against sin. We will always lose. It is too great a power dwelling within us for us to win by ourselves. We need to get to the position that the apostle reaches and confess before God 'I need help.'

Help is at hand. Verse 25 says, 'I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.' He is the One who will help. The One Who never failed and never faltered is willing to help those who know what is to falter and struggle in the battle against sin. It seems almost too wonderful that the One Who knew no failure is willing to help those who too often are marked by failure, defeat and struggle but, praise God, He is willing.

Someone has described Romans chapter 8 as the stepping-stones to freedom. The words of chapter 8 are only the stepping-stones to freedom when a soul realises the practicalities of our position in Christ - that we are dead to sin and that God requires us to be so practically in our lives. Furthermore the one who would be free must recognise that there is a constant battle against sin within that we are powerless to win by ourselves. That is chapter 7 truth. Then, and then only can the soul enjoy the glorious freedom of the victorious life. We cannot isolate chapter 8 from the rest and think that we will have an understanding of God's plan for our lives. It is by the Spirit of God that we have the power to live for God and to enjoy all that God has for us in Christ. The teaching on the Spirit of God is nothing to do with gift in Romans 8. It has everything to do with the power to live the life that God wants me to live as described in chapter 6. It is sad to think that there are many dear Christians who feel that all the NT teaches about the Spirit of God is to do with gift. Surely a casual reading of Romans 6, 7 and 8 will teach us that the possession of gift is not as important as being servants of righteousness.

Back to Joshua 1. God gave them the land in order that they should possess it. Deuteronomy 9.1 says, 'Hear, O Israel: Thou art to pass over Jordan this day, to go into to possess nations greater and mightier than thyself, cities great and fenced up to heaven.' Deuteronomy 11.31, 'For ye shall pass over Jordan to go into possess the land which the Lord your God giveth you, and ye shall possess it, and dwell therein.'

1:12 And to the Reubenites, and to the Gadites, and to half the tribe of Manasseh, spake Joshua, saying, 1.13 Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, The LORD your God hath given you rest, and hath given you this land. 1.14 Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle, shall remain in the land which Moses gave you on this side Jordan; but ye shall pass before your brethren armed, all the mighty men of valour, and help them; 1.15 Until the LORD have given your brethren rest, as he hath given you, and they also have possessed the land which the LORD your God giveth them: then ye shall return unto the land of your possession, and enjoy it, which Moses the LORD'S servant gave you on this side Jordan toward the sunrising *.

3. Joshua speaks to the two and a half tribes

For an understanding of this section the 32nd chapter of Numbers should be read in its entirety (and not just verses 20-28 as the margin suggests!!). This is when the tribes that are mentioned here made their initial promise to Moses. The children of Reuben and Gad had a large amount of cattle and liked the look of the land of Gilead. They wanted to remain on the east of Jordan. But Moses was not happy with that - 'Shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here?' If they had been allowed to do what they wanted then the heart of the children of Israel would have been broken (discouraged) from going over into the land. After thirty eight years wandering they would have made no progress for this is exactly what had happened at Kadesh-barnea. Something had to be done to ensure that there would be help to claim the land this time. They agreed to build cities and sheepfolds for the little ones and the cattle and the men folk were to enter ready and armed into the land and remain until such time 'that the children of Israel have inherited every man his inheritance.' And so they made such a promise that if they were not to fulfil it their sin would find them out (Numbers 32.23). All of this is recalled here in Joshua 1. To find out what happened later on we can read Joshua 22 which says, 'Then Joshua called the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe Manasseh, and said unto them, Ye have kept all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, and have obeyed my voice in all that I commanded you: ye have not left your brethren these many days unto this day, but have kept the charge of commandment of the Lord your God. And now the Lord your God hath given rest unto your brethren, as he promised them: therefore now return ye, and get you into your tents, and unto the land of your possession, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you on the other side Jordan.'

We also read I Chronicles 5.26, 'And the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, and the spirit of Tiglath-pilneser king of Assyria, and he carried them away, even the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe Manasseh, and brought them unto Halah, and Habor, and Hara, and to the river of Gozan, unto this day.' Pul and Tiglath-pilneser is one and the same person elsewhere known as Tiglath-Pileser III, king of Assyria, who reigned from 745-727BC. He was instrumental in removing the two and a half tribes into captivity about ten years ahead of the remainder of the ten tribes being taken captive by the hand of either Shalmaneser V or Sargon II the next kings to reign over the Assyrians.

What are the spiritual lessons? The two and a half tribes were content to stay on the east side of Jordan. The blessings were to be found on the west side of Jordan. Surely they were content with second best? The land flowed with milk and honey but that was beyond the river. There may be giants in the land but with God on their side these would be overcome. To rest in Gilead was to miss out on blessing. Sadly, there many Christians who do not come into the full blessing that God wants each Christian to enjoy. They remain baby Christians with one foot in the world and allowing the flesh to dictate when the Spirit wants to be in the ascendancy.

1:16 And they answered Joshua, saying, All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go. 1:17 According as we hearkened unto Moses in all things, so will we hearken unto thee: only the LORD thy God be with thee, as he was with Moses. 1:18 Whosoever he be that doth rebel against thy commandment, and will not hearken unto thy words in all that thou commandest him, he shall be put to death: only be strong and of a good courage.

4. The people answer

The people answered. It s assumed that these were the representatives of the two and a half tribes that answered. As in verse 13 and in the word 'commandest' in verse 18 the word that is used here is the same as that already seen in verses 7, 9, 10 and 11. There is a lot of commanding taking place here. Command is here again. It is a very important word in Joshua 1. It is a very important word in the whole book.

How obedient they sounded. They were a people who claimed that they had hearkened to all that Moses had said to them. They may have hearkened to all that he said to them in this matter but they, just like the rest of the children of Israel, did not hearken to Moses in all things at all times.

Rebellion is a sad an evil state to find oneself in. It is ugly and not commendable. Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft (divination). How uglier a sin can one witness?

We talked for a little on the spiritual application of this verse. It is quite clear that we do not put people to death in this era. But the lesson is clear - to be carnally minded (that is to have the mind of the flesh) is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.


We need to remember that we are to enter into and claim the full blessings of what God has for in Christ even though there may be a struggle and not settle for second best on this side of the Jordan. Such are vulnerable as was the case with the two and half tribes for they were the first to be taken into captivity. But for those who will commit themselves to the word of God and trust the power of the Spirit of God they can look to their heavenly Joshua to lead them into every kind of spiritual blessing. The victory can be ours if we are prepared not to trust ourselves but the God who commands. Obedience is the key to the enjoyment of spiritual things.

Trust and obey for there's no other way

To be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.