The God Who Gives Rest in the Land: Joshua -- By: Paul R. House
SBJT 2:3 (Fall 1998) p. 12
The God Who Gives Rest
in the Land: Joshua
This article is an adapted and expanded excerpt from House’s forthcoming Old Testament Theology (InterVarsity Press).
Accurate Old Testament interpretation depends upon a sound understanding of Old Testament theology. This principle is true regardless of the text under consideration, but is especially crucial for grasping the significance of books with controversial contents. Certainly the book of Joshua fits this description. After all, it includes accounts of holy war, of dividing God-given land, and of miracles. It claims to fulfill promises offered to Abraham and Moses years earlier. Given its contents, then, interpreters must take great care in stating what the book says about God, God’s relationship to Israel and the rest of the world, and God’s standards for receiving divine blessing.
This article seeks to state Joshua’s basic theological emphases. To do so, it addresses the book’s authorship and date, place in the Old Testament, and contents. Special attention is given to how this book gathers ideas from previous texts and is then in turn used in subsequent scriptures. Hopefully this approach will make Joshua’s theological contribution to Biblical Theology accessible to scholars, students, and ministers.
Though Joshua includes many important theological emphases, its main idea is that God gives rest to Israel in the promised land. At long last the chosen people reside in the place God promised Abraham would belong to his descendants (Ge 12:7). It must be remembered that this giving of land only occurred after the original inhabitants had refused to repent over a four-hundred-year period of time (Ge 15:13–16). God’s graciousness to Israel therefore does not include an arbitrary expulsion of the Canaanites. Rather, rest for Israel coincides with judgment for the Canaanites, and Joshua warns his people against suffering a similar fate.
Joshua’s Place in the Hebrew Canon
One of the chief differences between the English and Hebrew Bibles is that the former welds together Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther to form a section of historical books, while the latter links Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings together as the Former Prophets. The English Bible thereby depicts the events of Israel’s history from conquest (c. 1400 or 1250 B.C.) to the return to Jerusalem during the Persian era (c. 425 B.C.), then proceeds to Job. The Hebrew Bible, on the other hand, describes events that span the conquest to a few decades after the Babylonian captivity (c. 550), then presents the prophetic...
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