The Promised Land: From Joshua to Judges (Journey the Word 5)

Joshua, one of the two spies with a good report about Canaan, challenged the Israelites to have courage, but the Israelites did not want to enter the Promised Land. About forty years later, Joshua stood on the outlying areas of the Promised Land, for God had given His People another chance at entering.

The Canaan conquest

Joshua 1-24

Joshua was Moses’ successor to lead the Israelites into Canaan. God promised to never leave him nor forsake him. God parted the Jordan river so the people could enter across dry land, which was similar to the Red Sea being parted for Moses and the Israelites as they left Egypt. The conquest for Canaan would begin with breaking down the walls of Jericho.

When Jericho fell, Rahab and her family were spared because of their faith and assistance to Israel. Soon, Joshua and his army would move through central Canaan. When they were near Shechem, which was between Mounts Ebal and Gerizim, Joshua and His People assembled to worship God. Joshua built an altar on Mount Ebal, and the priests presented offerings to the Lord while Joshua would read the Law of Moses. Reading the Law reminds people of the Mosaic Covenant.

Soon, Joshua would conquer cities in southern Canaan, and have many victories in the north as well. The Israelites quickly settled in Canaan, and different territories they were able to annex throughout the land to specific tribes of Israel. Lastly, Joshua would bid farewell as he died at age 110 and buried in the Promised Land.

The Time of the Judges

Judges 1-21

Since Joshua died, the tribes were without a central leader, and even though the Lord was their King, they needed someone to rule the people on the earth. Now, the book of Judges notes there was much sin and deliverance. To rule the people, Judges were needed over the tribes.

Idolatry was rampant during this time, as people believed in different deities that ruled over many facets of life. Especially prominent was Baal and Ashtaroth during this era. The Israelites turned to these other gods, instead of our One True God. Therefore, God sent oppression because of Israel’s sins. During their time of desperation, they cried out to God, and eventually God raised up a leader to deliver Israel from the oppression.

The most notable judges included Deborah, Gideon, and Samson. Deborah helped lead Israel to defeat King Jabin, Gideon led extraordinary military victories, and Samson helped accomplish God’s purpose of breaking the dominance of the Philistines over Israel.

With the success of each judge, Israel had experienced times of peace; however, Israel eventually went back to idolatrous ways, which caused more wars and oppression.

We see this cycle happen to Israel in the book of Judges, which occurs throughout human history interestingly:

Sin and disobedience => Oppression => Repentance => Deliverance => Peace (and it restarts after this).

List of Judges

#JudgeYearsCaptivity/Servitude
1Othniel40The children of Ammon and Amalek served Eglon for 18 years.
2Ehud18none
3ShamgarN/Anone
4DeborahAbout 40Shortly after the 40 years of peace after her reign, the Israelites were allowed to be oppressed by the Midianites, Amalekites, and children of the East. God chose Gideon to free the people and condemn their idolatry.
5Gideon40none
6Abimelech3none
7Tolah23none
8Jair22none
9Jephthah18none
10Ibzan7none
11Elon10none
12Abdon8none
13Samson20none

Ruth’s story

The book of Ruth seems to be set during the latter part of the judges’ reign. The story begins with a famine, which caused Naomi and family to move from Bethlehem to Moab. Naomi’s husband and two sons died in Moab. Naomi needed to return to Bethlehem, and therefore, Ruth joined her.

While in Bethlehem, Ruth worked among the poor, and obtained leftovers in grain fields. Boaz heard of Ruth’s unwavering dedication to Naomi, and had compassion for Ruth. By the end, Boaz married Ruth, which was neat to see God’s Love shining through this story.

Timelines of events during Joshua and Judges

  • 1406 BC – Joshua succeeds Moses as Israel’s leader (Joshua 1).

  • Israelites spy the Promised Land, Rahab hid them (Joshua 2). Rahab was a hero of faith and righteousness (Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25).

  • God parts the Jordan and lets the Israelites walk on dry land (Joshua 3-5).

  • Israelites march around Jericho for 7 days, and the walls fall down, and they conquer the city. Rahab and family are spared (Joshua 6).

  • Israel renews their covenant at Mounts Gerizim and Ebal (Joshua 8:30-35).

  • Gibeonites tricked Joshua into a peace treaty (Joshua 9).

  • Joshua divided the land among the Tribes of Israel (Joshua 13-22).

  • Israel renews the covenant and Joshua dies (Joshua 23-24).

  • 1300 BC – Israel forsook God. Soon, Othniel, Ehub, and Shamgar would be judges to lead Israel (Judges 1-3).

  • Deborah was a judge who partnered with Barak to defeat oppressors (Judges 4-5).

  • Gideon defeats the Midianites (Judges 6-8). Barak and Gideon are listed as heroes of faith (Hebrews 11:32).

  • 1200 BC – Tola, Jair, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon lead Israel (Judges 10-12). Samson fought the Philistines with incredible strength (Judges 13-16). Jephthah and Samson are heroes of faith (Hebrews 11:32).

  • About 1100 BC – Idolatry, violence, and war happened among the Tribes of Israel (Judges 17-21). Ruth married Boaz and has a child that is the ancestor of King David (Ruth 1-4).

Book of Ezra in the Bible

“Now when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there assembled unto him out of Israel a very great congregation of men and women and children: for the people wept very sore.” –Ezra 10:1

King Cyrus of Persia had hoped that the prophecy by Jeremiah might be fulfilled, so he made a proclamation, which involved building a house at Jerusalem (in Judah). The chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, as well as the priests and Levites, went to go build the house of the Lord. Vessels were brought and placed in the house of his gods. When the seventh month came, people gathered themselves as one in Jerusalem, and an altar was built to offer burnt offerings as it is written in the Law of Moses. They praised and worshiped God in the house.

The prophecy was that King Cyrus would be a shepherd performing His pleasure, to which, he shall say to Jerusalem be built, and to the Temple would the foundation be laid. He is to also subdue nations before him, and the power of kings will be weakened so that he is made to be conqueror.

In chapter 7, we see Ezra’s genealogy. We also see the priests, Levites, and Ezra going up to Jerusalem, which involves the commission of Artaxerxes to Ezra. Ezra also blesses God for his favor to the people. In chapter 8, we see Ezra’s companions returning from Babylon. He sends Levites to Iddo to be ministers for the Temple, keeps a fast at Ahava (for a safe and prosperous journey), and committed the treasures to the custody of the priests. After Ahava, they go to Jerusalem, where the treasure is weighed in the Temple. Lastly, the commission is delivered to their adversaries, and they further the house of God (by making sacrifices).

After Ezra prayed and confessed, it was proposed by Shechaniah that those who had married strange wives should put them away with their children – to which, they had sworn to do so. A proclamation is made through the land for a meeting at Jerusalem in three days – to which, they attended. At exhortation from Ezra, all had agreed to do it, and there were persons set up to see it done. The work was completed in three months, and a list of names of them are given who married strangely and now put away – which were of the priests, Levites, and other Israelites.

Synopsis

The Book of Ezra, written by Ezra himself around 450-420 BC, is a continuation of where Second Chronicles left off. This book deals with the first return of the exiles to Jerusalem resulting from King Cyrus, and the second return of the exiles to Jerusalem led by Ezra. Many main events that occurred involved the return of the exiles, restoration of the temple/reconstruction, and Ezra’s work.

Cyrus ruled in Persia for a while before conquering Babylon in 539 BC. After this conquest, he gave the Jew permission to return to Jerusalem. The Jews, according to Jeremiah’s prophecy, were released from the Babylonian captivity and were allowed to return and rebuild their nation. Many people had chosen to remain in Babylon; it appears, however, Cyrus wanted as many to return as possible. He even provided for many of the exiles to return, and helped people rebuild their lives overall, it seems.

The primary leaders were Zerubbabel and Joshua over the returned exiles. The total number returned was around 50,000. Many people, when returned, contributed to the rebuilding of the temple. So then, the temple work began for rebuilding, where the Jews got the provisions and got to work right away. However, a halt was placed on the rebuilding, even though much of it was complete – for Artaxerxes thought that it was necessary to postpone it.

Next, we find that the temple rebuilding continued, after not being worked on for about sixteen years. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah encouraged the work to re-begin for the temple work. Although some rejected the idea, others caught on and completed the temple rebuilding and rededication within four years. A while after the dedication, a new annual festival was to be held in the temple. This was the Feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread. Celebrations were held for the restoration of their homeland.

Now, the return of Ezra is detailed, as the temple being completed in 516 BC, Ezra came back around 458 BC. This was a time when Artaxerxes I was still reigning. Ezra had big plans to reform, as he was both a priest and scribe. He had much knowledge of Jewish Law, it seems, and had the ability and funds to be able to conduct a reform. Ezra could also appoint judges to set up courts and carry out punishments as necessary. So, under this mission, authorized by the king, a journey was conducted for Ezra and others that accompanied him to Jerusalem. The journey was set to take around four months, and Ezra was fully intent on this reform.

Ezra went to the Persian officials and presented the documents that authorized him to take control of the Jewish homeland. Therefore, being allowed to do so, Ezra began his reformation as planned. Ezra was quite grieved; it appears, at mixed marriages. Israelite men married non-Israelite women; making families by them. Ezra was aware that this could destroy the religion of Israel, and therefore, he wanted this changed first. Ezra confessed sin on behalf of the nation, before presenting his case.

People heard and met with Ezra, confessed their troubles, and made an oath that it would be corrected. The work of this, though, took around three months to complete. People, though, were intent on relieving the grief of Ezra, confessing their sins, and making sacrifices as necessary. Ezra was successful in this reformation, and was great leader who had influenced many in the Israelite region.

Joshua led the Israelites through the 7 years in the conquest

“And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him.” -Joshua 6:5

Joshua was 80 years old when he  took office, and he died at the age of 110. The command given to Joshua in 1:2 was, “Since Moses is now dead – arise, go over the Jordan with all the people; unto the land given unto you.” Joshua built Two Memorials unto God to show his appreciation at the crossing of the Jordan: one was Gilgal and the other stood in the Jordan River where the priests had stood.

Two spies were sent to look over Jericho, who were originally from Shittim, as we see in Joshua 2:1. Joshua was the one who sent the spies, and therefore, he had them hide in the house of the prostitute, who was called Rahab (Joshua 2:1). She was spared, because she did not know them or why they were at her house. When the feet of the priests touched the brim of the water, the River Jordan rose up in a heap (even at the flooding time of the year), as we see in the text and in Scripture 3:3,13,16. Joshua built Two Memorials unto God to show his appreciation at the crossing of the Jordan: one was Gilgal and the other stood in the Jordan River where the priests had stood.

According to the text, The Israelites sampled a victory by God’s supernatural power in the battle for Ai, however, they were not allowed to retain any spoils. This meant that no one was allowed to keep anything from Jericho, but rather to destroy it except the Vessel for the Treasury of the Lord’s House. Well, going into Ai in their first battle, 36 men had died because of sin in the camp: Achan, a soldier in the army had kept some of the spoils from Jericho (and he was the one who caused Israel to lose their first battle). (Thankfully, for them though, after destroying Achan and his household, The Israelites conquered Ai.)

Synopsis

Joshua wrote his own Book of Joshua, which was around 14th century BC. This book is normally served as a continuation of the Pentateuch (first five Books of the Bible written by Moses). The largest concern of this book has to do with Israel’s conquest of Canaan, as well as the division of land among the tribes. He writes about God’s faithfulness in fulfilling His covenant promises in Israel concerning Canaan.

The book starts out with the preparation for entering Canaan, to which Joshua is commissioned by God. This command is brief and upfront; which involved taking the land of Canaan. Though Israel would not win the land without a fight, the people had God’s assurance that they would gain possession where they trod. Joshua was given assurance that God was with him, but Joshua still needed courage and wisdom from God to endure. Anyway, they were given instructions to cross the Jordan River next.

The idea of crossing the Jordan River is to conquer the Western area. The first city to conquer was Jericho, for it blocks the passage through the mountain. Therefore, they work their way across the Jordan River, to come upon the camp at Gilgal, where some of the talk was about circumcision, and that through completion of it, people could celebrate the Passover. God had a special messenger come unto Joshua to remind him that God was the commander of Israel’s army; therefore, Joshua fell at his feet to worship him, because he believed it was God in human form.

Next, we see the conquering of the Promised Land, where the Israelites are in their conquest of Canaan. A division was created between the northern and southern regions so the Canaanite tribes would be prevented from joining forces. The idea is to destroy and conquer Canaan – first to conquer the South (as we see in chapter 10) and then the North (as we see in chapter 11). This was part of God’s plan, which had given the Canaanites time to repent. Their wickedness was so great that the time of judgment has now come.

God used His People, Israel, to complete the destruction of the Canaanites. So, we see the defeat of Jericho detailed in chapter 6. Over the next six days, the Israelites marched around Jericho once a day, and then returned unto the camp at Gilgal. On the seventh day, the Israelites were to march around the city seven times. When the walls of the city fell, they were to destroy all people except for Rahab and her household, and all of the good except for the precious metals. The Israelites were not to keep anything for themselves in this process.

God had planned that the victory in Jericho would bring glory unto Him, which was in response by faith from His People. God wanted Jericho to be left in ruins; a permanent monument of its destruction by His curse. If anyone were to rebuild the city, the curse would pass onto him, and he would suffer the loss of his own sons. After this, we see the defeat and victory at Ai, and then the worship and covenant renewal at Shechem. Then, Scripture details the conquest to Southern Canaan, where they made the treaty with the Gibeonites, and then the destruction of the Amorite Coalition.

Soon, we read about the victory in Southern Canaan, where it was Joshua’s biggest battle so far. God pressed assurance of victory on Joshua nonetheless, and so when the victory occurred, Joshua led his forces further into the southern regions of Canaan conquering the key cities. Therefore, the conquered cities would include Libnah, Lachish, Gezer, and Eglon, as well as other cities, such as Hebron and Debir. It reached as far South as Kadesh-barnea and as far West as Gaza. Israel had now conquered and controlled almost the entirety of Southern Canaan, as we see at the end of chapter 10.

The Southern conquer was difficult, but not as difficult as the Northern side of things appeared, for a large army had been prepared and equipped, which intimidated Joshua and his army. However, God continued to encourage Joshua in his lack of faith, and made sure that he had strength. All of northern Canaan then, was soon in the hands of Israel. So, then Joshua summarizes all of the conquest, because now Israel has controlled all of the territory that was to become its homeland. From receiving their inheritance, to gaining control of territory, and then listing the kings of the Canaanite city-states in whom the Israelites had defeated.

Now that the territory has been controlled by Israel, the leaders began the task of dividing the land among the tribes. Throughout the country, many areas were still occupied by the Canaanites, because either they had escaped the Israelites or it was just too difficult to conquer the area. With the people weary of battle, the Canaanites became big trouble for Israel. Anyway, the land conquered was divided among the tribes, and the plans were mapped out for the divisions in chapters 13-14. The largest portions of Canaan went to the chief tribes, which were Judah and Joseph. Judah received almost the entirety of Southern Canaan, and Joseph almost the entirety of Central Canaan. So, overall, Joshua detailed much of the division of the inheritance, whether sorting the tribes to the West or East of the Jordan River. After this, he details special allotments, which included six cities of refuge and the cities of the Levites.

Soon, we learn of the return of the Eastern Tribes, as we see in chapter 22. Now that the territory West of Jordan was conquered and divided among the nine and a half tribes, the other two and a half tribes were free to return to their inheritance that was east of the Jordan River. They were commended for being faithful to helping their brothers conquer Canaan and then warned them to remain true to God in their new home. Peace was also restored for the Western tribes, and the Eastern tribes gave the altar a special name. They were all bound to God, who was their covenant Lord. This was wonderful for them that they were able to finally get to Canaan and conquer, which moved God’s Will further.

Then, we see Joshua’s farewell messages, especially addressing Israel’s rulers and all of Israel. He noted some info on the covenant renewal at Shechem, before we finally see the conclusion. The conclusion involved the death and burial of Joshua, the burial of the bones of Joseph, and the death and burial of Eleazar. Three good men in the conquest to Canaan had passed away, but Israel had a hopeful future: Joshua helped them to a great inheritance and made a legacy that any man would want to leave – and that’s accomplishing God’s Will!