After 40 years in the wilderness, the generation of Israelites that had come out of Egypt had all passed away from either age, famine, or plague. Moses then gives his last exhortation on the plains of Moab to the Israelites. He gives them direction on how to take the promised land in battle and how to set up their nation. He then dies looking at the promised land, but never enters himself because of his failure at the waters of Meriba and Massah.
Joshua now assumes command and is to lead the Israelites in battle leaving no inhabitants of the land alive. The first city on their way into the promised land was the fortified city of Jericho. Joshua sent spies into the city and heard that the people feared the Israelites because of the battles they had won in the wilderness. The king of Jericho tried to find the Israelite spies, but Rahab the prostitute hid them until they could escape the city. Because of her kindness, her family was spared when the Israelites took the city.
When the spies returned with good news of the fear of the people, Joshua moved the Israelites across the Jordan river. The people were to have the Ark of the Covenant in their midst. Once the feet of the priests stepped into the Jordan river, it turned back on its course. The Israelites crossed on dry land, just as they had through the Red Sea. Joshua then circumcised all of those who had not been circumcised while in the wilderness to fulfill the covenant of Abraham. After the nation had recovered, Joshua received instruction on how to conquer Jericho. For 6 days, the Israelites were to march around the city walls once led by the Ark. On the seventh day, they were to circle seven times with the priests blowing their horns. Then the people were to shout and the walls would fall down. It happened as God had instructed and the Israelites took the city, sparing only Rahab and her family.
The Israelites continued their conquest of the land under the command of Joshua who was faithful to the Lord. They won all of their battles under Joshua. In a particular battle, God even made the sun stand still for a day to allow for Joshua to conquer all of his enemies. However, there were moments of infidelity in Israel. Some people kept spoils from their battles for themselves against God’s commands, which would eventually cost them their lives. By the end of the military campaign to conquer the promised land, they had been largely successful, but they failed to fully eradicate the previous inhabitants, electing to put them into forced labor. By the time of Joshua’s death, the tribes had spread out in the promised land, but there were still pockets of the former inhabitants spread throughout the land. This would eventually lead to Israel’s future infidelity.
It can be challenging to think that God would call for all the inhabitants to be eradicated from the promised land. Annihilation of a nation seems very un-God-like. However, we have to remember that these people were idol worshipers. Even more so, they practiced child sacrifice. The divine justice of God through the Israelites put an end to these abominable practices. On the surface it can seem mean, but we know that our God is a God of justice, and to end the evils and remove temptation from His people was why He called for total eradication.
We must also examine the typological significance of the parting of the Jordan river. The Israelites enter into the promised land through water that has been parted by the presence of God in the Ark of the Covenant. This is a clear connection to Baptism which is the water through which we enter into the heavenly promised land. In addition, where the Israelites would have crossed the river is the exact same region John the Baptist would have baptized Jesus hundreds of years later.
Finally, Joshua is a typological figure for Jesus. Both have the same root name Yeshua, meaning to save or deliver. Joshua leads the children of Israel into the physical land promised to them by God while Jesus leads the children of God to the promised land of heaven through salvation from our sins.
Because of their faithfulness and leadership of Joshua, the Israelites enter the promised land victorious and settle in peace. As long as they remained faithful, God would protect and defend them in this land. However, after the death of Joshua, the people will revert into the same habits of their ancestors, but God, ever faithful, will raise up Judges to save them.